Eating with TAP Portugal while flying to and from Italy in biz class

Airplane food is bad: dry, tasteless and in small portions… At least so they say.

TP’s executive class proves that statement can be plain wrong. The menus are prepared by the award-wining Chef Vítor Sobral and are top notch; sometimes, they also feature another guest Chef. Lunch and dinner always include an appetizer, an entrée and a dessert, with some Portuguese touch without being too ethnic. They also come with gourmet olive oil, crackers, butter, cheese and Portuguese typical bread ― and a great presentation. Additionally, TP hands in complete menus to its pax, which is a very distinctive touch in their European service. There is room for some improvement in some aspects ― paradoxically, in a country with fantastic wines, the wine choice might be one of them ―, but isn’t that always the case? Overall, the meals served are surely among the best in the industry for similar flights and routes.

This is the trip report of three flights in TP’s European C class, to, from and again to Rome Fiumicino. As they only feature two lunches and one dinner, in the end I also include a couple of additional pictures of a breakfast and of a mid-afternoon snack.

TP842
LIS (LPPT) – FCO (LIRF)

Airbus A320-211 CS-TNE (msn 395, first flight 15/12/1992)
ETD: 14h00
ETA: 17h55
Seat: 01A

January 19 2009

After having bought a FCO-LIS-FCO ticket, I requested an upgrade with miles for the LIS-FCO leg. I was put on a waiting list. As my upgrade wouldn’t clear even 24h in advance (although there were 8 free seats in the C class cabin, according to TP’s call centre), and the Victoria frequent flyer programme told me there was nothing they could do. I then checked the KVS tool and saw my flight (TP438, at 09:25) was the only of the day without availability. In fact, other flights had up to 4 seats available in C class. I then changed my flight to the 14:00 one (as the 07:15 was way too early for me). Even so, it took them a long time to re-issue the ticket.

As usual, I did the OLCI ― but only after having the new ticket, otherwise I’d have to cancel the previous check-in. At the airport, I used the premium check-in area; the check-in agent wasn’t particularly nice and seemed to have an attitude because I forgot to tell him that I had did the OLCI. Although there were flyers with its location on the desk, the agent also failed to inform me of the whereabouts of the new TP lounges and to tell me that I could use the “Green Way” fast track lane for the security checkpoint.

After a lounge visit, it was time to board. There was a gate change (from gate 17 to gate 15) due to the late departure of an Iberia MAD-bound aircraft that was parked at gate 17. Boarding started at 13:35 (15 mins later than scheduled), via jetway. I was the last one to “board” and the very polite (and beautiful!) gate agent addressed me by my surname ― a first time for me ― and wished me a nice flight.

However, when I got to the jetway (a long one), I bumped into a huge queue which was motionless; it was so long it looked like no-one had boarded yet! A ramp agent was passing by and I asked her if boarding had started. “No, there is a problem with the front door; it’ll be a matter of minutes”, she replied. I then went to talk with the gate agent, who apologised and told me she hadn’t been informed about it; very politely, she suggested that I waited in a seat in front of the gate, which I kindly accepted. A fellow pax joined me. Not more than 10 mins later, the actual boarding started.

When entering the aircraft, I was greeted by the FAs and directed to my seat. My coat was hung 5 mins later. No pre-departure drink was offered, though.

Doors were closed at 14:05. Prior to departure, Captain Miguel Vicente announced a 2h20 flight, taking off from rwy21, facing south, wished us a “nice take-off” (!) and said he’d talk to us again in cruising altitude. At 14:20, after the arrival of two TP’s A319s and one TP A319 departure, it was our turn. Departures from rwy21 (as well as landings in rwy03) always give the pax the opportunity to enjoy great views of Lisbon and this one was no exception.

As I had seen from the terminal, I had no luck with the aircraft: CS-TNE (which was the same that had brought me from FCO four days before). This aircraft was one of the four A320-211s which were part of TP’s fleet (together with CS-TNA, ‑TNB and ‑TNO) at that time. CS-TNO has already been phased-out and the others will follow until the end of the year. Seats in this aircraft are old and made of fabric (instead of leather). What is worse: business class seats are exactly the same as economy, with no additional space; ie, middle seats are blocked but no expansion of the other seats results therefrom. The recline also seems to be limited and the seat model is old. In a nutshell, these seats are among the least comfortable seats for a C class cabin ― even by European standards.

Additionally, CS-TNE has a specific safety card, which is the same for CS-TNO, -TMW and -TNP.

After giving me the menu ― which happened 15 mins after departure ―, the Purser told me I could eat whenever I wanted to, I would just have to call him.

APPETIZER

Mousse with White Fish

MAIN COURSE

Roasted Scabbard Fish with Oven Baked Banana and Sugar Snap Peas

Roasted Veal with Gnocchi

FOR DESSERT

Lemon Pudding

The guest Chef featured in this menu was Chef Fernanda Bacelar, who had prepared the Roasted Veal with Gnocchi, which recipe was included in the menu.

There were also the following drinks:

APERITIFS / LIQUEURS / DIGESTIFS

Portuguese Brandy | Bailey’s Irish Cream / Carolans | Cognac | Gin | Martini Rosso | Madeira Wine | Vodka | Scotch Whisky | Malt Whisky | Whisky 12 years

COLD DRINKS

Beer | Alcohol Free Beer

SOFT DRINKS

Sparkling Water | Mineral Water | Tonic Water | Iced Tea | Coke | Diet Coke | Orange Juice | Apple Juice | Passion Fruit Juice | Tomato Juice

SPARKLING WINE

Espumante Luís Pato, Maria Gomes Bruto 2007 (Bairrada)

WHITE WINES

Quinta dos Grilos 2007 (VQPRD/DOC Dão)

Herdade do Pinheiro 2007 (Alentejo Regional Wine)

RED WINES

Lavradores de Feitoria 2006 (DOC Douro)

Lóios 2007 (Alentejo Regional Wine)

Cabriz Reserva 2005 (VQPRD/DOC Dão)

Service started with hot towels and a drink offer (spicy tomato juice for me), together with some nuts. The drink was handed me in the bottle and not served ― which would have been expected. The pack of mixed nuts with raisins was also unopened; in this case, however, I think I prefer it that way: at least I know those are my mixed nuts and not the remainings of someone else’s.

As for the meal, the appetizer was quite good, although I’m not a big fan of mousses; the combination with the smoked fish, small pieces of mango and the greens was quite nice. For the entrée, I opted for the veal and didn’t regret it: not dry at all, in a substantial portion, very well seasoned and with good quality gnocchi. To drink, I opted for Lóios ― which, very frankly, isn’t good. The Purser came several times to the cabin, topping up my glass and offering more bread, water, coffee and tea. I’m far from being a dessert kind of guy, but the pudding was good and not too sweet. Overall, a superb meal.

One of the common criticisms to TP’s meal presentation is that both the appetizers and the desserts are served wrapped in a plastic. Although I don’t find it decisive or particularly important, I do wonder the reason for it: why should the pax (and not the FA) be obliged to open it? According to what I had been told, this feature was supposed to have been dropped, but the truth is that it hasn’t changed yet: I got plastic in all three flights.

After the end of the meal service, he disappeared for 30 mins without checking the cabin. There was a bit of chit chat going on in the galley, but only for 10 mins.

The aircraft was rather empty: a total of 57 pax, of which 3 in C class.

The IFE was only turned on for the safety demo and for 10 mins during the climb.

At 17:10, prior to TOD, the captain announced the ETA and the weather; there was also an announcement in Italian. We landed at 17:40 in rwy16L.

Upon deplaning, the captain was outside the flight deck greeting the pax ― which was a very kind gesture.

Final evaluation
Reservation [1]: 5
Check-in [1,5]: 6
Lounge [0,5]: 9
Boarding [0,5]: 5
Seat [2,5]: 4
Aircraft overall ambience [0,5]: 5
IFE [1,5]: 2
Power outlets [0,5]: 0
Crew [3,5]: 7
Food [2]: 10
Beverages [0,5]: 6
Freebies and amenities [0,5]: 4
Disembarkation [0,5]: 10
On-time record [2]: 10

Weighed overall impression: 6,34 (inflight overall impression: 6,61)

* * *

TP837
FCO (LIRF) – LIS (LPPT)

Airbus A320-214 CS-TNN (msn 1816, first flight 31/05/2002)
ETD: 11h55
ETA: 13h55
Seat: 03A


April 25 2009

TP had a fantastic promotion for several European destinations: award tickets for half the miles ― which meant 10.000 miles for Y and 15.000 miles for C. The taxes, however, were rather high: €100 for the roundtrip, which amazes me because there are roundtrip tickets which are cheaper than that.

OLCI wasn’t available 24h before departure once again (this has happened to me countless times during the past year), due to alleged “operational reasons”, but later on it became available. As usual, I went to the check-in desk at the airport to collect my boarding pass. When I was queuing, the C class desk agent called a pax who was in the Y line instead of me ― which shouldn’t have happened and didn’t even say a word about it. But I’m already used to bad experiences in TP’s check-in queue at FCO.

After a lounge visit, I went to the gate. Boarding started on time. I was greeted by the (male) Purser and a (male) FA, but they didn’t check my boarding pass. I wasn’t offered any pre-departure drink nor was my coat hung. I was only offered a newspaper and a magazine. At 11h50 doors were closed with 109 pax onboard (5 in C class) and we started our taxi to rwy25.

Captain Cristina Estima announced a flight time of 2h50 and some turbulence during the cruise and descent. The “fasten seatbelt” sign was turned off only 30 mins after take-off from rwy25, which took place at 12h20.

20 mins after departure, the menus were distributed. 5 mins later, hot towels were handed out and the orders for the lunch were taken, starting from the last row.

APPETIZER

Spider Crab Salad with Grapes, Mango and Toasted Almonds

MAIN COURSE

Scabbard Fish with Cassava Cream and Coriander Manioc

Fusilli Pasta with Boletus, Pleurotes and Pastrami

FOR DESSERT

Chocolate Gateau

SPARKLING WINE

Espumante Luís Pato, Maria Gomes Bruto 2007 (Bairrada)

WHITE WINES

Vinha da Defesa 2007 (Alentejo Regional Wine)

Lavradores de Feitoria 2006 (DOC Douro)

RED WINES

Quinta Sá de Baixo 2006 (VQPRD/DOC Douro)

Outeiro da Águia 2005 (Alentejo Regional Wine)

Conde Vimioso 2007 (Ribatejo Regional Wine)

30 mins after departure, drinks and mixed nuts were served. I had chosen white wine, but the FA got it wrong and gave me sparkling wine instead. I didn’t mind ― on the contrary: I actually preferred it. A couple of minutes later, when the FA served white wine to the pax who had ordered the sparkling wine, he realised and apologised. I assured him it was ok.

Lunch was served 10 mins later. The appetizer was quite good and original; the only downside was that there weren’t many almonds or mango. As for the main dish, I chose the fish, which was rather tasty; but the highlight were the manioc and the vegetables, which were fantastic. The chocolate cake was also on par with the rest of the meal. To drink, I chose Vinha da Defesa, which was a very good companion to my meal. Afterwards, I had a gin & tonic.

Throughout the rest of the flight, the Purser and the FA remained in the galley. A third male FA joined them to chat. When I went to the toilet, he was showing his naked back to the other FAs. I just laughed when I saw it ― but it was very unprofessional.

The cabin of this A320 was a lot nicer than CS-TNE’s and according to TP’ default: comfortable leather seats in a 2-3 configuration (which isn’t the best in Europe, but good enough if one can get an A or B seat). I just don’t get why TP chose this strange configuration in its A320s and A321s, in which rows 1 and 2 only have seats A and B, and storage space to the right

The approach to rwy03 was, as usual, stunning. This time, we didn’t go to CP, but rather proceeded directly to final.

The final adjustments were made in a rather bumpy environment. We had a late touchdown at 13h55 and vacated via U4.

Deplaning was via bus. At the end of the stairs, there two buses with different signs: one saying “Fortaleza / Rio de Janeiro” and another which was going to the terminal. Roughly half the pax went to the bus to the connecting Brazil-bound flights.

Final evaluation
Reservation [1]: 10
Check-in [1,5]: 6
Lounge [0,5]: 6
Boarding [0,5]: 8
Seat [2,5]: 7
Aircraft overall ambience [0,5]: 8
IFE [1,5]: 5
Power outlets [0,5]: 0
Crew [3,5]: 5
Food [2]: 9
Beverages [0,5]: 8
Freebies and amenities [0,5]: 4
Disembarkation [0,5]: 8
On-time record [2]: 10

Weighed overall impression: 6,89 (inflight overall impression: 7,04)

* * *

TP836
LIS (LPPT) – FCO (LIRF)

Airbus A320-214 CS-TNN (msn 1816, first flight 31/05/2002)
ETD: 18h55
ETA: 22h50
Seat: 03A


May 4 2009

OLCI 24h before ETD worked this time. At the airport, it was swift. Security as well, through the “Green Way” fast track (the other one was very crowded).

Boarding started on time (at 18:15) via bus. 2 mins after the first call it immediately switched to “last call”… Usually, at LIS TP uses forward and rear stairs in remote stands and in the boarding pass it is written “front door” or “rear door” according to the location of the seat. Differently than usual, however, there were only forward stairs.

Once onboard, I was warmly welcomed by a very friendly female Purser and another female FA. I wasn’t offered a pre-departure drink, but my coat was hung. It was a completely female cabin crew ― and all FAs were stunningly beautiful.

Captain Duarte Lopes announced the flight time would be of 2h40. It was a very friendly announcement with the route (which was more or less the following: MAD-VLC-PMI-MAH-AJA-CAG), the ETA (with an expected delay of 5 mins due to strong headwinds) and the weather. At 18:50 doors were closed.

We took off at 19:10 from rwy03 with 129 pax onboard.

20 mins after departure, hot towels were offered together with the menus. As for the drinks, I chose sparkling wine; mixed nuts and raisins were served together with it.

APPETIZER

Pastrami with Radicchio and Romaine Lettuce

MAIN COURSE

Stone Bass Confit with Sparkling Wine and Leek Risotto

Roast Pork with Mushrooms

FOR DESSERT

Traditional Portuguese Dessert (Sericaia) with Mango

SPARKLING WINE

Espumante Luís Pato, Maria Gomes Bruto 2008 (Bairrada)

WHITE WINES

Quinta dos Grilos 2007 (VQPRD/DOC Dão)

Herdade do Pinheiro 2007 (Alentejo Regional Wine)

RED WINES

Lavradores de Feitoria 2006 (DOC Douro)

Lóios 2008 (Alentejo Regional Wine)

Cabriz Reserva 2005 (VQPRD/DOC Dão)

30 mins after departure, dinner was served. The starter was ok, but inadequate for a C class meal ― even if the spicy honey and the nuts were good, it was overall too simple without being particularly tasty; if they wanted to serve cold cuts, perhaps a mix of 2 cold meats and cheese; the radicchio was absent from the dish. As for the main dish, I was very hesitant between the fish and the roast pork. In the end, I chose the stone bass, which was rather tasty, but served in a small portion. The dessert was actually a great surprise. The wine ― Quinta dos Grilos 2007 ― was, however, a disappointment: bland and uninteresting. During the meal, the Purser came several times to top up my glasses.

After the meal, I was offered coffee or tea, but preferred a gin & tonic.

The Purser came frequently to the cabin, once for sales onboard, the other times to check on the C class pax. She offered another two glasses of gin & tonic, which I gladly accepted.

At 22h10, we reached our TOD and 30 mins later we landed on rwy 16L.

Deplaning was via jetway, but the wait for the bags was long. More than 30 mins…

Final evaluation
Reservation [1]: 10
Check-in [1,5]: 10
Lounge [0,5]: 9
Boarding [0,5]: 7
Seat [2,5]: 7
Aircraft overall ambience [0,5]: 8
IFE [1,5]: 5
Power outlets [0,5]: 0
Crew [3,5]: 10
Food [2]: 8
Beverages [0,5]: 7
Freebies and amenities [0,5]: 4
Disembarkation [0,5]: 8
On-time record [2]: 10

Weighed overall impression: 8,26 (inflight overall impression: 8,25)

* * *

Just for the record, I add a picture of TP’s breakfasts. Together with hot beverages and juices, it includes a fresh fruit salad, a croissant and a bread, butter and jam, as well as hot mini-chicken pie (quite tasty!), together with asparagus and apple purée. Good overall, but to be as good as the lunches and dinners TP serves, a more complete hot meal should be served. The good point is that it’s a very healthy breakfast.

Finally, the missing meal: TP’s mid-afternoon snack. Fresh fruit salad, a sweet tartlet (queijada) and a couple of traditional Portuguese shrimp tempura (peixinhos da horta) with asparagus and carrot purée. Very good.

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~ by Tiago on August 20, 2009.

5 Responses to “Eating with TAP Portugal while flying to and from Italy in biz class”

  1. […] the rest here: Eating with TAP Portugal while flying to and from Italy in biz … Share and […]

  2. If you were boarding by jetway (and I think that’s the case in Rome/FCO) there’s no need to check the boarding pass again in the plane. Many people think we want to know their seat, but we just want to check other info for security reasons when boarding is made by bus/steps. Boarding time is usually the moment where we have our peak of work-load. Sometimes it’s impossible to give attention to all details, many times because we have slot pressure, other problems in the cabin with double seating, kids seated in the emergency exit rows, kids seated apart from their parents, babies in rows where there aren’t enough oxygen masks, etc, just to give you some few examples. As a B/C passenger you can always ask to have your coat hung and that won’t be refused for sure 🙂
    Pre-departure/Welcome drinks are not a standard @ TAP’s medium haul, unless you ask for it and if it is possible to break the seals of the bars during a turnaround.

  3. @ LisbonJet: Thanks a lot for the comment and for the inside information 😉

    As for welcome drinks, I had thought so. But, very honestly, I believe TP’s procedures should be changed in this particular matter – if not for anything else, because that’s the standard in the industry.

    Regarding the hanging of the coat, although I’m very sympathetic to the work overload of the FAs during boarding (and rarely bother a FA unless I really really need something), the truth is that other airlines do it as a rule (even if not immediately, at least in some point in time before departure). But, as in all professions, there are some FAs who are more proactive and professional and some others who aren’t…

  4. I would like to know if I may use you photos to feature some on the TAP Portugal Wikipedia Page of course all credit going to you

  5. @ Anthony: Sure, of course, as long as you post a link to the blog.

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