Flying economy from Rio de Janeiro, cidade maravilhosa, with TAP Portugal

I was living in Rio de Janeiro and for family reasons I had to fly to Lisbon. The problem was that I only got to know it on the day immediately before the day of departure.

I made a first search online, but all flights from Brazil to Europe seemed to be fully booked on that day, be it with TP (also via GRU, BSB, CNF, SSA, REC and NAT), IB or even KL via GRU, both in C and in Y classes. There were only available seats for the coming weekend, four days away. But I really needed to fly on that day and therefore that wasn’t an option for me. After some additional browsing, I managed to get hold of a seat departing FOR with TP and back to GIG for €950 with a week in LIS or €1650 for a shorter stay in LIS.

I also called AF and after some attempts I managed to get wait listed with KL via GRU-AMS and to get a reservation for the later A332-operated GIG-CDG AF flight. I had called earlier the AF call centre and they not only said that no places were available, but also that they hadn’t heard of the “seat with 24h advance notice in full Y fare” for FB Plats; KL knew it, but the agent insisted it was only in case one had a previous reservation and wanted to change it. The reservation I eventually managed to make was only possible via the dedicated reservations line for FB Elite pax. The agent who helped me was utmost helpful. I found an “Y1” in an otherwise all zeroed-out flight, but only to CDG, not all the way to LIS. The agent then managed to extend it to LIS. Taxes included, this would have cost €2150.

The following day, early in the morning, I still hadn’t decided whether to take TP, KL (which would require me to fly to GRU and still be waitlisted without a confirmed reservation) or AF. Even if TP’s was cheaper, it required a previous TAM flight in a separate ticket GIG-FOR and that therefore wouldn’t protect me in case of delay or cancellation. When I decided to go for this last option (mostly because it arrived 2h before the AF flight to LIS), I didn’t manage to buy the JJ leg. I then re-checked availability for nonstop GIG-LIS with TP and found Y1 B1. I immediately called TP and secured it!

For the return flight I could opt between a daytime and a night flight. As I always prefer daylight flights (so that I can have a good night of sleep upon arrival to my destination and start the following day already freshened up), that was a no-brainer. And as I had some miles that were about to expire, I took the opportunity of using some miles and upgraded to C class.

TP186
GIG (SBGL) – LIS (LPPT)

Airbus A330-202 CS-TOL (msn 877, first flight 23/10/2007)
ETD: 16h20
ETA: 06h00 (following day)
Seat: 31B

April 14 2010

After having made the reservation, I went to the airport as soon as I could to pay for it and try to get a good enough seat (as it was the day of departure, I couldn’t reserve a seat in advance anymore). I got to Galeão’s Terminal 2 at 13h00, but it was already too late: only 31B or 27K, both aisles. I went for the former, because it was farther from the toilet.

Check-in was swift. I was met by an agent who checked hand luggage and handed out tags for it. He noticed my AF tag from my last flight in my backpack, showed it to a colleague and smiled. “Last week I was working with AF!” – he told me. The C class check-in agent (which I was entitled to use not only due to holding a tap|plus ticket, but also because of my credit card) was nice, but still couldn’t offer me a window seat (that being the reason why there are so few pics from the window in this report).

As I still had a long wait ahead of me and no lounge access, I went to Terminal 1 – the one used in particular by G3, SkyTeam and OneWorld carriers – and had lunch while doing some amateur spotting in its “balcony”(which is no more than a window).

The corridor connecting the two terminals provides great tarmac views.

Once back to Terminal 2 – used namely by Star Alliance airlines –, I passed the immigration control and wandered through the terminal. It’s in very good condition (better than Terminal 1 for sure) and has plenty of light. The only problems were the lack of seating areas near the gate TP was using on that day and the fact that the only cafeteria was in the lower floor and no signs indicated its location.

And back to some spotting – now Star Alliance.

Once I finally settled near the gate, I could see CS-TOL – which had arrived early that morning – parked at a remote stand. It was then towed to gate.

Although it was printed in the boarding pass that boarding would start at 15h00 (ie, 1h20 before ETD), it didn’t start until 15h50. And it was completely chaotic: three lines organised by the ground staff, according to criteria that weren’t publicised – they’d check each pax’s boarding pass and tell them to go “here or there”. It eventually worked out, but it created too much of a fuss. On top of this, my passport wasn’t checked at the gate. TP should definitely rethink its boarding procedures at GIG.

Before boarding, I collected a couple of Portuguese newspapers and was greeted by two female FAs, none of them particularly smiley or even kind. I told them that if someone seating in a window seat wanted to swap, however unlikely that’d be, I’d be willing to. There were two FAs in the aisle, both chit chatting.

Doors closed at 16h15 and we pushed-back 10 mins. thereafter. Once we were set to go, the Chief Purser made a short description of the inflight service and announced a flight time of 8h40 today.

After a long taxi to rwy 10 and a very narrow turn to the runway, we took off at 16h45.

Following departure, Captain Miguel Jácome addressed the pax and relayed some information regarding the route to be flown (SSA-NAT-Cape Verde-Canary Islands). The weather would be good but light to moderate turbulence was to be expected 3h into the flight. Our ETA would be 05h20, 40 mins. before schedule.

The “fasten seatbelt” sign was on until more than 1h after departure, with no hint of turbulence whatsoever and no explanation offered for that either.

When I boarded, both the pillow and a (red fleece) blanket were already on my seat. I asked for an additional blanket to the youngest FA (a very good-looking woman) and she brought it to me, but with a bored and arrogant look, without a single word.

The seat is very similar to Avianca’s (reviewed in this report), but in a worse version, as it lacks an eyeglass holder and a USB entry point; there’s and a coat hanger as well, but in the side of the chair. In terms of comfort, the positive points are the footrest, the adjustable headrest and the fact that the seat moves forward when reclined. The downside is the lumbar support.

The cabin’s overall environment was bright and in mint condition, gray being the prevailing colour.

Menus and headsets were handed out shortly after departure.

MAIN MEAL

Appetizer

Mixed leaf salad with black olives and quail egg

Main course

Beef polpettone with mushroom sauce and pea rice

or

Ricotta cannelloni with spinach sauce

Dessert

Carrot cake

Dinner was served 1h into the flight and swiftly. I chose the beef polpettone (something between a meatball and meatloaf), which was tasty; the rice, however, was insipid. The salad was dry with some almost rotten pieces of lettuce. The dessert looked so artificial that I didn’t even touch it.

The lady next to me had a veggie meal – which actually looked quite good. But she was puzzled with the quinoa burger she got and pressed the call button to ask what it was. It turned out, however, that the FAs were busy serving dinner… She pressed it at least ten times over a period of 15 mins. A very kind male FA eventually came to her, explained it wasn’t beef but quinoa, and reassured her that he was actually a vegetarian himself and that he was having it too.

One of the good things about the way the service was organised was that the crew passed through the aisles at least twice for red wine refill. One of those times the lady next to me asked for her glass to be topped up. While serving the wine, the FA dropped a bit of wine on me and on my blanket. She didn’t notice it until I told her and asked for a napkin. Neither did she apologise nor did she bring me a napkin (although she did acknowledge my request).

After the meal, I didn’t see the crew go through the aisles even once.

In terms of IFE, apart from the award-winning Up magazine, the highlight was Panasonic’s touch screen eX2 system, which had a total of 15 AVOD movies (even if the system allows up to 20), 10 games and the traditional “Airshow”. While it’s certainly true that it doesn’t offer as many movies as some other airlines, it seems adequate for flights of this duration. And it definitely is a huge improvement when compared to TP’s A343 (which lack PTV’s) or to the older A332 (which don’t have AVOD).

Somewhere overhead NAT I decided it was time I tried to sleep. I was awoken 3h later by my neighbouring passenger, who wanted to use the toilet. Instead of trying to jump over me, she decided to wake me up – and reminded me why I absolutely hate aisle seats. I couldn’t sleep anymore, just sort of napped. We were flying over the Canary Islands at that point in time.

Breakfast was served 1h05 prior to ETA, preceded by a hot paper towel – which felt really good.

Before landing

Cheese and tomato toast

Carrot muffin

Seasonal fruit

Butter and jam

Coffee

Tea

The toast was surprisingly ok and so was the muffin; the orange was a bit dry, though – and why carrot pâtisserie both for dinner and breakfast?! Beverages included orange (both Compal Fresh, which I like, and a bad Brazilian brand) and mango juice, water, coffee and tea. For me, breakfasts in redeye flights should always include a warm item and some fresh fruit – so kudos for TP for this.

After that, headsets were collected. In my aisle, one of the older female FAs was yelling with her high-pitched voice “headseats! auriculares!” as if we were in a street fair – not classy at all!

We reached our TOD at 04h55 and the approach to LIS was rather bumpy. We headed to Cartaxo and then turned south to land on rwy 21 at 05h25, way ahead of schedule.

Deplaning was via jetway – first time for me in a widebody at LIS! It was also my first time in the new airport gates – very nice, albeit quite far (we parked in the very last gate). Immigration only took me a couple of seconds due to the electronic passport queues.

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

Weighed overall impression: 7 (inflight overall impression: 6,93)

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~ by Tiago on April 17, 2011.

2 Responses to “Flying economy from Rio de Janeiro, cidade maravilhosa, with TAP Portugal”

  1. (…) a USB entry point and a coat hanger. In terms of comfort, the positive points are the footrest and the fact that the seat moves forward when reclined. The downsides are the lumbar support and the fact the headrest isn’t adjustable in the sides. (…)

    Dear Tiago,

    There is a coat hanger. It’s a small plastic peg in the side of the chair. Can’t remember if it’s in every seat but there is definately one.

    As for the headrest, you can fold the sides like if they are two “ears”. You can also adjust their height.

    Kind regards,

    Caravelle, Portugal.

  2. Dear Caravelle, you’re right indeed and the post has been duly corrected. Thanks for reading and for drawing my attention to that. Best, Tiago

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