TAP Air Portugal's short-haul Business Class is about as good as it gets for intra-European travel. The seats are comfortable-ish, the food is decent, and the service is excellent. Unfortunately, the TAP has no plans to install inflight WiFi or streaming entertainment on their short-haul fleet, which seems like a missed opportunity.
I recently had the chance to fly with TAP Air Portugal – the flag carrier of Portugal – in their short-haul European Business Class from Berlin to Lisbon. TAP is a fascinating airline: they consistently offer exceedingly cheap fares in both Business and Economy Class for transatlantic travel and always seem to be caught up in some sort of scandal. Since we haven’t reviewed TAP at YTHK, I thought I’d write a short post about my experience.
Booking TAP Air Portugal’s Short-Haul Business Class
Intra-European Business Class is rarely good (or even half-decent) value. Paid tickets across legacy carriers are really high for what is little more than a mediocre offering consisting of a blocked middle seat and half-decent food. There are, however, three hard-and-fast circumstances where European Business Class is worth the premium if you’re paying for your ticket out of pocket:
- you’re a family flying with a lap child and will make very good use of the blocked middle seat in intra-Europe business class;
- you’re on a mileage or status run and need an extra boost to meet your status/miles goals; or
- you’re travelling with a ton of luggage.
In my case, I was travelling with two suitcases, both clocking in at over 25 kilograms each. Considering the ridiculous excess baggage charges that TAP charges, a one-way Business Class ticket for my flight from Berlin to Lisbon evened out to about the same price as an Economy Class ticket with two oversized checked bags. Add in the fact that I had an outstanding voucher with TAP (which, that’s another story for another day), and I bit the bullet and booked the ticket.
With that in mind…
TAP Air Portugal Check-In Berlin Brandenburg Airport
I woke up to a text from TAP informing me that my flight was delayed by 40 minutes. Hence, I arrived at Berlin Brandenburg Airport 3 hours before my (re-scheduled) flight time. TAP’s check-in desks were at the very end of the terminal. To my surprise, there were no staff to be found, even though the line for check-in was already snaking around the check-in area.
2 hours and 45 minutes before our flight, a few ground agents finally showed up and the line started moving. I was checked in by an agent and passed through security in less than 10 minutes. Talk about German efficiency!
TAP Air Portugal Berlin Brandenburg Gate
I didn’t have the chance to check out Lufthansa’s newly renovated lounges at Berlin as I wanted to send some friends off at their departure gate. About an hour before our delayed boarding time, TAP texted me that flight had been un-delayed by about 10 minutes, which I’ve never had happen to me in 21 years of flying.
After some (very teary) goodbyes, I shuffled over to our gate and was let onto the jet-bridge, where we stood for 10 minutes before being allowed to board. This practice seems to be common at Berlin Brandenburg, although I’ve never understood it – what’s the point of making passengers wait on the jet-bridge when the crew are making their final ground preparations?
The extended wait meant that I did have the chance to take a photo of the A320-200 taking us to Lisbon.
TAP Air Portugal A320-200
Finally, we boarded the aircraft. I was welcomed by the friendly Business Class flight attendant.
TAP Air Portugal Flight TP533
Friday, May 19th, 2023
Origin: Flughafen Berlin Brandenburg “Willy Brandt” (BER) Dep: 13:10 (14:19)
Destination: Lisbon Humberto Delgado Airport (LIS) Arr: 15:50 (16:24)
Duration: 3 hr 40 minutes
Aircraft: Airbus A320-200ceo Reg: CS-TNL
Seat: 4F (Business Class)
TAP Air Portugal A320 Business Class Seat and Cabin
TAP has outfitted its entire narrow-body fleet with relatively more comfortable Recaro BL3530 seats in the first few (usually 10-ish) rows of their aircraft, and much less comfortable Recaro slimline SL3510 seats towards the back of the plane (much like you’ll find on Iberia).
TAP Air Portugal A320-200 Cabin
The “upgraded” seats themselves are… fine. The padding isn’t phenomenal, but not too uncomfortable for the short hops that these aircraft fly.
TAP Air Portugal A320-200 Business Class Seat
TAP decided to install extra legroom on all seats in the first few rows of the cabin, which I appreciated. The seat pitch in the first 10 rows of the aircraft is 33 inches, which – combined with the slim seat design – make for more than enough legroom for a regional flight. For reference, Cathay Pacific’s long-haul economy seats (which are much thicker than these seats) are pitched at 32 inches apart.
TAP Air Portugal A320-200 Business Class Legroom
The seats are fitted with comfortable adjustable headrests with folding wings, which could be adjusted up and down. This feature came in handy when I tried to take a nap during the flight.
TAP Air Portugal A320-200 Business Class Headrest
The seats also come with a flip-down tablet holder, which worked quite well for my iPad. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for my phone, which slid down the holder every time I tried to set it up.
TAP Air Portugal A320-200 Business Class Tablet Holder
Finally, there are 2 AC power outlets and 2 USB-A power outlets shared between each row of three seats. It’s nice to see that European airlines are starting to install in-seat power across their short-haul fleets. The AC and USB power outlets worked perfectly well throughout the flight and allowed me to stay productive.
TAP Air Portugal A320-200 Business Class Power Outlets
Speaking of connectivity, I was disappointed that TAP doesn’t offer inflight WiFi across their short-haul fleet. Considering the growing prevalence of inflight WiFi offerings across Europe, this seems like a missed opportunity.
As I’ve said time and time again, the bar is on the floor for all intra-European products. That being said, TAP’s A320-200 Business Class hard product is as good as it gets. The seat is comfortable, the legroom is generous, and there are more nifty gadgets than you’ll find on some other European airlines.
TAP Air Portugal A320 Business Class Food and Drinks
I was glad to see that I would have a full row of three seats to myself once boarding ended. The captain welcomed us aboard the flight with an announcement of a further delay. There was no pre-departure drinks service, although any pre-departure service is relatively uncommon anyways in intra-European Business Class. Shortly afterwards, a manual safety demonstration was performed and a flight attendant made a brief welcome announcement.
We took off shortly afterwards without issue, following which the crew immediately sprung into action. First, the friendly Business Class flight attendant distributed paper menus and took meal orders. Afterwards, the flight attendant rolled the bar cart down the aisle. I ordered a glass of Portuguese White Wine and packaged mixed nuts.
TAP Air Portugal A320-200 Business Class Drinks Service
While I’m the furthest thing away from a wine snob (my typical Friday-night tipple is 3 Euro wine…), the wine was delicious and I enjoyed a few glasses. It certainly didn’t help that the flight attendant was very attentive with refills. TAP’s Chief Marketing Officer once described Portuguese wine as the airline’s secret weapon, and I can definitely see why.
The main meal was served shortly afterward by a meal tray. I ordered chicken thighs served with leeks, sugar snap peas, and mashed potatoes. The meal came with a salad of sweet potato, dried fruit, and cheese, along with a chocolate mousse. A bread basket was also passed around, from which I selected a piece of sourdough bread.
TAP Air Portugal A320-200 Business Class Meal
The food was quite good. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the starter salad, but the main course was excellent. The chicken was incredibly tender, the vegetables were well-cooked, and the mashed potatoes were creamy. Meanwhile, the chocolate mousse tasted about as good as it looked. Overall, this was a very solid showing from TAP’s catering team. Colour me impressed!
After meal trays were cleared, a flight attendant came around offering coffee and tea. I ordered a black coffee, which was a little too watery for my liking. That being said, the coffee went very well with the chocolate mousse.
TAP Air Portugal A320-200 Business Class Coffee
TAP Air Portugal A320 Business Class Service
The service on my flight was excellent. One of the flight attendants was working in the galley, while the other was responsible for serving the cabin. The flight attendants were warm, friendly, courteous, and attentive. I appreciated that the “in-cabin” flight attendant was particularly proactive with refills, and was particularly knowledgable about the onboard wine offerings.
TAP Air Portugal A320 Business Class Approach and Landing
I spent the rest of the flight catching up on some work. We started our descent into Lisbon around thirty minutes before landing. In my opinion, Lisbon has one of the most beautiful approach paths of any airport in the world, and I took the time to appreciate the gorgeous views of the Tagus River and the city (with the help of my trusty iPhone 0.5 camera).
TAP Air Portugal A320-200 Landing View
TAP Air Portugal A320-200 Landing View
We touched down without incident and began our short taxi to the gate. We taxied past what seemed like TAP’s entire fleet, which allowed me to get this picture of TAP’s gorgeous A330-900neo. The A330-900neo is the backbone of TAP’s long-haul fleet. Given the absurdly cheap fares that TAP often has from the East Coast to Europe, I have a feeling I’ll be on one of these planes sometime soon.
TAP Air Portugal A330-900neo
We arrived on our stand under an hour late, which was pretty impressive considering the length of our departure delay.
Bottom Line: TAP A320 Business Class
It’s always a treat to travel in Business Class, be it on an intercontinental trek or a short-haul intra-Europe flight. Objectively, my flight with TAP Air Portugal was pretty good. The seat wasn’t actively uncomfortable, the service was excellent, and the food offering was passable. Considering the competition, TAP does a really good job with their intra-European Business Class product. My only point of criticism is that TAP doesn’t offer WiFi or streaming entertainment on their short-haul routes, and (rather interestingly) doesn’t seem to have any plans to do so.
While I have criticised legacy European carriers for charging absurd price premiums over their low-cost competitors, it’s undeniable that my experience was decidedly much better than anything I could’ve gotten with Ryanair or EasyJet. The major question here is if the product is good enough to justify a prices that are – in some instances – twice as expensive.