Featured, all images: Nuno Seletti/Airways

Trip Report: TAP Air Portugal E190 to Lisbon

DALLAS — While offering competitive fares and comfortable rides on long-haul, TAP Air Portugal (TP) still offers below-average or average competition products on some intra-European routes. Today, we'll experience one of its flights between Toulouse and Lisbon.

Negative: 

  • Flight delay
  • Inflight offerings below standard from other mainline airlines.
  • Hard seat
  • No WiFi connectivity

Positive: 

  • Good legroom and spacious cabin
  • Smiling crew

Our trip report begins at Toulouse-Blagnac Airport (TLS). We're reviewing a mid-range product on a short European route: Lisbon (LIS) on a TP Embraer 190 in economy class.

A Star Alliance member airline, TP operates 13 weekly flights between Toulouse and its HUB, Lisbon, with three daily flights. A departure at 7 a.m. (TP 495), then 12.45 p.m. (TP 491), and finally 6.45 p.m. (TP 493) in the evening operated by Embraer 190/195. The TLS-LIS route is the most used at TLS. (RadarBox). 

Note that these flights are operated by TAP Express, formerly PGA or Portugália Airlines, on behalf of its parent company.

We leave on Sunday, April 7, 2024, on flight TP 493, with a scheduled departure time of 6.45 pm.

Check-in

I first registered online on the TAP website, which is very intuitive and well-designed. The only problem was that I had to re-enter my details a second time, which took some time. On a negative note, when I checked in, I didn't have the opportunity to choose my seat for free. I had to pay for all the seats on my flight.

A similar competitor, Air France, allows you to choose your seat when you check in online and offers a few free seats. This is not possible on TP.

I checked in online, and with only one piece of cabin baggage, I went straight to hall D of the airport to go straight through security and then to the boarding gate.

On this flight, we'll be on board CS-TPS, an Embraer ERJ-190-100LR that arrived at the gate 10 minutes late. This is common for Toulouse, as TP 493 has an average departure delay of 30 minutes. 

TAP operates a fleet of 12 aircraft of this type and 5 ERJ-195s.

Boarding

When we boarded, the crew greeted us with a smile. They all spoke Portuguese and English but did not speak French.

The cabin is configured as a 2-2 with a "business class" section at the front. Only the red headrests distinguish the cabin from the rest. The economy seats have a green headrest.

My seat row for this flight is aisle seat 18B. The leatherette seat is quite spacious but hard on the seat and back. It has a recline facility, which is a perfect point compared with other airlines in the same class on the same type of European flights.

The legroom is very good, with the possibility of extending the legs even with a personal effect under the front seat.

The day's flight will be almost full.

Inflight experience

This is the negative point of this flight in terms of onboard service. After takeoff, the crew will come by with a trolley to offer a snack. 

The basic snack given to all passengers, which is free and included in the price of the ticket, consists of a glass of water.

As a national airline with a certain standing and brand image, it is strange and surprising to see low-cost practices practiced on even intra-European flights.

A paid menu with hot dishes, hot and cold drinks, and cakes is available on board for the rest.

For my part, I opted for a sparkling lemon drink and a snack from the menu.

Here's an example to compare this product with what was served a few years ago on the same route: In 2015, I traveled to Lisbon with Portugalia PGA in a Fokker 100. 

On that flight, a meal tray was served to all the passengers, with one hot dish, dessert, and a piece of bread for free. 

All passengers will be distributed a disinfectant towel before landing, a pleasant touch even post-COVID.

Despite the late boarding, our flight landed on time.

Landing, Final Thoughts

As a member of the Str Alliance group and a national airline, TP intends to offer a service of a certain standard, like Air France (AF), British Airways (BA), and Iberia (IB). However, despite a spacious cabin and a pleasant crew, the onboard service was well below the competition, even coming close to low-cost airlines such as Volotea. 

The detail is that this TAP Express flight, operated by Portugal, cannot be compared head-on with what TP offers on flights of the same duration. However, it was also interesting to compare this product with the same one from 9 years ago, which was much more extensive and, above all, free. 

Although disappointing, the service on board was still decent for this duration. The departure delay was resolved on arrival.

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