TAP, Portugal’s national air carrier, is a special airline. Aside from the fact that it flies non-stop between Newark and two of Portugal’s most beautiful and important cities, Lisbon and Porto, it has recently started service to Miami International Airport direct from Lisbon as well. The airline has been operating since 1945 and has earned a reputation as one of Europe’s best. In fact, it has won top prizes for being one of the safest airlines as well as the best airline to Africa. These accolades are not for nothing, they were earned through a series of on-board decisions, which were obvious on a recent business-class experience I had on their Airbus A330 from Newark to Lisbon.
TAP offers two cabins aboard their international flights, economy and “Executive”, better known as business. Business class is tops and is comparable to some of the most highly-rated in the sky today. Boarding TAP’s evening flight from Newark Liberty International Airport to Lisbon, everything run’s smoothly, like butter – all without hiccup. From check-in at the premium Victoria counter and access to SAS’s business-class lounge at Newark, pre-flight couldn’t get more comfortable. When boarding was announced, premium passengers were moved onto the aircraft swiftly and without delay.
On board, TAP welcomed me into business class with soft Portuguese music, an amenity kit packaged cleverly in a colorful square tin as well as a pre-flight cocktail of champagne and orange juice. The Recaro lie-flat seats on-board are spacious, offering a 180-degree incline for sleeping during the flight and large flat-screen entertainment systems with an impressively large library of movies, television shows and games. The signature colors of the airline, Portugal’s white, red and green are accented on-baord with Navy-blue comforters and seats, as well as large white pillows in which to rest your head overnight.
Shortly after take-off, dinner was served. TAP is known for their food and it’s clear why. A selection of five courses, designed by Chef Vítor Sobral, were offered including an amuse bouche, appetizer, entrée, dessert and after-dinner chocolates. The airline is known for their impressive soup selection – a rarity on-board most airlines. You’ll find a large selection of dishes on-bard inspired by both Portuguese and international cuisines – with an emphasis on Portugal’s products. The beautifully constructed menu might offer homemade rice with duck breast, cod fish salad or penne pasta with Portuguese sausage and cauliflower. And, for dessert, you could find Portugal’s signature custard pie – the pasteis de nata – all delicious.
Flight attendants aboard TAP and attentive and congenial. They aim to please and help you make the most of your flight. They often stop to engage and even offer tips of what to do and see in Lisbon, should you be interested. I was. The service on TAP stands out because they’re concerned with the details. Dinner is served quickly so passengers can quickly get to sleep, lights are dimmed right at take-off for passengers’ comfort and no one mills about the cabin during late evening hours unless called.
After dinner, I watched a new release on my screen and drifted off shortly after its completion. I felt very comfortable on TAP’s in-flight beds. Just before landing in Lisbon, I was awakened for a light breakfast. We landed safely and moved through Lisbon’s small airport effortlessly. The airport is right in the middle of town so most points of interest are within a 15-minute drive. TAP made my trip to Portugal easy and comfortable, two feelings that are hard to come by in these days of uncomfortable air travel. But, seemingly, that’s the Portuguese way. Niceness goes a long way and so does care for those on-bard. TAP does it well.