I needed to go back home to Vienna on short notice and found some great business class fares between the U.S. and Lisbon on Azores Airlines, a very small carrier based on the Azores islands - the flight was even cheaper than a coach ticket so I booked it right away. The routing was from Dallas to Lisbon via Boston, with the first flight operated by jetBlue. I bought a separate ticket on TAP Portugal for my flight from Lisbon to Vienna.
As I found out later, Azores Airlines has a number of narrow-body aircraft but just one single A330-200 aircraft, which was scheduled to operate my Boston to Lisbon flight. I was really looking forward to my trip on this somewhat niche carrier.
Day of Departure
As I woke up in the morning of my day of departure, I noticed a text message on my phone from Azores Airlines. It informed me that my flight from Boston was delayed by six hours - great. I usually would have been happy since it meant that I would get about $650 in EC261 compensation, but as I had a separate ticket on to Vienna, I probably would have had to book a new ticket - not something I really wanted to do. I saw on Expertflyer.com that TAP Portugal also had a Boston to Lisbon flight, which would get me into Lisbon in time to catch my connecting flight to Vienna. A quick call to Azores Airlines and I was rebooked on TAP Portugal. I honestly expected some kind of push-back, but the agent was extremely nice and got the whole rebooking done within 5 minutes.
I still had about two hours in Boston until my TAP Portugal flight was scheduled to leave so I explored the airport a little bit. I landed in Terminal C and luckily, my TAP Portugal flight was also scheduled to depart from Terminal C. While most international airlines depart from Terminal E, some depart from Terminal C, such as Aer Lingus, Emirates and TAP Portugal. Boston Airport recently opened an airside connector to Terminal E so I was able to check out the Air France lounge, which has a partnership with Priority Pass. On my way over to Terminal E, I saw the aircraft for my flight to Lisbon getting towed to its gate.
I decided to head to the gate a bit early, so that I could be one of the first to board the aircraft. TAP Portugal uses a jetBlue-branded gate, which I found interesting. According to Expertflyer, the flight still had a few seats left in Coach but was completely full in business class.
Now the aircraft operating the Boston to Lisbon route is actually an aircraft previously owned by AZUL Airlines of Brazil. TAP Portugal acquired a sub-fleet of two A330-200, which it operates on its EWR to LIS and BOS to LIS routes. The aircraft have refurbished seats in both business and coach cabins.
I was very excited to try TAP's "new" lie-flat business class product, which definitely beats the slopey seats they have installed on the rest of their fleet. After a short wait, it was time to board the aircraft that would fly me to Lisbon tonight.
Upon entering the cabin, I couldn't help but notice that the AZUL or TAP Portugal Business Class product is identical to the seats on Iberia.
The coach cabin looked comfortable as well and I was very impressed about how "new" this aircraft felt given its age of 12 years - AZUL really did a good job in refurbishing these birds.
Since I was booked on this flight at the very last minute, there were only two seats available to chose from 5C and 1H, I picked 5C, which is in the last row of the business cabin.
Since the layout is staggered, you would want to pick an A or K seat to have the maximum amount of privacy if traveling alone.
For couples, the middle seats in rows 1, 3 and 5 are best since they have no table in-between.
I quickly settled into my seat and noticed that the amenity kit, the menu and a headset were waiting for me on the side table.
The seat is identical to the one in Iberia's business class cabin and has a decent amount of personal space.
The seat controls are located in the left armrest and were pretty standard and self-explanatory. The seat does go completely flat.
There was a power outlet available as well.
The main table was of the fold down nature and was quite big.
I was a big fan of the amenity kit. It looked like a sardine can.
It was definitely one of the better amenity kits and contained L'Occitane products.
Before we pushed back, the flight attendants distributed pre-departure beverages, which consisted of water, OJ and champagne. I stuck to water as I have been trying to minimize my intake of alcohol recently.
In no time, we were ready for departure and taxied to the runway. TAP's safety video is kind of odd - it tells the story of people flying for the first time. I don't have a problem with that but the video shows safety features on aircraft but no aircraft interior or even interior replicas are shown - a really odd video. People sit in trains and cabs and talk about safety on-board - just odd.
About 10-15 minutes after we took off, the flight attendants got up and started preparations for dinner. I could tell that I made the wrong choice in terms of seat as the galley behind me was extensively used and the flight attendants did not really close to curtain so all the light and noise bled right to my seat.
Dinner service commenced with a hot towel, which I used to clean my seat area.
The menu looked interesting and read as follows:
Canapes were served along with a glass of white wine. The nuts actually had a plastic lid still on, which I always find odd. The Thai chicken curry on Red Endive was pretty tasty.
Service continued with a scallops and bacon jam salad. The soup was a tomato soup with pumpernickel croutons - both dishes were pretty tasty and I was very impressed with the quality of the food so far.
For my main course, I had the pasta, which was the biggest let-down - it was greasy and soggy, it tasted OK but it certainly wasn't a great dish - it is something I would expect in coach but not in business class.
Throughout dinner service, the flight attendants very attentive, but not overly friendly. The service was very drawn out unfortunately, and after finishing my main course, we were already 90 minutes into the flight.
For dessert, I had the strawberry ice cream and the fruit plate. The fruits were ripe and tasty!
The ice cream, however, was rock hard - I had to wait a good five minutes before I could eat it.
Dinner service concluded with a piece of chocolate.
I was looking forward to the "espresso" coffee listed in the menu and ordered one. When I got the espresso, I was kind of surprised by the amount of coffee served - it looked like I got a triple espresso. The coffee was quite good, however.
After dinner service concluded, the flight attendants dimmed the lights and switched on the mood lights.
I looked at the in-flight map and noticed that we were expected to land in about 2.5 hours already - certainly a very short flight over the Atlantic. I fired up the IFE system and the selection was definitely sufficient for such a short flight.
I watched a movie and after finishing, I could already hear the flight attendants prepare for breakfast service in the galley behind my seat. Unfortunately, there was quite a lot of traffic between the cockpit area and the galley. The flight attendants unfortunately did not really pay attention to closing the curtain, so the light from the galley would often shine directly on me - if you can, definitely avoid row 5.
Continental breakfast was served and it was definitely sufficient for such a short flight. I ordered some coffee with it.
Shortly after breakfast, we commenced our descend into Lisbon Airport.
We landed and taxied to a remote parking spot. Luckily, business class passengers received a separate bus. We were parked right next to this completely black HiFly aircraft.
I took a last shot of the business class cabin after all the other passengers had left.
Unfortunately, one of the business class passengers forgot something on board and took his sweet time retrieving the item - I could see him first talking to his wife for 10 minutes and the then slowly walking up the stairs. This meant that all the other buses left before us, which lead to some wait at immigration.
TAP Portugal has a very competitive hard-product on this sub-fleet of A330-200 aircraft. Along with decent service and polite crew, I would definitely recommend this product to anyone looking for flights between JFK and Boston to Lisbon - just make sure that Expertflyer or flyTAP.com shows this new business class configuration before you book your flights. TAP's old business class product, which I got to "enjoy" on my short flight to Vienna, definitely needs to be avoided - it is very similar to the seat found in Malaysian's old business class cabin and is not very comfortable.