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An All Airbus Adventure (JFK-LIS-LHR-JFK On TP/VS)

Thu Sep 05, 2002 7:47 am

An All Airbus Adventure (and not a great one)

"beware of the unknown" would a befitting description of this trip. "Do
not fly TAP Air Portugal" a more specific one. While I truly and
thoroughly enjoyed my trip in Portugal, the journey itself- the
part I usually most look forward to- was the biggest disappointment this
time. The last few times I have flown it has been with the likes of
British Airways, American Airlines, and Cathay Pacific, each of which,
for all their problems here and there, are generally efficient and
reliable. So I wasn't expecting quite so helter-scelter a journey this time.

Aug 27
TAP Air Portugal
New York (JFK) to Lisbon
Airbus 340-300

Arrived at JFK; check in was prompt and courteous (no wonder- it is
handled by Swiss). The flight was not very full (most traffic at this
time is in the other direction) and by sitting at the back I got lots of
empty seats to my self. The flight was delayed about 1 1/2 hours. This
was not a problem itself, especially since we made up most of the time
enroute, but what was funny was that not a single announcment was
made during the entire time explaining anything. Funnier still,
passengers didn't seem to care either. As I was told later, that's
Mediterranean time!

The aircraft was the newest of four Airbus 340s in TAP's fleet. The cabin
was unappealing, with a single drab grey color dominating all seats,
curtain, paneling etc. Leg-room was actually good (I think the same as
American's more room throughout coach), but the seats themselves were so
uncomfortable (no headrest or lumbar support) that the legroom did not
help. There were no PTVs, and the limited
entertainment on the overhead screens was slipshod and boring.
The meal service was standard, not great but not bad either. The "chicken"
or "fish" option was eliminated well before they reached my row, so I had
to have the fish, which was tasty, but miniscule. to their credit, when I
did ask for a second meal, they graciously obliged,

Despite the delay, we landed in Lisbon almost on time. Lisbon
airport is situated only 7 km from the city which means (1)
beautiful views of the city as you land, and (2) only 7 euros to
my hotel downtown! Although there are some jetways, these are only
used for short haul flights, so we had to disembark via buses. Climbing
down the plane really gives you an impression of the sheer size of the
A340, esp the wingspan! Immigation was a nightmare, as
a number of flights from all over landing at the same time had to be
serviced by a very small number of agents.

Sept 3

Lisbon to London Heathrow
Tap Air Portugal
A 310-300

Got to the airport well on time, bu thad to endure the whole
rigmarole all over again: check in lines were astronimcally long, being
serviced by only a few agents.
Then the agent thought it was not possible to check my
bags through to New York until I convinced her that was the norm.

2:00, boarding time, and 2:40, departure time, came and went, but no
announcment was made. Finally at 3:00 we started boarding. Again we had to board in a bus ( a single bus for the whole plane that had to take
turns), and the procedure was impossibly long and unacceptably
inefficient. To make matters worse, the bus reached the aircraft only to
be told that the plane was not ready. So we had to sit in the bus
another 20 minutes.

We were finally airborne after a surprisingly long take-off roll (London
is only 2 hours away), and got spectacular views of downtown Lisbon.
As on the A340, Leg room was again generous, entertainment was
again poor, and the food (chicken ala rubber) was this time absolutely
attrocious. But I didn't really care as by this time a bigger problem was
brewing. My connecting flight to New York was scheduled to depart at 6:30.
We were originally scheduled to arrive at 5:15 but with almost a full hour
delay things were getting dicey.

I wasn't deseparately worried as I knew that Virgin had later flights that
day to New York, but the problem was that I had specifically wanted to be
on the 6:30 pm flight as it was operated by their single new Airbus
340-600. Oh well. The crew allowed me to sit in the First row of First
Class for the latter portion of the flight so that when we reached
the gate I could disembark first. As it turned out by the time we landed
at Heathrow (on 9L), meandered our way to our gate in Terminal 2,
disembarked, and my running all the way to Terminal 3, my connecting
flight had long left.

They offered me the later flight (which goes to Newark). When I said I
wanted to fly the 340-600 they said I could if I want fly the next day
instead on the 830pm flight which would be operated by that aircraft, but
they would not provide accomodation or transport in London. Still, that
was nice of them. I had a cousin in London who I thought I may stay with,
but after mulling over it for about 15 minutes I thought the inconvenience
of shlepping myself and my bags into town and then all teh way back the
next day was just too much, and decided to continue on the
same day. (of course today as I write this, I am regretting my decision).
What I have noticed about Virgin staff in general is they ARE helpful, as
in this case, but their manner and tone often suggest they are being rude
when they really are not.

o, on to New York:

Virgin Atlantic VS 17
London to Newark
Airbus 340-300
G-VFAR (Princess Diana)

I had flown the very same aircraft two years ago, also to New York, when
she was in the old configuration. Now having been refurbished, the new
cabin looked very sleek and elegant (the outside of the aircraft was still
in the old livery, though). Upper Class was with the
new purple red and silver seats, and the bar. Premium Economy and Economy
had the new seats too. The dividers between the classes are unusual and
very elegant too. My biggest complaint is when refurbishing the aircraft,
they should have increased the seat pitch in Economy, which is one of the
worst in the entire airline industry. Thank goodness I had an aisle seat
into which I could push out my legs otherwise I would have been miserable.
to make matters worse, the electronic systems that control the inflight
tvs are located under the seat which restrict legroom further.

But from what I was told by a friend who is very tall is that because
he is extremely tall, whenever the flight is not full, they are very good
about moving him up to premium economy. still, never happened to me.

Anyway, the service I must sadly admit has dwindled significantly.
Although most of the cuts are relatively minor, they did show, especially
because Virgin is one of those airlines on whcih you expect all these

Here are some examples:
1. no menu
2. limited food supplies (one less meal service, and on the existing
meals, no appetizer, just a main course).
3. no full alcohol bottles for passenges, and no post dinner liqueur as
4. less items in amenity kits.
the inflight entertainment system (because Virgin acquired different
aircraft from different sources at different times, they have three
entertaimnent systems, odyssey, arcadia and nova; we had the arcadia.
Pretty good selection, although there was no audio-video on demand).
Another thing I did really love was the "mood" lighting that changes in
the cabin through the flight- especially the blueish hues.

The flight took off (9R) and landed (22L) on time, and, here is the nice
part, they allowed me to take a limousine home that is usually reserved
for Upper Class passengers since I had been rerouted from the Kennedy to
the Newark flight.

so in summary

TAP: plusses: friendly and nice staff, very good legroom
minuses: everything else: uncomfortable seats, poor service,
no PTVs, unreliable, delayed perpetually.....
as hyacinth bucket from my favorite tv show would say,
"a very lower middle class airline"
Would I fly with them again? Most likely not

Virgin: plusses: still a fun airline, nice planes, excellent inflight
entertainment, offered me free limo service
minuses: leg room horrible, service while still good is not as
good as before.
Would I fly with them again? Yes, but increase legroom!

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RE: An All Airbus Adventure (JFK-LIS-LHR-JFK On TP/VS)

Thu Sep 05, 2002 7:55 am

Very nice report. You said youd taken AA last time, to where? Does TAP fly out of terminal 4 in JFK? Also, do you live in the New York Area? I'm in Rye.
DC-10's Forever
"Traveling light is the only way to fly" - Eric Clapton
Topic Author
Posts: 891
Joined: Tue Jul 25, 2000 12:16 pm

RE: An All Airbus Adventure (JFK-LIS-LHR-JFK On TP

Thu Sep 05, 2002 9:39 am


Yes, TAP does fly out of Terminal 4 (the international terminal)
I use AA almost exclusivelywhen I fly domestically, and also to London and tokyo.
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RE: An All Airbus Adventure (JFK-LIS-LHR-JFK On TP/VS)

Thu Sep 05, 2002 11:47 am

I enjoyed your report. I hav heard very mixed things about TP...although mostly bad. My opinion on European airlines is this: Airlines like TP, AZ, EI operate in rather small markets and don't compete to attract transfer passengers and therefore boast nonstop service to an otherwise one stop destination. Whereas, AA, BA, VS, AF, LX, KL attempt to attract transfer passengers by adding on amenities like PTVs, amenity kits, etc. I used to fly EI frequently from JFK to DUB and I know do JFK-LHR-DUB with AA and EI/BD. AA offer more room, PTVS, better standard of service. This is all my opinion but I find if you fly on an airline that tries to attract transfer traffic you will have a better experience.

As far as VS is concerned.....I flew them once and was utterly unimpressed. Agents were more than friendly and accomodating. I found the legroom to be unacceptable and the flight attendents surly at best. Sir Richard can keep his airline.......

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Joined: Mon Oct 02, 2000 11:47 pm

RE: An All Airbus Adventure (JFK-LIS-LHR-JFK On TP/VS)

Thu Sep 05, 2002 12:58 pm

I flew VS once from HKG to LHR on their A340 "China Doll" and I found the leg room in economy to be really tight too. This was almost 2 years ago and obviously things have not changed since. However, the flight was still very enjoyable, with friendly and efficient crew, nice amenity bags, good IFE and decent food, albeit very small portioned. They gave out menus back then. Do they still have their enlarged toilet in the middle of the plane? I thought that was a nice touch for disabled and non-disabled passengers! Would the legroom be better on their 747's?

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Joined: Thu Oct 28, 1999 11:31 pm

RE: An All Airbus Adventure (JFK-LIS-LHR-JFK On TP/VS)

Thu Sep 05, 2002 5:14 pm


Nice report AT. Being Portuguese I have flown on TAP quite a lot of times. I've just flown LIS-LHR-JNB-LHR-LIS on TAP and on BA (trip report to come soon), and you could feel an enormous difference between both airlines. I personally find TAP a TERRIBLE airline, mainly because I am used to carriers like SQ  Smile/happy/getting dizzy

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RE: An All Airbus Adventure (JFK-LIS-LHR-JFK On TP/VS)

Fri Sep 06, 2002 12:32 am

Hey Atti....interesting report man.Quite a coincidence that we are posting reports at the same was lisbon and the women there?
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RE: An All Airbus Adventure (JFK-LIS-LHR-JFK On TP/VS)

Fri Sep 06, 2002 1:41 am

I think you're exagerating a bit about TP. reading your trip report I don't see it to be so awful, rather your "european standard flag carrier" , and a bit old fashioned perhaps (no PTV ,etc) . I only flew TP once, FRA-OPO-FRA , and then it had a refreshing good service comparing with IB. You flew an airline twice and that means "delayed perpuatly" ? Well I also flew twice withthem and one flight was delayed beacuse of ATC strike (so no TP fault) and the other one was bang on time. What do you base your claim iabout being unreliable ? come on !

"What I have noticed about Virgin staff in general is they ARE helpful, as
in this case, but their manner and tone often suggest they are being rude
when they really are not."

So this seems to me a good reason to avoid VS  Big grin - but they seem to be quite mediterranean if they act like that

Topic Author
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RE: An All Airbus Adventure (JFK-LIS-LHR-JFK On TP

Fri Sep 06, 2002 2:13 am

true, i only flew on two flights with them, but in the departure lounge at lisbon, four out of seven departures were delayed. i think that spells "unreliable" fairly well.
Posts: 8165
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RE: An All Airbus Adventure (JFK-LIS-LHR-JFK On TP/VS)

Fri Sep 06, 2002 3:18 am

I've flown TAP on numerous occasions,however only around europe.

I must say,on my most recent trips flying LHR-LIS they were better than BA,but then every airline had good flight's and bad flight's on the same day on the same route.

Given that,I would not consider using them on a long haul,i'll stick to BA or US to the states.

Thanks for the report.


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Joined: Thu Jul 26, 2001 7:33 pm

RE: An All Airbus Adventure (JFK-LIS-LHR-JFK On TP/VS)

Fri Sep 06, 2002 6:17 pm

"in the departure lounge at lisbon, four out of seven departures were delayed. i think that spells "unreliable" fairly well"

Then check any major european airport any random day and check their flag carrier (IB at MAD, AF at CDG , AZ at FCO LH at FRA and so on) , you can also check airport web sites, and you'll conclude all european carriers are unreliable.
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Joined: Thu Apr 12, 2001 5:52 am

RE: An All Airbus Adventure (JFK-LIS-LHR-JFK On TP/VS)

Sat Sep 07, 2002 3:56 am

Just to clarify a few points:-

The a/c you flew on (G-VFAR) has had the new seats fitted in Upper Class. However the new Premium Economy and Economy seats have not yet been installed.

The meal service has not changed. There is still a starter, main course, dessert and cheese with biscuits.

The amenity kits are different on outbound and inbound flights. The contents of the amenity kits on flights from London have not changed or been reduced.

Hope this helps.

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