Review: TAP (operated by Portugalia) Short Haul business class – London Gatwick to Porto

I had spent some time deciding whether to buy this ticket or not. There are around 5 airlines that fly between London and Porto, and 3 between Gatwick: British Airways, TAP and EasyJet.

As I had to book this trip fairly last-minute, the cheapest economy class tickets on any airline were around £140 for hand luggage only. Contrast this with a business class ticket costing £186 which included 2 items of check-in luggage, lounge access and meal on board, and usually the first to get off the plane and arrive at the terminal.

On this last point, out of the five airlines that fly between London and Porto, all but TAP use remote stands and buses.

So I splurged the extra £46.

Check in

My flight was scheduled for late-evening but I had finished my afternoon's event quite early, so I arrived at Gatwick South Terminal around 4.45pm, which as I found out was too early even for TAP check in counters. Therefore I had to sit around until 6pm when the counters opened again.

My check in was handled by an airport contract agent and the whole check in was pretty smooth with nothing particularly special about it, other than the waiting around.

I did try to take a picture of the counter but I got stopped by a staff member in the process.

Lounge

I used the No1 Lounge, which I reviewed in some detail here, so I won't repeat it in this post.

Security

As I was flying business class I was able to use the fast-track security lane at Gatwick which had no-one in line. Being the evening rush hour this was actually massively beneficial because the standard lane had LOADS of people, so much that there was a queue to even scan the boarding passes to enter the security area. I was through security within 2 minutes.

Gate Area and Boarding

There was a big university group returning to Portugal, about 40 students I think. The rather annoying thing was at first sight there was no separation between business class and economy class passengers which meant I was standing in line behind them.

But I slowly realised that actually everyone was just standing in the business class line, and the economy class line was empty, so I just moved into that one and got served quicker.

My ride for the evening…

On Board

Flight number: TP1335
Scheduled departure time: 20:55 (actual: 21:45)
Scheduled arrival time: 23:15 (actual: 00:15)
Flight time 2h20m (actual 2h30m)
Aircraft type: Embraer 190
Registration: CS-TPR
Seat: 1D (window, bulkhead)

Like most intra-European business class, the seat is like an economy class seat, though as I was flying an Embraer 190 with a 2-2 configuration there is no blocked middle seat. I had no-one next to me anyway so the lack of free middle seat was of no consequence on this flight.The best seats in the house are actually 2A and 2C, which are also bulkheads but benefit from the extra legroom where 1A and 1C would have been. These were taken before I could choose them so I went for 1D instead.

As I had not flown an E190 for some time, I read through the safety card.

In-flight Meal

Pretty much as soon as the seatbelt sign got switched off the meal service started. I had my tray on my table within 20 minutes of take off.

My meal was a cold prawn salad. There was no other choice offered, I was just given the tray without being asked, though luckily I am not a picky eater. I also got one ‘pastel de nata‘ and a bread roll which comes around in a basket. I chose white wine and a Coca Cola for my drink.

The prawn salad was rather tasteless sadly. Even after adding extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar there was little to no taste of the prawns. They were cook to medium tenderness.

The portion size was disappointingly small I felt, and not particularly substantial to fill someone up. It was probably a good thing they had loads of bread, so you could ask for more if necessary. I didn't as I had already eaten in the lounge prior to the flight.

The sole flight attendant for business class also served coffee and tea towards the end of the meal. I don't think I've had such bitter coffee for a long time though! Although I normally drink black coffee without sugar, I felt compelled to add milk and sugar this time round and it was still too bitter for me. So to compensate I asked for another serving of Coca Cola to wash it all down.

Beside the meal, there was hardly any more interaction between the flight attendant and the rest of the passengers. There was not really much to report in terms of service or the rest of the flight!

Landing at Porto Airport

As mentioned in the introduction, The TAP service at Porto uses the air bridge to the terminal, unlike most low cost carriers plus British Airways use bussed gates. I always try to walk speedily from the aircraft to be the first through passport control which being the only person in row 1, was pretty much guaranteed.

In the end because I had checked a bag in it didn't matter. Despite a priority tag on my bag for being a business class passenger, I still had to wait around 10 minutes for my bag to come out. Perhaps noteworthy is that I had already received my bag before the last passengers had cleared immigration though! This was important because I caught the final metro to city centre by about 3 seconds – the doors were sounding to shut. Everyone else behind me would have needed to catch a taxi to town.

My thoughts

This flight cost £186 one way, which I thought was rather cheap considering I booked it only 1 week in advance, and the cheapest economy class seat was about £140 at the time.

The flights between London and Porto are not short, around 2 hours flight time, around 1hr 25m if you exclude take off and landing mandatory seated time. Even though there were only 4 rows in business class I think the flight attendant only passed through to serve food with drinks, serve tea/coffee and to pack up the food tray. There was no further checking to see if passengers wanted extra beverages even while we had trays on our tables.

For a full-service airline I would have hoped for at least an extra pass with the beverage cart.

I did think the meal was rather small. I have not yet tried the morning or afternoon meals so cannot comment on whether they would be similar sizes then. But I did arrive home requiring a midnight snack!

Conclusion

Mediocre flight, but good ground service in Gatwick and Porto. If you are arriving late at night and need to catch a metro then TAP is basically the only airline that parks at the terminal gates rather than remote stands. This can make all the difference if a flight is delayed (it happens frequently in Porto!) and you are going to land after midnight.

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