TAP Air Portugal Airbus A321LRneo Lie-flat Business Class Review [LIS to LHR]

Arrival at Lisbon’s Terminal 1.

While there are 2 separate entrances, there’s no exclusive sectioned-off space for premium passengers as both doors open into the same main terminal building — just different parts of it.

Premium passengers are to enter through entrance 1, and all other passengers through entrance 2.

Terminal 1’s entrance for premium passengers.

The shuttle bus between Terminals 1 and 2 also arrives and departs from this part of the terminal.

TAP had 5 premium check-in lanes open. However, rather than passengers forming 1 queue, each of the desks had its own queue, meaning passengers didn’t get served in order of arrival.

TAP’s business class check-in area.

My 10-minute wait to be checked in was speedy given how busy TAP’s economy check-in area was.

Passengers waiting in the snaking line for economy check-in.

Traveling Through Lisbon Airport

My business class ticket meant I was eligible to use the fast-track security lane which was pretty backed up when I arrived. It took around 10 minutes before I’d made it through into the departures area and was on my way to the lounge, which had clear signage in the terminal from the get-go.

This way to the lounges.

Hot Tip: When leaving the European Schengen zone, you’ll clear passport control in both your country of departure and arrival. In most European airports, passport control is located at the entrance to the departure gates rather than before entering the main departures area. This means you’ll need to leave the lounge with enough time to clear passport control queues that can be notoriously lengthy at peak times when there are lots of ex-Schengen flights departing. 

The TAP Business Class Lounge

When arriving at the main circular departures area of Terminal 1, you can’t miss the escalator heading up towards the lounges with accompanying signage.

Finding the lounges at Lisbon Terminal 1 couldn’t be easier.

On your way up you get a nice view over the terminal.

The heart of Terminal 1 at Lisbon Airport.

I smirked at the long queue of people waiting to get into the Priority Pass lounge before seeing a similar queue of people waiting to get into TAP’s only business class lounge in the terminal.

The line for TAP’s business class lounge.

Thankfully the line must have been due to a rush of people arriving at the same time as this helpful sign advised that the lounge was only at 68% occupancy.

Green for go.

However, once inside, it felt more like 98% occupancy! It was the morning rush hour at Lisbon’s airport and the lounge felt more like a bus terminal in São Paulo than an executive lounge in an airport.

It was a busy morning.

Despite a member of the cleaning staff rushing around to keep on top of the dirty tables, I had to ask for her to clean this rare unoccupied table before I could sit down as it was full of stacked dishes and littered with food debris.

Filthy.

The lounge offered both hot and cold food options.

Healthier choices included ingredients to make your own salad and premade roasted vegetable dishes (not sure why they needed to be wrapped in cellophane).

Healthier choices.

The healthier theme continued with a ready-made veggie chickpea dish and what looked like just a pot of tuna.

Would either of these dishes take your fancy?

In terms of hot breakfast options, there were some uninviting scrambled eggs along with some of the usual accompaniments you’d expect, such as bacon.

The self-serve hot buffet area.

For a sweeter start to the day, I could have gone for a classic breakfast pastry like a croissant or pain au chocolate, or chosen from this array of traditional Portuguese treats, like pastel de nata (custard tart).

A final pastel de nata for the road never hurt anyone.

I was happy to find that I’d be sipping my first coffee of the day from a Delta coffee machine. Delta is the coffee supplier that provides the coffee beans for most cafés in Portugal. Look out for the little red triangle when you’re looking for your morning caffeine hit.

Delta coffee gets the day off to a great start.

Stronger options by way of self-serve wines were available.

Self-serve wine.

There was also a fully-stocked bar complete with a bartender.

The bar.

Having been a little off-put by the scrambled eggs that I’d usually go for, I cobbled together a chicken and cheese butty (what we call a sandwich in the north of England).

Breakfast of champions.

One thing the TAP business class lounge does have going for it is the views over the apron and runway.

A TAP Airbus A321neoLR pushing back for departure.

Still, I was grateful to be enjoying breakfast in the lounge rather than sitting in the overcrowded food hall below.

The food hall.

Boarding

Sorry to say it, TAP, but you let me down here.

I left the lounge later than usual so I arrived at the gate after all other premium passengers had boarded … or so I thought. I had a sneaking suspicion that we’d be boarding from a remote stand given that an Airbus A330neo headed to São Paulo was also parked at gate 41 which was also the gate for my flight.

My hunch was confirmed as I headed down the escalator to a tiny space crammed full of passengers.

Bad planning by TAP.

It got to the point that people coming down the escalator were dangerously running out of space.

After more than 10 minutes, we were ushered onto a bus to take us to our aircraft.

While I wasn’t a fan of being penned in at the bottom of the stairs like sardines, I did enjoy the bus ride for the AvGeek shots I was able to take, like the one of our aircraft CS-TXG as we passed by the wing.

Under the wing of TAP’s CS-TXG registered A321neoLR that would take us to London.

We arrived at the aircraft 20 minutes after I scanned my boarding pass at the gate.

Onboard TAP’s Airbus A321LRneo

I was the first to board the aircraft, which meant more time for plane spotting.

I felt weirdly nostalgic seeing this BA A321 coming in for a landing, as I rarely fly anything other than British Airways in Europe these days.

British Airways arriving from London.

Seat

This flight would be my third time flying the infamous throne seat. My first was flying the version on British Airways’ mid-range Airbus A321 jet from Amman (AMM) in Jordan to London (LHR) back in 2019. The second was with TAP on the same aircraft type as this but on a long-haul journey from Porto (OPO) to Newark (EWR).

The throne seat is by far one of my favorite seats to fly in. It’s like having your own cozy armchair and is a real novelty for a short-haul European flight.

Throne seat 2D.

As you can see, I was very happy to be back in it.

Very happy to be back in the throne seat.

To give you an idea of just how much space the throne seat provides, the seats of the 2 passengers seated in the row in front of me occupied the exact same amount of space as my single seat.

You can’t beat the throne seat for space.

I’d forgotten just how abundant the throne seat storage is.

The huge compartment over my left shoulder — complete with a closing door — was large enough to house a handbag or even a small rucksack.

Alternatively, it could also be used as the place to discard your used face mask, as showcased by the passenger on the previous flight from Toronto (YYZ).

Given the aircraft had been on the ground since 5:20 a.m., this hygiene mishap is inexcusable.

There’s no viable excuse for this.

To add insult to injury, I found more trash from the previous flight in the storage net under the IFE.

Where there was storage, there was trash.

I already had more than enough storage, but I liked the additional surface space on either seat of my seat, which came in handy for setting down my tray once I’d finished eating. My tray was only there a matter of seconds before it was whisked away by a crew member.

So much space.

The seat reclined into a lie-flat bed. Not necessary for a morning hop to London, but a welcome novelty nonetheless.

The seat in lie-flat position.

Given the narrowness of the aircraft, it’s not surprising that the width of the seat in lie-flat position feels tight.

Not much room for movement here.

I’d say anyone over around 5 feet 10 inches tall would have issues fitting their feet comfortably into the very tight space at the end of the bed.

One of the few times being tall isn’t great (not referring to myself).

There was a comfy-yet-sturdy headrest and a car-style seatbelt for added safety.

I strongly prefer proper seat belts for take-off and landing.

The huge tray table was housed neatly in a slot next to the storage cupboard over my left shoulder.

The tray table retracted.

Business Class Cabin

The staggered configuration of the 16 seats makes the business class cabin feel more spacious than a regular narrow-body jet — from a throne seat perspective at least.

Only 4 seats in the cabin have direct aisle access — 2B, 2E, 4B, and 4E. The passengers in seats A or F of the other 3 rows would need to perform an awkward hop over their aisle-seat neighbor to visit the bathroom or stretch their legs.

The business class cabin from the front of the aircraft.

While I can’t see that being much of a problem on such a short flight like this, I can imagine it would get a little frustrating on long-haul flights between Portugal and Africa, Brazil, or North America.

The business class cabin from the rear.

Economy Class Cabin

The rest of the aircraft was made up of 155 economy seats in a 3-3 configuration with 42 of those being so-called “Economy Extra” seats which offer up to 2 inches more legroom.

The fresh-looking economy cabin.

Food and Beverage

A welcome smell of fresh bread filled the cabin and moments later (around 20 minutes after takeoff) the curtain separating the cabin from the forward galley opened to reveal the meal cart.

Food and drinks were served at the same time, which is expected on a short-haul flight in Europe in business class.

A continental-style breakfast was served and included a plate of fresh fruit, cold cuts, and fittingly, 1 more pastel de nata for the road.

Breakfast was served just 23 minutes after take off.

Inflight bread is usually terrible, but the smell of this warm bread basked tempted me to give it a go.

Bread basket.

I used it to make a mini cheese and turkey sandwich which I enjoyed both bites of.

Brits love a sarny.

Overall I found the breakfast to be tasty and filling and I liked that it was on the healthier side of the tracks.

It will never be known just how many pastel de natas I may or may not have consumed on my journey home from Portugal.

I’ve never heard anyone say a bad word about pastel de natas.

As it was pre-lunchtime in the workday, I went for a sparkling water. This was my first drink given that welcome drinks aren’t served on most all intra-European flights in business class.

Sparkling water.

Once I’d finished eating, I asked Claudia, the friendly flight attendant, what was being offered for the sparkling wine option. She kindly brought me the bottle which I later discovered retails at around $7. No expense spared there, eh, TAP?

Don’t judge a bottle by its looks.

For review purposes only, I caved into peer pressure (there was no peer pressure) and asked for a cheeky glass.

Thank you, Claudia.

You know what … for a $7 bottle, it was really quite nice.

Just 1 glass can’t hurt.

Amenities

In addition to the welcome drink, a second notable absence was an amenity kit. However, I wasn’t expecting one as you’ll rarely receive one on short-haul business-class flights in Europe or the U.S.

A nice feature at my seat was that I could charge my devices using the easy-to-find USB port and international socket.

USB and power socket.

TAP offers its passengers several Wi-Fi options, including a free messaging option.

Wi-Fi options.

I don’t usually connect to inflight Wi-Fi as I like to enjoy my time being disconnected from the world, but I was curious to see how good the free Wi-Fi option would be.

I was able to send and receive WhatsApp messages easily, though pictures wouldn’t send, which I usually find is the case when using free inflight Wi-Fi. I ran a speed test which showed a download speed of 27.7 Mbps and a very slow upload speed of a mere 0.53 Mbps. TAP also gives its flyers the option to log in to the IFE using a 5-digit keycode that can be found on their boarding pass.

For a short flight of just 2 hours, the 137-strong choice of films in TAP’s IFE library was more than enough to pass the time, though I opted for the trusty moving map as my form of entertainment for the duration of the flight.

An AvGeek’s favorite: the moving map.

I didn’t see blankets readily available anywhere, but given that this woman made herself comfy underneath one, it appears that they were available upon request.

Bright red blanket.

Cleanliness

It pains me to have to give airlines a bad rap for cleanliness — especially in times of the pandemic — but finding a used face mask from a previous passenger in my seat was utterly gross. The rolled-up paper bag just added insult to injury.

There’s really no acceptable excuse for this kind of oversight. If the cleaning team had rushed through the aircraft so quickly and missed the trash, then apparently (as I was informed by a cabin crew who reached out on Instagram) it should have been picked up by the crew when running final safety checks before passengers boarded.

Bathroom

Narrow-body aircraft are renowned for having cramped bathrooms and this one at the front of the Airbus A321neoLR was no exception.

Business class bathroom.

It had no special business-class amenities to speak of.

Service

As you might know already from my previous reviews, the customer service and interaction I experience throughout my journey is a make-or-break for me.

I’m very happy to report that from the second I boarded the aircraft, I knew that this TAP crew was going to do the airline proud.

Rita was in charge of the cabin and she was excellent. In the brief moment between the “boarding complete” announcement and the doors being shut, I took my chances and asked Rita if I could head back down the stairs quickly to take a snap of the beautiful old-school livery that was parked next to our aircraft.

She checked with the dispatchers before happily escorting me down the stairs to get this shot.

Old-school liveries are simply stunning.

It was an absolute pleasure being looked after by Claudia and Rita who were working in the business class cabin.

Just before the seatbelt sign came on before landing, I popped into the galley and asked if I could get a picture with the crew, which they were more than happy to do.

Claudia (left) and Rita (right) are an asset to the TAP team.

Thank you for such great customer service and a very memorable flight.

Arrival

We touched down at London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) at 11:29 a.m. — 16 minutes ahead of schedule.

It had been a while since I’d arrived at Terminal 2 so wasn’t sure what passport control situation to expect.

When arriving in the U.K., holders of passports issued in Australia, Canada, the EEA (European Economic Area), Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, the U.K., and the U.S. are eligible to use the eGates.

The idea behind the eGates is that it speeds up the process for passengers as they potentially wouldn’t need to speak to an immigration officer and wait to have their passports stamped.

However, the queue of people in the eGates lane would suggest otherwise.

Long queues are the worst welcome to a country.

I understood the hold-up once I’d reached the front of the queue: the eGate scanners were turning away the majority of passengers who were then asked to go join a separate (albeit shorter queue) to speak to a member of immigration staff.

Computer says no.

Passengers were being turned away after a maximum of 3 failed attempts at scanning their passports, which, ironically, makes the process almost as long as speaking to a customs officer.

Interestingly, the “all other passports” area (i.e. where passengers without passports from the aforementioned nations would need to speak to a customs officer) had no queue whatsoever.

I might try my luck in the “all other passports” lane next time.

After checking the timestamps on the photos, I was surprised to see that it only took me 20 minutes to get through to the terminal. Due to the eGates issue, it felt much longer.

I was reunited with my priority-tagged checked bag (which was one of the first to arrive on the baggage belt) within just a few minutes after arriving at the baggage carousel.

Final Thoughts

The questionable start to my TAP experience (the overcrowded lounge, terrible boarding process, and trash at my seat) was more than made up for by my positive inflight experience.

This is due to the surprisingly good breakfast, the space and comfort of the throne seat, and, most importantly, the amazing TAP Air Portugal crew who was working my flight to London that day.

Having a proper business class experience on intra-European flights has become somewhat of a novelty these days, so I appreciated TAP for being one of the few airlines that offer this service.

I arrived in London feeling rested, refreshed, and grateful that I get to do what I do for a living.

I can’t wait to fly TAP again soon. I’m thinking maybe an A330-900neo to Brazil! Watch this space …


The information regarding The Platinum Card® from American Express U.K. was independently collected by Upgraded Points and not provided nor reviewed by the issuer. 

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