I was feeling pretty darn good during the walk to the gate to catch my first ever TAP Portugal A320 business class experience. I mean, everything about my trip had been a smashing success so far. The Condor business class flight from San Diego to Frankfurt was much better than I was expecting it would be, and staying at the airport Hilton was a very good decision due to its proximity to the airport and overall value for the money.
Things were definitely going well – though it was obnoxiously early still and a few more hours of sleep would have been really nice.
It was so early as a matter fact, that I was pretty much running on autopilot this morning and I wasn’t even paying attention to the flight information boards hanging around the airport. I simply went through the security checkpoint and started walking, confident I would end up at the right place.
Frankfurt, Germany (FRA) – Lisbon, Portugal (LIS)
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Duration: 2 hours 49 minutes
Seat: 5A (business class)
It was only after about 20 minutes of walking down a very empty terminal that I started to realize that maybe I was in a place where I shouldn’t have been. Seriously – I was all alone in this massive terminal and it was starting to feel a bit weird. The kind of weird which would imply that somehow I managed to unknowingly pass a sealed-off barrier of some kind, and I was in a section of the airport that was completely off limits.
The thought of being someplace I shouldn’t have been didn’t phase me at all. I was simply enjoying the moment of being all alone at Frankfurt airport and having an entire terminal to myself. It was at about 20 minutes until scheduled boarding time that I started to think that I needed to find out where my flight would be departing from. That’s where things got a little bit stressful.
A quick check of the nearest flight information board revealed that my flight was departing from the very far end of a completely different terminal. No, I wouldn’t have to go outside of security to reach it, but I was facing a very long walk due the size of this freaking airport.
At first I wasn’t able to fully comprehend how long it was going to take me to walk all the way over to the end of the other terminal, but after 10 minutes of walking and not even being halfway there yet, I was starting to get a little bit nervous. Frankfurt airport is huge. I learned the hard way.
Thankfully they hadn’t even started boarding yet by the time I reached the gate. It was still very early morning here and none of the other gates were being used, so it was baffling to me as to why they chose to use this gate way out here in no man’s land.
The guys watching the security cameras were probably laughing their asses off watching me run a marathon through the airport this morning, purposefully assigning this flight to this particular gate in order to make me squirm.
Making matters worse was the fact that it felt like it was 1000° inside the airport. Combine that with the fact I probably just walked 10 miles (ok, slight exaggeration), and I wasn’t in the cheeriest of moods. A little air conditioning would’ve felt great at that point, which was the complete opposite of my experience in the hotel room last night.
Boarding began about 10 minutes late, which was perfectly fine by me since it gave me a chance to cool down a little bit before getting on the airplane.
Two things immediately jumped out at me once I stepped on board and sat down in my seat. First of all, even though I was in a business class seat, it sure as heck did not look and feel like a proper business class seat. This is typical of intra-European business class though, and I definitely wasn’t expecting a large(ish) recliner of any kind like we would get on a domestic US flight.
But there was absolutely no additional legroom – and as a matter fact, the legroom was as bad as I’ve experienced on Spirit Airlines. Hey TAP – that is pretty far from a compliment as you can get in the airline industry. A couple more inches would be very much appreciated!
The second thing that I noticed was that it was hotter on the airplane than it was in the terminal. Between having my knees pressed up against the seat in front of me, and feeling like I was going to burst into flames at any second, I was not having fun. This was definitely a very warm welcome to TAP Portugal business class, and not in the good way.
Just when I thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse, the husband of the woman in the aisle seat decided that he wanted to sit next to her and claimed the middle seat as his own.
The lead flight attendant watched the entire thing happen, and I actually made eye-contact with her in a Jedi mind-trick sort of attempt to persuade her to say something to him, but all she did was gave me a look of like “sorry there’s nothing I can do.” So much for the blocked middle seat.
I would have surely burst into a ball of flames at that point if it weren’t for the fact that they finally turned on the air conditioning and it was starting to cool off nicely inside the plane.
I actually didn’t mind that man sitting there in the middle seat, but only because this was scheduled to be a relatively short flight and it didn’t really matter anyway. If this was a long-haul flight I probably would’ve said something to the flight attendant.
Despite it being a gloomy and rainy morning when I arrived at the airport, the clouds were starting to break and the sun was rising as we pushed off the gate and taxied out to the runway. It was quite scenic as a matter of fact, and it was fun to watch the Frankfurt airport come alive on such a beautiful summer morning.
It was a relatively smooth departure out of Frankfurt, but it did surprise me a bit that the cabin service didn’t start until 30 minutes into the flight. I’m not sure what it was they were waiting for, but part of me believes that perhaps it was just the slower way of life and relaxed culture in this part of Europe which was the culprit.
Prepackaged hand wipes came first, then drinks, then breakfast. Speaking of breakfast, it’s worth noting that I was slightly disappointed with the offering. I remember on my last intra-Europe Business class flight being served a full hot breakfast with eggs, sausage, potatoes, and various kinds of breads.
All we got today was a few slices of meat and cheese and a small bread roll. It was all actually quite good, but overall disappointing considering the lack of robustness.
Despite the lackluster meal service, I thought the flight attendants were highly attentive and very friendly. So if you’re keeping score, I would grade the meal service as a C+ and the flight attendants an A-.
Oh, and it was during the meal service that the middle seat guy and I finally broke the ice and it turned out that he was actually really nice and slightly apologetic for taking the middle seat. He even offered me half of his breakfast since he wasn’t all that hungry, which I thought was very kind.
There wasn’t much flying time left after they cleared our meal trays, and I spent that time just gazing down on the terrain below getting excited for my first ever trip to Portugal. I’ve been to Spain before, and I was expecting that Portugal would be very much the same. I was definitely looking forward to finding out for myself as to what the place is really like.
My first impressions of Lisbon were, in a word, awesome. The circling we did over the city on our approach was getting me really excited as to what I was going to see over the next two days. Lisbon is absolutely stunning from the air, and my eyes were glued to the window all the way in. My apologies to TAP Portugal for the big forehead grease spot on the window at seat 5A of this A320.
Much to the delight of the AvGeek inside of me, they parked us at a remote gate and had us deplane using air stairs. Woo-hoo! I love getting up close looks of the exterior of planes like that. Yes, I am a nerd, but you probably already knew that.
There you have it. TAP Portugal A320 business class didn’t really impress me at all, but I give the flight attendants high scores for trying so hard to keep us (the passengers) happy.
A slightly better seat and a heartier meal service would be an excellent addition to match the enthusiastic performance of the flight crew, and would certainly help to make the TAP Portugal intra-Europe business class something I would be eager to try again. But as long as it remains like the experience that I had on this particular flight, I’d be tempted to look at other options first.