What to Know About Flying Business Class on TAP Air Portugal
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A frequent flier on Going’s deal alerts for their competitive fares for travel to Europe, South America, and Africa, TAP Air Portugal has emerged as a solid contender for full-service flights at discount-carrier prices. Portugal’s national carrier has a modern and well-connected fleet departing from seven US cities including New York and San Francisco, with free stopovers in Lisbon or Porto included with flights through Europe, a robust in-flight entertainment system including wifi (for a fee), and on-board catering highlighting seasonal Portuguese flavors.
TAP Air Portugal is a member of Star Alliance, the flag carrier for Portugal. Founded in 1945, mostly flying to Spain and domestic destinations, TAP later pioneered experimental long-distance flights to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Goa, India before branching out into more African, European, and North American destinations. As it approaches its 80th anniversary, they operate 75 planes to 90 destinations worldwide, mostly through their hub at Humberto Delgado Lisbon Airport. American travelers can fly from Boston, Chicago, Miami, Newark, New York, San Francisco, and Washington D.C., to Lisbon and Porto, before connecting to destinations in continental Europe, the UK and Ireland, and Northern Africa.
Business class (called Executive class) passengers on TAP Air Portugal can look forward to lie-flat seats on transatlantic routes, a generous baggage allowance, and niceties such as noise-canceling headphones, lounge access in some airports, and multi-course meals. While the airline has won World Travel Awards for its service from Portugal to South America and Africa, it gets just a 3-star rating from Skytrax and frequent negative ratings from passengers. However, the fares for TAP Air Portugal’s business class are often the lowest for lie-flat seats to Europe, so it’s a trade off many don’t mind making.
What to know about TAP Air Portugal business class
While TAP regularly offers deals for their Executive Class, it’s also complained about for its hard-to-use website, frequent delays, and slow-to-issue refunds. TAP Air Portugal is a two-class airline with some differences in fares: regular Executive class fares are not refundable or changeable without a fee (starting at €85 but more like $300 for transatlantic flights), while Top Executive includes free changes and refunds along with its core business class service; the highest fare class is generally around $200 more each way than Executive. (Economy fares are also mostly differentiated by their freedom to change and amount of baggage included, though a few Comfort rows offer a few inches of additional legroom.)
TAP Air Portugal operates all Airbuses for long-haul flights from the US to Europe, generally A321-LR and A330-900 aircraft. Each plane has a mix of Executive (business class) and Economy (with slightly more spacious Comfort seats in the front of Economy). Business class seats are 22-27” wide (compared to 17” in economy), with up to an extra foot of legroom/pitch (42” or 44” vs. 31-34” in economy), and lie fully flat for transatlantic flights. Medium-haul business class seats (such as from Lisbon to Italy or the UK) will generally resemble those in economy, with the middle seat blocked off and a full meal service.
Previous deals Going has found on TAP Air Portugal in business class
- Chicago to Zurich for $1,843 roundtrip
- Newark to Vienna for $1,825 roundtrip
- Boston to Lisbon for $1,615 roundtrip
The TAP Air Portugal business class experience at the airport
TAP business class lounge access
TAP Air Portugal only has a dedicated TAP Premium lounge at its hub in Lisbon, renovated in December 2022. Passengers departing from US airports in Chicago, Miami, Newark, and San Francisco may use codeshare air lounges such as United or SAS. Travelers leaving Boston, New York JFK, and Washington, DC will have to make do with the airport food court or pay for their own lounge service until TAP expands. (For some late-night departures including Newark, this may mean no lounge access as partners do not stay open late for TAP departures.)
There are two lounges at Lisbon airport, both in the Schengen zone: the TAP Premium Lounge (free for upper class Star Alliance passengers and those with airline status, economy passengers may buy access for €25) and the ANA Lounge, which is also free to Priority Pass cardholders (and access is also available for fee).
The TAP Premium Lounge has open seating, a full bar as well as self-service wine and beer, a hot and cold food buffet of Portuguese and international food (don’t miss the pasteis de nata). The lounge has a capacity for 320 people and was significantly less crowded during my midweek visit than ANA which had a line outside, though food offerings can be sparse during a meal changeover. The food and drinks are a nice port in the storm of a busy airport, but the offerings are nothing out of the ordinary compared to other airlines’ flagship lounges.
Note that Lisbon passengers should budget time for passport control and additional security after the lounge and before boarding. The passport control line has no fast-track for premium passengers and flights to the US may have additional security checks that delay boarding. Boarding may also take longer leaving Lisbon when the gate is remote and passengers must take a shuttle bus from the gate to the plane, another frequent complaint from travelers.
TAP business class check-in
At Lisbon Airport, TAP executive passengers check in at a separate entrance with dedicated desks, saving significant time compared to the long lines for TAP economy passengers. Fast Track security is a breeze too, whisking business class travelers ahead of long lines for other guests. (Fast Track can also be purchased for €9.) After check-in and security, all passengers should also expect to go through passport control (often a lengthy line) and additional security for US-bound flights.
For flights outside Lisbon, TAP Air Portugal has dedicated check-in desks for business class and boarding passes indicate fast security and lounge access where available (at London Heathrow Airport, this saved going through long lines at Terminal 2 and granted access to United’s Lounge among others).
While all TAP Air Portugal passengers except discount economy get one free checked bag up to 50 pounds (23 kg) included in their fare, executive class passengers may check two bags for free, up to 70 pounds (32 kg) each and carry on two cabin bags. As many of the executive class seats do not have floor space for bags, they may ask them to be stored in the overhead compartment during takeoff and landing. Bags are tagged with priority handling which theoretically makes them first off the plane on arrival.
The TAP Air Portugal executive class experience in the air
Seats in TAP Air Portugal business class
- A330-900neo: The Rolls-Royce (actually, they built the engines for this aircraft) of TAP Air Portugal’s fleet has 34 business seats in a staggered 1-2-1 configuration, all facing the aisle. The individual “throne” seats alternate the side table to the left or right of the seat, making some seats more aligned with the window. TAP was the first airline to take delivery of this plane with Airbus’ Airspace cabin, designed to have more baggage capacity on board for more passengers. Business class seats lie flat to 77” long, with a width of 22” (up from 17” in economy) and a 42” pitch (from 31” or 34” in economy). All business class seats have a generous adjustable tray table (which folds out from under the TV screen rather than awkwardly from the arm rest) and surface space for drinks, as well as a few small storage compartments for personal objects, but not much space on the floor or in-seat for shoes or bags. There is a dedicated bathroom at the front of the plane.
- A321-200LR: TAP Air Portugal’s other mainstay for long-haul flights to and from Lisbon, with 16 lie-flat seats in either “honeymoon” (two seats side-by-side) or “throne” (single seats separated by an aisle) configurations. Executive class seats are slightly larger than on the A330, making it preferable for overnight US-Europe flights. The A321 seats are fully flat at 80” long, with a width of 27.5” (almost 10” wider than economy seats), and a pitch of 44” (compared to 32-34” in economy and economy comfort). Throne seats have a large storage cubby and more surface space for drinks, while all seats in business class have the tray table unfolding from the center console and an outlet for USB or European plugs.
- A320-200neo: Used for medium-haul flights such as London to Lisbon, the business class seats on this plane are similar to economy, just with the middle seat generally blocked off for seating. Executive class has slightly better legroom (up to 34” vs 28”), enhanced meal service, and a slightly reclining seat (most economy seats on these planes do not recline). None of the seats on these planes have in-flight entertainment, and only some have outlets or USB plugs. (On our LIS-LGW flight, they used an E190 plane typically reserved for short-haul flights, this was a 2-2 configuration with identical seats but enhanced service.)
Benefits of flying TAP business class
Business class passengers will find amenity kits waiting in their seats on TAP Air Portugal, with a tube of WK facial moisturizer, an eye mask, toothbrush and toothpaste, argyle socks in TAP colors, and a pen. Long-haul flights will have a duvet and large pillow, water bottles, and noise-canceling headphones to connect to in-flight entertainment.
The in-seat entertainment has a large 15” screen which can be angled away from your neighbor, with a decent selection of films, TV shows, travel programs, and even Portuguese lessons. WiFi is available for free messaging or paid browsing (starting around $10 for an hour of internet). The touchscreen can also be controlled with a pullout remote control, and flight attendants can sometimes be persnickety about stowing or unplugging headphones before landing.
Here lies one of TAP Air Portugal’s greatest issues: Service is perfunctory at best. Gate agents at all of the airports were brusque, boarding was often chaotic, and once on board, no welcome drinks were offered and service was impersonal and not on demand. One business class passenger actually begged for some sort of snack before our delayed takeoff, told to drink his bottle of water and wait until after takeoff, and was told there were no nuts, only to have some offered at the start of meal service an hour later.
While many other airlines offer a glass of sparkling wine or juice upon boarding even to premium economy passengers or at least just after takeoff, on TAP Air Portugal drink service was only offered alongside meals and with a warning that alcohol could be “limited” at their discretion.
While the food on TAP Air Portugal seems to vary widely in quality and taste, it is based on Portuguese flavors and specialities, and served in business class on custom china designed by Vista Alegre with silverware and glasses. The first meal service began an hour or more after takeoff, starting with a hot towel and then the cart appeared with simultaneous drink and food service. The primary meal menus offer a choice of three warm entrees, plus a starter and dessert. A second breakfast service was offered to those who wished to be woken (I am always one of those people), generally with fruit and bread, and a choice of ordinary coffee or tea.
TAP Air Portugal does cater to dietary restrictions including passengers with gluten allergies and vegan diets, which can be ordered before travel. While a pre-flight email solicited meal selections in advance, choices were limited to diet types, not entrees.
Excellent selections on our flights included beef carpaccio and lamb chops, pumpkin-filled ravioli with cheese from the Azores, and roasted grouper with shrimp. On the international daytime flight from Lisbon, dessert included ice cream and a choice of miniature chocolate bars.
Unlike many other international flights, a welcome drink (either alcoholic or non) was not offered in business class, but rather served alongside the meal. The drinks menu offered a nice variety of Portuguese wines, port, beer, and international liquors including Johnnie Walker Red.
Alcoholic beverages are complimentary for all TAP Air Portugal passengers but multiple warnings inform you that due to Portuguese law, consumption may be limited or even banned. Drinks are refilled upon request during meals, though port is often offered along with coffee or tea after meal trays are collected.
How TAP Air Portugal business class compares to regular economy
The TAP Air Portugal Executive Class product really shines when it comes to the seat, a lie-flat comfy ride with a significant legroom and width bonus. Food and beverage options are also upgraded, along with baggage allowance (if business class is selected at the time of purchase).
TAP Air Portugal’s business class seats are much roomier than those in economy, with an extra 5-10 inches in width, nearly a foot more in pitch, and a full recline. Economy comfort seats have 32-34” legroom and an incline of two more inches than regular economy.
While all TAP Air Portugal come with touch-screen, in-seat entertainment, headphones, a pillow and blanket, and USB outlet, business class seats get noise-canceling headphones, a more luxurious duvet and large pillow, and amenity kit. Screens are also larger (15” vs 12”) in business class. WiFi is available throughout the cabin on the A330 and A321, at a charge for all passengers.
TAP Air Portugal gives free priority check-in and boarding, fast-track security, and lounge access to business class, but many of these perks may be purchased a la carte at the airport for those holding economy class tickets.
Executive class seats also earn more TAP Miles&Go points, depending on the fare booked. The cost for changes and cancellations depends on the fare booked, only Economy Plus and Top Executive fares get free changes.
How to book TAP Air Portugal business class
How much does it cost for a business class ticket on TAP Air Portugal?
While their business class is often the cheapest of Star Alliance flights, Executive Class seats on TAP Air Portugal are generally at least double the economy class fare. Though it may seem counterintuitive, flights to a European destination outside of Portugal tend to be lower than just US-Portugal fares, even if you add a free stopover (see the below example).
Looking at sample fares in fall 2023, economy fares from JFK to LIS were between $648 (no bag or changes allowed) and $908, with another $80 for an economy Comfort seat and premium boarding. For the same dates in business class, TAP Air Portugal Executive fares were $3347 from New York to Lisbon and $3707 for business class with free changes. (For the same dates, adding London as the final destination brought the fare down to $2200 in business class.)
Going has found deals as low as $1,400-$1,800 roundtrip from on TAP Air Portugal (I booked a New York to London with Lisbon stopover for $1,300 after seeing a sale on Going).
How to upgrade to business class on TAP Air Portugal for free
Given the bidding and paid airport upgrade options, free upgrades are unlikely unless you are an elite member of the TAP Miles & Go program and your flight has overbooked your (not steeply discounted) economy fare.
How much does it cost to upgrade to business class on TAP Air Portugal?
If you want to upgrade your TAP Air Portugal economy seat for cash, you have a choice to bid for your seat or pay to upgrade at the airport up to two hours before departure, based on availability. At-airport or gate upgrades are $636-685, depending on the season (high season is generally over spring and winter holiday periods and peak summer months).
It’s also possible to bid auction-style for a seat in business class up to 36 hours before your flight, or in the last 24 hours in real time. With TAP Upgrade Auctions, you place your maximum bid online and if accepted, your credit card will automatically be charged or your frequent flier mile account debited.
If you are within 24 hours of your flight, you can use the SeatBoost app and bid live for your business class seat. Successful bids may be as low as $200 or as high as the at-airport upgrades; minimum bids depend on routing and demand.
Important note: no matter what you pay, your baggage allowance will not change from what you originally booked, so you are really paying for the seat and priority boarding.
How many miles to upgrade to TAP Air Portugal business class?
Passengers may use miles to upgrade their economy ticket using TAP Miles&Go starting at 57,900 miles for last-minute upgrades, 68,000 miles within several days of departure, and 81,600 miles for early upgrades. (Regular TAP Miles&Go economy tickets cost 58,000 miles or 15,200 + €300 cash, and executive class is 200,000 miles or 128,600 and €500 cash). Star Alliance miles may also be used.
If you’ve seen an amazing deal for business class to Europe on Going, chances are it’s going to be on TAP Air Portugal. While the in-flight service and worldwide lounge access might not compare to an Asian flagship carrier like ANA or even a legacy airline like Delta, if you are looking for a way across the pond with a true lie-flat seat and all the ways to skip the airport lines while paying closer to premium economy prices, you’d be wise to consider TAP Air Portugal.
If you think your travel plans may change in any way, you would also be wise to shell out a bit more for a Top Executive fare. While the flying experience is the same as a TAP Air Portugal Executive ticket, the ability to make flight changes or request a refund will save hundreds, and the difference in fare may be less than the $300 change/$250 cancellation fee.
Read more about flying in business class
- American Airlines Business Class
- Business vs. First Class
- The Best Airlines for Long-Haul Business Class
- United Polaris Business Class
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Frequently asked questions about TAP business class
What does TAP Air Portugal business class include?
Do you get lounge access with TAP Air Portugal business class?
Is food served in TAP Air Portugal business class?
How many checked bags do you get in TAP Air Portugal business class?
What are the best seats in TAP Air Portugal business class?
Published July 21, 2023
Last updated December 21, 2023
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