They bring massive benefits to Portugal, they offer cheap and affordable seats, and that’s what a lot of people want. But what happened to flying being a pleasure rather than something to be endured.

I don’t fly as much as I used to, but when I do fly, I would like to enjoy the journey. Long gone are the days when flying was glamorous, but some airlines, not many within Europe, still offer business class. TAP is one of them, and I have never had a disappointing flight. Service is excellent, catering is good and the selection of wines is very good.

You enjoy a private cabin at the front of the aircraft, more space and a dedicated and very attentive crew. You get a reserved check-in, fast track, and a superb lounge (in Lisbon). At the gate you receive priority boarding. What’s not to like? You get VIP treatment from check-in to arrival. Flying can still be a pleasure, and that’s something the low-cost airlines can’t offer.

In fact, looking at ticket prices as we approach the summer season, low cost is far from accurate. Tickets to the UK, single, are selling at around €200. The ticket might be expensive, but you won’t get any better service or any catering, it’s simply supply and demand. It remains a bus service, but that’s what a lot of people want, and in fairness the low costs have a very high safety record, are usually very punctual but forget the super deals of €20 or €30, its summer (nearly).

Business Class is too expensive

Not if you play your cards right. Tickets can be free, or upgrades can be free, you simply need to know what’s on offer. TAP Credit cards are available from Millennium BCP, you will get air miles on everything you spend on your card. Use the card for everything from fuel to your supermarket shopping. TAP have an offer known as TAP Miles and Go. For a monthly or annual fee you can get as many as 8,000 air miles every month, plus a bonus for joining of up to 18,000 miles. Air miles build up fast. I take advantage of all the offers, and I always travel business class and I haven’t paid for a ticket for years. You can also buy an economy ticket and upgrade with miles. Simply put, if you want to enjoy flying again, work the system.

TAP’s problems

We are all aware of the problems TAP have been through but in reality they are common to many airlines as we went through the crisis of Covid-19. The same, justified, criticism of many airlines during and immediately after the Covid-19 crises. Phones not answered, refunds not made, flights cancelled or delayed, compensation not received. It was an unmitigated disaster, but not just for TAP.

TAP back in profit

As so often, political ‘scandals’ are all too frequent. In this case, it involved a compensation payment to a past TAP CEO. The rights and wrong of this are not for us to understand in any depth, but the departure of CEO Christine Ourmiéres at a time when TAP will close the last financial year with a profit, which has not happened for several years, is sad. With a capacity in seats offered very close to that of 2019 and above the targets agreed with Brussels. Minister of Finance, Fernando Medina noted “the good results of the current management team in implementing the restructuring plan”. The new CEO and chairman of TAP is Luís Manuel da Silva Rodrigues, until now executive president of SATA, the Azorean airlines.

Strikes are a problem, but it’s not just TAP. The low costs have been plagued by strikes, even this year. Strikes are becoming far too frequent, not just in the airline industry. Are they justified; I don’t know. People will have their own opinions, all we, the general travelling public know is that they cause us a lot of problems. I travelled to Barcelona last December in the midst of the strike, but whatever the cabin crew may have felt about the strike, the service was of the highest standard. Their dispute with the management didn’t affect their attitude to passengers.

TAP takes Portugal all over the World

TAP is Portugal’s ‘flag carrier’ and takes the image and hospitality of the nation all over Europe and North America, South America and Africa. The problem is that only the complainers grab publicity, but there are many thousands of passengers who are impressed with TAP and its service.

One long-time passenger told me, “if you have been travelling away from Portugal, it’s great to step onboard a TAP flight and get the warm welcome that Portugal is so famous for”. According to SKYTRAX TAP is Certified as a 3-Star Airline (maximum 5 stars) for the quality of its airport and onboard product and staff service. Product rating includes seats, amenities, food & beverages, cleanliness etc, and service rating is for both cabin staff and ground staff. That’s an average. The Lisbon Business Class lounge gets 4 stars, as does the quality of meals. Personal space and service score highly.

Personally, although I live in the Algarve, I fly from Lisbon. It’s another hour up the motorway. Being a much more business-oriented airport it offers many benefits. Services like valet parking, a superb TAP lounge and many amenities. Faro is a more tourist-based airport, that’s not a criticism, it’s a reality that services like valet parking wouldn’t appeal to the vast majority of passengers. There is a lounge, but with little business class flights operating out of Faro, the lounge is designed to cater for a different type of passenger. Many low-cost airlines offer the lounge for a premium payment. The services offered are limited to what the airlines pay for this service. No doubt a lot less than what they charge their passengers who will pay the extra cost.

TAP Business Class product has a lot to offer if you want to bring back some of the pleasure of flying. Supporting Portugal’s ‘flag carrier’ can benefit you, Portugal and the airline.


Resident in Portugal for 50 years, publishing and writing about Portugal since 1977. Privileged to have seen, firsthand, Portugal progress from a dictatorship (1974) into a stable democracy. 

Paul Luckman