For all the smooth sailing I’ve had lately on various flights, yesterday’s trip on TAP Air Portugal was rather taxing, and it really had nothing to do with TAP and everything to do with Lisbon.
It’s January in Lisbon. What I didn’t know and perhaps should have was that meant fog. A lot of fog. And the delays associated with it. And the gate problem in LIS…
TAP is like a prosperity gospel preacher, in which bad news is dismissed as a lack of faith. TAP boards on time, closes the door, hopes for the best, but knows that a delay is still coming (and I suspect knew that it was already in place). Most airlines, when they are aware of air traffic control delays, will post them and often delay boarding or at least leave the aircraft door open. Not TAP.
Boarding is on time. Pushback is on time. Pushback a few feet from the gate that is. Then the inventible:
“Ladies and gentlemen. I’m sorry to report that Air Traffic Control has delayed our flight due to heavy fog in Lisbon. Our new departure time is approximately 90 minutes from now. But I am expecting they will shorten this because we are ready to go.”
This is in Frankfurt. All the rubes in the cabin (and there were four others also connecting to Boston) who had taken advantage of the cheap business class fare start freaking out about a potential missed connection.
Relax, boys. Our connection is 2 hours, 50 minutes in Lisbon…
The captain again explains we boarded on time and closed the cabin door in hopes of receiving a more favorable pushback time. Nope.
We sit there and sit there. At least TAP now has power plugs onboard the A320, which really save the day.
We take off and strong headwinds prevent us from making up any time enroute. We arrive 90 minutes late into Lisbon.
To add insult to injury, Lisbon has a serious gate shortage and we pull up to a remote stand. TAP sends one bus for the entire plane, meaning we all cram into a bus that takes 15 minutes to board and 10 minutes to navigate around the airport to the terminal.
So much for my TAP Executive lounge review, though I hear it was nothing much…
Meanwhile, my next flight is about to board, since TAP starts boarding one hour before departure.
The biggest stress you can put on a travel blogger writing about a premium cabin is to miss being onboard first. Pictures with a cabin full of people or taken after the flight simply do not compare with being first onboard and having the chance to briefly photograph a pristine cabin before it fills with other passengers.
Boarding had already begun, right on schedule, for my Boston flight. I went through the requisite US security screening, boarded the flight, lugged my bag downstairs (stairs…another perfect prosperity preacher trick. Oh, are you disabled? Don’t worry, you can will yourself to walk down them…)
Then it was a 15 minute wait for a bus. Yes, even the A330neos bound for the USA require remote stands. The bus finally departs and I receive another extended ground tour of Lisbon Airport, only the bus is so crowded and the windows so dirty I cannot take any pictures.
We get onboard the A330neo—my pictures are compromised and I missed out on the lounge—and everyone is in a hurry to pushback.
Only the door closes and the captain announces a delay of at least one hour due to the fog. Like the prior captain, he is “believing” that it can be reduced.
But it isn’t. We sit there and sit there. I will say it quite a productive time for me, thought I tethered off my phone rather than use TAP’s outrageously priced onboard wi-fi.
Flnally, ever an hour later, we received clearance to depart. We lined up, waited some more, and took off.
A flight attendant later told me it’s rare not to have a delayed flight during the winter in Lisbon, since the airport only has one runway.
Let me just say that TAP Air Portugal was lovely…I’ll write about that separately. But airports and airlines are often difficult to separate. Here, Lisbon in January led to a very annoying, borderline stressful travel day.
But I hope you recognize that I’m complaining tongue and cheek…it could have been far worse.