State of TAP Portugal short/medium retrofit: it can’t be so much progressed

Due to my family and business setup I am a frequent visitor to Portugal and usually fly multiple times every year into Lisbon. Being based in Asia I am struck with very limited options to get into Portugal, in fact there is no direct flight at all and the only carrier with a good product that flies one stop is Emirates. Sure you could fly BA or Lufthansa, but frequencies are limited and it is by far not as comfortable as Emirates, simply by having one leg on a short haul plane and one long flight on a sub-par long haul configuration.

Sadly the situation from most European cities does not look much better. You would have one or several flights from TAP Portugal, Portugals national airline, and one or two LCCs flying once a day or every few days only. So if you want a convenient schedule and a somewhat decent journey your options in most cases will boil down to TAP, unless you live in a hub city and the national carrier there just happens to have a good connection for you.

The problem with TAP is simple, it is by all means really not a good airline. Head over to Skytrax and have a look at some reviews, the first 3 at any given time will give you all the information you need to know but to some it up:

  • One of Europes oldest and badly maintained short haul fleets
  • Frequent delays, overbooking and bad to non-existent customer support
  • Unprofessional operation with best case ok-ish but mostly downright rude ground and on-board crews

If TAP would market itself as a dumpy LCC that lets you fly for almost free but squeezes you to even pay for the air on board I would say well what do we expect. But TAP lives somewhere far from reality, charges you prices as if they would have exclusively Etihad apartment style seats and welcomes you in their crappy planes by repeating over and over again what a fantastic airline they are (that is sadly no joke, they do say that). So to me TAP is running simply a very dishonest operation with a rather unpleasant product.

Since I had to keep up with that over years you can probably imagine that I got slightly excited when they finally announced that they would update all their 16+ years old A319/320/321 with new seats that even feature such fancy things like tablet trays and on-seat power in October 2016 .

Here is a video of a plane with the new seats, it surely is no groundbreaking product but I think it should be decent enough for flights around 2-4 hours.

Allegedly the first plane flew in October when they announced the retrofit program. So far I had 4 flights from/to Lisbon, Frankfurt, Munich and Barcelona with TAP. Every time I was excited to experience the new seats, every time I got this:

Business class seat in TAP Portugal A319

Given that TAP operations only a couple of dozens of these planes and the announcement to change all of them is almost a year old I wonder if I had just very bad luck or if the fact I had 4 different planes and none of them were new means the program is not that far progressed. In their defence I guess TAP never stated how long it would take to install the new product on all planes…


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