Flight from Hamburg to Lisbon with new TAP Portugal A319 – finally!

As frequent readers of this blog now I am often travelling from Germany to Lisbon, Portugal and vise versa. The route has not really many options if you want to fly in a full service carrier since only Portugals national airline TAP Portugal and Lufthansa fly.

I am not a big fan of TAP Portugal as mentioned several times before due to their LCC alike price unbundling, rather bad service, bad on time track record and outdated fleet. While said fleet should have been retrofitted with new seats by the beginning of this year that hasn’t happened. When I flew from Hamburg to Lisbon in August I finally got lucky tho and boarded onto one of the updated A319 in the TAP fleet.

Before we dive into the new seats on this plane I want to share a special picture of an AirBerlin A320 that was parked on the gate next to mine. This was the last time I would see a plane of the now defunct airline.

AirBerlin A320 next to TAP Portugal A319 during push back in Hamburg

TAP Portugal is currently installing new Recaro slim line seats on their short haul fleet consisting of several ageing A319 and A320. These seats are much smaller than their existing old seats, which means they will add more seats on the retrofitted planes. While more seats means less space and therefore most often less comfort for passengers I don’t actually think this is true for TAP, given how ridiculously old and worn out their seats were before this.

Old seats in TAP Portugal A319

While there are now more seats on the same planes the seats are indeed much slimmer and allow for a still decent leg room. The first couple of rows have “executive seats” that are bookable for business class and the rows behind business class can be reserved for a very high fee. These seats are the same as in the rest of the plane but they have a head rest and red colour instead of green (yes, that is it).

Retrofitted Recaro “executive” seats in TAP Portugal A319

For this flight I was flying in economy due to the short distance and the fact that prices were outrageous for business. I booked the ticket with Lufthansa, which is a Star Alliance member as well, as my flight from Lisbon would return to Frankfurt on LH and TAP wouldn’t want to let me ticket that multi city combination. This unfortunately exposed me to Lufthansa questionable seat reservation advertising, not cool.

As mentioned economy seats are pretty much the same as the executive seats, minus the head rest and in green colour. There are rumours that the executive section features USB sockets as well but I could not verify that aboard this plane. Either way TAP has no inflight entertainment and also missed the chance to install WIFI with the retrofitted seats, so the USB sockets would not be that valuable anyway.

New Recaro economy seats in TAP Portugal A319

The slim line seats from Recaro are surprisingly comfortable and feel spacious enough. While TAPs old seats where massive they actually did not really provide a solid space to seat, given that they were so big most of the space was literally filled with the seat itself. I also found the leg room to be pretty decent.

Seat back pocket and leg room with new Recaro seats in TAP Portugal A319

The seat had a normal sized tray table with a cup holder of sorts. I am not a big fan of this kind of cub holder / spacer given that it really doesn’t do much, especially when there are turbulences you will definitely need to hold onto your cups.

Tray table in TAP Portugal A319 new Recaro seats

While TAP served hot dishes on these flights just a year or two ago that has been stopped in economy and is now only done in business class. Instead a snack box was distributed roughly an hour after take-off. For a full service carrier on a 3+h flight that is rather sad, especially given the prices TAP charges and the fact that Lufthansa serves hot dishes in both classes on the same route.

Snack box in TAP Portugal short haul flight

That being said the snack box was alright and the sandwich was of decent quality. You get also unlimited drinks and refills throughout the flight (if you request for it, service is not proactive).

Besides the new seats TAP did apparently not do anything else on the planes, the restrooms look exactly like they did 20 years ago when this bird entered service and galleys are the same as well. Even the window shades show the real age of TAPs planes.

Cracked window shades in retrofitted TAP Portugal A319

Concluding I was happy to get one of the retrofitted planes this time. While it is sad that TAP did not take the chance to install in-flight entertainment, onboard WIFI or power sockets at every seats that is not a big surprise given that the airline is rather aiming into charging full service prices and running a LCC operation. The new Recaro seats are definitely an upgrade over the old seats which just shows how outdated the old product was, but at the same time I give TAP credit for maintaining a decent leg room. Also the crew on this flight was extremely friendly. I will continue flying TAP multiple times a year if I want or not, so these seats are welcome for sure and I hope to find them again on my next flight.

 

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