TAP business class between Lisbon and Paris on A330Neo: beautiful aircraft and catastrophic customer service

I don’t know what to remember about this TAP flight: the fact that I flew an A330Neo, which is a real pleasure for a medium-haul flight, or the airline’s catastrophic customer service, which made me pay for its own mistakes.

The last leg of the trip, the return flight to Paris, was a classic. But TAP still managed to surprise me! Positively by flying me in an Airbus A330Neo which is a real plus in terms of comfort and, once again, negatively, because if I took this flight, which was not the one initially booked, it was because ofa double mistake by customer service, an error for which the airline naturally makes no gesture.

You can find articles about this trip to Portugal at the bottom of the page.

Check-in

I check-in online the day before my departure. But a few minutes later I receive a Tripit alert telling me that my flight has been cancelled (in my opinion an air traffic control strike, but in fact I’ll never know).

I check the TAP website: the flight is still listed as maintained, so I wait, thinking that for once Tripit could be wrong. It’s midday and TAP will post the cancellation around 1.30pm. No email or SMS will be sent to inform me of this. I think a lot of our customers were surprised when they arrived at the airport the next day.

I’m trying to rebook myself online on another flight but it’s not working! So I call customer service.

Unable to reach an agent on the phone, I’m asked to leave my number to be called back, but apparently the system doesn’t accept international numbers!

I call back later and end up speaking to an agent after a long wait.

She tells me that she doesn’t see the flight as cancelled, but that they don’t have the most up-to-date information (sic!). But in any case I should be able to handle the situation myself online. I explain that I can’t, and she tells me I have to uncheck-in first and then check-in for another flight.

A very kind lady, but not very helpful.

I tried again online but it still didn’t work. In the meantime, a quick look at Expertflyer shows me that there’s still room on the TP438 flight that leaves just before mine (I was on TP448).

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C3, J3, Z2 correspond to availability in business class, which is my travel class.

I’ll call customer service again.

Another long wait to talk to someone. I explain my situation a second time. This time I’m talking a man, just as friendly as the lady before, but will he be more useful?

He understands the situation and tells mehe’ll see if there are any seats available….je gives him the availability of TP438 and he is surprised: a customer who gives him his reservation number in ” aviation alphabet ” to make sure he’s understood and has access to inventories seems to surprise him a little.. However, the alphabet is very useful for foreigners to understand, and access to the inventory to guide an agent who lacks good will….

In short, he had no problem rebooking me on this flight. But then a problem arose: he couldn’t cancel my check-in. I shouldn’t have been able to check-in because the flight was canceled, but since we weren’t informed and the system didn’t have the information, I was able to do so. But as I checked-in for a canceled flight, which is a priori impossible, the reverse operation is not possible. So he puts me on hold to find a solution.

He takes me back on the line to tell me “I’ve spoken to TAP about your problem and they’re looking for a solution”. This confirms what I thought: TAP outsources its customer service. That’s not a problem in itself: Air France does it and does it very well, but here we just have agents with no up-to-date information and left to their own devices. TAP obviously doesn’t know BlueLink.

He puts me back on hold and will call me back several times to tell me that they are looking for a solution.

He eventually solved the problem…in just over 50 minutes, plus the initial wait. A new ticket is reissued, which I receive by email.

I’ll try to check-in but in vain. Perhaps another bug due to the specificity of the situation?

Another unsuccessful attempt in the late afternoon and I take a look at the ticket issued that afternoon by the agent. Guess what? He got the day wrong, and rebooked me on the 27th instead of the 26th!

Another call to customer service, another interminable wait (40 minutes). I end up talking to a new person, also very friendly, who after hearing me explain the problem tells me to wait.

When she takes me back online, the tone is different:

“But you’ve already been rebooked?”

“Well yes, but not on the right day”

“Are you sure you didn’t ask for the wrong date yourself?”

“Uh… no” (take me for an idiot too…)

“Well sir you don’t have the right to be rebooked twice for the same flight, I’m going to transfer your call to the airline’s head office so you can explain yourself (sic!)”.

We’re up to 50 minutes of call time, excluding the initial wait.

So I’m back on hold…

I’ll be on the line for 1.5 hours without anyone picking up, and the conversation will be cut off!

So let’s sum up the situation.

4 calls, one of which was unsuccessful.

Over 4 hours on the line, including waiting time.

A cancellation on their part and then a mistake on the rebooking.


As a result, I was 23 hours late and had to pay for an extra night at the hotel and the restaurant etc!

But you’re going to tell me that thanks to EU261 I was entitled to compensation from TAP…

A flat-rate compensation of 400 euros for delays of over 3 hours (23 hours to be precise). However, if you are familiar with the texts, this does not apply in the event of exceptional circumstances, including an air traffic control strike.

But I was never told the reason for the cancellation, and it may have been something else.

Furthermore, it seems that in order to claim this exemption, the airline must prove that it took all necessary steps to try to transport me by any means. There was a TAP flight on which I was not put even though I had requested it ( a mistake on their part) and there was earlier availability on partner airlines (Lufthansa, Swiss) or competitors (Air France). In short, there was plenty of time for me to get home on the right day.

And in any case, exceptional cause or not, my hotel night and catering expenses were at their expense. The subject has never been raised spontaneously on their part and at the time of writing I have no news from the airline.

I’ll let the agent off the hook for that, though: he thought he was rebooking me on the right day, so I wasn’t supposed to be late, but the people I spoke to later knew that.

So after the stolen suitcase without compensation and the voucher that doesn’t work and isn’t refunded, here’s a new achievement by TAP’s customer service.

In a nutshell: lovely people following processes designed by people who want to rip off the customer.

Anyway, I end up checking-in on the “right wrong flight”.

Ground experience

I arrive at the airport by Uber and head for the priority queue for security checks, which will be virtually deserted…at least I don’t have a suitcase to check-in, so there’s no risk of TAP having it stolen this time.

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Then it gets a little less funny: the priority lane joins the normal lane and things get as messy as you like.

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In the end, it wasn’t so bad: the agents were friendly and I was preceded by passengers who knew how to travel and get through security quickly.

I’ll then make my way to the so-called renovated TAP lounge.

Ironically, the display indicates that the gate will be announced at 4:00 pm, whereas my boarding pass specifies that boarding closes at 4:00 pm. Oh TAP…

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I’ll be leaving the lounge to be at the gate by 4pm, as there are normally many (too many) bus boardings in Lisbon, and here I’m thinking that with an A330Neo that has probably arrived at the non-Schengen terminal, there’s very little chance of it being parked at the gate.

Boarding

By the time I arrive, the queue has formed and boarding is ready to begin.

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Fortunately, there will only be a dozen of us in the priority queue. Boarding starts at 4:00 pm sharp, and we get on the bus that leaves at 4:12 pm (of course there’s no bus reserved for business class, so the advantage of boarding first is close to zero, since we’re the last to get off the bus…) and arrive at the plane at 4:19 pm.

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Bonus: a video tour of the airport.

And here we are at the foot of the plane.

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Welcome and cabin

So I’ll be flying an A330Neo, an aircraft generally dedicated to long-haul services, but which TAP occasionally uses between Lisbon and Paris when demand is very high or when a cancellation justifies operating a frequency with a wide-body aircraft to carry double the number of passengers. At least there’s one good news!

I enter the cabin. It’s in 1-2-1 configuration and in rather pleasant light tones, but not very consistent with the colors of the medium-haul cabins.

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Il y a 34 sièges, des Recaro CL6710.

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Unlike medium-haul aircraft, the seat is not made of leather.

On the other hand, from this angle, one might fear that privacy will be rather limited…which will prove to be the case.

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The materials used are neither cheap nor premium: correct. On the other hand, I’m not a fan of the faux wood trim, which I find distasteful and a bit out of fashion.

The screen is a decent size, in line with the market average.

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The one and only closable storage space near the seat. On the other hand, I find the luggage compartments not particularly large.

Seat controls: I’ve seen clearer and simpler.

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Comfortable legroom, both when seated….

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…. or semi-reclining (I didn’t test the bed position because of the length of the flight).

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The tray is large, but as I said, I’m not a fan of its design.

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I explore a little more and find this kind of foam probably used to protect the bare metal and prevent the passenger from touching it and getting a weird feeling….

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I lack adjectives: cheap, not premium, ugly, amateur, sloppy…. how to save a pittance on seat upholstery in a premium cabin.

Boarding continues as the buses arrive, while the Portuguese pop music inside is pleasant and lively.

The doors will close on time and the captain will make an announcement in excellent French to tell us that an air traffic control restriction means we’ll be 15 minutes late for departure…surely the French air traffic controllers are still doing their thing.

The flight

Service starts around twenty minutes after takeoff, much earlier than TAP’s usual protocol, perhaps because there are many more passengers, despite the presence of two cabin crew.

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What a pity the flight didn’t take place later: a long-haul cabin + a choice of hot dishes would have been perfect.

The meat will be fine, the carrots tasteless…until they’ve come to room temperature, which will make them tastier. The skewer is fine, but the mini quiche is not very interesting.

The fruit was good and nicely sweetened, and the pasteis was as good as ever, even if the pastry was a little dry.

We’re just finishing our flight over Spain and I’ll be watching a series on my iPad until we get to Paris.

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The cabin is quiet and pleasant, but the seat offers little privacy.

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Outside, the sun is setting over the Bay of Biscay.

Several refills of wine and bread will be made from now until the end.

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The staff

Very nice and pleasant.

Arrival and disembarkation

The flight ended calmly and we landed in Paris with the fifteen-minute delay we had at the start.

A single jetway will be set up, at the back of the business class, but staff will do their job and prevent economy class passengers from using it until the business class has disembarked.

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Bottom line

A flight that left me with a mixed impression. There’s the pleasure of having this A330Neo on a medium-haul flight and a cabin that, without being one of the best on the market, is very decent.

The catering was very decent, but much less good than at times when TAP serves hot food, and also much less good than Swiss and especially Austrian, which serve hot food from 2 hours onwards. To compare comparable things on a flight of this duration, it was a little better than Air France and comparable to Lufthansa.

The crew was also very pleasant.

But the episode of the cancellation and the failed rebooking still sticks in my craw, even if I have less murderous desires than with the lost suitcase.

Articles about this trip to Portugal

Review Type Post
#1DiaryPreparing my birthday trip to Portugal
#2FlightParis Orly-Lisbon – TAP – Business Class – Embraer 195
#3HotelSheraton Lisbon
#4RestaurantZunzum Gastrobar, Lisbon
#5RestaurantSolar Dos Bicos, Lisbon
#6RestaurantCura, Lisbon
#7RestaurantO Frade, Lisbon
#8Restaurant100 Maneiras, Lisbon
#9RestaurantNomada, Lisbon
#10DiaryLisbon day #1: downtown
#11DiaryLisbon day #2: Belem and beyond
#12HotelFour Points by Sheraton Sesimbra
#13RestaurantO Batel Sesimbra
#14RestaurantEspadarte Sesimbra
#15LoungeTAP Premium lounge Lisbon
#16FlightLisbon-Paris Orly, TAP, Business Class, Airbus A330Neo.
#17DiaryDebriefing of the trip to Lisbon and Sesimbra

Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrinhttp://www.duperrin.com
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.
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