I decided to fly with TAP Portugal on the way back from Porto in October as they operate the E190 on the Porto – London Gatwick route which has a 2-2 configuration. I chose TAP over EasyJet, who operate this route a little cheaper, purely because of this. The question I wanted to answer was this:
Is it more comfortable to fly 2-2 on an E190 or 3-3 on an A320? And is it worth the extra cost?
I arrived at Porto Airport in good time and headed straight to the lounge. Interestingly, there is only one lounge at Porto and it is used by all airlines. You can read my full review in a few weeks. The airport only has one terminal so is pretty small.
Once I’d had enough to eat and drink in the lounge I headed to gate 13 where my flight was departing. Gate 12 and 13 are very close together at Porto and Ryanair had a flight departing to Stanstead at gate 12. For this reason, there was a huge queue which was blocking the sign to gate 13. Lots of passengers meant to depart for Gatwick were caught up in this due to poor communication from Porto staff.
I arrived at my gate with plenty of time to spare and was very briskly told I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of the aircraft. I obeyed the very fierce looking lady and took a seat. Boarding began at around 6pm (half an hour late) and we departed at 6.30 from runway 37.
The TAP E190 flights are operated by Portugalia which is seen purely by a sticker on the aircraft body and the safety card in the seat pocket. Apart from this, everything else is labelled TAP Portugal. The aircraft is laid out in a 2-2 configuration with 2 rows of business class seating at the front (there was only one business class passenger) and the following 24 rows of economy seating. The aircraft feels very spacious because of this 2-2 layout and the seats were noticeably more comfortable than on the A320 family. The seat width is 18” and pitch is 30”. The aircraft may be 5 years old but felt very clean and well looked after. As far as I am aware everything looked good and worked well.
Once onboard I took my seat, 7A, which was nice and close to the front of the aircraft and had a lovely view. One perk of flying a 2-2 configuration is that you can have a window seat and only have to bother one person to stretch your legs or use the toilet.
We departed Porto to the south and banked right before heading up the west coast, over the border and into Spain. Those on the left of the plane (A seats) were treated to a beautiful sunset.
Service began at 7.05, around 35 minutes after takeoff, and consisted of a free meal! Yes, free meal. I know that’s pretty hard to believe these days. The crew offered a choice of drink, a ham sandwich and a choice of ‘sweet or salt’ which I learnt was a choice between crisps or a sweet biscuit. I went for the biscuit. I don’t think it matters too much how good the food is on short haul flights in Europe nowadays as being offered it seems to be a rare novelty altogether.
Once I had eaten we were already half bay up the Bay of Biscay and soon to enter France.
TAP Portugal have a very impressive business model that I haven’t seen on lots of other airlines. By booking an economy fare, it doesn’t automatically limit you to anything. From the time of booking until check-in, you can change your fare by adding what they call ‘additional services’. What this means is that you can use the lounge for an extra £22.50, which I did, and didn’t regret. If you haven’t had dinner then you can easily make the lounge worth every penny of that. Other services include seat choice for £9 (perhaps a little pricey but good if you want to be sat near the front or with your family) and fast-track security for £10.50 (I really wish I had chosen this as it took me around 25 minutes to make it through airport security in Porto). I really like this model as I wasn’t prepared to pay 145 Euros to upgrade to business class, which has the same seat but a little more legroom as it is at the front of the aircraft, but quite fancied the lounge option. This ‘pick and choose’ approach is a really interesting one that I was really impressed by.
The E190 isn’t equipped with any sort of IFE or wifi so you’ll have to make do without the internet unfortunately.
My experience on the Embraer E190 was a very positive one. In comparison to the Airbus A319/20 the aircraft seemed quieter, more comfortable and in general, a much more civilized experience. The seat gave me sufficient room to work on my laptop but also enough comfort to take a nap during the flight. This was my first time flying TAP Portugal and I have to say I was very impressed, albeit this was largely down to the aircraft type. This flight has made me very inclined to choose Embraer aircraft on short-haul trips in the future.
So, if you are flying to Portugal and can’t decide which airline to fly, I would recommend flying TAP Portugal and if you can, pick a flight on one of those Embraer 190s.
Seeing as TAP wouldn’t allow me onboard to take photos, the featured image is credited to thedesignair.net
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