Don't Believe the Hate: Why You Shouldn't Be Scared of Flying TAP Air Portugal

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TAP Air Portugal

Don’t Believe the Hate: Why You Shouldn’t Be Scared of Flying TAP Air Portugal

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No matter what they do, some airlines just have a bad reputation. Flyers swear they'll never fly Spirit or Frontier again or warn friends to stay away from airlines near and far after one bad experience.

But few foreign carriers generate as much contempt as the Portuguese flag carrier TAP Air Portugal. 

At Thrifty Traveler, we've fielded more concerned questions about flying TAP over the years than perhaps any airline. How could an airline selling $300 roundtrip fares (or less) to Europe possibly be pleasant? The seats and service must be atrocious like other notorious budget carriers, flyers believe. And then there are the justified concerns about customer service, especially after thousands of travelers fought with TAP over refunds throughout the pandemic – more on that later..

That's why I just put TAP to the test, flying to their hub in Lisbon (LIS) in business class and back home in economy. And if you ask me, all the angst surrounding TAP is overblown. I'd gladly fly them again.

With a new and modern fleet, a great network to fly throughout Europe, and incredibly cheap fares, it's time to get over your fear of TAP.
 

 

A Good Flight in Any Cabin

TAP Air Portugal has had a bit of a makeover in the last decade. The result is a modern fleet, with planes far newer than even your go-to U.S. carrier equipped with Wi-Fi, crisp entertainment screens, and new, well-padded seating.

For flights between the U.S. and Portugal, TAP typically uses either their Airbus A330-900neo or single-aisle Airbus A321neo  – most under five years old, if that. And like most airlines you can fly across the Atlantic, there are two seat choices: Economy or Executive Class, TAP's name for business class.

If you ask me, these economy seats on TAP's A321neo were more or less comparable to any other airline I've flown between the U.S. and Europe.
 

TAP economy class 

Each seat was just under 18 inches wide, with about 31 inches of legroom. While that's not the most generous economy seating you'll find in the world, it's on par with what you can expect on most carriers. It perfectly adequate for the 7-hour flight from Lisbon (LIS) to Boston (BOS).

The seats weren't much different from any United or Delta flight I've ever taken overseas – except, in this case, everything was brand spanking new. The entertainment screens are large and crisp, offering ample distraction to get you from to or from Europe.
 

TAP basic seat view 

As you can see, my 6-foot frame fit easily into the seat, although it was definitely a little more snug with my backpack underneath the seat in front of me. We were served one hot meal after we takeoff and a sandwich and snack shortly before landing in Boston. Neither meal was outstanding, but they were just fine.

But depending on which plane you're flying, it's even better up in business class.

I flew from New York City (JFK) to Lisbon on TAP's A330-900neo, which is equipped with their best business class seats. These aren't just TAP's best seats – they're up there with some of the best seats you can find flying to Europe with a design similar to United Polaris and even Air France business class.
 

TAP Business Class seat 

You'll generally find these widebody planes flying to Portugal from New York City and TAP's longer routes, including Chicago-O'Hare (ORD), Miami (MIA), Los Angeles (LAX), and San Francisco (SFO). With a 1-2-1 arrangement, every seat has direct aisle access, easily reclining all the way back into a bed.

It was a super comfortable lie-flat seat, had a terrific selection of food and drink, and included an amenities kit with headphones, some hygiene products, and even a pair of TAP-colored socks. The lie-flat mode of the seat was downright roomy, more than comfortable enough to allow me a few hours of good sleep on the short trip across the pond and arrive refreshed.
 

TAP Business Class food 

Both legs of the journey exceeded my expectations. While I went into these flights unsure, I now see TAP as a perfectly comfortable way to travel to and from Europe. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

 

The Price is Right

In the end, this is why people fly TAP Air Portugal: Low prices.

TAP has built its business by attracting travelers with the lowest fares possible. Along with ultra-low-cost carriers like Norwegian Air, they've helped lower the bar for what's considered a cheap flight to Europe. How cheap?

Search for flights to almost anywhere in Europe using Google Flights, and you're bound to find the lowest price is on TAP Air Portugal. We regularly find and send our Thrifty Traveler Premium roundtrip fares to cities throughout Europe on TAP under $300 – and sometimes closer to just $200. When other airlines are charging $600 or more, you can't beat that price.

Last year, we unearthed fares to Paris as low as $220 roundtrip. That's as cheap as it gets.
 

tap air portugal deal 

More recently, we sent our Thrifty Traveler Premium members a deal on TAP Air Portugal to fly to many European hotspots including Amsterdam (AMS), Dublin (DUB), London-Heathrow (LHR), Madrid (MAD), and even Rome (FCO) for just $243 roundtrip.
 

tap air portugal deal 

Flying to Europe just doesn't get cheaper than this. But even if you're looking to cross the pond in business class, it doesn't break the bank – so long as you're booking with points and miles.

Because TAP is part of the Star Alliance, there are plenty of airline programs you can use to book a business class seat to Portugal including Air Canada Aeroplan, Turkish Airlines, United, and more. To get to Lisbon last month, I utilized an incredible sweet spot to fly to Europe using points and miles.

While Avianca LifeMiles typically charges 63,000 miles each way for business class, there's one exception: Flying from New York City (JFK) to Lisbon (LIS), it's just 35,000 miles! 
 

TAP Avianca LifeMiles 

While Avianca isn't our favorite airline to work with due to a somewhat clumsy website and some less-than-stellar customer service, it's worth it for this price. Consider this: Flying economy on this same flight costs 30,000 miles. For 5,000 miles, you can get a great meal and a lie-flat seat!

The best part about this is that it's incredibly easy to earn the LifeMiles you need to book with credit card points. LifeMiles is an American Express transfer partner, Capital One transfer partner, and a Citi ThankYou points partner, too. That means transferring 35,000 points from the Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card American Express® Gold Cardor the  is all you need to book.

 

Routes to Get to Europe & A Stop in Lisbon

Beyond its cheap fares, TAP is all about flying you from the U.S. and connecting onward to pretty much anywhere in Europe – with a pitstop in Lisbon.

TAP Air Portugal and its brand new fleet of planes fly to 10 cities in North America, including:

  • Boston (BOS)
  • Cancún (CUN)
  • Chicago (ORD)
  • Miami (MIA)
  • Montreal (YUL)
  • New York (JFK)
  • Newark (EWR)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Toronto (YYZ)
  • Washington, D.C.-Dulles (IAD)

 

And thanks to its position at the entryway to continental Europe, it's a great option for fliers weary of long-haul journeys. From the East Coast to Lisbon, flights typically clock in at just six hours or so.

From there, TAP connects fliers onto tons of European cities, including pretty much ever major popular destination throughout western Europe. In addition, TAP is a great way to travel to the Azores (see why we love the Azores) or the Canary Islands, with roundtrip flights from Lisbon starting at just $67!

But it gets even better…

 

TAP Portugal's Stopover Program

One of the coolest features of TAP's is its Lisbon and Porto stopover program. En route or on the way home from your European destination, you can build in a multi-day stopover anywhere from one to five nights … without any additional fees!

This program is great for two reasons. First, you're getting to visit one of our favorite, budget-friendly countries at the beginning or end of your trip. Lisbon is an incredible yet underrated city that should be on everyone's list.

And second, it likely doesn't cost you a euro more to do it!

On TAP's website, just type in your departure city and the destination of your choice, and the system will tell you if you can build in a stopover. I wasn't able to squeeze one in on my latest trip, but if I had to do it again…
 

Madrid TAP Stopover 

This itinerary would fly me through Lisbon (LIS) to Madrid (MAD) on April 21, give me a week on the ground in Madrid, and then the ability to spend two nights on the ground in Lisbon before my flight home on April 30.

Just think about it this way: If you could add an extra night or two in another European city to your itinerary for free, would you do it? You know the answer.

 

Customer Service is a Concern

If you have a negative view of TAP Air Portugal – or have heard from someone who does – it probably has something to do with their customer service.

TAP earned its place on many travelers' personal no-fly lists when it refused to issue refunds after canceling flights as the pandemic first struck, violating federal rules regarding refunds. The Portuguese airline was the subject of more than 5,000 complaints to the Department of Transportation regarding refunds, according to data from the department – second only to Air Canada, a much larger airline who was hit with a major fine last year for repeatedly breaking refund laws during COVID-19.

Many Americans have had a hard time getting through to TAP's customer service when they need to change or cancel their flights, too. After initially booking one leg of my TAP journey, I had to make a small change to my itinerary and did so on TAP's website without any issue, however.

If all goes well, I think those potential customer service headaches are offset by the low fares you're getting from the airline. Then again, nothing went catastrophically wrong on my journey. If something did go wrong, it might have changed my takeaways from this trip.

 

Bottom Line

Forget what you've heard and take it from me: TAP Air Portugal is a perfectly comfortable way to travel across the Atlantic.

Is it the best airline in the world? No. But neither are any of the other carriers flying to and from Europe, either. TAP's customer service can leave a lot to be desired, and that's worth keeping in mind when you're booking.

Whether you're flying economy or up in business class, TAP's in-flight experience holds its own against other transatlantic airlines … often at a fraction of the cost.

 

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

15 Responses

  • Totally agree with you on TAP- brand new quiet planes. The stop over is a nice perk. I want to return to Porto and will want to try TAP. One thing I did find is their website is a little quirky and not always intuitive nor in US dollars. Hopefully they have fixed that. But I agree that they are worth the hassle and plan to check them out in 2023. I was in Portugal March of 2020 and the Lisbon airport was being remodeled. But Portugal is a great destination- inexpensive, gorgeous architecture, great history, friendly people, and great food.

  • TAP may be a good deal and have nice planes. But they have defrauded hundreds of thousands of folks out of their hard earned money. They have provided no refunds for all those folks whose flights they cancelled during the pandemic. My wife and I had flights booked on June 18, 2020 and have yet to receive a refund, after emailing and calling, and all but begging them to abide by the EU regulations that require them to provide refunds. And we are far from alone in this. Check out https://twitter.com/TAPair_Lawsuit to see how many folks are affected. I do not trust TAP to care about their customers. If you fly them, you better hope you don’t have any issues or you will be SOL.

  • Thanks so much for taking the TAP risk 😉

    I am one of those who is still caught up in an issue regarding a flight I booked , they cancelled and forced a credit on me instead of refund. They said I requested the credit in instead of a refund (false).

    That said do you have any comment on their policy regarding cancellation within 24 hours. Their fare conditions STILL state that if you cancel within 24 hours you must pay $45 fee and they will only issue a VOUCHER — NO REFUND. From the website “Request for refund within 24 hours is subject to a USD 45.00 fee and the refund will be given in the form of a voucher where the fee will be deducted. The voucher is non-refundable and must be used for the purchase of TAP tickets within one year after its issuance.” That is still not in compliance with DOT rules so I do question how that is allowed. Maybe you could test that out for us as well…just kidding.

    • Correction to my previous comment – Two itineraries: I cancelled one within 24 hours of booking and was forced to take a credit even though I was told twice over the course of 12 months I would receive a refund to my original form of payment. My travelling companions and I did receive a refund within 3 months for the second itinerary when TAP cancelled those flights.

    • I just booked with TAP, only to realize that I may have paid for a ticket that doesn’t have an option to select a seat. Will my husband and I be able to sit together??

  • I also was owed thousands of dollars in refunds for 6 flights that TAP cancelled. I had spoken to customer service over 40 times, every time being told, yes, they see I’m owed a refund, and no, they don’t know when it will be sent. My card card company ( CapOne) also refused to make this right, violating federal rules, After almost two years of fighting, writing and driving myself mad, I filed a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a US Federal agency. In less than a week CapOne refunded all my money…lesson learned; don’t wait for people to do the right thing. I wouldn’t fly TAP again if it was free…..

  • I guess I got lucky. My ORD – FCO flight on TAP coming up in March 2022 was cancelled and they changed the return flight to a day earlier. I contacted customer service by phone (and though a long wait) the woman processed a refund (met cancellation policy requirements) to my original form of payment (CC) and sent it up (to who knows to who) for approval. About three weeks later I notice my CC had the $1600 credited back to my account.

  • My husband and I had business class tickets on TAP for a flight in August 2021 that we canceled. We purchased the flexible fully refundable for “any reason” tickets because of the pandemic. They refused to refund our tickets and offered a travel voucher good for one year. We immediately contacted our credit card company Citibank American Airlines MasterCard. We had a full refund within two weeks. We travel a lot and find when a credit card company opens an investigation it is very helpful when seeking refunds.

  • I love TAP. I, too, had a flight cancelled due to COVID in early 2020. I was able to re-book using my credit when I was ready, late in 2021. I flew business class, and could not have had a better experience. I will definitely fly TAP whenever available, and will be flying again in October. Please try to understand how difficult COVID was on EVERYONE, especially in the travel industry. I feel like we are very lucky TAP survived.

  • I have also been waiting 2 years for a refund from TAP from a cancelled flight due to COVID. I have filed a complaint with the DOT. Called monthly, posted on Facebook. Someone on the unsatisfied customer page posted a list of over 150 email addresses to TAP employees. I am now sending multiple emails to anyone that I can. How can they stay in business if they are stealing from their customers? I have still not gotten my refund. Thanks for the suggestion. I will try to consumer financial protection bureau.

  • Tap is by far the worse airline. I don’t care how much they offer a stop over in Portugal. Their service is trash. I will never take this airline again. Even if its free

  • I will never fly TAP again. Nothing to do with canceled flight and delayed flight (These days they are pretty regular things) and everything to do with the worst Customer Service I have ever experienced. TAP cancelled our outbound flight and never notified us (not a txt, call, email). I found it out because i googled the flight no. to see if it was ontime. on the inbound flight from ams to ewr with a layover in lisbon, the first leg of the travel was delayed and we were told by the flight attendant that we would have about 40 min to go through customs in lisbon and make it to the gate. miraculously we arrive at the gate that TAP was still boarding passengers. We were group A and they were boarding group B. When we get to the front of the line we are told that they cancelled our tickets and gave our seats to others. why? no explanation. both legs of the travel were with TAP so they knew we were late but we landed and we were coming. they then put us at the end of the Standby passengers. needless to say we do not make it. they told us we would get some compensation (and specifically NOT travel vouchers) for the mistake they made: true and behold we can only get a voucher to fly TAP for a very small amount …. NEVER AGAIN!

  • TAP AIR SCAM. They aloud my carry on on my first flight and then on my second flight to NY they extorted every American a 125.00 to allow the exact same carry on. They extorted one poor mother 500. They waited right before boarding to pull this scam. Will never fly this airline again

  • Tapairportugal is the worst company in the world. We had bought tickets in October 2020 and we wanted to be refund because we could not travel due to the Covid, and they laugh at us saying that they will refund us without ever doing it!!! They are dishonest scammers. Never buy plane tickets with them. They don’t respect their client. It’s really frustrated! DON’T EVER BUY TICKETS WITH THIS COMPANY!!!!

  • Worst airline I’ve ever had the misfortune of using. They forced me to gate check my carry-on bag because they overbooked their flight. Then they lost my bag for my entire trip. That bag had all my clothes for the week, including a tuxedo for my brother’s wedding. I had to spend hundreds of dollars are replacement formal wear. The people at TAP couldn’t care less that they lost my luggage. When I called, it was one bored customer service rep after another telling me they couldn’t help me, giving me other numbers to call that couldn’t help me or saying they were going “transfer me to another department” & then hanging up on me. I only managed to find my bag by going to the airport at the end of my trip & manually searching the lost & found. I never received any help, accountability, or even an apology from the airline. In fact, I’m still getting emails from them about how they can’t help me, which indicates that they don’t even know I managed to get my bag back from them without their help. TAP is a disgrace & you should literally use any other airline instead of them. If I can convince even one of you readers not to fly on their awful, incompetent airline, I’ll consider it a good day’s work.

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