Destination Lisbon (I): the last flight of the Fokker
It is not every day that one gets the chance to be on the last flight of an iconic aircraft.
On 29th November, after 26 years of service, Portuguese flag carrier TAP retired the last of its Fokker 100 aircraft.
The Fokker 100 fleet was, actually, a legacy of Portugalia, the once-independent Portuguese regional airline that was absorbed by TAP in 2006.
This Dutch-made 100-seat aircraft was quite a popular type with airlines from all over the World, from the late Swissair to Qantas, at a time when the Bombardier and Embraer designs for this category where not even on the drawing board.
The Fokker 100 was a workhorse for Portugalia (now being renamed "TAP Express"), that used it in its trunk domestic line between Lisbon and Porto (also known as "Ponte Aerea" or "air bridge" in Portuguese)
Upon getting onboard you could see that the aircraft had some age, however, the passenger experience stood quite well the comparison with more modern aircraft. I suspect the big old leather armchair-like seats with a generous seat pitch had something to do with it! In this regard it felt a bit like seating on that worn-out but somehow very comfortable sofa that you find in many homes...!
So we jumped on the plane, together with some journalists and TAP representatives for the 90-minute round trip from Lisbon to Porto and back. We did not even leave the aircraft in Porto. So, as this was a commercial flight carrying regular passengers, we saw the passengers leave only to then, in a sort of chairs-game, look for the seat assigned for the return leg. Before the passengers for the return flight came in, some of the reporters present did some video pieces for Portuguese TV.
After another 40 minutes flight, that gifted us with some beautiful sights of both Porto and Lisbon, we landed at Portela airport, where we were greeted with the traditional water salute - plus a small crowd of TAP staff waiting with flowers for the crew (that happened to be the same that flew Portugalia's first Fokker 100 service in 1990!) and more photos and video.
Here is when it plus, and here is when it all became a bit emotional, but, in any case, the retirement of older types is a logical step for TAP. The Portuguese airline is now in the middle of a rather radical transformation, following investment by legendary American-Brazilian aviation entrepreneur, David Neeleman (founder of none other than jetBlue and Azul).
TAP is embarking on an ambitious fleet renewal programme that, among other things, will see it become launch customer of the A330neo with some of the most modern cabin interiors out there...but this is a story we are going to go into more detail in an upcoming article, the next in this Portuguese series. Watch this space!