TAP Retrojet Links Past & Future of Portuguese Airline
TAP Portugal is one of Europe's historical airlines.
Founded in 1945, when Portugal was at the center of a large colonial empire that stretched across several continents, TAP's fortunes have, somehow, been tightly linked to those of its home country.
At a time when Portugal is become THE place to go in Europe - and there are plenty of good reasons for it to be so - TAP is enjoying a new youth from the hand of its new investors, namely David Neeleman (of JetBlue and Azul fame) and partners: new fleet, new routes, new business class lounges, new products sucha s the "Portugal Stopover" programme and, most importantly, a very solid strategy that aims to turn Lisbon into a major transatlantic hub by taking advantage of the Portuguese capital's location, at the very edge of the European landmass.
This does not mean that TAP Portugal is forgetting its past. The same way that Portugal's rich historical heritage is being rediscovered by an increasing number of tourists (word goes that visitor numbers are up in the order of 30-40% in Portugal in the last couple of years), the "new" TAP has also found this a good moment to look back in time.
This goal of linking the "old" and "new" TAP is not mere rethoric but has actually materialized in the #TAPretrojet initiative.
One of TAP's Airbus A330s has been turned into a "retrojet", bringing back the atmosphere of 1970s flying (with all the modern advances you can find in new generation aircraft though!) to a set of selected long-haul routes out of Lsibon: Toronto (a new destination, and the one we had the chance to experience, courtesy of the airline!), Miami, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Luanda (Angola).
What follows is a flight report of TAP's retro flight from Lisbon to Toronto Pearson.
Time travel starts at the gate, where TAP retro routes and imagery are very evident, not only in signage and the staff uniforms, but a photo-call also made it possible to those waiting passengers that wished so to take a nice souvenir home in the form of an instantly printed photograph.
A short ride in the airline's microbus, also marked in retrojet colours, and there we were: face to face with this beauty!
By the way, TAP Portugal's retrojet has been named "Portugal", same as the 1972 TAP's Boeing 747 this initiative takes inspiration from.
A short photo-session with the crew before boarding the flight. Photo filters really helping with the retro atmosphere!
Ready to board! Note how every tiny detail has been taken care of...!
And we are now in the business class cabin, being welcomed by these stylishly dressed crew - "Boa tarde!"
And a nice surprise! Quite a few goodies awaited us. Some gifts to mark our travel back in time to the 1970s. Including these nice vintage bags, a special edition of the days' newspaper with our retro flight on the cover and a sort of 1970s IFE, a board game (customized with questions about TAP)!
Note that this particular A330 has a business class interior that is a bit different from the standard TAP cabin for the type.
Although the light-brown leather seats add nicely to the retro experience, the difference with the rest of the A330 fleet is due to other reasons. As TAP is awaiting the delivery brand-new A330neos next year (it is actually the launch customer for the A330neo), it has received 4 ex-Singapore Airlines A330s. TAP replaced the economy seat covers to correspond with the rest of the A330s fleet but kept the Business class seats as is. TAP will fly these 4 ex-Singapore aircraft for 2 years and then retire them as the A330neos join the fleet.
Wondering what was inside that vintage-style bag found on each business class seat? Check out the following video!
Nothing retro, of course, about the IFE system, featuring a decent-sized screen and a good selection of movies and entertainment.
Note also the rather convenient set of drawers that allow yout to store phones, notebooks and other other small items, for the duration of the flight.
The "sardine can" (quite a Portuguese icon) is the quite original way TAP presents business class passengers with toiletries and other travel goodies, such as an extra pair of socks.
This being business class there were no issues with seeat pitchy, of course. The seat is fully reclinable, allowing you to sleep flat.
Below, on the screen, TAP Portugal's most recent safety video recreating the early years of the airline and its history throughout the decades.
And next we move onto some serious stuff: the food.
Great food and wines are, in fact, one of the hallmarks of Portugal and in-flight meals onboard TAP could not fall short of expectations. Even less in this very special flight.
Actually, TAP took food so seriously that we had our very own inflight Michelin-starred chef for this flight. Miguel Laffan, pictured below, of the restaurant L'And Vineyards, of the Alentejo region of Portugal, that delighted us during the flight with some tasty specialities.
After a little appetize - Codfish hamburger and roasted sunflower seeds (see pics above), I opted for the prawn salad with avocado and pumpkin soup with beetroot mouse as a starter...
...getting next a huge (I think this is the most generous portion I have ever eaten onboard any flight!) dish of cod "a la Zé de Pipo" (cod, "bacalhao" in Portuguese, is one of the signature ingredients of Portuguese cuisine)
For desert a very tasty (and smelly!) Portuguese semi-soft cheese, served together with some compote.
All of these accompanied by a choice of two Portuguese white wines (Poças Reserva Branco, 2015, from Douro, and L'And Vineyards 2015) and two reds (Callabriga Casa Ferreirinha 2014, from Douro, and Quinta da Amoreira da Torre, from Alentejo).
And of course, Port wine (10-year old Graham's Porto Tawny in this case)
And a sweet touch to close the dinner: a chocolate bar...but just not any chocolate bar...you had to punch one of the circles on the board with a pen and that determined what flavour you got.
And just before landing, a light meal of fruit and cold cuts (bear in mind that by then it was almost 3am our, Portuguese, time!)
As this was a arather special flight, there were a bunch of journalists on the plane, interviewing passengers and crew about the experience. This even gave us the cahnce to engage in some casual conversation with the captain.
Here, aobve, Chris Robinson, of Chris Robinson's Travel Show of Toronto, Canada (a weekly radio show you should be following now if you happen to live in Canada and like traveling the World!) gives his opinion about the retro jet experience.
The retrojet experience was not limited to hte business class cabin, economy class passengers could also partake of the experinece (minus the goodie bag, that is).
Here are some of the pics I took of TAP's retrojet economy class cabin just upon boarding.
Each economy class seat on the A330 is equipped with its own IFE screen. Unlike in business class, TAP replaced the economy seat covers in economy on all four ex-SIA A330s. So iut all looked brand-new.
And here we are! One last team picture for the crew after landing at Toronto Pearson a few hours later!
A nice final touch to remember the whole experience: an official time-traveler certificate!