After finding a cheap flight from the United States to Europe, I booked a flight with TAP Portugal although I wasn’t really sure what it would be like to fly with TAP from New York to Amsterdam with a layover in Lisbon. This is a review of flying economy class with TAP Portugal and my experience taking a free Lisbon layover.
Where does TAP Portugal fly?
TAP Portugal Airlines is a Portuguese airlines that is partially owned by the Portuguese government. TAP flies within Europe, to the Americas (including Brazil), and to/from Europe. This review is focused on the flight between New York City (JFK) and Lisbon with TP0208. (I continued onto Amsterdam after my Lisbon layover.)
My family lives in New York, so I fly back to the United States fairly often. For me, price is key, so I’m always open to new airlines flying between the United States and Europe. In the past, I’ve flown KLM, TUI, Aeroflot, and Delta. I don’t discriminate as long as the price is good.
Tip for saving money on TAP Portugal flight
I booked this flight quite last minute, so I paid $330 for a one-way flight two days before the flight. (I never do this.) I got quite a good price as the average price for 3 months was higher than this–and this was about average for six months out. If you’re not a planner, TAP Portugal gives discounts for last-minute seats on their transatlantic flights with a even more significant discount the same day ($250 for the same flight). If you’re looking for a good price and you’re a planner, I’d recommend booking your flight about 4-6 months ahead to lock in a good price.
I played with the flights quite a bit and although you can hit a button to give yourself 1-5 nights in Porto or Lisbon, you can also find a flight with a ~24 hour layover if press the button for book flight without stopover and look for a flight that has a longer layover. (It was cheaper this way.) I’d not recommend stopping in Lisbon or Porto for less than 24 hours if you’re flying from the US as the jetlag will get to you. (Flying from Europe to the US is fine!)
My flight duration
My direct flight from JFK to LIS (New York to Lisbon) lasted six hours and forty minutes. After this, I left the airport for my Lisbon layover prior to hopping on my flight from LIS to AMS (Lisbon to Amsterdam) that lasted three hours. It was a red eye flight departing New York at 11:40pm (EST) arriving at 11:10am in Lisbon (WEST). As an experienced red eye flyer, I encourage you to sleep as much as possible on this flight, otherwise you’ll be struggling by the time you arrive in Lisbon. (I swear by Benadryl.)
Baggage fees and “Upgrades”
I took the Discount fare, which includes nothing extra besides a 10kg carry-on bag as I was packing light. It’s also unchangeable and non-refundable, so you need to be sure that you want this flight. (For about twenty euros extra each way, you can upgrade to bring one checked bag with you and to receive a refund for a fee.)
Baggage size and weight
If you’re going with the basic fare on TAP Portugal, hand luggage is a maximum of 45 inches and 8kg. The dimensions are 55x40x20cm for TAP flights to/from the United States. You’re allowed to bring a personal item. (If you upgrade, you can bring more.) I did not feel that they were strict and my bag was not weighed.
If you’re checking a bag, it depends on your final destination. I’d check this chart for more information. More generally, economy passengers are allowed up to 50lbs (23lbs) with one item with a fee for excessive baggage. I did not check a bag, so I cannot speak to this process.
TAP Portugal Check-in
I checked into my flight online about 24 hours ahead. It was an easy and straight forward process and I was able to download my ticket onto my phone. I arrived at JFK about four hours as the security lines at JFK can be sizable. I was too early for information for my flight, so I had to wait another hour to find information for TAP Portugal. (They share a booth with Aer Lingus and none of their staff was there yet.)
I had to stop by the desk for TAP Portugal flights out of JFK (and a few other TAP hubs), so I was able to show my passport to the flight attendant who quickly checked my passport and handed me a physical ticket. Finally, I went through security, which took about forty minutes.
If you’re checking in bags for a stopover that is less than 24 hours, your checked bags will go straight to your final destination. That said, if you’re taking a longer layover in Portugal, you’ll need to pick up your bags in Lisbon or Porto. I read about the TAP Social app where you can choose who you sit next to, but I wasn’t so keen on connecting my Facebook account to my flights. I took my chances.
JFK JetBlue Terminal Experience
I’ve flown through JFK countless times, however this was my first time (in a while) flying in the JetBlue Terminal, the terminal in JFK that TAP Portugal currently flies out of. The JetBlue terminal is truly one of the nicest airplane terminals that I’ve flown out in a long time. You’ll find numerous bookstores, nice restaurants, and great food (including cupcakes!). There’s also fast free Wi-Fi and tablets that you can use in the terminal.
The TAP Portugal flight was at the end of the terminal and the boarding process didn’t begin until an hour before the flight was scheduled to depart. It was by section (this is printed on your ticket) and I ended up boarding early on as my seat (randomly assigned) was near the back. I felt that it was very efficient given how full the plane was. Instructions were in both English and Portuguese.
Although it’s unlikely to happen on your flight, the only thing that soured my experience was another passenger. For context, I was sitting next to a group of Hispanic women who were traveling to Portugal together as part of a girls trip. They were chatting in Spanish across the row. A woman with an American accent walked by all of us and said, “Speak English. This is America.” (She got cursed out in Portuguese by the woman behind her.) All of us were shocked as this was a flight out of the United States to Portugal, where English is not one of its official languages.
It really angered me to see Americans treating other Americans this way and it really soured my flight experience. As an immigrant myself who speaks English at home, but lives abroad, I don’t appreciate when people tell me that I must speak a certain language in public with my friends. It’s a personal choice what language that you want to speak at home. That’s the beauty of living in a country where you have the freedom to choose.
The seats were okay although I didn’t feel that I had enough legroom and my legs became cramped at several points on the flight. The woman next to me also felt the same. (I’m average height at 5’6″.) Although the seat went back a little, it wasn’t enough that I could fully lean back. The seats were pretty average and I used my pillow as a backrest for additional comfort.
I’m lactose-intolerant and I was unable to specify my meal on board while checking-in. The main meal came about 1-2 hours after we left off. It was average airplane food with a salad, some bread, potato, and chicken. I was unable to eat the dessert as it was a cake with a lot of dairy. That said, I appreciated how often the flight attendants came around with drinks, including a nice assortment of juices.
We received a snack with a granola bar and a sandwich (ham/cheese) about an hour before we were scheduled with to land. I was able to strip the cheese off the sandwich.
I was really impressed with the movie section on board. I was trying to sleep during the flight, however I ended up watching movies for about half the flight. The entertainment system had a good selection in Portuguese, Spanish, and English. The movies were about six months old with a number of American independent movies.
Arrival in Lisbon
After arriving in Lisbon, I ended up waiting at passport control for about forty minutes. From here, it was very straight forward to exit the airport although I ended up having to ask for help to find the Metro entrance. I was feeling quite awake upon my arrival in Lisbon and the sunshine certainly helped.
I ended up buying individual tickets for the Metro for each journey, but I’d recommend buying a 24 hour Metro ticket instead. A twenty four hour Metro ticket was actually cheaper and I ended up having to wait in line to buy my ticket a few times.
My free Lisbon layover
I love free things and part of the reason why I chose TAP Portugal over other airlines is because I wanted to return to Lisbon. Although I knew that I didn’t have that much time if I had only twenty four hours in Lisbon, I saw my Lisbon stopover as a nice alternative to sitting in an airport (as I saw with other airlines that also had layovers).
I’ll go into what I did with my layover more in detail soon, but I recommend choosing a hostel or hotel close to the airport if you have a short layover with TAP Portugal. I knew that I just needed somewhere cheap to sleep and I’d sleep well due to the jet lag. I ended booking Nest House, a clean and modern boutique hostel directly on the same metro line as the airport, so I could roll out of bed and get to the airport in twenty minutes.
After arriving in Lisbon, I was able to arrive in Baixa at the heart of downtown Lisbon by 1pm after dropping off my backpack and taking the public bus to the center. (In case you’re curious, it took me about two hours to arrive in the center after getting off the airplane with a pitstop for coffee and checking in at my hostel.)
I ended up having a full day walking around Lisbon with my friend Olga, who lives in Lisbon, prior to having a cozy dinner in one of the residential districts. By 10:30pm, I started falling asleep at the table. I took a taxi back to my hostel and my hostel was thoughtful enough to allow me early access to the free breakfast at 6am.
Lisbon airport experience
My Amsterdam flight was at a reasonable hour in the morning, but I ended up taking the Metro during rush hour to give myself enough time at the airport. I was able to get a pastel de nata as soon as I arrived at the Lisbon airport. The security line was a bit concerning as it moved slowly and I ended up barely making my flight. I can’t really speak to the rest of the Lisbon airport.
The experience of waiting for the flight reminded me of taking Trasavia or Eaysjet. There were very few seats in the waiting area, so the passengers mostly stood around until it was time for the flight. (This flight was very empty.) The flight was pretty standard for an intra-Europe flight. We received lunch and a drink, which was a pleasant surprise.
Overall my TAP Portugal Airlines experience
For the price, I can’t complain much, however I’d be tempted to fly with TAP Portugal again if they improved on the leg space in Economy class. I flew without my husband (who is tall) and he would have been miserable during the flight due to the lack of leg space.
One of big perks of flying with TAP Portugal was getting a free Lisbon layover although I definitely flew in the wrong direction. I made it through my full day in Lisbon, however I was struggling towards dinner-time due to the jet lag and I didn’t end up having enough time/energy in the morning to explore prior to heading to the airport.
I’d recommend trying to take your layover on the way back to the United States, if possible, as you’ll be on the right time zone. The fact that I got a day and a night in Lisbon was nice as I hate sitting in the airport. I’d fly TAP again just to do the Lisbon stopover again although I’d plan for three nights in Lisbon on my next trip.
More generally, I felt that it was a typical experience for flying budget from North America to Europe with good price/quality. I’d fly TAP Portugal again, simply to have another chance to revisit Lisbon for free. That said, I’d think more carefully about TAP Portugal if you’re taller than 5’6″ (167 cm).