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TAP Air Portugal Airbus A321LR-neo Business Class Review [EWR to LIS]

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Ryan Smith
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Ryan Smith

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Ryan completed his goal of visiting every country in the world in December of 2023 and now plans to let his wife choose their destinations. Over the years, he’s written about award travel for publicat...
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Airline: TAP Air Portugal
Aircraft: Airbus A321LR-neo
Flight #: TP204
Route: Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR) to Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado Airport (LIS)
Date: February 19, 2024
Duration: 6 hours, 14 minutes
Cabin and Layout: Business class; 16 seats in a staggered 2-2 and 1-1 configuration
Seat: 1C (aisle)
Cost: 63,000 Avianca LifeMiles + $51.70 in taxes and fees

My wife and I recently visited Portugal and were anxious to try TAP Air Portugal’s business class to get us there. After struggling to find any business class availability from the West Coast, we spent 2 days in New York City before flying directly from Newark to Lisbon on TAP. What started with high expectations turned out to be one of our worst business class experiences in recent memory.

While the seats inside the plane looked incredible, sleeping was uncomfortable, and service missed the mark at every possible turn. When we got off the plane, my wife said, “I’m glad we aren’t flying home with TAP. If we were, I’d tell you to change our flights.” Here’s what our flight was like and why we were unsatisfied.

Booking TAP Air Portugal Business Class

We booked this flight using Avianca LifeMiles. I found availability online quite easily and booked during a 15% transfer bonus from American Express Membership Rewards. With a cost of 126,000 miles for 2 people, I effectively needed to transfer just 110,000 Amex Membership Rewards points before the 15% bonus. I consistently earn Membership Rewards using my American Express® Gold Card at U.S. supermarkets and restaurants and The Platinum Card® from American Express to pay for flights — including the taxes and fees on this award booking.

The cost to book each ticket on the LifeMiles website was 63,000 miles plus $51.70 per person.

TAP Air Portgual business class booking costs EWR LIS using LifeMiles
Cost for 2 passengers on TAP business class EWR-LIS booked via LifeMiles. Image Credit: LifeMiles

After booking, I immediately received a confirmation email. With this confirmation number, I went to the TAP website to request special meals and seats. Unfortunately, TAP wanted to send a verification code to a phone number that wasn’t mine but was somehow attached to my reservation. When I called TAP, agents told me to contact LifeMiles to update the phone number on my account — even though the wrong phone number wasn’t the number on my LifeMiles account. LifeMiles was as confused as I was, so I simply called TAP again and asked for the special meals and seats we wanted.

Hot Tip:

All airline award tickets will have a cash component for taxes and fees. Pay this with a credit card that earns bonus miles on flights or a credit card that offers travel insurance.

Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)

Check-In

Since we couldn’t access our reservation on TAP’s website, we weren’t able to check in online in advance. However, the check-in process at the airport was very quick.

TAP departs from Terminal B at EWR, which we reached from the AirTrain. Within Terminal B, TAP’s check-in area is on the third floor.

TAP Air Portugal check in EWR Newark
TAP’s check-in area in Terminal B.

When we arrived, there was hardly anyone in line. The separate line for business class passengers had no one in front of us.

TAP Air Portugal business class check in EWR Newark
The separate line for business class check-in.

The employee at the desk gave us a head nod that we understood to mean we should approach the counter. He didn’t say anything or smile at us as we approached.

After weighing our luggage and showing our passports, the non-smiling employee asked to see our hand luggage and put stickers on our backpacks to show that they were approved for bringing on board. I asked him to add our TSA PreCheck numbers to our tickets, which he did efficiently. With that, he gave us our boarding passes. I asked if we had lounge access, and he told us we could use the SAS Lounge after security and use the priority line at security.

This employee was efficient at his job and wasn’t grumpy, but he also wasn’t friendly by any stretch of the imagination. This set a pattern all TAP employees would follow during this flight: We never saw any of them smile.

Lounge Access

Flying business class with TAP provides access to the SAS Lounge, located on the right-hand side after passing security in Terminal B. This lounge is accessible for anyone flying in a premium cabin with a Star Alliance airline. However, it’s not accessible with Priority Pass or the American Express Global Lounge Collection.

SAS Lounge entrance EWR Newark
The entrance to the SAS Lounge in Newark.

The lounge had a simple buffet with a few salads and sandwiches.

SAS Lounge EWR Newark buffet
The cold food part of the buffet.

A separate area had 2 hot dishes and a soup of the day.

SAS Lounge entrance EWR Newark hot food options
The labels for hot food items in the lounge.

In addition to several types of wine, there was also a self-serve soda machine, 2 juices, infused water, and an espresso machine.

SAS Lounge entrance EWR Newark non alcoholic drinks
Non-alcoholic drink options in the lounge.

Near the kitchen, there were large tables with numerous chairs and charging points built into the base of the lamps. Further into the lounge were armchairs and abundant outlets for charging devices.

SAS Lounge entrance EWR Newark tables near buffet
Seating near the buffet.

Boarding

Our flight departed from gate B60. There was very minimal seating near this gate, and people stood around or sat on the floor. With a scheduled departure of 11:55 p.m., the number of people sitting on the floor increased as we got closer to boarding time.

TAP Air Portugal business class EWR LIS gate 60 Newark EWR
We departed from gate B60.

We started boarding just 15 minutes before our scheduled departure, and boarding was a complete mess. When agents announced the start of preboarding, the door to the jet bridge was still closed, and the machine for scanning boarding passes wasn’t turned on. Thus, everyone who moved forward couldn’t board.

TAP Air Portugal business class EWR LIS boarding
This was the priority boarding line, if you can call it that.

Once it was time for business class passengers, employees herded us into an area between several ropes that they then struggled to open. Moreover, the machine to scan boarding passes stopped working, so we had to wait while they found another. Once we entered the jet bridge, the flight crew wasn’t ready for passengers, so we wound up standing around on the jet bridge for a few minutes.

TAP Air Portugal line in jet bridge during boarding
Stuck on the jet bridge because of disorganized boarding.

My wife and I finally entered the plane 5 minutes before our scheduled departure, so we knew takeoff would be delayed. Flight attendants said hello to passengers at the boarding door, but neither smiled.

On Board TAP Air Portugal’s A321LR-neo

We sat in seats 1A and 1C, which were window (A) and aisle (C) seats in the first row of business class. TAP’s A321LR uses a staggered layout, where rows 1, 3, and 5 have a 2-2 layout. Rows 2 and 4 have a 1-1 layout where these “throne seats” have extra space. Window seats in the odd-numbered rows don’t have direct aisle access.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class seat map
Business class seat layout on TAP’s A321LR-neo. Image Credit: SeatGuru

Business Class Seat

I had seat 1C, which felt spacious. The area around my feet was generous, and the seat had a 3-point seatbelt.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS seat
My seat (1C) on arrival.

I also had a generous footwell in front of me under the entertainment system.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS foot well
The footwell at seat 1C.

On arrival, the divider between our seats had menus and amenity kits.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS seat items at boarding
Amenity kits and menus were at our seats on arrival.

At hip level on this division, I found the control panel for reclining the seat or laying it flat. The buttons worked easily.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS seat controls
Seat control buttons on the molding.

The tray tables folded out from the divider, coming down from shoulder level and then sliding over. It was a fair size.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS tray table
The tray tables were a good size.

The tray table was released with this latch at the base of the division between seats.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS latch for tray table
This knob released the tray table.

Above the division, each seat had a reading lamp with 3 brightness levels next to a USB port and the headphone jack.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS reading lamp
The lamp had 3 brightness levels.

The lamp was in addition to the overhead lights that could be activated from the entertainment system remote.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS overhead lights
Overhead vents and lights.

This remote was stored at the back of the division between seats, near my shoulder, next to headphones and a bottle of water.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS entertainment control
Location of the remote for the entertainment system.

The division between the seats continued to the floor, ending with a small pocket that held sick bags.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS space between seats
Spacing between our seats.

We also found USB and universal outlets here.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS outlets
The outlets were at knee level between the seats.

The only storage space was this fold-down net under the entertainment screen.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS storage pocket
The only storage spot.

At boarding, each seat had a pillow and blanket in plastic wrap, found on the seat.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS blanket and pillow
The pillow and blanket pack we received.

The package fit easily into the footwell, for lack of a better place to put it.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS bedding in foot well
The bedding fit easily in the footwell.

As a seat, this was a great seat. When laying flat to sleep, however, it was a different story.

I’m 5 feet 10 inches tall, and my feet were pressed against the plastic at the end of the footwell, even when I moved as far up the bed as possible. Thus, I couldn’t stretch out.

Additionally, the space around the shoulder/head area felt cramped. Moreover, the area around my hips and belt felt unnaturally firm, making it difficult to get comfortable. My wife and I barely slept, though seat comfort was only one of the reasons for that.

Choosing the Best Seat

If you’re traveling alone in business class on TAP’s A321LR-neo, choose a seat in the even-numbered rows. Not only do they have more space, but you’ll avoid the situation where you’re sleeping next to the aisle and someone else climbs over you to go to the bathroom — or being the one doing the climb.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS row 1 seats
The layout and spacing of seats in row 1 on the opposite side of us.

Those traveling in pairs will like the odd-numbered rows. Beyond these elements, seats in rows 1 and 5 are nearest to the galleys and may have extra noise.

Food and Beverage

After boarding, flight attendants came around to take orders for meals. Menus were placed at each seat before boarding.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS menu
The menu for our flight.

There was also an extensive wine list.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS wine list
The wine list on our flight.

When the flight attendant came to our row, she stated our names and said that our special meals were on board. Then, she asked what drinks we would like.

Once meal service started, the flight attendant placed a tray of fish in front of my wife. We told her that we’d requested vegan meals, and she apologized while taking it away. However, what we got wasn’t much better.

For dinner, we received a tray that had cheesy pasta, a Caprese salad (which is 50% cheese), and flan for dessert. This, despite the fact I’d called TAP twice to request and confirm vegan meals. However, the agent had somehow put us down for vegetarian meals. Thus, there was nothing for us to eat at dinner. It’s a good thing we’d had some snacks in the lounge. We told the flight attendants there was no need to give us the trays and put away our tray tables.

The flight attendant moved on without much apology, but I also don’t fault her. There was no kitchen on board for the crew to whip up meals for us. Another flight attendant asked if we wanted to be woken for breakfast, so I asked what it was. Our special meal: a selection of local cheese from Portugal. Comedic.

Amenities

There were a few amenities worth noting from this flight.

Wi-Fi

Both paid and complimentary options were available. Free messaging throughout the flight was an option for all passengers.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS free messaging option
Free messaging was available.

Paid options ranged from €9.99 to €29.99, depending on how long you wanted to stay connected. That’s roughly $10.80 to $32.40 for the full flight.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS wifi costs
Wi-Fi options and costs.

I didn’t purchase internet during the flight, so I can’t comment on speeds. However, the messaging option worked as expected.

Entertainment

Each business class seat had a personal entertainment system in front of the seat. It was not adjustable.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS entertainment screen
Layout of the front of my seat.

The home page allowed us to choose not just TV and movies but also to see the menu, practice some Portuguese, and learn about activities in Portugal.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS entertainment system menu
The home screen of the entertainment system.

Movie options were abundant.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS entertainment options
Movie options on our flight.

There was even a special section for children’s entertainment options.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS entertainment for kids
Kids entertainment section.

The screen was touchscreen, but you could also use the remote found on the division between the seats. Both options worked, though touching the screen required leaning forward pretty far. I found using the remote much simpler.

Amenity Kit

Each seat had an amenity kit waiting for us at boarding. These were made of a soft fabric in pastel colors.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS amenity kit
My amenity kit.

We found hand lotion, a small toothbrush, a sleep mask, earplugs, and a pair of socks inside the kit.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS amenity kit contents
Contents of the amenity kit.

Lavatories

Business class had a single lavatory at the front of the plane near the cockpit. In terms of size and amenities, it matched what you’ll find in economy cabins on most planes.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS lavatory
The sole business lavatory.

The soap dispenser leaked around the base, unfortunately.

TAP Air Portugal A321LR neo business class EWR LIS lavatory leaking soap
Leaking soap around the base.

Service

I mentioned above that service missed the mark at nearly every turn, so let’s jump in.

First, I mentioned that we never saw a single employee smile. That’s just odd. We were also surprised there was no offer of a welcome drink, as that’s standard on most business class flights these days.

And I don’t know what it is with Star Alliance airlines, but they are consistently the worst offenders for not getting our special meals correct.

Since we weren’t eating, we decided to just sleep for as much of the flight as possible. However, sleeping was further hindered by flight attendants dropping items in the galley (next to our seats) multiple times, including spilling a tray full of silverware. You know the sound it makes — not conducive to sleeping. Neither was their banter and laughing at each other’s jokes throughout the night, which again happened right near our seats.

Before deplaning, the flight attendants said they were putting a note on our reservation regarding our incorrect meals and encouraged us to apply for some sort of refund with TAP after the flight. They said to wait a few weeks to give the powers that be time to review the notes, so I haven’t submitted anything yet. However, I’m not holding my breath that I’ll get any points or money back.

Arrival at Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado Airport (LIS)

Despite taking off about 15 minutes late, we arrived in Lisbon 15 minutes early. Thus, our gate wasn’t ready, and we had to sit on the taxiway for a few minutes before pulling up to the gate.

The crew made the necessary announcements, such as border control processes and baggage claim location. After arriving at the gate, I was surprised at how quickly the jet bridge was moved into position and the aircraft door was opened. Sitting in row 1, we were off the plane quickly.

Final Thoughts

We were excited to fly TAP’s A321LR-neo business class but were quickly let down. Sleeping wasn’t very comfortable, and service left a whole lot to be desired. From royally messing up our special meal requests to never smiling throughout the entire trip experience and banging around to interrupt sleeping passengers, I struggle to think of any highlights from this flight.

I asked my wife if she remembered any highlights from flying on TAP, and she said, “Yeah, it ended.” Maybe a bit too critical, but that’s how we felt walking off the plane.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What terminal does TAP Portugal use at Newark?

TAP’s check-in is on the upper (third) floor of Terminal B.

How many business class seats are on TAP's A321LR-neo plane?

TAP has a staggered layout in the business cabin on this plane. You’ll find 2-2 seating in rows 1, 3, and 5. There’s 1-1 seating in rows 2 and 4. That makes for a total of 16 business-class seats.

Is TAP Portugal a budget airline?

In some ways, TAP is a budget airline, not offering the frills of some of its competitors. However, it’s not a budget airline in the sense of fares offered on long-distance flights.

What alliance is TAP Portugal in?

TAP is part of the Star Alliance. Other members include United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, and Air Canada.

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About Ryan Smith

Ryan completed his goal of visiting every country in the world in December of 2023 and now plans to let his wife choose their destinations. Over the years, he’s written about award travel for publications including AwardWallet, The Points Guy, USA Today Blueprint, CNBC Select, Tripadvisor, and Forbes Advisor.

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