Flying a Low-Cost Carrier

On our recent trip to Paris, my daughter and I flew on TAP Air Portugal. The airline is known as a low-cost carrier. Since it was our first time flying Tap Air Portugal – or any low cost carrier – we didn’t know what to expect.

TAP Air Portugal

We were pleasantly surprised. There was very little, if any, difference between our flight and many we had taken on other international airlines.

Buying Tickets

At first, the complete itinerary for our trip was not finalized, but we knew our start date. We decided to purchase the tickets for our flight to Europe. Tickets for our flight home could be purchased later.

We purchased one-way tickets in April through the Chase travel portal. The flight cost 13,000 points that had a cash value of $130. If the tickets had been purchased with dollars instead of points through the TAP Air Portugal website or a ticket re-seller (like Expedia), they would have cost $195.

The Line at Passport Control

Our flight itinerary included a three-hour layover in Lisbon. We like to fly non-stop whenever possible, but TAP does not fly non-stop to Paris. Because we were coming from the States, we went through Passport Control in Lisbon. Passport Control was backed up, so we spent nearly our entire layover waiting in line (no fault of the airline).

Seat Selection

One of the negative aspects of flying a low-cost carrier is that seats cannot be selected without paying an extra fee. The seats are assigned by the airline. This might be a problem for parents flying with children, for first-time flyers, or for someone who really wants to sit by their travel companion. If tickets are purchased together, there is a good chance travelers would be seated together, but there is no guarantee.

Sunset on the Plane

My daughter and I have traveled quite a bit and decided not to pay to choose our seats. Although we purchased our tickets separately, we were assigned seats about four rows apart. We decided to ask when we checked in at the airport and the airline representative was able to switch my daughter to a seat next to mine. We had a window and an aisle seat in a 2-4-2 configuration.

In our short leg from Lisbon to Paris, my daughter was assigned an aisle seat in the row right behind me. Before she even sat down, she commented that we were sitting near each other as she expected. The young women seated in the aisle seat next to me asked if she would like to switch, so we sat together after all.

People are sometimes asked to switch seats so families or friends can sit next to each other.  If you are asked, be sure you will be comfortable in the new seat – you can say “no.” If you want to switch with someone, remember that it is not nice to ask someone to take your middle seat in exchange for their aisle or window seat.

Checked Luggage
Sunrise in the Morning

Another additional fee is charged if the traveler wants to check a bag. Usually, international flights include one checked bag for no charge, but that is not the case on low-cost carriers.

Our original itinerary included a week in and around Paris. I was considering traveling for an additional two and a half weeks. The carry-on bag weight limit was only 17 pounds and I was concerned that I would not be able to fit everything in. I opted to pay for a checked bag. I decided not to extend my trip and only traveled for a week.

A TAP Tail

Even though my daughter and I only traveled for a week, we made use of the checked bag. Since the weather was cool, we packed heavier clothes than we would have in the summer. We could have made do without the checked bag, but since it was prepaid, we used it.

My ticket, including the checked bag came to 16,000 points, with a cash value of $160. If I had not purchased through the Chase travel portal, my cost would have been $240. Even at this price, the cost was lower than most other international airlines.

The Airplane
Seated on the Plane

Again, we weren’t sure what to expect as amenities on the plane.  The interior of the plane looked like other ones I’ve flown.  The seats were about the same size. I am a rather tall woman and I had plenty of room to stretch out my legs.  I like the 2-4-2 configuration on a plane, as long as I am in one of the outer two-seat sections.

There was seat-back entertainment with a reasonable selection of movies. When I fly to Europe, I often watch one or two movies and then try to sleep. On my way home, I watch four or five movies and do not sleep. This system seems to work best for me in combating jet lag.

Meals
Dinner

Two complimentary meals were served on the first leg of the flight, and another on the second leg. About an hour after take-off we were served dinner – a choice of chicken or fish. Vegetarian meals had to have been pre-ordered, but I was fine with chicken.

In addition to the meal, we were offered soft drinks, juice, or wine.  After the meal, attendants served coffee or tea.

An hour before landing, we were served breakfast. European breakfasts often include a sandwich. In addition, we had a granola bar and juice. It was not exciting, but tasted fine.

On our second leg, we were served a different sandwich meal – again, it tasted fine.

The Overall Experience

I would not hesitate to book a flight on TAP Air Portugal again. I’m interested in checking some of the other low-cost carriers.  If I want to fly in the summer, for a short trip, it would be ideal.  For a longer or cold-weather trip where I would check a bag, it would still be worth considering.

Landing in Lisbon, Portugal

One of my priorities when flying is looking for a non-stop flight. This would definitely be a possibility if Lisbon was my final destination. TAP Air Portugal also flies from Miami and New York, and in addition to Lisbon, flies to Porto, Portugal.

My biggest priority, though, is the price. Our tickets on TAP were the least expensive I’ve experienced in years.

This flight was comparable to most we’ve flown to Europe. I will definitely fly TAP Air Portugal again.

 

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