European airlines have are known for great service, and we were expecting nothing less from TAP. This airline is a member of the Star Alliance and operates 1600 flights a week. Its fleet consists of 55 Airbus A320s, A330 and A340.
Our tickets were for flights TP1628 Funchal-Lisbon at 1:25 PM and TAP594 Lisbon-Moscow (DMD) at 8:35 PM.
We arrived at the Funchal (Madeira) airport 2.5 hours before takeoff.
The airport itself is pretty impressive for such a small island. There were plenty of check-in stands and everything was easy to understand. There were signs in English. The security area was rather busy, and we had to wait in line. I don't think this was due to the amount of traffic so much as the fact that the Portuguese can never be bothered to do anything fast. Soon enough, we got to the area with the shops (which were very nice, though the prices were about 5-10 Euro higher than in Lisbon). There were souvenirs, a few cafes. Something which I liked in particular was the fact that the way to the restrooms was marked on the floor with arrows.
Boarding began 20 minutes behind schedule.
The gate was just that - a door leading outside. Beyond it, passengers were lead towards the plane by the airport staff. It was only at this point that we discovered that our flight wouldn't be with TAP, but with the airline Portugalia, on a Fokker 100 christened "Albatroz". The exterior was well-kept and clean.
This plane has room for 95 passengers, 8 of which are business class. This is what a business class seat looked like:
This is the cabin of economy class. The seats were arranged 2+3 per row. I should note that it was completely full, as flying is the only way to get from Madeira to the mainland.
There was enough leg room to make the flight comfortable.
There wasn't quite enough baggage room. Most of the passengers were traveling with nothing but small carry-on cases, but even so there wasn't enough room for all of it.
In the seat pockets there were airsickness bags and TAP's flight magazine "UP". It was in English and Portuguese.
The panel overhead had reading lights and air conditioning vents. It was neither too warm nor too cold, the temperature was quite comfortable.
Next we were given the condensed version of the safety procedures. I took a picture, but the flight attendant immediately approached me and asked me to delete it. Turns out, taking photos of the staff is prohibited. I felt a little bad.
Despite the late boarding, we departed as scheduled at 1:25 PM. Takeoff was so smooth I didn't even notice it, thanks to both the weather and the pilot. There was no turbulence at any point. Here is a view of the runway:
Soon, we got our meal (sandwiches and mango juice) and beverages - a selection of coke, apple, tomato and orange juices, beer, wine, and water. This was more than enough for a 1.5 hour flight. Madeira disappeared behind us, and the Atlantic was all around.
It seemed like no time elapsed at all before we were descending over Lisbon. The landing went smoothly. I couldn't have asked for a better flight.
It took less than 10 minutes to claim our luggage. Now we had to get to check in booths for our flight to Moscow. The check-in area was very large and spacious, the lines zipped along, and there were plenty of self check in terminals. I took advantage of one of these.
Baggage check opened 3.5 hours before departure time. I'd like to express my admiration for the so-called "common-use" check-in, which is when everybody waits in one line for several booths (in our case booths 65-81). The line, though imposing, was processed in 5-7 minutes. People were directed to different booths by a staff member to keep the lines even. There was none of that wh ere one line has 10 people while a neighboring one is completely empty.
After checking our luggage, we headed through security and took a walk around the Duty Free stores (of note were the boutiques of Mont Blanc, Burberry, Diesel and Ugg). The food court featured a McDonalds, Pizza Hut and other chains.
Once we were past passport control, we wandered down the wide, long hallways in search of our gate. The waiting area was quite impressive.
It was spacious with plenty of seating and wi-fi. There were vending machines for food, drinks and even ice cream. There were cafes and lots of reading material. Personally, I liked the recliners, on which you could stretch out and rest a few minutes before your next flight.
Next comes the fun part! At 7:45 PM, the passengers lined in preparation for boarding, the plane was at the terminal and the ramp was attached. The scheduled boarding time came and went, and nothing happened. After a while, we were told to return to our seats and that boarding would be announced shortly. We kept waiting until the scheduled departure time, at which point we were told that there would be a delay. Funnily, the information screens informed us that we had departed at 8:38 PM, some minutes ago. This, we were told, was because the system was automated and the changes had not been registered with it. This dragged on until 11 PM, when the airline staff finally told us that our flight had been cancelled and we would be leaving the following. Fortunately, the airline didn't leave us hanging and provided us with transportation and reservations at a Marriott hotel. We were there by midnight.
We had dinner and went to bed. At 5 AM, we got a wakeup call for our flight. We had breakfast and by 6 AM we were back at the Lisbon airport.
At the security checkpoint, a lot of people had liquor that they had purchased the previous night at the Duty-Free confiscated, despite the fact that the bottles were sealed. Only the lucky few who had held on to their receipts were allowed to keep their purchases. Departure was scheduled for 8:45. However, boarding began only at 9. The plane was an Airbus A319.
Business class seats:
Economy class cabin with a standard row configuration of 3/3:
There was a lot of leg room. I was also lucky that there was nobody in the seat ahead of me, so I could really stretch my legs.
The folding tables were conveniently large. They could be adjusted forward, back, left and right.
The panels overhead were standard - air conditioner vents, reading lights, and a button to request a flight attendant. Speaking of which, the cabin crew was very friendly and tended to the passengers cheerfully.
The luggage racks were large, with plenty of room for suitcases, bags and other carry-on.
Warm blankets and pillows were handed out. Children got a magazine called "UP Kids". From what I saw the kids seemed to like it, it was full of coloring pictures, crosswords, connect-the-dots games, etc.
Before takeoff we were treated to a cartoon illustrating safety procedures. It was in English and Portuguese. It managed to be both pretty clear and somewhat amusing. Takeoff wend without a hitch, except for a bit of turbulence due to the cloud cover. For the rest of the flight, the screens were showing a map of our flight and sometimes short entertaining and informational clips. I really liked the one that led us on a tour of Lisbon.
Food was served uncharacteristically late. I'm used to airlines trying to get passengers fed as soon as possible, but it was about 40 minutes after lift-off that they started distributing drinks. The selection was the usual, but the flight crew offered ice with the drinks, which was a nice touch.
The meal came afterwards. The food was wholesome - a choice of chicken and potato or hamburger casserole. Everything tasted great.
The rest of the flight passed swiftly. Some people took naps, others read, and some watched the flight information. We experienced some turbulence when we started to descend, as we were passing through a formation of thunderclouds.
A short trip through passport control and past the baggage claim... and finally, we were back in Russia!
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