We don’t always cover aircraft deliveries in the space, but sometimes an airline announcement about a new plane indicates something else. TAP Air Portugal says it has taken delivery of the world’s first new generation wide body A330neo. As the launch airline, TAP says it will be the first to benefit from the aircraft’s operating economics, increased range and Airbus’ new Airspace cabin offering passengers the best-in-class comfort. The Portuguese carrier will take delivery another 19 new Airbus A330-900neo until the end of 2019.
So what is this new airplane so important? It’s just more evidence how TAP has grown and improved service under the direction of David Neelman, the former CEO of JetBlue, who went on to launch Azul, the successful Brazilian airline, and then became a major shareholder in TAP. Neelman also has plans to reenter the U.S. market with a new low-cost carrier. For its part, TAP has rapidly become a highly regarded airline with a growing route network, new aircraft and a developing hub in Lisbon. And now it’s the launch customer for a new Airbus model. So it’s definitely become a much more important option that travel agencies can book.
TAP Air Portugal’s first A330-900 features 298 seats in a three-class lay-out with 34 full-flat business class, 96 economy plus and 168 economy class seats. The Airspace by Airbus cabin offers more personal space, larger overhead storage bins, advanced cabin lighting and the latest generation in-flight entertainment system and connectivity, including Wi-Fi. The aircraft will be deployed on routes from Portugal to the Americas and Africa.
“I am delighted to welcome the first Airbus A330-900 into our expanding fleet,” said Antonoaldo Neves, TAP Air Portugal’s CEO. “The new Airbus A330-900neo consumes about 20 percent less fuel than our current fleet. By the end of next year, 37 percent of our medium haul fleet will have these new generation aircraft, and in the long-haul fleet more than 70 percent of the block hours will be assured by these new aircraft. Its unbeatable economics and efficiency will power our business forward.. The A330neo will give us a lot of operational flexibility thanks to its commonality with the other Airbus aircraft in our fleet. This aircraft will be the first equipped with the new Airspace cabin, which is a new concept shaped to meet TAP’s ambition to offer the best product in the industry to our passengers.”
The A330neo is a true new generation aircraft building on the A330’s success and leveraging on A350 XWB technology. It incorporates new generation Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines, and a new higher span 3D optimized wing with new sharklets fully optimized for the best aerodynamic performance. Together these advances bring a significant reduction in fuel consumption of 25 percent compared with older generation competitor aircraft of a similar size. Moreover, new composite nacelles, a fully-faired titanium pylon and zero-splice air inlet technology provide the A330-900 with state-of-the-art aerodynamics and acoustics.
Airbus and TAP already have a long relationship, dating back to 1987, when TAP purchased three Airbus A310 aircraft. Today TAP operates an Airbus fleet of 72 aircraft: 18 A330s, four A340s and 50 from the A320 family (A319, A320 and A321). This year alone, TAP has already received six new Airbus aircraft: one Airbus A319ceo, one Airbus A320ceo, one A320-251neo, two A321-251neo, the last of which last week, and now TAP has the first Airbus A330neo in the world for its long haul fleet.
And just as we were loading this article up on the website, TAP announced it would add two new routes from the U.S. in 2019, adding nonstop service to Lisbon from Washington, D.C., and Chicago. TAP will commence five round-trip flights per week between Chicago O’Hare and Lisbon on June 1, 2019, and then add five weekly round-trips between Washington-Dulles and Lisbon on June 16.
Chicago flights will operate Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, departing Chicago-O’Hare at 6:05 p.m., and arriving in Lisbon at 7:50 am the following morning. Returning flights leave Lisbon at 1:05 pm, arriving into O’Hare at 4:05pm. Washington flights will operate Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, departing at 10:40 pm, arriving in Lisbon at 10:50 am the next day. Returning flights leave Lisbon at 4:30 pm, arriving at Dulles at 7:40 pm.
“With more than 70 new planes on the way, this is only just the beginning,” said Neeleman. “We have 10 gateways from Brazil to Portugal and believe we can support the same number from the US. [Our] expansion to Chicago and Washington, D.C. reflects what an increasingly popular destination Portugal has become, especially with visitors from the U.S. Our network beyond Lisbon is also growing. We now serve 55 destinations in Europe and 17 in Africa and fully 50 percent of our American passengers are flying us to places beyond Portugal, many making use of our popular Portugal Stopover program.”
Fares on the new routes in the economy cabin start at just $265 one way from Washington-Dulles, all inclusive of taxes, and from $278 one way from Chicago O’Hare. Round-trip fares are $569 and $595, respectively. In TAP’s Executive business class, TAP offers 34 new fully-flat reclining chairs that are more than six feet long when fully reclined.
Also, TAP has powered up its new business class chairs to include USB slots and individual electrical sockets, connections for headphones, individual reading lights, and more space, including more storage room. TAP’s Executive business class fares on both routes start at $1,456 one way, or $2,951 round-trip, for travel to Lisbon. Business class one-way fares to TAP’s popular European destinations, such as Madrid, Barcelona, Paris and Rome, start from just $1,396 to Paris.
TAP introduced the Portugal Stopover program in 2016 to further attract the “beyond Lisbon” passengers. Travelers to all of TAP’s European and African destinations can enjoy up to five nights in Lisbon or Porto along the way, for no extra airfare. From Washington and Chicago, travelers will be able to see Lisbon or Porto and their pick of 70 destinations throughout Europe and Africa with fares starting as low as $183 each way, from either Washington or Chicago to Madrid or Barcelona.
By James Shillinglaw