TAP Air Portugal intends to replace its A330-300 between Lisbon and Belém with one of 14 new A321LRs. From long-haul widebody to narrowbody, it remains to be seen whether passenger comfort will be supplanted by operating costs.
On June 8th this year, TAP announced the arrival of its second A321LR. The new type constitutes 1 of 71 new aircraft expected by 2025. Other types include the A320neo, A321neo and A330neo. The expansive order is part of TAP’s restructuring of its long-haul fleet.
TAP has already slated the second narrowbody for use on its lucrative transatlantic crossings. The single-aisle will bolster routes between Portugal, the U.S. and northeast Brazil.
TAP’s first A321LR flew on June 1st. It is already used on the carrier’s Porto to Newark route, which operates six times a week. The second of the type will fly three times a week between Lisbon and Belém from October 29th. The A330 currently in service will be dropped.
Boss of TAP Air Portugal, Antonoaldo Neves, acknowledged the importance of the type back in April, telling Sam Chui,
“The A321LR is critical for TAP’s expansion plans. With its superior range, we can comfortably explore markets in North America, South America, and Africa from Portugal, and it’ll fit in seamlessly with our A330neos.”
Since 2015, TAP has not bridled its investment in modern aircraft. The regeneration of the carrier’s long-haul flotilla is only part of a move designed to improve customer care and streamline its day-to-day operations.
As a consequence of its modernization, 2019 will see the airline’s inauguration of 15 new routes as well as a delivery of 15 new planes. The airline acknowledged in June that it is the “only airline in the world operating all the state-of-the-art Airbus NEO aeroplanes.”
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Lisbon to Belém
TAP flies more regular flights to Brazil than any other European airline. It currently flies to 12 destinations within the country. These include Salvador da Bahia, Rio de Janeiro and Campinas. The frequency of its services tempts many Europeans to use Lisbon as a connection.
The airline’s discarding of the A330 in favor of the A321LR for the Belém route is, if nothing else, historic in context. According to OMAT, Lisbon to Belém will be the first ever A321LR route between Europe and South America.
But some observers impugn the motivation of the move, which sees the twice weekly A330 service discontinued and replaced with the thrice weekly A321LR. Furthermore, there are some who doubt that the level of passenger comfort afforded by the widebody (5.64 Max Cabin Width) can be emulated by the narrowbody (3.70 MCW).
Lisbon and Belém are around 3,700 miles apart. The distance flown between the two cities is around 400 miles greater than it is between Porto and Newark. Although the 8-hour route is easily within the range of the type, it remains to be seen whether comfort is sidelined.
We have contacted the airline for comment about their latest announcement but have so far received no reply. Although, in a recent press release TAP assured its customers that,
“…all passengers experience the same level of comfort on transatlantic flights operated with the Airbus A321LR as on the best long-haul aircraft.”