Wander along the River Tagus esplanade to the Belem district of Lisbon and you will come across the imposing Monument of the Discoveries and also the historic Belém Tower.
But there’s another monument - a replica of a small plane. It commemorates one of the world’s most historic flights; the first flight across the South Atlantic from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It was also the first flight using the new aeronautical technology of an artificial horizon. This epic flight undertaken by Sacadura Cabral and Gago Coutinho took place in 1922. It took them, because of various mishaps to their three planes, 79 days to complete the 8383 km, though their actual flying time was 62 hours 26 minutes.
Fast forward to the present day when visitors to Rio can fly TAP Portugal from Lisbon in much greater comfort and in a mere fraction of the time, less than 10 hours.
The Airline’s Story
TAP Portugal, or as it was known in those days the Air Transport Section, was created in 1945. Later that year it acquired its first planes – two Dakota DC3s with seats for 21 passengers. A couple of years later it launched its first two routes. The first commercial route was Lisbon – Madrid; this was followed a few months later by the ‘Imperial Airline’ flying Lisbon – Luanda and Lourenco Marques – a journey of 15 days with 12 stopovers!
Over the next 20 years the airline grew steadily. It was privatised for the first time in 1953. In 1960 a plane made the first flight between Lisbon and Porto Santo and the company also launched the Flight of Friendship between Lisbon and Rio de Janeiro.
In 1974 (the year of Portugal’s 25 April Revolution) the company had 32 aircraft flying to more than 40 destinations on four continents. It had also introduced computerised reservations, load control and check-in! By the end of the year it could also boast more than 1.5 million passengers and had flown 68,210 hours over a network of some 103,000km.
1975 saw the company becoming a state-owned enterprise corporation and four years later it was renamed TAP Air Portugal. This name was changed in 2005 to the name by which it is now known - TAP Portugal.
Today it serves a total of 88 destinations in 38 countries worldwide. TAP is currently the main carrier between the UK and Portugal with up to 81 weekly direct flights to Lisbon, Porto and Funchal from Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester. It averages 296 flights a day and operates a fleet of 61 Airbus aircraft (plus another 16 from its regional airline Portugalia Airlines) making a total of 77 aircraft.
TAP is the largest European, and most frequent, flyer to Brazil with 71 weekly flights serving 12 different airports.
Meals on board
Naturally, meals on board vary depending on duration and destination of the flight.
However, Economy Class passengers will be served something along the lines of: Hot meal - a hot main dish served on a tray; Cold light meal - consisting of a cold sandwich on long-haul flights; and a box with a cold sandwich on medium-haul flights; Cold meal - a cold main dish served on a tray; and Snack - an individually packed sweet or salty snack, mini sandwich.
Business Class passengers are served more upmarket meals. The airline prides itself on using Portuguese products and flavours with dishes created by Cuisine Consultant and award-winning Chef Vítor Sobral. TAP also invited the award-winning chef and wine expert Dânio Braga to act as Cuisine Consultant on the Brazil flights.
On Brazil flights the main meal menus offer an amuse bouche, followed by soup and/or salads, a main dish and a dessert of traditional Portuguese sweets and pastries or a cheese plate and seasonal fresh fruit. Breakfast includes a plate of cold cuts and various cheeses, fresh fruit, yoghurt and a bread basket. The light meal includes items like quiches, pies, salads, fresh fruit and a sweet dessert.
The wines on board by the way are excellent. Hardly surprising, they have been chosen by a panel of Portuguese experts.
TAP Portugal: www.flytap.com.