Review: TAM First Class 777-300ER Sao Paulo to New York

Introduction
Booking Korean Air SkyPass Awards Online
Korean Air Check-In Los Angeles Airport
Korean Air First Class 777-300ER Los Angeles to Sao Paulo
Marriott Sao Paulo Airport
TAM First Class Lounge Sao Paulo Airport
TAM First Class 777-300ER Sao Paulo to New York
Hyatt Union Square New York
Hyatt Times Square New York
British Airways New York JFK First Lounge & Pre-Flight Dining
Cathay Pacific First Class 777-300ER New York to Vancouver
Fairmont Waterfront Vancouver


Have you ever had a flight where you had more fun than you should be allowed to have on your own (in a totally non-perverted way, for the record)? I think that’s the only way to describe this flight for me…

TAM 8082
Sao Paulo (GRU) – New York (JFK)
Sunday, March 23
Depart: 9:20AM
Arrive: 6:05PM
Duration: 9hr45min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 1A (First Class)

I was escorted all the way to the door of the aircraft, where the escort introduced me to the flight attendant, who walked me to the first class cabin.

Since we boarded through the second door, I walked past the three rows of business class in the mini-cabin before getting to first class. The business class product didn’t look especially appealing, between the colors and the angled seats.

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TAM business class cabin 777-300ER

The first class cabin was a completely different story. TAM has the smallest first class of any airline I know, with just four seats in a single row. Per SeatGuru, here’s the seatmap:

Screen Shot 2014-04-07 at 6.34.54 PM TAM-First-Class

So the cabin isn’t especially private since the seats don’t have doors or anything, though I have to say that the design is about the most soothing and pleasant I’ve seen from any airline. Korean’s color scheme is plain ugly, Emirates’ is gaudy and borderline offensive, Etihad’s is almost a bit over the top, etc. But TAM’s first class cabin is the closest I’ve felt to being in a living room on a plane.

If you’re traveling together you’ll of course want to take the two middle seats, which share a single ottoman. It could almost double as a bed…

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TAM first class cabin 777-300ER

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TAM first class cabin 777-300ER

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TAM first class cabin 777-300ER

Waiting at my window seat, 1A, was a tiny pillow and equally small blanket.

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TAM first class 777-300ER, seat 1A

The seat has a nice ottoman, which actually has a storage compartment that slides out, should you want to store anything there during the flight.

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TAM first class 777-300ER, seat 1A

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TAM first class ottoman

It’s also worth noting that the power plug for the seat is located on the bottom right of the ottoman — it took me forever to figure this out, as it’s not usually where airlines put the power plugs.

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TAM first class power outlet

To give the cabin a more spacious feeling, there aren’t any overhead bins in first class. Instead, there are lockers for each first class passenger, similar to what both China Southern and Lufthansa have on the A380.

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TAM first class locker 777-300ER

The lockers were massive, and easily fit my rollaboard and laptop bag.

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TAM first class locker 777-300ER

Going back to the seat, the basic seat controls could be found on the armrest to the left of the seat.

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TAM first class locker seat controls

Below that were the entertainment controls, more advanced seat controls, USB plug, and headphone jack.

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TAM first class locker entertainment controls

So while the basic seat functions can be controlled from the buttons at the top of the seat, there was also a control system for adjusting your seat, raising the privacy shield, or turning on lighting.

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TAM first class seat controls

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TAM first class seat controls

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TAM first class seat controls

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TAM first class seat controls

Behind that compartment was a large storage compartment.

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TAM first class storage

And on the opposite end of the seat was yet another very large storage compartment.

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TAM first class storage

Once settled in, a flight attendant appeared within a few minutes to introduce herself and offer me a pre-departure beverage. I asked for a glass of champagne, though was informed they don’t serve alcohol on the ground, so I instead ordered an orange juice. I despise 99% of airplane orange juice (aka Minute Maid), but this one was actually very good.

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TAM first class pre-departure orange juice

I was also offered pajamas, slippers, the menu for the flight, and two amenity kits.

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TAM first class pajamas, slippers, and amenity kit

The pajamas and slippers were high quality but simple, which I appreciate. They run a bit large, for what it’s worth.

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TAM first class pajamas and slippers

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TAM first class menu

TAM offers two amenity kits in first class. One kit has socks, toothpaste, a toothbrush, mouthwash, and earplugs.

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TAM first class amenity kit

The other has lotion, lip balm, a pen, a comb, and a shaving set.

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TAM first class amenity kit

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TAM first class amenity kit contents

I was also offered some headphones.

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TAM first class headphones

As she handed me the amenities she told me to make myself comfortable, as I was the only passenger in first class — YES!!! In my millions of miles of flying I’ve only had that happen a handful of times, so I was quite excited, to say the least.

I quickly headed to one of the two lavatories located in front of the first class cabin to change into pajamas. The lavatory was pretty standard, though did have a couple of premium toiletries.

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TAM first class lavatory

Shortly before pushback the captain came on the PA to inform us of our flight time of 9hr30min, anticipating that we would arrive in New York on schedule.

At 9:25AM we began our pushback, at which point the safety video began to play. Maybe I’m just easily amused, but I found their safety video to be pretty cute:

During the safety video the flight attendants stood in the aisle to point to the nearest exits, and there was one flight attendant positioned in each aisle. It’s just plain awkward whenever you have more than a 1:1 crew to passenger safety briefing ratio.

Taxiing at Sao Paulo Airport at around 9:30AM is fun for an aviation geek. There’s a ton of traffic, though virtually none of it is taxiing to the runway. All the planes were either just arriving or being towed to a remote stand before their night flights.

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Sao Paulo Airport pushback

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Sao Paulo Airport TAM 777-300ER

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Sao Paulo Airport TAM 777-300ER

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Sao Paulo Airport Swiss A340-300

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Sao Paulo Airport Iberia A340-600

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Sao Paulo Airport United 777-200

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Sao Paulo Airport rush hour

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Sao Paulo Airport rush hour

We were taking off on runway 9L, which was really close to our gate. We were airborne at 9:35AM, just a few minutes after pushing back.

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Sao Paulo Airport departure runway

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Taking off Sao Paulo Airport

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Taking off Sao Paulo Airport

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Taking off Sao Paulo Airport

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Taking off Sao Paulo Airport

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Views after takeoff Sao Paulo Airport

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Views after takeoff Sao Paulo Airport

We hit some chop on the climb out, though about 15 minutes after takeoff the ride smoothed out and seatbelt sign was turned off.

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Views after takeoff Sao Paulo Airport

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Airshow after takeoff

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TAM first class entertainment system

I took the opportunity to browse the entertainment selection, which was extensive. My only frustration was the entertainment “controller,” which wasn’t intuitive and just downright frustrating.

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TAM first class entertainment system

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TAM first class entertainment system

I eventually decided to watch an episode of The Mentalist. I used to never watch dramas or whatever you want to call shows like that, but they’ve grown on my lately. And The Mentalist is probably my favorite (just don’t make me watch it alone in the dark).

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TAM first class entertainment selection

The flight attendant eventually came by to ask if I wanted the cabin light or dark. I suggested dark, so she closed all the window shades and turned on the mood lighting.

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Views after takeoff

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TAM first class cabin after takeoff

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TAM first class cabin after takeoff

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TAM first class cabin after takeoff

About 30 minutes after takeoff she explained the breakfast service would begin shortly. Oddly the menu only referenced a lunch service, so I was a bit confused, since I didn’t realize breakfast would even be served.

Service began with a hot towel.

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TAM first class hot towel

For breakfast the first course was a fruit plate, which was tasty. I had champagne to go with it — aesthetically I love TAM’s champagne flutes. They’re totally impractical since you can never tell how full they are and they spill quite easily, but at least they look cool.

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TAM first class breakfast starter — fruit

Along with the fruit plate I was also offered some yogurt and bread from the bread basket.

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TAM first class breakfast starter — fruit and yogurt

After that I was served what must have been the skimpiest deli plate on earth.

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TAM first class breakfast starter — meat and cheese

Then for the main course I had the option between scrambled eggs and an egg crepe. Per the flight attendant’s suggestion I had the latter, which was just doused in delicious cheesy sauce goodness.

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TAM first class breakfast main course — egg quesadilla

The entire breakfast service took maybe 45 minutes, and as it finished up the flight attendant told me to let her know when I wanted lunch. So I actually had low expectations of service on TAM going in, though I was pleasantly surprised.

The flight attendant wasn’t totally memorable, but she was attentive, smiled, and seemed sincere. And I appreciate she wasn’t overly attentive, because it tends to get a bit awkward when you have a super-attentive flight attendant and you’re the only passenger.

Okay, so here’s the deal — I’m fairly open on my blog, and perhaps there are things I shouldn’t write, but I do because I consider y’all to be friends. Let me preface this by saying that I’m 23, I can count on one hand the number of alcoholic drinks I had while in college (yeah, I’m that cool — I’m making up for lost time), and as I write this I don’t remember the last time I actually had an alcoholic beverage (actually, it was on my Cathay Pacific flight from New York to Vancouver a couple of weeks ago). So if you’re going to call me an alcoholic that’s fine, it won’t hurt my feelings.

I don’t mind drinking a lot on planes. I don’t have to drive upon landing, and frankly it’s a fun way to pass time every once in a while.

Anyway… there’s a lot of pressure on you when you’re the only first class passenger. Why, you ask? Because when you order one glass of champagne, you know the rest of the bottle is going to waste if you don’t finish it. So over breakfast I downed a whole bottle of champagne. Some people are mean drunks. I just turn into NeNe Leakes.

The flight attendant was just extremely attentive in making sure that my champagne glass was never empty throughout the breakfast service, and she always proactively refilled it without asking. When breakfast was over it was her break period, so she explained her colleague would be taking care of me. I joked she could just leave the bottle of champagne with me and then I wouldn’t need anything till before landing. She smiled and said she couldn’t do that for security reasons, but said “I tell my colleague you like your champagne.”

By the time her colleague was manning the galley I was just starting the second bottle. Except I think she thought I only had a glass up to that point, as opposed a bottle and a glass. So she was friendly and constantly refilled my glass and encouraged me.

So I continued. I mean, seriously, the cabin was totally dark, and I was blasting music as loud as it went through my noise cancelling headphones. LIFE IS GOOD!

How drunk was I? Well, I don’t do “selfies,” and I don’t smile in pictures. As a matter of fact, I’m allergic to pictures. But I both took a “selfie” and smiled in it. So clearly I was pretty freaking drunk.

Too-much-to-drink-perhaps

Eventually I just conked out, and woke up a few hours later as we were approaching San Juan, with a bit over three hours to go to New York.

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TAM first class bed

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Airshow upon waking up

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Airshow upon waking up

I ordered a cappuccino, which was once again the sweetest and most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted. Yum.

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TAM first class cappuccino and water

I then decided to watch the movie A.C.O.D., which was amusing enough.

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TAM first class entertainment selection

At that point I figured I might as well have lunch.

The lunch menu read as follows:

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Lunch menu starters on menu

And the wine list read as follows (yes, the champagne I was consuming was Drappier La Grande Sendree):

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Champagne menu

Wine and beverages list

The meal service began with a few starters. They included some sort of ceviche, a tomato and mozzarella skewer, and a feta cheese and olive mix of some sort.

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TAM first class lunch — amuse bouche

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TAM first class lunch — amuse bouche

After that the salad and appetizer cart was rolled around, which I found kind of comical, given that it had one of each option. It almost felt like a room service cart.

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TAM first class lunch — salad and starter

I had both appetizers — the shrimp brochette and goat cheese mousse — along with the salad. All were plated at my seat and excellent.

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TAM first class lunch — salad and starter

For the main course I selected the filet mignon with roasted potatoes and steamed broccoli. The quality of the filet was pretty disappointing, as it was quite chewy. It couldn’t even begin to compare to the beef I had in Delta BusinessElite out of Sao Paulo a few months ago.

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TAM first class lunch — main course

I was also offered a bib with my main course… I think?!

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TAM first class… bib?

After the main course the cheese cart was rolled around, and I asked for a small amount of everything.

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TAM first class lunch — cheese cart

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TAM first class lunch — cheese course

Lastly for dessert I was offered dulce de leche along with Haagen-Dazs ice cream.

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TAM first class lunch — dessert course

It was certainly a tasty meal, and I do love TAM’s glassware, so they get an A+ in that sense. The food itself was edible and simple. It didn’t “feel” very first class, but at the same time I’ll take that over some first class meals I’ve had, which were totally style over substance.

After lunch the flight attendant left the tablecloth as I was working on my laptop and was still drinking water and champagne, and suddenly we hit some pretty serious turbulence. My laptop fell from the tray table to the floor. While I was doing my best to balance both of my drinks, unfortunately they still totally spilled. While not quite as severe, the turbulence continued for about 30 minutes. The captain came on the PA and apologized that we had hit some “severe turbulence.” I don’t think it was actually officially severe turbulence, probably more accurately moderate turbulence, but it was the most serious turbulence I’ve hit in quite a while.

As we began our descent the ride smoothed out again and I changed out of my pajamas. Once back at my seat the flight attendant came by to thank me for flying TAM and offered me a small box of chocolates. She also informed me there would be an escort waiting for me at the jet bridge to help me with “arrival formalities.”

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TAM first class chocolate prior to landing

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Airshow prior to landing

On the approach I turned on the nose camera, though it was just a white screen, so not sure if it was broken or what.

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Nose camera… I think?

The views on approach into New York were beautiful, as visibility was good and the sun was just starting to set.

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View on approach into New York JFK

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View on approach into New York JFK

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View on final approach into New York JFK

We touched down on runway 4R at 5:50PM, and began our 20 minute taxi to the gate, including holding short of runway 4L for about five minutes. The announcements after landing were fascinating. We were welcomed to “the John Fitzgerald Kennedy International Airport in New York, New York.” My favorite line was “we know the choice of airline requires decision, so thank you for choosing TAM.” 😀

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Touchdown New York JFK

I do always enjoy a nice evening taxi around JFK — the variety of traffic always leaves my eyes glued to the window.

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Taxiing to gate JFK

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Taxiing to gate JFK

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Taxiing to gate JFK

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Taxiing to gate JFK

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Taxiing to gate JFK

TAM uses Terminal 8 at JFK, which is American’s terminal. We parked there and I proceeded through immigration. While the flight attendant told me someone would be waiting for me that wasn’t in fact the case, not that I would have needed their help anyway since I have Global Entry and didn’t have checked bags.

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TAM 777-300ER upon arrival

Bottom line

TAM exceeded my expectations. Admittedly the fact that I had the cabin to myself may have played into that a bit. Aesthetically the product is stunning, though certainly isn’t the most private, and if the cabin were full I’m not sure I would have felt the same way. While the seats have privacy shields, they only go up so far.

The service pleasantly surprised me, and the food was sort of what I expected. It was presented beautifully and perfectly edible, though couldn’t compare with the likes of Asiana or Swiss in terms of quality.

I’d definitely fly TAM again in the future, assuming they continue to release copious amounts of first class award space.

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Comments

  1. Here are the official definitions of turbulence, from the American Meteorological Society’s Glossary of Meteorology (second edition):
    Light: Causes slight, erratic changes in altitude and/or attitude, and rhythmic bumpiness as occupants feel a slight strain against seat belts.
    Moderate: Similar to light, but of greater intensity, with rapid bumps or jolts, and occupants feel a slight strain against seat belts.
    Severe: Turbulence that causes large, abrupt changes in altitude and attitude, and large variations in airspeed, with the aircraft temporarily out of control. Occupants are forced violently against their seat belts and objects are tossed about, with food service and walking impossible.
    Extreme: The aircraft is tossed about so violently that it is practically impossible to control, and structural damage may occur.

    http://www.amazon.com/Glossary-Meteorology-Second-Edition-Glickman/dp/1878220349

  2. With as UGLY as that business cabin is, F looked great. Glad you enjoyed yourself.
    Note to TAM – replace those seat covers.

  3. In your selfie you look like you’re holding your champagne “flute” as a microphone and singing into it…love it.

    “TAM has the smallest first class of any airline I know, with just four seats in a single row.”

    How about China Southern A330 and Transaero? You always marvel at the latter but you didn’t mention it here. Did you mean “one of the smallest first class [cabins] of any airlines I know”? (Speaking of the word “cabins”, well…

    As far as I asked for a comparison of KE A380 and 777-300ER, maybe you can do a comparison between KE 777-300ER and JJ 777-300ER as well, we’ll enjoy it. However it may not be as practical, as they don’t fly the same routes out of GRU.

  4. Where the heck is that second line going in the photo of the route map while inflight (the line that appears to be going over Africa)?

  5. “…there’s a lot of pressure on you when you’re the only first class passenger”

    You poor dear 😉

  6. Sounds like fun. I’m just curious about why there are so many empty seats. No folks getting upgraded?

  7. Hey, you don’t need to explain to anyone why you’re having 2 bottles of champagne in flight. It’s a 9 hour flight, and as long as you’re not going to drive yourself home, have fun.

    That F cabin looks a lot like the F cabin on AF’s 777-200 service BOS-CDG. At least, that’s what they fly off-peak when I was on it in February. I think it’s a 747 during the busy season. F on the AF 772 was the same thing – 1 row of 4 seats, the 2 middle ones together, and it looked like a living room. I wasn’t in there – I was in row 3, the bulkhead row of J, but it looked nice. On the way out, there was 1 pax, and on the return, a couple traveling together who took the middle seats. Everyone looked like they had a nice time.

  8. Air France only has 4 First Class seats on their 777-200ERs.

    “yeah, I’m that cool — I’m making up for last time”

    You mean “lost” time, right? 🙂

    Anyways, enjoyed the report!

  9. Binge drinking can be as much of a problem as alcoholism.

    Downing a bottle of champagne alone is not normal behavior. The fact that you feel compelled to be defensive about it shows you recognize it’s a problem.

  10. @SCL – Was waiting for the sermon…never fails! Always someone who knows what is best for everyone eles…
    Glad you enjoyed the Drapier and your trip Lucky.

  11. @ hsw25 — Fixed, thanks. Yes, Air France has equally small cabins, but don’t know of any airlines with smaller ones.

  12. Nice report! TAM First Class looks great, though I can’t agree on the design of the glassware. To me the Champagne flute looks like a flower vase and since it’s not transparent you’re not able to admire the beautiful bubble formations of your precious liquid.

  13. @ Hong Kong Airline News — Sorry, perhaps I could have worded it differently. My point was TAM has the smallest first class cabin, meaning there’s not an airline with a smaller first class cabin. There are, as you mention, airlines with a similarly small cabin, though.

  14. @ ekartash — They do offer it to award passengers, the only issue is that I tried to reserve it within 24 hours, and unfortunately 24 hours notice is needed. So I couldn’t get it in the end.

  15. That bib was probably because they knew how much champagne you had — and were worried you wouldn’t be able to get the food to your mouth!

    In all seriousness, though, I’ve been there. On a 2.5 hour flight from BOS to MPS, I was sitting up front on Delta. No meal because of the time of day, so I was engrossed in my work. The very attentive F flight attendant made sure my glass never went dry. So, when I got up to use the restroom toward the end of the flight, the FA asked me if I wanted to finish the bottle. Being an accommodating type, I said sure, and then she (in a not-at-all-insulting way) asked if I was going to be able to get off the plane OK. I must have looked confused because she told me I was solely responsible for drinking that entire bottle of red wine. Whoops! It was a great flight, though.

  16. @ Brazilflyer — Whoops, thanks. Stupidly I only tried to reserve a car the night before departure, which was too late, since they need 24 hours notice. But otherwise should be possible.

  17. I also know of the sacrifices one must make to finish 2 bottles of Champagne in flight. SYD-BKK I was the only one in the new first class on the 747. One bottle of Dom another of Veuve Clicquot Rose.

    Its a tough life but it must be done and we appreciate your sacrifice.

  18. Folks, a bottle of wine is 4 glasses. “2 bottles” sounds like a lot, but it really isn’t, especially not when you’re in a big metal tube for 9+ hours.

    Besides, Lucky doesn’t have problems to drink away yet – he hasn’t moved full time into hotels yet.

  19. The line to Africa from GRU appears to be a segment from the equator/prime meridian: (0.000,0.000). (I suspect it was actually from 0 to GRU).

  20. awesome report, Lucky. as a fellow champagne fiend, i applaud you. keep up the awesome work.

    now that stopovers over 24 hrs are gone using AA miles, what would be the longest segment to enjoy TAM F on?

  21. Is this the last TR in the pre-hotel living era? If so, you finished with a bang! Nice report! Great funny anecdotes. First time I’ve observed you post a pic of yourself here. The man behind the curtain… 😉

  22. Is this the last TR in the pre-hotel living era? If so, you finished with a bang! Nice report! Great funny anecdotes.

    First time I’ve observed you post a pic of yourself here. The man behind the curtain… 😉

  23. @ pavel — Theoretically to Europe, but I don’t think they release much space there. You can still do GRU-JFK-YVR same day, though. 😀

  24. At least you weren’t flying into the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport Capital of Silicon Valley etc. Every time I go there they make the name longer.

  25. Does TAM still have stunning FAs? They were known in Brazil for only hiring stunning women to work as flight attendants on their planes. That and an amazing service really put them ahead of the competition in Brazil. Not sure now that they joined One World they may follow AA and have legacy FA that are begging to retire and only fly to keep their benefits.

  26. @ Santastico — There were some attractive flight attendants, though wouldn’t describe the crew as a whole “stunning.”

  27. TAM F looks nice (unlike their J). The write-up was funny. One of the reasons I like this blog so much is because of the writing 🙂

    And now we now where a photo here (http://flyanddine.boardingarea.com/flydine-interview-giveaway-one-mile-at-a-time/) came from! It actually is a nice photo although before I read this report I wasn’t unclear exactly what Lucky was holding.

    @ Lucky — is there a reason you don’t post a link on your blog whenever you are interviewed elsewhere? I don’t think it’d be a big deal if you did 😀

  28. @ Jens – I think Ben’s going to find he has a few more stalkers on his tail, and they won’t just be after his jeans only this time round. 😉

  29. @Ed: Anyone can drink as much as they like; it’s no sweat off my… liver. Ew. Anyway… you’re right: two bottles over nine hours isn’t a lot. That’s less than a drink per hour. However, you need to pay a bit more attention to the math.

    Ben conked out for “a few hours” and woke up over three hours out of JFK. Conservatively, that leaves about three hours to consume two bottles. And he didn’t start in on his champer rations until breakfast, and presumably Ben didn’t doze off with glass in hand. So it’s really two bottles over two hours or so, the first of which was downed during the estimated forty-five minutes of breakfast.

    Again, not my liver or potential hangover = don’t really care. But put into context, that’s NOT “not a lot.”

  30. “wouldn’t describe the crew as a whole stunning” – someone will be fired/demoted again b/s of this post.

  31. No you can’t have the bottle for security purposes, but you can have this nice razor that’s in your kit.

  32. @ dan ray — For which flight? TAM? If so, it’s because they don’t display TAM award space on the American website.

  33. Wow!! I didn’t expect TAM’s First Class to be quite amazing!! However, Sao Paolo Airport looks very crowded and small, reminds me the days of Kai Tak Airport of Hong Kong!!! Thanks for another wonderful blog.

    PS. Thanks for the selfie!! I are one good looking man!! =).

  34. The meals are very consistent with Brazilian eating habits. I often hear Americans and Europeans saying that premium meals on Brazilian carriers are too light. They just don’t eat like we do. But alas, the drinking is another story. 🙂 It would not surprise anyone that a 23 year old would down a bottle of anything by himself. Or a 16 year old for that matter. It’s very done in Brazil.

    The one row of First is also really interesting because I flew in First on Varig’s MD-11 in the early 2000s and it was also this strangely small cabin, and I was also the only passenger up there for a long domestic flight from Sao Paulo to Recife. I sort of felt forgotten though. TAM is doing better.

  35. What is with all the people lecturing on the champagne?! When an FA is constantly refilling your glass, it is easy to go through a lot. Get down off your high horses and have a drink, it might make you mellow out.

    Rant over. I have always been curious about TAM. Their business class looks pretty bad but the first class seems quite competitive. They are not an airline that pops up on my radar very often, but I may just be curious to give them a try now. Great report Ben.

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