My New Airline Crush: TAAG, You’re It!

As long time readers know, I have a tendency to get obsessed with totally random airlines for no good reason. La Compagnie and Baltia Air Lines come to mind (if the latter can even be considered an airline, given that they’ve been operating for 30 years but have never carried a passenger).

Well, folks, I’d like to introduce you to my newest airline obsession — TAAG Angola Airlines.

I didn’t know diddly squat about them before yesterday. That’s to say that if someone would have said “TAAG” to me, I would have said “yeah, I’ve heard of them,” but that’s about it. I couldn’t have told you what planes they fly, what their route network looks like, etc.

Yesterday while departing Cape Town we taxied by this fine specimen of an airplane (airplanes are people, too!), a TAAG 777-200.

Am I the only one who loves the livery?! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s the most modern, but it’s one of the most intriguing liveries I’ve ever seen. To me it looks more like a government plane than a commercial plane.

SAA-Business-Class-A340 - 9

SAA-Business-Class-A340 - 10

Then I landed in Johannesburg, and what do I see? A TAAG 777-300ER! It’s every bit as gorgeous as the 777-200, with even more size to appreciate.

SAA-Lounge-Johannesburg - 34

At that point I started doing some research about where they fly. As I knew, their hub is Luanda, Angola, and they operate some interesting routes, including to Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.

They even have an international first class cabin!

Admittedly their first class looks just like Oman Air business class, but that’s probably more a function of Oman Air being awesome rather than TAAG sucking. 10 years ago TAAG’s first class product could have been considered top notch.

TAAG-First-Class

Their business class, on the other hand, looks rather bleh:

They can’t even make it look comfortable in their ad. Does she really look like she’s having a good rest?

TAAG-Business-Class

Forget the six other random airlines I really want to fly — this one is now at the top of my list!

Best I can tell they don’t have any airline partners through which you can redeem miles. Further, best I can tell, their Umbi Umbi loyalty program isn’t transfer partners with any transferrable points currencies. Starwood, are you listening? 😉

Their frequent flyer program is revenue based, and you earn just one mile per dollar spent. Ouch!! Don’t tell Delta SkyMiles or they might get some ideas.

TAAG-Loyalty-Program-1

A first class redemption from Luanda to Sao Paulo costs 64,000 miles. I don’t see myself spending $64,000 on TAAG anytime soon, so I may have to find alternative ways to try their first class. 😉

TAAG-Loyalty-Program

Has anyone flown TAAG? Anyone love their livery as much as I do? Anyone know of cheap premium fares on them? I have to fly with them!

Comments

  1. Slightly off topic, but whenever I watch airline promotional videos for premium cabins and see a FA “tuck in” the sleeping passenger I get the creeps! Has this ever really happened in real life to you Lucky?

  2. I still think you mostly fly window seats given the photos you take of other planes while the plane you’re on is taxiing. 😉 But anyways, TAAG used to be airline partners with Flying Blue, but not anymore. I thought they still were but can’t find them on the FB airline partner page anymore.

  3. LOL, I told you!!! Saw their773 at GIG a couple weeks ago, actually Googled what to do in Luanda, which is apparently an extremely expensive city with not many hotel options. JUST DO IT!

  4. I heard Emirates is basically taking over TAAG and that they may be flying to Houston at some point. Might be a good option to get to SA. Is there a yellow fever vaccination requirement? I have no idea what the transit is like either, whether you need a visa etc?

  5. Heh, if I woke up to a flight attendant gently adjusting my blankets (as in the F video), I’d probably freak out.

    In fact, I was creeped out on JAL F when the FA once tucked my feet under the blanket (I was pretty warm so left them out).

  6. Love the FF program name, Umbi Umbi aha! I think I am gonna sign up just so I can tell my AvGeek fans that I am an Umbi Umbi member. Now that’s a conversation starter.

  7. Haven’t flown them but my interaction with their crews has been aces. I was flying Ryanair back to London from Oporto and arrived at security a sweaty mess SUPER late . Like, gate closes in 4 minutes late. The whole TAAG crew from a 777 was ahead of us but the captain told crew to let me and the other half go ahead of them. As we cleared security and scrambled toward the gate hey were all shouting words of encouragement. It was super nice and that airline has always held a special place.

  8. Hey Lucky:

    In that picture of the 777-300ER, if you look in the background there is what appears to be a BA 737 sitting at a remote stand in the background. Any idea what a BA 737 would be doing at JNB? Wouldn’t have the range would it?

  9. Flew them in economy from Lubango to Namibia in 2007 on a 737. 2 hr delays without even an acknowledgement. Things have likely changed since then but they had a “we get there when we get there” vibe.

  10. Angola is often cited as the toughest visa to get. You can add that to your adventure in trying to fly TAAG. Looking forward to your trip report.

  11. “Admittedly their first class looks just like Oman Air business class, but that’s probably more a function of Oman Air being awesome rather than TAAG sucking.”

    Unfortunately, Ben, you’re wrong. TAAG is pretty lousy from the ground experience to the airport experience to the in-flight experience. Flew them in first class on one of their (very decrepit) 747-SUDs a number of years ago, utterly unremarkable with staff bordering on rude. I did see both of the 747s parked Johannesburg in 2011 without their engines, as they were being decommissioned. I agree that their planes look fantastic, though, and the animal on the tail is a giant sable antelope, thought extinct in Angola after the long civil war, though there was a sighting of it in 2004 or 2005. Beautiful animals.

    TAAG used to have some very expensive flights because the only reason most people go to Angola is for the oil business, so demand (before the oil price crash) was pretty inelastic. I’m not sure about fares now with oil in the toilet. Luanda is also an exceptionally expensive city as well, as well as…well, depressing is the word that comes to mind.

  12. I am not a fan of their livery. Screams 1975 to me. This airline might have been in a set piece from the last X-Men movie.

  13. @Nick – Houston – Luanda used to be a VERY popular route; I have a relative who used to fly a charter (though it was scheduled) in an all-business class configuration on that route with some regularity a few years ago. I’m not sure what demand is like with oil where it is now, however that Emirates is considering an investment for that route makes perfect sense.

    And yes, proof of yellow fever vaccination is required, and US citizens require a visa.

  14. @Craig Anderson – BA is a major competitor to SAA in southern Africa. It’s actually Comair that does the flying (Comair owns discount carrier Kulula as well) under BA branding, and the fleet consists of all narrow-body 737s. I’ll only fly BA where they compete with SAA, because I think SAA is simply a horrible airline, run horribly by horrible people, and just…no. BA all the way.

    As I wrote this a SAA marketing email just hit my inbox. Fate? 🙂

  15. Flew TAAG from JNB – Porto and was very cheap about $250 return. Really not bad, inflight entertainment is bad but ive seen worse! Will fly them again

  16. Lucky – they used to have good fares out of DXB, but it doesn’t seem like they fly there anymore – probably once EK picked up the route, TAAG dropped it.

  17. I love this post because it has so much personality. I agree that the livery is gorgeous — reminds me of PSA’s livery (now AA heritage livery).

  18. My cover has been blown.

    I clandestinely sneak looks at OMAAT during my more dull moments at work. Today, when I read “TAAG, You’re It”, I burst out in a fit of giggles. Curious colleagues gathered around my laptop to see what had amused me. Of course, being boring normals (non-airline geeks), they didn’t understand Lucky’s excellent pun.

    Speaking of my colleagues, two of them frequently fly into Luanda on TP via Lisbon. They both assure me that, even with the appropriate visas, flying in & out of LAD is like being trapped in a bureaucratic nightmare from which there is no waking-up.

    @Jesse:

    Yes! I have always found the notion of a smiling FA tucking a passenger in to be phobia-inducingly creepy. I also find ad photos of a smiling FA standing over and just staring at a sleeping passenger to be just as freaky.

  19. I’ve flown the Comair/BA flight from JNB to Cape Town and it was the most miserable flight of my life. There were two flights leaving about 20 minutes apart and shortly before boarding they told 5 of us to go to the other flight, so we had to run down the terminal to another gate and when we got there they had no idea why we were there. We were all shoved into middle seats at the back of the plane instead of the seats we had chosen on the other flight. When we got to Cape Town our luggage was still on the other flight so we had to wait about 30 minutes for that plane to arrive so we could get our luggage, but they were just guessing that our luggage was on that flight, they had no idea until the plane arrived and the luggage showed up. It was all around a disaster of a flight.

  20. “Does she really look like she’s having a good rest?”

    No, she looks like she’s… oh, never mind.

  21. @Lucky, if I can make a suggestion: keep TAAG on your “to-fly” list for now.

    Don’t know much about their hard product as haven’t flown them yet although they fly my home town direct. And this is the case because I simply WON’T fly them. Why? Apart from numerous friends’ poor feedback, I decided not to when I heard one of their aircraft “lost” parts on departure from Lisbon a few years ago (more on that here: http://avherald.com/h?article=43441ced).

    On top of that, Angola is under dramatic crisis due to the oil slump which makes Luanda a security risk.

    Finally, good luck getting a visa. Never ending story.

    Wish you luck if you decide to give it a go though!

    J

  22. Andrew B nailed it–when I saw the photo, I immediately thought of the paint job on the old PSA’s 727-200’s.

  23. Out of curiosity, I checked out jasonaroundtheworld.com, which @aaron referenced in a previous comment.

    It is a wonderful blog! Jason’s flight reviews aren’t as detailed as Lucky’s but they are, nonetheless, highly enjoyable. And addictive.

  24. @Lucky TAAG flies the Boeing 777-200 into Havanna from Luanda nonstop. At over 12 hours it would be an interesting review!

  25. There are a few older liveries that are quite beautiful…this would be one of them.

    Btw – I believe they still fly to Havana, so you could do an interesting routing/airline from HAV 🙂

  26. This post brings back memories of several work trips to Angola maybe 6-7 years ago. It was a very challenging place, even in comparison to other difficult countries near and far.

    I never flew TAAG internationally but had several flights within the country and am thankful I survived.

    An example:

    I was traveling from Luanda to Huambo, a town in south-central Angola. At Luanda airport, I checked in (not an easy process at that time) and waited for the flight to be called. When called, a bus took us to a 727 (!) with NO livery, just an aluminum skin. The plane looked 30-40 years old. Plane side we were temporarily matched to our luggage that was sitting on the Tarmac, after which passengers were sent on the plane and luggage sent (hopefully) to the hold. The plane was scheduled as a nonstop but I noticed that the plane was flying down the Atlantic coast when Huambo is significantly inland. To make a long story short we landed in some other coastal city without any explanation then or later. Fortunately we continued on to Huambo an hour later. As we approached Huambo it began to rain quite heavily. As I turned away from the window, I felt something on my head. Yes, it was raining inside the plane as well as outside! Needless to say, I never felt comfortable flying TAAG again.

  27. I flew TAAG in J class from Cabo Verde (RAI) to Sao Tome (STP) on a B737 last year (5 hours+); they were fine, unremarkable and oddly, on time. I would like to try their premium long-haul product, and am looking for some bargain fares!

    They were AF partners, but now seem to have disappeared from the list – in any case, when I flew, no miles ever got posted, and FB were not terribly surprised …

    All in all, an OK carrier and an interesting home country

  28. TAAG is the only airline I’ve ever flown that I will never voluntarily fly again. There is a serious lack of safety culture in the airline that periodically gets filled by parachuting in expatriates and consultants to pass various audits, until they move away and the cycle starts again. It has not changed and it will not change – definitely not with the current national Angolan mindset.

    As someone who has been closely involved with the running of multiple airlines in Africa, I don’t make these statements lightly as I understand the challenges to operate in these conditions. But TAAG is one of those rare cases where there is zero commitment to improvement at any level and any corrective action taken is intended not to fix the problem but rather to hide it.

  29. These comments brought back a lot more memories – my visa took over a month and required a provincial governer invite. I did not visit Luanda but found security at Lubango questionable to say the least. Lubango was by far the safest place I visited on my trip.

    Angola suffered for 30+ years in Civil war and is working hard. They just have a long way to go.

  30. I’ve had a bizarre fascination with TAAG for quite some time now. Nothing else quite like it out there… The airline is currently led by executives with experience at Emirates, so I would venture to guess that operational consistency and safety culture is at an all-time high. Not sure what will happen once their tenure wraps up. I’ve flown with TAAG a number of times, which is always an amusing experience. I’ve written a few trip reports you may find interesting.

    http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/trip_reports/read.main/229829
    http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/trip_reports/read.main/229271/
    http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/trip_reports/read.main/174960

  31. TAAG used to be terrible back in the days but now it’s really good I’ve flown them about 4 times in the past 6 months and trust me their economy class is on par with SAA unless it’s the 777-200ER due to its 3-4-3 seating configuration it’s terrible. All else is great it’s always on time the crew is very professional and friendly and they’ve introduced a brand new First, Business class and economy so it’s even better and not to mention it’s managed by Emirates now so it’s looking very good for them.

  32. I have a few Brazilian friends that worked in Angola. They would always fly there via LIS or JNB because TAAG’s safety standards scared them. The airline is also on the EU’s blacklist, and can only fly a limited part of their fleet to LIS. If you have to try them, I’d limit it to a flight to/from LIS for a slightly higher guarantee of safety. Also, airport customs at LAD is a complete shakedown!

  33. @TT I agree, LAD-HAV is a fascinating route. It probably began after the South African invasion, when Cuban political advisors, military strategists, and doctors aided the MPLA and SWAPO. See Piero Gleijeses, “Visions of Freedom: Havana, Washington, Pretoria and the Struggle for Southern Africa, 1976-1991” (2013).

  34. Even living in Luanda, for many years I would have never imagined flying with TAAG! It has been blacklisted for long. Still they cannot land in France and many other EU countries.
    Just this year we flyied with them to Cape Town (direct flight, best timetables, less expensive) and Lisbon (cheaper).
    I have to admit that economic class seats have more space than Air France’s ones. But I still have my doubts when deciding flying with my family. Of course, it helped my choice that it was much cheaper than TAP.
    But I would not be my first choice to go to Brazil…

  35. TAAG is managed by a team from Emirates since September 2015 and the results can be seen. The airline improved their financial position significantly, improved their route network and service offering. Best of all they are no longer on the EU blacklist. Taking that into account I decided to fly with them 🙂

    Their new 777W’s delivered last year feature an excellent first and business class product (yip the older ones are nothing to get excited about). There are currently two in the fleet on their Portugal routes.

    I flew JNB – LAD – LIS (OPO – LAD – JNB still to be flown tomorrow) in economy class and this is where they excel. Seats are the same that QR used to have on their 777W’s however 36’inch pitch! That’s very generous and in a 9 across config. Catering is a bit on the low cost side (presentation) however quality was perfect for airline food. The inflight entertainment was AVOD but the content was rather limited.

    I would definitely fly with them again, and at $298 return from South Africa to Portugal it’s a bargain!

    However – stay away from their B772! Seem like those birds are falling apart inside.

  36. Taag is still banned from Europe except for certain types of planes, as for the latest blacklist I found (updated dec 2016)
    Anyone has advice for a Sao Paulo – Johannesbourg with this companh please ? i am scaree to death in planes, and I have the choice between Taag, Avianca or Latam
    Thanks for your help guys, it helps to see that some people can get excited to fly in a plane
    Anna

  37. Hi Anna

    TAAG flies their B777 on the South American and South African routes. I’ve just flown with them to Portugal and back from South Africa and was very impressed. Best legroom and seat width I’ve seen in the industry. Safety wise they are fine, they passed their IATA audit and this is mentioned on their website. The only downfall is the Lunada airport while in transit – your typical hot sticky African airport without much facilities.

  38. hi

    I am french and will fly with TAAG this summer from Lisbon to Johanesburg.
    There is a stop at luanda”s airport (only 2 or 3 hours)
    I would like to know more about the transit.

    For example i would like to know if a visa is an obligation or if it’s possible to wait in a “transit longe” in the international part of the airport

    Best regards

  39. Hi Rududu

    No visa is required if you are in transit for 24 hours or less. Transit passengers have to wait in the transit area for their next flight, the transit area is the normal departures area of the airport. You will have access to a few seating areas and some extremely expensive shops. The Luanda airport is not the best airport for transiting but for a short transit its acceptable. I have used the priority pass lounge whilst in transit and this was basic but a sanctuary compared to the terminal (hot, stuffy and humid).

  40. I can’t see exactly, but it looks like they have a new first class suite on their updated 777s. I tried to Google it, but I can only see the newest business class which seems fully flat, not angled any longer. On Instagram, I could spot a new first suite which looks similar to Asiana or the new Korean.

    I can’t wait for this report from you!!

  41. I am in a bit of a predicament. We have already booked a 18 day cruise from Havana and we thought of flying Jhb/Miami/ Havana, but pres Trump is making difficulty in using this route. We are now considering the JHb/Luanda/ Havana route with TAAG. I cannot find any comments or recommendations on this route. Any one have any suggestions?

  42. Hi Kovilan

    Thank you for the safety info on TAAG! I was looking for something to make me feel better about the airline, after first booking tickets and then reading up about TAAG……I normally don’t do that as I am a nervous flyer! The flight seemed convenient as it is one of the shortest most affordable flights available, thus making the impromto booking. Going to Lisbon in April…. 🙂

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