A US Transatlantic Flight I (Almost) Guarantee You’ve Never Heard Of

I’ve become obsessed with random airlines. Earlier in the week I learned about Air Astana in detail for the first time, and within days I booked my ticket to Kazakhstan. The reason Air Astana might seem “random” to me is because they don’t fly to the US, and for that matter, I don’t ever recall seeing any of their planes anywhere. So they’re not an airline I’ve had any direct exposure to.

At the same time, prior to yesterday I would have assumed I knew of every commercial airline operating to the US. Not that I know about Cayman Airways or Arik Air in great detail, but at least I’ve heard of them, have a general sense of the routes they operate, etc.

Well, as it turns out I don’t know every airline operating to the US, and learned about a new one yesterday.

Have you ever heard of TACV? And did you realize their only scheduled route to the US is between Providence, Rhode Island, and Praia, Cape Verde? Here’s the ~3,400 mile journey on a map:

PVDRAI

The airline seems to operate 1-2x weekly flights, depending on the season. The schedule for the flight is as follows:

VR671 Praia to Providence departing 11:00AM arriving 4:00PM
VR672 Providence to Praia departing 6:00PM arriving 4:00AM (+1 day)

In case anyone doesn’t believe me, here’s a video of a TACV 757 landing in Providence.

Per Providence Airport’s press release, the route apparently started in June 2015. For those of you not familiar with Cape Verde:

Located about 300 miles off the coast of Senegal, Cabo Verde is renowned for its natural beauty, picturesque beaches, and “morabeza” (Creole for hospitality) of its people.  The islands that make up the arrow-shaped archipelago today were discovered and colonized by the Portuguese in the 15th century.  Cabo Verde gained independence in 1975 and remains one of Africa’s most stable democratic governments.  Both Portuguese and Creole are spoken by many of the 450,000 Cabo Verdeans who call the island nation home.

Ford grew up and went to school in the Providence area, so I asked him what he knew about Cape Verde. He said “well, I know there’s a big Cape Verdean population in Providence.” So I guess that might explain why the airline is operating the route to a seemingly random destination in New England.

For anyone interested in taking the flight, US passport holders can obtain a visa on arrival for 25EUR, and it seems like Cape Verde is a beautiful country that’s quite safe.

That being said, I’m not in any rush to review TACV. Their 757 (they only have one of them) is in a one class configuration, with a total of 210 seats. On top of that, their fares aren’t especially low — the cheapest I’m able to price out at the moment over the coming months is ~$800 roundtrip, and that’s with quite a bit of flexibility. I guess that’s not too surprising, since they don’t have much competition in the market.

TACV-Fare

Has anyone been to Cape Verde or flown TACV? Did you realize they flew from Providence to Praia? 

(Tip of the hat to Ari & Avishai)

About lucky

Ben Schlappig (aka Lucky) is a travel consultant, blogger, and avid points collector. He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to fund his first class experiences. He chronicles his adventures, along with industry news, here at One Mile At A Time.

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Comments

  1. Never flown it but have seen the gates in PVD for the flight. In addition to Cape Verdeans there are lots of folks of Portuguese orgin including the Azores. So you will see flights to Portugal, the Azores and Cape Verde out of BOS and even PVD like this one.

  2. They have run this for a long time. Mostly for the ethnic community in RI and MA. They also run that same 757 to Brazil.

  3. I have flown Tacv from PVD to PAI to LIS. In economy. there were no major differences to United. SATA also sounds interesting.

  4. Heard of it, used to study in Boston and remember when they flew there.

    @Lucky – Here’s another random one that I guarantee most people probably haven’t heard of: Azores Airlines (formerly SATA). They also fly to PVD as well as BOS and OAK. They have a very old school looking business class, but the Azores Islands look like an interesting place to visit!

  5. @garyleff- condor started Providence-Frankfurt a year ago. Summer 2015. This is the second summer. TACV flew to Boston for years and now moved to pvd. SATA- the Azores airline- use to fly to both pvd and Boston. Now just Boston. I think I saw both airlines parked next to each other at Boston summer 2011

  6. I’ve been to Cape Verde many time ( just a few weeks back was the last time) to go Marlin fishing but I’ve never flown in there by commercial airline. At the airport there Portugese airline TAP and package holiday UK airline Thompson seem to operate the most flights.

  7. Yes. Most definitely knew about this flight. I used to watch the price, a lot, waiting to pounce on it. So I can report that the fares fluctuate depending on time of year. They go really high when the CV expat community is headed home, around $1,200, but then it goes down to about $600 during the low season, which I recall being in the fall (when I was never able to do my pouncing.) I could be off on the seasons, but I’ve definitely seen it in the low $600s every year I was there.

    Also, you see their planes in Lisbon. Not that rare.

  8. Yep, TACV used to operate these flights into Logan–my understanding is that PVD offered them a deal they couldn’t refuse (not surprising that PVD could offer a significantly lower cost per enplanement). And since virtually all of their traffic is local ethnic travel, much of which is located between BOS and PVD on the south coast of Massachusetts (New Bedford/Fall River), there wasn’t much advantage to remaining at Logan vs moving south an hour (and I bet all of the local originating traffic loves the significantly cheaper parking!).

    Providence also seasonally hosts another tiny north Atlantic island based airline, Azores Airlines (formerly SATA–they operate year-round to Logan), as well as summer flights from Germany on Condor, which based on what I’ve heard is (not surprisingly) almost all Germany-based traffic.

  9. PS: A good, cheap way to get to CV using miles, and combining destinations, is to get an award ticket to the Canaries (or Casablanca) and then hop on a regional jet run by Binter Lineas Aéreas.

  10. I flew Air Astana from Almaty to Astana last April. Beautiful new aircraft and wide open availability, about a 2 1/2 hour flight, on time and free lunch/snack.

  11. The route make sense as the largest population of Cape Verdians in the US is in southern New England.

    The route has come and gone over time
    I have a couple of friends that go yearly and they call it Hawaii only 5 hours away.

  12. PVD will be adding more transatlantic and transcontinental routes in the near future as they just broke ground on a runway expansion to bring the longest runway to 8700 ft.

    The rumors out there is that Aer Lingus is one the potential airlines coming to PVD.

    The work will be done by the end of next year.

  13. Over 10 years ago I used to fly out of PVD a lot. The amount of luggage the passengers on this flight take is amazing but understandable since many are leaving for extended amounts of time. The ticket counter area was always a mess.

    I also think they used to fly a A330 at times. I once had to walk on the tarmac to get to a CO express flight and walked under an A330. It was either them or a charter to Cape Verde.

  14. In 2014 after arriving in Boston Logan, outside the terminal I heard PW2000 engines spooling up, knew it was a 757 , but saw it was TACV. I immediately started researching them and found it fascinating! I guess they moved to T.F. Green since then.

  15. I was briefly there in 2001 for a tech stop for a South African 747 flight from JFK to JNB (Sal Island in the Cape Verdes). South African flights used to make Sal a routine stop dating back to the Apartheid era. South Africa couldn’t get overfly rights over the African continent, so their European flights skirted the coastline. The longer distance required a fuel stop.

    We are allowed to walk around the terminal during the middle of the night. I remember revolutionary style murals in the small terminal.

  16. The SATA flight is also interesting because their fares move much less with the season/demand than “proper” airlines, meaning it can be a great deal if you need to get to Europe in summer from somewhere like BOS. Azores are an interesting stopover too!

  17. I have enjoyed my visits to Cape Verde, though never stayed there for more than one full day as while the people are welcoming and parts of the country have nice scenery, there was not enough sightseeing of a cultural nature to keep me there longer. As a former Portuguese colony, it’s no surprise that there are many residents whose families emigrated from there living in Rhode Island and the Taunton area of Massachusetts. So, nice as it is, I would not go out of my way to go there (and have never seen the point of those people who collect countries they visited (to never return) … or, for that matter, airlines (unless its your business to do so).

  18. SATA used to fly the A310 from BOS-PDL in the Azores. I took the flight maybe 3 years ago. It was quite the adventure, we couldn’t land at PDL because of weather/wind so had to continue on to LIS. I asked the flight attendants if this was a regular occurrence, which they agreed it was;-)

    It was my first and I’m guessing probably last, A310 flight ever, since there was a limited production of this particular aircraft by Airbus and there are very few of them that still fly.

  19. @Stuart Falk I am collecting countries, o rat least I keep count. And Cape Verde is very high on my list of places I need to revisit. You should stay there for more than a full day, or at least not pretend to know anything of substance about the islands. The Cape Verdean diaspora in the US, btw, has little to do with the Portuguese, but rather with the 19th century whaling industry in New England.

  20. Providence and southeastern Massachusetts have a huge Portuguese-speaking population, many of whom came originally from Portugal to escape the poor economics and political oppression of the Salazar regime. After the Carnation Revolution, the migrations came from the former Portuguese colonies.
    When I worked at Rhode Island Hospital — an exceptionally fine institution, btw — we were able to access local interpreters who could immediately provide five different versions of Portuguese including Cape Verdean, and Angolan (you’ll be pleased to know, Lucky) as well as Madeiran and Brazilian Portuguese. We were asked to give 24 hour advanced notice to have Goan, Timorese or any Macaoan variation also provided.
    The Portuguese are proud to let you/us know that Portuguese is the sixth most widely spoken language on earth.

  21. Yep I’ve known about this route for some time, though I don’t live anywhere near PVD. Been plenty of mention of this airline/route on FlyerTalk. Heard of some of the others noted above, too. I like out of the way places and flying on airlines besides the usual suspects when I can so I’ve always got my eye out.

  22. “Guarantee you’ve never heard of” seems a bit strong. Any avgeek from New England is definitely aware of this flight.

    Not surprised this flight was moved to PVD from BOS — most of the Azorean/Portuguese community in Mass is in Fall River and New Bedford, which is a bit closer to PVD than it is to BOS.

  23. I’ve taken this flight. VR672, PVD-RAI. However, it was being operated by EuroAtlantic, a Portuguese charter airline, because TACV had had their 737-800 seized at Schiphol after falling behind on lease payments, forcing them to shuffle their 757 to other routes. My husband and I appeared to be the only people on the flight who were not of Cape Verdean descent.

    The EuroAtlantic 767 had 3-class seating, which I would describe as business, economy (2-3-2), and torture (3-3-3). They issued seat assignments but then announced that there would be open seating. Had we realized just how open they meant, we would have sat in business class. Service was the same in all classes, but at least we could have had the comfy seats. I pity the folks who ended up in torture class. After traveling in Cape Verde, Portugal and the Azores, we returned on the SATA flight PDL-BOS.

    If you want a *really* obscure routing, try OAK-TER, which SATA/Air Azores has flown once weekly the past few summers. Turns out there’s a community in the Central Valley of California with routes in the Azorean island of Terceira. Oakland is their nearest international airport.

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