Azores Airlines Might Have The Worst Business Class I’ve Ever Flown

Hello from the Azores! Last night I flew from Boston to Ponta Delgada on Azores Airlines, which I was so excited about. Azores Airlines fascinates me, especially since they fly the A310, which is a treat as an aviation geek. Azores Airlines has good business class fares between the US and mainland Europe, and they allow free stopovers in the Azores, which is a fun opportunity to explore a new place for a few days.

Before I share my thoughts, let me say that I knew full well going in that the flight would be operated by an outdated A310, and it’s something I was looking forward to. I won’t hold the seats (as such) against the airline. However, the service and state of upkeep of the cabin surprised me, and really was unacceptable. Just about all the reports I’ve read of Azores Airlines have been negative, and I’m afraid I have to echo that.

The business class cabin consisted of a total of 18 seats, spread across three rows in a 2-2-2 configuration.

The seats had maybe 50″ of pitch, and I had a huge smile on my face when I saw them. It was like flying 30 years ago, and felt like something special.

It was especially cool to look into the economy cabin, which was just one huge cabin.

What shocked me, however, was the horrible condition in which the cabin was kept. There were no power ports and no entertainment, which is fair enough. However, the seat was quite literally falling apart. The seat had no padding, and there was a huge gap in the bottom seat cushion that made it uncomfortable to sit in. Ford’s legrest didn’t work, and his footrest didn’t work either.

My tray table was crooked. There was a single TV screen at the front of the cabin where the safety video was screened, though the screen was “green” and fuzzy the entire time, to the point that you couldn’t really see what was on the screen. That didn’t seem to be of much concern to the crew when it came to safety.

In terms of amenities, the only amenities were a small pillow and blanket, which are similar to what you’d get in economy on many airlines.

The crew was just freaking awful, though. The only time they smiled was when they said goodbye to passengers, because clearly the end of their shift was the only part of their job that they enjoyed. The second the plane took off they closed the curtains between the galley and business class. They made their first appearance 75 minutes after takeoff to serve dinner.

“Chicken or fish” is all they said. I chose the fish, while Ford chose the chicken. Oddly the chicken came with fruit for dessert, while the fish came with cake. Hmmm…

There was no glassware, but rather plastic cups.

I asked the flight attendant if they had any champagne to drink. “Yes, but we don’t have enough crew today, so we also have to serve economy. Do you need me to put it in the chiller?” I said that would be great if she didn’t mind, though after serving business class for five minutes, the crew was nowhere to be seen for the next hour, as they had to serve economy. So even though this was a 4hr30min flight, it was 2hr30min into the flight before trays were cleared. And of course I was never offered any champagne.

No drink refills were ever offered, and the only time we saw the flight attendants again was once the landing gear came out, at which point they had to pull back the curtain between the galley and the cabin.

What an awful, awful airline. Like I said, I’m not complaining about the seat itself — I actually found that part of the experience charming, and it’s one of the reasons I wanted to fly Azores Airlines. However, the horrible condition of the cabin along with the terrible service were among the worst I’ve had on another airline.

I think this might just be the most disappointing business class product I’ve ever flown… which is saying a lot.

Comments

  1. My BOS-PDL flight on 6/10 was operated by a Hi Fly A340 – a last minute substitution. I was disappointed not to fly the A310. Now that I’ve read your review I am happy with the way things turned out!

  2. I flew the A310 product last summer on the outbound, and the a330 inbound. The a330, while in nicer condition (that is, not falling apart like the a310), was marginally better.

  3. You are going to make my portuguese friends angry, lol.
    I just flew Air Azores once, from Porto do PDL. It was an A320 if I’m not mistaken and the flight was quite pleasant.

  4. Does seeing the interior condition make you wonder about maintenance overall? I’d be scared.

  5. @ Ben — Actual glassware, having my tray cleared in a bit under an hour, and a seat that at least wasn’t actively not working.

  6. @ Neil S. — Not really, to be honest. In the past it may have, but not nowadays. Flying is so safe, and at the end of the day the airline has a good safety record. There are lots of airlines with terrible onboard products but great safety records.

  7. Between “That didn’t seem to be of much concern to the crew when it came to safety.” and “In terms of amenities”, was there meant to be a picture? Most of your teaser posts (e.g. Lufthansa, Meridiana) have had 10 pictures despite more comprehensive titles, so it looks like you tried to put a picture there, as there’s an extra gap and there are only nine pictures.

    Fun review though, and I’m sorry for the hate you had to put up with on Instagram.

  8. Try Air Moldova next time you want some “fun”. You’ll get all this plus a lot of “oh no, it’s a foreigner so I’m going to have to speak English … and I lied on my CV about knowing it”

  9. I’m in OPO now. Having flown YYZ-YUL-ZRH-OPO on AC/LX/TP to avoid the cheap S4 direct and the fees on AC J awards. I discovered the pains of not having aisle access in J on the LX flight.

    I’m excited to be flying home on the newly opened LIS-YYZ on TP. S4 is the only airline I’ve ever been on where the Y seat seems to have been designed for someone 5’8″ or shorter. The headrest ended at my neck and couldn’t be extended.

    For a $300 RT to Europe from NA would you rather be on SATA or Norwegian (or is it WOW?)?

  10. Tough situation as the return on investment for amenities like glassware would be poor given the route network of the airline. Seems like it serves leisure guests and tourists. This type of route would be better served with a LCC approach.

  11. Thanks for the review. I had considered flying them since visiting Azores on the way to the US would have been fun. Now, I’m much less sure about that.

  12. Sounds so much like my final United “first” experience a few years ago Seattle to Newark.

  13. Well, at least you didn’t have to endure one of their notorious 24 hour “delays” that were fairly common when they were SATA. I once had my flight delayed 24 hours leaving Boston and then also returning from PDL. Just a mess!

  14. If you really want to fly an A310, you could try Transat. They have 2 rows of 2x2x2 “Club Class,” which looks like a PE product. The seats have a whopping 34″ pitch, according to Seatguru. It is at least better than the 3x3x3 in the rest of the airplane.

    The pictures look better than 34″ pitch, so maybe seatguru is wrong. They’ve certainly been wrong before.

  15. Welcome to Portugal. I am going to assume this is your first time to Portugal. Both my parents are Portuguese and I have lived in the US all my life. When I first went to Portugal I received the same shock you are probably having in regards to service. Alot of Portuguese people have a relaxed, not really in a hurry attitude and sometimes appear to be rude. This is normal for me as I am used to it but I can see how someone that never has been, would be shocked at first. Enjoy the islands and the mainland. Portugal is a great place to visit and the people are great.

  16. I did not know that there are still A310s in commercial passenger service (except for the carriers in Iran). I wonder if they also operate A300-600s as well?

  17. You are not irritating any Portuguese person by reviewing this airline. As someone who flies to Portugal 2-3x/year I’d NEVER EVER EVER EVER fly Sata. Your review echoes what we all know to be the problems of this airline.

    TAP isn’t much better, although they are trying with their new CEO. They’re getting a lot of newer planes which should help, but the attitude of cabin crew tends to be pretty awful. So if you’re going to Azores, this is really your best direct flight. However, if you’re going to the mainland it *AHEM* pains me *AHEM* to say that *AHEM* you should fly a United/Delta/AA flight instead. Being OneWorld loyal I just take the extra connection in Madrid and fly Iberia over for an overall better experience. Those AA planes are horrible US Airways holdovers going to LIS that shouldn’t be flying transatlantic and flights rarely go on sale to LIS.

  18. How can they not have “enough” crew? It’s a set number, right – one FA for every 50 seats?

  19. Ben,

    A quick look at the Skytrax reviews would have helped you avoid being disappointed. It sounds
    like you had a rough experience with a understaffed crew and a plane that you already knew was old and has not been updated. This flight is used by the Portuguese community from the Azores who reside in MA, CT, RI, and it is a convenient way to go non-stop to the islands at a reasonable price in 4-1/2 hours. Maybe they feel there is no need to upgrade the service as there is no competition. My opinion is you cannot compare Sata/Azores Airlines to a full-service carrier. Their “Executive Class” seats sell for $730 on the Boston – Ponta Delgada segment. TAP will charge you $2000 to connect via Lisbon. I think it is a miracle SATA has managed to stay in business when it serves so few destinations and a very narrow market. The Azores are lovely islands, with people who are simple and who move at a different pace. I hope you had a chance to spend a little time in Sao Miguel. It is a destination where all of the pleasure comes from being there instead of getting there. Keep up the good work, your blog inspires many people.

  20. I don’t understand the crew issue – I thought it was a legal/FAA/Safety issue that required a certain number of FA’s to cover seats on board? How could they staff a partial crew? If one of the pilots doesn’t show up they don’t fly the plane without a first officer… Seems like a bogus explanation or they’re ignoring regulatory requirements.

  21. Have seen a BA 787 in a worse state than this just one week after it had entered service. The aircraft has been used for a few Indian returns before I flew it to Newark.
    Apparently it is not only about the airline but also about how customers treat the aircraft.

  22. Are you sure that wasn’t the same plane they used in the movie Con Air to transport serial killers? The equipment and amenities looked similar. In all seriousness, thanks for the warning. Azores Airlines often shows up in my Kayak searches for discounted business class fares to Europe, along with Icelandair, TAP Portugal and the odd charter. I’ll make sure I never book with Azores Airlines.

  23. Until I read this service experience, I couldn’t fathom a better example to illustrate the phrase: It leaves a lot to be desired. Waiting for pax to request sparkling wine before starting to chill it: priceless parody.

  24. Have flown AA three times now, and because I LOVED Terceira (one of Boston’s direct routes) I just bought a house there. In fact I am writing this from Terceira. First two RT’s were ok, but last one was pretty bad. Zero leg room in “cattle class”. Opt for an aisle seat so you can stretch… SO, yes– this route is mainly for the very high Portuguese population in my New England area (I am Cape Cod), and it is HUGELY convenient to be able to take the bus to BOS, get on the plane, and be in Terceira in 5 hours. I tell friends, “It’s like going to Denver for the weekend” !
    Love having my wine glass refilled heartily (most FA’s fill half way– the Portuguese go close to the brim ! Hey– they know how to live :)) So I accept the downside of the flight as it’s only 5 hours. But I should probably write that this flight is horrible so that all of you looking for a place to go to that is in the top 5 safest countries in the world (USA is #114 after Rwanda…), with climate like SFO, constant wind power, plenty of water, high above the rising tides, dairy cows as their main industry, surrounded by fish, fertile volcanic soil to grow your dinner in, and just flat out beautiful… SHUT UP !! DON”T GO THERE !!! I want it peaceful and for myself

  25. Nice to read about an airline not normally written about. I had my fair share of experience (or rather none) of the airline last year. I was scheduled to fly from LIS-PDL on this aircraft type. Boarded and after a 30 min delay (waiting for connecting passengers – last flight of the day to PDL) – sped down the runway and had an aborted take-off. The speedometer or something like that was NOK. Kept onboard for close to 2 hours to get it fixed, no go, bussed back to the terminal, asked to wait again — they just did not want to cancel the flight. After about 5 hours of waiting (close to 1 am) and they did not want to conclude anything just leaving passengers to wait around without any information – I just asked them to officially offload me – and I called TAP to rebook me (it was a codeshare ticket) for next days flight.

    Ground service was horrible during this time. Luckily follow up later for EU delay compensation resulted in a positive result (was surprised).

    All in all – no good impression so far with them. From the attitude of the FA’s even during this time, I could feel that they were not customer service friendly.

  26. @Mike do you have an email for your EU compensation. I am trying to run them down for my EU compensation.

  27. I think the people questioning the crew numbers are forgetting that the airlines generally voluntarily “overstaff” business class. It’s quite possible to be within the regulated limits and still be short staffed (though in this case it seems laziness has more to do with it!).

  28. “Azores Airlines (S4, Ponta Delgada) has put its three A310-300s up for sale with UK-based aircraft remarketing specialist Moon Jet Group tasked with publicizing their disposal.

    According to a press release, the 25-year-old aircraft are CS-TGU (msn 571), CS-TKN (msn 624), and CS-TGV (msn 651), all of which are available immediately as an individual or combined purchase. Of the aircraft, CS-TGV’s airworthiness certificate will expire on July 1, 2017, followed by CS-TKN on April 18, 2018, and CS-TGU on April 20, 2018.” – ch aviation

  29. People are starving in many parts of the world while you nag ans complain about first class? Such a horrible person.

  30. @John:

    “@Mike do you have an email for your EU compensation. I am trying to run them down for my EU compensation.”

    I sent them to the customer service email:
    customer.care@sata.pt
    apoioaocliente@sata.pt

    You will have to be patience and wait at least a month before they come back (that was my experience).
    Hope this helps, good luck!

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