Introduction: Italy, With A Refueling Stop In The Azores
Review: Air France Lounge Boston Airport
Review: Azores Airlines Business Class A310 Boston To Ponta Delgada
Review: Furnas Boutique Hotel, The Azores
Review: Azores Airlines Lounge Ponta Delgada Airport
Review: Azores Airlines Business Class A340 Ponta Delgada To Lisbon
Review: TAP Portugal Business Class A321 Lisbon To Milan
Review: Sheraton Lake Como
Why I Didn’t Love Lake Como
Review: Il Sereno Lake Como
Review: Sheraton Milan Malpensa Airport
Review: Milan Malpensa Airport Lounge
Review: Air France Business Class A318 Milan To Paris
Review: Air France First Class Ground Experience Paris
Review: Air France First Class 777-300ER Paris To Houston
Before I get into this report, I think it’s important to differentiate between actual enthusiasm of a product, and aviation geek enthusiasm of a product. I suspect most aviation geeks will appreciate why I was excited to fly an A310, while others will probably be scratching their head.
Azores Airlines 250
Boston (BOS) – Ponta Delgada (PDL)
Tuesday, June 20
Depart: 9:15PM (+1 day)
Aircraft: Airbus A310
Seat: 3B (Business Class)
I boarded through the forward door (the A310 only has two sets of doors), where the crew was stationed. Usually I’d say the crew welcomed me aboard, but that wasn’t the case here. They just stood there and looked at me, and said nothing.
However, when I saw the cabin I had a hard time controlling my excitement. Talk about a blast from the past! For what it’s worth, this plane wasn’t actually that old. The tail number was CS-TGV, and it looks like it started service for Air Afrique in 1992.
The Azores Airlines A310 business class cabin consisted of 18 seats, spread across three rows in a 2-2-2 configuration.
As you can see, the overhead bins on this plane were tiny, and could barely accommodate a standard size carry-on. Unlike usual, the middle bins on this plane were actually bigger.
I also quickly glanced into the economy cabin, which is in a 2-4-2 configuration, and consists of a single long cabin.
I assigned us seats 3A & 3B, the aisle and window seat on the left in the last row of business class.
Legroom certainly wasn’t as good as you’d usually get in business class, but perfectly fine for a quick overnight flight. I’d say the seat pitch was maybe ~45″.
This seat has definitely seen better days, as the padding was so worn that it was uncomfortable to sit in. I could feel the metal bar underneath my seat.
On the outside armrest were the two buttons that manually controlled the seat recline and footrest (which didn’t work at my seat), as well as the audio controls for the overhead entertainment.
There was even an ashtray!
The center console was narrow.
The tray folded out of the side armrest, and was crooked — I couldn’t straighten it out.
On the plus side, the seats had individual air nozzles, which is a feature that so many airlines don’t have nowadays, frustratingly.
In addition to the (inoperable) legrest was a footrest on the seat in front.
While Ford’s worked when we boarded, it became stuck when he tried to adjust it.
Waiting at each seat on boarding was a pillow and blanket. These were what I’d typically expect in economy.
Calling this a “cloud pillow” may be a bit of a stretch.
Every seat on the plane was taken, and observing the boarding process was interesting. Passengers seemed to be a mix of people from the Azores, as well as lots of people who booked Azores Airlines simply because they have super cheap fares between Boston and mainland Portugal/Spain. Not surprisingly, the people from the Azores were unfazed by the plane, while overhearing the reactions from others was amusing. “Oh my God, how old is this plane? Is this safe?”
At 9:10PM a PA was made saying “all passengers seated, head count please.”
Even though everyone was onboard, it was a further 20 minutes until the door closed, at 9:30PM. At that point the lead flight attendant made an announcement informing us of our flight time of 4hr30min.
After that the safety video was screened on the single monitor at the front of the cabin. However, the video quality was terrible — it was flickering the whole time, to the point that you couldn’t see many parts of it.
Finally at 9:40PM we began our pushback. There were no pre-departure beverages, amenity kits, magazines, newspapers, etc. Nothing.
Our taxi was pretty quick, and by 10PM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 33L. The seatbelt sign stayed on for 25 minutes after takeoff, even though it was a mostly smooth ride. At that point the flight attendants closed the curtains between the galley and cabin, though we didn’t see them again for a long time.
50 minutes after takeoff the captain made a welcome aboard announcement, advising that we were scheduled to land at 6:10AM. He seemed like a friendly guy, much more so than the rest of the crew.
After takeoff I checked out the lavatory, located at the front of the cabin. I love how old the A310 lavatories look — so cool.
75 minutes after takeoff the crew finally made an appearance, and had a cart.
“Chicken or fish.” I ordered the fish, while Ford had the chicken.
Oddly the two meals came with different accompaniments.
My fish was served with a chicken appetizer, a bread roll, some cheese and crackers, and cake for dessert. The fish was dry and borderline inedible, the chicken was fine, and the dessert was really tasty. I’m not trying to be rude, but the food had a really bad odor — it smelled like dog food.
Meanwhile Ford’s chicken was served with a shrimp appetizer, a bread roll, some cheese and crackers, and fruit for dessert. On the surface I can understand why they’d have two different sides with the dishes, though I’m not sure why they’d have different desserts. All the food also came with the wrapping still on it.
Drinks were offered from the same cart. There was no glassware, but rather just plastic cups.
I asked the flight attendant if they had any sparkling wine to drink (mainly because I wanted to see what they served). “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?” You’d think they’d put it in the chiller sometime during the 75 minutes before the service.
I said it 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.
While we wanted to sleep after dinner, it was an additional hour before our trays were cleared (and I was never offered champagne).
After the meal was done we had about two hours left in the flight, so I decided to recline my seat as far back as it would go. While it wasn’t terribly comfortable, I managed to get a bit of rest. It wasn’t great sleep, but I think I at least fell asleep for a little, which is more than I was expecting. For what it’s worth, they showed the movie “Ice Age” during this time, though the video quality was so bad that you couldn’t really see it anyway.
I woke up about 30 minutes before landing as the captain made another announcement, informing us we were on our approach. We didn’t actually see the crew again until they did their safety checks a few minutes before landing.
On the plus side, the highlight of the flight was probably the stunning sunrise on our approach into the Azores — wow!
We ended up touching down in Ponta Delgada at 6:40AM. The airport is tiny, so we rolled to the end of the runway and from there had a short taxi to the apron.
On the ground at Ponta Delgada Airport was a Ryanair plane, TAP plane, and a few Azores planes (including an A320 and two props).
We arrived at our parking position at 6:45AM, about 45 minutes behind schedule (which is basically early by Azores Airlines’ standards, based on what I’ve heard — just shortly after I took this flight, the Boston to Ponta Delgada flight was canceled several days in a row). It took them several minutes to pull the air stairs up to the forward door.
The rear door was opened a couple of minutes before the forward one, even.
It was cool to see the A310 from the outside.
On the plus side, at least they didn’t use buses, but rather we could walk straight to the terminal.
Immigration was quick, and within five minutes we were through baggage claim and in the arrivals hall.
From there we picked up a rental car to drive to our hotel. We reserved a compact and somehow got a minivan. Hmmm…
Azores Airlines business class bottom line
How do I really do Azores Airlines justice?
On one hand, as an aviation geek I loved this flight. There was something cool about flying an A310.
Other than that, though, this had to be one of the worst flights I’ve had in business class. There were virtually no amenities, no entertainment, no power ports, the crew was rude, there was no glassware, and the food was edible at best. I understand that maybe the airline can’t afford more modern planes or great amenities, but smiles and friendliness don’t cost anything.
All that being said, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend avoiding Azores Airlines. If you’re traveling from the US to Azores, they’re the only airline that flies direct. The Azores were gorgeous, so the ability to do a free stopover there enroute to mainland Europe is a great opportunity.
I’d gladly fly them again on a ~$900 one-way business class ticket from Boston to Portugal with a stopover in the Azores.
Would you fly Azores Airlines?