Why I’m Sort Of Obsessed With Azores Airlines

I have the tendency to get a bit obsessed with random airlines. For example, last year I took an interest in Air Astana, and then a few weeks later I flew them.

Well, my newest airline obsession is a transatlantic airline, and they operate what I perceive to be the most random transatlantic route. They’re also one of the only airlines to operate Airbus A310 passenger planes on transatlantic(ish) routes.

I’m talking about Azores Airlines, formerly known as SATA. As the name suggests, they’re based in the Azores (an archipelago in the mid-Atlantic that belongs to Portugal), and operate flights to both North America and mainland Europe from there. Here’s their routemap:

Azores-Routemap

I had heard of the airline before, though can’t say I ever researched them much. However, I’m in the process of planning a horrible trip with my friend Andrew B. (we’re talking Spirit, Aerolineas Argentinas, etc.), and in the process he brought up Azores Airlines.

For example, you can fly them from Lisbon to Boston via Ponta Delgada for $866 in business class. Perhaps I’m the only person excited about two flights on an A310.

Azores-5

They also fly from Lisbon to Ponta Delgada to Toronto, should you prefer that.

Azores-3

Or they even fly from Lisbon to Toronto nonstop, so aren’t just serving the Azores.

Azores-2

Ready for the most random route of all, though? They fly from Terceira to Oakland. Say what now?!

Azores-4

To put all those routes on a map:

Azores-Routes

Azores operates a fleet of seven planes, including three A310s, three A320s, and one A330.

The business class product on the A310 looks a bit better than domestic first class in the U.S. FlyerTalk member Carfield has an excellent trip report about the product.

Meanwhile it looks like Azores Airlines acquired their A330 from Royal Jordanian, and it has angled seats in business class, which are a bit more comfortable.

Then for the Oakland flight it looks like Azores uses a leased Hi-Fly A340, similar to the ones we’ve seen Finnair and La Compagnie use.

air-serbia-business-class-a330-96

Call me crazy, but as an aviation geek I think I’d prefer to fly an A310 over the more modern A330 or A340.

Perhaps what tempts me most about booking one of these fares is the ability to have a short stopover in the Azores. For example, on the Lisbon to Boston itinerary, it’s possible to get a ~32 hour layover in Ponta Delgada. Hotels are even easy — the Azor Hotel isn’t far from the airport, and is a Starwood Design Hotels property.

Bottom line

Not all of my airline obsessions are especially logical. For some reason, Azores Airlines fascinates me, though. I’m not sure if it’s that they offer what I consider to be the most random transatlantic route, if it’s that they fly A310s, or if it’s that they have cheap business class fares that allow me to easily visit the Azores for the first time. Regardless, they sure have my attention.

Has anyone been to the Azores, or flown Azores Airlines/SATA?

Comments

  1. Not exactly a random route if you recognize the fact that southeastern MA has Avery high concentration of Portuguese. Especially Fall River, a center of the NE fishing industry

  2. I needed to get from Lisbon to Madeira so I booked it through PDL with an A310 and a day in the Azores. You’re definitely not the only one!

  3. I flew BOS-PDL with them in Y a few years ago and visited the Azores for a week during the off season. Flying the A310 was bizarre but amazing, they had a nice selection of beverages from the Azores, and the crew seemed quite friendly. Beautiful place to visit especially up in the mountains, was very quiet and saw hardly any tourists where we were. Not sure how it would be during the summer but still lots of things to see there. I’d definitely recommend visiting!

  4. Hi Ben,

    Air Transat also flies transatlantic flights with the A310.
    I went from Toronto to Dublin last year in their A310.
    They fly from Canada to a lot of European Touristic cities using A310s and A330s.

  5. I’m totally with you, only because my grandfather was stationed in the Azores back in the war and my dad and I really want to visit. The Oakland route seems like an easy way to get my father there, since he hates having lots of stopovers.

  6. Azores Airlines (formely Sata) usually flies to places in North America with huge Portuguese communities like Toronto and Boston.
    I used to live in Toronto and there you find a lot of Portuguese and almost all of them are from the Azores Islands.

  7. Would you say that Hawaii belongs to the USA, or that it is part of the USA? Same thing with Azores, it’s PART of Portugal. Or better, the Portuguese archipelago/islands.

  8. One of the few TATL from Providence as well (another big Azorean city).

    Flew SATA a number of years ago. Their prices bear no resemblance to market conditions so on occasion can be a very cheap way to get to Europe. Ponta Delgada is basically Spain/Portugal of the 1970s: small town, agriculture, old men with big crosses walking to church (PDL is literally Pope John Paul International Airport!). Lovely place. Some of the other islands are much more tourist-focused and should be avoided.

  9. @ Jim — I was suggesting the Oakland route was random, not the Boston route. And that’s not to say that there’s no demand out of Oakland, but rather that operating a nonstop flight from the west coast to the Azores seems unusual, rather than routing people through the east coast.

  10. Flew SATA A310 And A320 10 months ago in J when visiting Azores for the first time.
    It was an interesting experience altogether!

    Azores is a beautiful archipelago although only seeing Sao Miguel on that trip. Lovely nature and pleasant climate 🙂 Ponta Delgada is a nice city to visit – small enough to stroll around.

    Will look forward to reading your trip report 🙂

  11. A very, very long time ago I visited the Azores by taking military flights to/from Lajes Air Field. (I was in the Army.) Even years later I cannot recommend a visit highly enough.

  12. Your link to the trip report on FT doesn’t link to a trip report – just a discussion about trying to use *A miles to get to the Azores

  13. Thanks for the great post! My entire family is from the Azores and it’s beautiful.

    As prior posts have noted, the Oakland route actually isn’t that random. There are a LOT of Portuguese in California. Indeed, there’s a Portuguese museum and large Portuguese neighborhood in San Jose and a new Portuguese restaurant just opened this month in San Francisco.

    I’ve visited the Azores and it’s a blissful, almost magical place. It’s incredibly relaxing, the people are exceptionally friendly and the prices are very reasonable.

    I flew TAP when I visited, so I’d be interested to hear your experience with Azores Airlines.

    We Portuguese are very proud of our roots — thanks for telling people about the Azores! 🙂

  14. Very contradictory of yourself. You say you always stay in name brand hotels (you’ve missed out on SO much) because this is a miles and points blog yet here you are flying on crappy airlines and there are no real point redemption opportunities. I could give you a list of the 100 most beautiful buildings I have stayed in (many of them in Germany) and you sadly would not have heard of any of them. So I do not understand, need some clarification :

    What is the difference between flying on an airline to fly on an old crappy A310 very few people would want to fly on versus reviewing some beautiful no-chain hotels that everyone would love to find. Both these situations do not yield points or miles.

  15. A couple of comments reminded me of an Azorean woman I knew back in Boston during my undergraduate days. She was a custodian in my dorm. I once casually mentioned to her that I was curious about visiting the Azores. Oh, my! She was so excited when I said that! A couple of days later she brought in photo albums to show me pictures of her obviously much beloved homeland. And! She had made me some sort of traditional Azorean stew! She was so wonderfully sweet. I am now feeling regret at having never made it to her island home.

    @Lucky –

    Spirit Airlines? I hope this is just throwing a bone to those who want to see OMAAT become a website for LCC reviews.

  16. I flew on Azores last summer from Boston to Lisbon via Ponta Delgada on the a310 in business class. The food was the same as what my friends were eating in economy, just presented a plated different. Flew the a330 on the way home and it was much better. Definitely stop in the Azores if possible, one of the best places I’ve ever been!

  17. It’s so funny to see you bring up this airline here! I have very good family friends who are from the Azores. The routes might seem odd, but Toronto, Boston, and Oakland actually have very large populations of Portuguese people, hence the routes.

    You should stop in the Azores! I hear great things.

  18. I love when you post about airlines that don’t get a lot of coverage in the blogosphere. But I really, REALLY wish you’d stop referring to airlines and their routes as “random.” They’re not. They make sense for the airline executives that plan them, and for the people that fly them. Perhaps because YOU don’t live on a small island in the north Atlantic this is unique for you, but I imagine that for people who live there, SATA and its routes are not only common, but it may be the only airline they’ve ever flown.

    Sure, there are random routes out there – the EWR-Columbia route was random because it did not actually serve a market – just one guy. But even the littlest bit of research, if you actually cared, would reveal that these routes are logical and make a lot of sense to the people who fly them. Celebrate the route, but stop using loaded terms to describe them (again and again and again).

  19. Having travelled all over Portugal, I can say that The Azores are truly beautiful. Extremely laid back attitude. People cannot be more friendly. If you manage to go to São Miguel Island, you can spend around 1 week just exploring all of it. From Sete Cidades, Furnas, Ribeira Quente, Nordeste. Beaches, volcanoes, great seafood – fish. Great tea. 🙂

  20. Please fly from Lisbon via the Azores to Oakland on the A340. I have flown the A330 in business class and it is not that nice. Also, Portugal is a very nice place, so I would highly recommend staying in Lisbon for a few days.

  21. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Terceira Island a few times for work in the last few years, but never on SATA/Azores Airlines, always TAP Portugal. As for the place, it is one of the most peaceful and beautiful places I’ve been. The people and culture are wonderful and there are several natural gems to explore on the island. The airport there is on one side of the Portuguese Air Base and is fairly small as you can imagine. I’d recommend staying at Atlántida Del Mar, driving around or through the island, and either visiting a bullfighting “arena” or the caves. I really hope you get to visit and I’d love to see your review of other islands too.

  22. I am another avid lover of the AZORES! If you go to only one place go to Ponta Delgada, Sao Miquel- Seite Cidades is beautiful. It is like the Northern Hemisphere Hawaii with no crowds.In winter, you definitely need a sweater.

  23. @CAROLYNNE LOREK: Hawaii lies in the Northern Hemisphere. I live there and am always surprised how many think it’s in the Southern Hemisphere and/or is in the “South Pacific”. It isn’t.

  24. I flew Terceira-Boston-Austin 1,5y ago in the A310! They codeshare with JetBlue which basicallly can get you everywhere in the US! Terceira military base of US Air Force shares the airport which may allow you to have a glance at nice military planes when landing 😉 Well, Terceira (Angra Heroísmo is capital) is a great island with beautiful landscape, super friendly People and amazing (sea)food! Definitely reccommend you to stop there!

  25. If you are looking for a funky way to cross the Atlantic, why not take that trip from YYT (St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador) to LHR on Air Canada’s 319 that you have previously talked about?

  26. I have been on SATA a number of times.
    They tend to fly to the US cities with large populations of Portuguese.
    I no longer fly on airlines with aircraft twice my age.
    They need new aircraft with new interiors.

  27. Flew Sata/Azores Airlines in Sept 2016 from Boston to Ponta Delgada then to Faial and then to Lisbon (since it was only 2 hours from the islands) then back to Boston (longest 7 hours flight ever). Their planes are old. No in seat video. Old fashioned ceiling mounted monitors didn’t play anything. Upgraded to exit row, and on one leg that was a joke. Business class looked very cramped. Restroom ran out of toilet paper. Boarding process was awful, people pushing and shoving, no real lines. Line at airport to check in in Boston was ridiculous. Had no faster check in offerings. I’ve sworn off plane travel this year. Need a break to wipe my memory of the multiple ancient flights. On the bright side, the islands we visited in the Azores were magical and amazing.

  28. There seems to be a few grammatical errors in recent articles “temps me” “while fruit” – seems the editing is slipping!

  29. I do love the Azores and I do love de A310. I would love to see a A310neo (dreaming I know).

    My travels on Sata (Azores Airlines) to Azores were nice. Better service than TAP to PDL for example

  30. I was born and raised in the Azores so I have been flying with them since I was born (literally). The wording “belongs to Portugal” suggests the Azores was taken by Portugal. It’s a sensitive issue with Azoreans. We’d rather have people call it what they are – Portuguese islands or one of the Autonomous Regions of Portugal 😉

  31. You need to be prepared that the airline goes on strike and that quite a number of flights are late or cancelled. I flew Boston to Terceira, the flight was over an hour late leaving and no one ever gave any time updates or explanation. I was supposed to fly back June 1st, but a strike started, and I was extended to fly out June 5 (the airline paid the Hotel and meals.) So today I flew from Terceira to San Miguel at 1 to catch a 3pm San Miguel to Boston. At 7pm, they finally cancelled the flight. I never got to a hotel til 9pm, and then that time only happened as I offered to accompany an elderly woman with health issues. I will see if I actually fly home tommorrow. I will say Terceira is lovely, and the people very, very friendly. But the airline is poorly organized.

  32. This must be a joke, I have flown all over the world. This is easily the worst service I have ever experienced! They changed the plane which changed the seat configuration leaving my infant child without a bassinet I paid for. They actually said there was nothing they can do? They couldn’t even refund me?! I will be disputing the charge with my credit card and let them deal with it. This mickey mouse excuse for an airline is a joke. AVOID THIS AIRLINE AT ALL COST, YOU ARE BETTER OFF SWIMMING TO THE AZORES!

  33. Fly with Azores Airlines (Azores) at your own risk. It took me parts of 4 days to fly from Boston to Barcelona, thanks to this unprofessional company.

    I was on SATA International-Azores Airlines S.A. 250 from Boston to Ponta Delgada on Tuesday, June 6th that was involved in a runway incident as we were leaving Boston. Azores pulled us off the plane with no explanation of what happened, and held us in the baggage claim for over 2 hours, still without acknowledgment or information of what happened on the runway. We were told to come back for a flight the next day to Lisbon, where we’d connect to Barcelona, but we didn’t arrive until two days later because Azores dumped us in a hotel an hour outside of Lisbon at a 9 PM flight on Thursday, June 8th. I finally arrived in Barcelona in the early hours of Friday, June 9th.

    The company has not acknowledged my request for reimbursement for the expenses that I incurred (e.g., taxi, food) as a result of this cancelled flight. It has also not offered compensation of 600 Euros that it notes on its website: https://www.sata.pt/en/travel-with-us/cancellation-notice. I suspect that they will not pay the compensation due to the “extraordinary circumstances” clause in their policy – which while may be true, is terrible business and does nothing to facilitate goodwill with the passengers it displaced.

    I will never fly with Azores Airlines, even if they offer free flights on their airline for the rest of my life. It’s not worth the stress, anxiety, and hassle of dealing with a company that clearly does not care about their customers.

  34. Adores Air is really one of the worst rated airlines. Customer service is non existent, but if you want to see the azores it’s really your only option. That being said, the azores are worth the trip. Just plan for delays and major inconveniences and add 20% to your travel budget in the event expenses arise from airline delays.

  35. I moved to the Azores several years ago and never flew an airplane ever since. First of all I don’t see a need to travel as I am low on money and also because of the worst airline in the world (SATA or Azores Arlines) I am simply to scared to fly it. Most of the time they have the air nozzles (above every passenger seat) disabled which makes flying feel like you’re in a sauna with open doors to a toilet. Seriously and the staff is as rude as ignores to bring you water after multiple requests. When I feel in the airport (and broke my ribs) was lying there for 5 minutes on the floor none of their staff offered me help to stand up etc. but instead charged me $200 extra per each luggage. Other airlines charge $100. This was my punishment for flying to the Azores and using their airline even that the Azores government was very helpful with information on how to move to the Azores, up until I moved there, and not anymore. The friendliness of people is rather superficial as even the locals say that “99% of residents are crooks”. I think the percentage is somehow smaller though. Unfrotunately hypocrisy is abound and you are being “punished” by the locals and their businesses for every single mistep you make, even that it is unintentional. And there is a very starnge relationship with tourists being expected to speak Portuguese and by some they let you struggle speaking Portuguese and then they “unpunish” you and start speaking in good English with you. A lot of times they see you and they recognise you as not one of them andd tus begin speaking to you in English right away without letting you practice some Portuguese. In general at least part or half orf the population are quite friendly people. Fly only if really necessary and beware of possible ripoffs by both the businesses and the airlines. Very poor service by the airline, old airplanes from 1980s, wonder if they are safe to fly anymore? Or perhaps they are SAFER than modern ones because of less electronics? Otherwise enjoy the nature. These islands were part of nature until about 600 years ago and then tehy became part of Portugal, which is a beautiful country and gladly not as rich as some of the other boring rich countries.

  36. On the first sight at least 50% of the civilian Portuguese (Azoreans) seem friendly enough. On the deeper approach, if you spend time living there, a lot of them are very egoistic and selfish, but strangely mostly quite unspoiled by money. Now regarding services… it’s quite another story: beware of crooks and bad services. And I mean it! Same goes regarding their airlines – most flights we took intercontinental, the air nozzles were turned off the entire flights and the staff ignored our requests, demands, moans to turn the air nozzles on as we were suffocating in a stinky and airless airplane from 1980. After asking for water (2 times) the request was ignored. We liked the food though! We had to pay $200 (double than other airlines) for each baggage they checked in! We had to abandon one suitcase filled with clothes and valuables… because we were short of money to pay their exorbitant charges. They did not allow us us a $200 credit to be paid later. Also, PT airlines, PT travel agencies even in Boston are quite rude and it is typical for them to drop a phone on you or to have weird problems with phone lines as if they are still in 1970s. Research was done with a wallet full of money in Portugal: out of 12 wallets one was returned to the owner, but the people who returned it turned out to be Scandinavian tourists. Nice country, if you are very patient, healthy and tolerant.

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