I’m Flying TAAG Angola Airlines First Class!!!

I’m probably way more excited about this than I should be, but that’s nothing new, really. It’s the random things in life that get me giddy. Last week I wrote a post sharing the three international first class products in the world that I still need to book — Kuwait Airways, Oman Air, and TAAG Angola Airlines. Once that’s complete, I’ll have flown every international first class product in the world.

As I said in the previous post, I felt like trying TAAG Angola will be the most difficult and costly, given that their first class tickets aren’t cheap, and given the degree to which I’ll need to position in order to fly with them. But they’re also the airline I’m probably most obsessed with, in a backwards way. I wrote about them for the first time in May 2016, after seeing one of their beautiful planes at Johannesburg Airport.

When I wrote the post, the cheapest fare I had found on them was a ~$2,660 one-way ticket from Johannesburg to Luanda to Sao Paulo. The airline has a tag flight from Sao Paulo to Rio de Janeiro that I could have added at no additional cost, and as tempting as it is to book a tag flight on TAAG, I figured there would be easier options to get back to the US from Sao Paulo.

However, the brilliant zoqfotpik noted in the comments of the previous post that TAAG Angola has a significantly cheaper first class fare from Lisbon to Luanda to Sao Paulo, which lets me experience their service on two longhaul flights. That’s 7,644 glorious miles in TAAG’s first class.

Best of all, it looks like the planes feature two different types of first class cabins (at least as of now). One flight has the 777 with just eight first class seats (which I believe is their new first class suite), while the other flight features their older 14 seat first class cabin.

TAAG’s first class fare from Lisbon to Sao Paulo (which can be booked using the multi-city feature on their website) is ~$1,880.

Given that this is by far the best fare I’ve ever seen for TAAG first class, I had to pull the trigger on it. Best of all, two friends/avgeeks are joining me, which should make it all the more fun. I have high expectations based on this:

It’s ranking Top 90 from “The World’s Top 100 Airlines – 2015,” according to Skytrax, and carries the company slogan “TAAG a Sua Companhia de Sempre” which means “TAAG Always Your Company” in English.

TAAG’s website also notes that their first class has “the best meals,” so I look forward to putting that to the test.

Unfortunately TAAG doesn’t have many airline partners, so it looks like I won’t be earning any useful miles for this. TAAG’s own Umbi Umbi Club is possibly the least lucrative frequent flyer program in the world. You get one mile for every dollar you spend, and Silver status requires 25,000 miles, while Gold status requires 60,000 miles. That’s a spend requirement of $25,000 and $60,000, respectively. For spending an extra $25,000 you get a generous extra 5kg baggage allowance, priority check-in, priority baggage, and lounge access. Yow!

Now I just need to figure out how to get to Lisbon, and how to get back from Sao Paulo to the US. I’m tempted to maybe book Norwegian Premium Class to London Gatwick (since I think it could be interesting to review the premium cabin of one of these ultra low cost carriers), and then maybe American first class back to the US, to see how that’s holding up.

Comments

  1. Why not stick around in South America and fly a few airlines there? Maybe Azul?

    Whats the rush to get back? it seems like youre barely in SA.

  2. I believe Delta and American fly out of Rio (and it’s a beautiful city, you wouldnt regret that extra flight).

    Also Avianca Brasil flyes to NYC out of GRU, and they have reverse herringbone seats in J. There’s also Azul, with staggered seats out of VCP, close to São Paulo. Both of them can be snagged with United miles.

  3. TAAG is the only airline in the world that I will never fly again. And this is from experience of extensive travel in the “shitholes” of the world on a bunch of really dodgy carriers.

    I hope you don’t regret this. I’m sure you’ll get a good story out of it either way though!

  4. Sounds like a great trip! I would be very interested in reading a review of Norwegian Airline’s premium product. Thanks Ben for all that you do and great content you put out!

  5. Lucky:

    You could fly from Sao Paulo to LAX through MEX on AM and earn a lot of MQD to help you make Delta Diamond…. $1100 one way biz ticket = 2482 MQD and 9309 MQM

  6. Please please please fly Air Europa!
    I bought a ticket for my inlaws a couple of months ago from MIA to MAD on UXs J in the 787 and while the seat was fairly mediocre, they received some pretty good service.

    If i may had, I have always been curious on Azul’s business class… haven’t heard much of it and it would be an interesting way to get back to the US

  7. No way, no more AA from GRU. I would say to do Azul from VCP to FLL/MCO or to Avianca on their new a330 from GRU. We need more variety here and there is so much you can try in Brasil.

  8. You could also get quite some value from IHG point break list if you redeemed for the Intercontinental Sao Paolo

  9. Get to Lisbon via the Azores, again pls, and try the new A321NEO Business Class from BOS – PDL- LIS from Azores Airlines.

    It’s just a 4hour flight 😉

  10. If you want to try a ‘budget’ airline, why not try WestJet 767 YYZ/YVR/YEG/YCC etc to LGW, or any transatlantic Air Transat A330/A310 flight to Paris, London, Lyon etc? Air Transat had a business class and WestJet has a quasi-business cabin of sorts. It might be slightly more useful as the are loads of reviews of Norwegian but not many (if any) of the Canadian ones. Alternatively, you could try that cool AC flight from YYT-LHR on the A319…

  11. You could fly in the new business class that AM has in their 789 or maybe you could fly Club Condor of Aerolineas Argentinas, it would be interesting to see a TR from them

  12. Lucky maybe I am wrong. But I have not found in your trip reports that you have tried Air Algérie first class.

  13. @ IAC +1

    AC A319 YYT-LHR; then any old Euro-crap for the short hop to Lisbon.

    But I’d also vote for SA airlines from GRU back to the US – why take yet another US3 flight when there’s a bunch of much more interesting airlines to choose?

  14. Norwegian premium is nothing impressing. It’s an OK premium economy, but if you get a window seat and the persons in front of you recline you are stuck.
    Row nr 1 is OK, avoid the rest.

  15. How about trying KLM’s business class in Dreamliner? There are options for it from both West and East coast.

  16. LATAM Brasil is flying their A350 from GRU to JFK. Maybe you can try that in business? Is a little bit different that LATAM Chile 787. They have mattress pads, different service pace, seats, etc.

  17. Aur Algerie Business class Montreal (Tuesday departure only) to Lisbon via Algiers. Also you haven’t reviewed Virgin Atlantic for a while now. So maybe a good time to review it on the way back. Or Air India London to Newark.

  18. Can’t wait to read your report and don’t expect too much.
    I flew their 777 in business class a couple of times JNB to LAD, here is what i can say:
    – Check-in counters open 2-3 hours before departure time, you won’t have a boarding pass before. If connecting in JNB, you might want to negotiate with security so that they let you enjoy the lounge then you can go back when the check-in counter in transit area is opened
    – Contract lounge in JNB (i forgot the name of the lounge), the lounge itself has no windows / showers
    – Departure time … if a government official or family/friend of someone important is on your flight and is late, please expect to wait for them
    – Entertainment system is very basic – it has two movies and never worked despite changing seats / multiple flights. Mini golf and Tetris worked though
    – Language barrier, staff are not really speaking English but that’s not annoying
    – Food is far from being specular and all options are presented in a moving tray (like in TK)
    Anyway i have flew business and not first – and my last flight was in Nov 2016 (probably with the old 777). Lot of things could have been improved or changed since.
    Good luck and enjoy 🙂

  19. Hi!
    Im from argentina and you post like one year ago you wanted to fly aerolineas argetinas, it would be nice because there are lots of reviews saying its nice or it sucks, you could also go to iguazu falls, the most amazing place in the world and a sheraton in the jungle by the argentinian side, so you could also review bussines in 737 and e190 wich i have flown and are quite nice

  20. Lucky, Norwegian flies everywhere – don’t miss the opportunity to do something fun like Azul or Avianca business ex GRU/VCP.

  21. @Lucky – I second (or third or whatever) Air Algerie YUL-ALG-LIS – its been on your list of “weird airlines you want to try” for a few years now and their biz class looks pretty decent! As for the comment about First Class, I believe this is a mistake. I was able to find a couple of websites that refer to the A330 having First, Biz and Econ, but no pics – all it gave was the number of seats in each cabin and it stated there were 18 First Class seats, which is in fact the number of Biz seats they have on the A330. But I say book it, and if there happens to be better seats in front of you, then I guess you have one more to add to your list!

  22. @Lucky – and to clarify, the number of Biz seats that those same websites refer to correspond to the number of Premium Econ seats they have on the A330. I think its just a mistaken classification rather than an actual First Class cabin existing.

  23. I would recommend flying Azul from VCP to MCO or FLL. You could also do GRU-CNF to experience a domestic flight and then do CNF to MCO to experience an international flight. Azul is rated by trip advisor as number three in the world so you could see if they are that good.

  24. Come to Rio! I think you would enjoy the renovated airport and the new lounges as well – especially compared to what it was before. The Admirals Club and Priority Pass are great options https://www.flyfamilyfly.com/plaza-premium-priority-pass-lounge-rio/
    The Grand Hyatt is gorgeous and a Cat 4, so good use of an annual free night.
    AA does have a direct flight from GRU-LAX though, so that may be tempting for you.

    @Chris I agree that Rio shouldn’t be missed, but I think the Grand Hyatt would be an absolutely terrible choice for most travelers. Its all the way out of town near Praia da Reserva, in Barra, and roughly 45 minutes drive to Ipanema and well over an hour to Centro. They built this to be near the Olympic venues, and although it has a nice beach out front, it is not really “in” Rio.

  25. Hello Lucky,

    I can’t wait to see this upcoming review. Flying back to states, why not try Aerolineas Argentinas’ long-haul business class? It seems to be one of the few cabins you haven’t reviewed.

    Bon voyage!

  26. Lucky, you should try Aeromexico’s new business class on their Boeing 787-9 now that they are flying daily to Sao Paulo

  27. lol all the south american people get so salty that FFers rarely visit… your airlines objectively suck and prices are expensive given the relatively short distance/flight times from the US.
    Oh and a lot of the destinations are.. umm.. bad.

  28. FLY VIRGIN ATLANTIC – UPPER, i dunno, make it from london to hong kong or london to delhi, maybe ny-lhr, you havent reviewed the refreshed upper class or newer clubhouse

  29. Just flew into Lisbon this afternoon and saw your Angola plane right after I had read your blog. Enjoy!

  30. Hey, @Lucky, from a Brazillian fan, why dont you review a Brazilian airline on your way back to the US?
    The only brazilian airline you have ever reviewed was TAM now-defunct first class, but many has changed since then.

    Azul Brazilian Airlines has a fairly decent business class and flies to FLL and MCO out of Viracopos Airport, near Sao Paulo -and you can redeem United and TAP miles on them. azul also flies to US out of Belo Horizonte (my hometown ^^ ) and Recife, all flights with A330s.

    Avianca Brazil, wich is a Star Alliance member, started recently to fly fo MIA and JFK out of Sao Paulo. Their hard product is the same as Avianca’s 787 but i dont know how their soft product is like.

    And last but not least, LATAM Brazil is always an option. They fly their A350s from Sao paulo to New York and Orlando (and Madrid), and those aircraft have a slightly different product than LATAM Chile’s 787s. Also, the two airlines are also yet to achieve complete consistency on their soft products, so maybe you could be up to a new experience flying them.

    It would be great to see you review one of our national carriers =)

  31. YAS LUCKY!!!!!

    How long you in Sao Paulo for/ when are you coming? I’d love to go out for dinner and drinks!

    1) I also agree you should try flying Azul out of Viracopos to Miami or Orlando, they’re a TERRIFIC Brazilian airline, JetBlue is the parent company if I’m not mistaken. So if you like JetBlue, you should like Azul.

    2) If all else fails, you always have AA direct flight GRU-LAX with their reverse herringbone seats.

    3) AA first class SUCKS GRU-JFK or to MIA, so just fyi.

    I personally think a review on Azul would be better for content in this blog/expand your horizon and portfolio on airlines.

    Last but not least, if you fly out of GRU, you’ll get to review T3’s new Executive Lounge, Admirals Club, LATAM business lounge (used for oneworld), Mastercard Black lounge, etc….

  32. @Lucky, I know you already paid too much for this trip, but if you are looking for a cheap lie-flat from LAX to LHR, consider Skycouch on NZ. It’s a poor man’s biz class which is basically three adjacent seats in the same row in economy that forms into a “couch”. The upgrade costs between $350-1,000 extra. It seems solo travelers have to pay $700 extra or $350 for 2 or more passengers. 3 or more pax also get an extra seat in addition to the “couch” or can upgrade to two couches.

    I imagine this would be just about the same price as Norwegian but you get to lie down on this flight. 😀

    Btw, thanks for the HT. Cheers and have fun in this trip!

  33. Funny, more people are obsessed with Azul and your trip back from S.P. Azul is fine but hardly unique and special and Viracopos is like driving to the end of the world. Perhaps Avianca Brasil new flight to MIA or JFK from GRU – or maybe grabbing a few 5th freedom routes in S.A. and popping around.

  34. @schar JetBlue has nothing to do with Azul…..the only thing in common is that the founder of JetBlue (David Neeleman) founded Azul after he was forced out of JetBlue. And HNA (owner of Hainan Airlines, among many other travel assets), own almost 25% of Azul and Azul, in turn, owns almost 50% of Tap Air Portugal.

  35. Lucky, Sao Paulo Congonhas to Rio Santos Dumont (both domestic airports) is one of the most incredible and cheapest joy flights in the world. Taking off from Congonhas you are literally flying through the highrises (Sao Paulo has the second highest number of buildings over 10 stories in the world after Hong Kong). The sight is staggering. Then when you land into Rio the airport is right in the city centre and the view of the city, bay, and mountains is phenomenal (and much better than flying into the international airport). You would be on an A319 in Economy but it is an absolute must do flight for any aviation geek.

  36. Got to agree with @AC. Santos Dumont Airport in Rio is the most gorgeous airport in the world, and the views in both take off an landing are STUNNING. Also, landing in Congonhas is always a thrill, flying low over the Sao Paulo skyscrappers is priceless.
    @Lucky, I would recommend taking TAAG al the way to Rio, then taking the “Air Bridge” from Rio Santos Dumont to Sao Paulo Congonhas and then connecting onward to the US.
    I think Azul’s flight from Campinas/Viracopos to Fort Lauderdale or Orlando is the best option, given that you would be reviewing a new airline, with a very competitive product between US and South America. Also, Azul has some quick connection times with JetBlue to LAX in both MCO and FLL.

  37. I flew Norwegian Premium last week, SFO-LGW, and thoroughly enjoyed it. The seat is wide, reclines far enough back to sleep, but still leaves plenty of space between you and the seat in front.

  38. Rio !! Rio !!

    Carnival from February 3rd to February 19th – What more can one say?

    Much better than any bubbly product served in First Class.

  39. @ Marcos

    I love Iguazu but it’s a bit out of the way for what I think Lucky is planning for this trip.

    Incidentally, the Sheraton in the Iguaza National Park is no more – it’s now a Melia. Long-overdue refurbishment is supposed to start this year. The falls are the best I have seen anywhere (Niagara looks like a broken gutter in comparison).

    I have never flown Aerolineas Argentinas – always put off my the universally dreadful reviews. But it might make a good pairing with TAAG on “the trip from Hell”…?

  40. I’m with some of the other commenters – some reviews of South American airlines would be really nice for extra review content. Same with WS Plus or DY Premium for the TATL positioning flights.

  41. Hi Lucky~ dunno y but i accidentally came on a cheap Kuwait first fare before, and seems it’s still alive~
    (not really that cheap though…)
    JFK-KWI-CMB for 3.8k ow

  42. Sorry but can you see Lucky flying premium economy long haul?! He’d meltdown and complain about London…or having to use public transport…or moan about a cooked breakfast.

  43. Good luck with the TAAG flight. I did their Business Class on the 777 Lisbon to Luanda and return and the plane was clean, tidy and looked new. However the food was awful, the main meal described to me as “fish or meat” and there was little pro-active service of drinks from the CC.

  44. @Mak Agreed. Location is not ideal for tourists visiting Zona Sul neighborhoods.

    But if you just want a hotel with a good pool, lounge, and beach, it is a solid option.

    Barra has some great restaurants as well, but getting around will require a car/taxi/Uber.

  45. Lucky you stated that you have flown every first class product in the world, can you guide me to your air algeria flight in first thanks.
    I flew them recently and despite aircraft and toilets being dirty crew were ok and food was ok.
    Interestingly the pilots landed those aircraft like the fighters on a aircraft carrier.

  46. @ Number1 — I said I’ve flown almost every first class product in the world, I have a few more to go. I’m a bit confused about Air Algerie, though, and am trying to figure out if they do in fact have a first class. I see literally nothing out there about it. What route were you flying with them where they had a first class, because I can’t find a single route where you can book a first class ticket on them? Thanks!

  47. Lucky
    We flew domestic algiers to constantine and algiers to bechar
    However we were checked in at the first class counters at algiers domestic airport.
    It appeared they market business as first.
    Mind you , no differentiation onboard except preflight lounge and crappy private Soviet looking bus out to remote stand which had first class once again onboard.
    Unable to take photos as military and police everywhere.

  48. Lucky
    Try ringing air algeria office in Montreal for clarification.
    Air algeria website markets economy business and first service.

  49. Hi!
    I’m seeing some amazing fares to LAX from GRU on Aeromexico business class on the new b787. 1500 usd round trip and you could always use the return as a start to another trip

  50. @Lucky, I’m curious about how your Visa (whether tourist or transit) process goes. Please share as my understand it’s pretty difficult.

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