Review: TAAG Angola Lounge Luanda Airport

Introduction: Swiping Left On TAAG Angola
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Our layover in Luanda was scheduled to be 4hr45min, as we were arriving from Lisbon at 6:30PM and departing for Sao Paulo at 11:15PM. Luanda Airport doesn’t have any jet bridges, so from the remote stand we were driven to the terminal in a separate first class bus. Once inside the terminal the immigration checkpoint was straight ahead, while international transit passengers could follow signage to the left.

Those entering Angola have to go through a yellow fever vaccination check before getting to the immigration checkpoint.

Historically getting a tourist visa to Angola is nearly impossible (though that will be changing), and we were curious if we could talk our way into the country. Of course we only had a short layover so we weren’t necessarily looking to actually go into the city, but rather we were curious to see just what was possible.

For details of that process, see my previous post. We (obviously) weren’t willing to bribe someone, but it sure seems like that’s what was being suggested by the “official.”


Yellow fever vaccination check Luanda Airport

The actual Luanda Airport terminal is tiny, so after our experience talking to the “official,” we turned left and headed to the security checkpoint. There was no queue there (almost no one connects in Luanda, it seems), and past that and to the left was the entrance to TAAG Angola’s lounge.


TAAG Lounge exterior Luanda Airport

TAAG has a shared lounge for first and business class passengers, and at the desk the two ladies welcomed us in and told us that there would be a boarding call for our flight.


TAAG Lounge reception Luanda Airport

To the side of the welcome desk was a large banner that mentioned that TAAG is a 3-star airline. Generally that’s not something you see airlines promote, but…


TAAG Angola, a proud 3-star airline?

The lounge itself consisted of one big room with very orange walls. The lounge was a good size, mostly with leather chairs facing one another. There was very little privacy in the lounge, and I think the pictures cover the general seating arrangement sufficiently.


TAAG Lounge Luanda Airport seating


TAAG Angola Lounge Luanda Airport seating


TAAG Lounge Luanda Airport seating


TAAG Angola Lounge Luanda Airport seating


TAAG Angola Lounge Luanda Airport seating

In the corner of the lounge was a small area with a few more chairs, which is where we eventually decided to sit.


TAAG Angola Lounge Luanda Airport seating

As you can probably tell based on the pictures, the furniture was all really worn, with discolored leather. The lounge looked nothing like what TAAG’s website suggested the lounge would look like.


TAAG Angola Lounge Luanda Airport seating

I’ve gotta give them credit for their commitment to the orange wallpaper, though.


TAAG Angola signage

The lounge is supposed to have bathrooms, though they were under renovation. I’m not sure if they’ve been under renovation for a week, a month, a year, or several years, but that was quite inconvenient. The entire terminal has a single set of bathrooms, and they were in terrible condition, so you had to leave the lounge to use them.


TAAG Angola Lounge bathroom closed

There was a bar area back near the entrance, though it wasn’t staffed, and for that matter didn’t really have anything, as all the food and drinks were self serve.


TAAG Angola Lounge bar


TAAG Angola Lounge buffet


TAAG Angola Lounge buffet

The food and drink selection in the lounge was reasonably decent. There was liquor, both in big bottles and also in minis, which I’m surprised they put out, since you’d think people might take them.


TAAG Angola Lounge buffet


TAAG Angola Lounge drink selection


TAAG Angola Lounge drink selection

There were also a few wines to choose from, including Laurent Perrier champagne. That’s the same champagne they served onboard in first class, so I found it pretty impressive that they just had a bottle sitting around in the lounge. They don’t serve Laurent Perrier in business class, so that means for business class passengers the champagne is better on the ground than in the air.


TAAG Lounge Luanda drinks

There was also a coffee and tea selection.


TAAG Lounge Luanda buffet


TAAG Lounge Luanda tea

There was a selection of soft drinks and bottled water.


TAAG Angola Lounge drinks

The buffet had hot and cold food options.


TAAG Angola Lounge buffet

Hot options included a panini with roast beef, a chicken sausage roll, and a carrot and ginger cream soup.


TAAG Angola Lounge buffet


TAAG Angola Lounge buffet

Then there were finger sandwiches, egg tarts, whole fruit, bags of chips, bread rolls, a selection of desserts, cheese, nuts, hummus, veggies, and more.


TAAG Angola Lounge buffet


TAAG Angola Lounge buffet


TAAG Lounge Luanda buffet


TAAG Lounge Luanda snacks


TAAG Lounge Luanda snacks

The lounge had wifi that was easy to connect to, though unfortunately it was slow. At times it worked reasonably well, and then when the lounge filled up a bit it got uselessly slow. Clearly the lounge only has enough bandwidth to handle a couple of devices.

The lounge stayed pretty quiet for most of the evening, and at most there were about a dozen people in it. About half of the people in the lounge seemed to be locals, while I got the impression that the other half (or so) were oil workers of some sort.

The lounge attendants were generally friendly. At one point one of them firmly asked why I was taking pictures. My friend responded in Portuguese explaining that I write about airlines, and she seemed happy with that response. She did keep looking over at me when I was taking pictures, but never said anything else.

After being in the lounge for a couple of hours we decided to roam the terminal.


Luanda Airport terminal

Luanda Airport’s terminal is small. Just outside the lounge were some tables with chairs, as well as some rows of seats. The terminal was nicer than LaGuardia, but that’s about all I can say…


Luanda Airport terminal


Luanda Airport terminal

Past that was the area with a restaurant and some duty free shopping.


Luanda Airport terminal

I was surprised to find that a vast majority of the shops were closed, given how many redeyes depart from Luanda.


Luanda Airport terminal


Luanda Airport terminal


Luanda Airport terminal

There was one duty free shop open, so I had to check out the prices. Luanda is known for being one of the most expensive cities in the world, and that’s largely due to the difference between the official exchange rate and black market exchange rate. I wondered whether the prices at duty free reflected that.

A bottle of Dom Perignon 2006 that would retail for about $150 in the US cost $475 here. Holy cow!!


Luanda Airport duty free prices

Meanwhile a bottle of Moet & Chandon Rose cost about $115 here, while it would cost about $45 in the US.


Luanda Airport duty free prices

I asked the shop attendant how much it would be in USD, and he confirmed the official exchange rate.

While our flight was only scheduled to depart at 11:15PM, the boarding pass indicated that boarding would start at 9:45PM. Given that we boarded over an hour early in Lisbon, I figured we might as well go at the posted time, since I was once again hoping to be first onboard to snap pictures.

Our flight was scheduled to depart from gate four, so we headed in that direction. As it turns out, gate four might just be the only gate at the airport, as it’s what all flights seemed to be using (which doesn’t seem ideal, when you have two 777s leaving 40 minutes apart).

The gate was just down the hall from the lounge. We got there at 9:45PM, though were told we couldn’t yet enter the gate area. That’s because the flight to Havana (ooh na-na) was in the final stages of boarding. Finally at around 9:50PM they let us into the gate area after scanning our boarding passes and checking our passports.


Walking to Luanda Airport gate

I feel like TAAG should have maybe had someone proofread before printing their “Firts Class” signage?


TAAG Firts Class signage

The airport’s gate is a single room that doesn’t have nearly enough seating for a full 777. At first we didn’t fully realize that we were just being let into the “sterile” gate area.


Luanda Airport departure gate

As time passed, the gate continued to fill up. At 10:30PM boarding still hadn’t started. At 11PM boarding still hadn’t started. At 11:30PM (at this point past our scheduled departure time) boarding hadn’t started. Actually, they just started boarding the flight to Lisbon at the time, which turned into a huge mess, since only the passengers for one flight are supposed to be in the sterile zone at once. That doesn’t even account for the fact that there were now two 777s worth of passengers in this small area

We kept trying to ask ground agents for more information. When we asked they either ignored us, or just said “boarding soon.” They kept saying it would be another 5-10 minutes. Over and over. We asked the reason for the delay. They said the inbound flight was late.

Shortly after midnight it was announced that boarding would start at 12:45AM. We asked once again what the cause for the delay was. This time they said it was a “technical problem.” As I’m sure you can imagine, at this point we became worried. If this flight ended up getting canceled, we’d have a very unpleasant night, since we didn’t have a visa to enter the country.

There was a scene at the gate, given that the gate agents weren’t exactly forthcoming with information.


People unhappy about delay

They also weren’t very good at updating the departure monitor. An on-time 11:15PM flight is boarding at 12:27AM? Really?


Luanda Airport departures board

However, I was thrilled when at 12:50AM (three hours after we entered the gate area) boarding did indeed begin, and I hoped we’d make it out of Angola.

TAAG Lounge bottom line

Luanda Airport is quite small, so the airport is easy to transit. The lounge itself was alright — it was worn, but the food and drink selection wasn’t bad, and the lounge was at least spacious. The delay we had on our flight wasn’t ideal, and for a moment it scared me a bit, since I knew I wouldn’t be able to enter the country. That’s always a risk you face when transiting a country you don’t have a visa for. The lack of information from the gate agents didn’t help either.

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Comments

  1. Who knew the corrupt rich elite of Angola would have low luxury standards when it came to their own airport and airline?

  2. @lucky, you are really lucky to get out their in one piece!..
    P.S. do not do that again, regarding the immigration officer..you all are lucky that he has not got bad intentions after you did not give to his bribery game..

  3. @ Steve

    sarcastic or not on your side…I would not even take a free F ticket with this airline.

  4. “The terminal was nicer than LaGuardia”

    so LaGuardia is literally worse than an airport from a third-world country? Why am I not surprised…

  5. “Bienvenue a le Lounge de Executive Class”

    I think TAAG may need to hire a new translator. Or stop using Google Translate altogether. I’m pretty sure I was taught in my first year of French that à + le = au.

  6. I think our expectation of having everything new is really harmful to the environment. Why do we need new sofas when old discolored ones work just as well.

    Time to make a cultural reset of expectations.

  7. Looks like the new airport “Angola International Airport” is still being built. From what I read was supposed to open in 2016 but is delayed to after 2019. Interesting to see how that goes..

  8. Wow, those couches look filthy and well worn. Great review, Lucky. Love the tongue-in-cheek humor.

  9. The Gordon’s gin bottles like that haven’t been sold here in the UK for years! They’re all green now, I think it might’ve been a decade since they were clear! I miss them dearly – either they’re still selling them overseas/in Angola, or that’s a very very old bottle of gin…

  10. I do not recall on any of your many reviews where you have been asked that many times why you were talking pictures.
    Are they scared for some reasson?

  11. @Chris — I’m based in NYC but travel in Africa a lot, and no joke, there are dozens of African airports that are more pleasant to navigate and spend a few hours in compared to Terminal A or B in Laguardia.

  12. @Paul LOL good luck claiming compensation for a EU law in Angola. Jokes aside interesting to see how much of a mess LAD is…

  13. “The Gordon’s gin bottles like that haven’t been sold here in the UK for years! They’re all green now, I think it might’ve been a decade since they were clear! I miss them dearly – either they’re still selling them overseas/in Angola, or that’s a very very old bottle of gin…”

    Genius! I want to go…

  14. @QR: Can only speak for South Africa, but Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg airports are nicer than most of their US counterparts and absolutely so relative to LGA.

  15. > Havana (ooh na-na)

    Ha! Ben, your trip reports once again have the fun flavor that they used to have in the old days (as opposed to the more ‘formal’ just-the-facts version. I have no plans to ever fly TAAG (and neither do 99% of readers of this blog, I presume), but your style and perspective is what makes this a fun read. Keep it up.

  16. Most people would know that Angola is not a “first world developed” country and would never expect to receive a red carpet and exotic bunch of orchids reception. The comments in this article are grossly offensive. Ridiculous bitchy sniping remarks about mis-spelt “Firts Class” signage, orange wallpaper, discoloured leather and “proud 3 star airline” status is all quite unnecessary. The food in the lounge looks very acceptable to me but I do sympathise with you having to walk outside and using common public areas for your bathroom movements. Is “Proud 3 star” status such a bad thing when Skytrax awards Hainan Airways 5 Stars and they then operate 9 hour international flights from Charles de Gaulle with no functioning water system in the bathroom?

    I am very pleased that you were unable to get out of the airport terminal and look around Luanda – you don’t deserve that privilege.

  17. Tom,

    I’m pretty sure all Gordon’s sold for export is in the clear bottles. I can attest that it’s sold in clear bottles here in the U.S. as well (though I tend to go for Beefeater).

  18. In my mind while reading I was thinking how much this airport reminded me LaGuardia. Low, claustrophobic ceilings. Narrow aisles. Terrible linoleum floors. If this is better than LGA… then wow, that tells you what a crap hole it really is here in the US.

    Aside from the soiled sofas, the lounge is a lot better than I expected.

  19. I agree with @Lilly Ming’s comments. You act as if you have the same standards for all airlines across the board and this certainly should not be the case. Considering the situation that you were in, I think your experience was pretty good. Remember Angola is not the biggest country and their largest trading partner is China, so I would not be surprised if a flight to China is on the horizon sometime soon. If the country and/or airline was a fully developed airline or flew to many destinations then this would be different.

    One comment that stuck out to me was about the internet signal in the lounge. It relates to Lilly’s comment to you about the wall color. Especially in developing countries, but even in many developed nations, the wall colors and theme in the lounge matches the colors of the airline/logo. The internet signal in the entire country is probably not that good. Again, it’s about expectations. At least there was an internet signal at all. There are plenty of airports across Africa and China that do not have internet at all or even a lounge. I could suggest some “airports” that were just started in Africa that have a make-shift terminals and a small strip of land for takeoff and landing and about four to six flights a day. Even places that offer a lot of flight options to/from Africa do not have the best airport conditions. Difficulty in finding a place to sit, of the few restaurants most are full, lounges not having enough space, slow internet speeds, multiple security checkpoints, most of the flights taking off around the same time, not recognizing elite status, etc, but it all goes along with the territory. Even that lounge was better than sitting air-side next to the gate and as others mentioned better than they expected.

    Lucky, you tend to stick to developed places. There is a list of African and Asian airlines that you have not tried yet. Based on these comments I wonder what kind of standards you would expect of them…

  20. Obviously no one that comments knows anything otherwise they would mention that through the closed area where the bathrooms are is the first class lounge area. Possibly that is closed also….

  21. @ Iamhere

    ..a good standard which reflects the worth of the ticket price you have paid. simply said..pay less, expect less..pay a good price, expect a good product..pay an outstanding price, expect only the best…pls. no offence!..if airlines can buy or leased brand new aircrafts with state of the arts hard products and then just offer a mediocre soft products because politically, ethnically, geographically, environmentally, economically…+ically etc..it does not make any sense! just live up with to the occasion and offer a decent good product..

  22. LaGuardia Airport is not so bad. It has the historic Marine Air Terminal. It is close to Manhattan. It looks like the 1960’s. It’s so vintage that it’s fun to arrive there!

  23. Great review and a very interesting read. Thanks!

    I was trying to read a little between the lines, too, to find out what your expectations where and how you think they were met. I have to say I disagree completely with Lilly Ming, whose comments I actually find incredibly racist. As if you can’t expect ”First” to be spelled right because it would be too much to expect from the Angolans, OMG. You pointed out clear facts – there’s nothing offensive about it, and you kept a very positive and cheerful, might I say enthusiastic tone. Surely it was more adventurous than an average European or American transit experience and surely the things you pointed out seem hilarious or absurd or both to someone from an organized first world country. To see this as offensive tells more about the reader then the author.

    To me, without being the least sarcastic, LUD seems great for an African airport. There’s a real terminal building as opposed to a tin shack. It looks surprisingly calm and clean as opposed to a cramped, filthy room full of noisy people. There is a lounge. The lounge has sofas and leather chairs. Maybe they’re worn out, but they’re there, which is great. And there’s even a variety of food options and drinks as opposed to nuts and orange juice. And there was wi-fi! The airport monitors might show outdated info, but at least there are monitors as opposed to someone shouting something that may or may not be related to your flight – in intelligible French. The gate agent might not have been very helpful in letting you know when the flight leaves, but at least she was able to communicate with you in a language you spoke. The boarding process might have been erratic, but it surely was better than one hundred people trying to push themselves through all at once… Yes, I’ve had some pretty interesting experiences at West African airports, for sure.

    It’s no surprise that the shops are closed when the flights are scheduled to leave. In an African airport, a discussion like this isn’t the least absurd:
    – Excuse me, can I change some money?
    – No, the bank is closed.
    – Oh. I was hoping it might be open, with all the flights arriving.
    – No, the bank is open from 9 am to 4 pm.
    – But it seems to me that most flights arrive very late and leave either very late or very early.
    – Yes.
    – Wouldn’t it make sense to have the bank open when there are flights?
    – The bank is open from 9 am to 4 pm.
    – Oh, well… thanks.

    This is Africa. It’s a world of its own. You really don’t know what you should expect, and as long as you expect absolutely nothing, everything will be okay.

  24. Wow! The interior designer of the TAAG lounge is really giving the Cathay Pacific designer a run for his/her money with those subtle, elegant colors.

  25. Wanting to fly the world, whatever the cabin class, should surely denote an appreciative understanding of different cultures. Orange in Africa is like yellow to Chinese and royal blue to England. It continues to astonish me how culturally ignorant first class are.

  26. Brilliant review Havana…… hilarious keep up these weird and wonderful reports and destinations, we love them !!!!!

  27. @Lilly Ming and all you others that agree with her

    Lmao, yes Angola is a third world country so that is WHY it is expected they have nice first class product as well as lounge you idiots. Look at all third world asian countries, all their tourist areas, hotels and first class are very nice or at least acceptable to western standards. USA first class is the standard and everyone knows. Yes there are better ones like Cathay but all first class should be at least as good as aa/dL/ua. Bathroom closed in a biz/first lounge is unacceptable, your country NEEDs first class visitors morons. Fix your low low filthy standards my god.

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