TAP Air Portugal, the Portuguese flag carrier, has aggressively ramped up their North American route network in recent years, and today they’ve announced the next step in that expansion.
The airline has now announced that they will be launching six-times-weekly flights between Lisbon and Montreal in the summer of 2020 to complement their existing service to Toronto, as well as a new route between Boston and Ponta Delgada in the Azores islands, both using their new Airbus A321LR aircraft.
Both of these new routes open up exciting ways for Canadians to redeem their Aeroplan miles creatively on trips to Europe, so let’s take a look at those possibilities.
TAP Air Portugal Will Fly Montreal–Lisbon
The Airbus A321LR is effectively an upgraded version of the Airbus A321 regional jet, which gives airlines the opportunity to serve new transatlantic markets using smaller planes that wouldn’t have been feasible beforehand.
TAP Air Portugal is already deploying the A321LR on their Washington–Lisbon and Newark–Porto routes, and Montreal–Lisbon will be the latest transatlantic route to receive these nifty new jets.
Even though these are essentially regional jets with a longer range, TAP has still equipped them with lie-flat seats in business class similar to what they had on their old Airbus A330-300s (although different from their current product on their new Airbus A330-900neos.)
This route is an exciting addition to the set of transatlantic flights departing out of Montreal that come with zero fuel surcharges when redeeming Aeroplan miles, joining the likes of the Brussels Airlines flight to Brussels, the Swiss flight to Zurich, and the Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul.
In particular, Montrealers looking to travel conveniently to the Iberian peninsula will now have an excellent direct option, and will no longer face the prospect of backtracking through either Toronto or the US East Coast on TAP Air Portugal, or places like Belgium or Switzerland on the other surcharge-free airlines.
The same reasoning applies to Montrealers headed to North Africa, where Montreal–Lisbon–Casablanca on TAP, for example, is likely to present huge savings on surcharges compared to the direct Montreal–Casablanca flight on Air Canada.
Meanwhile, travellers based elsewhere in Canada will also benefit from a new transatlantic redemption option that comes with minimal fuel surcharges, especially one that doesn’t require you to connect through the US.
Having said that, if given the choice of flying with TAP via either Toronto or Montreal, I’d probably still choose Toronto, since the Airbus A330-900neo is a much more spacious aircraft that should translate into a more comfortable onboard experience.
TAP has yet to announce the exact launch date, but has stated that tickets will be on sale as of November 25, so I’d definitely expect some award space to show up in Aeroplan sometime around then, especially since TAP is one of the more generous airlines with regards to transatlantic business class availability.
The airline also announced in its press release that the westbound flight will depart Lisbon every day except Wednesdays at 2:55pm and arrive in Montreal at 5:40pm, so I’m envisioning a departure from Montreal around 7pm in the evening for the eastbound schedule. I’ll update this article once the full details of the schedule are released.
TAP Air Portugal Will Fly Boston–Ponta Delgada
TAP’s other route announcement today doesn’t involve a Canadian destination, but can still be leveraged by Canadian travellers to great effect. The airline will be launching flights between Boston and Ponta Delgada in the Azores, also using the Airbus A321LR with lie-flat seats in business class.
Due to their relatively proximity as well as the abundance of cheap fares on Azores Airlines (the regional airline of the Azores) from Canadian cities, the Azores have been a pretty popular destination among Canadian leisure travellers in recent times.
This Boston service represents the first Star Alliance link between the Azores and continental North America, and also a significantly improved onboard product from what Azores Airlines has been offering in the market.
Combine that with Boston being so well-served from the major Canadian gateways (Air Canada operates daily flights from Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Halifax, and Vancouver), and this could be a very convenient and comfortable way to Canadians to travel to the Azores.
However, note that the value in redeeming your Aeroplan miles to get to the Azores may be questionable, because the islands are classified in the “Europe 1” zone, so you’d still be charged the full Europe 1 pricing of 60,000 miles round-trip in economy class or 110,000 miles round-trip in business class for what’s basically a five-hour flight in either direction.
If you’re only interested in travelling to the Azores, you may wish to look at TAP Air Portugal’s paid fares instead. TAP’s fares have historically been very cheap in both economy and business compared to the competition, and I can’t see that changing on the Ponta Delgada route given that the traffic will consist mostly of leisure travellers.
Instead, the way I see it, the value in redeeming Aeroplan miles lies in making Ponta Delgada your stopover (or, depending on the exact flight schedule which is yet to be announced, potentially even a long layover) on your way to Europe or points beyond.
By booking yourself on one of the new Boston–Ponta Delgada flights, you could visit the Azores as well as another place in Europe in the same trip, all starting at 60,000 or 110,000 miles in economy or business, respectively. You could even include the Azores on a trip to Africa, the Middle East, Asia, or Australia if you wanted to.
Heck, with the maximum permitted mileage between Vancouver and São Paulo clocking in at 11,331 miles, you could even go for a TAP Air Portugal grand tour of the Lusophone world.
As with the new Montreal route, TAP hasn’t announced too many details on this new service yet, so I’ll update this article with the launch date, frequency, schedule, etc. once we have the full details.
Here’s hoping that the arrival time in Ponta Delgada matches up nicely with one of the departing TAP flights the following day, thus opening up the door to a very interesting 24-hour layover!
I’m always very excited to see foreign airlines serving more points in Canada and opening up new travel possibilities for the Canadian travelling public, especially when it brings about some new mileage redemption opportunities as well.
TAP Air Portugal’s new Montreal–Lisbon route should do a great job complementing the city’s existing wealth of low-surcharge options for flying to Europe on Aeroplan miles, while the launch of its Boston–Ponta Delgada service marks the first true premium cabin service between North America and the Azores.
I’m excited to see these flights go on sale, and could certainly see myself flying on one of these new TAP Air Portugal routes one day.