I’m picking back up where I fell off the apple cart on my trip to Porto, Azores and Lisbon. Next up is a review of Azores Airlines. They’re an airline you may not be considering, but they fly to a place you definitely should. You can see what I’ve covered so far:
The Azores are a place that has enchanted me for quite some time. I’ve been fortunate enough to end up in Lisbon a few times on business trips and had thought each time that it would be so easy to tack on a quick trip to the Azores. I had shied away from the idea in the past because I didn’t want to take the extra time away from my family. But, the idea kept popping into my head. So, when I found myself planning another trip to Portugal recently, I decided to try and make it work.
I’ll just book a flight to the Azores. That should be easy, right? In some respects, yes. But, I didn’t actually know a whole lot about the Azores other than that they were between the US and Europe. The Azores is an archipelago composed of nine volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean, at least according to Wikipedia. They appear stunningly beautiful in every picture I can recall seeing.
You can island hop a bit, and they even have their own airline, Azores Airlines. I could have flown from Toronto to Ponta Delgada, but because of my desire to spend a day in Porto (and ridiculously cheap business class fares to Porto on TAP Portugal), I chose to backtrack a bit. However, Azores Airlines has a number of flights from the East Coast, including Boston, Providence and Toronto. It’s only about a 5 hour flight and Azores appears to operate those flights in the evening, making it a really tough redeye.
Flying From Porto to Ponta Delgada
I arrived at Porto Airport after my brief stay in Porto. It’s worth noting that if you do plan a trip to Porto, there’s an easy light rail connection from the airport to downtown (or about a 20-minute car ride).
Porto is a busy enough airport but security was fairly efficient. 20 minutes after arriving I was through security. I explored the terminal a bit (because that’s what aviation nerds like me do). There were plenty of decent restaurant choices and even some computers scattered around with free internet access. Wi-Fi was readily available and reasonably workable.
I was plane watching, something I enjoy doing when I’m overseas. I like seeing new liveries. Someday I really need to put together a page on my site with all the different planes I’ve spotted. I saw a few new liveries/airlines I hadn’t seen before, as well as a few I’d seen a bunch of times previously.
I was curious what sort of livery I’d find on my Azores Airlines plane. Well, after 45 minutes or so of plane spotting, my Azores Airlines plane showed up at the gate. I’ll admit, it’s not a livery I’ve ever flown on before.
I had the option to pay for a seat with extra legroom. Given the short flight time (about 2 hours) in the air, I didn’t see a need to spend an extra $20. I was able to select a window seat near the front of the plane for free. My fare came with an allowance for a full-sized carry-on bag.
Onboard, the seating was snug, but not restrictive. I’m not the tallest guy in the world, 5’9” to be accurate. That’s the “average” height for a man; I would imagine folks over 6’ tall wouldn’t find the legroom particularly appealing. Spending $20 is a reasonable alternative for those folks.
The cloth seats were in a reasonable state of repair and reclined a bit. All in all, perfectly fine for a 2-hour flight.
The flight was completely full. Much to my surprise, we were given a sandwich and muffin along with 2 drink services in the span of 2 hours. Equally surprising was that, despite it looking skimpy, was actually a decent sandwich.
We floated through cloudy skies through much of the flight, only seeing the island as we were on final approach.
The Final Two Pennies
All in all, the ride on Azores Airlines exceeded my expectations. It was a cheap ticket with a reasonably comfortable seat. I appreciated that there wasn’t much in the way of add-on fees. I brought a full-sized carry-on with me and got a sandwich without spending anything extra. It’s a different model than my Ryanair experience. I was fine with Ryanair because I knew what to expect. Azores exceeded my low expectations quite a bit.
I wouldn’t love a redeye from the East Coast on Azores Airlines. But, I’m not sure I’d love a 5-hour redeye in coach on just about any airline. Other than recommending the extra legroom seats for folks who want a bit more space, I would have no reservations recommending Azores Airlines to get you to or from Europe affordably. And, you need to visit the Azores. More on that next time….
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