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Finally A310 - SATA PDL-LIS in J September 2015

Finally A310 - SATA PDL-LIS in J September 2015

Old Oct 5, 15, 1:36 am
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Join Date: Oct 1999
Location: New York
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Finally A310 - SATA PDL-LIS in J September 2015

SATA A310 Trip Report

Photo album:

I have been trying very hard to get an A310 flight for the past few years. I remembered that I might have flown an A310 before from Los Angeles to San Francisco on Pan Am, when I was very young. But it was just so long ago that I did not have any information anymore. About a few years ago, I booked a Royal Jordanian flight from the US to Colombo via Amman, as RJ was using A310 on the AMM-CMB flight. Unfortunately there was a last minute plane change, and I got an Airbus A340, instead of A310. In 2015, there were only a few A310 operators left. My first choice was Air Transat, which runs many flights between Florida and Canada using A310, but it never works out. When I was invited to a wedding in Portugal, SATA immediately came to my mind. The reviews of SATA are pretty unflattering, and while there was many cheap PLUS (business class) fares between Boston and Portugal, I decided to stick with the shorter Azores to Lisbon flight. SATA has been running its Boston and Toronto flights to Lisbon via Ponta Delgada using its A310s, so I just decide to finally fly a PLUS flight from PDL to Lisbon.

I arrived at PDL via Ryanair the day before from Porto, and while I did not spot the A310 in the afternoon hour, I spotted plenty of SATA’s Dash 8-400s. They looked beautiful. I loved the open apron here at PDL and nobody shout at me for taking so many pictures.

September 23, 2015
S4 220 PDL-LIS Lv0825 Arr1130 Airbus A310-300 CS-TKN “Macaroneisa”

SATA’s website is pretty user friendly and I was even able to use my HK credit card to pay for the ticket. I got an e-ticket and was able to get a seat assignment online.

Ponta Delgada Joao Paulo II international airport is actually a pretty nice modern airport. It is a small compact airport, but the terminal is pretty up to modern standard.

SATA is the main airline operating here at PDL. I arrived at the airport about two hours prior to departure, and PDL was fairly quiet, as there were only a few flights operating in the morning.

There was a PLUS check-in counter, but queues were minimal this morning. The agent was pretty friendly and thanked me for my business. She tagged my bags with priority tags, handed me my boarding pass, told me where the lounge was, and thanked me for my business. It was not as bad as other reviewers said, but sadly the friendliness would end soon.

Some pictures of the airport terminal:

SATA counter

Arrival Area

Security was an easy business, and I immediately went to the SATA lounge. The lounge looked pretty nice, but offering was sparse with limited beverages and packaged snacks. There were only three kinds of snacks – SATA packaged snack mix, cookies, and saltine crackers. The lounge was initially slightly busy but soon became quiet again after the Frankfurt flight and couple intra-Azores flight left. The agents were fairly nice, and I was even given the remote control to the TV after everyone left. So SATA was still pretty good, as of this point.

Boarding was quite a mess, and to my surprise, I had to go through immigration to board this “domestic” flight to Lisbon. The check-in agent just asked me a few precursory questions, and let me into Gate 3. The flight was fairly busy, and all the sudden, boarding began at 7:50am. There was no priority boarding and everyone was just rushed to the gate.

Finally the apron again…

More SATA Dash 8

Finally the prize of the day – SATA’s A310-300
CS-TKN was built in 1992 and was originally delivered to Austrian Airlines as “City of Chicago” in 1992. It has gone through many operators, and was finally delivered to SATA in April 2007, after a short stint with Air India.

The plane actually arrived early from Boston this morning, and despite its age, it still looked pretty good.

I entered through the front stair, and the purser was welcoming passengers and checking boarding passes. Business class was still relatively empty, and I wanted to take the opportunities to snap a few pictures.

Unfortunately my cabin shot was very limited, as the purser immediately approached me and asked me to stop taking pictures of the cabin. I asked “why,” and she just told me that the airline did not want other passengers to be photographed. That was the only reason why she had to stop me. Given the empty business cabin, that comment was almost redundant. No wonder SATA got such a bad rap. Well I stopped taking cabin photos. Economy cabin looked fairly cramped with a 2-4-2 seating and I am fairly happy that I decide to go with PLUS.

Inside the seat pocket, only safety card and a disposal bag are available. While I saw the inflight magazines in the lounge, they were not replenished in the plane. I found it pretty shocking that the cleaners would not at least make sure that each J seat has an inflight magazine.

The flight began to fill up and soon employees filled up the rest of the business class cabin. Don’t ask me why I knew, but those SATA tagged bags were major clues, as well as obviously friendly chats among the occupants. However the service did not improve. Smiles were in relatively short supply. I believe that these crews might be actually based in Lisbon, and had worked the overnight flight from Boston, so they looked like they were fairly tired. I would give them some slacks.

Door was closed at 8:22am, and there was no pre-takeoff beverage service. The F/As then passed out newspapers and only Portuguese newspapers are available.

We pushed back five minutes later.

Goodbye PDL

One thing that I loved about PDL was its short taxi time. With no plane ahead of us, we took off from R/W12 at 8:33am. Flying time was an hour and fifty-three minutes, and it was a mostly over water flight. We stayed at 36,000feet throughout the flight.

Beautiful morning here at the Azores

As expected, there are no fancy power outlets or any individual entertainment units. On longer flights to North America, they passed out iPads for J passengers. Y passengers were stuck with the mainscreen television programming. On these short flights to Lisbon, only infomercials were shown and no headsets were ever passed out. There was breakfast service in PLUS cabin, and I believe a hot breakfast sandwich in economy. The F/As passed out these packaged refreshing towels first, and then they disappeared for twenty minutes before rolling out the breakfast cart. There was no separate beverage service.

Today’s breakfast features an omelet filled with tomato and bacon, served with a bowl of fruit and a slice of pound cake. Breadbaskets feature Portuguese or multi-grain rolls. Juices and water were also offered. Then the F/As came out with coffee and tea. Trays were recollected at 9:38am.

The F/As then disappeared and stayed in the galley till descent.

My neighbor used the facility and took the opportunity to snap a picture of the seat in full recline mode. It is actually okay and even for Boston to Lisbon, it is fine, but for the Oakland to Toronto to PDL flight, it is not okay. Anyway, they are cheap – almost like a PE fare, but if I am buying a TAP fare especially on the Boston to Lisbon, I might not be too happy.

The bathroom was so cool that I could not resist taking more pictures.

Descent soon began at 11:04am Lisbon local time (an hour ahead of PDL).

We landed on R/W03 at 11:26am and parked at gate 41 three minutes later.

Apron view – maybe one day I will fly TAP A330

To my surprise, the flight was treated as an international flight, as many passengers were actually flown all the way from Boston. The immigration officer just asked if I came from Boston or the Azores, and since I came from Azores, I was waved through.

The most disappointing part of the flight was actually the really LONG wait for the baggage. The first bag did not appear on the carousel until 12:01pm – more than 33 minutes after we parked in the stand. Thankfully my priority bags meant something here in Lisbon.

In conclusion, I am pretty happy to finally get to fly A310, which is a lovely plane despite its age. I still might prefer Air Transat to SATA, but at least I did not fly it all the way from Boston. SATA will be moving towards an all A330 flight soon, and I hope they will take the opportunity to introduce a more up to date business class cabin. I don’t expect fancy stuffs, but at least installed PTV, power outlets and a few modern gadgets. Service wise, it really needs help but given its relatively monopoly situation in the Azores, I don’t expect change. I am a bit surprised that I find the F/As on my Ryanair flight friendlier than this SATA flight. The only time I see them smile was at the baggage claim.

SATA A310 – resting here before flying back nonstop to Boston later in the day

I hope you enjoy this little short trip report!

Carfield is offline  
Old Oct 5, 15, 2:44 am
Join Date: Feb 2009
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very good report ^
bludnik is offline  
Old Oct 5, 15, 4:29 am
Join Date: Aug 2008
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Thanks for the TR!

Very nicely written and detailed...
Culture Guru is offline  
Old Oct 5, 15, 11:46 am
Join Date: Jan 2013
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Great report. SATA has been flying to the USA and Canada for so long, yet there have been so few reports, so yours is appreciated greatly ^^^
HALA330 is offline  
Old Oct 6, 15, 8:21 am
Join Date: Feb 2012
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Thank you very much for sharing.

I had a great vacation visiting Sao Miguel, Faial and Flores in the late 90s and arrived in PDL on a TAP A310 from LIS. The inter-island services I flew on were operated by BAE ATPs.

The return connection into LIS was on a SATA 737 from Faial. I remember that neither the leg room nor the meal service matched that on TAP.

Funnily enough, given your pictures from Lisbon Airport, the other airline whose A310s I have flown is THY (though of course they haven't operated them for a number of years now). I can remember doing Istanbul - Ankara in a 310 one evening in the early 2000s. It was probably positioning for a busy 6 am shuttle back to IST the next morning.

Thanks again for reawakening images of those green crater landscapes in my mind.
michlflyer is offline  
Old Oct 6, 15, 1:19 pm
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Great report. I must say though, I don't think I would ever want to fly SATA--its aircraft seem to be in horrible shape.
fly747first is online now  
Old Oct 7, 15, 7:40 am
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: TSV, Australia
Posts: 2,376
I flew a Biman Bangladesh A310 a few years ago BKK-DAC. The SATA is in much better condition.

Interesting TR. Thanks for posting.
camsean is offline  
Old Oct 7, 15, 10:49 am
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Thanks for sharing, SATA is definitely on you don't see many TR's on. BTW Super Bock is my favorite beer and it's impossible to get in the US snag some from the lounge and send it my way
Madone59 is offline  
Old Oct 7, 15, 12:39 pm
Join Date: Jul 2014
Location: UK, London
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Hi, great TR, loved the pics and the analysis of crew! I've just flown with air transat in club class which was a brilliant experience. Service level was on par to J flights with BA. Do you have any trip reports for air transat?
dood125 is offline  
Old Oct 7, 15, 2:13 pm
Join Date: Jan 2002
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Originally Posted by Madone59 View Post
BTW Super Bock is my favorite beer and it's impossible to get in the US snag some from the lounge and send it my way
If you're up in LA, try Total Wine - they have it
hilton-gold is offline  
Old Oct 9, 15, 12:29 pm
formerly southsidesilver
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Very nice report and I really enjoyed reading it. It makes me not really want to fly SATA ever though and the product and service just looked pretty terrible.

Glad you got to fly on the A310. Probably won't be around much longer as a commercial passenger plane.
When I Travel The World is offline  
Old Oct 14, 15, 5:46 pm
Join Date: Apr 2011
Location: Scarborough
Posts: 594
Flew with SATA several times in Economy on the LIS-YYZ route.

Once had a connection at TER about 6 hours, plastic seats at TER airport make it uncomfortable time to wait for next flight.....to YYZ.

Only meal option you can select is Vegetarian if you don't want their standard meal. The IFE works sometimes, and sometimes it doesn't. Everyone watches the same old TV tapes they have, and many times the audio does not work........so an 7-9 hour flight in economy becomes very boring, very quickly.

They did offer 50kgs checked baggage in economy few yrs ago however! That was a good advantage for people flying SATA.
cdn1 is offline  

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