So last Thursday I saw some very cheap fares to New York from Rio on TAM. And it was a three day weekend in Rio. So why not have a weekend in New York!
I’d actually been looking on and off for the previous week, and there were some flights on American for a good price, but not direct and coming back at a bad time for me to make work on Tuesday! But the flight prices for the direct flight on TAM, which offered the best times for me to leave after work and be back in time on Monday morning, where always too high. But on Thursday, they came down to under £250 per person, so I jumped in and booked.
This was going to be my first long haul flight on TAM, and I was looking forward to trying it. TAM operate a 767-300 from Rio to New York, as opposed to a 777 from São Paulo normally. For me, the 2-3-2 seating is more comfortable, with 18″ width, and supposedly a 32″ pitch. The business also has a 2-2-2 fully lie flat product, unlike the 777 2-3-2 angled flat.
When I came to seat selection, slightly less happy on the outbound! The only two seats I could get (not quite) together where the middle 2 seats on the very back row, one on each aisle. Fortunately, when we boarded the middle passenger never arrived, giving us the row of three seats to ourselves. For the return, we secured two middle seats on row 14, the third row of the economy cabin.
Our outbound flight was due to leave at 23:30, but was delayed around one hour.
Sitting on the back row, I did notice the crew rest area seats, the two window seats on each side of the last row, looked a fairly nice premium economy product, with a big recline and foot rest. Whether they ever sell these seats, I don’t know. They do have a Comfort+ seat, which is the front row of economy basically, and a premium rate for the exit row seats.
Now I did think I took some photos… but it seems something went wrong, as I can’t find them at all!
The entertainment system was fairly intuitive, and had a decent movie selection, including one I really wanted to see – Inside Out! Normally I travel with my own headphones, but they very recently developed an issue so I left them at home this time. Unfortunately the included headphones were absolutely awful! I went through three pairs to find one with both ears working. Very cheap, and barely loud enough to be heard over the noise of the plane.
Being the back row, the seat recline wasn’t perfect, not quite as much as on the return flight. However, having the whole row meant we could spread out a bit.
The service itself was fairly decent for an overnight flight. One thing that impressed me was having real metal cutlery and glasswear in economy. They also serve wine from the bottle, rather than mini bottles. The wine was nothing special, but drinkable. The food also had no options left, but the chicken dish was edible as well. I had no problems getting my glass refilled, as they did three drinks services, before, during and after the meal. I also got a couple of more small glasses later on by walking the very short distance to the galley behind me!
The return flight, also a night flight, was very similar. It left New York at 18:30 on time, and arrived 15 minutes early. Good job, as GIG was chaos at immigration with 3 planes arriving at once! Both crews were friendly, the service ok, and overall a comfortable economy flight that was definitely ahead of my experience on my recent Air France A330 in comfort and entertainment system. AF probably have the edge of food and wine quality (they do have champagne, even if it isn’t great!).
Two redeye overnights, a busy weekend seeing New York and some friends, then straight back to work. A very fun impromptu weekend!
I will definitely fly TAM again, but end on a note of warning. Despite being a fully paid discount economy ticket, the ticket came through with booking class ‘O’. American Airlines pay miles on this class, but it seems BA do not. I had credited my Executive Club again, expecting to get something, and was very disappointed to not get anything. However, I have some hope that the O class seems to be know fro the 1st October according to the AA website. Before the 1st, O didn’t seem to exist, and got no credit on AA either. Now it does… I’ve contacted BA, so will wait and see.
I have had a mixed experience getting miles from TAM on domestic flights. I’ve had expensive fares get a booking code that earns nothing, and dirt cheap fares getting a booking code that gave me full fare economy tier points. The code you get booking the fare price really does seem to vary!