Tried & Tested

TAM A320 economy class

20 Mar 2013 by Jenny Southan

CHECK-IN I attempted to check-in online the day before but the web page showed that it was not possible to print out a boarding pass. I tried to have it sent to my phone via SMS but this never arrived, so I just waited until I got to the airport to check-in for my flight from Rio to London via Sao Paulo. (I did manage to select my seats though.) Flight JJ3687 to Sao Paulo was scheduled to depart at 2017, but the departures screens in Terminal 2 showed that it was leaving at 2027.

When I arrived at 1740 there were no staff at the business class counter (I was flying onwards from Sao Paulo in business) so headed for the economy zone on the other side. There were five economy class check-in desks (20-24) assigned to TAM and a huge group of people waiting nearby but not actually queuing, so I walked past them and entered the lane. A member of staff checked my passport, stamped it and stuck an “ATT” sticker on the back. I then joined the short line of about eight people who were waiting ahead of me to check-in.

The process was slow considering how few passengers there were, and I was finally seen at 1800. The young man behind the desk seemed rather befuddled, explaining it was only his second week in international departures. This probably explained why he hadn’t noticed I was flying onwards in business and almost forgot to priority tag my suitcase (I had to ask him to), and when I asked if my pre-ordered vegetarian meal had been booked he said he didn’t know and I’d need to speak to one of his colleagues in the business class zone. I was then issued with two paper boarding passes and my case through-checked to London.

Over at the business class desk, I explained my query about the meal to another member of staff – she also seemed confused too and I had to repeat the question three times. She then walked off, leaving me waiting for 15 minutes until she returned, saying that she had spoken to her manager and my request had been sent to Sao Paulo.

I then walked the short way to domestic security where boarding passes were checked. There were only a couple of other passengers ahead of me and no need to take liquids out – only computers and iPads – so I was airside in a matter of minutes, at 1830.

BOARDING My flight was to depart from Gate 28, and boarding at 1937. The process actually started at 1920 – I joined the line at 1925 and had my boarding pass checked before crossing an airbridge to the plane.

THE SEAT I was in my seat, 3A, by 1940. This single-class A320 is configured with economy class seats in a 3-3 (A-B-C, D-E-F) layout. Click here to see a seat plan. They are upholstered in beige with red and green-striped fabric, and red material with grey spots, and arranged in an alternating fashion. There are shared screens overhead and one large one embedded in the bulkhead at the front.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? It is best to sit near the front of the plane so you can board and disembark quickly. Avoid middle seats B and E if you are travelling alone. Rows 12 and 13 are by emergency exits so offer extra legroom. Avoid sitting in row 29, at the back, and aisle seats in rows 27 and 28 as people may be queuing for the washrooms next to you.

THE FLIGHT The flight time was expected to be 45 minutes and a safety demonstration was aired on the overhead screens at 2015. The aircraft pushed back at 2020 and take-off was at 2030. The flight was very quick, with just enough time for free Coke, water and biscuits to be handed out while airborne.

ARRIVAL The A320 landed at 2113. There was a minor delay as we waited for some steps to arrive at the stand but passengers were soon disembarked from the front to an awaiting transfer bus and driven to the terminal by 2140.

THE TRANSFER As I was transferring to London flight JJ8084 at 2340, I asked several members of staff where to go and was given various incorrect sets of directions. In the end, I made my way up to international check-in, then through security by Zone A.

There was no sign-posted fast-track lane but a member of staff directed me ahead of several people so I was quickly seen to. The security area was almost empty – liquids and laptops came out and my bag was given a light manual search when my Dictaphone raised suspicion. There was then a five-minute wait at passport control before I was able to head upstairs to the lounge.

VERDICT A good short-haul service that landed on time. The crew were friendly and efficient but it was a little confusing making the transfer on arrival as nothing was clearly sign-posted.



SEAT PITCH 29-30in/73.5-76cm

SEAT WIDTH 17.5-19in/44.5-48cm



Jenny Southan

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