TAP passenger describes “nightmare” weekend at Lisbon airport

“Everyone from TAP was just running away as soon as they saw people”

Following last weekend’s ‘horror stories’ of flight chaos in Lisbon, a passenger has been in touch with the Resident to give her interpretation of the gruelling hours of sheer nightmare.

Julia B’s words have been written in desperation, as having finally arrived in Munich two days’ late, she and her travelling companion are without their luggage, and say they are unable to get any help.

“We were supposed to fly home from with TP552 to Munich on Friday evening at 19.25”, she explains. 

“Coming to the airport it said we should have been at the check-in gate by 18.25. But there were still flights from 13.00 on the board at 18.30, so our flight didn’t even appear. More and more people arrived, yet there was no public announcement – just silence for two hours. 

“We learnt about the incident with the private plane (bursting a tyre) over the media…nothing was said at the airport

“At 19.30 when our flight should have already left, we got a gate. When we reached it, there was a sign saying “more information at 21:00”. 

“30 minutes later our flight got cancelled. We went to the TAP counter…the queue was already very long since they had cancelled many flights. But as the hours went past, it became the longest line I have ever seen. 

“People were stealing chairs from the restaurants. The line went from McDonalds through the whole food court, though the whole shopping concourse till the Duty Free Shop. 

“In the morning we met people who had been in that line for 11 hours (!!) 

“With TAP opening two counters, we were almost at the counter when someone came to collect ‘all the passangers for Munich’ and take them to gate s13 on the other side of the airport. It seemed to mean progress, but it turned out to be a trick to get the line shorter. Arriving at the gate, they told us we would get more information and new boarding passes at 23.00. We said we wanted answers “now!” They said “that’s only possible at the TAP counter”…the line they had just removed us from! So we came back at 23.00 and no one appeared. The whole flight was waiting, but no-one from TAP came back. 

“There were pregnant women, a guy with cancer who had all his medicine in his luggage …and whoever we asked, they just sent us away, saying they did have not enough people: we “should go to the TAP counter”. But the line for that was through the whole airport again. So we waited and waited until finally two guys came 00.30. It turns out they wanted to board another flight to Lyon and didn’t even know that there was still a whole flight to Munich waiting to get information… 

“People got desperate, people were crying…it was a nightmare! All the food counters were closed by then and we were stuck with no help.

“The worst in this whole situation was really the lack of communication. No public announcements, no excuses, no explanations, no solutions,…nothing. 

“Everyone from TAP was just running away as soon as they saw people, or telling them they couldn’t do anything. 

“At around 2 am we finally got someone to come and rebook our flights. The next flight was two days later. We were told we could book a hotel for not more than €80 per night, and try and get the money back afterwards. We asked where we could find a hotel at 3am for just €80 on a weekend when the whole city seemed to be full. They said they understood the situation  but there was nothing they could do…

“We asked for at least blankets or pillows. They said they didn’t have any, but we could ask at the TAP counter…Well…i don’t have to say any more…that one TAP counter…no way. 

“So we stayed in the airport with no sleep, freezing cold and with no food, just like thousands of other people. Multiple people from TAP confirmed that at least our luggage was in the system for the new flight on Sunday evening. If we needed it, they said, we could get it at Lost & Found… 

“Well…next morning at Lost & Found it was a similar story: we waited four hours, just to sent away after being told there were not enough people to search for our luggage! There were people whose flights has been completly cancelled. They had no alternative but to find their luggage –  with no help from TAP. To us they confirmed our luggage was in the system for the new flight, so we had to leave the airport after 21 hours, without our luggage, but at least with a new booking reference for Sunday…

“Coming back on Sunday we tried our luck directly at the Lufthansa counter because they were operating the new flight. They were the first ones at Lisbon airport who were extremely helpful. They asked us if TAP had offered us a hotel or help, and were not surprised by our answers.

“Checking our new flight they also said there was no luggage in the system. In other words, multiple TAP employees had simply lied to us. They never rebooked the luggage!

“Lufthansa told us: “Fingers crossed they have enough people to find it”. Well…of course they didn’t.

“We arrived, after another delay of an hour, in Munich with no luggage and no information about the whereabouts of our luggage in any system.

“As far as we know no-one from our original flight received their luggage. And the worst of it is the TAP online formula for people to declare missing baggage is not working” TAP is not responding on any channel. There seems to be no way of reaching them…

“I have been flying with TAP back and forth from Lisbon to Munich for over 10 years… I never imagine something like this would be possible. They left us alone in a complete nightmare… for us we missed the wedding of my partner’s brother. Our friends missed their sister’s wedding. And i don’t know if the man with cancer ever got his medication…yet TAP at no point even said sorry. TAP even seems to have lost all our luggage!

“I hope that in sharing this story an experience like this will never be allowed to be repeated. I also hope it might help the people on our flight be reunited with their luggage. At least that would bring an end to one nightmare…

We are exhausted, desperate, sad and angry. I do not want TAP Air Portugal to get out of this without consequences, to blame the whole incident on a private jet that burst one of its tyres. That one incident cannot possibly be responsible for a complete lack of crisis-management and communication. An airline is responsible for their customers and cannot just leave them with no help stuck in an airport for 20 hours and then loose all their belongings… If they cannot handle those cancellations and rebookings, they shouldn’t be operating at all.

“In desperation, Julia B”.

The Resident will be forwarding this mail to TAP’s press office, and hoping for an explanation to be published accordingly.

UPDATE: Since this story went up online, TAP CEO Christine Ourmières-Widenener has admitted that the airline “is not operating a quality service”. And she has warned that ‘constraints’ (the new ‘buzzword’ used to describe ‘chaos’ and ‘confusion’) are likely to persist for “the coming weeks”. For more on Ms Ourmières-Widenener’s statement, see a new story coming shortly… We have also received a comment from a reader in Torres Vedras:

Fantastic article describing exactly the behaviour that we also know from TAP. Fortunately we didn’t have to suffer consequences to this extent.

“TAP is actually an employment program for Portuguese airline industry staff. A bit like Alitalia was. With the employees feeling protected by the government they feel no obligation towards their clients. Thus we avoid TAP at almost all cost”.

natasha.donn@portugalresident.com