Having lost my direct Monarch flight I felt fortunate to find another with TAP even though it took nearly twice as long by connecting at Lisbon. I similarly felt fortunate when on board the plane as decent food and drink arrived and were served efficiently - a little expensive as the flight had cost me £180 more than the Monarch flight but needs must.... Arrival in Lisbon also good with no problems moving around the airport/through security again. Then it all went pear shaped!!! Strong winds in Madeira were affecting flight availability and while I have no argument with the safety concerns which led to the delay and eventual cancellation of my flight I was distinctly unimpressed with the service support offered to passengers.
My flight was due to leave at nearly midnight so we were called to the gate at the usual point in advance and asked to stay there although delay announcements were being made every 15-20 minutes. At 00.30 these stopped but there was no announcement of cancellation either verbally or on the display. Various individual passengers sought information from the staff who were still at the gate and were spoken to individually - what a stupid way of handling things. The result was that when the cancellation was finally confirmed all of the local hotels were fully booked and TAP had none on retainer so simply told passengers to make their own arrangements and submit receipts for an allowance of E60 pppn - bad enough if you are in a couple or party but completely useless if travelling solo as I was. There was also no indication of when we should return so I ended up dozing in a chair by the gate overnight and, after much queueing for information and 'focussed discussion' got a flight to Funchal at 4pm on day 2 of my journey. I got a voucher for E10 when they found me a space at 10am on day 2 but had not been offered a drink, food or a blanket overnight. As someone who lives with extensive arthritis I was in a lot of pain but nobody was checking passenger welfare. Imagine my horror when I discovered that some of the passengers waiting around had been there for 48hours!!! With just a 7 day break in the offing I was almost ready to come home.
On the way back a member of TAP staff was wandering around passengers at the gate in Lisbon (about 4pm) asking if anyone could travel the following day for the dubious reward of a hotel overnight and E400 - but travelling via London and not direct to Manchester!!!!!
The flight staff were very good, helpful, polite and efficient but the ground staff were tardy opening the information desks, had just one operator to start with, mismanaged the enormous queue of people who were mostly trying to get to Funchal and generally did not help the situation. I did not even try the phone line as talking to several other passengers they had got zero result from doing so except 'we don't know'. Obviously the weather cannot be controlled and safety is paramount but that does not mean that good customer service should not be offered.
I hope that next time I want to travel to Madeira someone else will have taken over the Monarch route!!