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LOT Polish Airlines and its North American network

July 24, 2022
7 min read
LOT business lounge
LOT Polish Airlines and its North American network
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Polish flag carrier LOT is marking the 50th anniversary of its first nonstop flight to America by strengthening its commitment to the transatlantic market. Five decades ago, on May 17, 1972, one of LOT’s long-range Ilyushin Il-62s landed in Chicago for the first visit by a Polish airliner to the United States.

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In addition to the Windy City, LOT’s North American flight program would soon grow to include New York and Toronto.

So, rather remarkably, even at the height of the Cold War, LOT provided the large Polish communities in those three cities with a direct link to their country of origin. Those flights would later be temporarily suspended following political unrest and the imposition of martial law in Poland in the early 1980s, however.

(Photo courtesy of LOT Polish Airlines)

Fast forward to 2022 and LOT’s North American network has grown to five destinations in the U.S. — New York, Newark, Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles — plus Toronto in Canada.

What’s more, LOT expanded its transatlantic network not just on the American side, but also back home. Flights to the U.S. depart not just from its main hub at Warsaw Chopin Airport (WAW), but out of Krakow, Poland’s second-largest city. Additionally, during the summer season, flights depart from Rzeszow in eastern Poland. Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport (RZE) made headlines recently as it has become a major transit point for refugees, as well as for humanitarian and military aid going to Ukraine.

“Due to high demand from the large Polish community, we’re also flying from Krakow to Newark and Chicago and from Rzeszow to Newark,” explained Krzysztof Moczulski, spokesperson for LOT. He spoke with TPG about the airline’s long-haul program and its reactivation following the long pandemic hiatus.

The choice of Krakow and Rzeszow to expand the U.S. network is due to many in the Polish-American community having their roots in the country’s southern regions. Before the outbreak of the war last February, LOT was also getting quite a lot of traffic from neighboring western Ukraine.

LOT’s long-haul services are operated by its 15-strong Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet (composed of eight B787-8s and seven B787-9s).

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The B787-8s, of which LOT was the launch operator in Europe, are fitted with a three-class, 252-seat cabin, featuring 18 business-class seats, 21 premium economy-class seats and 213 economy-class seats. The larger B787-9s have 294 seats, also in a three-class arrangement, with 24 business-class seats, 21 premium economy-class seats and 249 economy-class seats.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, LOT launched flights from Warsaw to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Dulles International Airport (IAD), but those short-lived routes didn’t have time to consolidate. They were discontinued shortly after their launch, as the whole world was going into lockdown. They haven't been reinstated yet, but this may change in the not-so-distant future.

“We’re now focusing on rebuilding traffic on our trunk routes, but we’re also eyeing possible options in the S23 season,” clarified Moczulski.

This isn't the only expansion project that hasn’t fully emerged from the pandemic.

In 2018 and 2019, LOT looked to expand beyond Poland’s borders, setting up a secondary hub at Budapest Airport (BUD), which had lacked a locally based full-service carrier since the demise of Malev in 2010.

The plan called for the launch of a dozen routes out of the Hungarian capital. Some of them were within Europe, but also to New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), Chicago's O'Hare International Airport (ORD) and Seoul's Incheon International Airport (ICN). LOT even based one of its Dreamliners and three Embraer E195 aircraft in Budapest to that end.

A LOT Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. (Photo courtesy of LOT Polish Airlines)

Three years and a pandemic later, only New York and Seoul remain in LOT’s Budapest network, in addition to the link to the airline’s main hub in Warsaw.

There hasn’t been any indication that LOT plans to reactivate its Budapest hub anytime soon, but at a minimum, the New York and Seoul links are here to stay. The airline’s spokesperson confirmed to TPG that, for the time being, there are no plans to cut capacity on those two routes.

Parallel to its interest in North America, LOT had also set its sights on Asia and the Middle East. This eastern expansion, though, may be curtailed by geopolitical events in Poland’s immediate neighborhood.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent airspace closures have added to the preexisting ban on Belarusian overflights, which means that most of the airspace east of Poland is now off-limits to LOT as well as to all other European airlines.

Up until last February, LOT was flying to five Ukrainian destinations — Danylo Halytskyi International Airport (LWO) in Lviv, Boryspil International Airport (KBP) and Sikorsky International Airport (IEV) in Kyiv, Odesa International Airport (ODS), Zaporizhia International Airport (OZH) and Kharkiv International Airport (HRK) — in addition to Sheremetyevo International Airport (SVO) in Moscow and Pulkovo Airport (LED) in St. Petersburg, Russia. All are now discontinued.

Flights between Poland and Asia must now take a long detour south, which adds five to six hours to each rotation. This has not deterred LOT, which, in addition to the aforementioned link between Budapest and Seoul, continues to operate its flights out of Warsaw to Tokyo; Seoul; Tianjin, China; Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan; Delhi, India; Mumbai, India; Colombo, Sri Lanka; and Dubai.

(Photo courtesy of LOT Polish Airlines)

“Our long-haul network is also fed by flights from Central and Eastern Europe region — thanks to the good minimum connection time and convenient size of Warsaw’s airport this is a very good option to cross the pond,“ added Moczulski when highlighting that, in Warsaw, travelers can connect to LOT’s extensive European network.

Travelers can earn and redeem miles on LOT through the Miles & More program, as well as through loyalty programs in the Star Alliance, of which LOT is a member. As TPG reported recently, there are quite a few business-class awards available.

Here is the outline of routes to North American destinations operated by LOT this summer, with the corresponding frequency.

From Warsaw Chopin Airport (WAW):

DestinationWeekly frequency
John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)11
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)5
O'Hare International Airport (ORD)10
Miami International Airport (MIA)3
Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)7
Toronto Pearson Airport (YYZ)12

From Krakow Airport (KRK):

DestinationWeekly frequency
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)1
O'Hare International Airport (ORD)4

From Rzeszow-Jasionka Airport (RZE):

DestinationWeekly frequency
Newark Liberty International Airport (EWR)1

From Budapest Airport (BUD):

DestinationWeekly frequency
John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK)3
Featured image by Kamil Andrukowicz/LOT Polish Airlines
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points on Restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
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    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months.

    Earn 60,000 points
  • Annual Fee

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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
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Why We Chose It

There’s a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It’s been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you’re hitting the skies soon, you’ll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there’s no reason that the foodie shouldn’t add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x).
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  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months.

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories.
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits.
  • Few travel perks and protections.