Flying a Month-Old Dreamliner: LOT Polish's Biz Class on the 787-9
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Each time I fire up United.com to search for an award flight to or from Europe, there's one airline in particular that appears more often than not: LOT Polish Airlines.
Poland's flag carrier is without a doubt one of the most generous Star Alliance airlines when it comes to releasing premium-cabin award space, but with a 2-2-2 arrangement in business class and a requirement to backtrack a bit (by first flying from Western Europe to Warsaw) to get home, I hadn't been especially eager to give LOT a try.
That is until a flight appeared that worked perfectly with my schedule, getting me home from Bergen, Norway (BGO) on exactly the right day — and in a lie-flat seat, no less. No matter what, I knew the experience couldn't have been more disappointing than JT Genter's recent premium-economy flight from Chicago.
Aeroplan offers the most reasonable Star Alliance business-class redemptions to and from Europe, so I'd consider booking through that program. Expect a one-way award to cost 57,500 miles, plus about $50 in taxes. Note that Aeroplan isn't currently displaying LOT award space on its website, so you'll need to search for availability on United's site and call 800-361-5373 to book your ticket.
I decided to book via United at 70,000 miles, because the airline's 1K desk has been especially helpful in the event of a delay or cancellation in the past. However, things didn't go quite as smoothly this time, as you can read about here.
If you're looking to book a similar flight through either Aeroplan or United MileagePlus, it's fairly easy to amass points in either program. Aeroplan is a transfer partner of American Express Membership Rewards, which means you can earn the miles required for this one-way flight simply by earning the sign-up bonus on the The Platinum Card® from American Express, which is currently offering 60,000 Membership Rewards points after you spend $5,000 within the first three months of account opening. If you'd rather book through United, consider signing up for a card like the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which is offering 60,000 Ultimate Rewards points after you spend $4,000 within the first three months of account opening.
Had I decided to pay cash, I could have purchased the one-way flight from Warsaw (WAW) for about $1,950, which isn't terrible for business class.
Airport and Lounge
With my delay, I ended up getting to Warsaw around 12:30pm. I grabbed an $8 Uber to Old Town, spent an hour exploring and eating lunch there and then made my way back to the airport.
Business-class passengers have access to a separate check-in area — it was almost entirely empty, as was the "LOT Business Class Meeting Point" around the corner.
WAW offers special screening as part of the Star Alliance "Gold Track" program — business-class passengers and Star Alliance Gold members can access a speedy security checkpoint, which was almost entirely empty as well.
It was my first time in Warsaw's airport, and I have to say I was impressed. It'll never crack the list of Most Beautiful Airport Terminals, but it's not an awful place to spend a layover.
There was even a small area set aside for kids, complete with a LOT plane to play around in.
I headed straight for LOT's business-class lounge, which is also accessible to LOT elites and Star Alliance Gold members traveling in economy.
The lounge was large, but also fairly crowded.
There were a couple of different seating areas, including these pretty slick cocoon-like hanging chairs.
The lounge even has a spa with free treatments! But unfortunately it's closed on the weekend.
I asked to take a shower, instead — after a roughly 20-minute wait I was handed a key and told to head to the men's room, where I expected to find a bank of showers. Instead, it was just a single tiny stall — hardly larger than a regular toilet stall, in fact. And it didn't feel especially clean, either.
After what was easily my worst airport shower experience, I headed over to the special "Elite Club Lounge," which is set aside specifically for Star Alliance Gold members.
That section was also crowded, but far quieter than the main lounge.
There was also an entirely empty rest room — since I couldn't get the Wi-Fi to work at all, that's where I would have chosen to hang out if I'd had more than a couple of minutes to kill.
I arrived just as a chef (or someone dressed as a chef) was restocking the hot items, so they were especially fresh.
There were a mix of Polish dishes, along with some Chinese-style noodles.
The same items are available in the main lounge as well, so you're not missing out on too much if you can't get in.
There's a smaller, third-party lounge located near the international gates, but I found it to be fairly underwhelming, and I couldn't get the Wi-Fi to work there, either. I'd definitely spend most of your time in the main LOT lounge, instead.
After a few minutes there, I headed to our gate. We ended up with a rolling delay due to thunderstorms, but boarding began after a 30-minute wait.
I was at the very front of the line, and boarded first, since I was hoping to snap some photos of the empty cabin. Something was wrong with my boarding pass, though. After a fair amount of confusion, one of the gate agents concluded that I had been selected for secondary security screening, and sent me to a designated checkpoint a few feet away. I wasn't on their list, so the screeners had me wait while they figured out what was going on. Eventually they decided to screen me anyway and then sent me back to the gate, where I was one of the last to board.
Cabin and Seat
LOT operates a total of eight 787-8 Dreamliners, with 18 seats in business class, in addition to three much newer 787-9s, with 24 biz-class seats, which I happened to be flying. My aircraft, SP-LSB, was one of the newest additions to LOT's fleet, having been delivered just a month earlier.
Since my neighbor had already made herself at home by the time I boarded, I wasn't able to snap a picture that included both my seat, 4A, and 4B.
4E and F were still empty, though, so I snapped a picture of those two seats — they're on the starboard side of the plane, but they're otherwise identical to where I was sitting.
These particular seats offer little in the way of privacy, as I also experienced on Turkish's A330 and Air India's 787. There isn't a slide-out divider, and they're exposed to the rest of the cabin. 4A and 4F seem to offer the most privacy, since they're right up against the window with a bulkhead wall behind. I didn't find the galley noise to be disturbing, either, even though that had been flagged on SeatGuru.
Our 787-9 had the standard Dreamliner lavatories — they're a bit too small to comfortably change clothes, but they're otherwise serviceable. There were three accessible to business-class passengers, including one behind the cockpit and two more alongside the galley at the rear of the cabin.
While I would have preferred a more private design, especially on a brand-new 787, I always enjoy flying on a Dreamliner — especially when I manage to snag a seat against the window.
The electronic-dimming windows are definitely the highlight — I was able to look out my window throughout the flight without disturbing my neighbor.
Aside from the lack of privacy, I was also disappointed in the amount of storage space — aside from a compartment underneath the ottoman, the only spot to keep my phone and camera were on top of the wired IFE remote (which, thankfully, was removable).
The seat controls were a bit funky, too, but easy enough to figure out.
I had no trouble reclining, or enjoying a snooze in the full lie-flat mode!
Amenities and In-Flight Entertainment
Waiting at my seat was a sealed package with a pillow and blanket, along with an amenity kit.
The amenity kit wasn't terribly exciting, but it did have all of the essentials, including a dental kit, toothpaste, lotion, an eye mask, ear plugs, and — most important of all — disposable socks.
LOT also provides headphones, but they're just awful. I wouldn't even bother taking them out of the wrapper.
The seats have phenomenal pitch, but that also means that the 15-inch in-flight-entertainment system appears especially small when you're leaning back in your seat.
The selection was decent, though, and the interface felt modern and fast.
There was a solid mix of new releases and international films, including a section focused on Polish cinema.
There were a handful of TV shows to choose from, as well, but only individual episodes, rather than entire seasons.
The moving map worked well, and was fairly interactive.
I also loved that I could keep an eye on our position via the touchscreen remote as I watched a movie on the main display.
The remote was a pain to use otherwise, though — the screen wasn't very responsive, and with the main display so far away, selecting programs there required quite a bit of effort.
I was also bummed to find that LOT doesn't offer Wi-Fi on its 787s. Boo!
Food and Beverage
Shortly after boarding, I was offered a choice of beverage and went with Champagne. LOT serves Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve, which I wasn't familiar with, but it tasted just fine.
Moments later I was served a surprise amuse bouche, which the flight attendant described as "cheese." It was a little unusual, but entirely edible.
I decided to move on to red wine after takeoff, but I wasn't served until nearly an hour into the flight. The menu listed a fairly comprehensive selection, including three reds, three whites, a rose and a port wine, in addition to a Polish beer and a diverse selection of liquor, plus juice, soda, coffee and tea.
Things started moving a bit more quickly after that, with my roasted chicken breast appetizer and seasonal salad appearing about 15 minutes later. The chicken was a bit overdone, unfortunately, and the salad wasn't the most fresh.
My entree pick of goose filet in peppercorn sauce with rosti potatoes, red cabbage and caramelized apples was served an hour and 40 minutes in. The duck was very flavorful, but it was overcooked, as were all of the veggies. LOT was also serving grilled beef tenderloin and roasted perch, but I was happy with my selection, even though the meat was a little tough.
Dessert was served about two hours into the flight. The menu referenced a "quick service," in which the entire meal is served "immediately after takeoff." Considering how long the service took, I might opt for that next time, instead.
The dessert was worth the wait though. I had some ice cream and a berry cake. Delish!
Sandwiches and snacks were available after the main meal, but there was plenty more food to come — a second full meal was served about two hours before landing, including a roasted turkey appetizer, shrimp with fennel mousse, lentil-stuffed potato dumplings, fruit salad and a couple of chocolates. It definitely hit the spot!
Did I have the time of my life? No, not at all, but the friendly crew and interesting food and beverage selection did make up for my lousy boarding experience in Warsaw.
I'll still be keeping an eye out for more efficient award options, as I've done in the past, but if LOT business class happens to work with my schedule, I certainly wouldn't avoid booking it. Hopefully I'll have more time to explore Poland, too.