LOT Polish Airlines, Business Class – Embraer 195: Warsaw to Zürich

It’s just coming up to 16h by the time I enter the terminal building. The airport is very busy, and there are people everywhere. I make my way to the LOT Business Class lounge, which is one floor up from the public airside area.

I think the place is probably cramped at the best of times, but right now it’s also completely full. It doesn’t look at all inviting. I don’t even bother to look for a place to sit, because I have a much better idea anyway…

So instead I head one floor down again to the foodcourt, which is where I spot just what I’m looking for: a Polish restaurant that also serves Pierogi. It’s basically just a fast food joint. But the Pierogi are just so good, covered in fried onion and served with a healthy dollop of sour cream!

With that out of the way, I make my way to gate 32. There’s a slight delay for boarding. And the flight is completely full, the gate agent says.

There are seven rows of seats ahead of the cabin divider. This aircraft is clearly older than the one I had on my way to Warsaw on Sunday. But it’s still a nice looking cabin and the seat pitch is great.

Again there are no welcome drinks, but the crew hand out chocolate biscuits, followed by Polish and English language newspapers.

The crew on this flight are a lot more pleasant and approachable. The purser is a portly, middle-aged gentlemen and he’s very friendly.

The flight time is announced as one 1 hour and 45 minutes, although in actual fact it later turns out to have been only 91 minutes.

The service in Business Class is slightly different to Premium Economy, in that there is a drinks service ahead of the meal. I just have a glass of sparkling water, which is served with dried slices of veg in a cajun spice mix. Not a good combination…

Next, the tray with the food is served. It looks pretty much like the Premium Economy tray, except of course that the plates are not plastic.

The right dish is quinoa with aubergines, spinach and feta cheese. I think.

The left dish is roast beef with feta and broccoli and bell pepper. It’s good that I had the Pierogi.

With the meal the crew offer bread from a basket. It’s just a minor thing, but I’m quite sure it wouldn’t hurt to warm up the bread in the oven to upgrade it from recently defrosted to at least room temperature.

The flight passes smoothly. The crew have kept the cabin lights dimmed, which makes for a nice, cosy atmosphere on board.

Eventually, we land at 19h56. By 19h15 I’m already on the train on my way home.

And that brings to an end my first experience with LOT. All in all, the four flights I took were not unpleasant. And I think the hardware – things like seat comfort or the meal service – were fine. Bu the crews were a bit of a mixed bag. And as a result, the service delivery lacked consistency. I wouldn’t go out of my way to fly LOT. But at least I wouldn’t actively avoid them either.

LOT Polish Airlines, Business Class – Embraer 175: Rzeszow to Warsaw

LOT Polish Airlines Logo. (PRNewsFoto/LOT Polish Airlines)

One of the things I enjoy about my job, is that everywhere I go, people go out of their way to make me feel welcome. And Rzeszow is no exception. But it’s probably still a good thing I’m leaving today, because I seriously could get used to Polish food. As far as I’m concerned, Pierogi Ruski are the epitome of comfort food and deserving of a Nobel prize!

Uber does not have a licence to operate in Rzeszow. Instead, a similar service is provided by Bolt. And to be honest, I think I like their app better than Uber’s, because it’s easier to use.

In any case, the journey from Rzeszow to the airport will take between 20 and 30 minutes, depending on a range of variables, such as traffic or your driver’s maniacal inclinations.

Fortunately, the latter does not appear to be a concern with my driver. And so we make the journey in pleasantly civilised 25 minutes and without putting at risk the lives of the inhabitants of the Subcarpathians.

Apparently, there is also a bus to the airport. But unless you speak Polish, information about the schedule may be hard to come by.

The terminal is a modern building on three levels with a domed ceiling.

Arrivals and departures are both on ground level, with the airside area located on the upper floor. The airlines that operate to Rzeszow – namely LOT, Ryanair and Lufthansa – have their own dedicated counters. Check-in doesn’t open until 90 minutes before departure though. So don’t be too early!

LOT has a dedicated check-in line for Business Class and status card holders. But this is also still closed when I arrive.

There are a few places to eat, both landside and airside. Alas, none of them serve Pierogi. But the potato pancakes with sour cream help to console my disappointment…

Incidentally, there’s a HolidayInn Express just across the road from the airport.

And… there’s even an open air viewing gallery. Now if only there just a bit more traffic!

Security is very pleasant. It’s just me, and for a change the staff seem glad to see me. The airport is so quiet, they must be bored to tears most of the time!

Much to my surprise, there’s even a lounge, which is small but serves its purpose perfectly.

When I enter, there‘s one person in the lounge. He’s obviously on the Munich flight, which has just started boarding, and seems determined to do that I’m-way-too-cool-to-board-first thing. Now if only he would stop pacing up and down checking the gate situation. It kind of spoils the effect.

There’s a large tv screen showing the news. I can’t understand a word of what’s going on, but I still enjoy listening and trying to figure out the Polish language. But the lounge attendant obviously mistakes my baffled expression with dissatisfaction – and promptly switches channels to Michael Bolton live in concert. I’m not fully sure that’s an improvement though…

Eventually, Michael gives his last encore. But my reprieve is only short-lived, because next up is a ‘best of the nineties’ medley featuring Brian Adams and the tedious Lenny Kravitz.

Okay, enough’s enough. Okay? ‘Can you feel the love tonight’ has me wanting to hit someone. I’m leaving. This must be worse than waterboarding…

Boarding starts exactly on time. There is a separate queue for status card holders, but there’s no special announcement.

The flight is operated by an Embraer 175. I’m seated on 1A.

The seats on this aircraft are different to those on my flight to Rzeszow. Or maybe they’re just a different colour.

Eventually we depart five minutes ahead of schedule. The flight time is thirty minutes.

We break through the clouds just in time to witness a glorious sunset.

The service is the same as on the outbound leg. This time I have the waffle and sparkling water.

Eventually, we land at 15:35. Shame though that the ground crew are not expecting us. And so we wait for 15 minutes for the stairs and a bus to arrive to take us to the terminal.

LOT Polish Airlines, Economy Class – Embraer 175: Warsaw to Rzeszow

LOT Polish Airlines Logo. (PRNewsFoto/LOT Polish Airlines)

By 21h45 I’ve disembarked my flight from Zürich to Warsaw. I consider visiting the lounge, but it’s only 25 minutes before boarding for the flight to Rzeszow begins. So I figure I might as well head for the gate. Warsaw airport is quite busy at this time of night, especially the non-Schengen area.

Boarding starts at 22h25 with a slight delay. And it looks like it’s going to be a full flight.

Sitting on row 1 on a full flight is difficult, because you’re always holding up the queue. So no photos.

I dump my stuff in the overhead bin and take my seat on 1A. Seat pitch is very good.

On domestic flights LOT doesn’t appear to offer a Business Class service, it’s Economy throughout. Which is fair enough, the flight time to Rzeszow is only 32 minutes.

Even so, that’s still enough time for the crew to pass through the cabin with a basket full of chocolate wafers and sour jelly sticks for passengers to pick from. There’s also a choice of still or sparkling water.

The crew on this flight are more senior Than the previous crew. And possibly also more experienced. Perhaps that’s why they’re a lot more pleasant and far more relaxed about the service – despite the short flight time.

Eventually we land at 23h30. The airport is deserted, save for a Lufthansa Cityline aka Germanwing aka Eurowings aka Let’s-see-what-they’ll-come-up-with-next Bombardier Regional jet which has also just landed.

The airport is very small and easy to navigate through. Once I’m landside, I grab a taxi into town. There are no more busses this time of day.

Uber has no licence to operate in Rzeszow. But instead there’s Bolt, which is pretty much the same thing.

LOT Polish Airlines, Premium Economy – Embraer 195: Zürich to Warsaw

The international phonetic alphabet was introduced specifically to be able to have a written representation of what a word sounds like, irrespective of the rules of orthography that abide in the language.

Which is, of course, a good thing because I’m on my way to Poland this evening to give a course, and the Poles seem to have quite an unhealthy obsession with impossible to pronounce consonant clusters.

I mention this here, because today I’m on my way to Rzeszow. And in case you’re wondering, it should be pronounced something like /ʒɛʃuf/ in the IPA, which sounds similar to ‘jeshoof’...

I was intending to take the 17h07 train from Basel to Zürich. But that service is operated by a German ICE train that originates in Germany. And of course it’s been cancelled…

So instead I’m on the 16:43 service, which stops in Liestal, Sissach, Aarau and Lenzburg on the way. The journey is ten minutes longer than on the nonstop train.

In Zürich I change trains to the 18h05 for the airport. As my luck would have it, second class rolling stock is currently in short supply, apparently, which is why the train consists of plush, comfortable first class carriages operating as second class carriages.

LOT is located in check-in 2 at Zürich airport and uses row 5, which is conveniently located on the mezzanine level, just as you come off the foot bridge connecting the shopping mall to the terminal. AAS is LOT’s handling agent.

By the time I change some Polish money and make my way through security, it’s 18h30. My flight should start boarding at 19h25. The lines for security are very light. And there are just three people ahead of me.

And the two lines open for Business Class passengers are deserted. So I ask one of the employees milling about if I could also use one of those two lines, considering they’re empty. To which she gives me her best disapproving look, or maybe she’s just constipated, and tells me that if I’m in that much of a hurry, I may use one of the empty lines.

This is just about the dumbest thing I’ve heard in a long time. I don’t know in what parallel universe there is anybody who greatly enjoys queueing for security at airports…

My flight is departing from A86. The departure time comes and goes, but the gate staff are too busy bitching about what a sad airline LOT is to even bother making an announcement.

Eventually, boarding starts about 15 minutes behind schedule.

My first impression of the cabin is very good. I think this aircraft is either new or recently had a new cabin fitted. Seats are in a soft, beige coloured leather and the seat pitch on 3A is excellent.

What I don’t understand though, is that my seat on 3A is in front of the cabin divider, even though I’m travelling on a Premium Economy Class ticket. And the seat next to me is empty, although I don’t know if this is intentional or just that the flight is not entirely full.

By way of a welcome, passengers up front are handed a chocolate biscuit, but no drink.

The flight time is one hour and 35 minutes.

Once the meal service begins, the small differences between Premium Economy and Business Class start to become clear. But they seem fairly minor to me. Rows 1 and 2 have proper linen table cloths, whereas row 3 does not. Furthermore, my meal is served on reusable plastic, and not on proper porcelain.

The meal consists of two dishes. One is a pasta salad, and the other is cold beef with cucumber and a cream cheese.

Bread is offered with the meal. And there is also a small chocolate on the tray.

To drink I have sparkling water, and after the meal some tea. The meal concludes with a chocolate wafer.

All in all, I think the food is rather good and the meal tasty. But the service seems unnecessarily rushed. By the time the crew come through with the second bread service, I haven’t even started on the first piece. They don’t smile much either!

Having said that, once my tray is removed, one of the cabin crew brings me a pillow and blanket, without me even asking for them.

Eventually we land at 21h36, 14 minutes ahead of schedule. My flight to Rzeszów will start boarding at 22h10.

This was my first flight with LOT and to be honest, I’d been expecting much, much worse. But so far so good…

KLM, Business Class – Boeing B 737-700: Amsterdam to Warsaw

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INTRODUCTION

Goodness, talk about a déjà-vu experience! This morning when I boarded the plane from Basel to Amsterdam I was greeted at the door like a long lost friend. Turns out the layover of last night’s crew was exactly as long as mine! Later on when I arrived in Amsterdam, we touched down on runway 18C, as we did when I arrived from Lisbon fifteen hours previously.

So here I am. This evening I’m off to Warsaw to give a course with my colleague, the valiant M. In fact, we’ve been more or less each other’s shadows ever since I arrived in Montreal two week ago.

If it’s all the same to you, I think I’ll spare you the details of how I got to the airport and what the Crown Lounge looks like. Instead, let’s begin this narrative just as I board the aircraft.

From: Amsterdam Schiphol
To: Warsaw Okecie
Date: 06. April 2014
Airline: KLM Royal Dutch Airline
Aircraft: Boeing B 737-700
Cabin: Business Class
Seat: 1F, window

BOARDING

I arrive at the gate just as they finish calling out our names. It’s the last call. Strangely, that happens to me quite a bit when I’m travelling with M. and somehow always in Amsterdam. I’m not really quite sure what the hurry is. As we reach the end of the airbridge, there are still people queuing outside. I enter the cabin, only to find that Business Class is completely empty. At least I won’t have to worry about finding place for my luggage.

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THE CABIN

There are two rows of Business Class, with a total of twelve seats for me to choose from. Twelve seats. All mine. Mine alone. I can even take the ‘Reserved for your comfort’ seat if I like! Originally I’m seated on 1A. But there’s a window missing on the left side, so instead I take 1F on the opposite side of the plane.

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THE CREW

The crew on this flight are excellent. Of course it helps that up front we have a ratio of one flight attendant for one passenger. The purser is a friendly, chatty chap and we have a nice little natter throughout the flight, whenever he comes to check on my.

SERVICE

Service beings on the ground with the distribution of the newspapers and a welcome drink. I have a glass of fresh orange juice.

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DEPARTURE

Our departure is from 18L, if I’m not mistaken, and we’re treated to a truly poetic sunset on climb out.

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As soon as the seatbelt sign is turned off, the meal service begins.

THE MEAL

We start with a packet of salted almonds and another orange juice. Next the purser brings me the menu for tonight’s flight. I’m quite impressed to find that there are two options for the hot meal. One is beef and the other is fish. I go with the latter. Before the meal tray is brought to me though, I am handed a hot towel.

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The meal consists of:

  • cucumber gazapcho with diced tomato

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  • a seasonal salad with mozzarella cheese and bell peppers

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  • pan-fried salmon and tilapia with lemon butter sauce, vegetable medley and herbed potatoes

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  • pineapple crumble with coconut jelly and strawberry

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  • coffee with Puneslie’s biscuits

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Blimey KLM, that was really excellent. The hot meal is in fact piping hot when it arrives and the flavour of all the dishes is great. The dessert is perhaps a tad too sweet, but I just suffer in silence, all alone in the big empty Business Class…

ARRIVAL

The flight is only 95 minutes long, and before long we’re already descending into Warsaw. Obviously it’s dark by the time we land.

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We decide to take a taxi to the hotel. Beware of the many drivers offering you a taxi as you exit the terminal. These are not authorised providers. It’s best if you queue at the normal taxi stand. We’re staying at the Warsaw Hilton in the centre. The fare from the airport will cost you about 40 Zloty by authorised taxi.

And with that ends another memorable journey with KLM. I think this will be the last report in this series. The return home is with KLM anyway. But if you’ll just give me a week, I’ll have something new and quite unusual lined up.