Review: LOT Polish Airlines Chicago to Vienna and Back

I recently had a business trip to Vienna, Austria. I’d originally made it easy on myself by booking a one-stop flight: Memphis to Chicago on United and Chicago to Vienna on Austrian Airlines. About ten days before departure Corporate Travel called to say that my company and Austrian were having a bit of a tiff and I’d have to re-book on a different airline. Well.

The obvious choice would have been to go on Lufthansa but apparently we don’t get good discounts with them and it would have cost several thousands of dollars more. At one point I spoke to a grumpy agent in our travel department who told me there was no way I could get to Vienna on Star Alliance flights and I should just consider flying somewhere like Munich and taking the train. Munich is 4.5 hours away by train so no, I wasn’t going to accept that. I thanked him and went off to do more research on my own.

It would have been nice to take United as far as Brussels and then Brussels Air from there but I would have arrived in BRU too late to take the morning flight and it would have been about a 4-5 hour layover for the afternoon flight.

I ended up booking LOT Polish via Warsaw. I’d never flown LOT, been through the Warsaw Airport or laid eyes on Poland so it seemed like a good fit. As a bonus, our corporate rate was very cheap compared to the Austrian ticket.

My flight from Memphis to Chicago was uneventful. The downside of flying this route on Saturdays is that United only offers 1-cabin service.

Air France/KLM Lounge – Chicago O’Hare Terminal 5

I arrived in Chicago’s Terminal 2 and the LOT flight left out of Terminal 5, which I thought was the international terminal even though I know United does have some of their overseas flights depart from T2. I recalled from a previous visit that the lounges in T5 weren’t great so I went ahead and had lunch at the Cubs Bar & Grill in T3. (As a St. Louis Cardinals fan it’s tough to deal with all the Cubs memorabilia but I managed.) Afterwards I wandered down the G concourse to the end then took the stairs to the lower level. There I found Gate G17 for British Airways and that’s also the place to catch the transfer bus. The nice thing about catching the bus at this location is that it’s the last stop before T5 so after my boarding pass was checked and the bus arrived the 5 or so of us were able to hop right on and go straight to T5.

When we arrived we had to get to the second level via a series of ramps, some of which were a little steep. If mobility is an issue you may want to call the airport and discuss transfers ahead of time. It might be easier to exit security, take the transfer bus to T5 (the train is currently down) and re-clear security there. I was surprised to see gates for Frontier Airlines flights. I hadn’t realized they were located in this terminal.

I think it had been about eight years since I’d been to T5 and it looked like it had been refreshed since my last visit or perhaps I just walked past more gates and restaurants than I did on my prior visit. I arrived at the Air France/KLM lounge which displayed a banner stating they were the lounge for the following airlines in addition to AF/KL: Air India, Alitalia, Royal Jordanian, Etihad Airways, VIP Access Lounge, LOT Polish Airlines. Technically this is also a Priority Pass lounge but it was so busy during my visit that Priority Pass customers were not being admitted.

I checked in and then had to hunt a little for a place to sit. I eventually sat at a hightop bar with charging ports. The room was brightly lit with views on to the tarmac but it was not too hot on this summer afternoon. There was food in the other room but I did not even look at it, having just had lunch. It was far too crowded to take photos though there were certainly lulls between the time one group would leave and the next would arrive. It was a nice place to charge my electronics and use the free wi-fi but I was glad when the time came to head for my gate.

I arrived a little early and was called to counter so they could verify my passport, even though this had been done by UA staff in Memphis. I assumed this was because the LOT flights were on a separate ticket from the United flights.

We began boarding right on time at 16:40 through door 2L.

LOT 2 – Chicago to Warsaw – Saturday, August 24

Boeing 787-8
Departs: 17:25 (scheduled) 17:10 (actual) 17:30 (takeoff)
Arrives: 09:30 (scheduled) 09:03 (landed) 09:11 (at gate)
Duration: 8h 31m (actual)
Seat: 3C Business Class

LOT flies a 787-8 between Warsaw and Chicago on Saturdays. It has 18 business class seats in a 2-2-2 layout. All six seats on row two were taken as were the two right seats on row three. Row one had one window seat and one of the center seats taken. When I booked I didn’t know if anyone might get upgraded so I selected one of the two center seats on row three so at least I would have aisle access. It turned out no one else was in the cabin so I had the two center seats to myself. I used the other one for storing the pillows and blanket and had my phone charging from the port on the other seat. That meant I didn’t have to worry about the cord getting stuck as I adjusted the seat.

LOT 787 Business Class Cabin

LOT 787-8 Business Class Cabin

The seat itself reminded me of the one on the Turkish Airlines A330 I flew from Istanbul to Houston. There’s not a lot of privacy but you don’t feel squeezed into the seat in front of you when change to lie-flat mode.

LOT 787 Business Class Seat

Whereas the ottoman on the Turkish plane was enclosed, here it was basically a shelf but that made the decision of where to store my shoes an easy one. Since there were no overhead bins in the center section it was handy to have a convenient cubby. Waiting for me at my seat were bright blue LOT slippers, which was nice to see. Next to the IFE screen were a couple of compartments where the headphones were stored. This also turned out to be a convenient place to store my glasses while sleeping.

LOT Business Class IFE screen, Ottoman, Legroom and Slippers

The IFE screen is OK for viewing but as a near-sighted person I had a hard time reading the descriptions of the movies and TV shows because the font was so small. There wasn’t an overwhelming selection but I was finally able to see Bohemian Rhapsody while eating dinner. On the return I watched a WW I documentary and some episodes of Big Bang Theory. The flight tracker annoyed me to no end. While I could easily get it to that page, it seemed that once I got set in one view there was no way to change the view with the controller and I had to use the touch screen instead. This was true on both flights with two different controllers. Before watching your first movie or TV show, you did have to sit through a commercial or two but I don’t think that happened again after the first feature.

The amenity kit was a simple zippered pouch with the usual contents. The tube of toothpaste was the smallest I’ve ever seen but, really, who needs more than that?

LOT Business Class Amenity Kit

The seat controls were in the center console and were intuitive.

LOT Business Class Seat Controls

Tucked beside the seat was the IFE controller and a bottle of water.

LOT Business Class Water Bottle and IFE Controller

Before takeoff we were offered a pre-departure beverage and an amuse. I selected orange juice to drink. I don’t know what the amuse was but it was sweeter than I expected and not half bad.

LOT 2 Pre-Departure Beverage and Amuse

Dinner service began about an hour after takeoff, so right at dinner time in the Central Time Zone. The menu:

The service began with a hot towel (not pictured) and a fresh tablecloth. I liked that the airline’s name was emblazoned in white on the linens. I especially liked that the napkins had button holes in them!

LOT Tablecloth

Next was a serving of nuts and a beverage of choice – water in my case.

The lamb first course and the salads were rolled out on a cart. The bread basket was brought around and then my soup arrived. It was quite tasty.

Mushroom Soup and Salad

For the main course I asked the flight attendant about the beef vs. the salmon considering that they both sounded good. She indicated both were sourced in America so I went with the beef. It, too, was quite nice. It won’t win any awards but that’s OK.

Beef entree

I skipped the cheese selection and got the chocolate brownie. It was just the right size to satisfy my sweet tooth without overdoing things calorie-wise. They also had fresh fruit, cheesecake and ice cream available.

Chocolate Brownie (or “cake” as they called it)

I then put on my PJs (brought from home) and tried to get some sleep. I don’t know if it was this particular seat or what but there was an uncomfortable “break” in the chair just where I needed to rest my hip. While I laid down for about four hours I don’t know how much sleep I really got.  I didn’t take photos of the lav but they were quite small.  It was a challenge to change into my PJs.  However, they were kept clean, which I appreciated.

Breakfast service began about two hours before landing and the continental option was presented all on one tray. I skipped the cold cuts but enjoyed the fresh fruit, mixed the muesli into the yogurt and scarfed down the stroopwaffel.

Business class breakfast

We landed nearly half an hour early and business class exited via door 1L while economy exited via 2L.

LOT Business Lounge – Warsaw Chopin Airport

The airport was very quiet at 9 AM on a Sunday morning. After clearing passport control I had a little trouble finding the lounge which was actually one floor above the boarding gates. The lounge wasn’t crowded but at that time of day there were quite a number of folks laying down on love seats taking up two spots instead of one. It wasn’t really an issue because it wasn’t close to full. There were surprisingly few outlets in the sections that had the most comfortable chairs. The food selection was small but I wasn’t very hungry having just had breakfast on the flight. The entire airport was a little on the warm side, something I’d learn to expect from Europe on this trip.

LOT 221 – Warsaw to Vienna – Sunday, August 24

A rather unremarkable flight except that we were on a Q400 turboprop plane and had to ride the bus out to our plane. I was the only passenger in “business class” and did receive a tray of food. While the description didn’t sound exactly appetizing, I found the beef neck was quite tasty when paired with the cranberry cream cheese. I’m not a huge fan of pasta salad as I prefer my pasta warm but I nibbled at it since I didn’t know how long it would be until dinner.

LOT 221 Business Class Lunch

Views on leaving Warsaw.

LOT 222 – Vienna to Warsaw – Friday, August 30

The challenge began at check-in. I arrived more than two hours early for the flight and there was no one at the two counters set aside for LOT. Then when staff arrived they settled in at two different numbered stations even though we were all lined up appropriately at the station numbers that had been shown on the monitor. There was no designation ahead of time as to which station would be handling business class and elite flyers so once all that was settled, we basically had to swap two lines. A bit of madness. The good thing was that my business class ticket got me through the security fast lane. I was surprised to be stopped before I reached the fast lane by a representative of Austrian Airlines who wanted me to weigh my carry-on bags. When they found out I was not flying Austrian or Lufthansa they let me go without weighing the bag. I’ve never had that happen on a Lufthansa flight and the weight was probably fine but that made me feel not-so-bad that my original flight plans had been changed.

After clearing security I walked toward the gate printed on my boarding pass, F26. At that point in time TripIt had not received a gate notification. I thought about trying to find the lounge but by the time I looked for the signs, it appeared I’d passed the lounge. Knowing I was on a small plane and the gate was unlikely to be crowded, I decided just to go ahead and get there so I could find a power port. While seated I got a notification from TripIt that my gate was F22 (I think). A little later I got another notification stating it was now F36. None of these were announced on the PA system. I was thinking about going down to F36 when one of the other passengers came to tell us that we were indeed at F36.

While waiting at F36, which is at the very far end of the F concourse, I was once again called to the counter and my passport verified, even though I had shown it at check-in. This just seems like overkill to me.

The incoming flight was a bit late but we boarded fairly quickly. There were two of us in “business class” and we got our choice of water or juice as a pre-departure beverage. We were served a snack of roast beef and a chickpea salad. As I’d had a late breakfast I wasn’t particularly hungry but did enjoy the beef and the salad even if I didn’t eat all of them.

LOT 222 Lunch

We were a bit late arriving in Warsaw but not too bad. I still had plenty of time to catch my connecting flight. There was a separate bus for business class passengers and elites and since there were very few of us we took off right away.

LOT Business Lounge – Warsaw Chopin Airport – Friday, August 30

The lounge on a late Friday afternoon is much different than on a sleepy Sunday morning. The lounge was extremely busy. The desk agent told me I was eligible for a smaller room in the lounge that was open only to business class passengers. But even in there I didn’t find a place to sit. But since I knew I’d be sitting for 9 hours on the return flight that didn’t bother me too much. There was a small selection of food and drinks in there, in addition to the choices in the main lounge. It was so crowded I didn’t hang around too long.

LOT 3 – Warsaw to Chicago – Friday, August 30

After passing passport control I walked through relatively warm terminal to my gate to find a bit of craziness. I eventually realized there were only two lines: one for business, economy plus and elites and another for everyone else. Fortunately I’d accidentally picked the correct one to stand in.

When it was my turn to have my boarding pass scanned they once again asked me for my passport, which I’d just tucked away. I guess three previous checks that day weren’t good enough? I noticed they weren’t doing that for everyone else so I’m not sure if I just looked shady or what.

Everyone boarded through door 2L and I crossed through the galley and turned left to my center-section seat, 2D.

Boeing 787-9
Departs: 16:40 (scheduled) 17:28 (actual) 17:40 (takeoff)
Arrives: 19:35 (scheduled) 19:54 (landed) 20:10 (at gate)
Duration: 9h 48m (actual)
Seat: 2D Business Class

LOT only runs the 787-8 on Saturdays so my return flight was on the 787-9 which has 24 business class seats instead of the 18 seats on the smaller model. 18 seats were filled on this flight with no set of two seats empty. This plane does have a single small overhead bin in the center section between rows 2 and 3 but by the time I noticed it I’d already placed my bags over the window seats.

The seats and amenity kits were identical to the ones we had on the outbound flight. My seatmate asked about slippers and we were told none were catered for this flight. It made me very glad I’d held on to the ones on the outbound flight!

One thing that was different was the IFE controller. It had a touchscreen that handled a good many of the functions. However I still got stuck on the darn flight map and had to lean up and actually touch the screen to get out of it.

LOT 787-9 IFE Controller

We were just a few minutes late boarding but our departure was further delayed as we awaited passengers from connecting flights. Considering that’s LOT’s only non-stop of the day I know those people were glad we waited for them. However it meant several folks were in danger of missing their connections when we arrived in Chicago. I was glad I had a planned overnight there.

There are no air nozzles at the seat and the plane was pretty warm while we were parked at the gate. Once we finally pushed back things started to cool down and the cabin temperature was fine for the rest of the trip.

The lunch menu read as follows – the beverage servings were the same as the outbound flight so I’ve not included them again:

LOT 3 Dinner Menu

LOT 3 Snack Menu

My meal began with mixed nuts and a Pepsi (yay, a Pepsi plane!)

Next was the salad and for the first course I chose the carrot and sweet potato cream soup, which was quite good.

LOT 3 First Course and Salad

I was a little skeptical when I saw “fried” salmon on the menu but this was not what I’d call “fried” and I found it was quite good. The portion size was just right as well. It came with potato puree, green peas and yellow carrots. I really enjoyed it.

LOT 3 Salmon Entree

The dessert cart was brought around and I asked for something chocolate. This was pretty good though I could have done without so much cherry sauce on it.

LOT 3 Dessert

I watched a WW I documentary while eating. It was pretty graphic in places and it turned out all those years I’d eaten dinner while watching the TV show Bones paid off because I didn’t get the least bit queasy. I then stretched out for a nap and found this seat to be more comfortable than the one on the outbound. Perhaps I’d just had bad luck with the previous seat.

The pre-landing meal was served all on one tray. The duck breast was good and I ate the spinach ravioli and the fruit. That was plenty of food to last me for the rest of the night.

LOT 3 Pre-Landing Snack

We reached the gate at 8:10 PM, I zipped through Global Entry and had my bag by 8:33 PM. Nice job by the ground crew at ORD to get Priority bags out first!

I met up with a friend who lives in the area and she took me over to my home for the night, the Hyatt Place Chicago/O’Hare Airport. It was good to catch up for awhile and even better to sleep in a room with great air conditioning! See my Hilton Vienna review for that story.

LOT was not spectacular but it got me where I needed to go relatively on time and in lie-flat comfort. Transiting Warsaw on a Sunday morning was fine but I’d leave myself plenty of time when connecting at other times of day.

Categories: LOT Polish, Star Alliance | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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