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 I’d originally made it easy on myself by booking a one-stop flight: Memphis to Chicago on United and Chicago to Vienna on Austrian Airlines.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
LO 2 ORD-WAW
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.
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.