Thursday, 4 April 2019

A Getaway from Asia With LOT Polish Airlines Part 1

Welcome to my first 2019 trip report! 


Introduction 

Its been a while since I last flew out of Asia. When the chance came, it was an easy decision for which airline to choose to fly me to London. LOT Polish came into my mind, why? For the logbook and of course for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The biggest attraction was the airfare, it was ridiculously cheap! It's like something is calling me to come over to Europe. 

At that point of time, the Boeing 737 MAX 8 (Check out my part 3 for more details on this) was still flying and I wanted to fly on this aircraft, so for my return flight, I chose to fly out of Heathrow airport. While for the inbound flight to London, London City Airport and flying the ERJ-190 was a must for me. Do note that the airline flies Warsaw to Singapore route 4 times daily at this point of time. Whether they will continue or increase the frequency remains to be seen, but I believe there should a market for the airline as it codeshares with Singapore Airlines to other destination, convenient for the Polish passengers. 

I will break my flight experience with this airline into 4 parts. 

Part 1: (This trip report - SIN-WAW)
Part 2: (WAW-LCY Click here)
Part 3: (LHR-WAW Click here)
Part 4: (WAW-SIN Click here)

SIN- Singapore
WAW- Warsaw
LCY - London City Airport
LHR - London Heathrow Airport

About this airline 

LOT Polish Airlines is the national carrier of Poland, based in Warsaw. This airline was formed in 1928, making it one of the oldest airlines in the world. Currently, with a fleet of around 70 including the grounded 737 MAX, it flies to 101 destinations. The airline has aircraft on order and while the 787 Dreamliner will be delivered, the issue with the 737 MAX will probably force the airline to extend the lease of the Boeing 737 Classic and NG aircraft. With a number of airlines declaring bankrupt recently, passengers are naturally worried that it might happen to them on the smaller airlines. LOT Polish Airlines, for now, looks to be coping well especially with the 737 MAX being grounded. The airline managed to lease a few Boeing 737 mainly the -800 series from other airlines. 

This airline started with a fleet of Junk F.13 and Fokker F.7.The logo that you see on the airline (Above) was picked as a winning entry from the logo competition held in the 1929 period and amazingly it is still in used. 

This airline used to operate Russian aircraft such as TU-134 and IL-62 before operating the likes of the Boeing 737 Classic and the Boeing 767. Today, the airline is operating a modern fleet of the ERJ-175, ERJ-190, Boeing 737-400 (Due for retirement soon), Boeing 737-800, Boeing 737 MAX 8, Boeing 787-8 and -9 Dreamliner aircraft. Will we ever see Airbus aircraft operating in this airline's livery? Never say never!

This is the old livery of LOT Polish airlines, operating this TU-134 in 1978.


Photo: Fred Willemsen

This famous Boeing 767-300ER (below) landed safely without the landing gear, thanks to the professional crew. This accident took place in November 2011.

SP-LPC


Photo: Marc Lehmann

This airline has a few special liveries to promote the airline and its presence in the Star Alliance group. 

The retro livery painted on this ER-175 aircraft 


Photo: Bartosz Kaczmarek

The star alliance livery painted on this ERJ-170


Photo: Gunther Feniuk

The airline's independence livery (Poland) painted on this Boeing 737 MAX 8. One of the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft also features this livery. 


Photo: Yochai Mossi

Website 

You can choose to use either the website or the app available for both Android and IOS. I did my booking on the app and it worked well until to the check-in option. More of that to come. 
For check-in, I had to use the website to do so.

How I booked my ticket


The terms and conditions are stately clearly, no issue at all. For my flights to London, I had a choice to book either through London City Airport or London Heathrow. London City airport is limited due to the capacity of the aircraft. As this route, Warsaw to London City Airport is popular, its better to book this sector in advance. London City Airport only allows smaller aircraft to fly to the airport due to the small size of the airport. It caters to both regional and domestic flight. Only 1 international flight to the U.S is used at that airport, British Airways operates the Airbus A318 to New York via Shannon from that airport. 

Originally I chose row 24A for the long haul sector but later on, I decided on 25A which turned out to be a great decision. Read on to find out why. 


Did I pay $45 for the seat? Of course not!


The price of the ticket was the cheapest among all the flights to London. 


I didn't get a choice for my next sector, only aisle seats were available. It was a pity because the view of London is fantastic when landing at London City Airport.


The option to choose the type of airfare for the Economy Class. Many were definitely go for the cheapest option.


For the second leg (Warsaw to London City Airport) - it is guaranteed ERJ-190 equipment. 



Once the booking was done, I received my itinerary. 




I was given a list of flights to choose from. I decided on the itinerary below even though it was risky. Flight to WAW with an hour of connecting, that means I would arrive in London around 10 in the morning and the timing was quite ideal for me. Checking on Flightradar24 regarding the arrival time of LO68 flight to Warsaw, a lot of the flights arrived late. Since the connection time was an hour and 15 minutes, if my aircraft arrive late, I would have to wait until the afternoon for the next flight to London. By then flights to London City Airport would have been sold out and I had to settle for the flight to London Heathrow Airport.



At that point, I was checking the airfares and Singapore Airlines was charging me $2K for Economy Class return ticket. This one below was more than 50% cheaper even though with some inconvenience. I save about $1.1K for the inconvenience.


I had to do the check-in on the website, since clicking the check-in option on the application didn't respond.

One thing I love about booking with this airline is I can still make changes to my seat even after doing the online check-in.

I made a few changes before finally settling for 25C. For a long haul flight, I will rather be sitting near the aisle. 




On the day of departure 

I had worked on that day. After work, I met my Aunt for a short while before heading back to my apartment to finish packing. The flight was at 0020 the following day, but I had to get to the airport that night. Checking on what aircraft I would be flying on, thanks to Flightradar24 for the information, I would be flying on the airline's first Boeing 787 in its fleet, SP-LRA. 

I love the layout of Flightradar24's information on the aircraft. The details are impeccable! Well done to that team. (Not doing any sort of promoting over here, but its worth spending to support such a wonderful application)



Spotted it flying, after takeoff from Warsaw Airport.


I reached the airport around 8.30 pm. One disadvantage of taking the public buses to Changi Airport is that you have to follow in sequence (Terminal 3 to 1 then to 2) while some of the services will drop by Terminal 4. For foreigners, it gets confusing. For me, since my flight was based at terminal 2, I did not want to waste my time on the bus ride. I got off at terminal 3 and used the link bridge to connect to terminal 2, way faster. 

Once there, I did the self-check-in at the kiosk before encountering a grumpy and unfriendly staff at the baggage drop-off counter. 

The walkway connecting terminal 2 and terminal 3. 


Self Check-in Kiosk

It is easy to use. You get your boarding pass and luggage tag within minutes. 


The good old terminal 2 



This is where I would be departing from, gate F50 which is close to the concourse. 


I am ready for the 2 flights (almost back to back)! 


My ride to Warsaw: SP-LRA


Photo: Jorge Meneses


Photo: Mark Kwiatkowski

About this aircraft 

LOT Polish's SP-LRA (Owned)
Delivered in November 2012
Configuration: C18 W21 Y213
Engines: 2 X Roll Royce Trent 1000
Line number: 61
Built in Everett (PAE)

Flight route: SIN-WAW


Photo: Karl L Swartz

SIN-WAW - 5,849 miles 

Date of flight: 25 March 2019
Airline: LOT Polish Airlines 
Alliance: Star Alliance 
Flight: LO68
Route: SIN-WAW
Scheduled aircraft: Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
Registration: SP-LRA
Gate: F50
The terminal at SIN: 2 
Seat: 25C (Got the whole row to me) 
Load: 70-80% load factor
Distance: 10324KM
Scheduled departure: 0020
Boarding: 2347
Push back: 0015
Take off: 0033
Scheduled arrival: 0550
Actual arrival: 0614
Take off runway: 02C
Arrival runway: 33

Business Class (Sorry, didn't manage to take any shots of it) 


Same business class seats as Kenya Airways and Royal Brunei (The ones I flew on). You can check out the business class experience I had with Royal Brunei's J class over here.

Photographer: Ido Wachtel


Photographer: PD

Premium Economy 

(Better photo) 


Photographer: PD

Sorry for the blurry photos, I took them in a hurry while exiting the aircraft.

From one glance, it looks cramp. Looking at the legroom space, it doesn't seem much better than Economy Class. Furthermore, I prefer the In-flight entertainment system to be located at the back of each seat. So is it worth upgrading? You be the judge. 



Economy Class 

The cabin looks presentable and nice but when I took a closer look, it looks pretty worn out. The overhead cabin looks dirty while the color of the dimmed window control is peeling off. Stains on the carpet and seat and other small issues caught by my eagle eye. 

For Polish Airlines, electronic devices can be used throughout the flight just as long as it is in flight mode. Cabin crew were professional, they did a lot of checks before take-off and landing. 


I like the color combo of the seat and the headrest.


Every seat is provided with a blanket and pillow. The earpiece is found on the small pocket on the back of each seat. 



The airline's logo at the back of the first Economy Class cabin 


The view from my seat 


Last row of economy class for the first section of Economy Class. This was one of the unpopular seats as it is located just in front of the washroom.

Row 19 



This is my seat. I was assigned to seat 25C but later on, it turned out the other 2 seats were vacant which means I got the whole row to myself! What a bonus. 



Don't choose the emergency row "window" seat (row 20A or 20J), as you can see, not much legroom space and the seat position is too front of the window, practically making it difficult to view outside.


If you are not into window view, the other seats are great for stretching out your legs. 


The IFE screen and the remote control. The USB charging port is available. 




My seat 

Legroom space was tight. My guess is 31 inch. For a long flight like this, sitting at the window seat with 2 other occupants would make my flight a miserable one.


The useful drink holder


Tight legroom space right? 


Worn out button to control the electronic dimmed window 


What's inside the toilet? 



In-Flight Entertainment System 



This was a problem for me for all 3 systems on my row. The touch screen was problematic. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it couldn't. I was frustrated with the system at times. The remote control also behaved the same way, still, I can't complain especially my legs got to enjoy. 

Look at the photo below, I couldn't see any photo and preview of the movie I want to watch. Fortunately, I was able to watch the movie the only thing that it takes longer than usual to get what I want.



The basic in-flight map - nothing to shout about. 


The earpiece offers decent quality, loud enough to drain out the cabin noise. 


I watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.



Basic interface of this IFE system


A good number of languages offered on LOT's 787 IFE system. Mainly on routes, it flies to. 



What's inside the seat pocket? 

Airline Magazine


The safety card! I was quite exhausted at that point in time.


Disposal Bag


Duty-Free items and snacks available for sale during the flight


What's provided on this flight? 

Blanket and pillow 


Wet tissue, they offered us thrice on this flight. (I apologize for the poor lighting for the photos below)


Just before our first meal, we were given a packet of nuts and a choice of drink, I picked apple juice.


Chocolate snack was distributed during the flight.


This was the first meal of the flight. We had a choice of beef or chicken, I chose the latter. It was pretty decent. 


This was our breakfast, prior to landing. You look the triangle shape, you think its a pizza right? It's actually egg below the pastry. Usual standard airline food. 


In-flight experience 

Boarding the aircraft, I was greeted by 2 cabin crew. My expectation for European and American carriers are low (Sorry, but no offense to my friends from those continents), but was greeted amicably with directions given by the male crew. 

Got to my seat and watched other seats filling up fast and once the purser announced that everyone was on board. I was excited because I got the whole row to myself while the other seats were filled up. There were a few empty seats scattered near the back of the aircraft but mine was the best!

So shifting from my original seat to the window seat. A crew came and took the extra pillow and blanket (packet) and stuff it at the seat pocket of the aisle seat. That was a good thing because that would discourage others from sitting there. 

We boarded early yet pushed back late, no explanation was given but what was important is I don't arrive too late as my connecting flight was just an hour after arriving there (on scheduled time). So fingers crossed there!

Experiencing the longer than usual takeoff roll on the 787 for the first time, the aircraft rocketed into the sky without any issue. Comparing this to the A340-200/-300 series, it puts the 4 holers to shame really. 

The service throughout the flight was normal, nothing to write about. After the first meal finished with the trays cleared. Lights were dimmed and I managed to sleep until we were near the Persian Gulf. That was when the turbulence woke me up. It shook the aircraft like shaking dice in a glass. It got quite intense at one stage, possibly moderate to severe turbulence (somewhere in the middle). Everyone had to sit down including the crew for a good half an hour or so. No announcement from the flight crew regarding the weather on route, so this was a surprise. From my experience, I usually get rocky turbulence across the Bay of Bengal, but not today. We got lighter turbulence from time to time but nothing as bad as this one. By the time we started our descend towards Warsaw, I had developed a slight headache. 

Touched down was smooth and we landed at 0614, slightly over an hour for my connecting flight.  I made it to the airside for the connecting flight with time to spare. Headache was still there and it went away after arriving at my accommodation in London. Will post some photos of my time in London probably on my part 3 of this trip report. 

Window shot photos


My first sight of Poland appeared as we slowed our speed, thanks to the aircraft's spoilers.




This photo below was taken before the descending, you can see the sweptback wings of the 787.




At the gate (Thanks for the safe ride, SP-LRA) I hope your owner would take care of your inside! 


My record flight for any twin jet flown so far: 12 hours 41 mins. I have flown on longer flights but all on 4 engine jets. How about you? 



My rating:

Website/App Experience: 6/10 
Changi Airport: 9/10
Check-in experience: 5/10
In-flight service: 6/10
Cabin interior: 8/10
Cleanliness: 4/10
Aircraft condition (interior): 5/10
Punctuality: 6/10
In-flight meal: 7/10
Seat comfort: 5/10
Overall rating: 62/100 (Average) 

Conclusion

I find the Economy Class seat to be uncomfortable especially after sitting for a while. Even though I had the whole row to myself, I had to change posture from time to time. Something soft for the back would be great. Many have complained about the cramped feeling on the 3-3-3 configuration. It's not fair for me to comment about this but I do agree with them about the discomfort of the lack of space for Economy Class passengers. Shoulder, elbow or legs touching the other party tends to happen often.  For this, I can understand why the A350 is preferred. 

The cabin noise of the 787 is tolerable, quieter than the older generation aircraft such as the A340, Boeing 747 and Boeing 777. Comparing to the A350, the A350 is quieter. I hope to do a long haul A350 flight to compare with the 787.

I will do an overview of my 787 flight experience on part 4, so stay tuned for it!

Meanwhile, I hope you enjoyed this trip report. For part 2, click here.

Thanks for reading!

Charles 

1 comment:

  1. Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular
    post! It's the little changes that produce the greatest
    changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!

    ReplyDelete