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Hello everyone or Witajcie wszyscy (in Polish),
As we are all pretty much grounded nowadays due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic (and because I've only joined Flight-Report very recently), I decided to post a few reports from my old trips. I am going to do that over several subsequent weeks. I hope you'll enjoy them even though some of the reports will be from a good few years ago. Apologies in advance if you feel the FR is too outdated or it is missing a few details. I'll try to make it best as I can!
This week I am here with a new report, from Summer 2018, of my national airline, LOT. I bought the ticket for this short weekend trip to Vienna only a week before departure, on LOT's Miles&More promo, also called Monday sMILEs* (najMILszy poniedziałek in Polish). The price for return flight to Vienna was 7000 miles + around 20 Euros, a very good value for money (the fare also included checked in luggage). I chose the flights so that I could try out the new 737 MAX 8 on the outbound and the older 737-800 on the return flight, to have a comparison. I was absolutely excited as I heard lots of good things about this aircraft (this was of course when they were still in the air). I would like to say, I am very sorry for the two tragical events of MAX aircrafts and I feel compassion with casualties' families. I hope, 737 MAX will soon return to service to be the safest aircraft in the skies.
* If you don't know the promo, it works like that: every other week LOT posts a list of flights (specific destinations, flight numbers and dates) which you can buy for miles at the discounted price (now it's 10.000 miles for R/T flight in Economy within Europe, 7.000 for regional flights within Poland, 15.000 for Middle East, 20.000 miles for USA, Canada and Asia). All the flight are operated by LOT and are from/to WAW or BUD (sometimes regional Poland's airports like KRK, RZE). The only trick is that the flight normally would be within 1-3 weeks from the purchase date and that you need to book it via the call centre. Otherwise it's an amazing promo, which allows you to save plenty of miles when flying Economy, so definitely worth considering. Unfortunately, the promo is now cancelled until further notice, but I guess as soon as everything will be more or less "back to normal", the promo will return :)
Some flight details:
Flight number: LO223
Route: Warsaw Chopin - Vienna Schwechat (T3)
Flight date: 14th July 2018 (0720 - 0845)
Scheduled flight time: 1:25
Aircraft model: Boeing 737 MAX 8
Aircraft registration: SP-LVA
Seating configuration: CY186
Aircraft age (at the time of flight): 0.8 years
Seat number: 25F
Departure gate: 43 (jet bridge)
Arrival gate: Bus gate in Vienna
I am glad you're joining me on this trip! Enjoy :)
Only 3 or so days before the flight, I did an amazing thing, as my birthday present - namely I tried a "professional" aircraft simulator (B738). For all my readers from Poland, I can with no doubt recommend the place called Flyspot. The guy who runs the simulator is a pilot himself and the whole experience is very realistic! I also had a short conversation about 737 MAX with him, as I knew I'll be flying it 3 days later. He was talking in good words about this airplane at that time.
In the simulator, I flew a short route from FCO to NAP and return. If you come there, to Flyspot with some companions, they can also observe the flight from the outside of the flight deck, on the monitors, which is really nice!
Definitely worth trying.
But now let's come back to my weekend trip to Vienna on LOT's 737 MAX. With my bag packed and ready, I travelled to Chopin Airport which has a really convenient, motorway connection and the journey usually takes 15 mins from my home. As I have already checked in online and downloaded my boarding pass, I only printed the luggage tag in an automatic machine at LOT's check in, in zone D and sent my bag to hold which altogether took no more than 10 mins.
Packed and ready to go, MAX is waiting!
LOT's mobile boarding pass. LOT Polish Airlines offer free seat selection for all economy passengers (in the standard fare - during booking, in the basic fare - at check in). For people who bought the flight with miles (like me, class X), seat reservation is available any time after booking, via call centre or on the net during check in - I chose the latter option. The strange thing is that the system only showed a few seats available at the back of the aircraft, even though, as it will turn out, the load factor will be 20%. Anyway, I picked 25F but in the end I tried several different seats, as most of them were unoccupied :)
Once I left my luggage and cleared security, I spent a little bit of time in the duty free area - which in Warsaw is not too big, but fully comprehensive in my opinion. I bought myself a sandwich in one of the cafes and then proceeded towards my gate 43, far south of the terminal. Boarding started late. I assume, we were waiting for some transit passengers (?), but finally I could enter the jet bridge leading to the lovely 737 MAX. Once on board, I was welcomed by friendly looking crew. The freshness and spaciousness was with no hesitation palpable. There turned out no to be too many people on the flight this morning (LF 20%), so I could swiftly take my seat, 25F. I was actually lucky, they didn't swap the aircraft to an Embraer due to low load :) For some reason we experienced delay on pushback and departure (landing 10 mins late as well). Unfortunately, no information about that from the captain or the crew whatsoever.
Older and younger brothers - 737 MAX 8 vs 737-400.
Sad weather in Warsaw today, but the weekend is supposed to be sunny in Vienna!
Quite a usual departure, from runway 29, towards north. Once airborne, we made a U-turn to the left to be on our way to Vienna. Soon, the fasten seat belt sign was turned off and I could make a short tour through the aircraft.
Getting through multiple layers of clouds on departure. But finally we reach a beautiful sun above them, a really satisfying moment, especially having such an awful weather on the ground.
The cabin of LOT's 737 MAX is nice and the Sky interior is really doing a good job. Although the aircraft is densely packed with 186 seats, the cabin feels spacious. That's partly because of the high ceiling, bigger windows and specific shape of the overhead bins. The cabin was relatively clean but I could spot quite a few scratches on the new seats already. As you can see, there's no divider between businesses and economy, not even a paper informing "LOT economy behind"/"LOT business ahead"! I don't know if you can see it, but there's a really pretty-designed LOT's logo on the front wall (business class bulkhead).
I took a photo from the back on my "tour to the toilet". For some reason they didn't lit the LEDs on the ceiling, the lights were turned off for the entire flight which is a pity. You can also see the very low LF of approx. 20%.
The toilet, unfortunately, is really tiny. At least it was tidy.
Now a quick focus at the seats. I actually really like them! Even though they are a bit narrow, this wasn't a problem really. The legroom I'd say is fine, about 30" and doesn't vary throughout the aircraft (I managed to try multiple seats this morning because of course there weren't too many people). A very big plus for the seats is the extremely soft padding which enhances the experience a lot. Also, I think that the navy leather with blue antimacassars look stylish. Overall, I'd give 8/10 for seats! The one bad thing that turned out to be the case with these seats, is that the armrests are not strong enough and they already started to break down after a few months of usage. I, personally didn't notice that in this particular aircraft.
Notice here that the last row of seats have windows on this aircraft, unlike A320neos from LH or BA.
LOT's logo. I could see they paid attention to details when designing this aircraft interior.
Soon after departure, around 25 mins into the flight, the inflight service started. The crew announced, there is a complimentary light meal for passengers in Business and a small refreshment in Economy where you can also purchase some more stuff from "LOT gourmet menu". What I find really unfaithful is that the crew proceeded first with the paid service and only after that with the free one. This of course increases sales but some passengers might feel "scammed". Speaking of crew, they were OK but nothing special, they didn't stand out. Also I lacked the information about delay on departure. I'd say they weren't really communicative.
The "meal" consisted of a small Polish chocolate bar, Prince Polo, and a glass of water (still/sparkling) or a cup of tea/coffee. Little but enough for me on this short hop (although on longer flights e.g. from WAW to MAD you'd get the same snack). I appreciate the napkin had LOT's design :) Even though the snack was small, it was at least something! And the BoB had very reasonable prices for people still feeling hungry ;)
The inflight entertainment pretty much didn't exist on this flight: no overhead monitors, no WiFi, no streaming, no entertainment app. But this was none of a problem on the short flight like that. The tour through the beautiful cabin was a sufficient entertainment for me. At least, each seat had a universal power outlet and a USB port, so you could keep yourself entertained if you had your own device. The inflight magazine, Kaleidoscope was really good as well. Actually, for me it is one of the best airline's magazines I have read so far, with lots of really interesting articles and not too many ads.
Each seat features a universal power outlet (out of focus in this picture) which is getting more common on intra-European flights, but still is quite rare. I'd say, LOT offers power plugs in nearly all of their aircrafts.
This month, Kaleidoscope recommends a book about gene editing, something of my interest.
My "original seat", 25F had a good window alignment. Another feature of the seat, I haven't yet mentioned is the adjustable headrest. Thumbs up for that.
Soon after I finished my refreshment it was time to start the descent into Vienna. At this point, we were given some kind of mint candies by the crew (I haven't come across that before in LOT). We approached sunny Austrian capital from the south, after another U-turn (to the right this time) over scenic Neusiedler See. We landed slightly late on runway 34.
Once on the ground, we made our way to a remote stand at T3 in Vienna Schwechat, quite surprising for a legacy carrier like LOT (btw. our back flight also departed from a remote stand). When we stopped and the crew tried to open the front door, it turned out they were stuck and couldn't be opened… so we had to disembark through the rear ones into a bus. Not a problem for 35 or so passengers :) I managed to get a photo of the cabin overall (from the front), the flight deck and the fuselage from the outside.
The cabin looks classy in my opinion. Notice, business class passengers would be supplied with a pillow, even on such a short flight, with LOT. But no tables on the middle seats, and as I said before, no curtain divider.
Cockpit of this 737 MAX 8.
And the view from outside. Love the engines!
The experience in Vienna was pretty uneventful, however I have been to better airports already. The terminal seemed more or less clean but a bit crowded. Nevertheless I didn't wait for my bag for too long.
I just want to mention a few words about my return flight from Vienna, which was on LOT's 737-800 (SP-LWA). I had a great opportunity to compare the two aircrafts and indeed, there's a huge difference. The older Boeing from LOT, even though it had its cabin recently refurbished, looks old inside - this is mostly due to the old interior (NOT Sky interior). Seats are very slim and uncomfortable with little padding. It is also much louder than MAX.
Thanks for joining me on this report!
All the best,
Wing shot from the return flight. I was seated in the emergency row, which has ample legroom but same uncomfortable seats installed throughout older 737-800.
I'd like to finish this report with a few shots from Vienna, where I spent whole 2 days (we departed on Sunday at 8ish pm). I have to say, it is a really pleasant city which seem "white" or "light", however strange this sounds. Lots of white-painted building make the city look bright and clean. Really a great place to visit for a weekend.
NB if you'd like a restaurant recommendation - ef16 Restaurant provides amazing food and impeccable service. It's not the cheapest restaurant but definitely worth trying.
Taking a stroll along Viennese streets.
Vienna state opera - worth having a guided tour.
Sachertorte, you have to try it when in Vienna!
Hundertwasserhaus, strange and peculiar, yet a very interesting quarter.
Schönbrunn Palace, number one attraction, I'd say. Leave yourself ample time for this attraction and be ready for walking a lot.
To summarise, a very nice morning flight with LOT Polish Airlines on a very modern 737 MAX (I hope it'll become safer soon and we'll be able to fly it again).
+ WAW was clean and efficient this time
+ Amazing 737 MAX 8 cabin
+ Seats feature: power outlets, adjustable headrests, unfortunately small tray tables (-)
+ A small refreshment was provided, alongside with sweets prior to landing
+ The experience at VIE was OK
+ Very good flight hours for a weekend trip
+/- The crew were alright, although the lack of communication is definitely a downside
- Tiny toilets at the rear
- No entertainment or WiFi