As an #avgeek, when one receives an invitation to a wedding in another country, the first thing one thinks about is, ‘how to get there the most exciting and difficult way possible.’
I chose this route, as an attempt to sample the ill-fated Boeing 737 MAX. But this was not meant to happen, and I ended up flying on a regional Embraer E195.
Former Soviet Union airlines have long had a reputation for poor service, old aircraft, and cabin crew that makes Rosa Klebb look friendly.
In this review, we will look at my flight from London-Heathrow to Warsaw on LOT Polish Airlines. The question is, was this journey From Heathrow to Warsaw with Love?
Booking the Flight
The flight was booked directly through the LOT Polish website. This is was easy to use and optimized for mobile devices. The different classes were listed and a pop-up box was available which explained what was included within each fare tariff.
As I was traveling to a wedding, I opted for Economy Standard fare class which included, 23kg of checked in luggage, a seat reservation and complimentary snacks on-board.
London-Heathrow Terminal 2 has recently undergone major improvement works. The terminal has a modern fresh feel.
Check-in and security are located on the top floor, all check-in formalities for Star Alliance carriers involves fighting with an automated machine.
Staff was on hand, but there was not enough to handle a large number of passengers that morning.
Lufthansa, Eurowings, CSA Czech, LOT Polish were all funneling passengers through about eight automated kiosks, once you had attached your baggage tags, there was an additional kiosk to use for sending your luggage onwards to the aircraft.
Security was a breeze; I was through the checkpoint in no more than three minutes. Terminal 2; has literally hundreds of eateries and places to shop.
The large glass windows provide a bright airy feel. I choose to sit around Gate A16, as this offers excellent views over the taxiways and runway, allowing me to spot the aircraft to my heart’s content.
Our boarding gate was A18. Ironically this would be my second time flying from Heathrow Terminal 2, and my second time using gate A18.
Boarding was called about 0950, starting with business class passengers and those with high rating Star Alliance status.
Economy class boarding was called shortly after. Due to the full flight, the queuing maze was to be used. Boarding was an efficient process, though I was not welcomed on board by the cabin crew.
My seat was 16A, a window seat on the left-hand side of the aircraft, which gave me a nice view over the flaps and spoilers.
My travel sidekick who booked this flight at a later date opted for 15A, which should have been an emergency exit row on the 737 MAX. On this aircraft, however, is just a regular row.
I had originally allocated myself row 19, however, I reached out to LOT through social media to change, so I could sit behind my friend. They changed my seat without any hassle, however, once you have allocated a seat, it cannot be changed online.
On Board Experience
We had a late departure from London due to issues with loading baggage. We were delayed initially fifteen minutes then another ten minutes. But due to the congestion, it would be another ten minutes before we pushed back, resulting in a forty-five-minute late departure. The Captain did update us twice while we were on the ground.
If nothing else, the seats on this aircraft were extremely comfortable. Configured in a 2-2 layout, with 31 inches of pitch, it is a relatively spacious layout for a European shuttle flight.
Upholstered in plush leather, deep and comfortable, these seats were great for nestling into. What wasn’t so good was the extremely free recline, which meant I had the back of the seat in front of me in my chest for nearly two hours.
If you are going to recline your seat in the already restricted economy cabin, only recline it a couple of clicks and remember there is someone behind you. I prefer seats in short-haul cabins to have no recline at all.
However this does result in the seats being angled further back, too offset the lack of recline, and this to me feels unnatural leaving your neck at a very uncomfortable angle when sitting back. I guess it’s a case of six of one and half a dozen of the other.
The unusually shaped windows on the E-jet help to give the cabin a much more light and airy feel, combined with the neutral cabin décor these aircraft are always nice to fly on.
When compared to an A320 or a 737, that larger windows and brighter lights really do help with reducing claustrophobia and making things feel a little fresher.
The cabin crew on this flight seemed to be just going through the motions. There was no warmth or charm in the service, but none the less it was acceptable.
LOT Polish offers a free snack and drinks to all passengers. After the doors were closed and the manual safety demonstration complete, the crew offered a polish chocolate wafer to every passenger.
After a choppy departure from Heathrow, the crew offered a complimentary service of water, tea, and coffee. Other soft drinks and alcoholic drinks were available to be purchased.
The prices were reasonable or indeed cheap for a buy onboard program. I just had a simple cup of water.
Once the cabin was watered, the food trolley was wheeled through, offering a selection of crisps, peanuts, sweets, and other snacks. Being the kind of person that just doesn’t want to disappoint, I ordered a cheese salad sandwich for review purposes only.
I have to admit I was impressed and enjoyed it. The bread was soft and the cheese and vegetables fresh. Costing 12PLN/€3.00, it was a very reasonable meal.
After both trolley services were complete, the crew disappeared and very little was seen of them until the cabin was to be secured for our arrival into Warsaw.
No additional passes through the cabin with the drinks trolley, or even an announcement inviting passengers to push the call bell if they required anything.
Before too long we were descending into Warsaw, the cabin was secured and we were on the ground 25 minutes behind schedule, after a long taxi our gate which seemed to be the stand furthest from the runway.
I was already concerned as I had only two hours to get out of the airport and across Warsaw to catch a train onwards to Olzstyn.
Airport Experience Warsaw
Warsaw, like many European Airways, freely allows arriving and departing passengers to mix for flight transfers. Where in the UK, for example, arriving and departing passengers are segregated, it can lead to an overall stressful and chaotic feel.
However, this would be least of our worries, a 45-minute wait for our bags was enough to get the tension level through the roof.
Once I was through baggage reclaim, it was a very fast march to the train station, so I could wrestle with the ticket machine to source what may or may not have been the correct ticket.
To this day I remain blissfully unsure either way. One thing worth noting at Warsaw is that there are clearly defined paths marked on the floor. Follow the orange brick road for the train station.
As usual, Terminal 2 at Heathrow was clean, easy and stress-free to depart from.
The onboard experience was the definition of acceptable, with average service and impartial cabin crew.
The aircraft was comfortable and suitable for this two-hour hop across Europe. However, what did let down this already average experience was shambolic arrivals process in Warsaw. The borders control area was woefully understaffed and too small. To cope with the expansion of Warsaw airport over the past decade, in this day in age a 45-minute wait for baggage to turn up is just absurd.
On balance I would travel again with LOT again, as the aircraft was comfortable, the service acceptable the fares represent good overall value.
The question I asked at the start of this review was this journey to be from Heathrow with Love? No, not really it wasn’t.