I had originally wanted to fly Lufthansa First Class on my way back from Europe, but those plans didn’t work out, so I chose LOT Polish Airlines business class on the Boeing 787 Dreamliner as the next-best option.
There was award space for two people on the direct Warsaw–Toronto flight about five days in advance, so I grabbed those seats using 57,500 Aeroplan miles per person, together with an earlier flight on to Warsaw from my one-night stay in Tallinn.
LOT Polish Airlines is a useful Star Alliance carrier for travelling between North America and Europe, especially for Canadians thanks to their direct flight from Warsaw to Toronto. Moreover, they levy reasonable fuel surcharges (about $100 per direction), so flying with them will still provide good value for your miles. For that reason, I was quite eager to try them out and review their business class experience.
After poking my head into the LOT Business Lounge in Warsaw (which I’ve reviewed before) to grab a quick bite, I made my way to the boarding gate to queue up. I generally like to board the aircraft early in order to take some nice pictures of the cabin, and I found myself at the very front of the queue, so I thought I was all set.
However, I couldn’t have anticipated the absolute legion of wheelchair-bound passengers who boarded the plane first as part of the priority sequence. That’s fair, of course, but there seriously must have been at least two dozen passengers in wheelchairs on this flight, and I had never seen anything like that before.
And as those passengers were escorted onto the flight by their handlers, the priority boarding queue somehow morphed from an orderly sequence into a swarm of passengers.
It ended up being one of the most disorderly boarding sequences I’ve ever witnessed, leaving my plans to get some nice unobstructed pictures of the LOT Dreamliner business class cabin in tatters…
LOT Polish Airlines | LO45
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Cabin: Business class
Route: Warsaw (WAW) to Toronto (YYZ)
Date: Sunday, October 14, 2019
Time: Departing 5:05pm and arriving 8:10pm
Duration: 9 hours 5 minutes
We boarded through the door at the very front of the aircraft, turning right to arrive at the business class cabin. LOT Polish Airlines business class on the 787-9 consists of 24 forward-facing seats in a standard 2-2-2 configuration, spread out across four rows.
Note that I had experienced difficulties selecting seats on this flight on the LOT website during check-in, and by the time we checked in at the airport, all the seats had already been picked. It turns out that Jessica and I hadn’t been assigned neighbouring seats by the system even though we were on the same booking, so I had to rely on the kindness of strangers and ask to switch seats with the fellow in the row behind me.
Thankfully, he was happy to oblige, and I ended up settling into Seat 1E, adjacent to Jessica in Seat 1F. The blanket, pillow, mattress sheet, and amenity kit were waiting for us at our seats.
The hard product on LOT business class consists of twin forward-facing seats. Compared to other business class products out there, these seats are relatively lacking in privacy and functionality – not all seats have direct aisle access, and there also isn’t much room for many storage compartments or other fancy features. On the other hand, they do feel more spacious as a result of their relatively simple build.
For that reason, I don’t mind these seats too much even if they do lag behind the times a bit, especially if I’m travelling with Jessica and we get to sit beside each other. For couples, I’d recommend picking the twin seats by the windows like we did, whereas solo travellers might benefit more from choosing one of the seats down the middle aisle, where they have guaranteed direct aisle access.
The seat finishes were various shades of grey with a few streaks of electric blue, which I thought were a little dull and left the cabin feeling rather sterile.
The business class seats in the first row consist of a “shell” positioned against the bulkhead, in which the 15.4’’ entertainment screen and seat ottomans are embedded. For seats in Rows 2–4, the entertainment system and ottomans are attached to the back of the seats in front of them.
Sandwiched between the two seats’ entertainment consoles are a few storage compartments, coat hooks, and literature pockets.
Meanwhile, the armrest between the two seats plays host to the seat controls, which were very intuitive to use. Underneath each armrest was a small alcove, where you’ll find a water bottle holder, the entertainment controller, and USB and power ports.
If you’re seated next to a stranger, the small push-button in the alcove allows you to raise your armrest by roughly a foot or so. Ultimately this only provides a very small measure of privacy, since you and your seatmate can still see each other across the armrest when it’s raised.
The tray table is pulled outwards from a compartment within the central seat console. The ergonomics of the tray table were impressive; it can be swivelled outwards to allow you to stand up from your seat while your table is set.
Lastly, as is standard on these forward-facing seats, there’s a set of reading lights mounted behind the shoulder of each seat.
A friendly flight attendant came by to offer us welcome beverages and a pre-departure amuse bouche. I chose the champagne to drink and downed the amuse bouche in one bite.
Pre-departure amuse bouches are pretty rare in business class, and even some of the world’s best business class airlines opt to skip over them, so I was highly impressed to receive one here on LOT Polish Airlines.
The crew also passed out the in-flight menu, which read as follows:
- 1 of 16
- 2 of 16
- 3 of 16
- 4 of 16
- 5 of 16
- 6 of 16
- 7 of 16
- 8 of 16
- 9 of 16
- 10 of 16
- 11 of 16
- 12 of 16
- 13 of 16
- 14 of 16
- 15 of 16
- 16 of 16
Boarding was complete by this point, and the business class cabin was 100% full. I took a few minutes before we began our taxi to check out the amenity kit as well.
The LOT business class amenity kit is unbranded, but is packed to the brim with knick-knacks. In addition to the usual suspects like an eye mask, a dental kit, earplugs, and socks, the amenity kit also featured a bottle of mouthwash, a comb, a shoe horn, a nail file, a packet of facial tissue, and some skincare gel and cream samples by SheFoot, a Warsaw-based cosmetics company.
The safety video was played as we began our pushback, and pretty soon the Dreamliner’s distinctively quiet engines kicked into gear and we were taking off into the Warsaw dusk.
I flicked through the in-flight entertainment system, which was high-definition and extremely responsive to the handheld controller. While LOT doesn’t offer the widest selection of Hollywood flicks, they do have surprisingly many genres, like Polish, Korean, Russian, Hungarian, Chinese, and Japanese films.
The TV selection was a little more limited, although each title has a few different episodes to keep you occupied.
Jessica and I settled into a showing of Ocean’s Eight as we climbed to cruising altitude. At this point, we caught our first glimpse of the view outside the window, where the last wisps of daylight were quickly fading away from the Central European sky.
Nevertheless, since we’d be flying westbound for nine hours, we’d effectively be chasing this very same sunset for the entire duration of the flight, which made for some pretty captivating window views to say the least.
It was also at this point that I discovered a few minor issues with my seat. First of all, one of the seat control buttons was non-responsive, so I struggled to put my seat into recline mode in order to relax and enjoy the movie.
I tried to hold down the button that would push the seat back downwards, but it simply wouldn’t work. Instead, I had to hold down the button that would put the seat into lie-flat mode, and then release it when the seat got to just the right angle of recline.
Meanwhile, the power port at my seat wasn’t working either, nor was it working on Jessica’s side. I had wanted to charge my laptop to get some more work done later in the flight, so I asked a flight attendant if he could help. There wasn’t much he could do, since all the other business class seats were occupied, but thankfully a few hours later the power ports started magically working again.
Those were really the only two complaints I had about this flight, which was otherwise very pleasant indeed. Shortly after the seat-belt sign was turned off, the crew initiated the meal service, starting with mixed nuts and another glass of champagne.
That was followed by a cup of black tea to go alongside my appetizer of smoked salmon and shrimp with potato salad.
I always go for the seafood appetizer whenever it’s on the menu, and this one did not disappoint – the seafood was fresh and tasty, and the wholegrain mustard really brought everything together.
The salad was served together with the appetizer. It was okay, nothing too memorable.
For her appetizer, Jessica chose the carrot and sweet potato soup, which she enjoyed as well. I still think I made the better choice, though.
I had finished my tea at this point, and the flight attendant asked if she could get me another drink – “maybe some wine?” That was an offer I couldn’t turn down, so I agreed and asked for a glass of the Spanish red.
Then came time for the main course: a few slices of roasted turkey in a white wine and saffron sauce, along with some potatoes and vegetables on the side. It was a delicious dish, although I did wish the portion was a little bigger.
Jessica’s thoughts on her salmon echoed mine: great quality, but the portion size was on the small side.
After the main course was cleared away, dessert was served from a trolley that was rolled down the aisle. The crew would ask you which types of cheese and dessert you’d like, and then plate your selection right in front of you.
I opted for the full cheese plate, together with some black forest chocolate cake and vanilla ice cream. In keeping with the rest of the meal, both were delicious and provided a very satisfying end to the meal.
Honestly, the food on LOT Polish Airlines didn’t blow me away, but it was of a very good quality and I thoroughly enjoyed pretty much every dish, which is more than you can say of many airplane meals (even in business class).
I think it’s a matter of expectations – I went into this flight on LOT expecting it to be mediocre at best, so to be treated to a decidedly above-average meal left me with pretty good impressions of the overall experience.
My sentiments on the in-flight service are similar. The flight attendants helping me and Jessica were an older lady and a younger guy, and they were friendly and attentive in their service despite having their work cut out with a full business class cabin.
These westbound flights from Europe to North America generally take place during the daytime, so I didn’t really feel the need to sleep on this nine-hour hop across the Atlantic – I could simply stay awake until we landed in Toronto at 8pm and then go to sleep soon after that. Nevertheless, the cabin lights were dimmed shortly after the meal service was complete, as if to encourage everyone to get some rest.
In spite of that, most of the business class passengers chose to remain awake, and I did the same, typing up a few blog posts on my laptop thanks to my now-functioning power port. I had to work offline, because unfortunately there’s no wifi on LOT’s Boeing 787 Dreamliners, which is disappointing for such a new airline product.
Nevertheless, the incredible window views were more than enough to keep us occupied, with the light from the sunset flickering between bright and dim as we followed the daylight over the Arctic Circle.
Maybe it’s because I read too many of One Mile at a Time’s airline reviews, but whenever I see cappuccinos on the in-flight menu, I’m always tempted to order one. 😉
Again, going back to the matter of expectations, I was a little surprised to see that LOT offered premium espresso beverages in business class, so I gave their cappuccino a try in order to keep myself perked up in the darkness of the cabin.
I also visited the business class restroom midway through the flight, which was pretty standard. The 787 isn’t the widest aircraft, so there isn’t too much space for airlines to get creative with larger restrooms.
A few more hours passed with me typing away on my laptop, although Jessica eventually ended up putting her seat into lie-flat mode and succumbing to her circadian rhythms. Seeing this, I ordered another glass of wine, some sparkling water, and some snacks to continue staying alert.
With about an hour and a half of the flight left to go, I too ended up sitting back in my seat and getting ready to doze off for a bit. But at this point, the cabin lights turned back on, signalling the start of the pre-landing meal service.
The meal was nondescript by design – you couldn’t tell if it was meant to be breakfast, lunch, or dinner, since the timing of the flight makes these things rather ambiguous. Indeed, it simply consisted of four small portions: spinach ravioli, smoked salmon bites with accompaniments, Japanese-style duck breast, and fruit salad.
All three savoury dishes were highly appetizing, with the duck breast and wakame salad standing out in particular. You wouldn’t expect an airline from Poland to incorporate Japanese influences in its catering, but it was yet another way that LOT left me pleasantly surprised throughout this flight.
Lastly, before we began our descent into Toronto, I took the opportunity to put my seat into lie-flat mode and “try out” the bed even though I didn’t need to sleep.
Overall, despite the forward-facing seating arrangement being rather outdated, I’d say that its spaciousness remains its biggest asset, since you have lots of room to move your legs when you’re lying down.
The crew handed out chocolates to the business class passengers as a thank-you for flying with LOT – a final act of professionalism that solidified my positive impression of the LOT Boeing 787 business class experience as we touched down smoothly in Toronto.
I think it’s fair to say that LOT Polish Airlines business class far exceeded my expectations (which admittedly weren’t very high to begin with), particularly with their soft product: food, drinks, and service. In those regards, I’d put LOT comfortably on par with other airlines that perhaps benefit from a stronger reputation on the transatlantic route, like Swiss or Brussels Airlines, and just below SAS.
The downside with LOT is their hard product: I wish the airline had chosen a more cutting-edge business class seat when they took delivery of their Dreamliners, and I also question their decision not to equip the new planes with wifi connectivity.
Overall, with daily flights into Toronto, reasonably low fuel surcharges, and very good award availability, I’d certainly be willing to fly with LOT again for a convenient journey in and out of Central Europe.