Flying business class within Europe is not often an exciting nor noteworthy affair. That said, I was pleased to recently discover that it can still be a positive experience, with a lot more than meets the eye, and at a very affordable price.
I was fortunate enough to recently experience LOT Polish Airlines’ business class product from Warsaw to Prague. As part of its ongoing brand redevelopment, LOT, like many other carriers, has introduced an online bidding system for unsold business class seats, called plusgrade.
The system allows passengers to make a bid up to 72 hours before the flight’s departure, and there is a minimum amount that can be bid (in my case, it was approximately $80). At 48 hours prior to departure, I received an email that my bid was successful, and was issued a new ticket for business class — sweet.
On the day of departure, I arrived at Warsaw Chopin Airport (WAW) two hours prior to departure. As part of an ongoing project with LOT and the airport authority to increase the carrier’s exposure and image at its hub, the business class area is undergoing renovations and a temporary area is currently in use. Despite this, the premium feel was maintained.
The new business class check-in area will be enclosed in a walled area with numerous lounge chairs and tables for passengers to relax at during check-in.
Another interesting feature of the upgraded check-in experience for passengers is a dedicated family check-in area. Traveling families can use this area while their little ones are kept central in the whole check-in experience, being issued a “passport” that is stamped at various stages of their journey. The dedicated check-in also creates an easier airport experience for families, not having to deal with long lines which can always be a bit tedious when flying with children.
Business class travelers on LOT, as well as elite status card holders with Star Alliance, are entitled to use fast-track security at Warsaw. Unlike conventional fast-track lanes that merely bypass the line to join it at the very front, in Warsaw there is a completely separate elite security check. Not only does it maintain the premium feel of the whole experience, but it is also located only a few steps from the lounges on the other side.
Until recently, the lounges at Warsaw were operated by the airport authority. Today, the LOT business class lounge is managed by the airline. Thanks to this, the overall lounge experience has greatly improved.
All catering is provided by Do&Co which also does the in-fight catering for all LOT flights from Warsaw. The quality associated with Do&Co is immediately evident; there is a vast offering of fresh salads, meats, salami, and cheese, as well as a hot soup course and a choice of two hot dishes. In addition to this, wine, beer and premium spirits are available around the clock.
Located within the business lounge is also the “Elite Lounge” – this section is available to Lufthansa HON Circle members as well as passengers traveling in business class on LOT’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner, regardless of their frequent flyer status. The elite lounge offers a more secluded area with an increased selection of food and beverages.
Once onboard, the business class seats are identical to that of economy class on the Embraer E-195. The differentiating factor is the blocked aisle seat. What struck me most was the generous amount of legroom in the bulkhead row. I have traveled on the same aircraft type with other carriers and never experienced such a vast amount of legroom in the bulkhead.
Departure was on-time and once at cruising altitude, the in-flight service began. Being a flight of just over one hour, I was not expecting much, especially given the reputation of business class on intra-European flights.
I was pleasantly surprised to be presented with a tray offering two dishes as well as some chocolates and bakery items. The Do&Co influence in the catering was immediately evident, with impeccable presentation and attention to detail. There was an extensive range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, as well as tea and coffee. Overall, the service exceeded my expectations for such a short flight.
Arrival into Prague was on-time and I was out of the airport within 15-minutes, including my checked luggage delivery.
Over the past year, LOT has continued to move in a positive direction with its brand re-design. They are aiming to become a leading carrier with their premium cabin, and that was clearly evident during my flight.
They also want to give economy class travelers a choice to upgrade their experience if they wish. It’s something becoming more crucial to winning over travelers, particularly as there is so little variance these days with intra-European economy class products.