TRIP REPORT: LOT, Skopje - New York via Warsaw

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Written by Teodor Parolo Tasevski

Trip Report: Skopje - New York via Warsaw / LOT - Air Belgium Business Class
Trip Taken: 19 August 2019

This report is about a trip that I took from Skopje to New York JFK in August 2019. I purchased my ticket a few months earlier through LOT’s website originally in Premium Economy class. Later on, close to the time of flight, I found that the WAW-JFK segment had been changed to be operated by a leased Air Belgium A340-300 aircraft, due to the issues with LOT’s Boeing 787, and since there had been no premium economy cabin on this aircraft, I was upgraded (for free of course) to business class.

Although I usually fly Turkish Airlines on this route, I chose LOT this time due to the good timing and short layover, as well as their premium economy product. I was also excited to fly the 787 Dreamliner, but wasn’t too disappointed with the A340 - I haven’t flown one of those in a while.

SKP-WAW/1:20pm-3:25pm/LOT E95/Business Class

I arrived at the airport 2 hours before my flight, as I figured SKP would be busy at midday in the middle of summer. I was right, it turned out, and there were several Wizz Air flights due to depart at around the same time as us, coupled with Qatar, Olympic (Aegean), Austrian, and Flydubai.

Check-in was quick, but the wait for immigration and security check took longer than usual - around 20 minutes total to get through - due to the large number of passengers.

I still had some time to spare, so I visited the business lounge of SKP. The lounge is small but has good views of the runway.

Boarding was quick, and I settled into my seat - 3A in no time.


Some early afternoon traffic at SKP

Taxi was quick, and we managed to take off only a few minutes behind schedule. It was my second time flying LOT, my first being SOF-WAW-SOF a few years earlier before they launched SKP as a route. I had a pleasant experience on their Embraer then, and it was repeated this time too. The crew was courteous, not overly friendly like on some airlines, but not rude or dismissive at all. They served us a full lunch meal, which I thought was nice for a short-haul flight, composed of chicken with vegetables, coupled with a couscous salad, and a glass of wine or beer.

View of the business class cabin

The flight was mostly uneventful, and about an hour and a half after departure, we started our descent into Warsaw. Once we landed in Warsaw, I had to see the gate agent to issue my boarding pass for the JFK segment, because they couldn’t print it out in Skopje for some reason. It turns out I wasn’t the only one with a similar problem, as there were several others waiting to do the same. The agents weren’t the most efficient bunch, and we had to stand in line for half an hour while they figured out what they’re supposed to be doing. The plane was running a little late, so after I finally managed to get my boarding pass, I decided to try out the lounge.


The lounge was nice and had a decent selection of food and drinks. After camping out there for 20-30 minutes, I headed back towards the gate for boarding.

The nose of our Air Belgium A340-300 to JFK

WAW is a decent airport, but the lack of AC in the middle of August made the experience slightly less pleasant.

WAW-JFK/4:45pm-8:05pm/LOT operated by Air Belgium A340-300/Business Class


Boarding went by relatively quickly, and there was a dedicated jet bridge for Business Class passengers. One of the benefits I noticed of transiting through WAW rather than IST were the much simpler pre-boarding security procedures.



Business class LF was almost 100%, and the crew offered us a complimentary welcome drink shortly after boarding. Even though the flight was technically operated by Air Belgium, most of the airplane’s interior had been fitted according to LOT’s livery, and the crew was a mix of LOT and Air Belgium employees. The case of Air Belgium itself is a curious one; they started up in 2016, allegedly with some Chinese financing, but it took them 2 years to get an AOC. Then, in 2018, they operated a few flights from Brussels Charleroi to Hong Kong, subsequently suspending the route due to little demand. They apparently have 4 A340s, and operate them on behalf of other airlines.


I was lucky to get a window seat which did not have a neighbour on the right side, making it essentially feel like flying first class.

View of the apron at WAW

We pushed back almost an hour after our scheduled departure time, due to the delay in boarding. Taxi was quick, and we were in the air shortly after. Quickly after reaching cruising altitude, the crew started with the catering service - beverages followed by the meal. The options were beef, chicken, or fish, so I went for the beef tenderloin served with potato dumplings, accompanied by a nice glass of red wine. Food was alright, nothing special though. After the meal service, the crew offered a glass of a very tasteful Polish cherry brandy - Wisniowka.

Somewhere over Greenland

The flight was long and generally uneventful. It was daylight most of the time, which was driving me crazy when I tried to sleep. About 1-2 hours before landing, the crew offered a second meal service, consisting of a pasta dish with a salad on the side.

Pre-landing view of Long Island

The descent into New York was smooth overall, and we landed just about on time. Taxiing to the gate was, as is the norm for JFK, long, taking us about 30 minutes. LOT uses Terminal 7, which is easily JFK’s worst. I assumed that because it is a small terminal, the immigration queue would be shorter than usual, but it turned out I’ve never been more wrong in my life. The wait was almost two hours, with the line extending to some of the gates. The immigration waiting area was one of the worst I’ve seen anywhere, being very tight and stuffy. Finally, after all the harassment that is called US border security, the trip came to an end.

Final Verdict: As I mentioned earlier, this was my first time flying LOT on this route. I was very lucky to travel in business class for the price of premium economy, and getting to fly an “exotic” airline such as Air Belgium was really exciting. Naturally, TK’s business product beats LOT’s anytime, but for the price of premium economy, I was more than happy. Essentially, the only downside to the trip was the terrible terminal at JFK, and the long immigration wait. Overall, I’d say 8/10.


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Comments

  1. Anonymous09:12

    Thanks for this great report!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Anonymous09:52

    indeed always good to see a new route

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hey, Teodor. Thank you for the nice report. Still prefer those old school reports compared to the YouTube videos :)
    The A343 is still looking sexy after all those years and so is the A346. The twin engine makes it look really mighty.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anonymous18:33

      The term "twin engine" means two engines in total, or rather one engine on each wing. This is a 4-engine aircraft. :)

      Delete
  4. When is Skopje airport opening

    ReplyDelete

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