Whether you're an aviation enthusiast or not, you should take part, at least once, in the opening of a new route by an airline. We did this on January 13th, when LOT Polish Airlines started flying to Tokyo Narita with the gorgeous Boeing 787 Dreamliner. It was our first flight in 2016, one we won't be forgetting any time soon.
As a true avgeek, passionate about aviation, you'll always remember some firsts in your life: the first time you've flown on-board an aircraft, the first 777, Dreamliner or A380 / A350 experience, the first time you flew Business / First Class and so on. My first flight with Boeing's revolutionary 787 Dreamliner (April 2014, Warsaw to Rome and back) was operated by LOT Polish Airlines, Poland's flagship carrier and a Star Alliance member. LOT is an airline from which other operators can learn a thing or two on how to make a strong comeback. LOT was the global launch customer for Embraer's 170 and the European launch customer for Boeing's 787 Dreamliner (it has 6 in the fleet and will receive another two). Moreover, LOT is an airline I'm fond of because of the people working there. Those whom I've met are open-hearted, passionate about their jobs and fun to be with. Great karaoke singers, too!
Therefore, I was happy to take part in LOT's inaugural flight to Narita and spend two full days in Tokyo. A city close to my heart I've first visited 8 years ago, in October 2007. Tokyo Narita is the first long-haul destination opened by LOT in past 4 years and the second destination in Asia after Beijing, where LOT has been flying with the 787 Dreamliner since 2012. For passengers from Poland and the countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the Warsaw - Narita 10-hour flight guarantees the most convenient and most efficient way to travel on this route. The flights to Tokyo are operated 3 three times a week: Wednesday, Friday, Sunday from Warsaw (red-eye flight, next morning arrival) and Thursday, Saturday, Monday from Tokyo.
"The journey from Warsaw to Tokyo lasts two hours less than from London or Paris. By opening this route, we also want to regain the trust of our passengers," said Marcin Celejewski, Acting CEO of LOT Polish Airlines, in a press conference at Warsaw's Chopin airport. "We continue to develop LOT and our hub at WAW airport. This year we will open 15 routes and we will increase frequencies on existing ones", added LOT's CEO. The load factor on the new route to Tokyo is already at 70% and continues to increase. By 2020, LOT Polish Airlines wants to reach 10 million passengers / year, becoming the no. 1 carrier in this part of the world which LOT calls the "New Europe".
Started the day of the inaugural flight to Tokyo in Polonez, LOT's Business Class lounge at Warsaw airport, with breakfast and a double cappuccino. By 12:30, the time of the press conference, the lounge got more and more motifs from Land of the Rising Sun: banners in Japanese, decorative cherry trees, traditional Japanese cuisine (sushi) and beverages (sake, Choya wine). Two girls dressed in kimonos spoke, in Japanese and English, with passengers in the lounge and then greeted us, later on, at the gate, before boarding. Besides the Business Lounge decorations and traditional Japanese ambiance, LOT Polish Airlines also brought a small part of Japan to the boarding gate with cherry trees and traditional Japanese architectural elements, much to the delight of the passengers, both Japanese and foreigners. Nice touches, LOT! On-board the 787 Dreamliner, en-route to Tokyo every passenger received a diploma to remind him / her of this inaugural flight from January 13th 2016.
Every Boeing 787 in LOT's fleet offers 252 seats in three cabins: Business Class (18 seats, layout 2-2-2), Premium Class (21 seats, 2-3-2) and Economy (213 seats, layout 3-3-3). The seats in Business Class can be converted into a full-flat bed and the travel experience is enhanced by the personal service and top restaurant quality cuisine plus a wide choice of beverages. In Premium Class, travellers find more personal space than in Economy, comfortable seats with seatbacks that recline further, individual armrests and footrests, as well as an upgraded menu served on porcelain. In Economy, the seats boast footrests and individual screens with sockets and USB ports. On the return flight to Warsaw we flew Premium Class and we strongly recommend flying in this class for the reasons mentioned above. After taking-off from Tokyo, watched a movie, slept for a couple of hours, had a nice conversation with the guy seated next to us so the 10 hours and 30 minutes flew by faster than expected.
Besides the 787 Dreamliner and Warsaw airport, with a minimum connecting time as short as 35-40 minutes, another reason to fly LOT Polish Airlines to Tokyo is linked to the on-board dining experience. Passengers in all three travel classes can choose between an European menu and the special Japanese menu offered exclusively on this route. In Business Class, meals are served in special pottery for Japanese dishes made by Boleslawiec, a company popular amongst the Japanese. Business Class passengers also have an opportunity to taste Umeshu, the best Japanese wine, and Souhana Sake, served in prestigious places like Tokyo Imperial Palace. The Business Class menu includes, among others, miso soup, Japanese bento box dishes or Japanese snacks. As a special treat between meals, LOT's cabin crew serves Polish flavored liqueur and the famous Polish delicacy plums in chocolate. Japanese meals are also served in LOT Economy and LOT Premium Class. For these passengers, LOT offers original Japanese snacks served between meals and the delicious Japanese sencha green tea. Also worth mentioning: on LOT's flights to Tokyo and back there's always a Japanese-speaking crew member on board, wearing a badge saying “I speak Japanese”. The entire in-flight entertainment system is also available in Japanese and includes Japanese films, series and music.
How do we sum up flying to Tokyo on the inaugural flight? An experience we liked a LOT thanks to the friendly and smiling crew (and this wasn't related to the fact that the airline's CEO was also on-board), the Japanese ambiance in Polonez Business lounge and at the boarding gate, as well as the modern 787s operating on this route and the cool people who accompanied us. Any downsides? The in-flight entertainment system doesn't have as many international audio tracks (well-known hits from various artists) as frequent flyers might expect. Overall, a great way to start 2016 above the clouds, returning to one of our favorite countries: Japan. Clear skies ahead, LOT, on the new route!
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