- W6 2065 - LTN - Daily (will be W9 2065 soon interestingly)
- FR9525 - STN - Seemingly random
The amount of times I've been on the W6 flight is quite embarassing, last year alone I used my Wizz Discount Club 10x over!
Now don't get me wrong - I love Wizz Air and their direct flight between a helicopter factory near Lublin and the world's most cramped airport - but I fancied something different. I've always said that Lublin would benefit from a flight to Chopin. Currently it takes 3-4 hours to make the ~ 100 mile journey to Warsaw by either bus or the slowest intercity train known to mankind and even longer to any other major city in Poland. LOT obviously listened to demand and recently started a (mostly daily) flight to Warsaw. This was designed as a transfer jobbie, but I fancied doing some VFR/O&D travel!
After some man-planning I had come up with the following route:
- LO3966 - LUZ-WAW - 15h10 - DH4D
- W6 1309 - WAW-LTN - 17h35 - A321
The cost of the first leg was about £25, and the second about £40 before extras. I ordered a single checked bag on each, also opting for seat 1D and Wizz Flex on the WAW-LTN leg (I need the legroom).
Lublin (actually Swidnik) is a proper regional airport. It has a grand total of two gates currently (although they appear to be building more, no-one in the local area seems to know) and a small aircraft club. Unusually it has the PZL Swidnik factory at the western end of it, so you occasionally see helicopters flying about during the week.
Check-in was as smooth as ever. I walked up and was greeted by a lovely lady speaking very good English, although she seemed confused that I was "ending" my journey at Warsaw! Apparently this route is almost exclusively transfer traffic. Once check-in was done I went through the empty security line where some clearly very bored guards did almost every check on my sole carry-on bag. This lasted a whole two minutes so I was through security less than five minutes after entering the airport. Lovely.
The shop I'd usually buy drinks from has evidently been closed to make way for the new bit of whatever they're building, so the only option was a slightly expensive (by polish standards) cafe selling posh drinks or the duty free. Having eaten and drunk quite a bit of iced tea before leaving for the airport (a five minute drive in itself) I decided to get my headphones out and listen to terrible 80s music.
An hour before the flight time, our mighty steed rumbled into view. OY-YBZ is an ex Flybe affair and whilst not that new, looked sharp in the proper LOT livery - a nice change as most are still (inexplicably) in the EuroLOT scheme. We then waited for forty more minutes before being called to board. Quite why the turnaround time is so long befuddles me, Wizz can turn around one of the A321s in 40 minutes! The boarding process interestingly doesn't allow for Star Alliance members to go first and it seems the lady doing the announcements was reading the Tel Aviv flight as she referred to 15h00 as "morning".
The Mighty Q400
The only other commercial prop I've ever been on was a B1900D on a tri-city regional between Tampa, Panama City/Bay County and A. N. Other. Now whilst that was very small, I expected the Q400 to be bigger than it was. As a 6' 2" man this aircraft is TINY. Having ducked slightly along the world's fastest sausage I was at my seat 15A (moved from 3B due to "weight distribution"). The seat, whilst tired, was actually extremely comfortable and the legroom was acceptable. The only slight issue was the indentation at foot level meant it was difficult to find a place for my left leg.
After about five minutes everyone was boarded and we started to push back. The pilots had already started the right-hand noise generator so they took that opportunity deafen everybody with what must be the loudest packs known to mankind. Jesus H. Mother of Christ they were loud! Our pushback was over quickly and after starting the left-hand sound generator we taxied to the runway, which took literally 15 seconds as there is only taxiway A - which is about 4cm long.
We then (needlessly it turns out) backtracked down runway 25 and the pilots set the condition levers to deafening. Thankfully they'd turned the air conditioning to a mode where it'd randomly blow moderately cool air with no sense of rhythm.
Now I've only complained about the passenger experience of the Q400 up to now, but now I'm going to be positive. The performance of this little thing is absolutely incredible for a commercial aircraft! We used less than half of the 2600m long runway with a fairly skinny flaps setting and then seemed to do a vertical climb up to a cruise altitude of 10ft (OK, FL160). It seems that because the Q400 weighs so little we were being bucked around by every breath of wind, which was an interesting experience to someone used to B738s and A320s/A321s.
And back to complaining! The Q400 is supposedly the quietest model of the Dash 8 family, so unless the noise deadening system was INOP on this model I really don't want to fly on an earlier model. I know being right by the engine is always going to be noisy but this little pocket rocket sounded like a WWII bomber aircraft it was that loud. Combined with the hairdryers in the air conditioning system I literally had to lean over and shout to the FAs when they offered us the (complimentary) Prince Polo and water.
As we'd hit cruise within about 10 minutes we settled into cruise for - and I'm not exaggerating here - four minutes before we started a gentle descent into runway 11 at Warsaw. I had an opportunity to take in the beautiful views as we tracked up the Vistula and as we turned into the final approach for Chopin. We'd only been in the air for 30 minutes by the time we landed but I had plenty to take in!
More complaining. Why can't the Q400 so approaches or landings properly? There was a bit of turbulence around Warsaw so the approach was very lumpy and the Q400 didn't seem to want to be consistent on final with it bucking up and down like a bronco. The landing was even more interesting as the pilot was evidently trying to avoid breaking everyone's back with the infamously hard suspension.
Well, he failed sadly. Instead what happened was we threatened the runway for a couple of hundred metres before apparently falling to earth so hard that the left main gear actually bounced off the runway! After my spine had recovered we taxied to one of the remote gates just south of the GA ramp and everyone piled into one bus.
As this was a Schengen area flight, I immediately went to use the facilities and then began a rather long, agonising wait for my bag. I had about 30 minutes to get my bag and go to the check-in desks, plus another 30 or so to get through seciity.
Thankfully there weren't many bags. There was one. Win!
I dashed to W6's check-in desks and was served straight away. Then began the looooooooooooooooong queue for security. At Chopin security is divided into a couple of areas and for some reason they don't tell you which one is quicker so you end-up with everyone at one (with half the desks in use) and the other being completely empty. Useful. After I'd celebrated my 106th birthday I was finally through and heading towards the teeny-weeny non-Schengen area waiting to board the Wizz A321, with apparently half of Warsaw trying to board the other nine million flights which share the 4 square feet of non-Schengen gate area.
Eventually we were bused to a remote stand at the south end of the main ramp and I boarded a relatively new A321ceo. As usual with Wizz the interior was lovely and bright and boarding was quick. Unfortunately the luggage bin space for the starboard side of row 1 is about row 30 because of all the medical and crew gear, c'est la vie!
Back to a bigger aircraft
Wizz's A321 fleet is generally very young, and as such the aforementioned aircraft was in very good and clean condition. The seats are a little on the hard side but the legroom on row 1 is good and the aircraft are very quiet - apart from the lovely buzzsaw sound from the IAEs on take-off and climb.
We took-off nearly on-time from runway 15 and jiggled our way up to FL360. Unfortunately northern Germany (yet again) was full of light turbulence. I bought an iced tea for €2.50 and settled down with the Grand Tour then Guardians of the Galaxy 2. I spent a good chunk of the journey being lightly jiggled all the way but nothing to write home about
As we descended over the Netherlands and English channel the turbulence got inevitably more gnarly. Helpfully too we seemed to spend a long time in the clouds do the kotlet, mashed potato, salad, Prince Polo and iced tea combination was being nicely turned over for digestive purposes! Landing at Luton was also pretty lumpy on finals until the cavalry charge was heard from the cockpit. We landed on the ridiculously short RW26 at Luton and the pilots threw the anchor out to get the aircraft slowed down (it doesn't have a full-length taxiway).
We sat on the tarmac for a bit before a high-speed taxi to the ramp, of course it was the furthest gate from everything ever, continuing a trend that I've always kept up! Once I'd walked all the way back to Chopin I took two goes at the ePassports gates before spending what felt like forever to Azzurra to deliver my bag into the most miserable baggage collection hall this side of Hell. Did I mention I don't like Luton before?
And so ended my experimental trip. Would I do it again? No. I would take LO3966 again, but only as part of a transfer. However, I'm happy I've been on a Q400 and I've done a proper regional flight in Europe. The Prince Polo was as lovely as ever too.