My wife and I recently made a trip to Poland for our 2018 European Adventure. I will admit, Poland was never at the top of my travel bucket list but I can say I enjoyed the country, food and people. And as they say, it's not where you're going but how you get there that matters. That saying rang true on this trip. 6 Segments, 2 new airplanes, 2 new airlines and my first experience with TATL Premium Economy. Booking
I originally intended to fly BA so I could accrue AA miles but a combination of flight times and price put me off. My alternative was SAS but I could not build an itinerary without a short connection in CPH.
One day I attempted to build a package on Expedia and scored seats in AF Premium Economy and 3 nights hotel in Warsaw for the price of the R/T economy tickets on SAS. WIN!September 11, 2018
Air France 54
81A Premium EconomyCheck-in
I arrived at Dulles an hour and 45 minutes before departure and walked past the Air France/KLM Check-in counter. The lines were reasonable and I was allowed to utilize the SkyPriority lanes but decided to forego checking my bag since all I had was a backpack and my 22” TravelPro.
Air France does not participate in TSAPre but I hoped I might have a shot given my ticket was issued by Delta. Alas, no such luck. I have to admit, I felt like a total noob going through the “regular” security lane.
Air France departs from the A concourse which involves walking the tunnel or taking the train to the ‘A’ gates. I opted for the train. 40 minutes after leaving my desk at work I arrived at The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck where my lively wife had a G&T waiting for me. I quick changed into something comfortable and switched into vacation mode.
Premium Economy passengers are allowed to visit the AF/KLM lounge for a fee however due to the short timeframe we decided to skip it. Boarding
‘SkyPriority’ did not print on our boarding passes but we had no issue queuing in the priority line. After a quick stop to acknowledge we were in an exit row, we boarded via the upper deck jetway.
Upper Deck Passengers pass through Business Class on the way to PM and Economy. I nearly spent $450 at check-in to upgrade to Business but after seeing the seat I am glad I did not. The hard product on the A380 leaves a lot to be desired.Cabin and Seat
After the walk to the rear of the aircraft we arrived at our seats, 81A and 81B to find a pillow, blanket and basic amenity kit placed on our seats,
The Premium Economy cabin feels exclusive. It is curtained off between Business and a small economy cabin at the rear. It is arranged in a 2x3x2 configuration which is great for couples.
I was excited by the legroom and the hard shell surrounding the seat. The storage cubby along the wall came in handy as well. Since we were in the exit row our tray table and TV were stored in the armrest. I unfolded the tray table and was disappointed to find it has a joint in the center and does not lie flat. Not to mention it was pretty wobbly.
There is an individual shoulder light located in-between the two seats as well as upgraded headphones. Power outlets are conveniently located on the seat near the leg extension.
Soon enough we began to taxi. I tracked AF54/55 for a few weeks and noticed it never departed IAD on-time. Our flight would not be an exception.
After the traffic ahead of us departed, we lined up on runway 30 and started our roll. I immediately noticed how quiet the A380 is. At the time I thought to myself, if the airplane is this quiet on takeoff, I should sleep like a baby at cruise.
I fooled around with the IFE system while we waited for our meal. The UX is nicely designed but the response time is very slow and clunky. I prefer the system used on upgraded AA/UA aircraft.
Once airborne I decided to play with the seat adjustment a bit. This attempt proved to be futile because while the AF Premium Economy seat looks nice, it is singlehandedly the most uncomfortable airplane seat I have sat in.
First I set the headrest to the preferred height then the ‘wings.’ Next I adjusted the recline which is a misnomer because the seat doesn’t recline. The backrest is stationary and the bottom slides. As my butt slid out my shirt bunched up behind me. When I adjusted my shirt, the headrest lowered on its own. My wife watched and bust out laughing. Karma is a _____.
Speaking of my wife, she is usually the one complaining about being too cold on airplanes and I was afraid our seats next to the emergency exit would exaggerate her chilliness. But the cabin was kept at an incredibly warm temperature. When I looked above to adjust the air, I was shocked to find there was no adjustable air vent in the PSU above me. No way to even increase the air circulation around us.
Between the hard seat cushion, the awkward recline and warm temperature, I really had to work to fall asleep. At one point after dinner I was awoken by my wife who found it impossible to fall asleep. And by this time, the exhaustion and warm temperature had caught up to her. Unfortunately she fell airsick but luckily we were not too far outside of Paris.Food and Drink
Shortly after takeoff the flight attendants distributed menus to each Premium Economy passenger.
After a few minutes the same attendant came back around and took our order via iPad. My wife and I both selected ‘the chicken.’
GASP! A real wine glass?
Despite the paper menu, foie gras and semi-proper wine glass, dinner was still airline food. The foie gras and dessert were enjoyable but the chicken while edible, was on par with a microwavable dinner from the supermarket.
The two flight attendants caring for the PE cabin could not have been more pleasant.
“Can I have one more white wine?”
“But of course monsieur!”
I got up to use the bathroom and noticed the cabin crew had setup a small “bar” in the rear galley. There were snacks, large bottles of water, champagne, and a small selection of liquors and sodas. I asked for a white wine and one of the flight attendants showed me where they were located incase I returned and no one was there. This is a really nice touch especially for people like me who hate to “ring the button.”
About an hour prior to arrival the flight attendants passed through the cabin and distributed a breakfast tray.Arrival
Starting the descent.
Landed and taxiing to 2E M-Gates.
Once at the gate the deplaning process was fairly quick. We walked to the people mover and proceeded through Passport Control and Security. Our experience connecting through CDG was far better than our trip through MAD last year. The queue for Passport Control took about 15 minutes but was very organized and there were plenty of airport employees around to assist with those who had tight connections. SO MUCH better than the chaotic free-for-all we experienced at Madrid.September 12, 2018
Air France 1146
When I checked in for the flight I noticed our aircraft had changed from an A319 to an A320. Somewhere along the line our seat assignment changed and we ended up with 4E and 4F. Since my wife had such a rough time on the IAD-CDG segment I decided to be a gentleman and take the middle seat.
Our 22” TravelPros fit perfectly in the overhead above us and backpacks went in front of us. Leg room was a little tight especially when compared to our previous segment but perfectly sufficient for a short flight.
The flight attendants passed through quickly with a snack service. “Salty or sweet?” they asked.
I was so exhausted from not sleeping that I folded the tray table down and immediately fell asleep head in hands.
I awoke while we were on approach to WAW.
Warsaw airport is a breeze. Since we did not check bags we were curbside waiting for an Uber in less than 10 minutes.September 15, 2018
LOT Polish Airlines 3853
After a few days of exploring all that Warsaw had to offer, it was time to continue to our next City. Check In
With our bodies still not acclimated to Polish time we were awake far too early for our 1035am flight. We opted to head to the airport to give ourselves plenty of time to navigate check-in, bag check and security.
I decided to check my bags given we were flying an Embraer and I was not sure if our expanding suitcases would fit in the overhead. The LOT agent was friendly and checked us and our bags in quickly.
There was not much of a line at security this morning so we proceeded through without delay.
Nothing makes me not want to smoke more than seeing this pathetic smoking booth.
Spotted my first A220.
Warsaw airport has a wonderful kids play area just outside of Passport Control.
We planted our roots on the upper level of a Costa Coffee. Great views and it was nice and quiet.
Our ride to Wroclaw.Boarding
It’s good to know gate lice exist outside of the US. Without the need for overhead space we boarded at the end of the line and took our seats, 3A and 3B.
I thought it was interesting that an Airport Ops person comes to move the jetway for each flight.
Overall this was a painless, short flight. The flight attendants were friendly and offered a quick beverage service. Roughly 30 minutes after departing Warsaw we began our descent into Wroclaw.
I’m not sure I knew what to expect but I was surprised at how modern Wroclaw Airport is. It is a smaller airport but very efficient. We waited only a brief time for our checked luggage.September 20, 2018
LOT Polish Airlines 3902
We spent a relaxing morning around our AirBnB. The previous day was hectic including a 6 hour study tour of Auschwitz. So we took advantage of the late afternoon flight back to Warsaw and enjoyed a couple of hours at a beer garden in Kazimierz.
Around 2:30 we called for an Uber to whisk us off to the airport. We arrived at 3:00 pm for our 4:20 flight. Check In
As with Warsaw, check in was a breeze. There was no line and we again checked our bags because by now had completely expanded our suitcases with bottles of Polish beer for home!
After dropping our bags off I noticed a sign for an observation deck and had to check it out.
Around 3:30 we headed through security and realized our aircraft was just airborne outside of Warsaw. There are only a handful of food and beverage offerings at Krakow Airport. My wife decided to grab 2 sandwiches and 2 small Procecco splits for lunch, I made the mistake of paying for them. USD$40!!!
We made a pit stop for a two cold Zywiec and wandered around for a bit.
Soon enough SP-LIM (E175) pulled into the gate and it was time to board.
Taxi out was quick and our short hop to Warsaw began.Arrival
We approached Warsaw as the sun began to set.
We were experts at navigating WAW at this point so we quickly collected our bags at baggage claim. Because of our early (6am) departure we decided to stay at the Marriott Courtyard at WAW for the night. We checked in and Uber’d into downtown Warsaw for one last night. We picked Hala Koszyki for our final dinner and drinks. Afterwards we took Uber back to the hotel for a few hours of sleep. September 21, 2018
Air France 1247
Wake up was too damn early! Since we planned to take a room at the YotelCDG or use the AF Business Lounge we simply threw on comfortable clothes, brushed our teeth and checked out (at 4:37am).
View of the airport terminal from the Marriott Courtyard.Check In
The Air France counter was open when we arrived. There was a short line for general check in but I used the AF app on my phone to check in the night before. The “bag drop” agent was very nice and explained we would not have to collect our checked luggage at CDG and the next time we would see it was in Dulles.
My plan worked. 28 minutes after leaving the hotel we were through security.
I wandered around for a bit and checked out a toy store with an AWESOME LEGO selection.
This was my first flight on an Airbus A318. Boarding was efficient and the mostly business traveler crowd took their seats quickly.
We booked the window and aisle but learned someone would be seated in the center seat. I took the window and my wife chose the middle.
Airport Ops agent and observation deck in the background.
AIr China had just arrived from PEK as we were taxiing out.
I slept through the entire flight and dare I say, we arrived in Paris feeling slightly refreshed.Connection at CDG
We parked at a remote stand and took a bus to the terminal. The Avgeek in me loves this type of parking arrangement provided I have plenty of time to connect.
The line for passport control. The line seemed to last forever however it took roughly 25 minutes from the time I took this photo to make it through.
Prior to our trip, I made a reservation at the YotelAIR for a small cabin for 2. I should have done more research on the AF lounges at CDG because they honestly looked spectacular. I tried to cancel my Yotel reservation however I was too close to check in and would have forfeited the money.
The YotelAIR is apart of a larger complimentary lounge area called Lounge Instant Paris.YotelAIR CDG
Check in at the Yotel is done on a kiosk. The agent assist us with our assignment, showed us the private lounge area with vending machines as well as directed us to our cabin.
If you do not have the need for a sleeping cabin, you can pay to access the Yotel Lounge along with a shower.
The cabins are made for sleeping so they do not have windows with tarmac views. But they do have incredibly comfortable beds with an ensuite.
They also have larger cabins with bunk beds for families.
My wife and I took turns showering and changed into pajamas. I am not sure if it was the nap on the WAW-CDG flight or fear of oversleeping but we did not get any sleep during our short stay at the Yotel. Despite the lack of a nap, our cabin at the Yotel was a very nice way to spend a few hours. We lounged in bed, watched TV and relaxed.
If I had a shorter layover I would skip the cabin and just purchase lounge/shower access. Our CDG-IAD flight was scheduled to depart at 1:25pm and I knew we had a bit of a walk through the terminal ahead of us. I also wanted to grab something to eat. I had a sneaking suspicion this flight would be late as well but did not want to make a mistake and miss our flight.
We made our way over to T2-M and on the way I received an alert via the AF app that our flight was delayed by 45 minutes.
So we diverted to the caviar bar for a glass of champagne. My wife put in our order while I ran to Paul 2 sandwiches.
Pre Departure Drink!
While enjoying our drink we overheard a page for AF55 passengers to proceed to the gate for additional security checks. Not sure what the additional checks ended up being but we were queued up when I received notice of another delay.September 21, 2018
Air France 55
81K Premium EconomyBoarding
We waited and waited and eventually boarding began. We boarded through the upper jetway and again proceeded through business class. I tried to move our seats to a non-exit row location but was unable to. Premium Economy was completely full on the flight to Dulles.
Business Class Seat
View from 81kCabin and Seat
With a few days of vacation under my belt I thought I might feel differently about the AF PE seat. I don’t. I think it is an improvement over a standard economy seat but not sure I would be willing to pay a significant premium for it. Once again we were warm the whole way to DC and I could not adjust the seat to a comfortable position.
We were given the same amenity kits as the previous TATL flight. Food and Wine
We again had the wobbly tray tables with an awkward bend in the middle. When meals were distributed my wife ended up placing her food tray on the armrest because her wine glass would slide to the center and food was landing in her lap.
The menu was different for this flight and the quality was MUCH better.
I caught a little bit of sleep and around 4 hours outside of DC I decided to watch a movie. I worked my way through the clumsy and slow menus to find ‘The Post.’
I missed seeing it in theaters and was excited to watch it. The headphones provided decent sound quality though I would have liked to use my own.
I enjoyed my sandwich from Paul as we descended over Pennsylvania. Arrival
We landed on 19L and taxied to our gate.
People often comment on how outdated the people movers are at Dulles but I have to say, 400+ passengers deplaned and were taken to the International Arrivals Building (IAB) in just a few minutes. I’ll take IAD’s "Tonka" trucks compared to the various moving walkways and trams at CDG or the train ride at MAD any day.
Not to mention the view is much better than an underground airport tram.
Once inside the IAB we passed through Global Entry, claimed our bags and were out in an Uber on the way home in no time.
I hope you enjoyed my trip review as much as I liked writing it. I’ve been back from Poland for just over a month now and writing this review and sorting through my photos has me feeling wanderlust for my next trip.