Visa Waiver Scheme Sees Lot Polish Airlines Launch San Francisco Route

LOT Polish Airlines has announced a new route to the US. Starting in August next year, the airline will fly from its hub at Warsaw Chopin Airport to San Francisco (SFO) four times a week using a 787 Dreamliner. The announcement came just days after the US revealed that Poland would be included in its visa waiver program.

LOT Polish Dreamliner
LOT Polish will fly a Dreamliner to SFO from August 2020. Photo: Bjorn Strey via Wikimedia

Poland joins the US visa waiver program

On Friday 4th October, President Trump officially announced that Poland was to be nominated into the nation’s visa waiver program. Poland has campaigned for over a decade to be included in the program, which most other European countries are already a part of.

Rafał Milczarski, CEO of LOT Polish Airlines, commented in a press release,

“San Francisco has been on our list of new destinations for some time already; however, it is no coincidence that we have decided to announce this connection right now. September 30th Poland has officially joined the Visa Waiver Program, so that soon American visas for Poles will become a thing of the past. I am delighted that our social campaign “No Visas to the USA” that we initiated in 2018 has contributed to this success. We do believe that now Poles will be more willing to travel to the United States for both tourist and business purposes. And the choice is abundant indeed – from now on, together with its new connection to San Francisco, LOT offers as many as 11 direct flights to the United States – both from Poland and Hungary.”

The visa waiver program allows Polish citizens access to the US for both business and tourism purposes for up to 90 days without a visa. Trump said that details of the program would be worked out over the next couple of months.

LOT Polish 787-8
It’s not clear yet whether LOT will us the 787-8 or -9 on the route. Photo: Janusz Jakubowski via Flickr

Details of the new route

From August 5th, 2020, LOT Polish will fly to San Francisco four times a week using a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. The schedule at the current time, as shared by  looks as follows:

  • From Warsaw to San Francisco on Monday and Friday, LO35 departs at 11:35, arriving at 14:30. On Wednesday and Saturday, LO37 departs at 17:20, arriving in SFO at 20:15.
  • From San Francisco to Warsaw, on Monday and Friday LO36 departs at 16:25, arriving at 13:00 (+1 day). On Wednesday and Saturday, LO38 departs at 22:10, arriving in WAW at 18:45 (+1 day).

This 12-hour flight will stand to be the fastest way to connect between the CEE region and San Francisco. The timetable has been arranged to provide passengers connecting from many other European flights with a short and convenient transfer. LOT has advised that those connecting from Budapest, Tel Aviv, Vienna, Gothenburg, Stockholm, Prague, St. Petersburg, Sofia, Bucharest, Moscow, Tallinn, Kiev or the majority of Polish cities should only have around a two-hour transfer in Chopin Airport.

LOT Polish 787 economy
All cabins on the Dreamliner have IFE. Photo: LOT

“San Francisco, i.e. the most important tourist and business metropolis in Northern California is a natural destination for LOT’s further in United States. Until now, there has not been such a convenient connection with Northern California from both Poland and from the entire region of Central and Eastern Europe. Each year, nearly 300,000 passengers travel between Central and Eastern Europe and San Francisco, and I do believe that with our connection this figure will grow even further,” added Milczarski.

The San Francisco route will be LOT’s 9th connection to the US. Already, the carrier offers connections from Warsaw to New York (JFK and EWR), Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami. From Krakow the airline connects to Chicago, and from May 2020 also to JFK. Alongside these, it offers a service from Rzeszow to New York and from Budapest to New York and Chicago.

What can long haulers expect from LOT?

The LOT Polish Dreamliners are equipped for comfortable long haul travel. Arranged over three classes, the aircraft features a fully lie flat business class product in a 2-2-2 configuration. While this doesn’t allow for direct aisle access, it does present a comfortable way to travel for the almost 12 hour flight.

LOT Business class
Business class is lie flat, but no direct aisle access. Photo: LOT

At 23” wide and with a pitch of 78”, there’s plenty of room, however with only 18 on board each 787-8, award availability is likely to be tight. Should the airline look to deploy the 787-9 on this route, this number increases to 24.

LOT premium economy
LOT’s premium economy class cabin. Photo: LOT

Back in premium economy, 21 recliner seats offer 38” of pitch and a width of 19.5”, laid out in a 2-3-2 configuration. Economy sees accommodation for 213 passengers (249 on the -9) with a pitch of 32”, in a comfortable 3-3-3 layout.

LOT Dreamliner
Star Alliance loyalists will appreciate the easy onward connections. Photo: LOT

As a Star Alliance member, LOTs addition of a new US connection will be welcome news for American travelers heading to Eastern Europe, and vice versa. With an extensive list of connections on United Airlines metal from San Fran, and LOT’s growing services from Warsaw, this new route will make many journeys a lot more convenient.