SWISS Bringing Their 777s To Chicago

SWISS Bringing Their 777s To Chicago

SWISS has announced that they will introduce the 777 on several flights between Zurich and Chicago beginning June 1, 2017.  Specifically, the 777 will be assigned to Flight LX008 and LX009 for 6 of the 7 weekly flights.  Overall, SWISS will maintain 12 flights per week between ZRH and ORD.

Here is what service will look like beginning June 1:

LX006 and 007 will still fly between ZRH and ORD 5 times a week (not Wednesdays/Fridays).  The flights will be operated with A330-300 aircraft.

LX008 and 009 will fly daily and will have the 777 on the route everyday except Tuesdays.   The Tuesday flight will be operated by an A330-300.

The 777 is expected to be on LX008/009 until October 28, 2017.   I expect that the Airbuses will come back for the winter due to demand decrease.


Chicago O’Hare:  Not All Security Scanner Lanes Are Created Equal….

Chicago O’Hare: Not All Security Scanner Lanes Are Created Equal….

On a recent trip to Europe that required me to head over to Terminal 5 for my trans-atlantic flight, I was told by a security screener that not all screening equipment is created equal and that there is a bit of ‘secret’ when trying to clear security as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Terminal 5, also know as the International Terminal, is laid out in such a manner that makes it difficult to have multiple security lines based on status levels or class of travel.   Due to the physical bottleneck at security screening, most of the time all passengers are herded through only 2 lines that head toward the screening equipment.   There is a Business / First Class ‘Express’ lane that’s open occasionally based on the timing of some flight departures, but I’ve never seen it open and I have many departures from T-5 under my belt.  Nor is there a Pre-Check lane for those of us enrolled in the program since most international airlines are not enrolled, except for Lufthansa as far as Euro carriers are concerned.

As I was saying, on my last trip to Europe I was flying out of Terminal 5 so I figured I had to endure the long security lines without much chance of being to clear the line faster than anyone else.   Once I got past the point where my Passport and ID are checked, I made my way to the security scanners.   I chose to go the far right of the screening area since the line was shortest.  I also applied the stereotyping process used in ‘Up In The Air’ to avoid the families that seemed to be traveling for the first time ever and would have little clue how to handle security.   I chose the line that had the kind of people in it that I thought would know what they’re doing.   Glad I did.

When I came to the tray to put on my bags and began to reach for my shoes, the agent told me to keep my shoes and belt on.   Of course I had to ask why since I hadn’t seen any new rules regarding passenger screening.   The agent indicated that the scanner that I was going to go through was dialed up with stronger screening ability so that  passengers can leave shoes and belts on during screen.   Great…kind of a ‘Pre-Check’ lite!   I still needed to take my electronics out, but thats a small price to pay in order to keep my shoes and belt on.

I asked her why the difference and she simply replied that the 2 machines at the far right of the screening area are dialed up to help increase the flow of passenger screening during peak time and are sometimes used as overflow lanes to get people through faster.

So what does all this mean?

The next time you have a T-5 departure from O’Hare, pay attention when you pass through the ID/Passport check.   May your way to the 2 scanners at the far right of the screening area.  There’s a chance that you’ll have a much easier time getting through screening without going through all the steps that everyone else has to endure (shoes/belts,etc).

Now keep in mind that this is just my experience and ‘Your Mileage May Vary’, but I doubt that the scanners are re-adjusted too many times.   If the scanners are open, head there.   If not, pay attention to the scanner lines to see if any of them are letting passengers keep their shoes on.   You just might have a slightly easier time of clearing security in a Terminal where it’s normally not easy to do.

A LOT To Like…….

A LOT To Like…….

Last week I had spent time in Austria to attend the Austrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring and in a departure from my travel habits (LH/OS/LX), I flew LOT Polish Airlines primarily to experience what a 787 offers during a 10 hour flight.   My only previous 787 flights were aboard  United  when they were testing and training crew on domestic US routes when the 787 joined their fleet.  With the domestic flights, they typically lasted only 2-4 hours, hardly enough time to get a true feel for a long-haul aircraft.

Over the years, LOT has had stretches of greatness and then periods of ‘What are they thinking?’.   However as they continue to upgrade their fleet and add new long haul destinations, it appears that ‘LO’ is on quite an uptick, especially as far as Business Class travel is concerned.    I admit I had my doubts about what the on-board experience would offer, but the doubts were allayed almost immediately upon boarding.    In my case, it was aboard LO 2 flying from Chicago to Warsaw (and on to Vienna) and then flying aboard LO 1 for the return flight to Chicago.

What was an unexpected surprise was the warm greeting that the purser offers soon after boarding.   In the case of both my long haul flights, the purser personally introduced herself and thanked me for being a Miles & More Senator, which actually surprised me since I thought that was reserved for Lufthansa, Austrian, or SWISS flights (at least based on my experiences).   I also realized after the fact, that I was asked for my meal preference before any other passenger on our outbound flight.   I suspect that LOT follows a policy of prioritizing meals based on Status level and fare class.   A nice, noticed touch.

The outbound flight to WAW was a completely pleasant experience, even with a full Business Class cabin due to the cancellation of one of the previous days flights from Chicago (LO operates 2 flights daily between ORD and WAW) the cabin crew was friendly, attentive and efficient in looking after 18 passengers.  Our return flight was even better since there were only 2 of us in the cabin, giving a bit of First Class / Private Jet type feel to the trip, and a LOT of attention from the cabin crew…..pun intended.

The new Business Class cabin offers comfortable, true lie-flat seating with enough room that your ‘neighbor’ will not infringe on your space.   The seats are parallel to each other so there is no fear of incidental ‘footsie’ with a stranger.   The width of the seats is also a bit above average, giving you additional room to become comfortable.    The Inflight Entertainment System offers almost 40 movies, several collections of TV shows and music options and is similar to what you would find on most long haul aircraft.  Mine had a bit of a bug to it and had to be rebooted 3 times during the flight.   But when hurtling at 600mph at 35,000 feet, a lot more serious things could go wrong than my screen freezing during a movie.

The photos below combine both the outbound and return flights and are in no particular order:


Row 2, right side of aircraft.



Row 3 right side


Row 3 Center


Row 2 center on the return flight.   Only had to share the cabin with one other passenger….never saw him!



The Amenity Kit contained your basic items. Toothbrush, Socks, and Eye Mask. For you Macbook owners, the case is an absolutely perfect fit for your power supply!


As you can see, the seat design is fairly simple and does not offer some of the extras that you’d find aboard other airline’s Business Class cabins, however this simplicity is a major advantage in some aspects.   A simple example is the tray table.    Some Business Class seat designs require an engineering degree to figure out how to take out, and stow your tray table.  With the LOT seat, it pops out, folds over and its done.    No need to know geometric theory when handling the tables.    Another nice feature is the fact that each seat has its own fan control.    Most Business Class cabins now have centralized climate control where passengers no longer can open a vent to increase air flow.  With the LOT cabin, you can adjust the fan to meet your needs.   Minor feature, but major impact especially when a crew decides to turn the cabin into a Sauna.

Moving to the soft product, including cabin crew, meals, and the intangibles LOT executed very well across the board on both flights.   Since LOT offers an intimate 18-passenger Business Cabin with 4 flight attendants, you are never far away from having an attendant to help.    This was most noticeable during meal service.   On aircraft that have larger Business Class cabins, crews are sometimes forced to use meal carts to bring appetizers and entrees to passengers.   In the case of the LOT cabin and crew, each part of the meal was already pre-plated and brought to me as if I were in a restaurant.  A nice touch especially since it was personalized and quiet.  No rattling of plates, glasses or carts during meal service.    The only time they used serving carts was for the first beverage service after take off due to the variety of options and then again for the dessert service due to the multiple choices that were available.

The photos of the meals shown below are in no particular order, but combine both flights.   One minor observation is the lack of ‘presentation’ in some of the meals.   Some maximizers and spoiled ‘brats’ will criticize that a poorly presented meal must not be any good, however in the case of the LOT menu, it simply is not the case.    The total of 7 or 8 courses that I had aboard my flights were great, even the pickled herring was delicious!   In the case of some of these photos, they simply do not relay just how good the food actually was……



Pre-Arrival Lunch aboard LO1 from Warsaw to Chicago



Pate snack shortly after boarding…..



Dessert aboard LO1 From Warsaw to Chicago: Dark Chocolate Cake and Sorbet with Vanilla Sauce.



Main Entree aboard LO1 from Warsaw to Chicago: Sea Bass, Rice Pilaf and Vegetables. My favorite meal from both flights, and notice that presentation may not have been absolutely perfect, but it didn’t matter.



Salad aboard LO1 from Warsaw to Chicago: Crusted Goat Cheese, Beets, and Mixed Greens. Again the presentation does not do the salad any justice.



Dessert aboard LO2 from Chicago to Warsaw: Sorbet, Cheese, and Grapes. In the short glass is a delicious Polish Mead. The taller glass held a Cognac ‘chaser’.



Main Entree aboard LO2 from Chicago to Warsaw: Seasoned Chicken with Risotto and Vegetables.



Appetizer aboard LO2 from Chicago to Warsaw: Mixed Green Salad along with Roasted Duck Breast. In the glass, a good tasting wine from Georgia. Tbilisi, not Atlanta!


After all is said and done, I was very happy with my experience aboard all of my LOT flights and certainly will fly with them again.   The crews showed a genuine desire to make sure that passengers enjoyed the trip and were sincere in their execution.   Many times you come across crews going through the motions but that was not the case with LOT.    I could tell that at least with the crews I had, they actually enjoy doing what they do.

However, there is one minor criticism and piece of advice that I will leave you with that has to do with the aircraft and not the crew……

For those of you not familiar with the 787, the aircraft does not have ‘physical’ window shades that pull down to completely block out the outside light.    Boeing decided to install windows that can be tinted electronically by each passenger.  The electronic tint has 6 levels of strength, however at its strongest setting does not completely block out light.

Not even close!

My advice to anyone traveling aboard ANY 787 is to make sure you are sitting on the opposite side of where the sun will be during most of your flights.   In the case of traveling from west to east from the US to Europe, you will want to sit on the right hand side of the aircraft, or the side that will be facing south during your atlantic crossing.   If you sit on the left side, you will be extremely annoyed by the sunlight in the morning as it enters the left side of the aircraft during sunrise.     When traveling westward from Europe, again, sit on the right hand side of the aircraft (facing north) since the bulk of the sunshine will enter the left side of the cabin during a typical daytime flight to the States.    Quite honestly, the electronic tint is nearly worthless when exposed to direct sunlight.   I specifically chose the right side of the aircraft for this reason.   Otherwise, the 787 is a great aircraft for a long-haul flight.    The cabin does feel more ‘humid’ due to it being pressurized to a lower altitude, and the large windows provide great views….except of course when you’re trying to block out the sun!

So what do I think about LOT?   Fly them….You’ll like them a LOT!


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Plane Spotting (Mostly) Foreign ‘Heavies’ At O’Hare

Plane Spotting (Mostly) Foreign ‘Heavies’ At O’Hare

I finally had the time to sort through my photos from a trip a month ago to Germany, Austria and Slovakia.    As part of the trip I had an 8-hour layover in O’Hare which was spent mostly in Terminal 5 which provided a great view of the arrivals and departures taking place on runways 28R and 28C.   In my opinion, I believe that Terminal 5 offers the best vantage point for plane spotting at the airport.    The only knock on it is the fact that most of the aircraft, most of the time, will be back lit thanks to the sun’s path and orientation of the runway.  You’ll see that play out in the photos.

For this post, I focused on unique carriers that visit O’Hare.  I figure most of you have seen American or United Airlines short and medium haul aircraft so I’ll spare you photos of their A320s, 737s and regional jets.



Russia’s AirBridgeCargo 747-8F VQ-BRH entered service for the carrier in September 2013.



American’s 3rd oldest 787, N802N,  delivered in May 2015.



ANA’s 777-300, JA735A, entered service in June 2006.



Speedbird’s 744, G-CIVF, entered service in April 1995.



Cargolux’s 747-400F, LX-VCV, entered service in December 2005.



Cathay’s 777, B-KPW, was delivered in August 2011.



Etihad’s 777-300, A6-ETQ entered service in September 2013.



Eva Cargo’s 747-400F entered service in July 2012.



Not a heavy, but Frontier’s tails always makes for a nice photo. N229FR (Airbus A320) was delivered in April 2015.



Iberia’s A330, EC-MAA, was delivered in April 2014.



JAL’s 777, JA731J, was delivered in June 2004.



Korean’s 777-300, HL8006, was delivered in July 2015.



Lufthansa’s 747-8i, D-ABYI, entered service in June 2013. Seen here in her ‘Siegerflieger’ livery.



‘YI’ arriving at her gate in Terminal 5.



NCA’s 747-8F, JA12KZ, entered service in January 2013.



Qatar Cargo’s 777, A7-BFE, was delivered in June 2013.



TNT’s 777, OO-TSB, was delivered in April 2012.



United’s 747-400, N127UA, was delivered in August 1999.