Why LOT Polish Airlines bought espresso machines for its Boeing 787s

"So nice having an espresso on a plane before landing," LOT passenger Brian Kusler wrote last year on Flickr. That's exactly what the airline's CEO would wanted to hear. Photo: Kusler, via Flickr

"So nice having an espresso on a plane before landing," LOT passenger Brian Kusler wrote last year on Flickr. That's exactly what the airline's CEO would wanted to hear. Photo: Kusler, via Flickr

On LOT Polish Airlines, some long-haul flight attendants hold competitions to see who can craft the most beautiful, tastiest latte. 

So says airline CEO, Sebastian Mikosz, who told me he has approved spending nearly $100,000 to install espresso machines on each of the airline's six Boeing 787s. The machines have a purpose -- to keep premium passengers happy -- but they're also a pet project for Mikosz.

"I'm a coffee addict," he told me in a recent interview. 

There are only 18 seats in LOT's 787 business class, so flight attendants serve relatively few lattes and cappuccinos. But Mikosz argues that the machines are memorable and help the airline position itself as more of a premium brand. That's a similar argument to the one American Airlines made recently when it installed espresso machines on some of its new aircraft. 

"When you serve a real espresso, the machines are part of the entrainment," Mikosz said. "Passengers ask, 'how do you do a latte on a plane?"'

The one issue, he said, is that the machine's require a deft human touch. "It's much more difficult to serve than an expensive wine," Mikosz said. "With wine, you just open it up and the passenger either like it or does not."

Mikosz said he is always looking to add little touches to improve the passenger experience. He notes that a roundtrip in business class can cost about $3,000 round-trip between Warsaw and New York.  But he said the secret to a happy customer is relatively simple. "I prefer to serve [the customer] an espresso, a good wine and soup," Mikosz said. "If we do that, I am sure he will be back."

Here's the cabin on LOT's Boeing 787-8 aircraft. Photo: shorthairfrancis, via flickr.

Here's the cabin on LOT's Boeing 787-8 aircraft. Photo: shorthairfrancis, via flickr.

Still, don't expect LOT to add bells and whistles like some Middle East-based airlines, including Etihad and Emirates. Etihad, you'll remember, is adding a three-room "apartment" to its Airbus A380s. "People are not expecting gold and shiny apartments from us," Mikosz said. "Only fully flat beds and a comfortable pillow."

And Emirates has its own fancy amenity for first class passengers, as Mikosz knows well. "They have showers on the A380," he told me. "So me and my expresso machine? That's not a big deal."

What about the cost for the machine? Compared to the aircraft -- the list price is $218 million -- and even the price of each business class seat -- $250,000 or so -- Mikosz argues that the espresso machine is a steal.



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