After spend an hour or two in the Lufthansa Senator Lounge, I decided to go wander the terminal a bit before my long trans-Atlantic flight to Vienna (VIE). I have to admit, this was the flight I was most looking forward to as I had never flown Austrian Airlines before.
Flying a new airline for the first time is something of a rarity for me these days and as a self-proclaimed aviation geek, I am not too proud to admit I was geeking out a bit. And Austrian Airlines ended up far exceeding my expectations!
Introduction – Europe On A Whim
Review – United 737-800 BusinessFirst – RSW-IAH
Review – KLM Crown Lounge – IAH
Review – United 767-300 BusinessFirst – IAH-EWR
Review – Lufthansa Senator Lounge – EWR
Review – Austrian Airlines 767-300 Business Class – EWR-VIE
Review – Sky Lounge (Non-Schengen) – VIE
Review – Sky Lounge (Schengen) – VIE
Review – Austrian Airlines Lounge – VIE
Review – Austrian Airlines A320 Business Class – VIE-DUS
Review – Holiday Inn Express Dusseldorf
Review – Element Amsterdam
Review – KLM Royal Crown Lounge – AMS
Review – Air France A318 Premier Class – AMS-CDG
Review – Air France Salon Lounge – CDG
Review – Air France A320 Premier Class – CDG-LIS
Review – Intercontinental Lisbon
Review – ANA Lounge – LIS
Review – Iberia A320 Business Class – LIS-MAD
Review – Iberia Sala VIP Velazquez Lounge – MAD
Review – British Airways 767-300 Business Class – MAD-LHR
Review – British Airways Galleries Lounge – Terminal 3 LHR
Review – No. 1 Lounge – Terminal 3 LHR
Review – Swissport Lounge – Terminal 3 LHR
Review – American Airlines Admirals Club – Terminal 3 LHR
Review – American Airlines 777-300ER (77W) Business Class – LHR-DFW
As I mentioned in my review of my first United flight, to get myself to Dusseldorf, I opted to burn some United miles. While I usually try to save my United miles for a roundtrip so I can utilize the stopover and/or open jaw, with United’s changes to the rules, I just decided to burn the miles for a one-way redemption. Had I flown entirely on United metal, it would have set me back 57.5k miles + ~$90 for my business class ticket. As I was redeeming for flights operated by United’s partner, Austrian Airlines, my cost was 70k miles + ~$111 in taxes, fees and close-in booking fee. I used this clever trick to avoid the close-in booking fee since I booked 3 days before departure, which brought the taxes and fees down to ~$36.
Austrian Airlines 90
Newark (EWR) to Vienna (VIE)
Depart: 5:50 PM
Arrive: 8:25 AM (+1)
Duration: 8 hours, 35 minutes
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300
After wandering the terminal for around 15 minutes, I decided to head over to my gate so I could be one of the first in line to board so I could snap some pictures. However, when I got to the gate, it was a total mess.
As I reached the gate, an announcement was made that boarding would be delayed 15 minutes due to a delay in the incoming aircraft. Except the incoming aircraft was on the ground already when I landed in Newark (EWR) nearly 3 hours earlier. So?
To make matters worse, the air conditioning in the terminal either was not working or was not turned on as it was HOT in the terminal. People were sweating and coupled with the delay and the disorganized mess at the gate, tensions were a bit high and nerves frayed. There were a few “scuffles” at the gate where people were verbally fighting with each other.
About 15 minutes after the scheduled boarding time, boarding for the business class cabin was announced. I made my way down the hallway towards the jet bridge and was presented with a great view of the 767 that would be home for the next 8 1/2 hours.
After turning down the jet bridge, there was a cart with some newspapers in German and English. I quite like this touch from foreign carriers.
We boarded through door 1L and I turned right into the business class cabin which features fully lie-flat seats in a staggered 1-2-1 configuration.
Austrian Airlines 767s and 777s feature the same business class seat as American Airlines offers on their 767s. As with American’s 767s, there are certain seats that are better to select than others. The true window seats will offer the most privacy, while the seats exposed to the aisle will offer a bit more space. For more privacy with individual window seats on the 767, you will want to select the A or K seats in rows 1, 3, 5, 7 or 9. For more privacy with the double seats in the center section, you will want to select the G seats in rows 1, 3, 5, 7 or 9; or the D seats in rows 2, 4, 6 or 8.
Immediately upon boarding I was hit with a wave of heat as it appears the air conditioning was off on the aircraft as well which made the cabin just as hot as the terminal. I quickly found my seat in row 3, which was a window seat with a lot of privacy.
If you opted for a seat exposed to the aisle on the window sides of the aircraft, this is what you can expect:
Waiting at my seat was a pillow and packaged blanket – both of which sported a rather unique design and were quite comfortable.
Also waiting at my seat was a pair of Austrian Airlines branded noise canceling headphones.
There was also a small amenity kit waiting in a pocket in the seat just below the adjustable light.
The amenity kit was pretty basic and was about the only thing I can say negative about my entire Austrian Airlines experience.
The amenity kit contained a cheap pair of socks that would not stay up, an eye mask, ear plugs, a toothbrush and mini tube of tooth paste, lip balm and face cream.
The lip balm and face cream were Edel Weiss brand.
After getting settled, I started to check out the seat and found it to be nearly identical to the American 767s I fly quite often. The leg room was excellent, although the foot well area can feel a bit constricting after a while.
The seat is controlled by a control panel located to the right of the seat and is a touchscreen pad. While I like this aesthetically, I am not a fan of this in practice as you often have to hit the buttons multiple times to get the seat to function how you want. With that said, I did like that Austrian’s seats featured a massage function, which was quite nice!
The console area featured an international style power plug, as well as a USB plug. I like the location of these plugs a lot as they allow you to charge your laptop or your phone while working and not have a mess to deal with when you want to get up to stretch or use the lavatory.
In front of the seat was the in-flight entertainment (IFE) screen, which was quite large and high definition.
While the IFE screen itself was a touchscreen, you could also control it via a small controller that was hidden in an armrest next to the seat.
The IFE had a great selection of movies, television shows, games and music (sorry for the reflection from the screen – it was near impossible to get pictures without it).
I of course opted for the map while we were on the ground – though you can utilize any part of the IFE while on the ground.
To the right of the IFE screen was a small pocket for a bottled drink, as well as a bigger pocket that held all of the inflight magazines.
Below the larger pocket was another pocket that was well sized for holding shoes, though it would also be good for holding a laptop/tablet and charger if you did not want to keep those items in the overhead bins.
One thing that struck me about the cabin was the cloud motif on the walls. It gave the cabin a very and happy feel and was strangely very Austrian.
After boarding was near complete, the flight attendant came around with a selection of pre-departure beverages. the options were orange juice, champagne or water. Since I am not a champagne fan, I opted for the orange juice which was your typical from concentrate juice – though it was served with an orange slice.
This is where the flight really started to get good. Austrian Airlines employs chefs for their flights to prepare the meals which are crafted by the fantastic DO & CO. The chef came by to introduce himself and provide the menu for the flight. The menu, which appeared to be specific to the Newark-Vienna route, read as follows:
The chef also dropped off a breakfast order sheet and asked me to make my selections for that.
After placing my order for both meals, I browsed the champagne, wine and spirits list, which was not great, but also was not bad.
We pushed back just a few minutes past our originally scheduled departure, though there was no announcement from the flight deck. As we started to taxi I got a glimpse of a Lufthansa 747 which was getting ready to go to Frankfurt (FRA).
Our taxi was quick and before I knew it we were airborne. We had a smooth climb out of Newark with some decent views of New York City. The fasten seat belt sign was turned off about 15 minutes after takeoff, at which point I went to the lavatory to change. For so early in the flight, the lavatory was a mess with papers and water everywhere. There was, however, a small basket filled with various amenities.
When I got back to my seat, I noticed that I had missed the hot towels. While I have always received a hot towel from the flight attendants after returning to my seat, that was not the case this time.
About that time, the captain came on the PA to welcome everyone aboard and inform us of our cruising altitude of 33,000 feet. He also informed us that our route would take us over Shannon, Ireland, down past Frankfurt and finally on to Vienna.
The meal service started about 45 minutes after takeoff and began with drinks from the drink cart.
I opted for an Austrian marzen beer, which was quite good. It was served with a ramekin of warmed mixed nuts.
The appetizer was served on a cart, which was a nice touch.
For my starter, I opted for the seared tuna, though the buffalo mozzarella looked quite good as well. The tuna was absolutely fantastic.
I was also offered some consomme that was served with a matzo ball type dumpling which was also fantastic.
In between the starter and the main course, I happened to glance out the window and see an absolutely gorgeous view.
For my main course, I opted for the sea bass. The fish was super moist and absolutely fantastic, though the mousseline was a bit sweet for my liking.
After the main course was cleared, the Coffee House menus were distributed. This was the deciding factor for me in wanting to fly Austrian Airlines as I like my coffee!
The coffee menu was quite varied and had some great offerings.
After placing my order for the famous Eiskaffee, the dessert cart was rolled down the aisle. I quite like being able to actually see the dessert options before making my selection – but maybe that’s just the former fat kid in me talking. They also offered a small cheese and fruit plate on offer if you preferred.
I love pretty much anything that contains apple, so I opted for the apple tart and some fruit. The flight attendant recommended I try the apple tart with some of the warmed vanilla sauce. Who am I to say no to a recommendation like that?!
The flight attendant also suggested I try an Austrian dessert wine with my fruit, which I gladly accepted. The dessert wine was good for a few sips, but overall just way too sweet for my likes. The apple tart on the other hand was absolutely incredible. If I could somehow find a way to subsist on nothing but that apple tart, I would.
Shortly after the dessert course was finished, my Eiskaffe arrived. While the presentation was stellar and the drink delicious, I had had way more than my fill of sugary things at that point and really should have gone for one of the other options. In any case, look at that work of art!
It is worth noting that the on-board chef prepares the specialty coffees, so each is individually made and they take a bit of time to arrive. It is also worth remembering that if you want an Eiskaffe, you need to order it early on as the ice cream used in it melts throughout the flight and might not be available later in the flight.
The meal service was completed about 2 hours after departure, at which point bottled water was passed out.
The cabin lights were then dimmed and most of the half empty cabin opted to sleep. Since I do not sleep well on planes, I opted to watch a movie and then did some reading. Something worth noting was that there was a storage locker across from seat 1A that the flight attendants seemed to go in and out of a lot. The locker had a light in it that would turn on when the door was opened, so if you are a light sleeper or light/noise bothers you, I would select another seat.
One thing I thought was a bit strange was when I had finished my bottle of water, the flight attendant came by and asked me if I wanted a refill. I try very hard to stay hydrated on flights, so I said yes, please. The flight attendant then asked if it was OK if she refilled my same bottle. That was the first time I have ever heard that, but it did not bother me any and one less plastic bottle in the world is not a bad thing!
About two hours out of Vienna, the flight attendants started the breakfast service for those in the cabin that were awake. I peeked out the window and saw a gorgeous sunrise starting.
Breakfast began with the flight attendants coming around with a tray of water, orange juice and mango smoothie. I started with a glass of orange juice and a water.
That was followed by a hot towel which had some sort of refreshing scent to it.
As I was one of only three people in the cabin who were awake, my breakfast was served rather quickly. I had opted for the omelet, yogurt, museli, fresh fruit, croissant with jam and the mango smoothie.
The eggs were a bit on the greasy side and the bacon was not crispy enough for my liking, but everything else was absolutely fantastic. I liked this breakfast because yogurt and fruit is my usual breakfast.
I also went for a cup of coffee, which was strong, but great. The only thing I did not like was the coffee was served in small china-style cups, which my big hands had a hard time holding onto.
Breakfast was completed quickly and I headed to the lavatory to change. I noted there was only one lavatory in the front of the business class cabin and it had been locked by the crew just a few hours after takeoff. That left only one lavatory for the entire business class cabin. Because that lavatory was located between the business and economy cabins, the line was very long for it after breakfast. That is one thing I think was poorly designed on this aircraft.
About a half hour out we started our descent into Vienna on a gorgeous day. We had a smooth landing and after a quick taxi, we were at our gate.
What was strange was that we had a gate with a jet bridge, but they unloaded the aircraft via stairs and then bused us to the terminal. The buses were jam packed with people, so it was an uncomfortable 10 minutes or so. Upon arriving at the terminal, the flight boards only showed connection information for flights departing within the next three hour or so. Since my flight was around 7 hours later, I had to guess at where I would be going. Instead I decided to seek out a few lounges.
Austrian Airlines blew me away with how fantastic their hard and soft products were. The IFE was fantastic, the seat was comfortable, the service was excellent and the food was the best I have ever had in the air. I am not kidding when I say I would go out of my way to fly Austrian again in the future simply because the experience from start to finish is so exceptional. I would unequivocally say spending the extra miles for a flight on Austrian Airlines over United was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Bottom line – check out Austrian!
What has been your experiences with Austrian Airlines?
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