I was very proud of myself for booking a one-way award ticket through United from Moscow to LAX on Austrian Airlines. I had an extra night to spend at the end of my trip and was trying to figure out where in Europe I could reasonably fly from Moscow and also find an award seat to So. California from that city. I was having a hard time finding a suitable pair when I realized I could get an award ticket on both segments flying Austrian Airlines (IAD – LAX on United) and just take an afternoon flight out of Moscow and be forced to have a stopover in Vienna. It worked out perfect. Not only did I now not need to buy a ticket from Moscow, now I was able to spend a little time in Vienna and enjoy one of my favorite meals (schnitzel!!).
The other benefit of spending the night in Vienna is the Hilton Hotel is located directly across the street from the train station where the CAT (City Airport Train) departs & arrives from VIE. Having checked-in at DME (Moscow) the day before I already had my boarding pass, but after buying candy for my wife in Vienna I decided to check my bag. I noticed Austrian had a counter at the CAT station and asked if I could check my bag there. I was within the time frame allowed, checked my suitcase, and was quickly on my way for the 30 minute journey to the airport. I arrived a little less than two hours before my flight. Once at the airport I wanted to ask about seats and have my boarding pass re-printed. There was no line at the Business Class/Star Gold check-in and security was equally as quick. After security I found the Austrian Business Class lounge. The lounge was small, but had everything you would want in a lounge. Free Wifi, computer station, reading material, snacks and beverages. There was also a HON/First Class lounge and Star Gold lounge as well.
After spending less than an hour in the lounge they announced that OS #093 was boarding. I decided to see if there was more candy I could buy for my wife (she is demanding 😉 ) and made a quick stop in the Duty Free. This caused me to be a little tardy for boarding. We had to have our passports re-checked before boarding which took an additional few minutes, therefore I ended up being one of the last to board. So I found boarding to be very easy but not very personable.
I entered the plane to a less than enthusiastic greeting from the flight attendant, found my seat and stored my carry-ons. There was plenty of room in the overheads. When choosing my flight, one of the things that appealed to me was Austrian’s 1x2x1 configuration in Business Class on their 767’s. The single seat is great when traveling alone. I was seated in 3K, and while all seats have direct aisle access, this is really a window seat (all A & K are single seats but not all seats are directly next to the window). There were 9 rows on this aircraft (another version of the 767 has 7 rows) for a total of 36 seats in one cabin. There was a pillow and blanket at each seat and was also supposed to be an amenity kit and headphone. However, neither of these items were at my seat. The cabin was only half full and I could see many of the empty seats also did not have the amenity kit (there was holder at seat for kit) and headphone (did have blanket & pillow). I hadn’t changed my seat so figured they just passed over my seat. I asked the fight attendant when she came by to ask me for pre-departure drink and she brought me these items after she finished with the beverage service. My glass of orange juice was fresh-squeezed and very good. Champagne (Duval-Leroy) was also available as well as any other beverage you wanted. Shortly after boarding the menu’s were handed out and before push-back the chef came by to take orders. Austrian has a Flying Chef to oversee the meal service. He was the one who came by to take the meal orders. Probably better he didn’t interact with the passengers that much as he was a little abrupt and I think a little impatient when I didn’t understand German.
We departed on-time and after a short taxi we were airborne for our 9hr 20 min flight to Washington Dulles. The in-flight entertainment (IFE) did not start until 15 minutes after take-off, so I took that time to explore my seat. If I hadn’t recently become interested in taking photos for Instagram I would have switched my seat to the middle section as I found my seat to be slightly cramped. Not so much the seat itself, because while it is only 19″ wide, there was enough room to store your personal items (place for shoes, magazines, and a great water bottle holder) and the pitch was a generous 60″ (although most of that is under the desk portion of the seat in front of you). But more because my seat was at the window and the opening to get into the seat was very tight. The single aisle seats in the even rows had direct aisle access and therefore had a much larger entrance into their seat. The two seats in the middle was the same. One was at the aisle and the other has the desk on the aisle and seat set in a little. I got used to it after a while and enjoyed sort of being on the aisle, but also being able to look out the window if I wanted. There was a power port at the seat that came in very handy. I used both the power socket (charge my phone) that could accommodate all styles of plugs and the USB port (charged my headphones). This area is also where the headphone socket was for the IFE, an over the shoulder reading light, and a small storage bin for the amenity kit. All these were located next to your seat out in the open above a large desk or table top area. This area gave you the sense you had a lot of room. Of all the new business class layouts I have seen this had the most user friendly power port, headphone jack, and reading light. My only complaint, as with most non US airlines, is there is no air vent above the seat. Luckily on this flight the temperature was comfortable.
Once the IFE came on I quickly searched for a movie to watch. When it came to movies there certainly wasn’t the volume of movies or TV shows other airlines have available. I counted only 26 movies available. However, the selection was good. There was the latest blockbusters as well as classics and Int’l movies (including a few German speaking movies). A fair amount of TV programs, documentaries, audio books, games, and a great moving map. The audio selection was more generous than video, with maybe 100 CD’s available (also German speaking artists). The system was On demand (AVOD) and was very easy to use. Despite the smaller library I watch two movies and a few sit-coms and was entertained when I wasn’t sleeping. The hand-set was a little small but very easy to use and responsive. It worked on the screen almost as a mouse does on a computer. The 15 inch TV monitor picture was very clear and was touch screen and also easy to use. The screen was close enough (most of the 60″ seat pitch is under the TV) that it was no problem to make your selections using the screen and not the hand-set. The headphones provided were noise-canceling and despite not being the greatest quality I did use them to watch one movie. I did switch over to my headphones at some point and needed a two pronged adapter to get sound from both sides. There was no WiFi on this flight (not sure they have on any of their aircraft).
Shortly after the IFE started the flight attendants commenced with the service. First distributing hot towels (so-so quality) then helping to set-up the tray table. There was some trick to it and I actually was happy with the helping hand (otherwise it was resting on my lap). This was followed by the beverage cart and a nice selection of nuts. There was a very generous selection of wines (Three white wines and three red) to choose from, as well as any other beverage you wanted. After the beverage cart made it’s way down the aisle an appetizer trolley was shortly behind. This was very impressive as there was a selection of six appetizers (or antipasti as they called it) on the cart. You had your choice of any or all of the appetizers. I chose deep fried chicken breast and the air-dried beef , which were both very good. There was also shrimp, smoked salmon, bacon-wrapped goats cheese, and Mediterranean vegetables available. If that wasn’t enough, a creamy fennel soup was served between the appetizer and the main course. Wasn’t the best soup I’ve ever had, but I enjoy soups, so to me it was a very nice addition to the meal service. Better yet, a bread basket accompanied every serving of the entire meal service!!
For the main entree there were three options. Braised veal with sweet corn moussline and root vegetables, rigatoni (home made, according to the menu) in a light artichoke sauce, which would have appealed to me if not for the artichoke sauce, and stuffed (spinach and ricotta) chicken breast with saffron risotto. I chose the chicken and was very happy with my choice. I’m not sure what exactly the Flying Chef does or how he prepares the meals on board, but the chicken was as good as any meal I have had on an airplane. So he certainly made up for his lack of enthusiasm when taking the order 🙂
After dinner the trolley and the chef reappeared with dessert. The chef was still a little snarly, but the flight attendant that served me was very pleasant. Again, a nice and plentiful selection was available. Assorted cheese and fruit was on the trolley along with three desserts; traditional sweet curd dumplings, chocolate fondant, and a mango parfait. I had a few pieces of fruit and couldn’t decide between the chocolate fondant and the dumplings, so I took both 🙂 The dumplings were good, but the fondant was great. Freshly brewed coffee or tea were also available on the trolley (and I am sure after dinner drinks as well). I do not drink coffee, but if I did, I would have been a little disappointed to get a cup with my dessert because what came after was one of the nicest touches I have experienced on an airplane in either First or Business Class. A coffee menu welcoming you to a Viennese coffee house above the clouds was handed out with a selection of 10 of the most popular Austrian coffee specialties. As I said I do not like coffee, but not wanting to miss out on this unique experience, I asked the flight attendant if they could make a hot chocolate. She said of course, and it was as good as you’d get from a coffee house and came in the same lavish presentation as the coffee’s did. The only thing missing was no chocolate candies were available (or at least I wasn’t offered any).
After the lengthy meal service and finishing the even lengthier movie (Wolf of Wall Street) I was looking forward to some sleep. The seats have a large control area on the armrest which made it very easy to adjust the seats and use all the functions. There was a massage function that I used every once in a while, but it either stopped working after a while or I just tuned it out. But still it was nice to have. There was also a function to make the seat cushion softer or firmer. The seats are in a cocoon (or shell) and you could adjust your seat to Three settings, including a 180 degree lie flat bed (there is also small seat control on side of shell as you recline). As I have stated on many of my reviews, I actually like sleeping in a cradle position, but I tried the lie flat setting and found it a little claustrophobic (felt like I was in a coffin and very low to the ground. But to be fair, I think I find most lie-flat airplane seats this way and that is why I like the cradle position). In addition to the three settings, the seat can also be adjusted to any another setting of your choice. I found a comfortable setting between relax and lie-flat and slept soundly for a few hours. The blankets were nice, but I really liked the pillows. The only issue I had was occasionally because the seat is a little narrow I would accidentally change the setting of my seat as my arm would be resting on the controls.
There were two lavatories in the front of the plane. They were clean enough and well stocked with lotion and a basket with stain remover (great idea), packaged refreshing towelette, comb, razor, and shave cream. The amenity kit was in a unique wool package with Bogner face lotion and lip balm, plus eye-shades and socks.
I woke a couple hours before landing and got up to use the rest room. As much to go, as to see if there was any mid-flight snack offerings. I did not see any or any sign that there were any. The flight attendants would occasionally come down the aisle, but more to pick up after passengers than to ask if they needed anything else. I was never asked if I wanted or needed anything else until the second service started. I really didn’t want anything, other than maybe some chocolates (Austria is known for their chocolates, you know ;)) so I really wasn’t bothered by this. The second meal was a choice of either buffalo mozzarella with tomatoes and balsamico or a variation of sausages with white cabbage and potato roesti. I ordered the sausages and was pleasantly surprised as to not only how good it was, but also the quantity. It was a full meal and I loved the potatoes and thoroughly enjoyed all three sausages. Of course the bread basket accompanied the meal and a dessert of marinated raspberries in a vanilla creme fraiche was on the tray with the sausages. The dessert was a nice refreshing way to end the meal.
Thirty minutes before we landed the IFE ended and just displayed promotions on the screen. This also meant that the moving map was no longer available, which was a little disappointing. I can not remember if a second hot towel was given out after the second meal or before landing. Despite bad weather in Washington we landed a little early. For some this may have been a blessing as we were bused to passport (we did deplane into terminal) and while I was one of the first onto Dulles’ mobile lounges (bus) I was one of the last off, and therefore, was in line for a significant time at passport (passport was also busy at this time). This would have been a negative way to end my flight as this was my 9th flight on this one week trip and I was getting tired, but I checked a bag and I had a long lay-over before my United flight (actually got on an earlier flight, but only because United screwed up my original flight) to LAX. I wanted to take a shower after I cleared customs and security. But to my disappointment none of the United Clubs have showers at IAD. However, I realized I could probably use the Lufthansa lounge since I arrived on Austrian and was able to shower and grab a bite to eat there.
All in all I was very pleased with this flight and Austrian Airlines 767-300 Business Class. While the service wasn’t the best (it wasn’t the worst by any means either) and the IFE programming a little lacking in content compared to other airlines (but it kept me entertained) the cabin layout and meal service more than made up for it. I really liked the coffee service and I guess the chef on board really makes a difference, because not only were all the meals delicious, but also fresh and nice and hot.