Hi everyone. Please welcome my good friend Bob Miller to the blog. Bob recently redeemed some United MileagePlus miles for a trip to Vienna and I asked him to share his experience flying Austrian Airlines’ long-haul business class with you all. I’ll talk more about Bob below the post but for now, please enjoy his trip report. And if you guys like it, I’ll ask him to come around more often. 🙂
Austrian Airlines long-haul business class:
On a Saturday afternoon a few weeks ago, I was playing around with various options on United.com for a Labor Day weekend trip to Europe. After not finding much of anything in the Saver Award category (I have plenty of miles, but why book Standard Award when you can book Saver Award?) – completely understandable given the close proximity to Labor Day weekend – I typed in VIE … and, voilà, a brilliant option appeared on my screen for 127,000 United MileagePlus miles and $115 in taxes and fees.
This trip met several needs for me:
- New destination: Vienna
- New airport (for me): VIE
- 4 new routes (for me): IAH-IAD, IAD-VIE, VIE-GVA and GVA-IAD
- New airline (for me): OS
- Premium cabins on all six flights
- Access to three lounges I had not yet visited: LH at IAD, OS at VIE and LX at GVA
- Wide-body domestic: IAH-IAD, B763
That morning, I had two great United flights (SAT-IAH and IAH-IAD), both of which arrived earlier than scheduled. Once I arrived at Dulles, I rode the famous moon buggy from Concourse D over to A/B. I always love visiting Concourses A & B at Dulles in the afternoons when there is so much excitement and energy with the preparations for the outbound international flights. I stopped by the Lufthansa lounge next to gate B49 (Austrian Airlines does not have their own lounge at IAD) to have a shower and relax before my flight.
I was promptly greeted and welcomed by the friendly Lufthansa agent. Knowing the showers were downstairs in the Business Lounge, I made my way downstairs and I was able to get a shower room right away. After showering, I passed by the reception desk and asked if I could exchange my boarding pass on United cardstock to one on Lufthansa cardstock; the same friendly Lufthansa agent smiled and gladly made the switch for me. While the new boarding pass was printing, my partner iMessaged me. The Lufthansa agent said, “You have the Lufthansa sound logo as your ringtone? I love you!” Lol. After a glass of Pinot Grigio and a Rémy Martin VSOP Cognac in the lounge, it was time to go to the gate to board.
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200ER OE-LPE aka “Blue Danube”
Washington Dulles (IAD) to Vienna (VIE)
Depart: 5:55 PM on Thursday, gate B49
Arrive: 8:40 AM next day (8:59 AM actual), gate G12
Duration: 9hr 4mn
Seat: 7A Business Class
As soon as I got to the gate, others were already in line: Business Class in line for gate B51 and Economy Class in line for gate B49. My new Bordkarte was scanned and I was on my way. As expected, boarding was quick and seamless as Business Class passengers boarded through door 1L and Economy Class passengers boarded through door 2L. The Austrian Business Class cabin crew in their smart and stylish red uniforms were going around the cabin greeting everyone and offering assistance.
I really enjoyed the calming sky blue, white and Austrian red color scheme inside the cabin. These signature colors for Austrian are present throughout their branding, so it made perfect sense to have this palette in the cabin. One side benefit of the color scheme (and the cloud theme on the wall behind my seat [since I had the last seat in the forward of the two Business Class cabins]) is that it helped counterbalance the slightly cramped feel in the cabin because of the immense seating units. The cabin was well-lit and airy due to the pleasing balance between the cabin lighting and the natural light coming in from the windows of the beautiful late afternoon sun at Dulles.
Austrian operates their long-haul fleet with a two-class cabin, Business Class and Economy. The Boeing 777-200ER business class cabins are configured with 48 flat-bed seats in a staggered, forward facing layout, alternating 1-2-1 and 2-2-2. These seats are similar to the business class seats found on other airlines such as Air Canada and SWISS.
One of the highlights of this trip is that at the time of booking, I was able to secure one of the Austrian Business Class single “throne” seats. Since I was traveling by myself, I am glad I got one of the single seats as it gave me more room and privacy. Had I been traveling with my partner, we would have selected and enjoyed the seats in a set of two. However, when I travel by myself, I appreciate having the option for a single seat for privacy and the direct aisle access.
The “throne” seat also gave me a small table between my seat and the window. I liked this because I was able to take some photos out the window with the window frame in the photo and I didn’t have to move around in my seat. Additionally, the extra table provided me with extra counter space to charge and keep my iPhone and other electronics nearby.
After most Business Class passengers had boarded, pre-departure beverages (orange juice with an orange slice or water) were offered from a beautiful silver tray. Champagne was not available on the ground.
Along with the pre-departure beverages, menus were presented, as well as the selection sheet for your breakfast order. The in-flight DO & CO chef personally came to each Business Class passenger to take their dinner orders and their breakfast menu cards.
Each of the Business Class seats has a 15” (38cm) high-resolution digital touchscreen display. The image quality on the screen was flawless. Each seat is also equipped with the traditional overhead reading lamp as well as an LED reading lamp behind your seat. Further, there is no shortage of electrical power options: a universal electrical outlet and two USB ports.
Waiting for us at our seats were the amenity kits, a full-size pillow, a large duvet in Austrian colors (which you could purchase for €50 if you wanted to take it with you) and high quality noise-cancelling headphones. There was also a 16.9-oz (.5L) bottle of drinking water.
I must give Austrian kudos on their amenity kits. The Alpine Loden look is highly stylish and this is a bag that passengers would be pleased to reuse countless times. There are four different motifs for the embroidery, and I was fortunate and delighted that the kit left for me was one of the two I was hoping to receive: the Alpine ski scene. The kit contained a small tube of Bogner face moisturizer, an eye mask, tooth brush & tooth paste, a shoehorn, mints, socks and earplugs.
Shortly after take-off, the staff sprang into action like a well-oiled machine. The first beverage service brought me a lovely Duval-Leroy Brut Fleur de Champagne along with some nicely roasted nuts and some bread.
The appetizer and soup course followed immediately. The DO & CO catering was amazing (complete with on-board chef who takes and prepares your order). I enjoyed the enormous, mouth-watering salmon carpaccio appetizer very much, and the superb creamy tomato coconut soup was ladled from the trolley right at my seat. My beef filet with Madeira sauce, grilled vegetables and truffled linguini were delightful.
I’m not really into desserts, so I passed on the three dessert options but had some cheese and fruit. The fruit plate was specially-made, very fresh and generous when I said I’d really just like some fruit. I appreciated the above-and-beyond willingness to do this for me since an after dinner fruit plate was not on the menu. Additionally, they offered me some bread with my fruit. Once I saw the laugenbrötchen (pretzel roll), I couldn’t say no.
Additionally, I asked for a Cognac…and I received a very generous glass of it. Next, the coffee menus were presented. I really enjoyed the flying Kaffeehaus featuring traditional Viennese specialty coffees. I had a delightful Fiaker made with Julius Meinl black coffee, Cognac and whipped cream.
As the Business Class cabin was 100% full, I was very impressed with the service and the pace of service could not have been any better. I believe there were six crew members for the Business Class cabin including the DO & CO chef, the purser and other Business Class-dedicated flight attendants. My needs were anticipated by the highly attentive crew. They frequently came by to refill beverages (wine, water, coffee, etc.). After dessert and the Kaffeehaus service, they asked if I would like anything else and they gladly presented me with a second Cognac per my request.
Continuing with the gracious and well-paced service, we were never rushed. For example, I took my time enjoying the salmon carpaccio and the crew opted to serve others who were ready to receive their main courses and then they came back to me as soon as they noted that I had finished the appetizer. The crew presented and cleared plates individually, restaurant style.
After dinner, I took some time to play with the entertainment system. Austrian does offer a very nice range of in-flight entertainment and one of the best flight progression display options I’ve seen…but the system (maybe just a glitch at my seat?) was hard to operate with the remote and frequently jumped around, back-and-forth, between songs in my queue. Additionally, the display language options were only English, German, Japanese and Mandarin. I was surprised there were not options of Spanish and French if not a few others as well. There was a wide selection of movies, but I always like to listen to the ambient/chill music channel and watch the flight progression map every time I fly to and from Europe.
As for the comfort of the seat, I had mixed feelings about the “throne” seat. As a seat and recliner, it was great. It had a nice massage feature and the mood light at your feet was helpful, attractive and thoughtful. As I am 6′ 6″ (1m 98) tall, the lie-flat bed was a disappointment…I could not lower it too far because my legs and feet did not fit in the tiny footwell…and it was too short for me to use as a flat bed.
I would have liked to have slept a bit in flatbed mode but I was able to doze off for about 3 hours in recline mode. (I am always very happy to get to Europe, so I think it was more my own excitement than an uncomfortable recliner.)
While it may meet Austrian’s claim of being “almost two meters in length,” for me, the usable space was far less. I much prefer the lie-flat BusinessFirst seats on United and Business Class seats on Lufthansa. For taller passengers, the throne seat is probably not the best choice. I’ve heard from others that the seats in banks of two (like if you were traveling with a partner) offer better foot room in flat-bed mode. According to James’ Air Canada trip report, the seats directly next to the aisle (as opposed to seats with a table in between the seat and the aisle) offer better comfort for taller passengers as there is a cut-out in the footwell.
Although, I was still completely full from dinner, the made-to-order breakfast was presented about 75 minutes prior to arrival. I had ordered fresh fruit, yogurt, Muesli, the European cheese and cold cuts, and fried ham steak with eggs over easy. Breakfast was equally as enormous and generous…and tasty. The Julius Meinl coffee in the small, Viennese coffee cups with gold handles adds a beautiful flair.
Overall, I was very impressed with the experience, service, food and hospitality in Austrian Airlines Business Class. The service in Austrian Business Class was very charming, friendly, welcoming and professional. Austrian and their cabin crew take extreme pride in bringing you the best of Austria on board. Apart from the lie-flat bed issues, Austrian was quite good. Without question, I would fly them again if I could not get a business class seat on United or Lufthansa.
To me, United and Lufthansa offer the best seats for legroom, especially in flat-bed mode. Each airline has unique perks and different service experiences. All of my experiences with United and Lufthansa have been consistently exceptional and wonderful, but I also enjoy experiencing the service and amenities on other Star Alliance partner airlines whenever possible. For this particular trip, United doesn’t fly to Vienna, and I found the routing to be unique and exciting, so I was delighted to fly Austrian to VIE and United from GVA on the return.
Thank you for reading everyone! This was my very first trip report and I appreciate being invited by my good friend James to share this with you here. You are welcome to contact me with any feedback and questions. You can connect with me on Twitter or Instagram.
If you liked this trip report by Bob, you can read his Lufthansa A380 business class trip report from Washington Dulles to Frankfurt here.
More about Bob Miller:
Now based in San Antonio, Texas, Bob developed a passion for airplanes, airports and flying long before his first flight in June 1994, a United DC-10 from CLE to ORD. A self-proclaimed miles guru, Bob follows the mantra of George Clooney’s character Ryan Bingham in Up In the Air, “I don’t spend a nickel, if I can help it, unless it somehow benefits my mileage account.” Bob’s first of countless trips to Europe came in December 1995 when he spent the holidays in Switzerland with some very close friends. When he’s not traveling or planning future travel, he enjoys iPhone photography and is an over-the-top doggie daddy.