Austrian Airlines, or sometimes simply “Austrian”, is the national carrier of Austria. They were founded in 1957 but the roots go back nearly 100 years in time. In year 2000 the airline became a member of Star Alliance and in 2008 the airline was acquired by Lufthansa and became part of the Lufthansa Group. The airlines are very close in many ways and they use the same frequent flyer program, Miles & More, but the inflight concepts are completely different.
When it comes to the inflight experience Austrian Airlines is famous for its inflight service with an outstanding meal and drinks service, especially in longhaul business class where it can sometimes be comparable what you get in first class on some airlines.
This is a review of a flight in Austrian Airlines business class from Vienna to Bangkok.
I was only in transit in Vienna with 45 minutes between flights. My checked baggage had been through-checked and I had received a boarding pass already at the departure airport.
Upon arrival I just had to follow the signs for the G gates (the non-Schengen gates in the Austrian Airlines Sky Terminal), take an escalator to the upper floor and pass an empty passport control. Although 45 minutes did not sound like a lot it turned out to be plenty of time. The flight to Bangkok was also the last flight of the day so the terminal was virtually empty.
There was no time, or need, for a lounge visit though, but Austrian Airlines operates five lounges at the airport. In the non-Schengen area there is a business lounge for business class passengers and a Senator lounge for gold card holders. They are both located straight after passport control and are impossible to miss.
Boarding started just as I arrived at gate G03 with priority boarding offered for business class and Star Alliance Gold using a separate line which meant I could continue straight onboard with no wait at the gate, also being one of the first passengers to board.
A separate passenger bridge was available for business class passengers leading the first door where the purser greeted the passengers and directed me to the correct aisle.
Austrian Airlines flight OS 025
The new business class cabin gave an excellent first impression with its sleek design in black and wine-red and with the cabin walls painted in blue with white clouds. The blue lighting effects in the water bottle holder further improved the feeling of being in a rather cozy cabin.
The cabin had a very open and spacious feeling to it with screens in the ceiling. Overall the cabin felt new, fresh and modern.
At the seat a pillow, a blanket, the business class amenity kit and a bottle of water were waiting. Soon after settling in my seat a pre-departure drink was offered, a choice between different juices and the signature Austrian Airlines cocktail including sparkling wine, orange juice and some kind of spirits. It was tasty but quite strong for an aperitif. Austrian and International newspapers and magazines were also offered by the crew.
Even though a fair number of passengers were arriving in Vienna from other flights the boarding process was completed well ahead of timetable and we actually pushed back ten minutes early while a safety demonstration video was shown on the monitors. With no other departures at this time of the day (except a late Ethiopian Airlines flight to Addis Abeba) we could take off immediately. The flight time to Bangkok was expected to be ten hours.
Seat and cabin
The new Austrian Airlines business class product is a major improvement compared to the old product. The design is vastly more attractive, the seat is fully flat and there are both single seats for single travellers and duo seats for passengers travelling together.
On the Boeing 777 there are 48 seats in total divided between a main cabin with seven rows and a smaller cabin with three rows. The configuration is a mix of 1-2-1 and 2-2-2. In the middle section there are always two seats while the sections along the windows are either single seats or duo seats. The single seats are obviously the most popular ones among solo passengers as there is no seat neighbour and they have direct access to the aisle. These are frequently referred to as “the throne”. These seats also have two tables, one on each side.
I had pre-booked seat 05K for the flight to Bangkok, one of “The Thrones” in the cabin. For a single seat it is indeed very spacious with plenty of space and storage. The only drawback with this type of configuration is that there is not much space to get in and out of the seat, the small passage between the seat and the aisle is in fact quite narrow. Apparently the seat pitch is only 40 inches. But other than that it is a rather comfortable seat.
There is also plenty of storage at the seat, especially at the single seats with magazine holders on both sides of the screen and a holder for a bottle of water. There is also a reading light, a USB-port and a power socket.
The seat is operated using the seat control which is placed on the armrest. The location is rather stupid and it is all too easy to accidentally press one of the buttons when moving the arm. But other than that there are plenty of options to find a good seat position, adjust the seat back and even get a back massage.
The seat is basically the same as the latest Brussels Airlines business class seat, except for the colour scheme and a few details. This basically follows the strategy to harmonise the products of the airlines within the Lufthansa Group.
Food and drinks
After takeoff the onboard chef passed through the cabin, handing out menus. The menu also included a breakfast form, to be completed and handed over to the cabin crew before going to bed, to make the breakfast service as swift as possible.
Austrian Airlines uses Do & Co for their inflight catering, one of the best catering companies in Europe, and an area where Austrian Airlines really excels. The menu also included the drink list. The chef later returned to take meal orders.
The drink list included a champagne (Duval-Leroy), a prosecco, three white wines (all Austrian), three red wines (two Austrian and one Portuguese), a dessert wine (Austrian) and finally Austrian beer, non-Alcoholic beer and a good selection of spirits and non-alcoholic drinks.
The dinner service started with a cocktail service with nuts. I asked for a gin & tonic and also decided to order a glass of white wine with the appetiser. The choice fell on a wine from Schloss Gobelsburg.
At the same time the table was prepared for the dinner service with white linen and the well-known Austrian Airlines triangular tableware. And a good thing is that they do not use trays in business class on longhaul flights. The presentation looked quite elegant.
There were three choices of starter – Salmon carpaccio and avocado tart, niçoise style quinoa salad, and creamy pea soup. I chose the salmon and avocado tart which was simply delicious. Bread rolls were also offered from a basket.
And a big plus for the presentation, really impressive for a business class service. And it also looked delicious
There were also three choices of main course – deep fried pikeperch with potato salad, Indian chicken “65”, and home-made rigatoni. I chose the pike which was also delicious, but very heavy. And yet again a beautiful presentation, and a big plus for the smaller details such as the lemon in a net. I was also offered a refill of the white wine as well as some more water.
Finally it was time for the dessert, which was in fact a buffet-style dessert service with several options which included plum filled dumpling, mousse au chocolat, mango parfait, fresh fruits and cheeses served from a cart. I was not particularly hungry after a very filling starter and an equally filling main course but it all looked delicious and I was very tempted to try some of it anyway.
Eventually I asked for the plum dumpling served with vanilla sauce, the chocolate mousse and some fresh fruits. There was no way I could finish all of it, especially the plum dumpling was very heavy for the stomach, but it was delicious, no question about that. And once again a big plus for the presentation.
The chef also passed through the cabin handing out the coffee menu for those who wanted a coffee drink after dinner. These do not just include the standard espresso, cappuccino and caffe latte but also coffee drinks such as Wiener Melange, Kaffee Baileys, Franziskaner and Wiener Eiskaffee. Due to the late departure time and a night flight I declined a coffee as I wanted to go to bed straight after the meal, most other passengers did the same. However on a day flight I would have loved to try one of these.
The inflight entertainment service onboard was video on-demand with a good selection of movies, TV-series, albums and games. The system is the same used on Brussels Airlines (another airline in the Lufthansa Group) and although it looks modern (and is modern) it is in fact somewhat tricky to navigate using the remote control. I am not a big fan of the layout.
I watched a Disney movie during the meal service and later a few documentaries.
A major disadvantage about the screen is that it very easily reflects lights in the cabin. This is not a major problem on night flights when it is pitch-dark outside and the cabin is dimmed, but on day flights the reflections from the sun and the cabin lights can be bothersome.
I always bring some kind of pyjamas outfit onboard (if not provided by the airline of course, which rarely happens in business class) and after the meal service I changed in the lavatory.
When reclined the new Austrian Airlines business class seat becomes fully flat, which of course is a major improvement. Although no mattresses are provided there was at least a very comfortable duvet, not too thick and rather chilling. The cabin is usually hot enough anyway and I usually don’t want the temperature too high when I sleep.
When reclined the seat extends into a small area under the side-table for the passenger in front. This space for the feet is somewhat narrow. But yet again, the overall sleeping experience is not bad.
Most passengers tried to maximise their sleep but a few passengers stayed up to watch a movie. An interesting aspect is the design of the duvet, which matches the cabin walls in blue and white with the red details.
In the galley one of the tables had been made into a small self-service buffet during the night with drinks and snacks. This included champagne for self service, water and juices.
Unfortunately there was not much to eat though, just chocolates, nuts and cookies. Nothing substantial and no fresh fruits.
The service kept a very high standard. The staff were excellent and most of the food and drinks were prepared and served from the galley by the crew without using any trolleys. After takeoff the purser passed through the cabin to greet all passengers and later on she also passed through the cabin to check we were happy. The crew also made a serious attempt to memorise what wines we were drinking, not having to ask about it again.
Around 90 minutes before landing in Bangkok the breakfast was served based on what we had indicated on the breakfast form. The form included a large variety of hot and cold breakfast items.
I started off with some fresh fruits, yoghurt, granola and ham and cheese. In contrast to the dinner service the breakfast was served on a tray. Coffee, tea, bread rolls and croissants were offered by the crew
There were two choices of main course which were served separately after a few minutes. These included a feta zucchini omelette and eggs sunny side up with ham or bacon. I chose the latter with ham. Again with a very nice presentation. More coffee, tea and bread were offered before the table was cleared.
I changed back to my regular clothes in the lavatory while the cabin was prepared for landing. Unfortunately there are only three lavatories in business class for 48 passengers and especially an hour before landing I was not the only passenger who needed to use these.
The flight map showed we had flown over eastern Europe, the Caspian sea, over Afghanistan, Nepal, India and Bangladesh. As the window shades had been opened the problem with reflections in the screen became clear.
The final approach into Suvarnabhumi airport was done from the south, which meant we passed over most of central Bangkok during the approach with a magnificent view of the city centre and the Chao Phraya river. We landed a few minutes ahead of timetable on runway 01R.
No fast track cards were handed out by Austrian Airlines to passengers in business class, which many other airlines do. However immigration was reasonably quick anyway and the first checked bags arrived quickly with the priority tagged ones (and a few transfer bags) first on the belt.
There was also a dedicated priority baggage collection area where premium passengers could collect their luggage, possibly useful for those stuck at immigration.
Austrian Airlines really impressed on this flight with a very high standard when it came to both the hard product and the soft product. The seat is not unique for Austrian Airlines but it is a decent product with plenty of storage and seating options. But the major highlight was the food which is possibly the best of any European airline in business class. With a better drink list the menu could easily have been one offered in a first class cabin. The service was also very pleasant, friendly and attentive. And a big plus for not using trolleys in the cabin during most of the meal service. This always means more work for the crew but creates a much better experience. All in all really well done Austrian Airlines!