FlyNiki, Economy Class – Airbus A320: Vienna to Zürich

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GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

Mode of Transport: Train
Journey Time: 30 minutes
Price: EUR3.60
Leaves from: Wien Mitte / Landstrasse subway station
Arrives: Wien Flughafen Schwechat
Frequency: four trains an hour

Just a word of caution. There are two ways of getting to and from Vienna airport from the city by train. There is the S-Bahn – the commuter trains – which make the journey in about 30 minutes and which will cost you as little as EUR3.60. And then there’s the CAT, a glitzy and fancy affair which makes the journey nonstop in just under half time but more than twice the price of the S-Bahn. To be honest, I wouldn’t bother if I were you…

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I arrive at the airport about two hours prior to departure. And once more I’m struck by the incredibly bad signposting and the circuitous routings you have to take as a passenger. This is ridiculous. You start following the signs to a particular area and then suddenly, at some point the signs to that particular place disappear and you’re left guessing for where to go next.

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CHECK-IN

Niki uses check-in area 1. I’ve only got hand luggage, so I checked in using the Air Berlin app, which works incredibly well. Much better in fact than the KLM one for example. It also seems to me that Niki try to keep the seat next to you empty if you’re a status card holder. I’m travelling with my colleague M. but we’re booked on different PNRs. We both look at the seat plan on our respective iPhones. I park myself on an empty row and the moment I do, M. can no longer select any seat on that row. So eventually we work our way around the problem by having him select his seat first and me then parking myself next to him.

As it happens, 1A is still available. And I take 1C.

LOUNGE

My flight will be leaving from one of the C gates, which are located on the old terminal. On my way there I pass the booth for smokers, which is absolutely packed. I have to stifle a laugh. Seriously? This is just so undignified.

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Little do I know that the Air Berlin ‘lounge’ a few steps further up is really not much better. Except perhaps that it’s less busy. It’s a small, sterile looking room with not much to offer in terms of food and drink. Wifi is available throughout the terminal anyway, courtesy of Vienna Airport. They don’t even have a lounge dragon. How uncivilised is that? Instead you just scan your boarding pass and you’re in. I don’t like.

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So instead I take a seat at the bar in the atrium around which the C gates are arranged. I have myself a toasted panino, a cappuccino and a coke zero for EUR10, which isn’t that bad really.

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BOARDING

Priority Boarding: apparently

According to the announcement, boarding for the flight is done by cabin zones. However, in practise this doesn’t really count for anything much. There is a gate agent, but he doesn’t seem particularly interested in what’s going on and so it’s pretty much a free for all.

Newspapers are available at the door as we enter the aircraft.

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CABIN

Configuration: 3 + 3
Seat: standard configuration
Facilities: none
Audio and Video: audio and video, although on this flight only the moving map and tacky Etihad adverts are available

Niki does not have a Business Class. I think the fact that they subsequently don’t have a cabin divider either gives the cabin a very spacious and airy feel. Apart from that there isn’t really that much to say.

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SERVICE

The last time I flew Niki, many moons ago, their cabin crew wore these ridiculous silver uniforms that made them look like sausages rolls wrapped in tinfoil. I’m not sure if that was the intended effect but in any case I’m glad to see that the uniforms evidently have matured with the company. Nowadays it’s a much more understated pink blouse and indigo coloured jeans. Yes, much better.

The crew aren’t exactly gushing, but they’re friendly enough and their smiles seem genuine.

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THE MEAL

Meal:

  • Sandwich of chicken breast with salad and barbecue sauce
  • Hot and cold drinks

I’m not really hungry. It’s just that the food service helps to shorten the journey time. There is a choice between a cheese sandwich and chicken. I go with the latter and I must say it’s rather tasty.

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ARRIVAL

The flight time is only one hour. It’s a lovely evening for flying. We come in over lake constance, crossing it’s entire length from east to west. We land on runway 14. It’s a nice balmy evening here in Zürich.

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Four weeks and fourteen flights later and I’m finally back home again, even if it’s only for a week. It’s good to be home.

So what about Niki? I thought they were okay. Admittedly the experience was nothing to write home about and I very much doubt it will stick in my mind as a particularly outstanding experience. But I certainly wouldn’t hesitate to fly them again.

WHERE TO STAY IN VIENNA

In Vienna I stayed at the Hilton Plaza. The facility recently underwent a complete facelift and only reopened on 6 June 2014. There are still a few teething problems but all in all it’s a very nice hotel and the rooms still have that smell of new furniture. The location of the hotel on the Schottenring is excellent and the U-Bahn stop is literally just around the corner, making it easy to reach any point in the city quickly.

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KLM City Hopper, Business Class – Embraer E-190: Amsterdam to Basel

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INTRODUCTION

June has been rather busy so far. I’ve now been travelling for two weeks and I’ve only just reached the halfway point. The beginning of the month saw me flying to Luxembourg, where I gave a course. From Luxembourg I travelled to Bangkok to visit my best friend. Then from there it was back to Luxembourg for another course, to Brussels for a workshop and now, finally, I am on my way home. Mind, I won’t be home for long. In actual fact come Sunday I’ll be off again.

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TRANSFER AT AMSTERDAM AIRPORT

I’ve just arrived in Amsterdam on the evening flight from Brussels. We disembark the aircraft on stand B20, which gives passengers direct access to the terminal building, without having to use a bus to get there. As it turns out, B20 is also the gate from which my flight to Basel leaves, although I must confess I didn’t check the aircraft’s registration to see if it was also the same plane too.

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LOUNGE

The transfer in Amsterdam is just a short one, so I don’t even bother visiting the lounge. Instead I’m busy with my colleague S. trying on sunglasses in one of the many shops at Schiphol airport. By the time we finish, my flight is already boarding.

BOARDING

Priority Boarding: yes, there is a separate channel for upper tier members and passengers in Business Class.

By the time I arrive at the gate, boarding is already nearly complete. I’m one of the last passengers to board the plane. There still a bit of a queue at the stairs of the aircraft, which of course gives me the chance to take a few pictures.

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CABIN

Configuration: 2 + 2
Seat: 1A – standard European Economy Class seat, with the pitch gradually reducing from the front row to the back of the cabin, the adjacent seat is left empty
Facilities: none
Audio and Video: none

KLM recently shifted the Basel service from a Fokker F 70 back to an Embraer E-190. I don’t really mind the Fokkers and I think they’re comfy enough, but somehow the Embraer just seems more like a proper aircraft to me.

Apparently there should have been three of us flying in Business Class this evening, but the two others have not showed up and so I have, yet again, the entire Business Class cabin – the first two rows – to myself.

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SERVICE

There are two cabin crew on this flight, a young woman working up front and a middle-aged gentleman working the back of the plane. Both are English nationals and friendly, as usual on KLM.

As the doors close the young lady approaches me and asks me if I’d like a newspaper before we depart. But I have my Kindle with me, so I decline.

THE MEAL

Pre departure drinks: no
Pre meal drinks: no
Delivery:
in a box
Type of meal:
light dinner
Menu:
there is a menu for the drinks and food but in fact there is no choice for food
Meal:

  • pea mouse with little mozzarella pieces and piccalilli
  • greens with Waldorf salad
  • two buns with butter
  • cappuccino mouse
  • Punselies biscuits

The meal hits the spot nicely. I rather like how KLM has adapted it’s food offerings to the time of day of the flight. I also welcome the fact that they now serve the XL sized Punselies, rather than the normal sized ones.

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ARRIVAL

Our flying time is only 55 minutes and shortly after I demolish the last of the Punselies, we’re already descending into Basel. I think the captain may be in a bit of a hurry to get to the hotel to watch the end of the football game, because our descent it very rapid and steep. Or perhaps he just forgot he’s sitting in a passenger jet and not in a fighter.

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In any case, it’s nice to be home again, even if it’s only for a short while.

Luxair, Business Class – B 737-700: Vienna to Luxembourg

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INTRODUCTION

The flight from Bangkok arrives at 05:45, we’re on time. I now have nearly four hours to make my connection to Luxembourg at 09:30. I’m rather curious to see if the transfer will be easier this time.

TRANSFER AT VIENNA AIRPORT, part I – The phantom menace…

Our aircraft has parked at the very beginning of the G concourse. So after I exit the airbridge and turn left, it’s only a short walk to the immigration counters. My flight to Luxembourg will be leaving from the B concourse in the old terminal. But I’m not really sure if there is a lounge facility there and I do still have quite a wait. So instead I follow the signs to the F concourse, which is the Schengen area of the new terminal. To access the Schengen area I have to go through a security check, as I’m arriving from overseas. So far so good.

When I checked in at Bangkok airport I was issued my boarding pass for the onward connection to Luxembourg. While the boarding pass for the first leg from Bangkok to Vienna showed my Senator status, the boarding pass for the onward leg only shows that I am a Miles and More member. Presumably this has something to do with Luxair’s somewhat odd status as a Miles and More airline that is not part of the Star Alliance.

LOUNGE

Location: on the F concourse
Type of Lounge: Austrian Airlines Senator lounge, there is one reception area that serves the HON lounge, Senator lounge and Business Class lounge
Facilities:
hot and cold food and drink, workstations, showers (for HONs and Senators only)
Internet:
wifi provided by Vienna Airport, no password required

The lounge is fairly busy when I arrive just after six in the morning. After a short while though, the place empties rather quickly until eventually there’s barely anybody there except me.

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TRANSFER AT VIENNA AIRPORT, part II –  You’ve got to be kidding me…

Priority Boarding: no

What a labyrinth! About 40 minutes before departure I decide to venture out in search of my gate on the B concourse. With the experience of the outbound journey still fresh in my mind I figure it might take me a while to find my way. And indeed, the route to the B concourse is complicated and entirely counter intuitive and sees me first going up one escalator, around a few corners and then down another escalator before eventually, without really knowing how, I’m landside again. I keep on walking until I finally arrive in the old terminal. I scan my boarding pass and I am airside once more. I even manage to find the B concourse, where of course I have to go through security again. I ask some young chap in an Austrian Airlines uniform if there’s a lounge anywhere, and he informs me that there is, but I’ll have to go back through security again to get there.

BOARDING

Boarding is via a bus gate. As usual it pays to be patient. 64 passengers squeeze into the first, hot bus. It leaves for the aircraft and another bus duly arrives to pick up the remaining four passengers…

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CABIN

Configuration: 3 + 3
Seat: staggered rows, European standard Business Class with the middle seat left empty
Facilities: none
Audio and Video: audio and video available, only the moving map are in use on today’s flight.

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There’s been another last minute aircraft change, and instead of the scheduled Dash-8-400 it’s now a Boeing B737-700 that will be operating the flight. I’m not quite sure why though, as I overhear the purser telling the captain that the headcount is correct at 69 + 2, which should fit into a Dash-8. As it happens, it’s even exactly the same aircraft I had on the outbound.

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SERVICE

The crew on this service are much friendlier and warmer than their colleagues on the outbound. Maybe I was just unlucky that time. But this lot is much better.

THE MEAL

Pre departure drinks: no
Pre meal drinks: no
Delivery:
individually served trays
Type of meal:
brunch
Menu:
there is a menu for the drinks and food
Meal:

  • sliced orange
  • müsli
  • butter, strawberry jam and apricot jam
  • bread basket
  • cottage cheese
  • grilled tomato slices
  • Emmental cheese
  • smoked ham

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The meal is a big surprise and a vast improvement over what was served on the outbound. I like the breadbasket in particular. It’s rather a substantial meal, especially given that the flight time is only slightly more than one hour.

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ARRIVAL

We arrive in Luxembourg slightly ahead of schedule. For a change we make our approach right over the city, coming in fairly low. I don’t have long to wait for my suitcase.

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I shall be staying at the Doubletree again. There’s a shuttle available and if you call enough in advance, they’ll even come and pick you up from the airport.

CONCLUSION

This flight was a vast improvement over my previous experience in Luxair Business Class. Given the short duration of the flight you’d think there could hardly be any differences, which makes this flight all the more surprising. It’s probably a combination of things. First of all, the food was much more to my liking than on the outbound. Secondly, the crew simply seemed more genuine in the way they welcomed the passengers aboard. And that makes a huge difference.

Austrian Airlines, Business Class – B 777-200: Bangkok to Vienna

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INTRODUCTION

I’m in a bit of a state today, I must confess. On Sunday evening I visited the Peninsula’s gym for a workout. The gym they have there is rather well equipped and what’s more, I had the place all to myself. But I think I may have overdone it, because this morning I’m feeling decidedly sore all over. So I decide to spend my last day in Bangkok lounging by the pool and generally taking it easy.

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Honest, I used sunblock, I kept my t-shirt on most of the time when I was out of the water and I sat in the shade in one of those cute little mini cabanas. And still I managed to get a really bad sunburn.

Occupancy at the Peninsula is rather low right now. For one, because the rain season is about to begin, so not that many tourists visit around this time of year anyway. For another, no matter how much calmer the situation is since the Junta took over, the political unrest has certainly had an impact on the number of visitors to the capital.

But for me all this is good news, because it means I am granted late check-out from the hotel at 20:00.

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GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

Transport: BMW 7
Journey time: 30 minutes – a new record, it can take you as much as an hour and sometimes even a bit more when there is no curfew in place
Cost: included in the room rate

The problem with big German cars is that they’re really very quiet and you barely notice the speed at which you’re actually going. At least that is the only explanation I have for making it from the Peninsula to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport in 30 minutes flat! And I really don’t think the driver was speeding. It’s 20:30 and the curfew doesn’t come into effect until midnight.

Five minutes before we reach the airport, the driver calls ahead to let the hotel’s porter at the airport know that we’ll be arriving shortly. And indeed, as we pull up outside the entrance for check-in row G, he’s already expecting us. The chauffeur opens the door, wishes me a pleasant journey and bids me good bye.

The nice thing about staying at a hotel like the Peninsula is that once we enter the building, the porter makes a beeline for the Austrian Airlines Business Class counter, as though it doesn’t even occur to him that I might be travelling in Economy. Well, fortunately I’m not.

CHECK-IN

Location: row G, which is also where Lufthansa and Swiss check-in, the staff manning the Austrian Airlines counter is wearing a Lufthansa uniform
Facilities: I get an e-mail inviting me to do web check-in, despite the fact it won’t work for my connecting flight from Vienna to Luxembourg.

The porter places my suitcase on the scales and waits patiently in the background until I’ve finished. He then accompanies me to the security check, where he bids me goodbye and takes his leave.

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There are various security checkpoints at Suvarnabhumi airport. To access the Premium Lane, you must obtain a voucher from your airline at check-in. Immediately behind security is immigration.

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LOUNGE

Location: one floor down from check-in
Type of Lounge:
Thai Airways Royal Silk Lounge (Star Gold)
Facilities:
various food stations serving a wide selection of hot and cold European and Asian dishes, workstations, wide selection of papers and magazines
Internet:
good wifi connection, password required

As you come out of passport control 2, you will find yourself in front of a huge piece of artwork, which depicts a scene from Siam’s ancient mythology.

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If you want to do some shopping, this is the place to be, with many designer shops on both sides of the hall. The artwork kind of marks the halfway point, so don’t worry that you might be missing some of the good shops on the other side, they’re the same ones.

Keep walking east. At some point you will come across the signs for the Thai Airways lounges on your left. These will lead you to an escalator which takes you one floor down. As you come off the escalator you will find yourself right in front of the reception area of the Royal Silk lounge.

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The lounge is positively enormous. So far I’ve only ever used the First Class lounge in Bangkok, which is already rather large. But this is huge. I did at some point intend to take some pictures, but eventually I figured it made no sense, because the pictures can hardly do justice to the size and length of the lounge.

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There is quite a variety of choice in terms of food options. I go with some sticky rice and tandoori chicken. This being Thailand, when you have tandoori chicken it’s actually rather spicy, not like the lame stuff they often have in airline lounges.

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BOARDING

Priority Boarding: Yes and no. Bangkok uses closed gates. From what I can tell there’s no priority lane for Business Class passengers to access the gate. However, once boarding starts, premium passengers are invited to board first. There is a dedicated airbridge for Business Class passengers.

The exit from the Thai Airways lounge is near gate D01, my flight this evening will be departing from gate D07. It doesn’t sound like much of a trek, but given that every one of these gates is capable of handling a B747, they are generously spaced out. By the time I reach the gate area, most of the regular passengers have already boarded. From what I can tell only the staff travellers are still in the gate area, waiting to find out if they got a seat or not.

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CABIN

Configuration: 2 + 2 + 1
Seat: staggered layout, very similar to what Swiss has
Pitch: 40’ / bed length 78’
Width: 19.37’
Facilities: power outlets, reading light, overhead lamp, shoe net
Audio and Video: audio and video with touch screen functionality

The Business Class cabin is completely full this evening, not an empty seat to be had. Later on, during the flight I go check out the little mini Business Class cabin behind the galley, and there too every seat is taken.

But apart from that, this seat is really growing on me. It’s very comfortable and there’s plenty of stowage space. My only complaint about the seat is that the mechanism to open and close the tray table is a bit cumbersome and not at all intuitive.

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SERVICE

Okay Austrian, you win! As on the outbound flight, the crew this evening are really excellent, very friendly and charming. The young ladies working the Business Class cabin are doing a great job in attending to the passengers. There is one tall girl in particular who is all smiles, competent and efficient. Nothing every seems to be too much trouble and what ever request you have, she takes care of it immediately.

THE MEAL

Pre departure drinks: yes, I have the orange juice, there is also champagne and a signature cocktail
Pre meal drinks: yes, another OJ and a glass of water, served with a dish of nuts
Choice: three choices for the first course, four choices for the main, five choices for dessert
Delivery:
individual service, separately laid out table
Type of meal:
dinner
Menu:
there is a menu for the drinks and food plus another menu for the coffees
Meal:

  1. potpourri of smoked salmon: smoked salmon carpaccio with capers, chives and crème fraîche, a thick slice of salmon with grilled fennel and lemon, a thin slice of salmon with a sauce Hollondaise on a bed of frisée salad
  2. red lentil soup with olive ciabatta croûtons
  3. fillet of beef with a sesame and soy chutney, green asparagus, red pepper coulis and potato terrine
  4. Austrian bread and butter pudding, chocolate cake, macadamia nut parfait
  5. orange juice, still water, Almdudler
  6. there are three bread rounds
  7. coffee
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I start with the red lentil soup, which is very rich and tasty. The ciabatta croûtons give the soup an interesting twist. In fact I would say the soup is truly outstanding.

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The salmon starter is also good, although the tartar is a bit bland and doesn’t really taste of anything much, other than salmon. But the Hollondaise sauce with the thinly sliced piece of salmon is very good.

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At some point during the meal the tall flight attendant approaches me and asks me if there’s anything else I’d like to drink. Eventually she ends up convincing me to try Almdudler, a very typically Austrian soft drink made of herbs from the Alps. It’s rather interesting and reminds me a bit of the Kinnie we have in Malta or the Italian Chinotto, but less bitter and not quite so strong. Later on during the meal she stops at my seat to inquire if I like the Almdudler and if I’d perhaps like another.

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IMG_2772The dessert, once more, is an absolute delight. It really is quite amazing how they manage to pack so much flavour into each dish, particularly given that your sense of taste is considerably diminished at an altitude of 39’000 feet.

I still can’t decide which is my favourite, the macadamia nut parfait or the bread and butter pudding. Don’t get me wrong, the chocolate cake is also very good, but ultimately, after such a meal, it’s just a bit too rich for me.

I’ve already changed into my shorts and a t-shirt. So once the meal is over, I slide my seat into bed mode and go off to sleep. Once more I manage a solid six hours of peaceful respite, despite the fact that my back is still quite sore from the sunburn. I awake just under two hours out of Vienna.

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SECOND SERVICE

Menu:

  1. a bowl of fresh fruit
  2. müsli
  3. a selection of breads
  4. an omelette with mushrooms, mozzarella, a spinach-filed tomato and toast
  5. coffee, orange juice, mango smoothie

As soon as the tall flight attendant becomes aware of the fact that I’m awake, she brings me a hot towel and asks me if there’s anything I’d like to drink. I decide to go with the mango smoothie, which is pleasantly sweet, rich and creamy.

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ARRIVAL

We arrive in Vienna bang on time. It’s just gone 05h45 and the place is still fairly quiet. I make my way through security and then from there up to the Austrian Airlines Senator Lounge in the Schengen area. Now all I have to do is wait for my onward connection.

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CONCLUSION

Once more Austrian Airlines manages to impress me with the quality of the food, the comfort of the seat and, above all, the professionalism and courtesy of the crew. From what I can tell Austrian Airlines has really understood what it means to cater to the business traveller. The service is swift and the crew is friendly but without being intrusive. Now let’s see about transferring in Vienna…

Austrian Airlines, Business Class – B 777-200: Vienna to Bangkok

INTRODUCTION

I just arrived in Vienna on a Luxair flight from Luxembourg. I now have nearly four hours to make my connection to Bangkok.

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TRANSFER AT VIENNA AIRPORT

The flight from Luxembourg is operated as a code-share with Austrian Airlines. Even so, the bus from the aircraft to the terminal eventually drops us off at the C arrivals concourse, which is in one of the two wings of the old terminal.

And this is where things start to get a bit confusing. Upon entering the building, I follow the signs to the G gates, from where apparently my flight to Bangkok will be leaving. There is a shuttle that runs from the arrivals area C to the G gates. However, this only runs every 15 minutes and the service is provided by a little minibus.

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When I arrive at the pick up point for the shuttle, there are already quite a few people waiting. As a result, when eventually the shuttle arrives, only about a quarter of the queue find a place on the shuttle.

One of the passengers starts telling off the driver and the two of them start having an argument right there, outside, on the ramp and in front of everybody. Eventually the driver storm off, gets into the driver’s seat and drives off in a huff, leaving all the passengers who didn’t find a place in the shuttle standing there on the ramp unattended.

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Well this is just rubbish me thinks, so eventually I decide that probably the easiest thing will be to follow the signs marked ‘Exit Vienna’ and then to find my way to the new terminal landside. Much to my surprise though, just before I finally reach the exit there is yet another sign marked for the G gates. So I figure I might just give this a try. After all, I still have a few hours before my next flight.

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At long last I arrive at a passport control. For a moment I’m not sure if this is really to leave or to enter the Schengen area. But I pass through the check anyway, continue walking and eventually arrive at a security checkpoint, despite the fact that I’m transiting from another Schengen country, which should in fact not require me to go through security again. But in the sum of all things, that is just a minor issue and finally I find myself in the G concourse.

You know how sometimes you see or experience something and wonder ‘what on earth were they thinking’? Well, at Vienna airport it’s really more a question of ‘were they actually thinking’? And it’s not just the cumbersome transfer either. Everything in the new facility seems very cheaply made, giving the entire place the unfinished air of a temporary installation.

CHECK-IN

My suitcase has been checked through to Bangkok. I was also issued a Luxair boarding pass for my onward connection when I checked in at Luxembourg airport. Which means I can head straight for the lounge. 

LOUNGE

Location: at the beginning of the G concourse
Type of Lounge:
Austrian Airlines Senator lounge
Facilities:
small rest area with loungers to lie on, showers, three workstations with computers
Internet:
Vienna airport network, which is in fact very fast and works nicely

Austrian Airlines has three lounges: a Business Class lounge, Senator lounge and the Hon Lounge. There is a common reception area for the lounges, which is also where the lavatories and showers are located.

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I arrive in the middle of a bitch fight going on between two of the three lounge dragons. One of them wants to know who let ‘that woman’ into the Hon lounge, who quite evidently should not be there. To which the other replies that she has simply no idea, despite the fact that she always has to do all the dirty work. Charming!

The lounge is quite small. But that’s alright really because the place is hardly crowded. In fact it looks rather abandoned.

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At this time of the day the food options don’t really looks that appetizing anymore either. But apart from that, all the food seems rather greasy. As a warm dish there’s something that looks like macaroni cheese and for the two cold dishes there’s a potato salad with way too much mayonnaise and grilled aubergines drowned in an oily tomato sauce.

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BOARDING

Priority Boarding: Yes. Vienna has automatic gates. However, there is a priority lane for premium passengers. There are also two airbridges attached to the aircraft, with the left one being for Business Class passengers.

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CABIN

Configuration: 2 + 2 + 1
Seat: staggered layout, very similar to what Swiss has
Pitch: 40’ / bed length 78’
Width: 19.37’
Facilities: power outlets, reading light, overhead lamp, shoe net
Audio and Video: audio and video with touch screen functionality

All in all the seat is rather nice. It’s very similar to Swiss’ product in Business Class. Austrian Airlines has evidently put a lot of thought into how to make the best of the available space. Of course it helps that I’m sitting on one of the single seats which have stowage space on both sides of the seat. But it’s also little things like the shoe net for you to place shoes during the flight or the bottle holders on either side of the screen, which incidentally are also rather handy for your iPhone.

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The seat is very comfortable. The only thing I can complain about is that it’s a bit tight when you try to convert to seat into a bed. I’m a rather average 6’1 and my legs kept getting in the way. Once the seat has been expanded into a bed though, it’s not a problem any more.

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When I arrive at my seat, the vanity kit has already been placed there.

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SERVICE

Excellent! I have rarely come across such a professional crew. They are quite a stark contrast to the OS crews I experienced earlier in the year on my trip to Cyprus. The crew on today’s flight are all very friendly and welcoming. The service is impeccable but without being fussy and you get the impression that the crew are making a point to give the passengers as much personal space as they can but without ignoring them. Another thing which really strikes me, I am a linguist after all, is the very high level of English spoken by the Austrian crew. Not to mention the Thai spoken by the captain.

THE MEAL

Pre departure drinks: yes, I have the orange juice, there is also champagne and a signature cocktail

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Pre meal drinks: yes, another OJ – it’s good for you – served with a dish of nuts

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Choice: three choices for the first course, four choices for the main, five choices for dessert
Delivery:
individual service, separately laid out table

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Type of meal:
dinner
Menu:
there is a menu for the drinks and food plus another menu for the coffees
Meal:

  1. smoked salmon with beetroot
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  1. consommé of beef with dumplings
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  1. rigatoni with lamb ragout and parmesan
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  1. chocolate mouse with a centre of green coconut crème brûlée, a ball of frozen yoghurt and Austrian style pancakes with berries
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  1. bread rolls
  2. apple juice
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  1. mint tea
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  1. a little box of chocolates

Wow, what a meal! First of all I think it’s quite unusual to be given a choice of three starters in Business Class these days. What’s more, it’s seems that most passengers are having at least two of the options, which does not seem to bother the crew in any way, despite the fact that the load in Business is rather high.

I have the salmon starter, which is very good. It’s a good quality piece of salmon, which isn’t fishy at all. I also like the beetroot hummus. The taste of the tahini is clearly discernible, but with a distinct hint of beetroot.

The soup is very tasty and light. The dumpling in it is simply divine. I have no idea what they put in this but it’s excellent. Full of many different well balanced flavours.

But the whole thing just keeps getting better and better. The rigatoni are nice and chewy and the ragout tastes like something you might get at an Italian restaurant somewhere in Rome. This is excellent!

By the time I finish the main course, I’ve already made a mental note to skip dessert and the cheese. That is, until I see the desserts, at which point I decide that it would be a pity to disappoint the people who read the stuff I write by not taking pictures of the dessert. And so one suffers in silence…

I don’t know how the Austrians do it, but they certainly know their stuff when it comes to making desserts. The chocolate mouse is so chocolaty and fluffy that it seems hardly possible, and the combination with the crème brûlée deserves a Nobel prize as far as I’m concerned.  With dessert I have a glass of sweet wine, as suggested by the cabin crew. But I forget to ask what it was.

Unfortunately the pictures can hardly do justice to this epic and excellent meal. Especially seeing as the lighting conditions were not very good. But it certainly was a very fine meal.

And then I change into my shorts and go off to bed. I only awake 90 minutes out of Bangkok and feel really relaxed and rested. I haven’t slept so well on a plane in a long time!

Just as I return to my seat, the second service is about to begin. Orders for the breakfast service are taken right after departure from Vienna by the on board chef.

SECOND SERVICE

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Menu:

  1. a bowl of fresh fruit
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  1. yoghurt with home made granola (very tasty)
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  1. a selection of breads, including toast
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  1. an omelette with bell peppers and mozzarella, potatoes and tomatoes
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  1. coffee and orange juice (there are also smoothies available)
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Once more I am amazed, not only by the tempo of the service, but also by the quality and taste of the food and how it is presented on the plate.

ARRIVAL

We arrive in Bangkok a few minutes ahead of schedule. The Austrian Airlines flight is normally one of the earlier ones to come in during the afternoon bank. As a result, the queues for immigration are quite manageable. If, like me, you need a visa on arrival, you will need to pay THB1000.- for the visa. If you’re in a hurry or don’t want to wait, for an additional THB200.- you can have your request processed at the fast track counter, which will take you not more than two minutes.

Austrian Airlines does not provide fast track cards for immigration to its passengers.

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WHERE TO STAY

Talk about a déjà-vu! The driver from the Peninsula is the same guy who picked me up last time. What’s more, he even recognises me! I’m driven to the hotel in a lovely BMW 7. It’s in the standard Peninsula forest green and it looks gorgeous.

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We pull up by the main entrance, where I am already being expected. Check-in at the Peninsula is done in the room. On our way up to the 25th floor, the young lady informs me that they have taken the liberty to put me in the same room as on my previous stay.

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This place is just so nice!

CONCLUSION

Austrian Airlines’ inflight product is excellent on this flight. The crew are highly professional and experienced, the hard product is pretty decent and the food is simply to die for. Let’s put it this way, if the return turns out to be equally good, then I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and simply assume that my not so good experience to Cyprus was an exception.

Austrian is a bit unlucky to have to call a place like Vienna airport its hub. I really do think the facility has some serious issues going on that make it really very unpleasant and rather unattractive too. So I guess in future, it will be a question of weighing the tastiness of the rigatoni and lamb ragout against the inconvenience of transiting through Vienna.

Luxair, Business Class – Boeing B737-700: Luxembourg to Vienna

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INTRODUCTION

I’m in Luxembourg. It’s Friday afternoon and I just finished giving a course. This weekend is Pentecost, which means Monday is a public holiday. And then on Wednesday I’ll be giving another course in Luxembourg. So instead of going home for the weekend, I’ve decided to do something else and visit an old friend of mine. But first I must catch a flight to Vienna.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

Transport: bus line 747
Departs from: main railway station in the city centre of Luxembourg
Frequency: depends on the traffic, which can be quite bad in Luxembourg
Journey time: 25 minutes
Fare: I don’t know. Normally you can buy tickets for public transport as you board the vehicle. This does not apply to the airport bus though. I have no idea where to purchase the tickets. But if you play dumb, normally the driver will simply let you on anyway.

Today I shall be taking the taxi to the airport anyway, because I’m travelling with a large suitcase which I don’t fancy carting to the bus stop.

CHECK-IN

Location:      ground level, the bus stops right in front of the terminal
Facilities:      self-service machines
Counters:     dedicated Luxair Business Class counters

The taxi drops me off in front of the departures hall, which is at ground level. The airport is fairly busy this afternoon. There are the business travellers, probably on their way home after a busy week’s work in one of the many offices of the EU in Luxembourg. And then there are also the leisure travellers, presumably because there’s a long weekend ahead.

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LOUNGE

Location: one floor down from the departures level
Type of Lounge:
Luxair lounge
Facilities:

Internet: –

There is a Luxair lounge in Luxembourg, which is very nice. In the evenings though, it does tend to become rather busy as it’s not very big and it’s also the only lounge there is in Luxembourg, so in fact it’s available to the premium passengers of most of the airlines operating out of Luxembourg.

BOARDING

Priority Boarding: No

Boarding is via gate A16, which is a bus gate.

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CABIN

Configuration: 3 + 3
Seat: standard European-style Business Class with the middle seat left empty
Facilities: coat hook
Audio and Video: audio and video are installed, only video available on this particular flight.

Originally, when I booked this flight it should have been operated by a Dash-8-400. However, much to my surprise we eventually pull up next to a Boeing B 737-700. Needless to say I’m delighted with the aircraft change!

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The cabin looks very neat, with blue seats and cream coloured, adjustable headrests and seatbelts. The seat pitch is rather tight though. There is no cabin divider to separate Business and Economy Class.

I also notice that the seat rows on the left and on the right side are not aligned, although I’m not quite sure wherein the benefit of this should lie.

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SERVICE

The crew appear to be all from Luxembourg. They’re rather a nondescript bunch really. There’s nothing wrong with the way they go about their job and they’re not in any way rude. But it’s nearly as though they’re not really there. In fact you get the distinct impression they aren’t interested even in the faintest in their passengers.

Later on during the flight, as soon as the service is over, they vanish into the galley and remain there until it is time for them to secure the cabin for landing.

THE MEAL

Choice: none
Delivery:
traditional tray service
Type of meal:
light snack
Menu:
there is a small printed menu
Meal:

  • duck and vegetable millefeuille in a tangy sauce
  • raspberry, melon and pineapple
  • lemon tart, brownie and white chocolate bavarois cake
  • bread roll
  • orange juice
  • coffee

The presentation of the meal is nice. I quite like it for the simple reason that it’s unusual and makes a difference from what you normally see on planes in Europe today. But I can’t really say I enjoyed the meal. I’ve never been partial to duck because I find it too fatty. And when it comes packed in between layers of gelatine, then I think I’d rather pass.

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The desserts are alright, although the brown thing described as a ‘brownie’ in the menu is more like a mini piece of Black Forest gateau.

The meal is quickly removed, I barely touched it. I spend the rest of the flight gazing out the window. My favourite pastime.

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ARRIVAL

After we land, we taxi on seemingly endlessly. It appears that we’re got more or less the remotest possible stand on the whole apron. A bus is expecting us to bring the passengers to the terminal.

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CONCLUSION

So what about Luxair Business Class? To be honest, it’s really quite hard to say. There wasn’t really anything to complain about, but I don’t think there was anything about the experience that would make me seek them out for my next trip either.