I just arrived in Vienna on a Luxair flight from Luxembourg. I now have nearly four hours to make my connection to Bangkok.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Configuration: 2 + 2 + 1
Seat: staggered layout, very similar to what Swiss has
Pitch: 40’ / bed length 78’
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.
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.
When I arrive at my seat, the vanity kit has already been placed there.
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.
Pre departure drinks: yes, I have the orange juice, there is also champagne and a signature cocktail
Pre meal drinks: yes, another OJ – it’s good for you – 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
- smoked salmon with beetroot
- consommé of beef with dumplings
- rigatoni with lamb ragout and parmesan
- chocolate mouse with a centre of green coconut crème brûlée, a ball of frozen yoghurt and Austrian style pancakes with berries
- bread rolls
- apple juice
- mint tea
- 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.
- a bowl of fresh fruit
- yoghurt with home made granola (very tasty)
- a selection of breads, including toast
- an omelette with bell peppers and mozzarella, potatoes and tomatoes
- coffee and orange juice (there are also smoothies available)
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.
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.
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.
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.
This place is just so nice!
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.