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Old Jul 22, 09, 3:00 pm   #1
 
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Giving Austrian Airlines a Whirl: IAD-VIE-IAD OS94 / OS93

After taking advantage of low spring summer fares ex-IAD to Europe numerous times, I figured I’d stay at home during the summer, especially with the traditional spike in fares. However, after being grounded for just a month (and no work boondoggles in sight), I started getting a major case of wanderlust. Not willing to pay the steep increase in fares, I instead turned to my United miles. Seeing that I was looking for award travel 4 weeks out for mid to late July, I doubted that I’d be able to find anything either to Europe or Asia. But as many FT’ers espouse, the thrill is in the hunt.

Having lots of time and with help from the ANA tool, I set off to thwart United’s StarNet blocking. The ANA tool showed plenty of LH C and F availability transatlantic, but a quick phone call to Reservations showed that StarNet blocking was in full swing. Which left me with three possible options: OS to VIE, ANA to NRT, or SAS to CPH (which I believe is never available) - there was no way I’d be willing to redeem my miles in C or F on UA metal.

Although it was summer, due to the drop in premium travel, I was hoping for last minute award availability. Performing an ANA search every day or two, nothing turned up. There was spotty availability, but nothing that I could use. Finally, I noticed that OS opened up a C award to VIE for the following week. To my surprise, the flight wasn’t blocked and I jumped on it faster than you could say wiener schnitzel. I had spent a few hours in Vienna about 12 years ago in transit, and always promised myself that I’d return. Looks like I finally had my chance! I got the usual eye rolls from my co-workers, but they’ll be appeased by the Imperial Torte I brought back with me.

I’ve heard excellent things about OS catering by CO & DO, and needless to say, I was not disappointed in the least. Not being able to find any trip reports on my upcoming flights, I decided to write my own in hopes that this will help other people down the line.

7/17/09 OS94 IAD-VIE

Driving through extremely heavy rain, I made it to IAD and checked in at the OS counter. I saw an Economy line, but no marked Business class line. There was a separate line, but it led towards future ticketing. I later found out that was the Premium line. But as the economy line was short, and I had some extra time, I didn’t mind the wait. After receiving my boarding pass, I decided to brave the IAD Premium security line (I’m still in mourning over Clear). Surprisingly enough, I was through in less than 5 minutes. I walked over the LH Senator lounge, and checked it out for the first time. From what I’ve read, the LH lounge offers access to UA domestic flyers. If that’s the case, I’ll be canceling my RCC membership next year. There’s no free Wi-Fi, but I have a broadband card, so all was good. I spent my time browsing the Internet and tried not to eat too much in anticipation of the meal ahead.

Upon boarding, I was handed a bottle of water in the jet way. This is standard for Business and Coach passengers. A very nice touch. I settled in 3A and found the seat extremely uncomfortable compared to United’s 777 C seat. The seat and controls reminded me of the old United First seats on the 767. But once I was able to recline a little, comfort improved dramatically and was more than acceptable. The seats are bit on the narrow side, but not too shabby. 27 of the 30 seats in Business were occupied. I don’t think any were non-revs or upgraders (unlike United). After taxiing a bit, the engines spooled down and we were informed of a one hour ground stop due to traffic congestion around JFK. The pilot asked us to make ourselves comfortable, and the flight attendants made their rounds serving drinks and pretzels. The time flew by (thanks to my broadband card), and we were soon on our way.

I normally go straight to sleep on eastbound Europe flights, but I forced myself to stay awake for the meal:

Dinner

Appetizer:
Potpurri of antipasti
Mediterranean style prawn salad (leaf salads, lemon oil dressing)

Soup:
Curry Pumpkin Soup

Main:
Fillet of beef with tarragon sauce (roasted potatoes / sautéed leek)
Swordfish brochette (red pepper confit / sautéed leaf spinach / lemon pepper risotto)
Linguini with buffalo mozzarella (cherry tomatoes / pines and artichokes / arugula salad with olive oil balsamic dressing)

Dessert:
Assorted cheese & exotic fruit from our trolley
Viennese apple strudel / vanilla sauce
American marble cheesecake
Vanilla Parfait (ice cream)
Freshly brewed coffee or tea
Digestives from our trolley

As I said earlier, catering was from DO & CO. Wow! Having flown LH and SQ F (UA doesn’t belong with those two), the food blew away what I’ve previously encountered. Quality was higher than both, as well as presentation. The only difference was that the wine list was nothing compared to SQ or LH.

I started off with the Prawn Salad, which was a very decent size, with three large prawns. The Curry Pumpkin soup sounded a bit weird, but was delicious. I’m not a fish person (I had originally ordered the beef, but told the flight attendant that I was flexible if they were short), but the swordfish was amazing. It was served on a skewer, and was tender, moist, and flaky. Slices of lemon were skewered as well, which enhanced the taste. There was also constant roll service. For dessert, I chose the apple strudel with ice cream, along with some extremely fresh fruit. That was the best meal I’ve had on a flight hands down. And it was the only time I wished that I had a camera. I’m going to have to get one of those contraptions one of these days…perhaps if I book another OS C flight. Had OS served Krug, I would have been in heaven. I found service to be a bit slow though.

Also, OS offers a coffee menu of perhaps a dozen varieties of coffee and coffee drinks that they can concoct for you. Very Viennese. I was tempted, but I can’t fall asleep within 6 hours of drinking that stuff. The galley chef passed out chocolates after all the dinner items were taken away.

Reclining the seat to a lie flat position, I found the bed to be extremely uncomfortable due to a wedge right where my butt was. This was the first time I wished I had an extra 20 pounds to cushion myself The seat also inclined downwards, which meant that I had to rely on my feet resting on the seat in front of me to stay in position. The pressure on my feet was rather annoying. One thing I liked about the seats was that the person in front of you didn’t recline in your personal space; you could get up from your seat without being blocked in. Despite the discomfort of the seat, I managed to get 4 solid hours of sleep.

I liked how OS handled their breakfast service. Shortly after takeoff, we were handed a piece of paper and pen, asking us to select what we’d like in the morning. I forgot what the main choices were (I know one was an omelet), but I just opted for the muesli with honey and tea. Roll service consisted of the same selection as the night (well, just hours) before. Oddly enough, there wasn’t a morning towel service. Perhaps I slept through it?

Due to the ground delay at IAD, we arrived 40 minutes late. The crew announced several times over the PA that anybody making connections would make their next flights. A very nice touch.

7/22/09 OS93 VIE-IAD

Having a light breakfast in anticipation of another great meal onboard, I took the CAT to VIE. My impression of the airport on arriving and departing weren’t positive. It seemed rather chaotic compared to other European airports I’ve flown through. There’s a bevy of shops prior to a checkpoint, where only ticket holders were allowed. Security checks are accomplished right outside your departing gate. I received my boarding pass, and went to the Austrian Airlines / Star Alliance lounge after the ticket checkpoint. The lounge had the usual booze, scrambled eggs, roasted tomatoes, soft drinks, and free internet (both wired and Wi-Fi).

There were 17 of 30 C seats occupied on my flight back home. Service was much faster than my outbound.

The lunch menu was as follows:

Antipasti from our trolley
Smoked trout with chive cream
Seafood salad
Marinated zucchini and eggplant
Crispy pork salad
Cheese “borek”
Styrian chicken breast / leaf salads

Soup
Creamy apple celeriac soup

Main
Fillet of beef (soya tomato vegetables / wasabi puree / leek)
Grilled Seabass (caper lemon butter / Mediterranean vegetables / rosemary potatoes)
Viennese style deep-fried chicken (potato-field salad)

Dessert
Assorted cheese & exotic fruit from our trolley
DO & CO’s almond cherry tart
Chocolate Banana Cake
Homemade mascarpone parfait
Freshly brewed coffee or tea
Digestives from our trolley

For the appetizers, I had the cheese “borek”, which was like a thin spring roll, but filled with cheese. I also took the chicken breast (fried) and crispy pork salad, which was fried something (skin? I don’t think I want to know) with an Asian style dressing.

The cream soup was quite good. Hints of celery, but I couldn’t discern any apple. I had the beef this time (a bit well done…it reminded me of United's filet), which came with sprouts in a very salty soy sauce and wasabi mashed potatoes. For dessert, I chose the almond cherry tart (actually a muffin), and the mascarpone parfait (vanilla ice cream served on top of mascarpone). Another excellent meal!

Snack before landing:

Main
Artichoke Ravioli (seasonal salads / olive oil balsamic dressing)
Chicken tikka brochette (leaf salads)
- both served with ovenfresh bread selection

Dessert
Traditional apricot sweet curd tart
Freshly brewed coffee or tea

For our snack, I chose the chicken tikka. It came skewered on a stick and was very tender and moist. It came on top of a salad, with a side of cucumbers in a thick cream and dill sauce. The apricot tart was more akin to a coffee cake. Chocolates were passed out prior to landing.

The Wine List was the same in both directions:

Champagne / Prosecco
Haton Champagne (Jean-Noel, Damery, France)
Le Borgate Prosecco, Vento (Imbottigliato de Vinicola)

White Wine
Gruner Veltliner, 2008 (Freie Weingartner Wachau)
Riesling, Kamptaler Terrassen 2007 (Weingut Brundlmayer, Kamptal)
Spatrot, Klassik 2007 (Weingut Gebeshuber, Thermenregion)

Red Wine
Pinot Noir, 2004 (Weingut Hopler, Mittelburgenland)
St. Laurent, Classic 2006 (Weingut Fischer, Thermenregion)
Villa Antinori, Toscana 2005 (Weingut Antinori, Italien)

Dessert Wine
Kracher Cuvee Beerenauslese (Weinlaubenhof Kracher, Burgenland)

Beer
Austrian beer
Non-Alcoholic Beer

Soft Drinks
Sparking or still mineral water
Coca Cola Classic, Coca Cola Light
Sprite
Schweppes Tonic Water, Schweppes Bitter Lemon
Orange / Apple / Tomato Juice

Spirits
Campari
Absolut Vodka
Gordon’s Dry Gin
Chivas Regal
Remy Martin VSOP
Bailey’s Irish Crème
Reisetbauer Marille (Apricot brandy)
Fernet Branca (forgot what this was)
Portwein Burmester

Bottom line is that OS C longhaul has the best catering I’ve encountered. They say LH F has the best presentation, but I believe OS definitely wins in this category. When Austrian says that they have a restaurant at 35,000 feet, they’re not kidding! The seats aren’t very comfortable, but the food more than makes up for it. Service was excellent, and I thought that a galley chef that put together the food was a nice touch. I’m planning on going to Salzburg next year. I’ll definitely be taking OS C across the pond again (I promise I’ll buy a camera to properly document the catering). I also am curious to see if I can connect through VIE for my future Europe travels.

Last edited by Condition One; Jul 22, 09 at 3:07 pm..
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Old Jul 22, 09, 5:53 pm   #2
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Excellent review. I have been trying to secure 2 seats on OS in J btw JFK-VIE, but no luck.

I did not know UA blocked award travel on star carriers, my miles are with US, so there is no problem getting seats when the ANA tool show they are availalbe. With US, I have found that it is faster to give them the flight numbers.
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Old Jul 22, 09, 7:05 pm   #3
 
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Great Trip Report!

What a great trip report-- I've only flown OS Y, but even service and meals in Y is pretty decent.

A suggestion for future VIE-bound travelers who might be at all budget conscious: don't take the CAT. The regular S-Bahn (sort of like a commuter train), line S7, goes to the airport, and can also be picked up at Landstrasse, where the CAT goes.

The S7 is just a little bit more than a regular subway ticket (I think around €3-- Sorry, I lived in Vienna 3 years ago, and forget the prices, but you basically need one more zone than in the center). It takes 30 minutes, rather than the CAT's 16 minutes. Depending on your final destination in Vienna, the S7 is often more convenient, too. I never found the CAT to be worth the price: if I was traveling light enough to take public transit, then the S7 was fine, but otherwise I'd just take a taxi or a car service.
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Old Jul 22, 09, 7:06 pm   #4
 
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It's been 2 years since we did a IAD-VIE RT in paid business and we still talk about the food. It was a A-340 going over and a B777 on the return. We don't remember a problem with seat comfort. We were surprised that the meal service started so quickly after take-off -- no usual "cocktail" time but those were available on request as staff was preparing to serve first course -- FAs had to go back to galley for the hard liquor. Vienna Airport really is dated, and the gate area on the return was way over-crowded.
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Old Jul 22, 09, 11:57 pm   #5
 
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I agree with the OP statement regarding the quality of OS catering as I flew VIE-BKK-VIE in OS C and 2 days before my outbound leg SFO-FRA in F. The food we had on both legs, was amazing, and definitively much better quality than the LH F food. I didn't enjoy though the curry pumpkin soup but absolutely adored the celeriac apple soup. I don't remember having eaten anywhere a soup that delicious, that i had to ask for more...
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Old Jul 23, 09, 4:08 am   #6
 
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Thanks for the excellent trip report. Brings back wonderful memories of my Austrian experience a few years back.

Austrian Business: Vienna-Singapore-Melbourne/Sydney-Kuala Lumpur-Vienna
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Old Jul 23, 09, 12:35 pm   #7
 
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Great trip report. I've heard that Austrian had amazing food, but hadn't seen a report detailing the offerings. It sounds like their seats are similar to the ones in WBC, and though the lie flat is nice it's easy to wake up with some weird pains from trying to prop yourself up on the slanted seat.
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Old Jul 23, 09, 12:56 pm   #8
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Thumbs up

Many thanks for a GREAT TR!!! I had the opportunity to fly OS in Business a few years back and found them to be quite good.
Hope you enjoyed the time in VIE, too!!

Dave
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Old Jul 28, 09, 11:52 am   #9
 
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Thank you for the trip report! The first time I ever flew an airline with PTV's in Y was OS ORD-VIE back in 2001. I've had a soft spot for OS since then!
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Old Jul 30, 09, 3:35 pm   #10
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Excellent trip report. I look forward to trying to OS one of these days.
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Old Aug 1, 09, 8:06 am   #11
 
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Nice Trip Report!
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Old Aug 16, 09, 2:06 pm   #12
 
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Thanks for the report. I flew OS in Y in June, JFK-VIE-JFK. I must admit, the food in Y was the best that I have ever had in coach. (It is also catered from DO&CO).
The crew was very professional on both legs of the trip.

My only warning: The seats are brutal in coach. I don't know if OS jammed an extra row or two in (it was a 777)...but when I first sat down, I knew that I was in trouble. I'm 6'4"...and my knees were in constant contact with the seat in front of me. Combine this with what seemed like a very narrow seat...and the flight experience was painful. I wish that I could of upgraded. It would of been well worth it. Fortunately, the seat next to me was empty on both legs, so I could invade that space. Had it been occupied, I would of needed a chiropractor upon arrival!
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Old Aug 16, 09, 8:20 pm   #13
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great report!!
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Old Aug 17, 09, 10:18 am   #14
 
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Brings me wonderful memories of my JFK-VIE trip also. Although it was a while ago, I am pleased to see that the food quality remains very high on OS.

Austrian Airlines C-class JFK-VIE Oct 2002
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