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Business Class: Austrian and Lufthansa - London (LHR) - New Delhi (DEL)

Business Class: Austrian and Lufthansa - London (LHR) - New Delhi (DEL)

Old Sep 20, 07, 4:18 pm
  #1  
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Thumbs up Business Class: Austrian and Lufthansa - London (LHR) - New Delhi (DEL)

Austrian Airlines (OS)
London to Vienna (LHR-VIE)

Airbus A320, Business Class

This is quietest I've ever heard my little London street. My watch tells me its 4:10AM which means that I'm tired and that the driver is 10 minutes late. I doubt he got stuck in traffic at this hour. I'm on my way to India: a quick business trip to our office in New Delhi. It will be my first time to this country to which I owe a partial ancestry.

This is my first Asian flight from Europe, which means I get to fly a non-U.S. airline for the adventure. I had booked the out-going flight on Austrian Airlines through Vienna, to sample their renowned in-flight service, and the return on Lufthansa through Frankfurt, with the hopes of using some of my United SWUs to land a seat in First class on the way home.

What the driver lacked in timeliness, he made up in speed. I was checked in for my flight to Vienna 15 minutes after sitting down inside his car. I decide to try my luck with the evil Heathrow security line goons and stuff my laptop bag into my 22" Travelpro suitcase. The one-suitcase rule is ridiculous: an effort, in my opinion, for the new owners of BAA to cut their costs by calling two bags a "security" issue.

I am not awarded for my good efforts to slim down. Instead, I and my bag are unceremoniously sent back downstairs. As the agent had only given me my boarding pass for the first leg to Vienna, he could only check my bag to Vienna. It's an added complication, but no big deal, I tell him. As I run off to catch my flight, the agent shouts after me that he has no record of me continuing on to New Delhi. With 45 minutes to flight time, there is no time to debate. "I'll take care of it in Vienna!" I proclaim while striding away.

The security line is longer now but it moves quickly -- I get through in 20 minutes. One of my pet peeves about Heathrow (besides the one-bag rule) is how they display "Final Call" on the departure monitors even before the doors of the airplane open! Luckily, my gate was close and I joined the rest of the passengers in the pre-board holding area to wait for the real boarding to begin.

No early boarding for business class or Star Alliance elite members and we get on the plane first-come-first-serve, last-flight-out-of-Vietnam style. I'm in a window seat near the back of the business cabin. Like other European carriers, there is no real "class" in business. The seats are exactly the same as in coach -- tight legroom, narrow and barely any recline. The middle seat is blocked... whoopdido. I would take a domestic United First seat any day over this!

Newspapers are distributed through the business class cabin as the plane taxis out. After driving around Heathrow for 45 minutes, we take to the sky. The Austrian flight attendants move with mechanical precision into the drink and food service at the two dings. It's almost as if I am taking a survey from a computer: "Breakfast?" Yes/No, "Coffee?" Yes/No. There's no nonsense about service here. Although, I did catch one of the flight attendants smiling... Or maybe finishing a yawn. I'm not sure.

Breakfast is plopped in front of me. It appears to be some sort of apple crepe, accompanied by a choice of hearty breads from a basket and some fresh fruit. The attendants did not unwrap the plastic covering the items on the tray, which was a bit strange/awkward to have balls of plastic wrap ending up around my seat.

There was no in-flight entertainment from the overhead monitors and in a couple short hours we touched down at Vienna International Airport. Mozart played over the plane's speakers as we disembarked down the stairs. The attendant smiled at me when I disembarked. I guess they do know how to use those face muscles afterall! Flights from London are bused to the terminal so they can run us through immigration checks. As we walk down the stairs, I notice a grey Mercedes parked off to the side with "HON Circle, First Class" etched on the side. A few men in suits get in and are whisked off quickly as the rest of us squeeze into a bus.

The Vienna Airport and Senator Lounges

Vienna's airport is a joy to transit through: small and well-organized with a lively duty-free shopping area. Star Alliance Gold and HON members can check in at a designated room by the entrance to the terminal. It would be great to see this feature at other airports as well. I step inside the haven to find red carpets and six beautiful Austrian women smiling and gesturing me to their kiosks. I choose the pretty brunette, and in less than two minutes I have my boarding pass and am sent on my way with another smile.

Over the next three hours before my flight to Delhi, I visit both Senator lounges in Vienna. The one in the A concourse is small and looks out across the tarmac. There are not many people here as this lounge caters primarily to the international flights leaving from A. And speaking of catering, the food is provided by Do&Co, a local catering company ("a food entertainment company" as they call themselves) -- it is excellent, perhaps only surpassed by some of the food I've found in Singapore Airlines' lounges. At 11:00AM, they switch out the scrambled eggs and morning breads for lunchier fair: Potato Goulash with Turkey Sausage, vinaigrette mixed salad with mozzarella balls, and Cream of Pumpkin soup. Since I'm looking forward to my Do&Co meal onboard in a few hours, I dabble lightly in the food. There are two computers in the lounge for internet access, a host of magazines and newspapers and two private rooms for phone calls. The second lounge, in the B concourse, provides a place for domestic and European travelers to relax. It is much more crowded and people mill around the food. I see one guy taking pictures -- an FT'er perhaps... There is slightly more selection here, but generally the same items. I eat a couple of the small desserts and help myself to some white wine before heading back to Concourse A and to board my flight.

Like Heathrow, Vienna uses a "pre-boarding" area to hold its passengers. Each gate has its own security check and on this flight there did not appear to be a special line for business class or Star Gold members. The flight to Tokyo at the next gate did have a dedicated line for these customers. Once inside the pre-boarding area, business class passengers were welcomed into a cordoned area near the plane entrance. This was helpful as the whole scene was rather mob-like and crowded. We were ushered onto the 767 first and I settled into 1A.

Austrian Airlines (OS)
Vienna to New Delhi (VIE-DEL)

Boeing 767, Business Class

Again, I found the flight attendant interactions mechanical. They took jackets and hung them, offered the cabin pre-departure champagne and water, and went about their duties. Shortly after take-off, the purser did come by to introduce herself. Her pronounciation of my name was excellent, which is actually pretty rare! Nevertheless, her little speech was dry, brief and to the point. Essentially, "If you need anything, let me know." I smiled graciously as she walked me through how to use the seat and the entertainment system. The latter is not unlike on United -- a small screen that pops up from the center console. On this plane there were no additional pause/play controls, only a channel changer and volume.

The seat itself is quite comfortable. I love the flexibility of being able to put it in whichever position I want. As the seat is electronic, no body and muscle distortions required. On the negative side, it is narrower than I expected and I now understand the rants about sliding down the seat in the sleep position. The angle is just to steep to sleep naturally.

Before I get too concerned, the elaborate Austrian Airlines meal service begins. The menu and wine list, a small book inside a folder, makes me salivate:


A La Carte Menu / menu
first service

salmon and prawns
marinated fennel and leaf salad

or

indian special: chickpea cake
tomato cucumber carpaccio / yoghurt cream

and/or

viennese potato mushroom soup

-----

please choose from our selection:

dover sole
caper lemon butter / celeriac puree / sauteed vegetables

or

rack of spring lamb
herbed pappardelle / sauteed wild mushrooms / rosemary jus

or

chicken jalfrezi
pilav rice / yoghurt bhurta

or

vegetarian special
chauna cholaw / eggplant bhurta / aloo tikki
saffron rice / pappadom chip


-----

assorted cheese & exotic fruit from our trolley

-----

austrian style apricot dumplings

and/or

DO & CO's chocolate nougat tart

and/or

home made vanilla parfait


I want it all!! Appetizers and soup are shared from a cart with a smile. The soup is impeccable -- sweet and smooth. The vegetarian samosa, perhaps not the best pairing with the soup, has delicate Indian flavours. The wine I ask for is by far the best in-air wine I've tasted. It's an Australian Merlot by Salomon SUeD. Within 10 minutes of me dusting off the first course, the lamb was presented to me by the on-board chef. Wow! A real plate, a real rack of lamb -- not a dense piece of airplane meat -- it was tender and very flavorful. The pappardelle was an excellent side dish with the wild mushrooms and I downed it all faster than you can say "bring me dessert!" And dessert they did bring: the austrian style apricot dumplings were warm and also bursting with summer flavor. I cannot say enough good things about the food on Austrian Airlines -- it is worth taking a flight in daytime flight in their long-haul business class just to try this out.

I play with the entertainment system. With my low standards coming from United Airlines, it doesn't bother me too much that I cannot stop/pause/fast-forward/rewind the films. The selection is reasonable. After the movie is over, I decide to take a nap and put the seat in a sleep position. As I mentioned above, the slope of the chair combined with an awkward foot shelf and the leather cover on the foot rest make it too easy to slip down the chair while sleeping. I try various positions on my side, my stomach (uncomfortable!) and on my back. I am most comfortable on my back, but since I'm in 1A, the light from the galley is annoying, even with the curtain. In the end, I toss and turn for a couple hours before getting up to read. Soon it is time for the second meal service as we approach New Delhi:


A La Carte Menu / menu
second service

herbed chicken brochette
leaf salads
french dressing


or

vegetarian samosas
leaf salads / tamarind chutney

-----

marinated berries
vanilla creme fraiche

----

ovenfresh bread selection

freshly brewed coffee or tea


An insert in the small menu folder exclaims: "Sorry, no coffee on this flight..." When you open up the little booklet, you discover the secrets of Viennese coffee. Inside a literal menu of 10 coffee drinks, brewed from a Julius Meinl roast. As I don't want the caffeine, I stay away, but watch with intrigue as the flight attendants serve veritable cappucinos, lattes and mochas -- foam and all -- from the galley.

The flight was over too soon and we begin our descent into New Delhi. It's dark outside and there is not much light from the area around the city. Almost 1AM here. Thankfully, my hotel has sent a driver.

Report on Lufthansa (LH) from New Delhi to Frankfurt to follow soon...
JohnnyP is offline  
Old Sep 20, 07, 9:38 pm
  #2  
 
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Great report!

I would love to try the food on OS. Can't wait to read about your next legs on LH.
upgrade lover is offline  
Old Sep 23, 07, 8:04 pm
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Great report!
Looking forward to the comparison.
Did your bags make it OK?
ninerfan is offline  
Old Sep 24, 07, 9:34 pm
  #4  
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Awesome report!^ Great to hear about OS longhaul service. I totally agree with you about the intra-European C. I can't understand why some people love it so much. I would take a UA F seat without any service over it anyday.
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Old Sep 25, 07, 10:29 am
  #5  
 
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Originally Posted by lucky9876coins View Post
Awesome report!^ Great to hear about OS longhaul service. I totally agree with you about the intra-European C. I can't understand why some people love it so much. I would take a UA F seat without any service over it anyday.
I disagree. In my book: good food >> good seat. And the food on shorthaul OS C certainly is far superior to anything in midcon UA domestic F.
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Old Sep 25, 07, 2:20 pm
  #6  
 
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Nice report JohnnyP! Don't mistake Viennese cold attitude with lack of service - I think it's just a cultural thing... I've used OS a bit and this is them being 'cool' rather than cold. Their European business class has vastly better food than many in my opinion. But maybe the seat means more to you?

Can I just check - LHR rejected your bag-in-bag at security screening? I know there's only one item of hand luggage but I've never had this - and (although not a woman) I see lots of women put their handbags (US=purse) in their cabin bag without problems. Why were you singled out for this abuse?
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Old Sep 26, 07, 4:44 pm
  #7  
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Thanks! I'll be posting the LH report soon...

As for my bag, it only got checked to Vienna, which actually worked out. I claimed my 22" rollaboard in Vienna, got the boarding passes for my Delhi flight in the HON/*A Gold room (LOVE this amenity, by the way! Wish more airports had it...) and had absolutely no issues carrying it on the flight.

I was singled out at Heathrow security because I guess my rollaboard looked too big. It's the typical American 22" rollaboard -- an expandable TravelPro (it's the same one used by flight crews). It was not expanded at the time. But since most Europeans pack 18" suitcases or smaller, I tend to find that my 22" rollaboard is often singled out. Despite my protests, the guy at security wouldn't hear it. He forced me to try to cram my bag into the sizer and since it (obviously) would not fit, he sent me back to check it in.

I would really like to know the actual diameters of these metal "sizers" anyway. Because my carry-on is technically a legal carry-on (heck, the freakin' flight crews use it!!), so I'm not sure what molds they are using to build those stupid things, or what right the security agents have to enforce my bag size. Frankly, it fits into the overhead bin wheels first, which is a lot more than most people can say about their carry-ons...

The only other airport where I have had issues with my 22" is at Hong Kong where they would not let me through security. I had to go back to the United desk and request "special permission" to take it through. That was not unduly withheld and I proceeded.
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Old Sep 28, 07, 2:05 pm
  #8  
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Thumbs up DEL-FRA in LH Business Class

One of the best perks of staying at the Trident Hilton Gurgaon in New Delhi is that they provide a Hilton representative to guide you through the departure process at New Delhi's international airport. Unfortunately, I wasn't staying at the Hilton. As a result, I had to settle for a "green behind the ears" driver from another hotel who dropped me off at the airport, nearly broke the strap on my bag removing it from the boot, and then stood looking at me expectantly until I slapped some Rupees in his palm.

Perhaps if he spoke English he could have given me some more direction too. I'm standing looking at the entrances to the Jawaharlal Nehru International Airport and am not even sure where to begin. Like the rest of India, the airport is very crowded. It's not clear to me why many of the people are there -- they aren't standing in queues, they don't have bags, and they don't appear to be waiting expectantly for family to arrive. I go stand in one of the human funnels channeling into Gate 3. Is this where I am supposed to queue?

After about 30 minutes, I'm almost near the front. It's only then that I realize what I'm standing in line for: a guard is checking passports and tickets before allowing passengers into the airport. Tickets... hm, right... Since I happen to be traveling on an e-ticket, I don't have proof of travel for that day. This might be a problem. As the line inches forward, I rummage through my bags hoping to high heaven that my assistant had printed out an itinerary, a receipt... something! Luckily, I find what I am looking for and hand it to the guard with a smile. He does not return the smile, but he does return my documents and waives me into Jawaharlal's lair.

The Delhi Airport & Lounges

Calling the New Delhi airport "modern" would be a generous characterization. The terminal is dimly lit, musty and has long lost its luster. I beat my way through the crowds to the Lufthansa check-in area at the far end. On my way, I notice that the 1:50AM Austrian Airlines flight has been delayed until 6AM. Ouch! Glad I am not taking that home. Since I'm at the airport nearly 2.5 hours before my 2AM flight, there is no line at the business check-in area. The agent asks me how many bags I am carrying on and issues me two "Lufthansa Hand Baggage" tags (as it turns out, these were very important: One of my fellow passengers was caught at boarding without these on his bag and was sent back through security to check-in again) and an invitation to the business lounge.

There is no Lufthansa Senator or FTL lounge at New Delhi airport. In fact, as far as I can tell, there is only one lounge in the entire terminal. And everyone is in it -- mostly Westerners crowded around the small tables sipping drinks, reading, and generally doing their best to stay awake. With at least two 747 flights leaving that night (BA to Heathrow and LH to Frankfurt), it would appear to be nearly impossible to find a seat. I end up sharing a small table with two Germans. It seems like BA has done a good job claiming space in the lounge for its passengers -- little table tents announce that these seats are "exclusively" reserved for BA passengers. I don't see any seats exclusively reserved for Lufthansa passengers anywhere. Just before boarding a beautifully dressed young woman enters the lounge and makes her way around to the BA passengers encouraging them to finish up their drinks and prepare for boarding. Some of the chairs open up and I move to somewhere more comfortable.

The lounge sits awkwardly between immigration and security, so I leave about 45 minutes before boarding to get through security. There is no separate business class security line, but one of the lines opens up directly in front of the lounge "implying" that it is only for lounge passengers. It is slow-going through security -- the guards seem to often rescreen bags and hold up the line while they manually search through contents. A separate women and men security area doesn't seem to help speed things up. When I finally get through, it is no surprise to find that the boarding area for the plane is already packed full of people. Not a seat, and already a queue was beginning to form near the First, Business Class and star Alliance Gold boarding gate. Lufthansa had done a reasonable job of organizing an economy board area to one side, but still with so many people sitting in business class, it is all a jumble anyway.

So it's 2AM, I'm tired and cranky. Many people are crowding the front of the line (except the Americans who stand neatly where they think the lines begin and end). When in Rome... I unabashedly squeeze my way towards the front just when the door is about to open and manage to be the third person on the plane. Silly, I know, but I'm trying to maximize sleep time here people!

Lufthansa (LH)
Delhi to Frankfurt (DEL-FRA)

Boeing 747, Business Class

United was kind enough to FedEx me one of my SWUs to use to upgrade from business class to first class on this flight. Unfortunately, as you can tell, I am sitting in business class. While the FedEx would have arrived on time, the delivery man failed to leave it at my door and I missed it before I left! On the plus side, I can now compare apples-to-apples with Austrian Airlines' C class.

I had reserved a seat in the nose area of the 747, which provides a 5 or 6 row mini-cabin to enjoy. The middle section has a small coffee table with magazines. I settle back into my seat and test out the various functions. Everything seems to be working. I find it a bit odd (or perhaps reassuring?) that new earphone foam covers are provided in the amenity kits. Unfortunately, I can't find an outlet to plug in my own noise-cancelling set, so I have to settle for the airline provided earphones. It's a pain in the @$$ trying to put those little foam covers on and takes me about 10 minutes, destroying one in the process. An FA fetches me an extra pair from a stash somewhere.

I then have a go at the seat: it is comfortable and feels more like a cocoon than the Austrian Airlines seat. When I'm in full recline it's hard to tell I'm next to someone. While the cushions are firm, it is easy to adjust the seat and the incline feels less steep than on Austrian. I definitely have less of a sliding problem here and can sleep comfortably on my stomach. I pop the seat back up when the FA comes around with some pre-departure champagne. While sipping that down, I flip over to the entertainment center and begin to scroll through the options.

Here again, as a regular United flyer, I have very low standards when it comes to in-flight entertainment... but this system on Lufthansa blows my socks off! Not only can I scroll through a long list of movie, TV, and audio selections, but I can pause, FF and REW to my heart's content! I find "Paris, Je t'Aime" and start playing that as the plane taxis back from the gate. I'm 30 minutes into the movie by the time we take off.

As I mentioned earlier, I'm tired and cranky. And it's now pushing 3AM. The cabin is dark so I stop the movie, screw some earplugs into my cranal cavaties and slide the chair all the way back. I drift off to slee... What the?!? All the lights suddenly come on full-blast! I squint around to see Lufthansa FAs going up and down the aisles taking meal orders ... at 3AM!! Silverware starts to clank and talking begins ... at 3AM!! Even United FAs, for all their foibles, have been known to be more considerate on night flights. Did I mention I was cranky?

I roll over and slam my eyelids together doing my best to ignore what's going on around me. I think my neighbor, a military-looking businessman who sits upright in this chair the whole way to Frankfurt, ordered something. Who knows... who cares... I manage to drift back to sleep again before we leave Indian air space.

If sleep quality was the best measure of a seat's comfort, I would have to rate the Lufthansa business class seat fairly well. I'm sure leaving at 3AM helped as well. Needless to say, I slept through the first meal service, but I did save a menu in case anyone was desperately curious:


Menu

hors d'oeuvres
Mozzarella Cheese and Tomato Slice

Entrees
Herb crusted Pomfret with parsley Parisienne Potatoes.
Spinach Parcel, Lemon Butter, grilled Read and Yellow Pepper Triangles


or

Methi Malai Murgh with Peas in Saffron Rice and Dal
Makhani garnished with Pepper Strip and Coriander


Dessert
Passion Fruit Cake


There are also a few vegetarian options on the menu. The featured wines included Chapagne Jacquart Brut, a 2006 "Sonnerwind" German Riesling, a 2005 California Chardonnay from "Valley Oaks", and a 2003 Chateau Mazails Cru Bourgeois from France. As much as I would have liked to sample dinner on Lufthansa and have a glass of the 2003 Cru Bourgeois, I am off in sleep land.

I did, however, awake for breakfast, much to my delight:



Breakfast

Entrees
Fresh Fruit

Musli

Musroom Omlette, sauteed Spinach, Cherry Tomato and Potato Gratin

Crepe stuffed with Apples on Vanilla Sauce and mixed fresh Fruit

Chicken Bharta on French Bread Toast served with Corn and Potato Rosti, Paneer Bhurji garnished with Green Pepper and chopped Coriander.


The musli to start with along with the fruit is a fantastic way to begin your day. I find the tiresome, greasy croissant on United to be an unwelcome breakfast sight (although the fruit plate on United is much more generous than the one on LH). The musli was not too rich and well-complemented by the fruit. When the FA comes over to take my food order, I realize I had forgotten to consult the menu! (In truth, I thought the musli was all they were serving.) She hands one to me and goes about the rest of the cabin. I find what I want and try to catch her eye... she does not acknowledge me... 5 minutes... 10 minutes... 15 minutes later all my neighbors are finishing their breakfasts. Finally an FA walks by and I wildly wave my hands in the air. "I'll take the crepes!" I exclaim with a smile. She looks in shock that I have not been served and rushes a hot plate of apple crepes to me. Nothing to get excited about unfortunately.

I finish "Paris Je T'Aime" as we begin to descend in Frankfurt. Our plane is parked at an off-site location and we pile onto a bus to the terminal. Not exactly my favorite way of disembarking a plane, but I'm glad to be back in Europe. Now, get me into a SEN lounge shower!
JohnnyP is offline  
Old Oct 3, 07, 6:50 pm
  #9  
 
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JohnnyP,
Was the Austrian Biz class seat an angled lie-flat type?

Thanks,
PHL_roadwarrior is offline  
Old Oct 4, 07, 4:04 pm
  #10  
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Yes, the OS business class seat is flat, but angled downwards, like the LH seat. I found the LH seat more comfortable, but that could have to do with the fact that it was 3AM when we left and I would have slept on top of a stack of cinderblocks at that point. I found that I slipped down less on the LH seat than I did on the OS seat and that it was more comfortable to sleep on my side & stomach on LH than on OS.
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Old Oct 5, 07, 11:24 am
  #11  
 
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Good writeup.

btw, it is the Indira Gandhi International airport at Delhi.

Originally Posted by JohnnyP View Post
I'm standing looking at the entrances to the Jawaharlal Nehru International Airport and am not even sure where to begin.
malgudi is offline  
Old Oct 7, 07, 2:23 am
  #12  
 
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Nice reports! Did you take any photos?
aSiAnRiCk is offline  

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