01. Introduction: “Have you ever been in a Turkish prison?”
02. United Airlines 737-900/ER economy class San Diego to Chicago (ORD)
03. Turkish Airlines 777-300/ER exit row economy class Chicago (ORD) to Istanbul
04. Turkish Airlines A321 exit row economy class Istanbul to Vienna
05. Moxy Hotel, Vienna Airport
06. Figuring out how to use the Vienna CAT train
07. Austrian Business Class Lounge, VIE
08. Austrian Airlines 777-200 business class Vienna to Los Angeles
Don’t you hate it when they don’t post the departure gate of your fight until the very last moment? Giddy anticipation about this flight got the best of me while I was sitting in the lounge pretending to be important, and I decided to walk down to the main terminal a good hour and a half before the flight was even scheduled to begin boarding.
Even before leaving the lounge I knew that the departure gate hadn’t been listed yet for the flight, but it was showing as departing from terminal “G” (with no other information) so I figured it would be fun to take a walk and see if I could find the gate myself. I’m never one to turn down an AvGeek-style adventure – especially if it’s an airport I’ve never been to before.
Unfortunately, I quickly became convinced that terminal “G” does not exist at VIE (seriously, it’s nowhere on the map) and I found myself hovering around the only 777-200 I could find – which happened to be sitting at terminal F. “This has gotta be it” I muttered to myself over and over, thinking that if I said it enough times then it had to be true. “It’s just gotta be.”
Lo and behold, my chanting worked because 30 minutes before boarding was scheduled to begin they posted the departure gate and it just so happened to be the one I had been pacing around at for the past 45 minutes at here in terminal F. I love it when I’m right!
Vienna, Austria (VIE) – Los Angeles, CA (LAX)
Friday, August 17, 2018
Duration: 11 hours 45 minutes
Seat: 7K (business class)
And here’s the video for this flight – although I do recommend reading this entire review first, since the pics and words are much more descriptive of the overall experience (and it’ll make the video even better). Huge thanks to Epidemic Sound for the background music!
I’ve been traveling nonstop since I was in my early 20s, and I’d like to think that I’ve pretty much got things figured out – at least in regards to airports and airplanes. There’s not a whole lot that surprises me anymore, and it’s rare that I find myself in awkward situations where I’m faced with something new with absolutely no idea how to get through it without embarrassing myself thoroughly.
20 minutes before boarding was scheduled to begin, I found myself in one of those new and awkward situations. I noticed that other passengers were walking up to the podium here at the gate and having the gate agents verify their passports. It’s a common thing that I’ve seen happen at other airports all over the world (just as it happened before my Edelweiss flight from ZRH to SAN last spring), so I decided to get in line and have them check mine as well. So far so good.
Once I reached the gate agent and she verified my boarding pass and passport, she turned around and opened the barrier that was blocking the boarding area and asked me if I would like to go inside. I stood there like a deer in headlights not knowing what to say, because there was nobody else in the boarding area and it seemed weird that it was entirely blocked off – but somehow I was the only one invited to go in and wait. “…Or you could go to the lounge” she said, undoubtedly sensing my confusion. “Good idea!” I replied, figuring that was my chance to escape to somewhere where she couldn’t see me so I could collect my thoughts and figure out what the hell had just happened.
10 minutes later (after lurking in the shadows with one eye on the gate area trying to figure out what was happening), I realized that they were letting business class passengers into the gate area early, while economy class passengers had to wait outside. I totally wanted in on some of that action, so I confidently walked back up to the podium to see if they would let me in – even though I declined the first time. It worked, and I felt super-duper important sitting there in the gate area with just a few other passengers while everyone else had to wait out in the high-traffic hallways of the terminal. Business class travel has its perks here in Vienna I guess!
Boarding was delayed by about 10 minutes, but once they started the process of letting people on things went very smoothly.
My immediate first impressions of Austrian Airlines business class on the 777 were quite good. The seats looked very spacious and comfortable, though I will admit that I had fleeting thoughts of being a bit too “out in the open” and not as sheltered as I would have preferred, but overall it looked like a really snazzy business class configuration.
Lunch menus were distributed as I was getting situated, which is always a bit of an awkward feeling since I like to take my time and get things put away just right before getting settled in and feeling relaxed. The flight attendants were extremely friendly though, and right away I was getting the sense that the service on this flight was going to be phenomenal.
Moments after sitting down, one of the flight attendants stopped by with a tray of drinks. From what I could tell, there seemed to be two kinds of juices and champagne being offered. I wasn’t feeling like orange juice or champagne, so I chose the other “juice” – not really knowing for sure what it was. I really do live on the edge, don’t I?
It turns out that I was never able to identify exactly what kind of juice it was, but I do know for a fact that it was spiked with something strong, and I had a pretty good buzz going as we were waiting to push back from the gate.
We ended up having to wait 20 minutes for connecting passengers to arrive, and in that time the flight attendants took the opportunity to take lunch orders. I was so buzzed that the choice didn’t seem like a big deal, and I believe I just pointed my finger and said something along the lines of “I’ll have that please”. Whatever showed up on my tray table during the meal service was cool with me. Hot towels came next.
The purser also took the opportunity to walk through the cabin and personally greet every passenger. And exactly as it happened on my Korean air A380 business class flight from ICN to LAX several years ago, there was a bit of a language barrier between the flight attendant and I so the greeting was brief and consisted mostly of awkward smiles and rapid head bobs as we pretended to understand each other.
I was still pretty full from that huge plate of eggs and bread from my time in the lounge that morning, but I was still excited to see them begin the meal service within 15 minutes of takeoff. A small bowl of cold nuts came first (I’m of the opinion that the pre-meal nut service should always be warm – not cold), followed up very quickly by the start of the lunch service – which came in courses.
The food on this flight was some of the best I’ve ever had on an airplane, and posting detailed pics of what they fed us is the only way to truly appreciate it. Here we go!
Not only was the food fantastic, the way they served it was nice as well. There is a dedicated chef for all long haul Austrian Airlines business class cabins, and it’s a special feeling to be served by someone who appears to be a food expert. Heck, it could’ve just been a regular flight attendant wearing a fancy chef’s uniform, but it felt really special and I thought it was a nice touch.
I complemented my meal with four episodes of Ballers, followed up by watching the entirety of The Intern – which ended up being a pretty good movie in my opinion, despite the preview looking like it was going to be nothing more than a light comedy with zero substance. With 7 hours and 15 minutes of flying time remaining after the movie finished, it was time to relax – which eventually led to sleep.
I ended up sleeping for a full three hours, but the noise and the light from the galley just over my left shoulder finally got to me and I gave up on sleep with just over four hours of flying time remaining. I don’t know what it was they were doing in that galley, but it sounded like “clean up duty” and it was getting to be extremely annoying with the sound of clattering dishes and forks and knives being dropped on the floor every few minutes. The only other time that I’ve been this annoyed with noise from the galley was on my TAP Portugal flight from Lisbon to Toronto last year – if you recall, the problem on that flight was hyper-talkative flight attendants, which was slightly more annoying than the clanging of the dishes on this flight.
Unable to sleep, I decided to make good use of my time by working on my latest trip report (which at the time happened to be for the Hawaiian airlines A321neo SAN-OGG flight), and I ended up cranking on that thing for a little over two hours.
With one hour and 45 minutes of flying time remaining, the lights in the cabin came on and the flight attendants came down the aisles with another round of hot towels. Shortly thereafter, the chef stopped by to ask what I wanted for the second meal (breakfast?), and to this day I can’t figure out what possessed me to choose the most unhealthy option on the menu. Normally I am a very healthy eater, but for some reason that gooey macaroni and cheese option sounded impossible to resist. “About Schmidt” was my entertainment of choice during this second meal service, which just so happens to be one of my all-time favorite movies.
The approach and landing into LAX was largely uneventful, though congestion was obviously a problem because we ended up having to do a zigzag approach on our way in to add some space between us and the traffic ahead of us. It wasn’t as fun as the three or four complete loops that I once experienced on a Northwest DC-10 from MSP to LAX back in 2000, but it was still a neat little extra twist which made the approach interesting.
The most interesting part of the landing sequence was the fact that it was beautiful and sunny at the spot where we touched down on 25L, but by the time we finished our rollout near the end of the runway, we were directly under the heavy marine layer that was hugging the coast of southern California that day. In just a matter of seconds, it went from a beautiful sunshiny California afternoon to a dark and gloomy one. That’s coastal life for you.
This Austrian Airlines flight from Vienna concluded at one of the remote gates on the far west end of LAX, which meant that we would have to to be bussed in to the Tom Bradley International Terminal. There were quite a few groans around the cabin once people realized what was happening, but in all honesty I didn’t mind that much since I’ve never docked at one of these remote gates before and I was curious to see what the experience was like.
Long story short, it’s not much of an experience at all. Basically, you get off the plane using a regular jet bridge, walk through what looks like a county jail, get on a bus, and five minutes later you’re at the TBIT.
Anyway, that’s it folks – the trip report ends here, although I did connect to a United 737-900ER down to SAN several hours later. As I mentioned in the introduction to this trip report series, I decided it would be best to spare you (my faithful readers) the pain of yet another UA LAX-SAN review, because I fully understand that there’s only so much a human can take of really bland and repetitive segments such as that. It was tough enough to experience it yet again for myself, so there’s no need to spread the pain around and make everyone miserable.
Thanks for following along with me on what ended up being an amazing business class flight on Austrian Airlines! It’s an airline that I didn’t know very much about before this trip, but I feel like I’ve got a pretty good sense of what they’re all about now. This is definitely an airline striving to be a world-class carrier, and it featured some of the best onboard service that I’ve ever experienced on any flight anywhere in the world. It’s too bad they have such a limited long haul network though, because I would definitely love to fly with them more frequently in the future.
I’m sure that I’ll get the chance, but for now there are a lot of other airlines I want to try – as a matter of fact there will be a couple new ones in my next trip report series (which begins soon)…