In May, I had to return to Greece for the weekend. Since I had not flown one of the (now inflated) US Airways 90,000 “special” awards (US to North Asia via Europe in business), I figured this was a good opportunity to take advantage of it. The first international leg of that itinerary was in Austrian Airlines business class.
Booking Austrian Airlines Business Class Award
Unfortunately, this year has wreaked havoc on the ability to book business class awards to Europe with Star Alliance carriers. United now would charge 70,000 miles one-way instead of the old 50,000 miles. US Airways can no longer book awards on Austrian Airlines. There are other programs but they will charge surcharges on this award that can be pretty pricey. The one exception is Avianca LifeMiles, but they are also changing their award chart in a few months.
If you really do want to spend the extra 20,000 miles (one-way) for flying on Austrian Airlines in business class, there is some decent availability and I thought the product was a very good one.
For my part, I booked this as the European leg to my “stopover” city of Thessaloniki (which was really my destination, but for purposes of the award, it was a stopover). This was my route and carriers:
- Rochester – Washington Dulles (United Airlines – coach)
- Washington Dulles – Vienna (Austrian Airlines – business)
- Vienna – Thessaloniki (Austrian Airlines – business)
- Thessaloniki – Frankfurt (Aegean Airlines – business)
- Frankfurt – Seoul (Asiana Airlines – business)
- Seoul – Vancouver (Air Canada – business)
- Vancouver – Chicago (United Airlines – business)
- Chicago – Rochester (United Airlines – coach)
The total for all of that was 90,000 US Airway miles and $170 in taxes and fees. Not bad!
Austrian Airlines Business Class Review
I flew with them from Dulles (Washington DC) to Vienna on their 767 aircraft. This has business class seating in a staggered configuration which allows for a more compartmentalized seat and storage area.
They use the Lufthansa lounge (which is right near the boarding gate and we actually boarded from the lounge) which is broken up into their Business Class lounge and the Senators lounge. As a business class customer, I would only have access to the Business Class Lounge, but as a Star Alliance Gold member, I also had access to the Senators Lounge. I chose the Senators Lounge, which is a nicely laid out area. I have been there a few times and this was definitely a quieter time than normal. There is a decent food spread but nothing really exciting. If you are traveling in coach, then definitely partake of the food because it will be better than most coach offerings, but if you are traveling in business class, you will get better food onboard.
I chose seat 5A which is one of the staggered seats on the side. The business class cabin is configured in a 1-2-1 setup and the single seats are staggered throughout. The odd number rows have seats nearest the window which provides a little more in the area of privacy. Any seat would be good, however. If traveling with someone, you will want to choose the middle seats to be able to sit near each other.
The seat itself was very comfortable. It had a fair amount of width and was a lie-flat. I have flown Lufthansa’s (old) business class route to Europe before and without a doubt, Austrian is better. I cannot compare the new Lufthansa business class but I would still imagine it would be hard to beat Austrian.
The colors present gave it a stylized look that I really enjoyed. It made it look sharp and very modern. Sitting down, I was not disappointed in the modern area. The seat had many plugin options and an excellent entertainment display. It was quite large, larger even than some first class displays (15″)! It was also very sharp and responsive to the controls.
As for entertainment, there were many options in both the movie and television categories to watch on the 15″ screen. I am sure there is enough of a variety to give just about anyone enough to watch for the length of the flight – a total of 100 hours of entertainment.
The seat controls also went with the modern feel with a touch panel that worked very well and was a lot nicer than the old styled buttons. I liked that it allowed me to move it to my preference instead of having a sort of preset levels (similar to some other ones). Finally, my favorite part of the seat was the massage function. I must have used it for over half the flight and it was really hard to get up from!
Some people may not like the compartment-like area for the feet. I personally did not mind it all and did not find it cramped. I am 6’1″ and was able to comfortably relax and stretch out to the max. The one part that may be slightly annoying is if a person likes to sleep on their side. It may be a bit cramped if your legs are sideways/crossed. I was still able to sleep well, but something to be aware of .
When it came to power, the power ports and USB port were easily accessible (right near the shoulder). I like that more than on the front panel or underneath the seat. Also, the reading light was situated there as well and was a very modern, gooseneck-styled lamp.
As a bed, the seat worked excellent. It is a fully lie-flat seat and comes with a comfy pillow and blanket. I was able to sleep for about 4 or 5 hours of the 9 hour flight. It was just right for me.
Austrian is serviced by DO&CO catering and is always spoken of being an excellent product. To add to that, Austrian has an “on-board chef” who walks around in the white hat and all to meet with people about their meals and, as Austrian says, “put the finishing touches on the meal.”
In the photo, you can see the menu. I chose the herbed chicken breast with creamy polenta, green asparagus, and buttered carrots. I normally get the beef when traveling in business class, so I was glad to be able to try the chicken. To my surprise, it was very tender and perfectly seasoned with herbs. I know a lot of emphasis is placed on food on airplanes, but the truth is that, even in first class, whatever food you get could many times be beaten by an above average restaurant. In this case, this was a meal that I would have ordered anywhere and probably not been able to tell the difference. Great job, DO&CO!
For desert, I chose crumbled apple pie which was also very nicely made. I was pleasantly full after the meal and very pleased with the various tastes.
For breakfast, they pass out a menu for you to fill out before you go to sleep. This was nice as it gives you the chance to not be woken for the breakfast service. In my case, I chose to be woken for breakfast and picked plain yogurt and muesli with a mushroom spinach omelette. Breakfast was served with baskets of bread as well. The most disappointing thing to me was that they never gave me my omelette. I just assumed that the service for that part of the meal was taking longer than expected. However, they soon came through and started taking people’s place settings. I asked about it and they apologized as they had somehow missed that on my menu.
I was pleasantly surprised as the Austrian Airlines business class was definitely a great product all the way around. The seat was definitely one of the best business class seats I have flown in and the entertainment console was equally high-class. The food was as good as many restaurants on the ground and the staff on-board was very attentive and responsive. The only negatives were the possibly cramped quarters for the feet in a lying on the side position and forgetting my breakfast omelette. Otherwise, everything was excellent and I would do it again. Would I do it for 70,000 United miles one-way? No, but I would not spend that many miles on any business class flight to Europe.