This report will be rather brief, and more photo-heavy than text-heavy. All the same, I hope it provides a little insight into Vienna and makes for an enjoyable read.
A quick break was in order, and Vienna fulfilled our criteria – somewhere cultured, with architectural interest and not too far from home. The flights and hotel (InterContinental) were booked together as a package with BA, as this reduced the price rather a lot. Due to last minute booking, the cheapest flight outbound was actually in Club Europe, with the return in Euro Traveller. BA wanted £2000 to upgrade the return by phone – needless to say that was swiftly declined!
We stayed at the Sofitel T5 the night before our flight, as even though we would be departing from T3, the Sofitel is only one short trip on the HEx. At the time of staying, I was A-Club Gold (alas I have since dropped to pleb level with this program), and this granted us a room upgrade from a Classic to a Luxury room with a rather swish bathroom.
Luxury twin room
The next morning, there was no queue at BA’s enclosed F check-in area in Zone G of T3, our one checked bag was tagged with the new oneworld priority tag and we whizzed through Fast Track security, with nobody in the queue at all – quite a spectacle in T3! I was pleased to note that the Fast Track exit into the duty free area was open, meaning we didn’t have to walk along through the security area.
Our first port of call was BA’s Galleries First lounge. I’m really not sure I like this lounge. The champagne bar is nice, but the rest feels distinctly Club lounge-like, with only a few of the comfy single armchairs that the T5 Galleries First lounge has. The rest of the seating is identical to the Club lounge next door, and really doesn’t provide the same levels of comfort as the T5 F lounge.
Champagne bar, BA Galleries First, T3
Breakfast was taken in the First dining area, where a friendly waitress took our order from the menu. My full English was rather tasteless, whilst the bacon and scrambled eggs were both under-done.
After breakfast, we couldn’t find anywhere particularly comfy to sit, and so we headed to the Cathay Pacific lounge complex, and were directed into the almost empty F lounge. This lounge is much better appointed than BA’s F lounge, and had a decent selection of hot and cold breakfast items, along with the spectacular view of the runway that makes this lounge my preferred oneworld lounge in T3.
CX First Class lounge
BA 747 with New First, viewed from the CX F lounge
QF 747 viewed from the CX F lounge
I somehow lost track of time in the CX lounge, and so we had to run to the bussing gate (24C), before boarding the penultimate bus that was almost full when we arrived.
We were welcomed onboard by the friendly purser, and directed to our seats (2DF) in Club Europe on this almost brand new A320 (G-EUYI). This aircraft has BA’s new spacesaver seating throughout, meaning that the CE seats no longer convert into wider seats (although the forward 10 or so rows do have a 34” pitch, as opposed to 31”). Whilst these seats have come under much criticism due to their non-convertableness, I found them to be very comfortable and perfectly wide enough for the average person. Legroom seemed better than the old converter seating, and the armrests can be raised to provide extra width. Of course, in CE the middle seat is left unoccupied, and this is a significant advantage to CE over ET.
BA’s impressive tail line-up at T5
After takeoff and the seatbelt sign had been switched off, the usual Band 3A CE service commenced, with the purser providing excellent service throughout. Hot towels were offered, before the tray of full English breakfast, fruit and fresh OJ was presented, followed by an offer of breads and pastries. Hot drinks shortly made the rounds, and an eye was kept on the cabin throughout the flight.
Club Europe Band 3A breakfast
In the final row of the three-row CE cabin, several young children were seated. For the most part, they were very well behaved, but on occasion they were a little loud. The purser had an excellent manner in politely asking the father to keep the noise level to a minimum. The purser also won brownie points for emphasizing that the forward washroom was for the ‘exclusive use of Club Europe passengers’.
The landing into VIE was extremely bumpy, to the point that most of the plane swore loudly (me included), and the cabin crew also looked visibly shocked. We bounced a couple of times (the first touch down being extremely hard) before rolling out safely and using almost the full length of the runway. The captain made an announcement as we approached the gate saying that ‘if you hadn’t noticed, we’ve arrived’…
Baggage sadly took an age to be delivered, and so the much-lauded ‘new’ oneworld priority tags appear to have very little effect.
We arrived at the InterContinental within about twenty minutes of exiting the airport thanks to an efficient taxi (around EUR35), and were promptly checked in by the exceptional reception staff. I enquired about Club lounge access, and opted to include this for EUR50 per night (great value, considering breakfast is included either in room, in lounge or in restaurant). There is free internet throughout the hotel for Ambassadors, although sadly there is no wifi in rooms.
InterContinental Vienna exterior (not exactly pretty!)
InterContinental Vienna lobby
Our upgraded room on the 6th floor was well appointed and had a lovely view over Stadtpark and the city. The bathroom was a little small (and didn’t have a walk-in shower), but other than that I couldn’t really fault the room. The Ambassador welcome fruit plate, chocolate gift and mineral water were waiting on arrival, and all were replenished daily.
6th floor corridor
Deluxe twin room
View from the room
The Club lounge on the top (12th) floor was nicely proportioned and featured a more than adequate selection for breakfast, afternoon tea and evening canapés. In fact, the evening ‘canapés’ turned out to be substantial enough to feed a small army. However, the ‘comfy’ seating area was far too small, and the dining chairs were uncomfortable and not particularly attractive. The service in the lounge did not seem to be up to the excellent standard set throughout the rest of the hotel, but there was no real cause for complaint. The super-fast wifi and high quality of catering made up for any service issues we experienced in the lounge.
Club lounge entrance
Club lounge reception
Reception, looking towards the exit
Evening buffet, canapés
Evening buffet, hot plate
Evening buffet, dessert and tea area
View from the lounge
View from the lounge, on a sunnier day
Vienna is a truly beautiful city, and during our couple of days we explored pretty much the whole of the central area, including tours of the Spanish Riding School and Opera House. The city will now always hold a special memory for me, as I received a rather important phone call at the Belvedere Palace offering me a position on a graduate scheme that I had been eagerly anticipating for the past week! I’ve included a selection of my favourite photographs from Vienna here to set the scene.
Spanish Riding School of Vienna, Hofburg Palace
Lower Belvedere Palace
Upper Belvedere Palace
View over the city from Upper Belvedere Palace
We opted for the hotel’s Mercedes limo transfer back to the airport for EUR50, which was a nice way to end our short break.
We arrived at VIE’s T2 a couple of hours before departure, and checked in at the single Club Europe desk. The friendly agent offered an upgrade price of EUR135 per person upon enquiring, but this was politely turned down, as EUR270 is not particularly good value for a 2-hour flight. The agent kindly offered to block the middle seat in ET for us, confirming our seats as 4AC, the first row of ET. I had noted from online check-in that this aircraft would again have the spacesaver seating installed, as all three 4ABC seats were available for selection (4B would’ve been blocked at check-in if convertible seating had been installed).
The queue for passport control to enter the D Gates was rather long with no visible Fast Track lane, but the queue moved rather quickly in practice, and we were in the airport-operated AIR lounge within ten minutes.
The AIR lounge has recently been refurbished and had a nice view of the gate area/runway, with a decent selection of food items for a third-party lounge (and for a lounge that offers paid entry). For much of the time, we had the lounge to ourselves, and I took advantage of the airport’s free wifi to catch up on emails etc.
View from the lounge – no doubt who rules the roost here!
Our boarding gate had changed to a bussing gate, and once through security we were confronted with a rather long boarding queue. I approached a free gate agent and enquired about priority boarding, and we were permitted to board onto the bus straight away. The same friendly check-in agent scanned our BPs and wished us a pleasant flight.
Looking into the three-row Club Europe cabin
Legroom in Row 4 of BA’s new batch of A320s with spacesaver seats
There is very little to say about the return sector (on the same aircraft as the outbound), other than that one snack/drinks run was offered, and nothing more. I opted for the delicious Fox’s biscuits rather than the nuts – I really must look into ordering some of these biscuits for home!
Euro Traveller snacks and drinks
I spotted a fellow BA A320 zooming in the opposite direction a little way under us, but alas didn’t reach my camera in time. I did, however, manage to capture the dreaded FRA beast on camera, as I had on the outbound sector.
FRA off G-EUYI’s wing
We landed on time and taxied to the remote stand area adjacent to T1 that BA use for their shorthaul T3 operation. The three passengers in CE got a bus all to themselves (in a trial that I hope BA will extend to all bussing ops at LHR), before we were allowed down the steps onto the first of the waiting ET busses.
One very long walk later, and we were through immigration (in the company of Professor Robert Winston who had just returned from New Zealand on Qantas), with bags delivered promptly in the refurbished reclaim hall.
Unfortunately we had just missed a HEx, as had a member of the Qantas cabin crew who I recognised from a flight to SIN a couple of years ago.
BA’s provided two more solid shorthaul segments. I enjoyed both CE and ET sectors equally, and really don’t have a problem with the spacesaver seating. For those travelling in ET, the seats are surely better than the previous generation.
That’s it for this relatively short report – comments and questions welcomed as always.