Lauda Air has always been one of my favourite airlines to travel on this sector, not that I have much choice now. Previously, I had the choice to choose between MH, SQ, BA, QF, NG, AN and AZ (Ansett and Alitalia, not sure if the codes are correct). But now, it is really only between MH, SQ and NG, unless you are willing to fly for longer hours via Seoul, Hong Kong, Taipei, Manila etc. The only thing I could complain about Lauda is their departure time from KUL of 0525. It is because they are really a VIE-SYD via KUL flight and in my experience, the KUL-SYD and SYD-KUL sectors are frequently delayed, although for a short time only.
I checked in with a nice lady dressed in MH uniform in KLIA at 4.30am. I was amazed at how much of a happy chappy she was at that ungodly hour. Considering the fact that KLIA was in the middle of nowhere, she would have been either working throughout the night, or got up at 2am for get to work on time. She chatted with me a little bit, asking me about my life in Australia, what I did etc and also the usual did you pack your bags yourself etc. Check in was very smooth and she wished me a pleasant journey.
I walked towards gate C2 where Austrian Airlines (operated by Lauda Air) flight OS1 would board. I got there and to my predicament, there was nobody and no aircraft. I somehow knew it was going to be arriving late from VIE.
At 5.10am, the aircraft parked and streams and streams of people left the aircraft. Only about 15 or so passengers walked towards the airport terminal, while the others transitted. By the look of the never-ending passenger disembarking, it was a full flight.
At 5.40am, there were still transit passengers lining up to enter the waiting area when the boarding call was made. "Good morning ladies and gentlemen, your aircraft is now ready for boarding". Before that sentence could finish, a crowd, similar to those you would see at a sold out concert surrounding the stage, was formed. There were elbowing, pushing and the whole she-bang. The gate-agents realised that this was not working and made another announcement requesting for everyone to sit down so that we can make an orderly boarding via rows. It was a good effort, however, no one listened. I am assuming that no one spoke English. I stood for about 5 minutes when I got vaguely close to the passport check allowing me to ask the gate agent why he did not arrange for separate boarding for Business Class passengers, in which he replied, "Oh, I forgot. Are you flying our Business Class? Come this was please". He then motioned me to the right hand side of the queue (or should I say crowd) and he then invited all Amadeus Class passengers to board -- via an entirely separate bridge.
Aircraft - Boeing 777-200
Seat - 5A (Amadeus Class)
Seat Configuration 2 x 3 x 2 by 6 rows (Total 42 seats)
Empty seats - 8
Meal service - Breakfast and lunch
Flight attendants - 6
I made my way into the aero-bridge for J-class passengers, giving way to 2 elderly ladies first, and walking with a lady around my age beside me. The others were somewhere behind. We got to the aircraft and there was no one there. The 2 ladies stopped, turned around and said, "There's no one here to greet us". Within 2 seconds, a youngish female FA appeared from the other side of the galley, said hi abruptly and turned around and disappeared into where she came from before she could finish saying welcome onboard. I am assuming that the FAs had to rush some drink and pre-flight preparations due to the late arrival.
I got to my seat to find pillows and blankets on my seat. However, there was an empty plastic wrap (I think it was from the previous passenger) and no amenity kit. Moments later, one of the FA came around with newspapers. She stopped at row4 and went to the other side. Rows 5 and 6 did not get any paper go I got up and got it for us from the overhead compartment, seeing that they are seemingly busy this morning. A hot towel was then served with a choice of either mango, apple or orange juice or water.
Pushback was finally achieved at 6am, and the safety video was played. There was no live demonstration and no FAs to be seen while taxiing. We lifted by 6.10am. I can never get bored or get used to the Boeing 777 take off rolls no matter how many times I have been through it. Just the sound of the engines gets me excited.
About 20 minutes into the flight, a menu was given to each passengers. Some had already reclined their seat fully and went to sleep. For those passengers, the menu was put into their seat pocket.
Monika, the purser, handed out these menus and introduced herself and greeted us by surnames. For breakfast, we had a choice of sunny side up, or scrambled eggs, with grilled tomatoes. The meals come with a plate of fresh fruits. Mine has grapes, pineapple slices, mandarins and some honeydew. The fruits were soaked in orange juice - I am unsure if it was meant to be like that. Additionally, juices, coffee, tea and a selection of bread was also available.
The FAs came around and laid down the linen for those who wanted to eat. Most of the transit passengers were awake, while those who boarded from KUL were asleep. I opted to eat first, then sleep. The FAs came around and took orders from everyone, then came around with the bread basket, with a choice of honey, apricot jam or butter. Shortly after bread was offered, a different FA served the breakfast. Within seconds, water and juice was served. The food quality was good and the portion was quite large. Juice and water was never empty as the FAs kept refilling them. As soon as I looked like I almost finished my breakfast, the FA with the bread basket asked me if I'd like more bread, which I declined. Then another one came back to clear my table and serve the tea.
After the meal, I was so full and became sleepy. The seat was electronically controlled. On the left arm rest, there were 5 buttons. 1 for recline, 1 for making the seat longer, 1 for extending the footrest,1 to raise the footrest and the last one to inflate a backbone support. The headrest was winged and the seat was firm. There was also a fibre optic reading light for every seat. The passenger in front of me had her seat fully reclined, but I was not bothered at all. I still had plenty of space. I reclined my seat halfway back and fell asleep for a while. By the way, the window shades were shut just as breakfast ended. The FAs excused themselves and shut it for us, unlike a QF flight I encountered in 1998, where they walked down the isle, shutting the shades with a stick. I found it (QF) really strange.
I woke up and read a little bit, walked around a little bit and made small talk with some of the FAs. Some of the FAs were now serving breakfast to those who woke up and wanted to eat. I have maybe traveled 10 sectors with Lauda Air by now, and I have to say that their male FAs are always incredibly attractive. They used to have beautiful female FAs, but it seems to have changed. I wonder what will happen if they started marketing Lauda Boys, the way SQ markets their Singapore Girls... Do you think it will work?
While standing near the galley chatting to some other passengers waiting to use the lav, an economy class passenger happened to walk thru the Amadeus class cabin. The FA, politely but firmly said, "I am sorry, but you should not be in this cabin, could you please return?". Although it seemed a little harsh, I figured to myself that there probably isn't a more polite way to say that. The tired YCL pax merely glared at the FA and walked off. Back to the lavs, in case anyone was interested, it was stocked with a bottle of CK One perfume, and some moisturizer (I was not familiar with the brand, probably of some designer).
We were probably somewhere over Central Australia where the land was red when Monika came to take our lunch orders. For starters, there was a choice of Avocado and boconchini salad, or a smoked salmon salad. For mains, it was either a penne, lamb curry or prawn and zucchini skewers, while the desserts consists of apple strudel or a vanilla slice.
Lunch service was efficient and pleasant. I had the avocado salad and the pasta. Seat 5B had the Salmon and the prawn, which looked fantastic, although I don't like seafood. The presentation of it was just great. This time, alcoholic beverages were served. They had a good selection, which included labels such as Gordon's gin or Piper Hiedsick, and a wide selection of wine. I opted for water, and 2 OJs. Again, the meal service was served with endless selection of bread. After clearing our lunch, the dessert tray came along on a cart. Following behind them is a male FA in a chefs uniform serving us port if we wanted some. (For both services, we were given our own salt and pepper shaker, and a set of entre cutlery, main cutlery a dessert fork and a coffee/tea spoon nicely wrapped in the napkin. The dinnerware used was very modern, mainly white in colour, and either triangular or rectangularly shaped).
Not long after dessert, we started our descent into Sydney. Time passes unoticeably when you travel JCL. I did not even unstow my TV screen, which is why I was unable to tell where we were when breakfast or lunch was served, or how far away we from Sydney, outside temperature, altitude etc during the entire flight. Just in case you wanted to know, the in-flight movies inculded Shrek 2, 50 first dates, Mean Girls, and a few other shows. They were all quite recent.
Descent into Sydney was bumpy, making the wings flap like a bird. I love bumpy landings, otherwise it bores me. During this time, a hot towel and a choice of chocolates on a plate were offered. We were also given arrival cards and some information on SARS. The usual ritual of spraying the aircraft with anti-bug spray was also carried out. We made a few turns, came under the grey clouds and saw the Harbour Bridge on my left and headed straight towards SYD. We touched down smoothly at approximately 4pm Sydney time. After parking the aircraft, Amadeus Class passengers disembarked first, ensuring us a short queue at the passport control. We all got out quickly, but had to wait for our luggages. It seems that none of our bags had Priority tags on them, so it arrived on the belt together with all other bags.
It happened that my sister was boarding OS/NG2 from SYD to KUL on the same day. I only found that out when she rang me to grumble about the 30 minute delay. I said to her it was because we were delayed from KUL, and she said, "Isn't there another Lauda aircraft that can pick us up if one is late?" Typical non-aviation phrase.
Overall, I found this flight to be extremely pleasant. Althought we had no one to greet us and direct us to our seats, nor did rows 5 and over had newspapers offered to them, and I did not get my amenity kit, I still think it was an excellent flight, since the more important things to me are my seat comfort and politeness of staff, which all achieved high levels here. The comfort and service I received for the price I paid (compared to MH and SQ) was very satisfying. I would not hesitate to recommend this product to anyone wishing to travel on JCL, but do not want to pay too much. I am not sure if the JCL pricing strategy for other sectors are this competitive, but if it is, then go for it.
Please feel free to ask me any questions if you want to know more about my experience.