Airline: Austrian Airlines
Flight Number: OS90
Aircraft: Boeing 767-3Z9/ER
Seat: 6A (Business Class)
Distance: 4342 miles
Duration: 8hrs 12mins
We pulled up at Terminal B just after 2.30pm, in plenty of time for our 5.50pm departure, although with unpredictable traffic from our home on the other side of the Hudson we preferred to play it safe. Check-in for the Lufthansa group flights were combined and with a long snaking line at the Economy desks but nothing for the blue and red carpets of Business and First Class. We were directed over to the First desk where the agent confirmed our bag could be checked right through to our final destination of Hong Kong.
With the United Polaris lounge recently opened we ignored the agent’s directions to the Lufthansa lounges and instead went for the awful Airtrain over to Terminal C. My wife pre-emptively told the TSA boarding pass checker that although flying OS we were using the United lounge and he gave her a hard time, “I don’t care, I never asked you about that”. Well, thanks dude.
The newly opened Polaris lounge was only a short walk from security and certainly gave a good first impression with large atrium and hanging light fixture. We walked around the perimeter scoping out the various areas, with half an eye on the fact I had a conference call to dial into shortly. My wife went to the bar area to arrange cocktails whilst I situated myself at one of the large seats with a power supply. The lounge was surprisingly busy and in the main seating area there weren’t too many choices although out at the bars and other areas the options were a little better.
With conference call over I went back to the cocktail bar for one of the aviation themed cocktails, Cloud Cover, which was rather good!
The buffet looked extensive but largely unimpressive and so we opted for the sit down dining area which, judging by the posted menu outside, had some appealing options.
There was a short wait to be seated but I had a delicious Fernet About It cocktail, a twist on a Cuba Libre. We ordered a variety of food and the risotto was good and my wife enjoyed the salad, although the flatbread was a bit dull. There was one guy in the dining area with what we thought at first was a terrible cold, he almost made me jump out of my seat with a “sneeze” of some kind, but we came to the conclusion it was some form of Tourette’s as he did this frequently and yet nobody amongst his group seemed to bat an eyelid or respond. Unfortunately he could be heard throughout the lounge’s 27,000 square feet long after we’d finished our late lunch.
With boarding listed a full hour before departure we chose to leave the lounge for the airside bus back to Terminal B around 4.20pm. Boarding passes were checked before we were shepherded on for the short drive across. It wasn’t far to the Lufthansa lounge and boy were we grateful for going to the Polaris lounge first. Small, hot and with almost no seating…within 30 seconds of checking in we were back out in the concourse preferring the gate area!
Boarding started at 5.10pm after a mass of preboards for children, some of whom seemed to be more University age rather than those needing additional time! The walk around from Gate 60 gave us a great view of the aircraft we were about to board and we settled in, it was very similar to the business class seat AA use on their 767s that I’d flown a few weeks before but this was kitted out with nice blanket and pillow, as one would expect.
The onboard chef, replete with silly hat, came around with menus. One of Austrian biggest selling points is its rather unique take on onboard catering, all supplied by Do&Co and finished up by one of their “chefs” onboard so I was keen to see how this would materialize.
Pre-departure drinks were offered in the form of water, apple juice or orange juice, the flight attendant noting they are not “allowed” to serve champagne or alcohol on the ground (not so sure about that!). An enormous cart full of newspapers was wheeled down the aisle, the thing looked it would give a heart attack to the accountants responsible for calculating additional fuel burn due to onboard weight. The chef then returned shortly thereafter to take orders for both breakfast and dinner and then it was turn for the purser to introduce herself, a rather officious lady who referred to herself as “the most responsible person onboard”! I did like the fact she addressed the Jews sat across from me with a “Shalom” though!
The doors closed on time and we slowly taxied out to the active runway for a southerly departure. Interestingly there was a United 777 parked up at Terminal B, didn’t know they operated from there.
I took our taxi as an opportunity to play with the IFE, and specifically the moving map. The “distance to destination” down to the 1/1000th of a mile was a nice, if not amusing and unnecessary touch!
Shortly after liftoff from 22R we had a little southeasterly turn (I like to think to enhance the views of Manhattan from the inferior neighbour state!) before turning to starboard and ascending into the clouds. A few minutes after the beginning of the cruise a never ending stream of PAs began, primarily about the meal service, with Economy passengers enjoying chicken with BBQ sauce and some home made side dish for dinner….home made my arse!
Oddly once the seatbelt signs went off some FAs emerged from the cockpit, maybe this is normal, or just something I hadn’t noticed before. This was the sign of the business class service beginning, starting with the customary hot towels, and then the purser snuck up behind me with a tablecloth and closed my windowshades. I do generally enjoy looking out of the window but with the cloud cover being almost 100% there wasn’t much to look at and I did notice some glare on the screen of the guy sat across the aisle from me. Service had an old school feel, with it being done directly from a cart and started off nicely with a beef carpaccio, plus some soup.
Followed by seared chicken breast with thyme jus, sweetcorn mousseline and vegetables...
...and the mango mousse and chocolate cookie parfait
Have to say everything was really rather good, much better than your standard business class fayre…Dessert wine was offered and that wasn’t half bad, although my wife fell for the “sell” of the rocket fuel that was masquerading as Peach Schnapps!
Annoyingly I managed to spill something on my white polo shirt, although in what must have been my wife being able to see into the future she had, an hour beforehand, left a stain remover wipe at my seat that they offered in the bathrooms through the rather well provisioned basket of goodies. I had assumed this was in lieu of any amenity kits as they hadn’t been passed out. The one glaring missing item was lack of eyemasks although this didn’t bother me too much.
Coffee menus were handed out but with the sun starting to fall below the horizon, 6hrs to run and with us nearing Nova Scotia I had my eye on sleeping rather than caffeine so passed on that. However, shortly afterwards I rather regretted my decision as I saw the chef bring over an amazing looking concoction to one of the passengers on the other side of the cabin and made a mental note for the following night’s VIE-HKG sector!
It took a little time to get comfortable in part because of a sore throat and cold that came on literally in the car on the way to EWR but I finally managed to get some sleep in, being woken up for breakfast just after we passed over London. A hot towel helped bring me back to life and then my options were brought over.
As we began the descent into VIE and with the current weather mentioned by the guys up front the wife and I tried to determine what we wanted to do for the day. Our flight to Hong Kong was going to give us about 9hrs on the ground, far too long to stay at the airport with the beauty of Vienna so close by, although we didn’t fancy heading out into a downpour…
The purser came back to speak to everyone and ensure they had a good flight, although it did seem a bit forced as the same questions were asked of all passengers! She did seem rather enthused by my comments and ensured she would bring them up at the post flight briefing!
The descent was long and through thick cloud until we were just a couple of minutes off the deck touching down on runway 34 just after 8.30am.
As we taxied in I got a better handle for the weather pulling up a detailed forecast on my phone. The gate we used was right at the end of the concourse which meant that the crowd of passengers had spread quite thin by the time we got to immigration and on the walk in we decided to make a go fir the city. We located the left luggage service on the departures level so that we could be liberated from our carry-ons and leapt on the next S-Bahn train into the city for a few hours.
Route: Vienna - Schwechat – Hong Kong - International (Chek Lap Kok)
Airline: Austrian Airlines
Flight Number: OS67
Aircraft: Boeing 777-2Q8/ER
Seat: 2C (Business Class)
Distance: 5814 miles
Duration: 10hrs 24mins
After a few hours in the city and the weather looking as though it was about to turn for the worse we headed back to the airport on the S-Bahn, arriving around 1.30pm. The gate for our flight was not yet posted and it appeared as though Austrian had non-Schengen flights from two different parts of the airport. The FIDS were of no help so we went to the empty business class check-in where the lady was able to confirm it would certainly be the G gates, the security for which was right next to check-in. The Fast Track police told my wife she could not use the line because it was for business class only, she was more mature than I would have been in that position, ha! Security itself was very quick thanks to lack of line and after exit immigration we were in the Austrian lounge divided between Business and Senator (for Star Golds). The Business side wasn’t huge but had a reasonable selection of hot and cold food although we were definitely glad we hadn’t chosen to spend the whole day in there!
We found some comfortable chairs that happened to be facing the television and nibbled and drank for a while. The lounge had showers but it seemed they were only using the one and there was some confusion over the order for passengers so I was skipped over. This was remedied by allowing me to use one of those designated for the Senator side.
Around 4.45pm and with the Colombia vs. Senegal World Cup match at 0-0 we vacated the lounge and ambled down to the gate. There was a separate roped off seating area that my wife determined was for Business Class passengers and to help with priority boarding so we took seats there.
Unlike at Newark business class was first to board and we were welcomed at 2L by a couple of very friendly FAs and directed to our seats. The seat on the 777 is almost identical to the 767 except the window pairs alternate between a pair of seats and a throne seat in the row behind similar to Jetblue Mint and a few other airlines. I had initially assigned two throne seats but we later opted to sit next to eachother for this slightly longer flight.
Amenity kits were on hand for this one and the FA came by shortly thereafter to offer us a pre-departure drink, including an Austrian cocktail that comprised gin, Prosecco and blue curacao. We were intrigued and both opted for it, and whilst it was an interesting indulgence for pre takeoff I can’t say it was going to be my “session” drink for the flight!
Another chef, another silly hat and more order forms and menus appeared with the weighty newspaper and magazine cart making another showing. I was offered Monocle magazine, do I look like a reader?
As we pushed back on time, heading out to runway 29R the rain really started to pour and views of Vienna were once again scuppered as we quickly climbed into the clouds turning away from the city.
Within 45minutes meal service was already well underway and the appetizer cart made an appearance in the aisle beside me. This was a slightly different setup to the EWR-VIE flight with a good half dozen or so options, all of which looked rather good.
Antipasti from our trolley: traditional beef salad with beans, smoked salmon with fennel salad, marinated chili prawns, avocado tomato salad with French dressing, Mediterranean ratatouille salad and bacon wrapped goats cheese
The Viennese style potato soup followed shortly thereafter…
And then my braised beef cheeks hong shao with tagliatelle, zucchini, carrots and cilantro
….and the Traditional sweet curd pancakes with raspberries and mixed berry ragout and apricot parfait.
As noted earlier we weren’t going to let the coffee pass us by this time, although the flight attendant seemed almost offended when I said we were going to share one!
Wiener Eiskaffee – A double espresso, served with vanilla ice cream and freshly whipped cream, traditionally served in a tall glass
By this time there was just under 8hrs left and so I flatted the bed out, getting my blanket and other gubbins from the overhead locker. This seemed to coincide with the crew getting people to sleep as the lights were turned down too. Unfortunately after a couple of minutes my wife prodded me on the shoulder and she was having an issue with the lumbar support on her seat. The crew came over to have a look and opted to reset the seat but this unfortunately had no effect. With no spare seats in the cabin a jury rig option was put in place with extra pillows and blankets and whatnot but it didn’t seem to be too effective.
I woke up about 3hrs out from HKG due to a combination of warm cabin and general broken sleep but managed to fall back asleep, waking up for the second morning in a row to a hot towel. Smoothies and water/orange juice were offered before our breakfast options were handed out from the large trolley, although the eggs arrived separately. Another morning, another decent Austrian breakfast!
By the time I changed and packed all my things away we had about an hour left of the flight although plenty of people were still sleeping.
From our now open windows I could see Chek Lap Kok outline and the new Macau bridge out the window to the left but the IFE suggested we still had 150 miles to run so it suggested we were getting the grand tour of Hong Kong and I was not wrong. It was a good way to show my wife Hong Kong from the air on her visit!
After coming in over Sha Tin and Tsing Yi we touched down on 25R quite a bit earlier than anticipated. The work on the Hong Kong end of the HK-Zhuzai-Macau Bridge which is all right by the airport was a lot more extensive than I imagined and looked far from complete, although the bridge was supposed to open just a few days after!
We taxied in and were quickly off the aircraft. My wife and I were staying at The Peninsula upon our arrival and I had arranged for one of their Rolls Royce Phantoms to take us into the city. On previous stays with the RR transfers the hotel had someone meet me at the aircraft and this was no exception, although due to where our arrival gate was she was to escort us onto the train to immigration rather than by golf cart as had been the case before.
With the line for regular immigration being lengthy she took us through the diplomatic channels and then all the time we gained was lost whilst we waited for our bag to show up. Luckily the Star Alliance Priority bag system worked well and it wasn’t too long before we were through customs and handed over to the representative from The Peninsula who took our bags and walked us out to the limousine pickup area where our Phantom was burbling away waiting for us. Yes, my wife couldn’t resist a photo!
Overall this was a really different experience. When friends or family asked about my travel plans for this trip and I mentioned I was flying Austrian they were really surprised. It isn’t an obvious choice for many but the service was really rather good and the food and beverage too. It really did feel more like a boutique airline in many respects. The only downside really are the pretty lame lounges and the paired seats on the 777 really lacked privacy for those who aren’t solo travelers and didn’t have much storage space. This wasn’t an issue on the 767s.