My first flight ever from the International Terminal at O’Hare left from the farthest possible gate. Once I finally arrived at the gate, I was surprised at how many contract workers were milling about with portable luggage scales, weighing peoples hand luggage and requiring them to check their bag. Mine was definitely overweight, but a quick flash of my business class boarding pass was enough to frighten them away.
At 15h35 we boarded – it was the model of efficiency too. After announcing pre-boarding for families or people needing additional time (which no one took them up on), Business Class was announced and every single person in the gate area hurried to board. I had to push my way through the crowd – the contract workers weren’t letting economy passengers on, but they weren’t moving them away from the boarding door either.
Flight: Austrian Airlines 66 (Business)
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300
Departure: 16h20 (16h35)
Arrival: 08h35 (08h25)
I stowed by bag in the overhead bin directly above my seat. The bin was already full of extra pillows and blankets, but I still just shoved my bag in there. I took out my tablet, my Bose headphones and my charger and stowed my laptop bag as well. I had no intention of working on this flight – I wanted to enjoy the seat, the food and the entertainment.
We boarded through door 1L, which meant the entire plane had to walk past me. Which also meant that the stew couldn’t make his way back to me with the drink tray for quite a while. I had probably been in my seat for about 25 minutes before the drinks arrived. The tray had orange juice, water and sparkling wine. I grabbed an orange juice and a sparkling wine. Imagine my surprise when the sparkling wine turned out to be apple juice. Now, I don’t mind apple juice, but I do mind when I think it is wine. Let’s just say I was shocked. Unfortunately, they weren’t serving any booze on the ground at ORD. If you open a bottle on the ground you have to pay taxes on that bottle, so I had to wait until we were airborne before I could cocktail.
As I perused the menu, which was waiting for me at the seat, as was the amenity kit, I struggled with my selection. Too many things looked good. I reached out on Facebook for guidance – and to rub it in that this was how I was spending my evening, while they were all hanging out at home.
Austrian Airlines employs an actual chef on board as well. When there was a bit of a lull in the boarding of coach passengers he made his way through the cabin asking about our dining preferences. I was really keen on the steak. He said the steak was an amazing cut of meat and so full of flavor. He also said that if I enjoy my steak anything less done that medium well, I should steer clear. He tried to explain why he had to cook it to that temperature, but something was lost in translation. In any event, I was happy he provided that guidance. I would have been very disappointed he hadn’t.
I made my decision and the chef shook my hand and said I would not be disappointed.
The door closed at 16h25 and we pulled away from the gate 10 minutes later. My juice glasses were collected as we taxied to the runway. We were second in line for takeoff and were int he air by 16h45. We had a bit of turbulence and were kept in our seats, as were the flight attendants, for the first 30 minutes of the flight. As soon as it was clear, the flight attendant serving my aisle immediately brought me a glass of French sparkling wine. It was a nice touch since he hadn’t taken orders from anyone else yet – I think he was trying to make up for the shock I endured when drinking the apple juice. Very nice.
Warm nuts and a bread basket were delivered when everyone else was getting their drinks. I opted for a pretzel roll. For my main appetizer I selected the smoke salmon carpaccio, mostly because of the prawn and mango ceviche. I’m not a big fan of salmon in general, but I figured I should push myself. It as about 30 minutes between the time the nuts were served and the salmon was delivered. I decided to have the soup as well as the salmon and it was really good. It had a great fall flavor with the squash and pumpkin seeds.
I was looking forward to the food, the drink, the IFE (in flight entertainment) but also the sleep. A fully flat bed is a fantastic way to visit Europe, but with a late afternoon departure, I’m really in no mood to sleep. By the time I’m getting ready for bed (whilst on land), is the time we’d be getting breakfast served before landing. I was hoping the dinner service would be quick, but not rushed. I wanted to curl up into bed and rest/relax while watching some movies.
Appetizers were cleared pretty quickly and dinner was served just 15 minutes after the appetizers were placed in front of me. I decided to have the pasta for my entree. The chef had steered me away from the steak and I was really torn between the fish and the pasta. It was the eggplant and the cherry tomatoes that pushed me over to the pasta.
The pasta was perfectly prepared – it didn’t have those hard crunchy edged nor was it so over cooked it just fell apart, two common issues with airplane pasta. I do wish there was just a little more sauce – I am a tomato whore, I just can’t get enough of them.
The dinner was quick as well – I had finished the course and it was cleared at 18h20, just 10 minutes after it was served. I didn’t feel rushed at all, it was just the natural course of the meal. I took notes on the timing only for this post and as I look back it seems rushed on paper, but not at all in person.
We had a long break between the dinner plates being removed and the cheese and fruit course being delivered. The cheese was delivered via cart and I could pick out various cheeses and fruits. The other courses were plaeted in the galley and brought out individually. I opted to skip the cheese as I was getting pretty full, but I still wanted the fruit and the dessert, despite the fact that I’m not a big dessert guy. I had the crumbled almond cherry cake with vanilla sauce, which was wonderful. The portion size was perfect any larger I think it would have been just too much – the law of diminishing returns, you know.
With dessert I asked the flight attendant for a recommendation on wine – throughout the flight I had been nursing both a sparkling wine and a light red from France. I don’t remember, nor did I make not of it. In any event, it was tasty. For dessert I had a nice dessert wine from a region just outside of Vienna. It paired really nicely with the dessert, but it wasn’t something I would want to continue to drink all night. Sweeter wines only go so far for me.
At 19h00 the final plate from the dinner service was cleared and I turned my seat into a bed and finished watching the remake of Vacation, which I had been watching throughout the dinner service. After that I continued to enjoy the sparkling wine and rest while watching various TV shows. I enjoy watching reruns of Big Bang Theory while on flights – since I’ve already seen most of these episodes, I find that I can doze while watching the shows and wake up and not feel that I’ve really missed anything.
Unlike our flight in Thai First, the temperature in the cabin was reasonable and I could sleep pretty comfortably, even though it wasn’t even near bedtime. That flight on Thai was like a sauna.
When I spoke with the chef while still on the ground in Chicago, he had taken my breakfast order and had asked what time I wanted to be woken up for breakfast. I opted for the last possible second, so if I were sleeping, I could get a bit more rest.
Breakfast was served at 00h20 (CST), just over 5 hours from when the dinner plates were cleared. For breakfast I chose some orange juice and some more sparkling wine to start. I grabbed a croissant from the bread basket, which was very tough and cold and disappointing. For my hot breakfast I had a grilled tomato, with a ham, cheese and veggie omelette. Since these omelettes are made to order, I got mine cooked “dry” – I hate runny eggs. The chef did a great job and I really loved the omelette. Unfortunately, the flight was so short, I wasn’t really hungry for breakfast, but I forced myself to eat it anyway.
The cabin was prepared for landing at 01h15. The sun was barely poking through the heavy cloud cover as we approach Vienna. I was excited to hit the ground and make it to the hotel. We landed at 08h25 (CET) and were at the gate just 7 minutes later. Most of the gates at the small Vienna airport were occupied by Austrian planes, but I also saw some Lufthansa and British Airways planes plus a Croatian Airlines plane as well. I love seeing planes that are uncommon to me, planes that aren’t in Chicago or the US.
The door opened almost immediately once we reached the gate and I was off the plane in a matter of minutes. We weren’t given priority customs cards (like I’ve received at Heathrow) and all the economy fliers were in a near sprint to the customs and immigration areas – I was concerned they knew something I didn’t and I sure as hell didn’t want to be stuck in a slow moving line at 08h45 in the morning, so I kicked it into high gear. There was no reason to fear, there were at least half a dozen agents available and the lines moved very quickly. I was through customers/immigration by 08h45 and on my way to the express train into the City.
It was a bit of a walk to the train station and as my luck would have it, I just missed the train into the City and by JUST missed it, I mean the door closed on my face and the train pulled away. I had to wait 15 minutes for the next train.
Have you flown Austrian TransAtlantic Business Class? What was your favorite part? Do you did the seating configuration or do you have another airline configuration you prefer? Do you think I was nuts to spend 70,000 United MileagePlus miles on a one way ticket to Vienna in Business?