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Leaving the Hotel Bristol at 08h15, I was at Vienna International Airport by 09h10. Passing through security and immigration was a breeze and I found myself at the Austrian Airlines Business Class Lounge about 40 minutes before our scheduled boarding time.
A Tale of Two Lounges
The Vienna Airport Lounges are interesting to me. There is the Business Class Lounge and the Star Alliance Lounge. Each time I fly in Business, I am relegated to the Star Alliance Lounge. The only explanation I get is that I have to go their since I do gave Star Gold Status.
While this is indeed true, I am flying Business Class and think I should be allowed in that Lounge. The Star side is utterly packed. Each time I enter this lounge, I find that every single seat is occupied and people are just standing around like vultures, waiting for a seat to open. It isn’t relaxing. Usually, I’ll just pop over to the Priority Pass Lounge next door, which looks like a mediocre restaurant at a mall. At least I can sit though.
This time was different, I was admitted to the Business Class side of the lounge.
It wasn’t stellar, but I did get a seat. I also grabbed a pastry, some sparkling wine and the Monday edition of Le Monde.
I spent only about 20 minutes in the lounge then took the long walk to my gate.
Austrians Business Class Lounge is head and shoulders better than their Star Lounge, but it sure isn’t anything to arrive early for. Show up early enough to grab a newspaper and a glass of bubbles and call it good.
Which Lounge is your favorite in Vienna? Have you ever been relegated to the Star Lounge despite having a proper Business Class ticket?
The United Club membership offers a great opportunity to escape the madness of the airport. With complimentary alcoholic beverages and light snacks coupled with comfortable seating and ample power outlets, these lounges allow you to recharge on many levels. Check out the changes to United Club access policy before you stop by.
Starting November 1, Club Members will need to show a same day United Boarding Pass before entering the club. Historically, you could still access the United Club if you were traveling on another airline. I usually fly United exclusively for domestic travel, but on the off chance that I would fly American or Delta, I’d still pop into the United Club. That’s all changed.
This isn’t really a shocker though. Delta and American both made these changes earlier this year too. It makes sense in some respect, but if you are buying an annual Club membership, you’d want to have access to use the lounge anytime you are flying.
This change seems pretty reasonable, but it could sure make for a frustrating surprise if you aren’t expecting it. Don’t show up to the airport early, expecting to enter the United Club if you aren’t flying on United!
Will this impact your travel plans at all?
After hurrying off the flight from Chicago, I quickly made my way to the EVA Air Infinity Lounge. EVA Air has several lounges available in Taipei, but I decided to visit just one. As I made my way to the lounge, I was struck by how absolutely dead this major airport was at 04h15. Empty hallways as far as the eye could see!
Entering the EVA Air Infinity Lounge you are greeted by several staffers, plus an inquisitive robot. The robot seemed mostly to distract people entering the lounge.
My first order of business was to grab a shower. It had been nearly 20 hours since I had last showered. While I wasn’t working out, I did feel quite gross. Maybe the gallons of champagne I drank had something to do with that. I immediately swapped my boarding pass for a shower key. Every time I take a shower at TPE, I struggle to figure out how to actually enter the shower area. I can’t offer guidance either, as I try a dozen different ways to get in and then it finally clicks. Just ask for help. I’m too stubborn to do that though.
The shower room isn’t anything fancy, but it is clean and has hot water.
After the shower, I felt like a new man. I wasn’t very hungry, but I did force myself to grab some water, more champagne and some ice cream. The lounge was relatively quiet this early in the morning, which allowed me to get a little work done and relax before my next flight.
I had spent the last 15.5 hours eating and drinking, so I wasn’t too keen on the idea of breakfast food. Plus, I had another 5 hour flight in Business Class in just a couple of hours. I’ll skip this meal.
En Route to the Gate
I got a little tired of just sitting around the EVA Air Infinity Lounge, so I headed off to explore TPE and make my way towards the gate.
I’ve never had much time to spend exploring TPE, but I’ve been pretty pleased with my time there. Unfortunately, EVA Air doesn’t offer any stellar ground services like Thai Airways, Singapore or Lufthansa does, so there really isn’t any reason to push for a longer layover.
Have you spent much time in Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport? What should I be on the look out for next time I transit?
Our flight departed at 00h30. EVA doesn’t allow you to print boarding passes at home for flights out of Chicago, so that means I had no way of getting into the Polaris Lounge (usually flying Star Alliance Business Class will gain you entrance, but the lounge closed before the EVA desk even opened up). I’ve written before about how the other Star Alliance and Priority Pass Lounges are just awful at O’Hare’s International Terminal. So this trip, I didn’t leave the house until 22h00.
There was no traffic and I rolled into Terminal 5 at 22h25. One man was in front of me for check-in at EVA and he was finished within 90 seconds. My check-in couldn’t have been smoother. The agent was confused as to why I wasn’t flying back home with EVA. After his colleague explained in intense detail how this is indeed allowable I was on my way to security.
I never go through the full body scanners. I’ve always joked that if you want to see my junk, just ask, you don’t need to have a fancy nude-o-scope to do the dirty work. Plus it is a bit of a non-violent protest to security theater in the US. Usually It doesn’t matter because Pre-Check works fine for me. EVA does not participate in Pre-Check, so it was either the nude-o-scope or the pat down. I opted for the pat down, as always. The frustrated TSA agent started to explain how the nude-o-scope is perfectly safe and I should just deal with it.
Frustrated more at me now, he decides to let me go through the metal detector. An interesting choice, but one I am okay with. Now if that isn’t security theater, I don’t know what is.
Through security and into the duty free area by 22h35 left me 90 minutes before boarding. I walked around the terminal, checking out the restaurants – not that I would want to eat before my flight, but I sure didn’t want to sit in the dismal lounge for an hour and a half.
After a while, I decided to hit up the lounge, because now EVA boards lounge passengers directly from the lounge. Now if that isn’t a little piece of heaven, I don’t know what is. I snag an uninspiring glass of prosecco and wait for my flight.
EVA uses the Air France / KLM Lounge for their flights. Unlike the last time we flew EVA this lounge was pretty empty. Evidently the Friday night flight is much more full. The lounge was quiet and allowed me to get some work done.
Boarding started promptly at 23h50. We queued up in a very civilized manner (sometimes flights to China can feel a bit like Lord of the Flies when it come to boarding or deplaning).
Do you have a preferred lounge in T5 at O’Hare? How do you kill time at this disconnected terminal?