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Tim Foolery

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Austrian Airlines Business Class VIE-ORD

After leaving the lounge, I made my way to to my flight. I love Vienna airport. It is quite small, but has lots unique destination, like Yereven, Lviv and Tehran. As I arrived at the gate and we were herded into two seating areas: Business Class and Economy. Boarding commenced shortly after the planned time.

Teheran Gate at Vienna Airport
Maybe I will go to Tehran after all
Austrian Airlines Boeing 767
My ride to Chicago. Austrian Boeing 767

Boarding

The surprisingly unorganized boarding process had passengers rushing the podiums trying to board first. The young Austrian employees looked quite overwhelmed by the confusion that ensued. I sat back until it was all sorted out. I usually want to board and get settled early in the process. but not when it is mayhem.

Once I reached my seat 7A, I stowed my hand luggage and settled in for the 10.5 hour flight to Chicago. I’ve taken this flight several times before and just love the service and the experience in general. I almost always attempt to speak German exclusively whilst on board. Two and a half years studying in college gets me along well enough on the plane and in hotels.

The woman sitting across the aisle from me was in a mood. I could tell that she would be awful from jump. As the Purser walks around and introduces herself to all Business Class passengers, this woman continuously rang her call button. First she couldn’t find her amenity kit – it was immediately in front of her.  Secondly, she wanted the different amenity kit (the pouch, not the shoe bag). Then she wanted to know the flight time. This is all within 10 minutes of boarding. Dozens of people heading to the economy cabin filed past us.

The chef made her rounds next. After handing out menus she returned and talked to each of us about the service. Austrian uses DO&CO for their on board offerings. They are my absolute favorite airline catering group. I selected the Viennese Tafelspitz for my entree.

As boarding continued, I had a couple glasses of sparkling wine and bookmarked the various programs on the In Flight Entertainment (IFE) System that I wanted to watch on this trip. Bookmarking the shows and movies you want is a great feature that most other airlines don’t do. It saves a ton of time on the flight.

Windowless Business Class Seat on Austrian
My windowless Business Class Seat on Austrian
Windowless Business Class Seat on Austrian
Alternate angle – Business Class Seat on Austrian Airlines.

The doors closed and we pushed back two minutes early.  It was a short taxi and a quick take off. Before I knew it, we crossed 10,000 feet and the flight crew sprung into action.

On Board Service

The crew delivered an additional glass of sparkling wine along with warm nuts. After the table was set and the appetizer trolley rolled out. I do love selecting from the half dozen different items available. The seat side plating is a nice touch. It seems much more personalized and less factory style service.

The rest of the meal was served with efficiency, but like every other time I’ve flown Austrian, the meal takes the right amount of time. It isn’t hurried, nor does it drag on for too long.

Catering on Austrian Airlines - Antipasti from the Trolley
Antipasti from the Trolley
Catering on Austrian Airlines - Creamy Carrot Ginger Soup
Creamy Carrot Ginger Soup
Catering on Austrian Airlines - Viennese Tafelspitz on Austrian Airlines
Viennese Tafelspitz on Austrian Airlines
Catering on Austrian Airlines - Cheese and "Exotic Fruits" from the Trolley
Cheese and “Exotic Fruits” from the Trolley

The woman across the aisle from me continued her shenanigans. Her entree was delivered and she ate nearly three-quarters of it. Then she rang for the flight attendant, complaining that it wasn’t good and she wanted another option. She did this twice. Finally, her third entree was taken from the pre-arrival options. This loud, brash woman, consumed most of three entrees. The crew couldn’t have been nicer or more accommodating. This passenger was awful.

After the meal, I turned on a movie and decided to take a little nap. Hell, it is vacation, right?

The rest of the flight was lovely and uneventful, until….

Pre-Arrival

As the pre-arrival meal was being prepared, the woman across the aisle, who was served long before me, pulled the same game with the food. She ordered, ate and returned two entrees. She finally settled on the third being to her liking. All before I was served.

That’s where Austrian really failed. There was no more food for me. Not saying they didn’t have a choice for me to select from, there was absolutely no more food available.  It was quite surprising.  I asked for a snack from the Economy Cabin and was told that they ran out of food in the back too.  There was nothing at all left on the plane for me to eat.

When flying coach, I usually skip the pre-arrival snack as it is just not worth the time or energy, but usually in Business Class, there is something worthwhile.  What really angered me, was that if this woman hadn’t eaten multiple entrees at each seating, I would have had something to eat.  Austrian should have served all passengers before replacing meals, don’t you think?

We land at O’hare and arrive at the gate 15 minutes early.  Unlike most of the flights on this trip, I was ready to get off this flight.  I wasn’t tired of flying or the overall experience was bad.  I was just frustrated with my fellow passenger and didn’t want to deal with her any more.  

My trip around the world came to an end as I quickly walked to customs and the Global Entry Kiosks.  One of the reasons I love O’Hare is that you go from sitting in your seat on board the flight to the taxi line at the International Terminal in less than 10 minutes. 

Have you flown Austrian Airlines Business Class before?  How many times has the Airline ran out of food?

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Vienna Airport Lounges

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.

Vienna Airport Lounge

Booze selection available at the Business Class Lounge

Vienna Airport Lounge

Breakfast Breads at the Austrian Business Class Lounge

Vienna Airport Lounge

Tea selection at Austrian Airlines Business Class 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.

Vienna Airport Lounge

Lounge water, bubbles and newspaper

I spent only about 20 minutes in the lounge then took the long walk to my gate.

Teheran Gate at Vienna Airport

Maybe I will go to Tehran after all

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.

Austrian Airlines Boeing 767

My ride to Chicago. Austrian Boeing 767

Which Lounge is your favorite in Vienna? Have you ever been relegated to the Star Lounge despite having a proper Business Class ticket?

Singapore Airlines Business Class SIN-BKK SQ 972

I was excited about this flight. Probably the most excited flight of the trip.  It would be the only flight in this trek where I would be experiencing a new airline. I had flown EVA and Austrian before and of course have heard amazing things about Singapore from so many friends. Singapore SQ 972 is a short, 2.5 hour flight from Changi to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport but would give me a taste of the world class service offered by Singapore’s flag carrier.

My ride from Singapore to Bangkok - SQ 972 - Airbus 330-300

My ride from Singapore to Bangkok – SQ 972 – Airbus 330-300

Changi International Airport - F Concourse

The less than glamorous terminal at Changi International Airport

We boarded about 45 minutes before scheduled departure. When I arrived at the boarding area, there were already at least 200 people waiting.  Plus probably 20 children running around, Lord of the Flies style.  Like my last flight, there were a couple of people already lined up in the Business Class queue, despite near constant announcements to remain seated.

Very full boarding area at Changi International Airport

Gate F31 was packed – and this was just half of the room.

Changi is unique in that each gate area has its own separate security screenings – you don’t get screened until you enter your specific gate area. Passports and boarding passes were checked four different times from the point I got to the gate until in was seated in 14F. The Business Class of this A330-300 consists of five rows of six seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. I chose the middle section so I could have direct aisle access and not worry about someone crawling over me.

Changi Airport Security Checkpoint

Gate Specific Security – F31 Changi International Airport

Boarding

Upon boarding, I presented my boarding pass and was escorted to my seat. Daisy, the flight attendant, helped me put my bag in the overhead bin. Then properly welcomed me aboard, telling me of the flight time to Bangkok and letting me know that I wouldn’t have a seat mate. Score!

Before I sat down, I start snapping photos of the empty cabin and one of Daisy’s colleagues came up with a tray of beverages. His tray included orange juice, apple juice, sparkling and still water and champagne. He asks if I’d like a drink, “perhaps some refreshing bubbles?” How did he know? Yes please.

A330-300 Business Class Seats

Seat 12F taken from my seat. Not industry leading any more, but still wonderful.

Singapore Airlines SQ 972 Business Class to Bangkok

Singapore Airlines SQ 972 Business Class to Bangkok

Singapore AIrlines Business Class Seating

Seat 14D & 14F on Singapore Airlines A300-300

Singapore AIrlines Business Class Seating

Seat 14D & 14F on Singapore Airlines A300-300

The Flight

On board we were served the same champagne that was on offer in the KrisFlyer Business Class Lounge, which was a perfectly nice option. After champagne, he quickly returned with a warm, moist towel. I love these refreshing little treats. This flight wasn’t as empty as the EVA flight to Singapore, but it wasn’t full – 23 of the 30 seats were occupied.

This plane is an older model, but does have seats that lie fully flat. There is ample storage and several charging options including a UK/Singapore/US Outlet plus two USB ports.

The chargers on Singapore Airlines A330-300

The multiple charges on the A330-300

Boarding was quite quick as well. The last passengers boarded and we still had about 25 minutes until departure. I perused the in-flight entertainment selection, which was perfectly fine for our short hop to Thailand.

In-Flight Entertainment and In-Flight Selfie Reflection

In-Flight Entertainment and In-Flight Selfie Reflection

A short taxi and roll to take off found us airborne right on schedule. Just as we crossed 10,000 feet the flight crew sprung into action. Taking drink orders and distributing another warm moist towel. This morning flight served a selection of western and Chinese breakfast food.

Singapore Airlines Business Class Menu

Singapore Airlines Business Class Menu

Champagne and Brunch Menu

Champagne and Brunch Menu

You all know by now that I’m not big on breakfast, so I chose the Thai Pineapple Fried Rice option. It was surprisingly great.

Thai Pineapple Fried Rice with Chicken and Prawn

Thai Pineapple Fried Rice with Chicken and Prawn

The elaborate tea menu. My favorite is the Vanilla Bourbon Tea.

The elaborate tea menu. My favorite is the Vanilla Bourbon Tea.

The Vanilla Bourbon Tea. My absolute favorite flavor. Thank you TWG Tea!

The Vanilla Bourbon Tea. My absolute favorite flavor. Thank you TWG Tea!

After breakfast, I converted the seat into a bed and rested. I wasn’t ready for sleep, but I wanted to try the seat out. I watched reruns of Big Bang Theory, which always puts me to sleep on a plane.

Before I knew it, Daisy offered me another glass of champagne as the crew began final preparations for landing. A nice surprise.

We landed in Bangkok at 10h48. We deplaned through door 2L and the flight crew held the deplaning economy passengers while Business Class left. This practice is so elitist, but I do love it, don’t you?

Final Thoughts

The flight was very lovely. My biggest complaint was the length. The flight was just too short to really enjoy all the amenities. Two and a half hours isn’t enough.

Have you flown Singapore Airlines Business Class on a short regional route before? What was your favorite part? What is your favorite Asian Airline for short regional trips?

Experiencing United Airlines New Boarding Process

Recently the United Boarding process was tweaked.   Their plan was to make the process and boarding area more clear. Instead of having five groups of people lined, up, only two groups would line up first then after those groups boarded, the next groups would line up.

In theory this makes sense, but as I mentioned before, I was pretty sure that people would still line up and it would be a mess. This change also altered which flyers were in which groups. This second change was what really concerned me. I usually only travel with a roller bag and I was afraid I’d get stuck putting my bag well behind my seat, meaning I’d have to fight through the crowd to collect my bag upon landing.

United Airlines' New Boarding Process

United Airlines’ New Boarding Process

Last week I took my first flight with this new boarding arrangement. I flew from Chicago to Toronto and the process was quite smooth. I chock this up to a few things 1) My flight didn’t have many elite flyers, so I ended up being the 6th person on board and 2) Canadians are nicer rule-followers. My bag was directly above my seat too.
In the boarding area people the Group 2 boarding line was relatively long, but Group 1 was very short. All of the seats in the boarding area were taken and no one was crowding the boarding door either. I’m not sure this will happen on a flight without courteous Canadians making up most of the manifest.

How have you fared in the United boarding changes? Have you been screwed out of overhead bin space at all? Do you think it makes the process any better?

United Airlines’ New Boarding Process

United Airlines just announced changes to their passenger boarding process. Every couple of years it seems like the airlines (not just United, of course) try a new method for boarding their planes. For a while, it seemed like every airline had an elaborate queueing process, with half a dozen or more boarding zones. These zones caused people to line up long before boarding actually began. Sometimes the passengers getting off the arriving plane were met with a wall of people eagerly lined up to board. It was a mess.

United is trying to fix that issue. How many of you have been to O’hare, SFO, or EWR recently and had your path obstructed by dozens of people in the boarding line, snaking into the main concourse? Well, United’s plan to fix this is simple. Passengers should only line up if they are in Boarding Groups 1 or 2. Groups 3-5 remain seated and then they’ll be called once the first two Groups are on board. That part of the plan seems fine, although I really don’t think it will work. See, if you are in Groups 3-5, you’ll end up boarding through Lane 2…which means you’ll likely still be fighting for your spot in that line.

United Airlines' New Boarding Process

United Airlines’ New Boarding Process

Reorganization

My biggest issue is how the new Boarding Groups are organized. I’m a Premier Platinum flyer with United, meaning I fly 75K+ miles each year and spend $9K with them. Currently, I board in Group 1. Group 1 consists of Premier 1K (100K mile flyers), Premier Platinum and First Class Passengers. We are the first to board the plane after the pre-boarding folks (Uniformed Military, Families with small children, Global Services and people with mobility issues). This is great for me. I board and get situated; I never have a problem finding overhead bin space near my seat for my roller bag. Group 2 included Premier Gold (50K mile flyers), Star Alliance Gold, and certain credit card holders. When I use to board with Group 2, I had a hard time finding space for my bag near my seat – often times I’d need to go back 4-5 rows to properly stow the bag. Now I don’t usually need my bag while in flight, it is just problematic when we deplane. Swimming upstream to get my back is always a pain the neck.

The New Process

The new process adjusts who is in Group 1. Now Premier 1K is part of pre-boarding. Group 1 consists of Premier Platinum, Premier Gold, Star Alliance Gold and Premium Cabins (First and Business Class passengers).
Now I know that on the grand scheme of things, this is a minor issue. The most important part of flying is arriving safely and close to the schedule. One of the benefits for hitting 75K miles each year was to board a bit earlier. If I’m not traveling with my roller bag, I don’t board early.  I wait until the bitter end as I don’t want to sit on the plane any longer than I have to.

The best part of this change is that it keeps the credit card passengers a Group behind us. Once I get a couple more trips under my belt, it may all work out just fine and I’ll actually enjoy this new structure. I’m not sold on it now though.

If I were designing the boarding Groups (purely for selfish reasons of course), I’d have Global Services continue to pre-board. Then Group 1 would be First Class, Premier 1K and Premier Platinum. Group 2 would be Premier Gold, Star Alliance Gold and credit card people (I believe that United makes decent money off these folks). Group 3 would be Premier Silver, Star Alliance Silver and people who purchased Priority Access. The rest of the Groups would remain unchanged.

How will this change at United Airlines impact your travels? Are you boarding sooner or later? Do you not care at all because you just check your bag and don’t have to worry about it?