Advertisements
Tim Foolery

Home » Posts tagged 'Travel Blogger'

Tag Archives: Travel Blogger

United’s Historic Route Announcement

Earlier I wrote about how United Airlines teased us yesterday with the promise of an “Historic Route Announcement” coming today.  I put out my hopes and thoughts on what this announcement would be.  You can take a look at that in more detail here.  

Just after 11am central time today, United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz made good on his promise and here’s what we found out.  United will be expanding service at San Francisco (SFO), including:

  • Toronto, Canada (YYZ) – NEW SERVICE
  • Melbourne, Australia (MEL) – NEW SERVICE
  • New Delhi, India (DEL) – NEW SERVICE
  • Seoul, South Korea (ICN) – INCREASED FREQUENCY
United Airlines
United Airlines

Well, I don’t know if I would call this historic.  I wouldn’t even call it interesting, honestly.  Three of these routes are already served by Star Alliance Partners: Air India to New Delhi, Air Canada to Toronto and both United and Asiana  (and Korean) fly between Seoul and San Francisco.  The only thing new here is a Star Alliance flight between SFO and MEL, which currently is only operated by Qantas.

Marginal increased frequency (assuming the Star Alliance Partners don’t reduce their frequencies in light of these coming on) at a United Hub.  Great.  

So if you take a look at my predictions, I couldn’t have been more wrong.  Chicago is still the red-headed step child. United Airlines still doesn’t serve Africa.  I guess this is why I’m a casual observer and not in the airline industry.

Were your predictions right on or were you as off base as me?

Advertisements

United Makes “Historic” Route Announcement!

Yesterday, United Airlines teased us with an “Historic Route Announcement” that would be coming out today.  The AV Geeks around the internet were abuzz with the possibilities.  The announcement read:

United Airlines CEO Oscar Munoz will host a media conference call tomorrow to discuss an historic package of new and expanded international routes and talk about how they are a capstone to a breakthrough year for United.

This package of new and expanded international routes, really piqued my interested.  As a United guy who lives in Chicago, I’ve felt like the red-headed stepchild lately.  We did get the first Polaris Lounge, which is a great improvement over other offerings, but we still don’t have any regular 787 service from O’Hare and our reach to Latin America is limited.

United Airlines
United Airlines

What I Want:

I would love to see addition services from O’Hare – here are my dream new destinations:

  • Sydney (SYD)
  • Singapore (SIN)
  • Bangkok (BKK)
  • Johannesburg (JNB)
  • Buenos Aires (EZE)

Now, I have done no real research on these routes from Chicago.  I do know that Delta’s ATL-JNB route is quite profitable.  These are all very long flights that may not make much sense if you can’t fill the plane with cargo and passengers, but I’m selfish.  I want to visit (or revisit) each of these cities and I’d love to have a non-stop option from home.

What I Think Will Happen

What do I really think will be announce?  I think Chicago will be shut out and we’ll see a big announcement about more services at Dulles.  The new Polaris Lounge was just announced recently and I wager that we’ll see United announcing flights from Dulles to:

  • Johannesburg (JNB)
  • Accra Ghana (ACC)
  • Addis Ababa (ADD)
  • Abu Dhabi (AUH) / Dubai (DXB)

I think United is going to double down on Dulles and the historic announcement will be the carriers return to Africa and adding new destinations.

What do you think is on deck here?  How crazy do you think I am with my hopes and thoughts here?

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?

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?

A Night In Vienna

The return home from my 68 Hours in Singapore afforded me the luxury of a night in Vienna.  While I could have found an alternate route home, it would have cost more miles and eaten into my time in Singapore (or added a day to this trip). I love Vienna.  This Vienna layover was short.  I had 15 hours from the time the door on my inbound flight opened until my outbound door closed.

What would I do with this time?  I had a a beautiful suite at the Hotel Bristol, so just relaxing in luxury was an option.  There were no shows at the stunning Staatsoper (Vienna State Opera), so that was out.  I wasn’t in the mood for fine dining experience (shocker, I know!), so what is a guy to do?

The Wiener Staatsoper / Vienna State Opera House.

The Wiener Staatsoper / Vienna State Opera House.

The hotel recommended that I hop on a street car and head out to a huge park on the edge of the City. That’s where the Viennese go when it is hot (and it was 33C when I landed at 19h00).  Splendid idea.  The street car took about 25 minutes to reach the end of the line.  The park was beautiful, very natural, with trails in various levels of manicure which led to a large lake. When I arrived it was getting dark, so not many people were left hanging out.  I spent about 45 minutes walking around, enjoying nature in a fabulous city.  It was starting to get dark and I was afraid I’d get trapped out here in the pitch black – there were NO LIGHTS in this park.

Vienna Erholungsgebiet Wienerberg

Sunset from the Erholungsgebiet Wienerberg

Vienna Nature Preserve

The verdant nature preserve offered a cooling refresh from the heat of Vienna

Heading back on the street car, I rode past my stop up to the Rathausplatz – City Hall Plaza. I figured I’d just walk around and make my way back to my hotel.  What do I hear, once I’m off the Street Car? Music. Laughter. A crowd.  Was this, what Chicagoans call, a Street Fest?

Rathausplatz Vienna

The entrance to the festival – Big Crowd for a Sunday night.

It was! But it wasn’t like a normal Street Fest.  This Platz was not only lined with food and booze vendors, but there was a large screen strung up in front of the Rathaus.  Surrounding the screen was bleachers.  On the screen: A 2002 production of Swan Lake. Yes, a 16 year old recording of the ballet had drawn several thousand Viennese out at 22h00 on a Sunday night. The Platz was electric.

Rathausplatz Vienna

Such a crowd for a Sunday night!

I’m not a huge ballet fan, but I do love warm weather, beer and dining al fresco.  I grabbed a lager, walked around the crowd, yes, even watched part I’d the production.

The most fascinating food booth called to me.  Wienerschnitzel. Made fresh while you watched.  This culinary assembly line kept the crowd as enthralled as the ballet.  It had been about 4 hours since I had the prelanding meal on Austrian, plus the beer, I was famished.

The Wienerschnitzel and Potatoes were amazingly perfect.  Usually I think if this as a cold weather dish, it paired perfectly with the heat, the beer and the fresh air.

Wienerschnitzel or Wiener schnitzel

Wienerschnitzel and Beer!

I had no plans for my time in Vienna, but stumbled upon this absolutely perfect evening.  Music, dancing, food and drink.  Who could ask for anything more?  Have you ever come across a surprisingly great event like this before?  What would you have done with your handful of hours in Vienna?  Would you have relaxed in the beautiful suite or would you have gone out to explore?