Trip Report: Austrian Business Class from Vienna to Chicago

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A few months ago, I flew from Oktoberfest to the Chicago Seminars. From Munich to Vienna, I flew Lufthansa business class. From Vienna to Chicago, I flew Austrian Airlines new business class product.

Overall I enjoyed Austrian Business Class. The seat was comfortable for relaxing and sleeping, the food was good, there was an onboard chef in uniform, and the daytime flight passed quickly.

Onboard Chef Taking Orders
Window Seat at Boarding

How was the seat, bed, food, service, and entertainment? How does Austrian Business Class stack up against its competitors? (& Lots of Pics)

My day started with a 4 AM wake up in Munich to catch my 7:15 AM flight to Vienna. Munich needs to get a high speed express train from the city. If you’re between Munich and Frankfurt for a 23 hour layover, Munich is more interesting, but the airport is two hours roundtrip by train versus 30 minutes roundtrip in Frankfurt.

For those who haven’t flown intra-European business class, you get an economy seat with economy leg room, but only the aisle and window seats are assigned, so you have a little extra elbow room.

Intra-Europe Business Class Leg Room
Blocked Off Middle Seat in Intra-Europe Business Class
Breakfast on Intra-Europe Business Class

In Vienna, I ducked into the Austrian Business Class Lounge and relaxed on one of these chairs for a few minutes before heading to my flight to Chicago.

At 9 AM, the food selection lagged the alcohol selection in Vienna.

Austrian 65
Vienna (VIE) – Chicago (ORD)
Depart: 10:05 AM on October 9, 2013
Arrive: 1:30 PM same day
Duration: 10hr25min
Aircraft: Austrian Boeing 767-300
Seat: 7A (Business Class)

At 9:30 AM, I headed to the gate for boarding. At the door, a flight attendant directed me down the correct aisle wit ha brusque greeting.

My flight had business class in a 1-2-1 configuration. The beds were designed, so that your legs were underneath the arm rest of the seat in front.

This picture shows the slight staggering of the rows. This women’s feet would be under my arm rest when she reclined to a bed position.

Window seats could have their arm rests on the window or aisle side. I selected seat 7A, which has the arm rest on the aisle side in order to be closer to the window and to feel like I had a buffer from the aisle. The drawback was that I felt like I was trapped and it was difficult to get to the aisle through a narrow opening.

In the future, I’d probably select 6A to get aisle access without having to pass my arm rest.

Upon boarding, I was immediately struck by the large TV and small leg room.

I felt like my legs were being squeezed into a cubby in an elementary school.

Part of the issue with the foot cubby is that the floor slants up inside the cubby, robbing you of space that would be present with a flat floor.

Boarding continued and business class ended up completely full. I suspect this is because Austrian actually auctions off its business class seats as upgrades.

During boarding, I took a look at my amenities. The seat came with noise cancelling headphones.

Next to the seat was an intuitive touch screen to control the position of the seat or bed. I found the suggested Relax and Sleep settings to be the most comfortable for relaxing and sleeping as advertised.

On either side were controls for the lights, volume, and flight attendants plus power ports that fit US and European adapters.

Overall the seat was an impressive throne appointed with a blanket and mid-sized pillow, but I wish there were more leg room.

Before take off, the chef came to introduce himself, distribute menus, and ask if we had any questions.

After talking to him, I took a look in my amenity kit.

The kit had:

  • eye shade
  • toothbrush and toothpaste
  • ear plugs
  • lotion
  • mints
  • socks
  • shoehorn

The menu read as follows:

After a few minutes with the menus, the chef came around to take our orders. I selected the minced veal patty.

Prior to departure, a flight attendant brought a tray with champagne, water, and orange juice. With such a big business class–36 seats–individual drink orders would have taken too long, and the pre-departure drink tray is a nice compromise.

Lunch started after takeoff with an antipasti cart.

It was a nice start, and I love when I can pick as much as I want from carts like Malaysia First Class’s satay cart and many airlines’ dessert carts.

Next the red lentil soup was outstanding, possibly my favorite part of the meal.

After the soup, I had my main course of a minced veal patty, potatoes, and veggies. This course was solid, but too small. It felt like the portions we used to get in economy back when meals were free. Normally a multi-course meal in a premium cabin is too large, but Austrian’s meal was too small.

After lunch, Austrian offered an extensive coffee selection, but I was ready to sleep, so I skipped the caffeine.

I didn’t skip the cheese-and-fruit plate, though! It was a delicious way to end the meal.

After lunch, I reclined the seat into a flat bed and attempted to sleep, just west of Ireland.

I dozed off for several hours and woke up over Canada with just a few hours left to Chicago.

Since I got several hours of sleep on a daytime flight, I can’t complain too much about the bed though I think it could be improved.

I felt a little cramped in it, which might have something to do with being 6’4″. It was also slightly angled, with my head higher than my feet. It was a lot better than coach, but some competitor’s beds are better. Overall I like United’s business class beds better, but Austrian’s beds are solid for sleep too.

Ninety minutes before landing, a second meal was served. I chose the carpaccio, which was delicious, but again, too small.

We landed right on time in Chicago, and I raced through immigration with Global Entry.

Overall

Seat: Comfortable for lounging, a little cramped near the feet.

Bed: Comfortable and flat, a little coffin-like.

Food: Delicious, but portions were too small.

Service: Efficient, but not personal.

Entertainment: Great TV size and programming selections.

I would definitely fly Austrian Business Class again and expect to arrive refreshed at my destination, but it falls short of aspirational products.

Award Space

Do you want to fly the same plane I did? Award space in business class is great Chicago <-> Vienna until March 11, 2014. Then there is no business class award space the rest of 2014. Economy award space is incredible through late 2014.

Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 3.31.49 PM
Chicago to Vienna. Green days have business class award space.
Screen Shot 2013-12-13 at 3.33.00 PM
Vienna to Chicago. Green days have business class award space.

If you want to book the award space with United miles, lock it in now for 50k miles per direction. Starting February 1, 2014, the same booking will cost 70k miles per direction. Learn more about United’s coming devaluation here.

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23 COMMENTS

  1. Scott,
    Great blog! I discovered you just a few weeks ago and you have already helped my travel plans tremendously. This one is yet another helpful and informative entry, especially with the photos of everything.
    One thing that disappointed me: you said you ordered the veal. Did you know that veal is from baby cows who are taken immediately from their mothers, and chained into tiny dark stalls where they can’t even turn around, and are fed incomete supplements that keep them anemic so their flesh is pale? It’s all horribly cruel and I would never have ordered it. Next time when the chef comes around and asks if you have any questions, ask him about it.
    Anyway sorry if I sound critical but I though you might want to know.

  2. Hey Scott. Great post. I’d like to fly Austrian business class in the fall and obviously book before the deval. Any idea why award space disappears after March 11?

    • No, I don’t know whether it’s because they have decided to only release 120 days out or because that’s when they think peak summer season starts. Check it again in a month and see if the space extends later would be my tip.

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