Austrian Airlines Flights 87 and 88, New York-JFK Vienna and Return
A coffeehouse at 35,000 feet
Terminal 1 is the busy home to 16 airlines. I found Austrian’s check-in area quite easily and checked in without any waiting. The agent invited me to visit Alitalia’s lounge, where I watched a Euro 2008 match with a glass of wine and a salad.
Austrian allowed early boarding for business class passengers and within minutes I was comfortably ensconced in my business class seat. The crew was very welcoming and I was offered newspapers and a beverage as well as an amenity kit that contained a very comfortable eyeshade (I find most are too tight) in addition to the usual toothbrush/toothpaste, socks, lip gloss, and moisturizer.
The new business class seats offer 60” of legroom and 180° angled lie-flat seats with 10.4” displays with 12 movie and 12 audio channels entertainment options, noise cancelling headset, and laptop power points. On the 767, seats are in a 2-2-2 configuration and include a massage function and a mid-level relaxation setting, comfortable for reading. Despite the angle of incline (X°), narrowness (width is only 18.2”), and no privacy screen, I managed to sleep comfortably with the help of a thick duvet and fluffy pillows. I was seated in 1G and the purser, noticing that I was being disturbed by passengers crossing in front of me to go to the lavatory, put the empty seat next to me in bed mode and barricaded me in.
Once onboard, as we waited close to two hours in queue for takeoff, the Austrian crew did something I’ve never seen on another flight; they started meal service while we were on the ground. Just as I was getting hungry, the chef and crew started placing table cloths onto our tray tables and served an amuse bouche. They were going to continue with another course but by then we were cleared for takeoff.
Once aloft, something else unusual occurred. Instead of going to sleep, everyone opted for the full meal service.
I started with the seared beef salad with goat cheese, tomato carpaccio, and balsamic dressing (other options were smoked salmon tartare, grilled green asparagus, and potato rösti) followed by a Viennese pea soup. Warm baked breads and rolls were served throughout the meal.
Austrian’s wine list is unparalleled. I started with the Grüner Veltliner Am Berg from the Weingut Ott in Wagram, which was very crisp with a dry finish.
My main course was a rack of spring lamb, tender and perfectly cooked, accompanied by creamy pumpkin (grown in Styria) and pappardelle, Other choices were a swordfish brochette or linguini with buffalo mozzarella. I wisely chose the wonderful Zweigelt Red Soil from the Weingut Fritsch.
I skipped the fruit and cheese course but indulged in the apple strudel.
Austrian is the only airline I know of with a special coffee menu, in the Viennese Kaffeehaus tradition. The coffee selection included everything I could find in my Stammcafe (regular café) in Vienna, including a Wiener Melange (black coffee with hot milk and foamed milk), a Fiaker (coffee with cognac and schlag), and an imposing Wiener Eiskaffee (double espresso with ice cream and schlag in a tall glass).
Despite the late departure, we made up some time in the air and, with a freshly prepared breakfast from our chef (including freshly prepared eggs, the only bland menu item I came across), everyone was in good spirits upon arrival. Clearing immigration took minutes and baggage was on the carousel very quickly.
Arriving at Vienna Airport, I was pleased to find a curbside check-in for business class passengers. I was warmly welcomed and given information on the procedure for taking my checked luggage to customs to get my VAT refund form stamped. The business class lounge near my departure area, which, although a bit small, had comfortable chairs and tables, WLAN at no charge, showers, toiletries (including toothbrush and toothpaste), and food and beverages provided by DO & CO.
Once on board, for lunch, I started with goose liver paté (although I could have had Styrian-style duck breast, Austrian sheep cheese, or volcano ham), a Tirolean wine soup, and filet of beef (other choices included Marchfeld asparagus with volcano ham and chicken Kiew). That was followed by dessert; I had a wonderful Viennese Eiskaffee.
The light supper, served before we landed at JFK, included a choice of prawns on leaf salad or a tasty linguini with artichokes, olives, and tomatoes (which was my choice).
Austria is famous for offering gemütlichkeit, a kind of hospitality that defies translation although it could be a mixture of cozy and comfortable and peaceful. The crews on both flights were the epitome of gemütlich but what else would you have expected from Austrian?
–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.