Austrian Airlines 452, London-LHR to Vienna
Arriving at London Heathrow’s Terminal 2, I found myself on the business class line with only one passenger ahead of me. After waiting all of two minutes, I was quickly checked in by the agent, who offered to switch me to a window seat and block the aisle seat so I would have an entire row to myself. He also invited me to wait in the Senator Lounge near my gate.
Approximately 20 minutes before departure, I arrived at the gate as boarding was just starting. I was told that business-class passengers could board at any time. At the end of the jetbridge, Austrian provided a selection of Austrian and English magazines and newspapers for all passengers, a nice touch. The flight was only half full so the boarding process went very quickly and we pushed back on schedule.
I was seated in the front row in the front cabin; as promised, the seat next to me was empty. A flight attendant quickly offered to hang up my coat. No pre-departure beverages were served although a crew member quickly brought me a glass of bottled water when I asked for it.
After takeoff, the “gourmet entertainment” (a deservedly trademarked phrase) began. The flight attendant asked me what beverage I would like and I didn’t expect what would come next: a tray resplendent with Viennese delicacies.
The lunch for the two-hour flight included Tafelspitz Carpaccio made with veal and a truffled crème fraiche; pan-fried pike-perch from the Neusiedlersee, served with potato thyme puree and grilled vegetables. The breads were warm and delicious and I had a glass of Grüner Veltliner to accompany the meal.
For dessert, the tray included an apricot-topfen tart (the apricots hailed from the Wachau region of Austria, one of the best wine-producing and apricot-growing regions in Europe).
The Airbus A320 business-class seats are no different (except for the color of the headrest cover) than those in the main cabin except that the middle seat (it’s a 3-3 configuration) is always left vacant (the headrest states “Reserved for your comfort”). Nonetheless, they were comfortable and more than sufficient for a trip that would last less than two hours.
We arrived on time and I was one of the first off the plane. My luggage was on the carousel within minutes of my arrival in the baggage area. The only delay (slight) was going through customs. As I headed through the “green” (nothing to declare) door, a customs official approached me saying “Zollkontrolle.” After examining my passport, she asked what brought me to Vienna. As soon as I told her I had tickets for the Vienna Philharmonic New Year’s Day concert, her face brightened, she congratulated me (60 thousand people vie for 3000 tickets), wished me a happy new year and escorted me out the door without any further questions or examination.
The service was very friendly, the food put every other airline to shame, and I was able to relax and work unimpeded – stopping for the meal, of course. What more could a business traveler ask for?
–Jonathan B. Spira is the Editor of Executive Road Warrior and Chief Analyst at Basex, a knowledge economy research firm.