31st January 2014 at 12:37 #548072
Anonymous31st January 2014 at 12:37 #548073
OS 25 Vienna-Bangkok
On what I thought was a one day business trip to Vienna I was asked to return to Bangkok to significantly extend the scope of a contract entered into earlier in the month. I certainly don’t turn down 200% increases in business but coming up to Christmas I was pushed for time. The only real option became to be in Bangkok the following day and return almost immediately as I needed to be in London the day after. Fortunately my PA was with me in Vienna and with a bit of sharp work I found myself booked the same night on flight OS 25 from Vienna to Bangkok returning the following night on LX 181 through Zurich to London. Coming up to Christmas finding flights at short notice is not the easiest thing to do so the choices were very good under the circumstances. A couple of changes of clothing were obtained and I was set to go.
We finished our meeting and made our way out of the office with plenty of time before my flight to Bangkok at 23.20 and my PA’s return to London at 20.05 and rather than take a car straight back to the airport we spent a while looking at the Christmas markets which were great and indulged in a couple of glasses of mulled wine. Then we took a tram and the CAT back to the airport. The CAT service was impressive, very punctual, speedy and clean. Tickets were thoroughly checked.
On arrival at the airport with mobile boarding passes for our respective flights we made our way up to security. There was no wait in the premium lane and the staff were pleasant and courteous. I took the usual things from my bag and put my jacket in a tray and was about to walk through the scanner when the man asked me if I’d like to put my belt in the tray too to save me setting the scanner off laughing as he said it. I had just not thought and of course put my belt in the tray too. The pleasant attitude was in such sharp contrast to the experience of security at LHR earlier the same day. Neither of us set the scanner off and we repacked our bags and made our way to the Austrian lounge in the non-Schengen area.
There is a business lounge and senator/hon circle/star gold lounge side by side sharing an entrance and dragon station (or should it be den?). The staff on the desk were pleasant enough and we made our way into the star gold part of the lounge. The whole set up is a bit too garish for me with lots of use of white, sky blue and scarlet red although there are some more muted colours around. We found some seats and settled down.
Lounge catering is by Do&Co, there was a comprehensive spirits offering, a selection of beers and a couple of red and white wine choices. The food included a pumpkin soup, some baked potatoes with fillings, three choices of salads, a pasta dish, two cakes, various breads and biscuits and some cheese. I had a bowl of pumpkin soup and some bread and cheese washed down with a beer. The soup was excellent so much so I was tempted to have a second bowl but restrained myself.
The flight for London was called for boarding about 19.45 and my PA left and I went off to have a shower. You have to approach the dragons who come and unlock a shower room for you. The facility was excellent with a large washbasin, a lavatory, a large power shower and four big towels. It was as good as many airlines provide in their first class lounges. I had a good shower then returned to the lounge and read while waiting for my flight to Bangkok.
Fog was still a problem at Vienna and had been all day so I was pleased to see an Austrian 772 being towed to the stand just below the lounge which was the gate designated for departure in plenty of time for the flight. Boarding was called at 22.30 and staff made their way around the lounge looking for Bangkok passengers and asking them to start moving. It was up an escalator and then a short walk to the gate and once there I settled into a seat to continue to read and wait for boarding. At one point four passengers were called to the desk and it was obvious that upgrades were happening. The staff were describing it as a change of seat and it was amusing to see one man remonstrate that he hoped he was being moved to a good seat as he already had one he liked. Given that Austrian have joined the ten across club in economy I would have thought that any seat in business was guaranteed to be a major improvement but you can’t always please people.
Boarding started at 22.40 and I was one of the first people to make my way to the aircraft, 1L was open for business class and 2L for economy. At 1L I was greeted by a very friendly purser in her startlingly red uniform and shown to my seat which was 3D. Austrian have full flat seats in their cabin generally arranged 2-2-2 but there are some 1-2-2s and 2-2-1s. It’s quite some time since I flew long haul with them and the first time I had seen the cabin in the new arrangement. The colour scheme is predominantly brown and cream though the seats do have scarlet headrests and there is sky blue on the bulk heads. Amenity kits were already on the seats together with pillows, duvets and sheets. Because of the arrangement of the cabin you get an overhead bin for your own use which of course is a considerable space on the 772 so I stowed everything there along with my bag and jacket, there was still room for more.
Drinks were offered with a choice of prosecco, juice or water. Magazines and newspapers were brought around along with the menu. The crew were very much in evidence settling passengers and providing service including offering hot towels. I understand that Austrian normally have eleven cabin crew on the 772 including the purser. I understand that only four are assigned to economy class and the remainder work in business class and the numbers around certainly reflected those arrangements but it must make for very slow service in economy.
Boarding was completed at 23.05 and the pilot made an announcement welcoming everyone and he told us that we would be pushing back in the next five minutes and departure would be on time, flying time to Bangkok would be shorter than usual due to favourable winds and he expected we would arrive at 14.30 local time thirty five minutes early. There was a further announcement from the purser and the safety video was shown, again as earlier in the day I found it easier to watch the German version than the English one. While the video was being shown push back started along with the engines and we taxied promptly for runway 29. There was no hold or delay and on arrival take off was immediate. It’s a long time since I was on what must be one of the first generation of 772s and I really had forgotten how noisy they are on take-off and climb. Compared to the A380, A330 or A340 it really was dreadful but of course at one time noise like that was the norm.
It took about twenty minutes for service to begin with drinks and choices were taken for the main course. The first course is offered from a trolley as are puddings and cheese. There is an option on the menu for a swifter service and I was mindful of time, for all it was about 23.45 in Austria it was now 06.45 in Thailand and I had an important meeting later that afternoon, I had already had a long day and I needed a decent sleep. The number of business travellers in the cabin was relatively low and there was a holiday atmosphere springing from most people who were obviously intending to enjoy the full dinner service which from past experience is excellent and better than the offering in first on some airlines it just wasn’t what I wanted that night or for that matter morning as I was trying to think in Thai time.
The menu was as follows:
Air dried ham served with rye bread and horseradish
Smoked salmon Carpaccio with prawns and sauce Claudine
Fillet of Pork with sweet corn puree
Chicken Koi Soy
Rigatoni with tomato and parmesan sauce
Assorted cheeses and fruit
Pancake with raisins
Chocolate vanilla tart
Tea, coffee and digestives
Apologies, I do not have the wine list or the coffee menu.
As I was keen to get to sleep I asked the crew member serving me if I could have a plate of the salmon and some bread as soon as they were able and fortunately that meant very quickly. A beautiful plate of salmon and prawns was served to me accompanied by a choice of warm bread while drinks and nibbles were being offered to others. My prosecco was topped up and I thoroughly enjoyed my light snack. I think I would have enjoyed the full meal service if I had not been so tired and aware that I needed as much sleep as possible. I’m sure the passengers under less pressure had an excellent meal.
With ear plugs in and eye mask on I settled to sleep quickly. I had not tried the Austrian seat in the sleeping position before, I found the length great and it was alright around the shoulders though I know what others mean about the coffin effect, I did though find the knee room rather tight and it wasn’t east to change positions in the flat position. That said I slept soundly for about four hours then settled to work and by the time I was finished the second service was starting and we were about ninety minutes from Bangkok.
I had as good a wash and brush up as you ever can on a plane and when I returned to my seat my continental breakfast tray was waiting, there were also two hot dishes but I didn’t really want either. Both were prepared by the on board chef and looked good, one was bacon or ham with fried eggs and tomatoes and the other was a similar offering with scrambled eggs. My continental was a fruit plate, a cheese plate, yoghurt and bread with butter and preserves. It was as good as continental breakfast ever is on a plane. Juice and coffee were topped up regularly and the same tiny cups that were on offer on my flight from LHR-VIE now almost twenty four hours ago made another appearance.
Landing was still scheduled for 14.30 some thirty five minutes early and once the meal was finished the crew made short work of tidying the cabin for landing. Once descent was well underway an announcement from the pilot confirmed our early arrival and thanked us for flying Austrian. The cabin was secured and at 14.29 was made a very smooth landing on 19R, brakes and thrust reversers were used to good effect and we cleared the runway with just a short taxi to C9 one of the furthest gates from immigration. We parked alongside an LH A346. I was out of my seat quickly when the seatbelt sign was extinguished and was by 1L waiting for it to open intending to make my way to immigration as quickly as possible as you just never know at Bangkok how long you are going to wait and priority lanes don’t necessarily mean priority.
I walked as fast as I could and when I got to immigration I could not believe there was almost no one waiting and I approached a desk that was staffed but had no one waiting, I was seen promptly, I had no check in bags and was in the car on the way to my meeting twelve minutes after landing, for Suvarnabhumi that must be a record especially coming from a C or E gate.
I have used Austrian between Vienna and Bangkok in the past and was pleased to see that their then high standard has been maintained and their offering has been improved by the provision of flat seats. Although I watched only a few minutes of it the quality of the video screen which was touch screen was excellent. The crew were responsive and attentive and when I asked for food out of sequence they did exactly what I asked with a smile. The offering in the lounge in Vienna was poor in comparison to the equivalent lounge at LHR but it was bright and clean and the showers were excellent. The 772 is a noisy old beast but obviously for Austrian it gets the job done and I would certainly use them again without concern.
My trip was success and I returned to Suvarnabhumi about six hours after leaving for my Swiss flight back to ZRH. I was in F and had 2A, I enjoyed the Thai F lounge where I ate and had a long shower and a massage before boarding. In so far as I saw them the crew were excellent and the Maitre de Cabine came to check I was alright when I asked for some water and said I wanted to settle to sleep straight after take-off which I did enjoying the relative quiet of the A340. The crew kindly woke me with juice and a coffee about thirty minutes from Zurich and then a short hop to London where we landed fifteen minutes early and I was back almost 46.75 hours after I left for the day!31st January 2014 at 14:42 #548074
Excellent report John. One question about Austrian, although you clearly didn’t need it, do Austrian not issue the Fast Track immigration cards in business. Most business class passengers benefit from Fast Track arrival…into BKK2nd February 2014 at 10:20 #548075
Austrian did not issue fast track immigration cards for BKK. I was surprised hence the speed with which I left the plane. I do tend when I get to immigration at BKK to scan the queues, its amazing how often you can find a queue with almost no one in it in the general area and if I see one like that I take it as you just never know what you are going to find in the fast track at that stage.
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