Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Europe 2014: Getting to Rome - Austrian Airlines Business Class

Getting to Rome - Austrian Airlines Business Class
One Night in Rome - Intercontinental de la Ville & RomeCabs Tour
Norwegian Jade - 11 Nights, 5 Countries, and 14 Cities... Whew!
Waffles, French Fries, Chocolate and Kriek  - A Stopover in Belgium
Getting Home - Brussels Airlines Business Class and United Global First
Getting to Rome was a bit of a challenge given that we were booking awards just 3 months out and there were limited routes available to us out of San Francisco. There were a few options available, but the best we could do was a combination of 3 flights. We had the choice of Lufthansa or Austrian Airlines, both of which required positioning flights on United in Domestic First Class. I had heard less than stellar reviews of the old Lufthansa Business class seats and the connecting flight was longer, so we opted for Austrian, which at the time had brand new Business Class seats. Our trip ended up as SFO > ORD > VIE > FCO and a total traveling time of 21 hours (ouch!)

Our first flight from San Francisco to Chicago was easy and nothing spectacular. What we did not anticipate was the terminal change at ORD involving having to go outside in the midst of the "Polar Vortex" of 2014. What I thought would be a leisurely 90 minute connection ended up with us being the last to board the plane. We were a bit worried when we got to the gate and there were no other passengers, but apparently they had started boarding a little early and we still had an extra 10 minutes. Still was closer than I would have liked. Boarding a totally full plane did not give any opportunity to get a good photo of the cabin, so I will have to borrow some images from the internet.

Our flight was on Austrian's 767 which has 1-2-1 seating in business. We took two seats in the last of the middle row. 
Courtesy of PointsMilesAndMartinis
The seat itself is not that wide, but you have a good amount of space between you and your seat mate.

Courtesy of PointsMilesAndMartinis
I had read before choosing these seats that the cubbyhole for your feet when you make the seat into its bed state can be a little tight if you are tall. At 6 feet tall, I would have to agree with that, but primarily because I am a side sleeper and the shape of the space makes it a bit awkward. Also, being in the seat closest to the isle, I felt a little exposed on that side of the seat when reclined. 

The IFE system was definitely nice and brand new at the time with touch screen controls. I did not have much time to play with it before the cabin attendants came around to take our orders for the meal. My meal started with a mushroom soup and a baked cheese and arugula dish that I definitely enjoyed. The main course was a rack of lamb with potatoes and vegetables, also very good (for food on a plane it was excellent!)

The next part of the menu I had really been looking forward to, but did not work out well timing wise. Austrian offers their business class passengers a specialty coffee menu and I wanted to try more than one. Of course, this was an overnight flight and we would be arriving quite early in the morning and having to connect again to get to Rome. I couldn't resist though and had to try the "Maria Theresia" described as An exclusive Viennese coffee variation, prepared from black coffee with delicious orange liqueur and the "Wiener Eiskaffee" which was a double espresso served with vanilla ice cream and freshly whipped cream. Needless to say, I didn't really get any sleep on this flight. 

We arrived in Vienna at 9:00am and our next flight to Rome was not boarding until noon, so we headed over to the Austrian Business Class lounge (read another traveler's review on that here.) It did not have much to offer for breakfast, but they certainly had plenty to drink. We took a spot in the corner in front of this very cool back lit image and took a little nap.

Having flown Air France intra-Europe Business Class before, we had an idea of what to expect on our "Business Class" flight from Vienna to Rome. Essentially the entire plane is standard economy class, but the first few rows are blocked off for Business passengers and all the middle seats are reserved as empty space. The number of seats in Business is also flexible, but on our flight it was roughly the first 6 rows. There were only about 5 people in Business so we were staggered so that no one was seated directly behind anyone else. They also serve a meal, usually cold, but on Austrian I was surprised to find they had nicely plated hot meals on this flight.

Courtesy of airplanefood.net
 Considering this was only about a 90 minute flight, its pretty impressive the level of service you get compared to a domestic flight in First Class at home. It made the last leg of our 21 hour journey a pleasant one.

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