After arriving from Flight LH1702 this morning, we went to get our bags on the carousel and cleared customs quickly.
Then started our walk towards the Check-in desk number 18 located on the other side of the Terminal 2, the newest in SOF, opened in 2006.
The agent was friendly and handed us our 6 BPs to JNB. On my request, she gave me the lounge's name : "Aspire", except she pronounced it "Inspire".
Airside, a lot of light comes into the terminal but it does not feel very modern, despite not being built a long time ago. It does not "shine".
To process through security, you have to climb upstairs with treadmills but before that, an agent checks your BP.
Queues at security are generally speaking reasonable, not longer than 10 minutes.
The thing you cannot find anywhere in SOF except when you just cleared passport control : FIDS ! Hell, there are numerous TVs for advert but no FIDS ! Very impractical.
The Swissport lounge bears two names,"Aspire" and "Vitosha", after a Bulgarian mountain.
Although I had read many comments complaining the staff was rude and not welcoming, this was absolutely not the case when I was there, maybe because I was being polite in the first place. Seeing how many passengers behave with just any personnel that they talk to, it is not surprising to see these personnel starting to look unfriendly, after all.
The lounge offering,
This coffee machine worthes more than 2k€ VAT exluded. Now, I don't drink coffee but my mother, who was travelling with me, said it was actually pretty good.
The offering is obviously in correlation with the flights operated from SOF, most of them are short or medium haul not exceeding 3hrs. It is thus not suprising to notice that it is more a relaxation area than a restaurant. And the chairs are indeed real comfy. I treated myself to an italian industrial flavoured box of bites which tasted nice. Thing is, as there is no washrooms in the lounge (they are located across the lounge entrance), it can be difficult having to deal with the grease those bites generate.
The personnel kept passing through the lounge to collect waste left by pax.
From the lounge, there is a small tarmac view but I haven't had enough time to take any picture as my flight to VIE had already started boarding when I realized we did not had a lot of time to spare because there is a different timezone in SOF (almost missed the flight).
Something bad about SOF airport : the downstairs gates are not well indicated when you clear passport control.
If you do not realize that your gate is downstairs, you will walk for a long time before asking your way to Sky Café, where a nice waiter will point you the treadmills across saying "downstairs" and you will feel stupid not to know how to get around in such a small airport… But having spent hours in SOF on the way back, this is a very common mistake, the airport authorities should definitely do something about it.
We did not use priority boarding because we were in the last to board, by bus… meaning spotting opportunities !
A QR A320
A former Norwegian 737-300 with winglets
Bright flight AN-26B
A Bulgarian Eagle A319 still wearing the Germania livery from its delivery a few days before
And finally, our beast, OE-LBP, an Austrian (OS) A320 painted in their 1958 retro colour scheme.
Upon our arrival on board, a fellow J pax had decided to occupy our seats. Thus, I was forced to ask him to move, not knowing if any other pax would come, which was not the case in the end. Out of 8 seats, 3 were occupied. The front row was empty
Safety card Front
The wifi offering
Air sickness bag :
The cabin is fitted, both in Business and Economy, with the same Recaro seats the LH group chose for all of its subsidiaries.
The layout is exactly the same in J or Y, a 3-3 configuration with the only difference being the middle seat blocked for comfort.
One can see the cabin was perfectly clean.
The only advantage I see with this layout is being able to place carry on items under the middle seat upfront and the extra space on your left or right hand side, depending if you're seated at a window or on the aisle.
The overhead panel shows the aircraft's age.
As we taxied to the runway, I could do what I try to do best : spotting
A Yak-40 ! First time I ever see one
Same for the Mil Mi-8, what a trip!
A319 from the Republic of Bulgaria
Now comes the time to take off (terrible job at filming, sorry… :/)
We were that high when the meal was brought on a tray.
There is no choice of meal but the FA in charge of the J cabin asked us several times (at least 3 that I can remember) if we wanted something to drink. She did not just served the tray and disappeared like it happens sometimes.
The presentation is not what one would call "gorgeous", but surprisingly, it tasted way better than it looked. Unfortunately, no menu or oral description was given. The main course consisted of a chicken dish accompanied by what I think would be between gnocchis and omelette
(I know it's not that accurate^^) The chocolate/raspberry cake was very nice.
Also, I forgot to precize that you get real solid cutlery and a white polyester napkin along with a small clothes peg to tie it to your shirt instead of the usual hole for buttoning it.
All in all, this tray was astonishingly quite filling and the nice female FA brightened up the Soviet morning. The refreshing tissue is well needed after this meal.
Much nicer weather here in Vienna !
Landing ahead of schedule
The nice touch to end ;)
We arrived on stand at 14:04, one minute ahead of schedule, great job ! Exiting on the concourse, only to find out VIE is the worst airport I've been in. Everything is miles and miles away and not very well indicated.
A terrible experience that completely shaded out the Austrian Airlines Business Class experience. Some pictures along the way helped me relaxing a bit :
Vitosha Aspire Lounge
Sofia - SOF
Vienna - VIE
An honest first performance for Austrian. The cabin was not very luxurious obviously but this is the norm on many european flights. The catering was satisfying despite its look. But the best part was the female FA that was really caring.
The lounge scores medium. It is nice to have an access but SOF airport is not that crowded. The only advantage is the seating area, because the airside part of the T2 is cruelly lacking thereof.
VIE is a complete mess. I have no other word for it. Everything is too far, the lounges are almost not indicated, the priority lanes are closed and you have to tell the agent you travel in Business to get in, even if they are very friendly, it is not that easy getting through the airport. And there are security checks to connect between non Schengen and Schengen which I find annoying. During summertime, it is furthermore packed with people.
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