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Welcome to this new series about a recent trip to Bulgaria, which I took in April 2019. The itinerary of this trip was meant to look like this:
But due to the fact that United/Lufthansa sells unrealistic 45 minutes connections in Frankfurt (as well as a last minute aircraft swap), it ended up looking like this:
I booked this trip in two parts: Vienna - Sofia for a very cheap $88, and Sofia - Frankfurt - Innsbruck for 15K United Miles. Ideally, I wouldn't have booked with miles, but sometimes timing wins over price. Anyways, on the report.
I took the ÖBB Railjet from Innsbruck Main Station to the airport, which took the usual 4h30m. The ride itself was fine, though as luck would have I was on a train with inop WiFi. Oh well.
The train arrived at Vienna Airport perfectly on time, at 4:57 PM.
Like Austrian, Bulgaria Air uses Terminal 3 at Vienna Airport.
Bulgaria Air is processed by Austrian on the ground at VIE.
The check-in was empty, and I got my boarding pass in less than 5 minutes.
The BP was on Austrian paper.
Before heading airside, I spotted this Qatar A350 (A7-ALL), which was taking passengers before flying to Doha as QR184
I made my way towards the D Gates, which is where Bulgaria Air's gate is located.
I've actually never seen a Terminal like this. You scan your boarding pass to go airside, but the security is right at the gate, kind of like Tegel. After I scanned my boarding pass, I found myself in a large Duty Free shop.
This is not one of the prettier parts of Vienna Airport.
After passing immigration, I formally entered the D gates, which re only for non-Schengen flights.
As I hadn't eaten all day and I had over 3 hours to kill, I wanted to grab a bite to eat. Fortunately, I found an Italian restaurant called Rustichelli Mangione.
I ordered a slice of Pepperoni Pizza and a Caprese Salad, both of which were very good.
This is also a nice place because of the tarmac views!
EasyJet A319 (G-EZBZ) soon to fly to Bristol as U26082.
EVA Air 777-300ER (B-16739) about to fly to Bangkok and later Taipei as BR62.
A better view of the EVA, and an Austrian 777-200ER (OE-LPA 'Sound of Music') taking off to Vienna as OS51.
A look at this evening's departures.
After I finished eating, I decided to clear security, head to the gate area, and wait there until boarding.
But the only thing down in the gate area was a small duty-free shop, and all the electrical outlets were taken.
I didn't hesitate to go back up and re-clear security later. I found an Austrian Lounge and tried to get in…
…but the very friendly lounge attendant apologized profusely and said that only Bulgaria Air Gold passengers were permitted. Oh well, at least I went for it. I decided to spend the rest of my time at the Johann Strauss Cafe, where I enjoyed a slice of Sachertorte.
Before I went back to the gate, I went to the bathroom and found this. I expected a higher cleaning standard from Vienna Airport.
I arrived at the gate just as boarding commenced.
No codeshares tonight, just FB410.
We had to be bussed to our aircraft.
Happily leaving the terminal after 4 long hours.
And here's the aircraft of the day! It's LZ-FBB, a 2007-built A319-112, which previous flew for Skybus (anybody remember them?) for less than a year, and has been with Bulgaria Air since July 2008. I flew this aircraft in 2017, coincidentally on the Sofia - Vienna flight.
Am I the only one who really likes Bulgaria Air's livery?
Slightly worn out cabin.
Different seats at the exit row. Interesting.
Found my seat, 15A.
A Bulgaria Air-branded bottle of water placed at every seat, which is a nice touch.
Cabin during boarding.
Modern Airbus PSU.
Paper thin antimacassar.
They still show US Airways as a partner! Brings back good memories. And just 5 days after I took this flight, Jet Airways ceased operations.
Bulgaria Air's fleet.
I forgot to take a picture, but the legroom was good for my 5'6 figure.
Austrian A320 (OE-LBY 'Carnuntum') just arrived from Milan Malpensa as OS516.
Aeroflot A320 (VQ-BIW 'V. Glushko') just arrived from Moscow Sheremetyevo as SU2154.
EasyJet Switzerland A320 (HB-JXL) about to depart to Geneva as U21486.
Nice wing view from my seat.
Beginning our taxi to Runway 29.
KLM 737-800 (PH-BXY 'Fuut') just arrived from Amsterdam as KL1849.
Taxiing past the Austrian pier.
Lined up on Runway 29.
The pilots were applying some hard core rudder inputs as we rolled, and I actually was pushed against the wall. I've never been a nervous flyer, but I'll admit that I was clutching the armrest during the takeoff roll.
Once we were up, though, everything was fine. One final look at the airport.
I won't attach the takeoff video, because for some reason my camera couldn't focus, and the entire video is blurry.
Cabin during climb out.
As the service began, the Captain added his welcome aboard. He said that we were cruising over Hungary at 37,000 feet, and that we were expected to land in Sofia at 12:35 AM local time.
I was impressed that Bulgaria Air offers a sandwich on this short flight, whereas Austrian only gives you a biscuit or crackers.
The sandwich was served on Olive Ciabatta bread and had ham, cheese, and red pesto on it. It tasted pretty good.
We were also given chocolates. While not the SWISS chocolate, it was still good.
Before I knew it, we were already commencing our descent to Sofia.
Turning left base over Elin Pelin, Bulgaria.
Very smooth landing on Runway 27.
Taxiing off the runway.
Very humid tonight.
Final look at my seat.
The exit row.
Props to Bulgaria Air for having a true Business Class product!
Into the jetbridge.
On final look at the aircraft. Thanks for the ride, LZ-FBB!
And as always, the routing of the flight.
As is usual for Sofia, immigration took forever. About 1h30m after landing, I made it to my hotel. Thanks for reading along, and I hope to see you in the next installment!
Bulgaria Air beat my expectations! The real disappointment was Vienna Airport.
+ Newish A319
+ Friendly cabin crew
+ Bottle of water at every seat
+ Smooth landing
- Run down terminal in Vienna
- No WiFi on board
I'd be happy to fly Bulgaria Air again! But maybe not from Vienna, just because of the terminal they use.