The airline with the best average rating is Austrian Airlines with 7.4/10.
The average flight time is 1 hours and 30 minutes.More information
A very warm welcome part 2 of my current series covering my first flights after lockdown, ladies and gentlemen! After 178 days of being on the ground, I finally had the pleasure of taking to the skies again, for a month-long trip to my usual destination of Sofia, Bulgaria. I had originally planned to fly to Sofia in mid-July, but just a few days before that Austrian government banned all flights to and from Bulgaria and a handful of other Eastern European countries, due to the poor handling of the pandemic in those countries. Thanks to Lufthansa's very generous rebooking policy, I was able to not only move my flights to be about a month later than originally planned, but I was also able to change my originating airport from Vienna to Innsbruck, though you can read about that in part 1.
Originally, I was meant to fly a simple roundtrip from Vienna to Sofia and back. At the time of booking, the itinerary looked like this:
Though instead, flight OS799 was cancelled, and the return flight was operated by a Dash 8.
Note that when I rebooked the flights, OS797 was meant to be operated by an A319, and the return OS800 was meant to be operated by an Embraer 195, so the equipment on the return might still change.
I initially booked this trip as a VIE-SOF roundtrip ticket for €480, and for no extra cost I was able to add the Innsbruck sectors of the trip when my travel plans changed due to the pandemic.
After a short bus ride from the Dash 8 that flew me from Innsbruck, I found myself at Terminal 3's Pier North, the newest addition of Vienna Airport, and home of most Star Alliance flights. However, due to the drop in demand, all flights, regardless of airline, are currently operating from Pier North. An escalator ride later, I emerged right near the duty-free shop.
I wasn't expecting anything to be open, so naturally I was surprised to see that both the duty-free shop and the Jamie Oliver restaurant were open.
After surveying the duty-free shop, I headed to the SKY Lounge Schengen, which is the only lounge open in the entire airport.
Due to the closure of all Austrian Lounges, passengers flying in a premium cabin of a Lufthansa Group airline, as well as Miles & More Senators and HON Circle have access to the lounge. However, all other Business Class passengers and Priority Pass members also have access to the lounge, so as you can imagine the lounge can get quite busy. When I arrived, though, I was one of around 7 other people in the lounge, which gave me the chance to take some pictures.
Behind the makeshift wall was a construction zone, which wasn't an issue…at first.
I made myself comfortable on a high sofa.
My choice of food consisted of just some cold cuts and a glass of milk, as I was still satisfied from my breakfast on OS913.
Speaking of food, the buffet was already pretty empty, despite the early hour.
The alcoholic section, however, was mostly untouched.
I spent some time taking a nap on my high sofa, but was woken up by loud drilling from the construction site. When I woke up, I also saw that the lounge had filled up quite a bit, so I decided to leave and explore the terminal instead.
After I passed immigration (Bulgaria still isn't a Schengen country, but hopes to join as soon as possible, along with Romania), I emerged into the G Gates, where there was only one small duty-free shop open.
For the most part, the G Gates were much emptier than the F Gates.
There were two restaurants open, but I didn't check them out.
Peeking out the window, I snapped a picture of the tarmac, and also saw OS65 roaring down Runway 29 on its way to O'Hare.
Not a lot of social distancing at the gate of the AnadoluJet flight to Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen.
Unfortunately, the Aida cart was closed, so I couldn't enjoy one last Sachertorte before heading to Bulgaria ?
I walked to the very end of the pier, and it was completely empty, and without construction noises, too!
Combined with the view, I'd say that my new position was better than the lounge ?
After watching a ton of flights landing on Runway 16, I headed back towards my gate.
Flying me down to Sofia was OE-LWE, a 2011-built Embraer 195, which had previously flown for Lufthansa CityLine as D-AEBG. It transferred to Austrian in March 2017.
Boarding was called on time and began with people who require assistance, as well as families with small children, then Priority Boarding. Call me old school, but I firmly believe that families with small children should board after Business and Priority Boarding, not before. As expected, boarding was contact-free, was done through automated boarding gates.
Walking down the jetbridge.
Blurred fuselage shot.
Confirmation of the type.
I was greeting by a very friendly purser who was holding a box of sanitizing wipes for us to take and took my seat, 1F.
Fantastic legroom at the bulkhead.
Just like on the previous flight, nothing but the safety instruction card and an airsickness bag were in the seatback pocket.
Typical Embraer PSU.
An abundance of Austrian arrows on the bulkhead.
The entry area of the aircraft.
Very nice view of the wing and engine.
At the gate next door was Austrian's A319 named Sofia, which instead of flying to its namesake city was off to Hamburg as OS173.
With only 49 passengers, boarding ended very shortly after it began, and once everyone was onboard, Captain Jens added his welcome aboard and announced excellent flying conditions on our 1h10m flight.
As we pushed back, the flight attendants performed the safety briefing.
Passing the Dash Farm on our way to Runway 16.
Lufthansa CityLine CRJ900 'Torgau' preparing for its short flight to Munich.
Passing OE-LGI, the Dash 8 that brought me from Innsbruck earlier in the morning, which had already completed a rotation to Geneva.
People's E170 preparing for its flight to St. Gallen-Altenrhein.
Climbing past Schwachdorf bei Wien.
Right turn near Mannersdorf am Leithagebirge.
Leaving Austria behind for the first time since early March.
The Hungarian part of Neusiedlersee, or as it's known in Hungarian, Fertő tó.
A look back at the empty cabin. Apart from me, there were two other passengers in Business Class, seated in 1A and 2A.
As soon as we reached our initial cruising altitude of 37,000 feet, the flight attendants passed out Health Declaration forms for all passengers to fill out.
In addition to the legroom, another perk of sitting in Row 1 is that the table folds, so if you really need to get out of your seat during the meal service, you don't have to open the tray table of the adjacent seat.
In the past, I've been a bit critical of Austrian Airlines, but all my hard feelings went away when the purser served lunch.
On the short 70-minute flight (in the middle of a pandemic, mind you), Austrian provided a full hot meal. The meal consisted of Gnocchi with Cream Sauce and Tomatoes…
…and a sinfully delicious chocolate cake.
The meal was also served with a little packet of butter…
…and a wet towel.
To drink, I stuck with water. As you can in the photo, warm bread was also offered, and the purser came through the cabin with the bread basket multiple times.
I don't think I need to say how much I enjoyed my meal ? Austrian has the best Business Class catering in Europe, hands down.
View of the Sava River in Serbia.
Cruising at 39,000 feet.
Couple of Cumulonimbus clouds.
As we neared the top of descent, the Captain came over the PA one more time to announce that we'd be landing early in Sofia, and that the weather was slightly rainy and there were light variable winds reported at the airport.
Left turn towards Sofia.
The southern suburbs of Sofia. Sofia isn't the most beautiful city, and I'm not usually terribly excited about going back, but after being stuck in Innsbruck for close to 5 months, I was thrilled to see the city again!
Slowing down during the downwind leg.
Turning left base.
Iskar Reservoir in the distance.
Lined up on final.
Over the perimeter.
Very smooth landing on Runway 27 at 3:02 PM, 12 minutes early, after a flight time of 1h11m.
Vacating the runway.
Taxiing to the apron.
Pulling in to our stand near a Bulgaria Air Embraer 190.
One last look at my seat.
I bid the charming crew goodbye and was the first person to head into the bus to the terminal.
A couple of final shots of OE-LWE.
On the way to the terminal.
Our routing took us more or less directly from Vienna to Sofia via Niš, and we cruised at 37,000 and 39,000 feet.
Only 25 people rode in the bus from the aircraft to the terminal, and the other 24 followed in the next bus. Much to my surprise, our health declaration forms weren't collected, and instead we were just asked from where we originated our journey. Immigration wasn't an issue, and I was curbside around 10 minutes after deplaning the aircraft. Thanks for stopping by this report, please don't hesitate to leave a comment below, and I hope to see you in about a month for the return journey!
Great service and delicious food made me really enjoy this flight.
+ Friendly crew
+ Comfortable Embraer cabin
+ Lots of legroom and space in Row 1
+ Phenomenal catering
+ Nice views
- Only one open lounge at VIE
- Noisy and crowded SKY Lounge
- No entertainment other than the views
Austrian's hard product is basically the same as all other European airlines (though the E195 is probably the nicest narrowbody in their fleet), but their soft product is where they really shine. If I have to fly Business Class in Europe, I'd definitely choose Austrian.