The airline with the best average rating is Austrian Airlines with 7.4/10.
The average flight time is 1 hours and 34 minutes.More information
A warm welcome back to my current Flight-Report series, ladies and gentlemen! In part 3 out of 4 of the series, I'll be flying back to Austria after spending 30 days in Sofia, Bulgaria. This series is regarding my first trip back in the air after being confined in Austria for months. Austria is my favorite country on the planet, so I had no issue being stuck there for a while, but as I'm sure you can imagine I jumped at the chance to fly again, even if it was just for a menial trip to Bulgaria.
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:
OS799 | Vienna - Sofia | Embraer 195
OS800 | Sofia - Vienna | Airbus A320
Though instead, flight OS799 was cancelled, and the return flight was operated by a Dash 8.
After a hassle-free process, I was able to change my flight to the current itinerary, which is as follows:
At the time of booking, OS797 was meant to be operated by an A319, and this flight was meant to be operated by an E195, so it appears that Austrian decided to cut capacity on both of the Sofia legs that I flew.
The reason I flew this trip in Business Class was solely for the purpose of social distancing. As United's new CEO Scott Kirby says, there is no way to social distance your self on an airplane. That's true in Economy Class, but not in Business Class, and especially in Euro Business Classes, where the seat next to you is empty. I had no idea how full flights would be, and I didn't want to risk sitting next to a stranger who may or may not have had Covid. Spending miles on such a short flight in Business Class seemed like a sin, so I ended up booking a Business Saver ticket on LH.com. The VIE-SOF roundtrip cost around €480, and for no extra cost I was able to add the Innsbruck sectors of the trip. To change my flights, I simply called Lufthansa and within 45 minutes my new ticket was confirmed. I was very impressed with the way the whole situation was handled, and it reminded me why I'm loyal to the Lufthansa Group. With all that out of the way, on the the report!
At around 4:00 AM, I picked up a Spark Car off the street and started to quick drive to the airport. Spark is an electric car sharing service in Sofia which is really neat. To rent a Spark Car, simply download the app, create a free account, and unlock the car. If you'd like to learn more about Spark, check out their website.
Another perk about using Spark is that you can park for free anywhere in Sofia. At the airport, there is a dedicated Spark zone, where I dropped off my car around 15 minutes later.
The Spark zone is steps away from the terminal, just behind the taxi stand.
At the entrance to the terminal, everyone's temperature was taken, and entry was only permitted with a proof of travel (I showed my mobile boarding pass). Once in the terminal, I headed to the Lufthansa Group counters, so I could check my suitcase in.
The check-in hall.
Heading to security with the Turkish Airlines flight attendant smiling down on me.
Security and immigration were rather quick, and I headed to the Aspire Lounge.
I was a bit surprised to see the signs that said "new" on the door and inside the lounge, and I also realized that the Lufthansa logo was no longer on the list of airlines with access to the lounge. Once I got in, the agent told me that they only accept Lufthansa passengers, and not Austrian passengers. I think she was a bit confused, but instead of arguing with her I just showed her my Priority Pass card and was let in.
There was only one other person in the lounge, who I assume was on the Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt.
In order to maintain social distancing, some seats were turned away, so people couldn't use them.
I took advantage of the lounge being empty and took pictures of the buffet area, which consists of a coffee machine…
…chocolate bars and Bake Rolls…
…Banitsa, a delicious Bulgarian feta cheese pastry…
…and mini pizzas.
My offerings, which were pretty tasty.
2 minutes before boarding, I left the lounge and headed downstairs to Gate B1.
Priority boarding didn't mean anything, as everyone was herded into a bus.
A light load of only 33 passengers meant that everyone fit into one bus, and a few minutes later we pulled up to the Dash 8 that would fly us back to Vienna.
Funnily enough, the aircraft that would fly me to Vienna was the same one that I flew from Innsbruck to Vienna a month earlier. OE-LGI, named 'Eisenstadt', was built in December 2004, delivered to Austrian Arrows in January 2005, and transferred to Austrian Mainline in July 2012.
Logo of the world's best airline alliance 😉
I was greeted by a friendly purser and shortly after found my seat, 3F.
Legroom was fine, but nothing special.
Like my two previous flights, the safety card and an airsickness bag were the only contents of the seatback pocket.
Located on seat 1C during boarding was a box of sanitizing wipes…
…and the latest edition of the Austrian Magazine, featuring a beautiful picture of my hometown, which seems to be the one sane place in America these days.
Nice view of the fan.
Once everyone was on board, the Captain made his welcome announcement and announced a flight time of 1h30m. Shortly afterwards, the powerplants were fired up and we were on our way to the runway.
Ryanair 737-800 preparing for its flight to Bergamo.
Bulgaria Air E190 resting overnight and an Ellinair 737-300 (operated by Bul Air).
Wizz Air A321 to London-Luton.
Wizz Air A320.
Taxiing to Runway 09.
Left turn towards the north.
The first of many shots of the gorgeous sunrise 😍
As soon as the seatbelt sign was switched off, the purser passed around health declaration forms for entry into Austria. Needless to say they look quite a bit more professional than the Bulgarian declaration forms I showed you in part 2 😂
Shortly after the health declaration was passed around, as the sun continued to rise, the two flight attendants started the meal service.
Breakfast is served!
The breakfast consisted of a delicious open-faced omelette with vegetables, tomatoes, and feta cheese…
…a croissant, the same strawberry cream dessert from my INN-VIE flight…
…and a fruit salad.
I chose orange juice for my drink.
As the flight attendant passed my seat and proceeded to serve a meal to the fellow in 4A, she realized that she was out of meals. After looking at the load sheet, it turned out that the sitting in 1A self-upgraded, and had already started eating his meal. She immediately sent him back to Economy Class, and took his meal away. Of course, she didn't give the guy in 4A a half-eaten meal, but luckily there was an extra meal in the back. I couldn't tell what it was, but it was warm and definitely wasn't the same meal the rest of the passengers were served. That was actually the first time I had witnessed a self-upgrader in action. Props to the crew for handling the situation so professionally with no drama!
As you can tell, it was another fantastic Austrian meal. I'm certain that you can't have such a nice meal on a Dash 8 on any other airline.
I spent the rest of the flight staring out the window.
I mean, with such a beautiful view, what else would you do?
As we began our descent near the eastern tip of Lake Balaton, the Captain came back on the PA to announce that we were around 20 minutes away from landing, and that we'd make a straight-in approach to Runway 29.
Heading into the clouds.
Turning final over Bruck an der Leitha.
Gear coming down.
Over the runway.
Touchdown on Runway 29 at 6:33 AM, 3 minutes early, after a flight time of 1h27m.
Vacating the runway.
Pulling into a remote stand next to an Austrian E195 which had arrived from Tirana an hour earlier.
One final look at my seat.
I bid farewell to the purser and was one of the first to board the bus to the terminal.
Nose of the Eisenstadt…
…and her fuselage.
I love Austrian's tail.
We had a straightforward routing to Vienna, leaving Sofia to the east then turning north to pass Belgrade and Lake Balaton towards our destination. We cruised at 25,000 feet.
The bus ride to the terminal was no more than 7 minutes, and then it was time to clear immigration. I was a little nervous, as I didn't know what to expect with the whole Covid situation, but as it turned out I had nothing to worry about. I'll explain the whole experience in the next report, but in the meantime I hope you enjoyed this report, feel free to leave a comment below, and I hope to see you again in the final installation, which will I hope to publish in the coming weeks!
I don't have much to say other than Austrian made this flight really nice thanks to their catering.
+ Efficient Sofia Airport
+ Friendly crew
+ Beautiful views
+ Fantastic catering
- Not the best Business Class cabin
- No entertainment other than the views
Austrian's hard product is basically the same as all other European airlines (though the Q400 is arguably the most uncomfortable aircraft in the European skies), but their soft product is where they really shine. If I have to fly Business Class in Europe, I'd definitely choose Austrian.