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Review: Austrian Airlines short haul business class from London to Vienna

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This is our review of short haul business class on Austrian Airlines.

It’s easy to get jaded with a home airline – in our case, British Airways – but every so often it is worth sticking your head above the parapet and trying a different European airline to see how it compares.

This year, I’ve been trying to do just that. Last week I reviewed ITA Airways from London City to Milan. In a few weeks I will be trying out Aegean Airlines’ business class on a flight to Rhodes, based on positive feedback from some of you in the comments.

Review: Austrian Airlines short haul business class from London to Vienna

Today, it is the turn of Austrian Airlines. Part of Lufthansa Group, it is a relatively small airline with 68 aircraft in its fleet, including just 10 widebodies. Despite the modest fleet, it flies to 120 destinations globally, albeit largely within Europe.

Austrian Airlines is part of Lufthansa’s Miles & More loyalty scheme as well as a member of Star Alliance in its own right.

Before departure

My flight ticket was paid for by Priority Pass, who had invited me to their ‘Lounge of the Year’ ceremony in Vienna. I managed to upgrade to the business class cabin online for £102.70 one-way.

I’m not going to pretend that was a particularly good rate. The value partly depends on how many of perks of business class – lounge access, fast track, a meal, free drinks, extra luggage allowance etc – you actually need or do not already have via elite status.

It also, of course, partly depends on how bothered you are about spending £102.70. I persuaded Rob that this review was a good use of HfP resources.

As I was travelling with hand baggage only, I checked in online via the app (which actually works, unlike a certain other airline’s we could mention) and headed straight to the Fast Track security channel at Heathrow Terminal 2.

If you are travelling in business on Austrian Airlines you automatically have access to the Lufthansa Business Lounge in Terminal 2. I reviewed this lounge in 2021 (click here) and not enough had changed to justify covering it again.

However, you can also use this lounge if you hold are an Amex Platinum cardholder even if you’re flying in economy on Austrian. If you are ticketed in business class, an Amex Platinum card lets you use the separate Senator Lounge room at the back of the main lounge.

I headed to the gate about 30 minutes before departure to find a slightly messy boarding process. The lone customer in Group 1 had been pre-boarded – I assume he was a HON Circle Miles & More customer. I was in Group 2.

Group 3 was then lined up for boarding before Group 2. This confused me and several others. When I tried to board with Group 3 I was told to return to the other queue for Group 2 and, to be fair, we did actually board before them in the end.

On board Austrian Airlines

The forward business class cabin was relatively empty when I booked, but I wasn’t able to select any seats in row 1. I imagine this is because they are reserved for top-tier customers – of which, given my lapsed Star Alliance Gold status, I am no longer one.

Fortunately, I was able to change my seat at check-in when any remaining seats in row 1 were made available. I was able to choose 1A.

Review: Austrian Airlines short haul business class from London to Vienna

As a bulkhead row, it comes with plenty of legroom, as you can see:

Review: Austrian Airlines short haul business class from London to Vienna

However, I also made a point of sitting in row 2 behind me, as a test, and the legroom was ample there as well – more than enough for little old 6’2″ me. Apparently leg room is a minimum of 30″ on the A320neos, which is an upgrade of 1″ from Austrian’s older A320s.

As is typical for ‘eurobusiness’, the middle seat is kept empty although in this case I had the entire row to myself. The seats are a bit of a drab grey colour, although some Austrian personality does shine through with the red seat belts and antimacassars.

Review: Austrian Airlines short haul business class from London to Vienna

Once all passengers had boarded (all 20 or so of us!) the crew came round offering refreshing towelettes.

Very helpfully, the first officer buzzed in over the PA to tell us we were 9th in the queue and would be off in about 15 minutes. It’s the sort of pro-active passenger announcement I wish more pilots (and airlines) made, especially at Heathrow.

After takeoff, the crew got busy in the galley preparing the meal service. Once the seat belt signs came off they came around and offered a drink. I asked for champagne and received some Austrian sparkling wine – sekt – which was exceptionally fizzy.

Review: Austrian Airlines short haul business class from London to Vienna

Roughly ten minutes later I was offered the full meal, in this case lunch. Austrian Airlines prides itself on good food – on long haul flights, business class passengers get a ‘Flying Chef’ – and was the first airline to partner with ‘premium’ caterer DO&CO back in 2007.

You don’t get a choice or menu, and I received something typically Austrian: mash potatoes with three small sausages and a creamy green-bean sauce. Whilst it may not look like much:

Review: Austrian Airlines short haul business class from London to Vienna

….it was fantastic. The mash potatoes were deliciously creamy, the green beans lovely and al dente. Regardless of whether you’re a fan of Austrian cuisine, this was perfectly cooked. The only thing missing was a refreshing cucumber salad to cut through the relatively heavy mash and sausages.

Dessert was a profiterole, which I’m not always a huge fan of but in this case was just right.

The crew were very attentive and asked if I needed another drink mid-meal, as well as coming round with tea or coffee.

The service was concluded with a big chocolate button and another drinks round:

Review: Austrian Airlines short haul business class from London to Vienna

Conclusion

When it comes to the actual seat, business class on European airlines is much of a muchness: virtually all of them offer a blocked middle seat, a little extra legroom and little else. No US-style Domestic First here or regional Asian lie-flat seats.

Where things vary is largely with the food and service, and I’m pleased to report that Austrian delivered. The crew were all friendly and attentive, popping round multiple times to ask if I wanted a top up.

Meanwhile, DO&CO’s catering was excellent with my meal cooked to perfection. No overcooked, soggy green beans here! The only improvement I would suggest is offering a choice of main courses.

Well done Austrian Airlines. Let’s see what Aegean has of offer in a few weeks, on what will admittedly be a far longer flight.

Head for Points made a financial contribution to the Woodland Trust as part of this trip. The Woodland Trust creates and manages forests in the UK in accordance with the Woodland Carbon Code.

Comments (97)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • mvcvz says:

    Perhaps I just have odd tastes, but that meal looks unspeakably vile in every respect. Had someone served it to me, they would have been at significant risk of me throwing up all over them.

    • MarcR says:

      I agree, I am actually from Vienna, now living between Spain and Switzerland and recently did the same as the author. Upgrade on a 3.25hr flight from Malaga to Vienna. Lacklustre spirit in service and then this German style sausage dish as only option. This dish is more German than Austrian and I would mind to get this on a sausage stand (in Vienna Würstelstand) at 4am after a bender through the local bar scene…BUT Do&Co has been so much better in the past. As I fly regularly Swiss now, everything there is several levels up. I rather buy a Sprungli sandwich in Eco, way better than this. Rant over 😉

    • Sideshowbob says:

      I had this dish on my business class flight. It was vile. It makes me realise BA Club has a good meal offering.

    • Richard M says:

      Yes, bit of a weird offering, the sort of thing you might have been given in Economy 30 years ago

  • SpaceX says:

    Our experience of Austrian and Swiss is short haul fine – post-lockdown long haul not fine so now avoid long haul on either.

  • Simon says:

    You were lucky to receive a drink first before the meal on Austrian. On nearly every flight previously we took on the London Viena route we were given the meal first and offered a drink at the same time. Perhaps the feedback paid off and it’s now drinks followed by a meal. Small and possibly petty things…. but it is nice to have a G&T initially and then be offered something to eat shortly after. We switched to Luthansa & Swiss as they seem to always offer a drink first and it’s a less rushed service…. We are STAR fans so we used to book the cheapest Business Class we could get with Swiss, Luthansa or Austrian and occasionally Agean… but we would happily pay a little extra for the service not to be so rushed as we experienced on Austrian (Did they know you were coming on board to complete a review? You were lucky to be offered multiple times drinks outside of the initial service of a drink and meal, we are Gold Stars and never had the service you received, you lucky thing 👍). I think you will like Agean as they are excellent in business (as you know it can depend on the crew and how they want to do the service sometimes on the day)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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