Austrian Airlines, a member of Star Alliance, launched four times a week nonstop flights between Hong Kong and Vienna in 2016. The Austrian flag carrier uses a refurbished B777-200ER aircraft on the route with full-flat 1-2-1 and 2-2-2 configured business class seats. Austrian also flies four times a week from Shanghai and daily from Beijing and Bangkok to Vienna.
All flights are operated as codeshares with Lufthansa and SWISS, giving travellers a plethora of routing options, all at the same price point. You could fly out from Hong Kong to Vienna, take a 1-hour intra-European hop to Frankfurt, Munich or Zurich, spend a few days there and return on any of Lufthansa’s daily flights to Hong Kong, or SWISS’ Zurich-Hong Kong service.
Considering Vienna Airport has a minimum connecting time of 35 minutes only, the new route allows for very quick and easy connections to anywhere in Central and Eastern Europe and this is a great alternative to skipping London, Frankfurt and Paris as the traditional stopover points.
Austrian flights depart from HKIA’s relatively new Midfield Concourse (MFC). At the time of my flight, Star Alliance airlines did not have their own dedicated lounges at MFC so I visited the Singapore Airlines lounge in the main terminal near gate 15 instead.
Despite lacking natural light, the Singapore Airlines lounge is my favourite Star Alliance lounge at HKIA. The facility is large, split between first and business class, and features an adequate buffet spread with offerings changing depending on the time of day. One of Singapore’s favourite – Laksa – and Hong Kong-style wonton noodles are available on request throughout the whole day. Both will be freshly prepared as per individual orders.
The bar is manned. The friendly attendants will be happy to whip up a mean Singapore Sling, an old-fashioned or simply pour you a glass of champagne – Piper Heidsieck in this case.
As a Star Gold passenger, you could also visit the United Club near gate 61 or the THAI Royal Silk Lounge next door. Both lounges offer business centres and shower facilities, as well as an open bar and a buffet section. The facilities open daily from 6am to midnight and welcome Star Alliance Gold cardholders travelling in economy class too.
I left the lounge at 1025 and made my way to the MFC, which took around ten minutes. Priority boarding for the 1100 flight began at 1030; once on the plane I was directed toward my seat, my jacket was hung up, I was offered a choice of water, freshly-squeezed orange juice or a Campari cocktail. I asked for a glass of champagne instead, which was “no problem at all” and delivered within a minute.
Austrian offers a “Chef on board” service and he came round delivering menus, explaining all options in great detail and taking orders for the lunch main course. What struck me most was his in-depth knowledge of the menu offerings. He even proactively offered to customize my lunch, taking bits and pieces from various meal options to create an entirely new dish. I thought this was very cool and by far the best on-board chef experience I have had so far.
There were a good quality blanket and a large pillow waiting for me. Nevertheless, the crew said I should just give them a shout if I needed extras; they said they had “plenty”. There was also a well-stocked amenity kit, made from organic felt.
Business class on Austrian’s B777 comes in a staggered 1-2-1/2-2-2 configuration in two cabins of seven and three rows each.
I was in seat 3A, a “throne” window seat in a 1-2-1 row with direct aisle access. The seat was very private and comfortable with wide armrests on both sides and a touchscreen control panel that included a single “sleep” mode, extending the seat flat with one touch, plus a massage function.
Under a flap were more controls for monitor volume, attendant call, overhead light and monitor standby. At shoulder height is a small pocket that a smartphone fits neatly into, plus a USB and universal power point.
Each seat features large individual monitors with on-demand entertainment. I found the selection to be good. I particularly enjoyed the option of several German-language classics that I had not watched in many years.
For single and business travellers the single window seats in the 1-2-1 rows (1,3,5,7,9) offer the most privacy, but the window seats in the 2-2-2 rows require you to clamber over your neighbour to reach the aisle, so I would avoid those if possible.
Rows 1, 7 and 8 have a galley in the front or back, which could get pretty noisy, especially during the meal service. Row 10 borders on the economy infant bassinet row.
The service began with a round of drinks, followed by an extensive 2-hour lunch. Let me just say upfront that the F&B selection, presentation and execution was the best I’ve experienced in the air.
Lunch kicked off with a fantastic antipasti trolley the crew took round the cabin loaded with veal carpaccio on truffle cream, smoked salmon and herring, goat’s cheese, mozzarella and tomato, fresh greens and a chicken and avocado timbale. This was followed by a rich lentil cream soup, which was served piping hot and had a great flavour.
For mains, there was a choice of either homemade pappardelle with oxtail, roasted salmon with spinach or a Chinese stir-fry. I had the salmon and it was crisp and delicious on the outside and perfectly medium rare moist on the inside. A very good main course.
The dessert trolley was equally delectable. There was a cheese board, a fruit plate and three cake and mousse options. Although I was stuffed at that point, I sampled a bit of each and was not disappointed. Every dish was tasty and surprisingly light.
I am a coffee connoisseur and as such my heart jumped when I saw the coffee specialty listings. There were 10 options altogether, from classics such as “Brauner” and “Schwarzer” in small or large servings, to the milky “Wiener Melange” and the “Einspänner” – espresso with whipped cream and powdered sugar – to the traditional “Fiaker” – black coffee with cognac and whipped cream.
The onboard bar was also top-notch, stocked with champagne, prosecco, three whites including an amazing Riesling, three reds and a dessert wine.
The crew were incredibly professional and fun to interact with. They took their job seriously and every crew member I interacted with had great knowledge of the inflight product, amenities, menus, etc. They were very engaging but not annoying and provided good recommendations of things to do in and around Vienna.
I worked for almost four hours after lunch, watched a movie and then fell into a deep and unexpected slumber only to wake up 35 minutes before landing in Vienna. The crew said they would have woken me up earlier but because I looked tired they thought it’d be better off sleeping – ha! Well, I did not mind and was really impressed when they brought me a double espresso without me even asking for one. It sounds silly, but they truly read my mind and that is something priceless on a long-haul flight.
We landed in Vienna five minutes ahead of schedule despite our late departure. It was a bit of a walk to the baggage carousel but my priority-tagged bag was already when I got there. Well done.
A great experience that easily rivals some comparable long-haul first class flights I have taken this year. The seat was comfortable and private, the catering was second to none and the crew courteous, motivated and knowledgeable.