Review: Austrian Business Class A320 (VIE-FCO)

Review: Austrian Business Class A320 (VIE-FCO)

FROM: VIE
TO: FCO
CABIN: Business
DATE: January 2023
REVIEW RATING:
BEN SAYS: Austrian offers a pleasant intra-Europe business class experience, with hot meals, power outlets, and Wi-Fi on many planes. It's still nothing to get excited about, though.
22
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After crossing the Atlantic in Austrian’s Boeing 777 business class and spending the night at the Andaz Vienna, I connected in Austrian’s Airbus A320 business class to Rome.

Intra-Europe business class is rarely anything to get excited about, and usually the differences between airlines are very subtle, since you typically get an economy seat with a blocked middle and better catering. The differences comes down to whether there are power outlets or Wi-Fi, how good the food is, and if the legroom is just not great or downright awful.

On balance, my experience on Austrian was pleasant. Let’s take a closer look…

How I booked my Austrian business class ticket

I booked my Austrian business class ticket using points. Specifically, I redeemed 115,000 Air Canada Aeroplan points to fly from Chicago to Vienna to Rome to Bahrain to Singapore to Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, all in business class.

For more details on how I booked that, see my post about how to redeem Aeroplan points like a pro. Aeroplan points are easy to come by, as the program is transfer partners with Amex Membership RewardsCapital One, and Chase Ultimate Rewards. On top of that, there’s the Aeroplan® Credit Card (review) in the United States, which is phenomenal.

Specific to the Austrian Airlines portion of my trip, here were the two flights I flew on Austrian (I reviewed the first segment in a separate post):

1/05 OS66 Chicago to Vienna departing 4:20PM arriving 8:20AM (+1 day)
1/07 OS501 Vienna to Rome departing 7:55AM arriving 9:30AM

Austrian business class lounge & boarding Vienna

In the last installment I reviewed the Austrian Senator Lounge Vienna, which I visited prior to my flight. My flight was departing from gate F8, roughly a five minute walk from the lounge. The flight was scheduled to depart at 7:55AM, so I headed to the gate at around 7AM, to leave some extra time.

Vienna Airport terminal

I generally find that boarding in Europe is pretty civilized, as people typically only approach the gate when boarding is announced. Well, that wasn’t the case here. For whatever reason, seemingly just about everyone on the plane lined up 50 minutes ahead of departure. The gate agent asked everyone to take a seat and told them boarding would happen in a specific order, but no one listened.

Vienna Airport departure gate

Boarding ended up starting at 7:25AM, 30 minutes ahead of schedule, with business class passengers being invited to board first. As you’d expect, getting around all these passengers wasn’t easy, since no one seemed to understand that it wasn’t a free for all.

Vienna Airport departure gate

Austrian A320 business class cabin & seats

As is standard on intra-Europe flights, business class simply consisted of economy seats with a blocked middle. There’s a curtain between cabins which can be moved with each flight, giving the airline the ability to adjust capacity to reflect demand.

On this flight there were a total of two rows of business class, for a total of eight seats.

Austrian Airlines A320 business class cabin

While I usually avoid bulkhead seats, on intra-Europe flights they’re typically the best option, since they do feature significantly more than standard economy legroom.

Austrian Airlines A320 business class seats

Only three of the eight business class seats were occupied, and both of those passengers were seated in the window seats in the first row. As a result, I selected 2A, the window seat on the left side in the second row.

Austrian Airlines A320 business class seats

While the middle seat was blocked, there was no little tray table on the center seat, as you’ll find on some airlines. Rather there was just a headrest indicating that the seat was reserved for more comfort.

Austrian Airlines A320 business class blocked middle seat

I was pleasantly surprised by the legroom. It was by no means spacious, but it felt better than on many other short haul planes in Europe. While Austrian allegedly has 30″ of pitch on its A320s, I wonder if the first few rows might have a bit more space, because it didn’t feel quite that tight.

Austrian Airlines A320 business class legroom
Austrian Airlines A320 business class legroom

On the seatback in front was a tray table that folded down, and then a literature pocket underneath that.

Austrian Airlines A320 business class tray table

Underneath the seat were USB-A and USB-C outlets, so that was nice at least. While it would be ideal to also have an AC power outlet, this is a lot more than you’ll find on many other airlines.

Austrian Airlines A320 business class power outlet

The overhead consoles had reading lights and individual air nozzles.

Austrian Airlines A320 overhead console

While I’ve had more comfortable premium seats, it was cozy to have the whole second row to myself.

Austrian Airlines A320 business class cabin
Austrian Airlines A320 business class cabin

The only real additional business class amenity was that there was a small, bright red pillow for each passenger.

Austrian Airlines business class pillow

It’s my understanding that Austrian is installing Wi-Fi on its Airbus A320s, though the plane I was flying on unfortunately didn’t feature this.

Austrian A320 departure from Vienna

Usually I find that boarding in Europe is pretty efficient, but that wasn’t really the case on this flight. Admittedly the flight was full, but even so, boarding seemed to be taking forever. It was interesting to observe the process.

While the purser was very friendly to business class passengers during the flight, she didn’t have the same warmth toward passengers during boarding. Rather than greeting passengers, she avoided eye contact, and just stared at each passenger’s bags as they boarded, without saying anything. She’d periodically make passengers place bags in the business class overhead bin just to demonstrate that they would fit, before allowing them to continue to be carried further. She’d also make comments about luggage (“even the little kids have to carry their own large bags!”).

While I can appreciate the importance of ensuring there is enough room for bags, I think there’s a polite way to go about it, while still greeting passengers.

A moment before 7:55AM the main cabin door closed, at which point the captain made his welcome aboard announcement, informing us of our flight time of 70 minutes. A moment later a manual safety demonstration was performed.

Around 8AM we began our pushback, just as the sun was starting to rise.

View from gate at Vienna Airport

We started our taxi at 8:05AM. It was just a five minute taxi to the departure runway. During that time there were some nice plane spotting opportunities, as there were other Austrian jets parked at remote stands.

Taxiing Vienna Airport
Austrian Embraer E195 Vienna Airport
Austrian Airbus A320 Vienna Airport
Taxiing Vienna Airport

By 8:10AM we were cleared for takeoff, and we began a quick takeoff roll and steep climb for Rome. I just gazed out the window at the beautiful earth below.

View after takeoff from Vienna Airport
View after takeoff from Vienna Airport

Austrian business class snack service

The seatbelt sign was turned off just five minutes after takeoff, at which point the curtains were closed between the galley and business class, and between business class and economy class.

Austrian Airlines business class curtains
Austrian Airlines business class curtains

About 10 minutes later the purser served the inflight snack. On this flight it was a ham and egg crepe with a side of yogurt and a selection from the bread basket. There’s no denying that Austrian’s intra-Europe catering is significantly better than on many other airlines, as the airline serves hot meals on flights where Lufthansa and SWISS don’t.

Personally I didn’t love this meal since I don’t eat pork, but that’s also on me for not ordering a special meal (however, I generally avoid ordering special meals so that I can see what other people would be served).

Austrian business class breakfast
Austrian business class breakfast
Austrian business class breakfast

Once the trays were brought out, the crew served drinks. I ordered a glass of still water and a cup of coffee.

Austrian business class drinks

I have to say, the purser was very pleasant and attentive during the flight, and took great care of the three business class passengers.

At roughly the halfway point of the flight, the crew distributed chocolates, which I believe were also offered in economy (even though the airline otherwise has a buy on board service).

Austrian business class chocolate

Austrian A320 business class lavatory

There was a lavatory at the front of the cabin, reserved for business class guests. It was exactly what you’d expect. However, I’d note that there were no special amenities, and for that matter the soap pump was empty as well, which wasn’t ideal (and is a bit strange for the first flight of the morning).

Austrian business class lavatory

Austrian A320 arrival in Rome

At around 8:50AM local time the first officer announced we’d soon be descending. Even though it was an overcast day, the views on the entire descent were gorgeous, as you can see below.

View approaching Rome Airport
View approaching Rome Airport
View approaching Rome Airport
View approaching Rome Airport

We touched down at Rome Fiumicino Airport at 9:20AM, and from there had a 10 minute taxi to the arrival gate. While my eyes are always glued outside when taxiing at airports, that’s especially the case in Rome, given what a strange airline ITA Airways is.

On the one hand, I was kind of impressed by how many planes were already painted in the ITA Airways livery. On the other hand, I was amazed by how many planes were still flying around as Alitalia, roughly 15 months after the airline ceased to exist (technically).

Taxiing Rome Airport
Taxiing Rome Airport

Also, are those Alitalia 777s really all parked at Rome Airport? You’d think that if they were to be put into long term storage, it would be somewhere else.

Taxiing Rome Airport

We ended up pulling into a gate right next to a Ryanair Boeing 737.

Arrival gate Rome Airport
Ryanair Boeing 737 Rome Airport

That also gave me my first view of the Austrian A320 I had just flown, as there was no view at the departure gate.

Austrian Airbus A320 Rome Airport

From there I had to hustle to make my Gulf Air connecting flight to Bahrain.

Bottom line

I had a perfectly pleasant 70-minute flight in Austrian’s A320 business class. I appreciate that Austrian has power outlets, decent legroom, pillows, and hot meals, even on short flights. While the airline has Wi-Fi on many short haul jets, it wasn’t my lucky day in that regard.

The only real downside to the flight otherwise was the chaotic boarding process, and the general attitude of the crew toward passengers at that time.

What do you make of Austrian’s A320 business class?

Conversations (22)
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  1. Mark F Guest

    I find the price premium in the US between Economy and First Class to be usually larger than the price premium in Europe between Economy and Eurobiz. I know what I am getting. I am not too pressed about the seat on an hour flight.

    This past summer when European airports were melting down, paying a little more for Eurobiz saved me hours in lines to check bags, and hours in lines for security,...

    I find the price premium in the US between Economy and First Class to be usually larger than the price premium in Europe between Economy and Eurobiz. I know what I am getting. I am not too pressed about the seat on an hour flight.

    This past summer when European airports were melting down, paying a little more for Eurobiz saved me hours in lines to check bags, and hours in lines for security, and hours in line for customer service when I inevitably misconnected. The seat was secondary. I find it totally worth it based upon the small premium charged.

  2. Julia Guest

    In terms of EU/US business class, both have their strengths.

    US - the seat
    EU - lounge access and meals

    Obviously on longer and premium US routes, you do get some decent meals, and occasionally you might score a wide-body plane within the EU when they are training employees. But lets be honest, at the end of the day, the best short and medium haul business class product is to be found within...

    In terms of EU/US business class, both have their strengths.

    US - the seat
    EU - lounge access and meals

    Obviously on longer and premium US routes, you do get some decent meals, and occasionally you might score a wide-body plane within the EU when they are training employees. But lets be honest, at the end of the day, the best short and medium haul business class product is to be found within Asia and the Middle East, since on those flights you get the seat, lounge access, and a decent meal.

  3. Samo Guest

    "For whatever reason, seemingly just about everyone on the plane lined up 50 minutes ahead of departure." - Whatever reason being that you were flying to Italy. Of course the boarding process is not gonna be civilised.

    1. Marco Guest

      Italians are usually scared that the airline will sell their seat to someone else / won't find space for their hand baggage / the airplane will leave without them if they don't line up at the gate at least 1 hour before the flight.

  4. vlcnc Guest

    Intra-European business class is literally a waste of money and miles - will never understand why you bloggers insist on using it and covering it. The pragmatic and sensible advice to readers would be save your cash/miles.

    1. Lukas Gold

      It's FREE as part of an award itinerary which includes long-haul business class flight(s), that's why it's posted here.

    2. vlcnc Guest

      Not necessarily - it depends how the trip has been planned. But even so I have no idea why this is not made clear, that fine if you have it part of your itinerary as standard but that its not worth it if you are paying or getting a reward flight just for that sector.

    3. VladG Member

      It really depends. Just yesterday I bought an intra-EU business class flight (two segments) that priced out at 50€ more than the Economy one. For 50€ it's worth it just for the extra miles and the free adjacent seat.

  5. ArnoldB Guest

    OS' A320s have 32" space in the first 7 rows, as 2-7 rows are the usual business class amount. So when there is less business class, it is recommended to get one of the front economy rows to have the same space. Exception are the 5 ex-Airberlin A320s (OE-LX#), which are horrible even at the front.

  6. TheBestBlackBrent Gold

    So Austrian gets rated for Wifi, but then the plane does not have Wifi?
    This is like Skytrax worthy reviewing, handing out stars for features that are not onboard.

  7. John Guest

    I generally find euro business to be disappointing especially after the 22+ hour flights in international business from Australia to Europe but I know what to expect and it is just the way it is and while the actual seat is a let down I have usually found the lounges and service to be pretty good.

    Luckily these days thanks mainly to Emirates the number of cities that you can fly directly into from...

    I generally find euro business to be disappointing especially after the 22+ hour flights in international business from Australia to Europe but I know what to expect and it is just the way it is and while the actual seat is a let down I have usually found the lounges and service to be pretty good.

    Luckily these days thanks mainly to Emirates the number of cities that you can fly directly into from Dubai means that a lot more cities can now be reached without an intra-European flight.

    I have been flying for a long time and remember back in the 1980's Qantas economy seats on their 747 were a typical row of three seats not unlike the ones you get today, but the middle seat was a little different in that about 3/4 of the seatback below the headrest could be folded forward to form sort of a centre console and the armrests between the outer and middle seats could be folded up so they were flush so if the middle seat was free you got a couple of extra inches of width and a nice dividing area and on a couple of transpacific flights made them a pleasure.

    These seats would seem like a nicer form of euro business that would still allow them to be used as economy depending on demand, and a couple of extra inches of legroom wouldn't go astray.

  8. Grey Diamond

    You seem surprised at the extra legroom, but it is pretty common for a lot of carriers that the first few rows have extra legroom, as they are most likely to be business class.

    Everybody loves to bitch about Eurobiz, but I hardly think it is the worst, as I would argue US domestic first is considerably worse. Most flights in Europe are 1-3 hours. The seat with an empty middle is quite sufficient for...

    You seem surprised at the extra legroom, but it is pretty common for a lot of carriers that the first few rows have extra legroom, as they are most likely to be business class.

    Everybody loves to bitch about Eurobiz, but I hardly think it is the worst, as I would argue US domestic first is considerably worse. Most flights in Europe are 1-3 hours. The seat with an empty middle is quite sufficient for that. Additionally, unlike the US, European airlines don't fill up the cabins, so you have a decent chance to get a row of 3 to yourself. And to me, a row of 3 is far more comfortable than the US domestic first seats. Additionally the empty middle gives a space to put the laptop or drinks so you have more room if you are working while eating. And it does give the airlines more flexibility with their fleets. I have been on flights where the business class cabin has gone back past the exit rows on an A320. Have also been on flights where only row 1 was business class. And the same plane can do both.

    But while you can argue about the seats, the other aspects of business class are clearly in favour of the European carriers. First, the lounge access, which the US carriers don't provide. And second, the meals, which the US carriers will provide only if you take a flight that goes a certain distance departing between certain hours, etc. Otherwise, if the cabin crew is feeling generous enough to walk down the aisle, you will be presented with the delightful choice between a bag of crisps or an apple.

    So everybody can go on and on about how awful European short haul business class is, and while I would agree that there are definitely airlines that do it better, (primarily in Asia) but to me, it surely beats US domestic first class any day...

    1. Never In Doubt Guest

      “I would argue US domestic first is considerably worse.”

      That’s just straight up nonsense.

      “Most flights in Europe are 1-3 hours”

      Newsflash, most US domestic flights are 1-3 hours.

  9. Khatl Diamond

    I don't understand how it gets 4 stars? It's your blog of course, but I'd assess against all business classes. Clearly, unless I'm missing that they were serving Krug, laid on massages, had showers on board etc., you didn't do that.

    By way of comparison, the seat/pitch are inferior to US domestic first (aka business class) and, certainly, are way inferior to most intercontinental business classes. It may be 4 stars for an intra-European business...

    I don't understand how it gets 4 stars? It's your blog of course, but I'd assess against all business classes. Clearly, unless I'm missing that they were serving Krug, laid on massages, had showers on board etc., you didn't do that.

    By way of comparison, the seat/pitch are inferior to US domestic first (aka business class) and, certainly, are way inferior to most intercontinental business classes. It may be 4 stars for an intra-European business class, but that seems a narrow set to be assessing against.

    Any insight you can share on what 4 stars actually means and what the peer group is that gets Austrian to 4 stars.

    1. Grey Diamond

      Because nobody expects Krug and massage on a shorthaul business class flight?
      If you ordered an UberX would you give them a 1 star review because they were not driving a Rolls Royce?
      If you stayed in a cheap room in a hotel, would you give them a 1 star review because you didn't stay in a suite?
      I mean, reviews like that would be useless...

  10. Daniel Guest

    LH group short haul planes generelly have more legspace in the first rows. That's why it's always better to get a seat in the first rows, even when "business class" (always sounds like a joke using that name for the intra-europe product) can reach quite far to the back. Can't tell how many rows got that extra space though. I would expect at least 3-4.

  11. Avi Guest

    I can't understand why in the US there is a real business class with seats that justify the price and in Europe there is this joke of a blocked seat and that's it. With all due respect to the food and the services and the lounge, in the end the most important thing in business class is the seat itself and in Europe it is simply a normal economy seat. In my personal opinion the...

    I can't understand why in the US there is a real business class with seats that justify the price and in Europe there is this joke of a blocked seat and that's it. With all due respect to the food and the services and the lounge, in the end the most important thing in business class is the seat itself and in Europe it is simply a normal economy seat. In my personal opinion the price simply does not justify this strange thing called intra-European business class I accept that in the end it is a matter of personal taste but this is my opinion anyway.

    1. Icarus Guest

      That’s not entirely true. On certain US domestic routes where they operate wide bodied jets eg NYC LAX. On shorter routes there’s nothing special whatsoever. First class Atlanta to Orlando is not worthy of the name.

      Also remember European carriers generally do not schedule wide bodied jets on European flights.

      They are also competing with Ryanair and EasyJet.

      Then again Air France Paris to reunion, Guadeloupe or Martinique is domestic with full...

      That’s not entirely true. On certain US domestic routes where they operate wide bodied jets eg NYC LAX. On shorter routes there’s nothing special whatsoever. First class Atlanta to Orlando is not worthy of the name.

      Also remember European carriers generally do not schedule wide bodied jets on European flights.

      They are also competing with Ryanair and EasyJet.

      Then again Air France Paris to reunion, Guadeloupe or Martinique is domestic with full intercontinental service.

    2. Icarus Guest

      To add, there’s generally no free lounge access in the US. You fly a premium cabin and can’t automatically access a lounge. Pathetic.

    3. Petri Diamond

      @Avi Economics dictate the practice. Same route, same plane may on occasion carry 3 business class passengers, but on some other day, when the EU people/affiliated personnel is flying to/from their home, there might be 40 business class passengers.

    4. Daniel Guest

      Most routes between European Capitals have a flight time of 30 min to max 3 hours, there is no incentive to real business class on such short routes.
      You can fly for example Keflavik to Las Palmas for 6 hours, so a flight within Europe can be comparable to the US but these routes is pure leisure.

    5. Samo Guest

      Different preferences. European customers seem to value airport services more than having a larger seat on board. If airlines were to offer a dedicated business class cabin, this would raise the costs, especially since different flights need different Y/C ratio. Then they'd either need to charge even more for the product, or cut airport services which are alfa & omega of business class for most passengers.

      Personally, I don't really see why I'd need a...

      Different preferences. European customers seem to value airport services more than having a larger seat on board. If airlines were to offer a dedicated business class cabin, this would raise the costs, especially since different flights need different Y/C ratio. Then they'd either need to charge even more for the product, or cut airport services which are alfa & omega of business class for most passengers.

      Personally, I don't really see why I'd need a larger seat on flights up to 3-4 hours. I certainly wouldn't pay more to get it. There just isn't any benefit, I'm comfortable in most economy seats for such a short flight, despite being quite fat.

      There are some long flights in Europe (e.g. Portugal, Iceland, etc), but they are too few to justify a separate product. Not to mention that those seem to be leisure-oriented with lack of business class demand.

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Icarus Guest

To add, there’s generally no free lounge access in the US. You fly a premium cabin and can’t automatically access a lounge. Pathetic.

3
Mark F Guest

I find the price premium in the US between Economy and First Class to be usually larger than the price premium in Europe between Economy and Eurobiz. I know what I am getting. I am not too pressed about the seat on an hour flight. This past summer when European airports were melting down, paying a little more for Eurobiz saved me hours in lines to check bags, and hours in lines for security, and hours in line for customer service when I inevitably misconnected. The seat was secondary. I find it totally worth it based upon the small premium charged.

2
Grey Diamond

Because nobody expects Krug and massage on a shorthaul business class flight? If you ordered an UberX would you give them a 1 star review because they were not driving a Rolls Royce? If you stayed in a cheap room in a hotel, would you give them a 1 star review because you didn't stay in a suite? I mean, reviews like that would be useless...

2
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