Thursday March 1, 2007
I'm up at 4:30 am, and it's too early to think.
By 5:30, we've picked up Mom and are driving to the airport. I'm well on my way to a full blown panic attack. As much as I love to travel, I'm really bad at it. Actually, the worst part is the trip to the airport.
By the time we get there, I'm ok. We check in, spend a little time in the united red carpet room and then head for the gate.
It's been a long time since I've flown business class and I have to say, seat 12J is pretty darn nice. It's not often when you can't touch the seat in front of you (for those of us who are regularly back in coach). We're offered a pre-flight drink (water or OJ, hey,it's early!) and we take off. The flight is easy, we have a full breakfast of a pretty bad frittata, fruit, warm croissant and some scary sausage. I watch Marie Antoinette, and while I generally like Sophia Copola movies, I find it had to be sympathetic to this queen. After the movie, I sleep a bit and then suddenly, we're here.
Fortunately, we're on the same concourse and we have a couple of hours before our flight to Vienna on Austrian Airlines. Austrian doesn't have a business lounge here, so we head for the closest Red Carpet room which turns out to be (what feels like) a 3 mile hike away in the next terminal. "Oh, it's just through there"...20 minutes of walking and we are finally there. The lounge is packed and we and we find seats in a far corner. I'm hoping to get online and I think "score!", the DC airport has free WiFi. Unfortunately, I cannot figure out how to get it to connect to the internet. Everyone around me seems to be on their laptop, so it could just be me. Who knows? I hope this is not a preview of the rest of the trip.
On the way back to our departure gate we see the red carpet room in terminal D, right across from where we had deplaned. Boy, do we feel dumb. I guess it really was closer than we thought.
Warning: this is a highly detailed description of our flight experience because it was so freakin' impressive. If boring, skip to next entry.
As soon as we get on the plane we can see that we are in one of Austrian's brand new business class cabins. We are offered a glass of sparking wine (a nice prosecco), offered menus and asked to select our choices for breakfast. The cabin crew seems to be mostly male, and we nickname the two guys up front with us Dieter#1 and Dieter #2. They are both incredibly nice.
Seats-The seats are amazing with multiple electronic controls to rival the space shuttle. In fact, we are told by Dieter #1 that this is only the second trip this particular plane has made with the newly configured seats. He also warns us not to push too many of the buttons at once. Dieter #2, gives us a brochure which explains all the bells and gizmos of the seats, some really useful (like nooks for books and personal lights on bending arms) and some not so good (like a "massage" function in the back of the seat which does not much more than make the seat feel like it's "breathing" behind you). The seats are inside their own "shell" which is nice because then the person behind you is not pulling on your seat back when they are trying to get out. In general, these seats rock compared to United's business class. Austrian does not have 1st class, so this is as good as it gets here.
Food- I have to say this is probably the best meal I have ever had on a plane. I had read that each plane came with a personal chef, but was still shocked to see a short young man in a white chef's coat on our flight. Meals are served on real china, with glassware and multiple sets of silver. There is a separate wine list and I had a lovely 2004 Zantho Zweigelt red wine with my meal. Other options included a couple of Spanish, French and Italian wines.
For the food, we were offered a little amuse of proscuitto bruschetta, grilled zucchini rolled around goat cheese, and two nicoise olives. Next, came buffalo mozzarella with tomatoes and fresh basil and (gasp!) a soup course with a really, really good creamy pumpkin soup complete with a garnish of toasted pumpkin seeds. For the main course I selected the filet of beef with came a perfect medium rare (how did they do that??) with peppercorn sauce and a baked potato. Desserts were chose from a cart and included cheeses, crepes cheesecake or vanilla ice cream with berries. I wish I'd taken pictures of the meal.
We slept and watched movies for most of the flight. I have to admit, the seats were not as comfortable as I would have liked. The bottoms are really hard, and the "sleep" position is not really flat, but rather tilted down so it's a little hard to get comfortable. That said, they are still a million times better than coach and I think I'm spoiled for life.
On arrival in Vienna, it's clear we are in Europe because people are smoking in the restaurants inside the terminals near the gates. We have to go through security to get to our next gate and wonder why we do not have to remove our shoes. We're bussed out onto the tarmac to a tiny propeller plane and because we were still in business class (first 3 rows of seats) we were offered a snack meal on the 40 min flight. This time, I did take a photo, even though the food as not nearly as good.