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What to expect when flying with Austrian Airlines

While I am not an uber-frequent flyer, I did fly enough in the past few years to get an idea of how things work. So I decided to write a few short notes on what to expect when flying on some of the airlines I flew on and to some of the airports I have been through. I will only post reviews on airlines I flew in the past 3 years, as aviation is a dynamic business and what I experienced 5 or 6 years ago might not hold true anymore.

That being said, I have flown with Austrian Airlines 17 times since 2007, on most aircraft types in their medium haul fleet (A319, 320 & 321, B738, F70, F100 and E190). This review is based on the round trip I took in March 2016 from Bucharest to Vienna, comparing it to how things were in the past. While Austrian has been my favorite choice for air travel in Europe when they were “flying for your smile”, its quality of service has degraded below low-cost carrier standards and I now say, if you have the choice, fly with someone else!

First and most important thing to note: although Austrian Airlines positions itself as a legacy carrier, their service quality positions somewhere below some low-cost carriers. They have two economy classes, Economy Classic which includes checked luggage and Economy Light with no checked luggage. However, due to their current nickel-and-dime mentality, although I bought an Economy classic ticket via Orbitz, I found I had to pay for checked luggage at the airport as they did not find the checked luggage in the system, despite my showing the itinerary from Orbitz clearly stating Economy Classic. I contacted Orbitz Customer Care and told them about the problem. On checking in for the return flight, checked luggage was clearly mentioned as BOUGHT. Guess what? At the airport in Vienna, I had to pay for checked luggage again as in their system although it appeared as bought (and I could not buy it again at check-in), it apparently was not paid for (although I did pay for luggage both ways when I bought my ticket).

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A friend of mine had to pay 90€ at the airport as the check-in agent decided to weigh carry on luggage and found it overweight (9 kg instead of 8) and required it to be checked-in. While this isn’t in itself wrong, the decision to weigh the hand luggage after she sent away the checked luggage which was a few kilos under the maximum weight would qualify it as foul play. I have to say that in my 9 years of flying both on legacy and on low-cost carriers I was never asked to weigh my carry on luggage, nor have I heard any first-hand stories about it happening.

The trip from Bucharest to Vienna was on an Embraer E190, a relatively new addition to Austrian Airlines fleet (they have 2 or 3 at the moment, all ex-Lufthansa CityLine, about 5 years old), and the trip back was on a 15-year-old A320.

Overall, the cabin crew has been helpful and polite, but nothing out of the ordinary. Compared to Austrian Airlines cabin crews in the past few years though, they seem less cheery than they were. The seats on both aircraft have thinner padding than at other companies, but are not uncomfortable for a 1h30 flight.

In previous years meals consisted of a sandwich and some beverage, but in the past 2 or 3 years they only serve a chocolate wafer or a small bag of salty pretzels.

In-flight entertainment was completely absent on the planes I were on. The A320 family planes I flew on before had small screens dropping from overhead showing the current position on map and other flight-related data (speed, altitude, ETA and so on) and short comedy shows and cartoons.

The price trend from 2012 until now was on a continuous rise, from about 88 euro for a round trip Bucharest-Vienna to 115 (175 considering my paying twice for checked luggage) this year, while the quality was on a steady decline.

So, be very careful:

– what kind of ticket you buy
– how much your luggage weighs
– how much your hand-luggage weighs

And, unless you get a real bargain on Austrian and the ticket price plus the chance of paying twice for checked luggage is less than the price on competing airlines, or if you are sure you will not need checked luggage, my recommendation is to choose any other airline. At least low-cost carriers are honest about checked luggage, and I’m sure one can live without the complimentary bag of pretzels.

To sum up:

Company

Austrian Airlines

Cabin flown

Economy Light-ish Classic

Cabin crew

3 Stars

Seat comfort

3 Stars

Food&beverages

2 Stars

Inflight Entertainment

0 Stars

Value for money

1 Stars

Average

1.8 Stars

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