Long-Haul Flight Reviews: Thai Airways and Austrian Airlines

22 Sep

Hey everyone! We’re back from our trip to Europe and I have roughly a million things to review and talk about. I thought I’d start with these long-haul flight reviews since that’s where the trip started.

The thing with living in Australia is that it takes a long-haul flight to get just about anywhere. My husband and I have been on numerous long-haul flights to the US (see my reviews of Qantas and Virgin Australia long-haul flights here) which are usually about 14 hours long. As such, we thought the 9-10 hour flights to and from Europe would be easy… but we hadn’t prepared ourselves for two long-haul flights back-to-back!

Thai Airways

The first leg of our trip was Brisbane – Bangkok, operated by Thai Airways. This was a 9 hour flight, and I thought that it lived up to Thai’s catchphrase: smooth as silk. The cabin was large and roomy, and both my husband and I had space enough for our long legs in a middle and window seat. There are foot pedals in front of you which I’d never seen on a plane before, but using them made the trip very comfortable.

Everything felt fresh and relatively new. There are touch screens in the back of every seat in economy for entertainment purposes. I found that both going over and coming back, the touch screens were a little finicky; sometimes, they wouldn’t pick up on the fact that I was touching it, meaning I had to tap multiple times to get where I wanted to go. Other times it would be a little too sensitive and it was like the heat from my hand hovering over the screen would set it off. This was only a mild irritation though!

In terms of entertainment offered, there were the standard movies, TV shows, music, and games that you’d find on other long-haul flights. They had a pretty good selection (admittedly, not quite as good as Qantas!) and had a mix of old and new movies which I enjoyed–I mean, having the option to watch Mary Poppins is fun. Some newer movies on offer for this September 2014 trip included Divergent and The Fault in Our Stars.

Food was a mix of Asian and Western cuisine. We were served two meals on the flight, a dinner and a breakfast. I can’t remember exactly what we were offered on the way over, but on the way back dinner options were chicken and potatoes or beef curry with rice. Dinner also included a roll, dessert, and a mixed bean side dish with a bit of salmon on it. On the way back, we didn’t have an option for breakfast; we were just given an egg dish, fruit salad, and croissant. I hate eggs, but at that point the croissant and two fruit salads (my husband doesn’t love fruit) was more than enough. It was all pretty good as far as airplane food goes, so no complaints there.

On our way back, the plane was nearly empty which we were so thankful for! This made the plane that much more comfortable, as my husband and I were able to have a middle seat empty between us and there was no one in front of us to put their seats back. I’d recommend Thai to anyone travelling long-haul!

Austrian Airlines

From Bangkok, we flew to Vienna, Austria with Austrian Airlines. This flight was 10 hours long. I think another reviewer summed it up perfectly when they said, “This is not how you’re supposed to treat a human.”

The Austrian cabin was jammed full of the smallest seats I had ever had the displeasure of sitting in. My husband isn’t a huge guy, and his shoulders were wider than his seat. Both of us struggled with the leg room (I’m 5’11, he’s about 6′) and our knees were crunched against the seat in front of us from the start–before the people in front of us reclined! I ended up putting my feet up on my seat with my knees to my chin for most of the flight as this was more comfortable than the alternative.

Speaking of reclining seats, they don’t recline far. They also have no lumbar support, so I also stuffed a pillow behind me to avoid lower back pain (though in doing so, I made the seat even smaller and my feet barely fit on it). The seats are hard, small, and just not what you want to be sitting in for 10 hours straight.

The cabin itself was also extremely hot. I’m usually freezing on airplanes, but not in this case. I don’t believe air conditioning was working, or something. Both my husband and I sweat through our shirts by the time the plane landed, and given the multitude of people we saw fanning themselves with their tickets, I’d say we weren’t the only people who were uncomfortable. I mean, if you pack that many people into a plane and put them that close together, you should probably make sure there’s some sort of air conditioning working.

Another thing to mention was how dry my mouth and nose became on both Austrian flights (to/from Vienna). I’ve never had this issue on planes before, even on the 14-hour flights to the US. On the way to Vienna, I thought for sure my nose was going to start bleeding or something (it didn’t, admittedly). This isn’t for lack of liquids offered–there was someone coming around with drinks regularly throughout the flight, and drinks and snacks left out near the toilets to grab whenever you wanted–so I’m not sure what caused this exactly. Maybe the heat? Who knows.

The entertainment was more of the same movies, TV, music, and games. This airline also had a touch screen which was much more receptive than Thai’s. However, there were fewer movies to choose from which might be an issue if you’re picky!

The food on the way over was some of the worst I’d ever eaten on a plane. It was chicken and vegetables and TONS of salt. I’ve never tasted anything so salty. There was also an option of fish, which neither my husband or I tried. There was another snack offered toward the end of the flight–a ham and cheese sandwich–which I didn’t eat, but my husband quite enjoyed.

All in all, I would not recommend Austrian Airlines to ANYONE for a long-haul flight. It was absolutely miserable on the way over and only marginally better on the way back (the food was a bit nicer and the cabin a bit less hot!).

I mean, my husband and I seriously considered upgrading to business class. We looked into it after we landed. Austrian offers a “bidding” system where you can offer a sum of money you are prepared to part with for an upgrade. Within three days before your trip, you are notified about whether or not your bid is accepted. We bid an extra $1000 AUD to upgrade (which, if you know us, is ridiculous; we hate spending money!) and didn’t end up getting it. We asked again at the counter at check-in and were told it would be 800 Euro each if we wanted to upgrade, and decided against it.

Austrian Airlines short-haul is another matter entirely, if you were curious. We flew from Vienna to Paris, and then Rome to Vienna with Austrian. Both flights were only about two hours long. The seats are spaced with more leg room and we were able to stretch out a bit.

So if you’re looking to fly Austrian within Europe, I’d say go for it–but do not, under any circumstances, fly with them long-haul! Both my husband and I are seasoned long-haul fliers and know all the aches and pains that go along with it, and this was our absolute worst long-haul experience hands down.

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