I booked this flight via Austrian’s parent airline, Lufthansa, so was pleased to discover that the regular Lufthansa online check-in worked just ﬁne across brands, issuing me a mobile boarding pass. Bag drop at Lyon airport—the gateway to central and eastern France, and home to many Rhône cruises in summer and skiers in the winter—was swift and pleasant.
The usual boarding/not-boarding situation had passengers lined up in the boiling-hot glass Jetway, which was quite unpleasant. Airlines should ensure that their outsourced ground handling services, like in Lyon, think about passengers’ comfort and well-being, and not just processing. On the airplane, though, the air-conditioning aboard this Embraer E195 was on “frosty,” and every seat had an overhead nozzle, so it cooled down swiftly. It’s hard to spruce up a basic cabin like this, but I thought the small gingham fabric touches, such as on the curtain separating business from economy, were a lovely callback to the kind of decor one would ﬁnd in a charming rustic mountain hut.
Austrian is one of the European airlines that give business-class passengers the full pair of seats when an airplane is in a 2-2 conﬁguration, like this Embraer jet. Some don’t, so check carefully before booking. The wide Embraer seat is one of the most comfortable in the sky, and the lack of a central structural pillar means you have a lot of legroom. Austrian says economy is pitched at 29 inches on these planes, but I’d estimate a few extra inches in the business-class section.
Austrian’s crew is delightfully efficient, and this was no exception. The pair of experienced ﬂight attendants really hit the mark with a cheerful welcome and friendly meal service. The food was a hot mushroom pasta bowl with a delicious cheesecake, served with a warm kaiser roll and frequent reﬁlls from the bar trolley. It was simple fare, done well, and without unnecessary fuss. After the meal, the crew passed through the plane with a special Austrian-branded chocolate—yum. For this ﬂight, less than an hour and a half, I was impressed that they didn’t just sit down in the galley after completing the meal service, but passed through with a smile and an eye on the level of every passenger’s drink, topping up their glasses proactively. There’s no in-ﬂight entertainment or Wi-Fi on these planes, or indeed on most European continental ﬂights yet, but a downloaded podcast and the beautiful Alpine views out of the Embraer’s big windows provided all the diversion I needed.
Arrival in Vienna is where the experience really shines. At the height of the Great European Airport Meltdown of 2022, Vienna was busy but efficient. Its compact, well-designed terminal and operation had me off the plane and heading onward swiftly.
Austrian, smaller than parent Lufthansa, is a great choice not just for its efficient Vienna hub, but also for its warm welcome and, certainly in this case, comfortable E-Jets to secondary European airports. I’d choose it again in a heartbeat.
Best for: the entire row and the big Embraer E-Jet windows
Flight time: 1 hour, 26 minutes