Showing posts with label European Duty Free. Show all posts
Showing posts with label European Duty Free. Show all posts

Monday, March 7, 2011

Austrian Airlines - Toronto-Tel-Aviv

I tried a different way of travelling between Tel-Aviv and Toronto - and flew Austrian Airlines for a change. Part of the schedule suited my needs - and the available ticket was about $500 less than an Air Canada seat - while still providing Aeroplan points (at 1/2 the normal accumulation rate).

The flight between Tel-Aviv and Vienna is a 3 1/2 hour flight - on a relatively new looking remodeled interior Airbus plane. The seats are paper-thin - which means that you wind up with a bit more leg room - even though the plane was extremely full. Otherwise, the seats are not particularly comfortable. The plane was equipped with overhead screens used for showing some silent films - no music or headphone jacks - since the flight was so short. Overall, the flight was probably a bit more comfortable than the comparative Lufthansa flight between Frankfurt and Tel-Aviv.

One of the difficulties - if you are not staying in Europe - is the timing. The flight leaves at 6:30 a.m. from Tel-Aviv - so you have to be at the airport between 4 and 4:30 a.m. This is bound to throw your schedule off completely if you are continuing on to North America.

On arrival in Vienna - the gate for travelling to Toronto was right next to the arrival gate - almost as though they are purposely trying to get the Toronto-Tel-Aviv traffic.

At Israeli duty free- I had been told that European airports were now allowing passengers to take duty free items through to Canada and other places (still not the U.S.). So I picked up a bottle of wine in Israel. When I got to Vienna and had to pass through personal security - I was told I could not take the bottle. It was in a sealed duty free bag - stapled shut - and I had just come off a plane from Israel - with some of the world's highest security. Nevertheless - they said - only duty free purchases from other EU countries could be taken on the plane. Imagine - right behind me was a guy from Poland - who was flying LOT Air. He gets to take his bottle on board - but I can't take mine - after coming through Israeli Airport security (which I'm sure must be at least as thorough as Polish security...) Ultimately - under the guise of security - the EU is using this as a way of forcing transferring passengers to buy from European duty free shops - rather than elsewhere. It is simply a trade embargo/tariff mechanism rather than a security measure.

I guess I have to mention that the prices for Scotch and some other liquors were quite good in the Vienna duty free shops - somewhere around 1/2 the price of equivalent products in Canadian or Israeli duty free shops...I guess that could be the good side of a stopover - but since you are really only allowed one bottle anyways - it's really small consolation.

Getting on the plane in Austria was reminiscent of boarding in Israel - a complete "balagan" - as they say in Hebrew - a mess. No organized line ups - just an overcrowded waiting area - with hoards of travellers thronging towards the boarding gate. I've heard people complain about EL Al flights but really this was no better.

The plane itself was a 767 - with an interior that looked like it was circa 1970s. Each seat was equipped with a video screen/ music entertainment system including games - but the game selection included Space Invaders and Mini-Golf - that seemed like 1st or 2nd generation video games. The seat upholstery was a horrible shade of green - and also looked like it hadn't been updated since the plane came into service.

I had ordered a kosher meal - and have to say that it was among the worst I have had. It was prepared in Vienna - and included some type of chicken - or at least something purporting to be chicken - with mashed potatoes. The accompanying bread roll was frozen - as was the chocolate dessert. The other stuff was inedible.

About 2 hours before the end of the flight - they served another meal. Again the roll was frozen. There was no hot component to the meal. Just some chopped tomato and cucumber - with Humus. Really lame.

Since the flight was an all day-time flight - just about 9 1/2 hours - it was quite long. In fairness - it was smooth and uneventful - announcements were all made in German and in English - but the combination of the Vienna airport, the original departure time of 6:30 a.m. - and the general feel of the flight - make this a fairly challenging experience.

I think I will do my best to stick to Air Canada, US Air - or even EL Al (which as the best flight times) - rather than doing this too often. There is definitely benefit to avoiding a change over in a European airport - and to having better departure times - though sometimes a huge price savings can be a significant factor.