So up at the crack of dawn to catch our hotel-arranged shuttle to Ljubljana Airport. Nothing exciting to report here. The airport was rather small, check-in was confused and slightly chaotic (as was security) but soon we were on the other side and in the promised land: the “lounge.” This might be one of the most uninspired lounges I’ve ever been in, but at this early hour it had the single most important thing in the universe to me: a coffee/espresso machine. Several shots later I was approaching human, and life was good!
Adria flight 284, LJU-VIE
Depart 7:55 Arrive 8:45, Flight time 50 minutes
CRJ-200, Registration S5-AAI, manufactured 1998, Seat 3A
Wow – this was the same aircraft (and same seat) I had been in two days prior. What are the odds! Even on this short flight, a snack was served: something you would never see in the US!
Soon, we were landing in Vienna – where we had about 90 minutes between flights. Now, one of the biggest challenges we had was finding hotel information online. We were a bit uneasy about the hotel we’d booked, so I decided to use the lounge connection to Skype another hotel in Erbil….which was happy to offer a reservation at a rate we considered very reasonable so we snatched it up! It was then off to the gate area, and OMG this was really going to happen…we were going to Iraq for tourism!
I was honestly excited beyond belief…I know. I’m more than a little strange. The gate area had 40-50 people in it tops, and this was clearly going to be a very very light flight. Matt got detained by the security drones, concerned his hair gel was some sort of plastique destined to bring down the plane, so it was confiscated and we were off to board!
Austrian Flight 829, Vienna to Erbil
Depart 10:20 Arrive 15:55 Flight time: 3:35
Airbus A320, Registration OE-LBO, Manufactured 1997
Business on this flight was absolutely empty. There were only 4 passengers for 24 seats, plus one very sketchy looking character in the first row who was clearly some sort of air marshall/security/etc. We later learned on the return that Austrian puts their own security on each flight to check passports, visas, etc, so it’s likely that’s who this guy was. Another interesting detail is that economy was actually pretty full…once the flight from Stockholm showed up. It’s clearly a popular connection with Kurds living in Stockholm back to Erbil. A few thoughts on the plane. Seat pitch was rather generous, and somewhere between Domestic First in the US and true international business. I guess, to me, it compared very similarly to BMI’s midhaul A320 business, or to Continental’s 757 business on a daytime flight. It was far from lie-flat, but for a daytime flight there was more than enough space.
So, flight was off, and it was cocktail and warm nuts time…except the nuts weren’t warm, and the cocktail was just sweetened lime juice!
Unfortunately, I don’t have the menu for this flight, so I can’t give excruciating details on the food service, but fortunately I have the next best thing: pictures. Before showing the pictures of the mezze and the entree I’ll just say that I’m convinced the Do&Co catering on Austrian is some of the best in the sky. The food is tasty, fresh, just innovative enough…and simple. They don’t try and do too much, but they deliver a solid, well-rounded meal. It’s kind of like a picnic in the sky – not pretentious, but just good solid food! The main was some sort of chicken thing, but that’s all the description I can give!
We had about an hour or so to watch movies, before the descent into Erbil. Now, I was totally expecting some wild, corkscrewing spiral descent into Erbil, but it was pouring rain when we landed, and honestly, it was a pretty straight approach. I really didn’t detect anything overly unusual about it at all – kinda anticlimactic, which I suppose is good – right?
Immigration was a breeze: “First time Kurdistan?” and we were through, and the adventure begins!