Both airlines have used these planes for a while but retrofitted then with new seats about five years ago. Both airlines primarily use these planes for transatlantic flights, and both airlines are in Star Alliance, meaning you could have the option of redeeming miles for one or the other.
I flew Austrian Airlines from Newark to Vienna last year and United from Newark to Geneva last February (see the links above). The 767 is known to be a very comfortable plane for traveling in Economy, so how do these planes hold up?
Both airlines have a 2-3-2 configuration in Economy Class with Business Class in the front. This means that there is only one middle seat per seven seats and that every seat guarantees that you only have to climb over one person at most to use the bathroom (most seats even give direct aisle access!) Here is United’s seat map, and here is Austrian’s seat map.
In terms of the general vibe of the cabin, both airlines had very different colors and although both felt very relaxed and welcoming, Austrian’s cabin just felt more warm to me, although other people might have other opinions.
The Winner: Depends on your preferences.
United has seats that are 17.3 inches wide and have 31 inches of pitch. Austrian has seats that are 17 inches wide and offer 30 inches of pitch.
The difference in cabin width is not too significant (and is made up in other areas) and both cabins have the same number of seats per row. Each seat is comfortable in its own way. Austrian has slightly softer seats, while United has leather seats with marginally more legroom and seat width. Both seats are very comfortable and have a good color scheme and recline.
The Winner: Tie
Both airlines had nine-inch screens. United definitely had a much wider variety and amount of options as you can see in the reviews. However, Austrian had a tilting screen and I personally preferred the system layout on their plane.
I feel that most people will value better entertainment options more than the design of the system, which is why I think United has the edge.
The Winner: United, just because of the increased options
Both airlines offered a choice between chicken and pasta for dinner (and lunch on Austrian). I chose the pasta on both airlines for comparison purposes. Austrian is catered by Do and Co and served delicious and beautifully presented meals (by Economy Class standards, of course).
Meanwhile, United served a pasta on the way out, and an omelet on the way back. While the omelet was okay, the pasta tasted…not so okay.
To top it all off, even though Austrian is already beating United food variety, presentation, and taste, and although United’s ice cream on the flight out tasted nice, Austrian’s chocolate mousse was quite possibly the best airplane dessert I have ever had.
The Winner: Austrian, by a landslide
Generally, I felt like the Austrian flight attendants were more eager to do their jobs than the United ones, and just were having more fun throughout the flight. This definitely stood out to me. I will say that there was one flight attendant on United who really stood out in the way she interacted with passengers and had conversations with them.
The Winner: Austrian
United has WiFi on its whole 767 fleet and also has both USB and AC power ports.
Even though it is installed on their short haul fleet, Austrian does not have WiFi on any of their long-haul aircraft. Although they have USB ports in Economy, AC ports for larger devices are only available in Business Class.
The Winner: United
Both airlines have decent award availability through United MileagePlus. austrian seems to release a bit more business class availability than United though, at least out of Newark.
The Winner: Austrian
So overall, as you can see, it is pretty split. If you are looking for better service inflight, Austrian is probably the better way to go. However, if you are looking to stay connected inflight, United has WiFi and power plugs in Economy Class, both of which Austrian does not have. One category which I did not talk about above was timeliness, and this is because this can constantly change based on different circumstances. I will say that only one of my four Austrian flights were delayed, while both of my United flights were delayed (even though one was not their fault).
So yeah, it completely depends on your personal preferences for what airline to choose.
Which airline would you rather fly?
[Featured image by Austrian Airlines from Flickr]