As part of my Aeroplan “mini-Round-The-World” trip this February/March, I wanted to check off a big item off my bucket list – I’d never flown business class on the iconic Airbus 380! I took the opportunity to take the long way home from Hong Kong and flew Seoul to Frankfurt with Asiana.
I’ve found that Asiana is often one of the easiest options to find when booking award flights using Aeroplan or any Star Alliance partner, particularly on their routes to and from New York (JFK), Chicago (ORD), and especially their morning and late-night services from Los Angeles (LAX).
Asiana Business Class Lounge
For a major hub, Seoul’s Incheon Airport doesn’t have much to talk about in the way of lounges. I made a quick stop through Asiana’s Business Class Lounge. Pretty standard stuff, unfortunately. Pre-packaged sandwiches, a couple of hot trays of noodle dishes, and a self-serve bar of mid-range alcohol. It just doesn’t compare to a Singapore or Cathay lounge, where I have to choose between the excellent food in the lounge and the excellent food on the plane.
The one touch that really stuck out for me was the arrangement of seats, amphitheatre-style, around a grand piano. This wasn’t in use at 9 AM on a weekday, but it looked like a really unique situation that might be absolutely brilliant on a rainy evening.
I reached the gate as boarding started, so I only had a chance for one or two shots of this big, beautiful aircraft. You really can’t comprehend just how incredibly big this plane is, until you’re standing in front of it!
It might sound silly, but I was kind of bummed to board by a walkway leading directly to the upper deck – I was looking forward to the rare experience of climbing a staircase to my seat!
The seat itself was a real highlight. I’m a bit of a minority opinion for preferring an open-concept business class seat to a “pod-style” setup. I’m a big guy, at 6’1” and over 200 pounds, so generally a walled-in seat like Air Canada’s Dream Pods, or EVA’s Royal Laurel means a pretty cramped experience when trying to wedge my feet into a tiny foot well. That said, Asiana’s pod was a great halfway point between the two concepts with enough room for me to sleep comfortably while still providing a decent feeling of privacy.
The table folds out of the wall, with room to move it into a couple of useful positions, and while the seat itself is a bit lacking in terms of storage pockets, the sheer size of the A380 means there were a pair of wall-mounted storage bins to take a jacket, briefcase or backpack with ease.
We left an hour late, apparently due to “traffic restrictions in the Beijing airspace”, which led to a pretty sizeable commotion from the irritated gentleman sitting a row in front of me. This was enough of a ruckus that the cabin crew went to fetch the pilot to talk the gentleman into a calmer mindset. Once we lifted off, we took a sizeable detour out around North Korean airspace, heading northwest past Beijing and Ulan Bataar, then started the marathon across Russia.
The amenity kit is exactly what you’d expect for a 12-hour flight; socks, eyeshade and earplugs, a bit of hand cream and a toothbrush and toothpaste. I’m never really sure why airlines give out a comb, this really seems like the kind of thing you’d bring if you needed it. The kit itself is a nylon bag branded by French makeup brand L’Occitane En Provence, but to me, it lacked the distinctive style that Swiss and EVA have put into their pouches from Victorinox and Rimowa, respectively.
Food service was thoroughly attentive and again featured a choice of Western or Korean menus. I chose the latter, mainly as the Western menu looked pretty boring. I was rewarded with an interesting and flavourful meal of Pork Bulgogi Ssambap that was a fascinating departure to the same old airline food.
I like to test out an airline’s wine menu by starting with a glass of champagne, then one of each of the reds. This generally makes a nice companion to dinner, and leaves me a bit sleepy but not too wobbly. Asiana’s wine list left an overall impression of “good but not great”, with a selection of red wines that tasted flat in a pressurized aircraft cabin.
Fifteen photos of food, and we’re only two hours into the flight!
This flight leaves Seoul at 11 AM, flies west for 12 hours, and lands in Frankfurt just before 3 PM, so it’s basically lunchtime the whole way. Like most long-haul business-class flights, the cabin crew shut all the windows and darkened the cabin as soon as the meal service was done, which is always kind of a drag for those of us who like to watch the world scrolling by six miles below.
Somewhere over Russia, I asked for the “Ramen Noodles”, expecting the same microwaved Cup Noodle many airlines serve mid-flight. Imagine my surprise when this gourmet presentation showed up, along with a porcelain dish of excellent kimchi:
About two hours before landing in Frankfurt, a meal-sized “snack” is served, again with your choice of Western or Korean options. I went for the Korean porridge and really enjoyed it. Sort of a different take on congee that is usually my breakfast of choice on long-haul flights with Asian airlines.
In-Flight Entertainment (IFE)
The in-flight entertainment was well presented on a modern touchscreen with remote control handset. Disappointingly, the placement of the handset pretty much guarantees you’ll be bumping the pause button throughout the flight.
The selection of movies and TV was honestly a real let-down, particularly for an airline with so many routes of 10-14 hours. I don’t think any major airline *isn’t* showing “Justice League” and “The Shape Of Water” this month, which is great, but even if all you’re doing is flying Los Angeles to Seoul and back a week or two later, there simply isn’t enough content to satisfy any one person’s movie preferences. I’ve also really never understood the practice of having only Season Four of a TV series on an airline’s in-flight entertainment, but I imagine it’s a cheap and easy way to provide hours of content.
Since we’d taken off at noon, I couldn’t manage more than a two-hour nap, and since I’d seen most of the in-flight movies, I spent a few hours working away on my laptop. I watched as the little plane icon march across the map and wished the camera in the plane’s nose hadn’t frosted over minutes after takeoff. Despite the darkened cabin, one of my favourite forms of in-flight entertainment is still the simplest:
All in all, solid but not exceptional marks for Asiana on this flight. They certainly won’t be posing a threat to Cathay or Singapore anytime soon but absolutely a solid and enjoyable option that I’d be happy to recommend for long-haul flights to Asia.