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As part of a trip to Australia back in January, I had the pleasure of flying Asiana business class between Seoul, Incheon to Sydney, Australia. The ticket was a two-stop. My first layover was in San Francisco, from where I took off on United flight to ICN. I wanted to fly a 747 before they retire them all. That trip was both enjoyable and…eventful. I wrote about both my ground and flight experiences previously:
The flight was Asiana 601 with service on an A380. Do note that the ICN-SYD service is on a 777 much of the year. It appears the A380 is used during the Australian summer.
I did accomplish my goal of flying both F & J for the first time, and flying on both a 747 and A380, all on one ticket. The total cost of the one-way ticket came to 80,000 United miles and $37.
Having just had my first premium cabin experience with United, I was just as excited to be flying on the largest passenger jet ever manufactured. But the whole trip got off to a shaky start.
Almost missing my Asiana business class flight!
Due to the diversion of my flight from SFO, I didn’t get as much time at Incheon airport as I would have liked. Actually, I really didn’t get any. The original plan was to try out the Asiana lounge and see if there was anywhere else I could explore at Incheon airport. But that had to be completely scratched. The four hour layover I had anticipated was cut down to 55 minutes, during which I must have run like 3 miles to the gate.
I arrived at the gate breathless and sweating, during the middle of business class boarding. I relaxed a little, anticipating settling into my seat in just a minute or two.
However, when I showed the agent my United-printed boarding pass, she directed me to a service desk a little ways down the terminal. Supposedly, Asiana needed to confirm my Australian travel authorization (SEE: How to apply for an Australia ETA visa). I tried showing her a screenshot of the confirmation email on my phone, but to no avail.
Off I went, sprinting through the terminal yet again. Bummer I wasn’t flying Emirates, as I was beginning to desperately need a shower!
I arrived at the desk, handed my phone and boarding pass to the agent while trying to explain the situation. I don’t even know what she did, but within a couple minutes of clicking on the computer, I had an Asiana boarding pass in hand.
Running back to the gate, I finally boarded Asiana flight 601.
Seat and amenities
I had chosen seat 10A, which is one of the window seats in the forward cabin. I specifically wanted one closer to the window since I thought it would feel a bit more private. Asiana has a staggered 1-2-1 configuration on the A380, with some seats right on the aisle, while the others are in the configuration shown. I did notice that the Asiana business class configuration has “honeymoon seats”. Definitely noted that flying Asiana business class is an option for travel as a couple.
I was immediately impressed by Asiana’s hard product. I knew that it would be good. The seat easily beat United’s first class that I had just flown.
A pillow and blanket awaited me. Since I was still sweating from my run to the plane, using them was the last thing on my mind. I immediately stuffed them into the storage compartments. They would definitely get used later. At some point the exhaustion would catch up with me.
The IFE rotated between a few different items. I honestly don’t remember any besides the “Welcome to Asiana” display, of which I snapped a photo.
There are large storage compartments under the windows. It is a great design, since the curvature of the window would probably make you feel claustrophobic if the seats were snugged up any closer.
You can see the depth of the space and the more pronounced curvature of the fuselage on the upper deck. It was different to have a window that faced slightly upward.
Asiana business class offers a L’Occitane amenity kit. I really didn’t know what to do with it, as I had just gotten everything I needed on the United flight. The United Polaris first-class amenity kit was better overall.
There were also headphones and a slot containing magazines. By this point I was enjoying my pre-departure beverage of water.
The seat control and inflight entertainment control were along the edge of the table area to my right.
And there were also some super flat slippers.
Exploring the A380
I was able to get up and explore the plane for a bit before takeoff. I figured we would be airborne shortly after I arrived since I was running so late, but I guess these things take a ridiculously long time to board.
The first place I headed was to the staircase at the front of the business class cabin. I walked to the bottom, bit didn’t go any further since I would be intruding on the first-class cabin.
Not sure what these seats were all about off to the side above the stairs. They looked less like crew seats and more like a social area, but I never saw them used.
At the head of the stairs was an area showing the flight map and offering a bunch of newspapers.
I settled back into my seat for takeoff. Since it was night when we were leaving, there really wasn’t much to see during takeoff. Plus, the A380 windows are deep, and the the glare from the interior lighting is horrible.
Service and food
The food and service on the flight were excellent. The meal service started soon after takeoff. Asiana business class had western offerings…
…and of course Korean options. Per other reviews of Asiana, I ordered the Korean menu for both dinner and breakfast. It is supposed to be far better.
The main course is even billed as “nutritious Korean cuisine.” There was also, of course, a wine selection.
I have zero idea on the quality of any of these beverage choices. 🙂
The flight attendant set the tray table and asked me what I’d like to drink. On my United flight I tried a glass of white wine, concluding that it was gross. Now it was time for a red. I chose the Syrah, only because I recognized it as a variety my grandparents buy.
To my surprise, it wasn’t half bad. Although I mainly ordered it to see if it would help me sleep. I hadn’t caught more than an hour nap on the United flight from SFO. The flight attendant had to tap me on the shoulder when she brought the starter course since I actually started to doze off! Glad she did, as my face may have ended up knocking over the wine.
The starter was prawn with mustard sauce, served cold. It was good, but probably be least favorite offering during dinner service. I’m not crazy about mustard.
Next was a delicious Korean rice porridge with pine nuts.
The main course was bulgogi beef. It was quite good.
Fortunately, there were instructions on how to eat it. Apparently you are supposed to put some rice on a lettuce leaf, add some beef and bean paste, and then enjoy. It was delicious.
Dessert was small plate of cheese, fruit, and crackers. I also took the flight attendant up on a glass of port, which was a mistake. I almost spit out my first sip. After having tried a dry white wine (that I didn’t like) and a red wine (that I sorta liked), the intense sweetness was unexpected. Which probably tells you I had no idea what port is.
Time to sleep
By the time I had finished eating, I could hardly keep my eyes open. Time to catch some Zs before our morning arrival in Sydney.
I found the bed spacious, with plenty of room for me to be comfortable. I can imagine that the “foot cubby” might be claustrophobic, especially if you are a larger person. I’m a hair under 5’11”, so I had no issues. It was honestly just as comfortable than the United Global First seat.
I slept a glorious 4 solid hours. I don’t know if it was simply because of sheer exhaustion, or if I was aided by the wine. Either way, I felt quite refreshed, but desperately in need of a shower.
An hour or so later, it was time for the breakfast service. I’d decided earlier what I’d wanted, but I took a peek at the menu again.
I chose the Korean breakfast as well. A mushroom omelet sounded disgusting. And who wants beef lasagna for breakfast?! The ‘Samgyejuk’ it was.
First it was a croissant, yogurt, and fruit, though. All of which was good. The fruit was 10 time fresher than what United had offered on my previous flight.
The rice porridge was again delicious, but I think I actually preferred the one from the night before without the chicken.
Overall, this was the best airplane food I’ve ever had. But I was expecting no less. It was my first international premium cabin flight on a foreign carrier. Everything easily beat what United had offered in first class (except maybe the ice cream sundae).
I decided I better freshen up a bit, since I would be arriving in Sydney at 8:30 a.m. and unlikely to be able to check into the hotel (turned out I actually did!).
The lavatory on the A380 was unlike anything I’d ever seen on a plane. It was so spacious. Well, spacious relative to all the other airplane bathrooms I’d ever been in.
You actually have some room to move around in here.
The cover over the toilet folds down into what must be a changing table.
There are amenities for those in business class as well. I had brought the toothbrush and comb from my amenity kit, but I ended up using one of the ones offered here.
Rest of the flight and landing in Australia
I returned to my seat and got some work done. Dawn arrived, and I caught my first glimpse of Australia through the patchy clouds.
Knowing that we were about to start our descent, I had one of the flight attendants snap a picture of me. Just so you know I was there and not making up this whole experience.
Another 90 minutes later and we were descending into Sydney. As we neared Kingsford Smith Airport, I got some amazing views of the Sydney skyline and harbour.
Landing was uneventful, and we arrived right on schedule. I said goodbye to Asiana business class seat. As I left I got one parting look at the behemoth aircraft that had transported me here.
On the whole I really enjoyed my Asiana business class flight from Seoul to Sydney. The food was excellent, the service good, and the bed comfortable. I got the best sleep I’d ever had on an airplane on that flight. I’d fly it again in a heartbeat. Hopefully next time I can bring my wife along.
Comparing this to the United flight I flew immediately prior to my Asiana business class experience, the only ways United outdid the Korean carrier was a) service, and b) it was a 747. This is probably not a fair comparison, though, given that I was traveling United PolarisFirst and had a nose seat in the coolest jet ever manufactured. 😉
Note that this flight is only 40,000 United miles for a 10.5 hour flight in business class, if you just fly Australia to North Asia. My ticket was 80,000 miles and $37 for both legs, which I considered totally worth it.
Have you ever flow Asiana business class? Was your experience as good as mine?