This trip report reviews the Asiana A380 First Class product LAX (Los Angeles) to ICN (Incheon International Airport).
Asiana is one of only eight airlines in the world with a five star designation from Skytrax, Asiana consistently offers a fantastic flying experience. Onboard their A380 aircraft, travelers are privy to the best of what Asiana has to offer in first class. It’s the crème de la crème of this world-class airline in every way, and it’s not to be missed.
Generally speaking, Asiana boards both business and first class through one door (located between the two cabins) and everyone else through a second door (located between business and economy class). And while their first class passengers have top priority, they do allow elderly flyers and those traveling with young children to pre-board before anyone else. On our flight, we had the best of both worlds; we were flying in First Class, and we were flying with our 14-month-old son. From the lounge to the plane, we were escorted by an Asiana representative who even carried our bags for us. As we reached the plane, we were greeted with a warm smile and welcome. Each of us was escorted to our seats by a separate flight attendant, and within two minutes, we got a personal welcome from the head purser as well – simply welcoming us on board. It didn’t take long before we realized this would be a fantastic flight with impeccable service; the warm nuts, hot towel, and welcome drink didn’t hurt either.
The seats Asiana have in their first class cabin onboard their A380s are tasteful, functional, private, and extremely comfortable. Unlike their Middle-Eastern competitors like Emirates (I have reviewed Emirates First Class on the A380, Asiana does all of this without flashing any unnecessarily gaudy or over-the-top features at you. The cabin features 12 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, where each seat actually converts into a fully enclosed suite. The three middle pairs each have an automated sliding divider that can be raised or lowered depending on the need/desire. Flying as a family, those two seats together are obviously ideal. With the divider lowered, it was quite easy to converse and feel “together” while still maintaining a sense of privacy. The seat feature which grabs your attention most quickly is the television. At 32 inches, it’s the largest TV in the sky, and then it makes watching the in-flight movies all the more enjoyable. As far as other “seat perks” go, there is a power outlet under the ottoman (by your feet) and several small storage compartments for a wallet, glasses, passport, etc. The edge of your suite door also serves as a small closet for your jacket. Any small bags (like a purse or a backpack) can also easily fit under your ottoman, which doesn’t encroach on your legroom at all. Beyond the seat, functionality is the fully flat bed – duvet and all. When the time comes to sleep, simply waive down the flight attendant, and they make up your bed into a little thrown in the sky. The beds, thanks to some great blankets, pillows, and quasi-mattress-toppers are insanely comfortable. I, for one, was able to sleep like a baby – as was my actual baby – for a good eight hours. I would have slept longer, but I just had to find some time for extra food, champagne, and movies!
This was the one surprising aspect of the flight. Generally, Asian carriers – Asiana being no exception – are known for their top-notch service. While some airlines (like Singapore Airlines First Class A380 Apartment) can be almost too attentive at times, others (like Asiana) are really hit or miss. In some cases, they’re overbearing. Other times, they find the perfect balance, and unfortunately, as was the case on our flight, sometimes they really miss the mark. Our service issues were twofold: Timing/attentiveness and quality of service. First came the wine order. After looking over the extensive wine list, I settled on a pinot noir. The FA left with a smile and returned about a minute later with a glass and a bottle. She presented the label, but I was watching a movie and didn’t even notice. I paused the film and said, “I’m sure it’s fine, thank you.” She poured a little bit and offered for me to taste it; I obliged. You should know I don’t drink much wine, but when I do, I almost always chose a pinot noir. As a result, when I tried the wine presented to me, I immediately knew it was not the pinot I ordered. The flight attendant seemed slightly embarrassed and quickly apologized. “I’m so sorry,” she said. “I will return with the correct bottle – the pinot noir – right away.” Two minutes later, after I heard another bottle open, she returned. This time I decided to carefully inspect the label to ensure I was getting what I ordered. Uh-oh. Wrong bottle… Again! I smiled, though clearly a bit frustrated, and said, “I’m very sorry, but this still isn’t the pinot noir. At this point, she was obviously quite shocked (with herself), though I think she was more afraid that her superior would catch on to what was happening. She quickly returned that bottle and came back with a third try – there were only four reds on the menu, so I was fairly confident the third time would be the charm. As she returned, I didn’t even look at the label or do a taste. I also didn’t have the movie playing anymore as I just wanted to relax and get to the meal. I couldn’t believe it, but after she poured the full glass and I took my first sip, it still tasted off. I looked at the label and just shook my head. Needless to say, the flight attendant was red as a tomato and spent a solid 30 seconds apologizing for the series of mishaps. Finally, after it all, I got the correct wine. Time for food! I explained I was a vegetarian – I eat fish, though I don’t eat shellfish; I explained it all to her – and that I’d like to know what I could eat on the menu; she assured me I would love the vegetarian salad roll (wrapped in rice paper) to start. “Mmmm,” I said. “That sounds delicious.” As the food came, I noticed what seemed like lobster on top. I waved her over and asked if she could confirm that the dish was, in fact, vegetarian. She just looked at me with a blank stare. It was as if I just told her she was being fired on the spot. She was mortally embarrassed, and I felt terrible myself continuously questioning and correcting her. While the entire flight was amazing, and everything else on board was beyond expectations, the service was really sub-par. I know from others’ experiences, this was a severe anomaly. Asiana is generally known to have fantastic service, but (quite unfortunately) I was not lucky enough to experience it on this flight.
Food & Wine
Where do I begin? Other than that first mishap with the lobster roll, the rest of the food was as good as anything I’d get on the ground. The champagne, Pol Piper Heidsieck’s Rare 2002, was as smooth as it was delicious. There were also four red and four white wines, though I only enjoyed two of the whites and one red. The real stars of the food-and-beverage show were the caviar and bibimbap service. As an appetizer, I took the caviar, which was served with all of the traditional trimmings, including a mother-of-pearl spoon. Unlike some airlines, which serve you a scoop of caviar on the plate, Asiana instead served all of the trimmings together with a full (20g) jar of Calvisius Oscietra “Caviar Royal.” For me, this was a real treat. After the caviar, I was able to enjoy a true taste of Korea: Bibimbap. Even without the meat, it was a full meal which did not disappoint; I even got some mashed potatoes and grilled veggies on the side to round it all out. Beyond the eye-catching presentation of a deconstructed meal, the flavors were perfect, and the miso soup was a great way to wrap it all up. Airplane food isn’t known for its amazing quality. Still, if you’re flying on the right airline (and especially in first class), you’re sure to have a dining experience that can rival almost any restaurant 30,000 feet below.
Review by Luxury Travel Diary contributor Ari from Award Magic.
Note: Benefits offered correct at the time of writing but may be amended at discretion of the vendor.