This review is a continuation of my huge US Airways redemption that I wrote about back in this post. I reviewed Swiss Business Class: Boston to ZurichThai First Class: Paris to Bangkok on an A380, and the Thai Royal Orchid Spa in Bangkok already.

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After a relaxing night at the Park Hyatt Seoul (a great value at 15,000 Hyatt points/night), I took the coach bus from the Gangnam bus terminal to Incheon airport at 10:00 a.m. The trip was long, but the comfortable bus saved me plenty of won over hailing a taxi.

How was the seat, bed, food, service, and entertainment in Asiana First Class? How does Asiana First Class stack up against its competitors?

The best feature of the bus terminal was the dedicated Asiana check-in desk. I was able to pre-print my boarding pass and head right to security once my bus arrived at Incheon. After speeding through security, I headed upstairs to the Asiana First Class lounge.

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The cheery agent welcomed me with a warm smile and scanned my boarding pass. She assured me that I would be notified once boarding commenced for my flight to Frankfurt.

Down the hall past the check-in counter was the small business center.

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After snapping a few photos, I entered the main lounge area, which felt expansive.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe lounge had an old library feel, with wooden shelves by the windows. Given its size, the place felt nearly deserted. There were only a handful of other passengers spread throughout the area, so it was very quiet.

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The buffet area had a few hot options as well as some salad items.

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To the left of the buffet was the liquor. Given that it was around 11:00 a.m., I decided to wait until the flight to partake.

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I ignored all entrees and spirits and headed straight for the tiny dessert freezer. When you’re offered unlimited green tea ice cream sandwiches, it’s hard to know when to stop!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter eating more ice cream than I’m comfortable admitting, I caught up on some work. At check-in the attendant provided a business card with the lounge’s wi-fi password, so I used that to log in. The network speed was extremely fast, so it was easy to get caught up on email.

I expected to be notified when it was time to board, but that never happened. Whether it was a service lapse, my own inattention, or they wait until the last minute to take us to board, I’m not entirely sure. It was already past noon, so I elected to make the long walk to my gate at the far end of the terminal. Sure enough, boarding was well under way.

Asiana 541
Seoul-Incheon (ICN) – Frankfurt (FRA)
Depart: 12:50 PM on October 29, 2013
Arrive: 4:35 PM same day
Duration: 11hr45min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200
Seat: 2K (First Class)

Note: This flight is typically flown by a Boeing 747-400 Combi, but there was an equipment change for the majority of September and October. Our friend and pro award booker Ryan Yi flew the 747-400 Combi from Frankfurt to Seoul back in September. You can read his trip report here.

Upon boarding, I was directed to the first class cabin where a few passengers were leisurely stowing their bags and getting acquainted with the cabin. The purser immediately introduced herself and offered to help me with my luggage. There was plenty of overhead storage, so I just quickly stowed my bag and began snapping pictures.

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Seat 3K, which remained unoccupied until just before departure
Seat 3K, which remained unoccupied until just before departure

Immediately I was struck by how old and tired the cabin decor looked in comparison to the Thai A380 I had flown just days earlier. I knew that the design of the plane wouldn’t be the highlight, that it would be their stellar service, but it was nevertheless a bit disappointing.

After settling in, I was offered a pre-departure champagne and nuts.

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Afters serving me, another flight attendant circled the cabin offering pajamas. Though they had a truly hideous design (even worse than the actual cabin colors), I chose a kit anyway just to try on and compare. They were actually a bit heavy and scratchy, unlike the lighter Thai pajamas which I saved for home use.

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At the ledge by my window were standard noise cancelling headphones and amenity kit, which featured Bulgari amenities. I saved the creams and lotions to distribute for friends back home, and they raved about the quality.

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After scouring the amenity kit, I played around with the seat controls and in-flight entertainment system. As with other first class seats, there were a variety of settings, though “recline” (middle button of the three pre-sets) was the most comfortable for lounging and watching movies.

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There was plenty of legroom as expected, as well as a good storage compartment below the ottoman. I was able to place my backpack and shoes in the small area before take off.

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At my left knee was a power port. I used it to charge my phone until we took off and the port ceased functioning. The flight attendants attempted to reset the power to my seat, but nothing worked. Eventually, I settled on charging my phone at the empty seat adjacent to me. The flight was only 9/12 full in first class.

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At approximately 1:10 PM, we pushed back and began the long taxi to our runway. The pilot came on the intercom and apologized that we would be delayed due to heavy traffic at Incheon. Shortly after the announcement we were up in the air. Menus were distributed and meal service began promptly.

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Throughout the entire meal service, the flight attendants could not have been more proactive, charming, and attentive. Refills were given before I could ask, they knew exactly when I was done with a plate without prompting, and any excess trash was quickly snapped up. They were clearing doting upon each passenger individually, as opposed to the more routine and mechanical service on Thai. High marks for Asiana in this respect!

For the actual meal, I started off with the prosciutto wrapped pear drizzled in balsamic vinaigrette, which was an interesting combination of flavors and textures.

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After that, caviar and accouterments were plated. I definitely enjoyed the caviar more this time around then with Thai. The portion was more generous, too. I was given a full tin on Asiana as opposed to a smaller portion plated in front of me on the Thai flight.

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Next up was the cauliflower soup which was a bit lackluster in flavor.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was then served the chicken schnitzel, which was excellent.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANext up was the main entree. I went with the Wagyu beef, though my expectations were very low. After all, it’s extremely difficult to serve a well-cooked and moist piece of beef on a plane. My portion surprisingly delivered. It was cooked exactly to my specifications (medium but really more of a medium rare) and was very tender.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt this point, I was stuffed. For the sake of the review, though, I soldiered on. I picked at the green tea cake before having a few bites of the fruit and cheese plate. Both were very good.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the long meal service concluded, I was exhausted. I requested turn down service while I went to the lav to change into my itchy pajamas. The lavatory was only slightly bigger than a standard airplane bathroom. It did feature a fold down bench of sorts, which was helpful for changing.

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Toiletries in the lav
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Fold down bench good for changing

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When I returned from the bathroom, everything was prepared for my bed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe seat turns into a fully lie-flat bed, though it is hindered by several things. There is a distinct lack of privacy between the seats. This isn’t a big issue, but other first class cabins, Cathay Pacific comes to mind, do feature some paneling that protects you from other passengers view.

The pillow that was distributed was also a bit flimsy, especially compared to the two firm pillows given on my Thai flight. The blanket was comfy, but it didn’t cover my shoulders.

These are really #firstclassproblems. I know that First Class is miles ahead of coach in all respects, so I was glad my miles put me there.

Given those “obstacles,” I still slept for a solid five hours. When I awoke at approximately 2:45 PM Frankfurt time, the snack menu was being served.

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I was still stuffed from lunch, so I just had the salmon appetizer and spicy ramen. Both hit the spot.

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Before our descent, the flight attendants came through the cabin and gave out a small gift to each passenger. I was given a passport holder while the flight attendant chuckled. She remarked, “You wouldn’t like the other option, it’s perfume.”

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We touched down around 5:00 PM and taxied for almost 25 minutes before pulling up to our gate. The pilot came on the intercom and apologized for the delay, blaming it on heavy traffic in Seoul and a huge headwind.

How I Did It

I booked this flight as part of a nine segment US Airways award to Asia, connecting in Europe both ways for only 120k miles in First Class. The award relied on US Airways’ cheap award chart and their agents allowing extremely lax routing.

Don’t miss out on collecting US Airways miles with the US Airways Premier World MasterCard with 30,000 US Airways miles after first purchase. This card will soon disappear during the American Airlines/US Airways merger.

Overall

Seat: The seat had the same excellent legroom as Thai’s seat with some storage space underneath the ottoman. It was great for lounging though had plenty of space by the window to leave effects like passports, phones or cameras. The seat certainly can’t be called a suite; it’s exposed to the cabin, but I never felt uncomfortable.

Food: Well above average and quite a bit better than Thai. My beef was prepared to my specifications, which is neat. The first meal featured so many courses that I felt completely stuffed for most of the flight. The snack items hit the spot when I declined the full second meal.

Service: Truly the highlight of the flight. All agents were genuinely friendly, and their constant effort shined. They were proactive, always offering refills before I even needed to ask. I felt taken care of, which is the point of flying first class.

Bed: The bed was fine, but definitely on the low end of other international carriers first class offerings. In fully reclined position, it felt narrow, and my feet almost touched the barrier. The pillow was flimsy and blanket didn’t cover my shoulders. I still was able to sleep soundly, though.

In Flight Entertainment: The television screen size was decent. The selection of movies was similar to those offered by Thai. I didn’t have any problems polishing off a few films.

Recommendation: The food and service are the high marks when flying Asiana. Everyone gave incredible effort in making me feel taken care of. The actual seat and bedding were so-so, especially for a first class cabin, but the care exuded by each flight attendant was truly exceptional. I would certainly fly them again, but hope to try their new first class suite product, which is featured on some newly-configured 777-200s.



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