Asiana A380 First Class New York to Seoul – Review

Last month we flew Asiana’s A-380 first class suites from New York’s JFK to Seoul’s Incheon airport on our way to Hong Kong. I had heard great things about Asiana’s food and service quality and I thought it was a great option to fly on our way to Asia. I booked the trip by transferring 210,000 American Express points to Air Canada’s Aeroplan program. The Aeroplan one-way cost to book Asiana was 105,000 miles per person all the way to Hong Kong, plus about $95 dollars per person in fuel surcharges. I was also looking forward to comparing how Asiana stacked with Korean Air, which we flew last year from Seoul on our way home.

Asiana

Arrival at JFK and check in (did it online) was easy and we retrieved our boarding passes  at the airport. We traveled with carry-on only, so we didn’t check any bags.

Asiana first and business class passengers have access to the Swiss Air lounge. We spent a couple of hours at the lounge before our flight. Food and service was nothing to call home about, but the snacks were decent and I did like the space and all the brightness at the lounge, with a lateral view of the runway. Chairs were comfortable and the lounge also had showers, which we didn’t use since we had showered before leaving the hotel.

AsianaAsianaAsianaAsianaAsianaI also went next door to check out the Wingtips lounge, which I had access to via my Priority Pass membership, but the lounge and the food looked pretty sad by comparison, so we decided to stay at the Swiss Air lounge until departure. It is worth noting that the Swiss Air lounge has a first class section, but it is only reserved for Hon Circle members and so we only had access to the business class side.

After a couple of hours we headed to our gate for boarding. The gate area was busy and really packed, being that we were flying an A380, but it was well organized.

AsianaAsianaSince we were flying first class suites when the time came to board we were the first persons to board, other than the passengers needing assistance, which were boarded first to have extra time to get settled in. There must have been at least 15-20 passengers with wheelchairs, given that the plane seats so many passengers.

AsianaAfter arriving at the entrance we were greeted by the flight attendants and escorted to our seats.

AsianaThe first class cabin has three rows of suites on a 1-2-1 configuration. We were seated on the two middle seats, 2E and 2F.

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The suites were enormous, and the TVs are the biggest I’ve seen in any airline’s first class cabin.

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The lead flight attendant came by to introduce herself and offer us newspapers, amenity kits, pajamas and slippers, etc. She also took our carry-ons to be stored in a closet near the front entrance since the first class suites do not have overhead storage bins and the ottoman was too small to store a regular sized carry-on underneath, but it had plenty of space to store our backpacks. It also has an additional seatbelt in case you have a visitor who wants to sit and talk or have dinner. I also spent a few minutes familiarizing myself with the seat features, including the personal closet to store your jacket.

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Blanket, sheets and pillow

Blanket, sheets and pillow

Remote control

Remote control

Storage compartment with power ports

Storage compartment with USB port and headphones jack

Minibar (aka, more storage)

Minibar (aka, more storage)

Headphones

Noise cancelling headphones

Lighting and seat controls were on a separate tablet on the outside wall of each suite.

Lighting and seat controls

Lighting and seat controls

AsianaAfter most boarding was completed I noticed a couple of the window suites were still empty, and as I’ve done with other flights, I told the flight attendant that I would be moving to one of them for takeoff so I could look out the window. She escorted me to the new seat and also took my pre-departure beverage order. My understanding is that Asiana doesn’t serve alcohol on the ground when departing the U.S., but either way I ordered a diet coke, which came accompanied with mixed warm nuts.

Window seat

Window seat

Asiana

My wife waiting for take off

My wife waiting for takeoff

After a couple of minutes boarding was completed and the aircraft door was closed, and we were ready for pushback. I tuned the TV to the nose camera and watched the cockpit view when taxiing. The captain also welcomed everyone onboard and among other things he announced that the flight time would be approximately 13.5 hours.

Nose camera feed

Nose camera feed

AsianaAsianaAsianaAsianaAfter a pretty smooth takeoff and climb out over 10,000 feet the seatbelt sign was turned off right away and I moved back to my regular seat.

I walked around for a bit and headed upstairs to check out the lounge, which is just basically a couple of couches but has no TV or drinks, so it’s more of a place to socialize and stretch your legs.

AsianaAsianaAfter I came back down I went to the first class lavatory to change into my pajamas.

Pajamas and slippers in packing bag

Pajamas and slippers in packing bag

Pajamas and slippers

Pajamas and slippers

The Asiana A-380 has a single first class lavatory at the front of the cabin, on the right side, which doesn’t seem like a lot for a 12 person cabin, but there is also a smaller second lav after heading up the stairs to go to the cockpit, hidden behind the stairs curtain. I suppose it is mainly for the pilots, but I used it once near the end of the flight when the main lav was occupied. The lav was relatively large, and it had a window, which makes it feel much more spacious.

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Toilet lid bench

Toilet lid bench

The lav products were L’Occitane.

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Motion activated sink

Motion activated sink

All set for the flight

All set for the flight

After I changed and exited the lav one of the flight attendants took my clothes away to hang in one of the closets for the duration of the flight. Then after sitting down she came by to take our lunch and drink orders. I went with the Pol Roger Sir Winston Churchill 2004 champagne (I ended up not liking it so much) and my wife had some white wine.

Asiana

Here’s the full drinks menu:

Asiana Asiana img_4769 img_4770 img_4771 img_4772 img_4773 img_4774 img_4775 img_4776 img_4777 img_4778For lunch I ordered from the Korean menu, which included 3 appetizers, the Ginko nut and dried date, a turnip vegetable roll, and the Korean pumpkin porridge. The first two were nothing to really blow me away, but the porridge was excellent. I also ordered the caviar service, which is part of the Western menu but that you can order on demand with the Korean menu. I never pass on free caviar. For main entrée I ordered the Bibimbap and my wife ordered the grilled cod fish, which also came with 4 appetizers of melon, parma ham and marinated shrimp, caviar service, poached lobster and salmon gravlax and lentil soup (she declined the latter).

Here’s the full lunch and dinner menu, including mid-flight snacks:

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Lunch service started with a hot towel:

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First serving was the Ginko nut and dried date, and the melon, parma ham and shrimp for my wife:

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Ginko nut and dried dates

Melon, ham and shrimp

Melon, ham and shrimp

Then came the caviar service, which I paired with a glass of Absolut vodka:

Caviar service

Caviar service

Caviar

Caviar

AsianaOne great thing about Asiana’s caviar service is that they serve it with a mother of pearl spoon, which is the proper way to handle caviar so that the metal from utensils doesn’t spoil the flavor. After the caviar, which tested great, came the vegetable roll and the Korean pumpkin porridge, which was excellent.

Turnip vegetable roll

Turnip vegetable roll

Pumpkin porridge

Pumpkin porridge

After appetizers I got a champagne refill, but instead of Churchill I opted for the Piper Heidsieck Rare 2002, just to try something different. I liked this one much better.

AsianaThen came the main entrees.

Bibimbap and beef short rib bulgalbi

Bibimbap and beef short rib bulgalbi

Grilled cod fish

Grilled cod fish

Dinner was followed by freshly cut fruit for me (my wife skipped the western dessert), and Korean cookies, which I did not care for, and I also ordered a cup of peppermint tea.

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Korean cookies

Korean cookies

After dinner I walked around the upper deck to check out the rest of the plane. I visited the business class cabin and also checked out a couple of the business class lavs. One of them was pretty large.

Business class seat

Business class seat

Business class lavatory

Business class lavatory

AsianaAsianaAfter I got back I opened my amenity kit and checked out the contents. The kit was Salvatore Ferragamo, and contained an eye mask and socks, body lotion, hand cream, after shave, cologne, comb and tissues, lip balm, a shoe horn, toothbrush and toothpaste (which were also available in the lavatories), ear plugs and a cleansing towel.

Ferragamo amenity kit

Ferragamo amenity kit

AsianaI asked the flight attendant to prepare my bed while I went to the lav to brush my teeth, and when I got back it was ready, and so it was TV in bed time.

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Nothing beats closing your own suite door before going to bed and turning on the Do Not Disturb sign:

AsianaAsianaAsianaThe cabin has its own night sky theme to make it seem like you’re sleeping under the stars.

Asiana

A couple of hours into the flight towards the end of the meal and while my wife was changing into her pajamas, there was quite a bit of turbulence, so the seatbelt sign came on. However, the turbulence lasted for maybe 20-30 minutes and then there was virtually none for the rest of the flight, but the seatbelt sign remained on for hours. I imagine the pilots simply forgot to turn it off, so we just got up as needed during those times.

After I was all settled in, I browsed through the entertainment system, which at Asiana is notorious for being pretty weak. It had 30 minutes of preloaded CNN footage from the day before (for a 14-hour flight!), plus Korean news footage (useless without captions). I had gone prepared with 3 movies preloaded into my iPad. The entertainment system did have some pretty decent movies, so I first watched “Race”, a new release about Jesse Owens and his 4 medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympic games. The movie was really good and while I knew the main history about the feat it was great to fill in the details.

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After the movie finished I started getting hungry, so I ordered a cup of Rooibos tea and udong noodles (about 15-minute preparation time). They were delicious.

AsianaAsianaOne problem I encountered with my seat was that the entire seat is operated electronically, and each time I raised the headrest it would recede back down. At first I thought I was doing something wrong, but after trying for quite a bit, not thinking it could be that complicated, I flagged a flight attendant for help, but we discovered it was actually malfunctioning, and there was no way to fix it. It wasn’t a problem when the seat was in bed mode, but when sitting down I could have used a slightly higher headrest, so it wasn’t 100% comfortable for my size.

Asian carriers keep their cabins pretty warm, and between the hot noodles, the pajamas and the cabin temperature I felt quite uncomfortable for a while, but I went to sleep anyway and managed to get 5-6 hours of solid sleep. Imagine that…a bed on a plane that allows you to actually sleep.

After waking up I noticed the cabin had cooled down considerably, so it felt much nicer temperature wise. I then watched a movie on my iPad and lounged and watched TV for a bit, and laid down for a while longer. Eventually a couple of hours out of Seoul the crew started preparing the cabin for dinner, and I converted my bed back into a seat.

I started dinner (I guess breakfast if you’ve just woken up) with orange juice, and stuck to water for the rest of the flight. It’s amazing how much staying hydrated helps with jetlag.

AsianaI again ordered the Korean meal, which consisted of Gomtang, a beef rib soup and a side of rice and some vegetables. My wife had the marinated shrimp and prosciutto and the beef brochette.

Korean gomtang

Korean gomtang

Shrimp and prosciutto

Shrimp and prosciutto

Beef brochette

Beef brochette

After dinner I had some fresh fruit and a double espresso to power through the rest of the evening.

AsianaAbout 45 minutes out of Seoul I changed out of my pajamas and we watched some TV and chatted for a bit with the flight attendants until we started the initial descend.

On final approach I thought it would be cool to watch the nose camera as the plane made its way into the runway, but the camera feed was unavailable, and not having sat by the window, I couldn’t watch the final approach, which for Seoul is beautiful. Oh well…seen it one, seen them all I guess.

After landing, the entertainment system broadcasted some tips on how to stretch and apply pressure to certain head spots to fight jetlag. I found it very interesting.

Asiana

Given that we were able to sleep on the plane, we arrived well refreshed and rested.

AsianaAfter arriving at the gate, the flight attendants let the first class cabin deplane first, which is always a time saver as we arrived to customs before everyone else. After saying our goodbyes to the crew, we deplaned and I took what felt like a great stretching walk along the terminal.

Our A380

Our A380

Looking glamorous after a great flight

Looking glamorous after a great flight

Overall impression:

Our flight was excellent overall. The crew was friendly and proactive, and the food and service was excellent. I was a bit disappointed that my seat’s headrest was not working properly, and had I been traveling by myself it would have been relatively easy to switch to a window seat, but being that we were traveling as a couple the broken headrest was something I just had to deal with. The bedding wasn’t as luxurious as our Singapore Airlines double bed in the sky, but it still got us a few hours of sleep. I love flying the A380, since it is so quiet and roomy, that it makes for a comfortable experience. Then again, any seats at the pointy end of a plane usually make for a comfortable experience. I loved the Asiana soft product and would definitely fly them again.

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2 Responses to Asiana A380 First Class New York to Seoul – Review

  1. Matt E says:

    If you were forced to choose Korean Air or Asiana to fly ICN-JFK in First (A380 on both), which would you do?

    • travelguys says:

      Matt, I personally liked the KE service more than Asiana’s, and the food was equally good on both but it’s a small sample size given I’ve only flown each once. That being said since you mentioned A-380 on both, I would go with Asiana, just because of the hard product. While KE has the new suites, my understanding is that they don’t have them on the A-380, so Asiana wins.

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