Updated on December 15, 2017
Flight Review: Asiana A380 First Class Seoul (ICN) to New York (JFK)
The flight from Haneda to Seoul was pleasant and mostly uneventful. Now I had about an hour or so to relax in the ICN airport until I needed to head to gate 46 for my flight. I headed for the Asiana First Class lounge.
I would say one of the worst parts about Asiana First Class is the lounge – it’s just not good. It’s not a competitive product compared to its rivals around the world. I mean, it’s not as bad as JAL First Class lounge in SFO, but, then again, that’s the worst FC lounge in the world – this is probably bottom 5. I reviewed this lounge when Kevin and I first traveled to Korea back in 2015.
Guess what – it’s still just as underwhelming, but it does have a new, sweet-ass curved TV.
I wasn’t too concerned about the lack of amenities in the lounge as I didn’t have a ton of time anyway. I grabbed a beer, relaxed for a bit then headed to the gate!
Oddly enough I had somewhat lost track of time doing nothing in the lounge and by the time I got to the gate the plane was about 2 minutes from boarding. I snapped a couple quick gate photos before boarding.
As you can see two pictures up, there was a huge line already up at the desk ready to go. I figured out it was the business class line, but where’s the first class line? Well, turns out there wasn’t one, so I just got in the business class line. A woman starting walking through the line checking boarding passes, and when she saw mine said first class she immediately pulled me out of line and brought me to the front. It was somewhat awkward as she asked people to please move as she pushed me in front of them, but I wasn’t really complaining.
I scanned my pass and walked down the hall until I hit a fork in the jet bridge. First class and some of economy boarded through the two doors on the left, while the other rows of economy and business class kept heading down the hall to the right.
Airline: Asiana Airlines
Route: OZ222 ICN-JFK
Seats: 3A (3E Bed)
Flight time: 13 hours 10 minutes (in air), about 14 hrs gate-to-gate
The load for the first class cabin was only 4/12. The other 3 passengers came in at the end of boarding so I had a bit of time to myself in the cabin. There was an elderly American couple in front of me in the center of row 2 and a Korean man on the other side of the plane in row 1.
After boarding through the forward door I took a right into the closest hallway and turned right into my seat at 3A.
The first class seats are 25.2 inches wide and provide 84 inches of pitch – i.e. they’re huge!
As you’ll see in the picture below, and again later-on in my review, the TVs are massive. They’re 32 inches, about as big as you’re ever going to see on a plane.
The first class cabin is 3 rows of 1-2-1 layout for a total of 12 seats.
Before I got too comfortable in my seat, and while the plane was still pretty much empty, I decided to take a look around. I really wanted to head upstairs and check out the business class cabin.
Asiana doesn’t really do a lot with the dead space in the front of the upper deck. They essentially just put to small love-seats up there looking at the side of the stairs – I don’t know who would ever want to sit here?
Let’s head back downstairs to heaven and finish our first class review. Let’s get into the details.
There’s an incredible amount of space in these suites, and enough room underneath the ottoman to fit a large carryon bag.
The suite walls are actually quite tall, and the picture below will show that – I was raising my arms above my head as much as I could to try and get a cabin shot.
Anyway, let’s get into the SWAG (stuff we all get). First, the pajamas and blanket.
Now, let’s move onto the amenity kit.
Now, let’s look at the IFE and the rest of the seat. But first, the first glass of champs. Today’s pre-departure beverage is brought to you by Sir Winston Churchill 2004. Spoiler alert – it was awesome.
Okay now seriously the IFE. This was, by far, the most underwhelming part of the flight. Asiana’s IFE selection and system is one of the worst I’ve encountered in a major, international first class. This is especially disappointing because the screen is so huge!
Another piece to be noted is that the volume was extremely low, and made it very difficult to hear anything even with the volume turned all the way up. I found myself in some scenes of the movie having to press the headphones tightly over my ears to hear. I thought that was strange and something I hadn’t experience in first class previously.
The suite had a touch screen next to the seat that controlled everything in the suite, minus the TV. This include the position o f the seat, lighting, privacy, etc. It’s functionality was just fine, but could be improved.
Then there was a separate touch-screen remote that served as the remote for the IFE system.
One strange thing, that I understand is probably something needed for air flow, circulation, etc. (or none of those because I don’t know what I’m talking about), is the massive amount of space wasted around the outside of the suites.
I mean this area is huge, probably the size of the economy seats on United and AA. The seats are already huge so that wasn’t as much the issue as it is the distance from the window. I love being up next to the window and it also makes it easier for pictures. First world problems.
Moving on. The Bose noise-cancelling headphones are essentially a given on flights like this now, but man do they sure make a difference.
Before we get into the food and the “run-of-show” of the flight as it were, let’s take a quick trip to the bathroom.
It’s very spacious, but nothing special by any means. When other [middle eastern] competitors are putting showers in first class, the Asian airlines have all stuck to the no-shower thing. But once the first one does it it could spring a chain reaction.
The bathroom is really tough to get pictures of, honestly. It’s got a wide bench that runs along the right side below a massive window and the toilet is actually hidden underneath that.
Now that I’d gone and taken the requisite pictures around the plane, it was time to get back to my seat and finish off my first glass while perusing the menu for today’s flight.
It should be noted that you can pre-order a meal on Asiana first class by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, but I had heard it be a little bit difficult and a bit of a back-and-forth so I decided to forgo that option and take my chances in flight.
Let’s start with the menu. As this aircraft goes to multiple locations around the world, and to both JFK and LAX in the US, they have different menus depending not only on the cities, but the direction in which you’re flying. Naturally I flipped to the pages marked, “Seoul-New York”.
As you can see, we were served lunch (as the flight left around lunch-time in Seoul) and then breakfast.
Now onto the wine menu. Many of you know I’m not a big wine guy, so I took all of these solely for the review – I couldn’t pick a good wine if I tried. The offering included a choice of three white wines, three red wines, two dessert wines, and cognac and liqueur.
Finally was the coffee and tea. I’m a huge coffee guy, but I’m really not a picky coffee guy. As long as they had some sort of caffeine I was good.
Not being an overly huge fan of Korean cuisine (it’s fine, just not my favorite asian food category), I went with the western menu and chose the Roasted Wagyu Hanging Tender Steak for my main course.
First up: Ricotta Tart with Sun-dried Tomato
Next up was the caviar and all the fixings that go along with it. Delicious.
I love bread. Correction – I love carbs – all carbs. I just find bread is the easiest way to get carbs. As you can imagine, that little bread bowl didn’t last long and there may have been a refill or four.
This was followed by the Creamy Chicken Soup and the Mixed Greens Salad. The soup was really, really good.
I passed on the raspberry sherbet and went straight for the main course. Bring on the steak!
I find the stereotype that steak is typically overcooked on planes to be very true. I mean, I don’t even get upset by it – I have a hard enough time doing it just right in my kitchen and I’m not flying 36,000 feet in the air. Typically I’ll find the cut of meat to be great but the cooking to be subpar. This time it was actually quite the opposite. The cooking was just great, but the cut of meat was just okay. All that said, I was still extremely happy with the meal and would order it again.
Finally came the dessert. The dessert was a Chocolate Fondant with Vanilla Sauce and it absolutely did not disappoint.
I finished watching whatever I was watching (The Revenant?) and the pursers cleared away my plates.
After 2 [or 12] glasses of champagne and a full stomach I decided to get some rest. But first I wanted to check out the plane all lit up.
As I alluded to earlier, the crew made up 3E for me as a bed.
I woke up after a solid 4-5 hours and was hungry, again. This time I ordered off the “Refreshments” menu and got some Ramen Noodles. One of my favorite parts of any flight is the ability to order food whenever you’d like, and not just set menus.
After watching a few more TV shows and movies I didn’t want to see (I’m telling you, the selection is horrible), we were getting closer to New York and they served breakfast. I kept it simple and just went with the fruit plate.
What have a missed in this review? The service!
I had extremely high expectations of the service and it actually exceeded my thinking. Now, maybe it was a combination of excellent crew and a lightly loaded cabin, but whatever it was, I was digging it.
The food was served promptly, they balanced well giving me my privacy while also checking in at just the right time. I would fly them again solely based on the crew – they really were fantastic.
The cherry on top came at the end of the flight. We started out descent into JFK when they came around and offered me a pretty large Asiana bag to take with me. They had seen that I was bringing back a couple loose pieces from my trip in Tokyo and gave me the bag so I could easily put it all together.
Unfortunately, my time on this incredible flight was about to end. But not before a really weird and totally Korean video about how to exercise on a plane. I’m upset I didn’t take a video of it.
Next thing I know we’re landed at JFK and the dream is officially over.
We pulled up next to a South African Airways A340 headed to Johannesburg.
I was quickly off the plane as the first passenger en route to the best and fastest customs process of my life thus far. I just needed one more look back!
The flight was incredible. Was the IFE “iffy”? Yeah, it was. Do they have a less-than-stellar, uncompetitive First Class Lounge? Oh yeah. But other than that I cannot say any other portion of the flight was sub par or even average. Almost all other aspects exceeded my expectations.
Have you flown Asiana First Class on the A380? Where’d you fly it and what was your experience?