Review: Asiana First Class B747, Los Angeles – Incheon

Asiana First Class offered among the most attentive service ever. It’s likely the highest service levels in First Class amongst Star Alliance carriers with traditional and elegant service delivery.


This post is one chapter in our Around the World in Star Alliance First Class via China, Thailand and Spain. This trip was booked using Air Canada Aeroplan miles. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: Asiana First Class, Boeing 747-400, Los Angeles – Incheon

“Asiana First Class is one of the most exquisite service oriented First Class products in the World

The service levels are unparalleled and are complimented with exceptional World Class Wines”

I’ve found that you can always tell where they are in boarding as to how many people are standing around as you approach the gates. In this case, we hadn’t missed a piece of the action since people were spilling over into the hallway and most of the gate chairs were occupied by patient families and children. 

Gate 121 – Tom Bradley International Terminal.
Flight Board, Asiana Los Angeles – Seoul

We found the First Class line, which was the same as the Business and Asiana Diamond Tier line. Unfortunately it snaked down the hall away from the gate. There were about 50 of us in this line waiting to board. Those that have previously complained about too many Top Tier Frequent Flyers would have the same complaint here. It was a little deflating. 

Asiana Priority Boarding Queue

We were so far away, like the infinity effect, we couldn’t see the gate – “Priority Boarding Line” for First, Business, Asiana Diamond.

Asiana Airlines
LAX – ICN (Los Angeles Tom Bradley International Terminal – Seoul Incheon International Airport)
OZ 201 – First Class (O)
01:10 PM – 06:10 PM +1 
May 5, 2012
Booked: Boeing 747-400
Flown: Boeing 747-400

The advantage of being so far down the hallway from gate 121 is that it allowed for some great Boeing 747 pictures to be taken of our ride to South Korea. 

Asiana Boeing 747-400
Our ride: Asiana Boeing 747-400

Once the boarding started, the 50 of us in the premium line were given first crack at getting on board. When the line started moving, it was surprisingly speedy. On my flight, the ground staff did take the long stub part of the boarding pass which was unfortunate for those travelers like me looking for a First Class Stub as a souvenir.  

On Board in the Asiana First Class Cabin:

We immediately turned left after the gate podium and we were immediately welcomed into the familiar and comforting beige Asiana First Class cabin. After several months of reviews, research and seeing all the pictures, finally being in the First Class cabin was like meeting a movie star. When you finally meet them, they’re much smaller in person! 

Asian First Class Cabin
Asiana First Class Seat
Asiana First Class Cabin
View from your seat in Asiana First Class

The subdued beige color is either subtle enough for your tastes or boring enough to be forgotten. I think it is somewhere between the two.

On our seats upon our arrival were the Bulgari Amenity Kits and a cello wrapped blanket. As we setted in, I started to take in all our surrounding. I happened to notice that all our flight attendants were immaculate. Their appearance was near perfection: cleanly pressed attire, hair tied back, perfect manners- it was like we had arrived in a fashion show of perfect-ness on board this 747.

Dedicated First Class Blankets

Our flight attendants immediately came around with PJ’s on a silver tray. I asked for an XL and she didn’t have one on the tray. The XL’s were a good fit for a 6ft 2 tall person with an athletic build. Ms WT73 got a medium and it fit her quite well as a 5ft 3 inch woman with a slim build. We were both happy we chose one size larger on the PJ’s. 

The load in First Class was 9/10 tonight with 3 cabin attendants taking care of us. We were unable to get side by side seats together, partly due to me leaving seat selection on our ticket to 6 months before departure. Another Hollywood couple (he was reading a movie script! Is this normal for Los Angeles?) was also seated on the outer flanks of the cabin one behind another like we were. There was one dead heading pilot in uniform, and another male who partially occupied one of the seats- then disappeared after the two meal services, and didn’t stay with us for the duration of the flight.  

Pre-Departure Beverage: “Water”:

Asiana was delayed in pushing back from the gate today but I certainly didn’t mind. Our flight attendants offered us beverage and I asked for champagne. I received the first and last “No” of the whole 24,000 mile F experience. I was politely explained that due to Custom’s regulations, that they couldn’t offer champagne while the plane was parked on the ground with the doors open. As an alternative, they brought me a water in a glass to start. Indeed, within about 30 seconds of the heavy clunk of the cabin door being closed, and without me asking for it, a champagne flute was placed on the table next to me, and a glass of Taittinger Comte de Blancs 2000 was being poured elegantly and delicately.

Once airborne, finally, a champagne pour!

This was a pour of near perfection in cabin service. 

One unfortunate thing that I have found across several carriers is that the first or business class champagne and white wines are never chilled at the right temperature. They seem to usually have been chilled for 1-2 hours and they have that slightly colder than room temperature taste to it, similar to when you put that bottle in the freezer at home and it is opened not quite cold. Regretfully, this was no exception on Asiana, which in my opinion is a shame considering the amount of capital investment they spend on their food and beverage which can be seen in the quality of their wines. 

One of the joys of traveling to somewhere foreign is that you get the opportunity to see aircraft that you don’t usually get to see at home. Taxing to the south runways, passing Tom Bradley International Terminal, I had the opportunity to take some photographs of carriers that don’t make it to my home base of Vancouver, BC. We were underway before we know it and climbing to a comfortable cruising altitude.

A Singapore Airlines Airbus 380 in Los Angeles on Taxi
A United Boeing 747 on taxi

Once we were airborne, menus were passed out. We were quickly headed west, leaving the Pacific Coast behind. 

Los Angeles Shoreline departing LAX

Food and Beverage:

Picking up the menus, it was a delight to read. It was a mix of both western favourites and an interesting mix of Korean food.

Asiana First Class Menu

LUNCH
WESTERN:

Ricotta Stuffed Mushroom and Smoked Salmon
Caviar
Marinated Shrimp and Pate
Chickpea Soup.

Mixed Greens:
Balsamic Dressing
Thousand Island Dressing

Main Courses:

Beef Tenderloin Steak – served with green peppercorn sauce, roasted potato and vegetables

Or

Grilled Lobster – served with Saffron tomato sauce, potato and vegetables. 

Or

Fettucini with Cheese – served with mushroom and tomato coulis

Cheese and Fruit
Camembert, Gorgonzola, Chaumes

Dessert
Strawberry Cheese Cake

Coffee and Tea
Petit Fours.

LUNCH:

Asiana First Class Menu


KOREAN:

Starter:
Dried Date, Ginko Nut and Fresh Chestnut
Shrimp with Pine Nut Dressing
Korean Pumpkin Porridge “Hobakjuk”
• We are pleased to offer the caviar service upon your request

Main Course:

Mixing and Harmonizing
A Famous Korean Cuisine “Bibimbap”
Steamed Rice, Various Kinds of Vegetables, and Minced Beef.
Mixed with Red Chili Paste, Sesame Oil.
Accompanied by Asorted Side Dishes and Soup.

Dessert:
Fresh Fruit.

Coffee and Tea.

The wine list was great and particularly decent for a First Class Wine list.

Asiana First Class Wine List
Asiana First Class Wine List
Asiana First Class Wine List


WINES: 

Tattinger Comte de Blancs Champagne Vintage 2000 (fabulous!!! The best of the trip)
Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill Vintage 1999

Roux Pere & Fils Meursault 1er Cru Clos Des Pouruzots 2009, France
Chateau Brown 2007 Pesac Bordeaux, France (Semillon Sauvingon Blanc blend)
Jordan Chardonnay, California, USA

Chateau Gruaud Larose 2006, Saint Julien, Bordeaux, France (awesome and delicately rich)
Vincent Girardin Corton Bressandes Grand Cru 2008, Bourgogne, France.
Robert Keenan Winery Cabernet Sauvingon 2006, California, USA

Blandy’s 10 Year old Malmsey Madiera, Portugal.
Port Sandeman 20 year old Tawny Porto
Jackson Triggs Vidal VQA Ice Wine 2007, Niagara, CANADA

Oh my god, I was in food and beverage heaven. 

I had heard lots about Asiana and their First Class Service. In short, there was a reason that they have developed this reputation. The service on the flight was excellent. I was lucky enough to break 500,000 lifetime miles on this particular flight. Reflecting back over that time, I’ve had the experience of dealing with all sorts of crews, some cordial, some grumpy, some fun to talk to, some you just wanted to avoid!! In this case, I felt like I had received 5 star treatment from gate to gate. The crew seemed genuinely happy to be serving and I didn’t get any impression that they were dissatisfied with their employer like I had read in some aviation news articles regarding their labor versus management battles across various carriers. The flight attendants always asked to enter your “space” whenever they needed to take a dish away, or to serve a drink. It was a small touch, but it was complete understated elegance. I also noticed what others have observed, in that there was usually a flight attendant watching the First Class cabin from the rear of First, to see if drinks needed refilling or if passengers needed anything. 

The First Service – “Lunch”:

Once at a comfortable cruising altitude, the flight attendants used a cart to set the table. 

I started with ordering one appetizer (the caviar) to accompany the grilled lobster. The flight attendant encouraged me to try more, so I did. 

Amuse bouche Ricotta Mushroom and Smoked Salmon

Amuse Bouche Ricotta Mushroom and Smoked Salmon
Traditional Service from the Cart
Caviar with the traditional garnishes
Caviar

I did ask for a shot of Vodka to go with the caviar. I was brought a small dish of butter, which highlighted some of the amusing language issues that occurred. However, this was cleared up with a smile and before I knew it, I was tucking into an individual sealed container of caviar from Beverly Hills Caviar with the traditional garnishes. 

Marinated Shrimp and Pate

Mixed Greens with Balsamic Dressing

Grilled Lobster with Saffron Tomato Sauce, Potato and Mixed Vegetables.

After seeing Lobster on the menu for lunch today, I certainly wasn’t going to pass on it. I wasn’t feeling the mood for Korean just yet, so I didn’t opt for the Bibimbap. I found that the Lobster was little tough in texture to fully experience on a plane at 37,000 feet, but it certainly wasn’t the worst Lobster that I had eaten. It was served with a Saffron Tomato Sauce, which I personally thought was a bit strong for the mild taste of lobster. I decided that I’d probably opt for a different dish next time. 

Camebert, Gorgonzola and Charmes cheese with Fresh Fruit

I had a glass of the Chateau Gurard Larose with the cheese offering.

Strawberry Cheese Cake with Jackson Triggs Vidal Ice Wine

Strawberry Cheese Cake with Jackson Triggs Vidal Ice Wine .

The meal was topped off by a pink carnation, which was lovely to have as a table setting and also concluded with a towel service. The AVOD didn’t seem to inspire too much excitement. I did get sucked into passing the time by watching the Descendants (a fantastic, but depressing movie). I later changed into the supplied gold colored PJ’s and drifted off into a nap to catch up on sleep as a result of that horrible 4:30 AM wakeup this morning. As the flight was in the daytime and traveling with the sun, the shades were lowered for the balance of the flight, or about 70% of our time on board. 

After I woke up, about nine hours into the flight, Ms WT73 announced that she loved her bed and the big thick blanket. She had been snacking on the snack menu: a cup o noodles and a ham and cheese croissant and had passed the time watching movies. 

The Second Service – “Snack”:

Before we knew it, it was time for the second service. 

Asiana First Class Second Service Snack Menu

SNACK:

Appetizer:
Grilled Ahi Tuna and Vegetables

Main Courses:
Korean Royal Cuisine “Yukgaejang”
Korean Traditional Spicy Beef Soup, served with various kinds of side dishes and steamed rice

Or

Shrimp Brochette
Mustard Sauce and Vegetables

Or

Mushroom Stuffed Chicken
Potato and Vegatables

Dessert
Fruit Tart

Coffee and Tea. 

Asiana First Class Table Setting
Grilled Ahi Tuna and Vegetables
Asiana First Class flatware

This time, I opted for the Korean Service – Yukjaeyang, a spicy beef soup with many side dishes. It was prepared in advance in the galley and served on a large tray at my table with the side dishes perfectly prepared in advance.

Korean Royal Cuisine “Yukgaejang”

It was spicy but not unbearable. Being a soup, it was a bit challenging to eat spilling around at 37,000 feet but hey – life’s full of adventures. 

Approaching Incheon, South Korea

I did sneak upstairs to the upper deck to take a look at the business class section. It was outfitted with the usual business class in non flat seats in a very private setting. 

Upstairs Boeing 747-400 Asiana Business Class Cabin

Toward the end of the flight, just before our approach into Incheon, our flight attendant presented herself at our chair with the words “Time for us to say goodbye”. On a silver tray was the parting gift. Today’s choices were a Links Business Card Holder or a Korean Opera CD. I chose the Links Business Card Holder, which was wrapped nicely. 

Before we knew it, the flight wound down towards landing in Seoul, Incheon, Korea.

On final approach into Incheon
Arriving at Incheon, South Korea

We were off in Incheon at the gate before we knew it.

The Bottom Line:

Overall, what made Asiana First so special over Business? For me, it was the attention to service and detail. The crew worked seamlessly as a team and were exceptionally professional in their approach. The flight attendants knelt at every order taken by your chair for every single customer. I can imagine that this must take exceptional physical work, strength and agility on their part and I really appreciated it. I had never seen anything like it on a plane. In general, despite probably the best wine list I’ve ever seen in the air, it seemed as though there were not a lot of people drinking on this flight. Every time I changed wines I could hear corks being opened and champagne corks popping. The wine list again was exceptional and the best that I experienced on this trip for in flight. 

“A must fly for those interested in Asian service of the highest standards. Likely among the top service of Star Alliance carriers.”


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