Review: Asiana Airlines Business Class A380-8, Los Angeles – Seoul Incheon


Asiana Airlines is a member of Star Alliance and is considered the “other” South Korean carrier. As a great way to connect across South East Asia, our travels today took us on their unique Airbus A380 aircraft. Asiana Airlines maintains a fleet of 6 Airbus 380 aircraft, which have been used on a mix of regional and international destinations including, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Frankfurt, Los Angeles, New York, Sydney and Tokyo. We were able to test them out on their flagship Los Angeles – Seoul route in Business Class.

This post is one chapter on our trip to Bali and Singapore. This trip was redeemed through Lifemiles, AAdvantage and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) loyalty programs. 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 Airlines Business Class A380-8, Los Angeles Tom Bradley International Airport – Seoul Incheon

“Asiana Airlines Airbus 380 service on the flagship Los Angeles – Seoul Incheon route offered terrific service, a full flat bed and an experience in one of the most elegant aircrafts to grace the skies”

This Asiana Airlines Los Angeles – Incheon flight would be the second time that we had flown this route. The last time we flew this route, it was on an Asiana Airlines First Class Los Angeles – Incheon on a Boeing 747, which is an interesting comparison between the two flights.

Asiana Airlines
Business Class
LAX-ICN (Los Angeles Tom Bradley International Terminal – Seoul Incheon Airport)
OZ 201 – Business Class (I)
July 18, 2015
Booked: Airbus 380-800
Flown: Airbus 380-800

In September of 2014, Avianca’s LifeMiles Frequent Flier program ran a 2 for 1 purchase promotion (100% bonus on purchased miles). Myself and MrsWT73 stocked up on enough miles for a one way ticket to Asia (or enough for two tickets for myself). It cost around $1,000 USD per person (one way) or 65,000 LifeMiles (now 78,000 LifeMiles). Searching on the United Airlines website, we easily found three business class reward seats on Asiana on their Airbus 380 Los Angeles – Seoul Incheon service with a connection to Denpasar, Indonesia. I was able to replicate the United reward search on the LifeMiles website and we snapped up those three seats as soon as the purchased miles turned up in our account at about nine months in advance of the date of summer season travel. There were no fuel surcharges and the taxes and fees on the ticket were only $14.95 USD each. At the time of booking, we could have departed from Seattle on their Airbus 330 equipment (now a Boeing 777-200). However, this involved older angle flat seating and we wanted to experience an upper cabin on the beautiful Airbus 380. As mentioned earlier, we flew this exact route and flight in 2012 when it was serviced by a Boeing 747 in Asiana First Class.  

We headed down to the gate from the Star Alliance Business Lounge Los Angeles Tom Bradley International Terminal at T-45. They hadn’t announced boarding in the lounge as they said that they woud but I wanted to get some aircraft photos. The plane is super impressive parked at the gate and there are some great photo opportunities to get with the people in the background. 

The Airbus A380 “Whale Jet” parked at Gate 148 at Los Angeles Tom Bradley International Terminal

There was some confusion and there was a delay of boarding until right at departure time. Unfortunately, the TBIT gates aren’t large enough to physically accommodate 495 passengers in the holding area and line management was a bit of a mess. All economy passengers were segregated to the main boarding area, and two lines were queued up “via the shouting method” for First and Business, and Asiana Platinum and Star Gold priority boarders. Asiana Airlines boarded first and business first after the disabled assistance announcement. MrsWT73 collected her duty free immediately after the boarding document check in the secure gate area. Collecting the duty free, we boarded and headed up the escalators for upper deck boarding. 

Los Angles Tom Bradley International Terminal Gate 148 Boarding Area
Asiana Airlines Boarding Podium
An Escalator to Upper Deck Airbus 380 Heaven
Boarding the Airbus A380 Upper Deck

On Board Asiana Airlines Airbus 380 Business Class:

Asiana Airlines offers business class seating on the upper deck of its Airbus A380 positioned in the forward two thirds of the aircraft, with economy class seating filling the rear third of the upper deck. Asiana Airlines calls it’s business class configuration on the Airbus A380 as “Business Smartium Class”. The seat features a full flat seat. The seating configurations are 1-2-1 with the centre seats staggered (or potentially looking like 1-1-1-1). Some of the centre seats are together for passengers travelling together, where as others are apart.

Asiana Airlines Business Smartium Class A380
A Comparison of Center Together Oriented or Separate Oriented Seats
Asiana Airlines Business Smartium Seats

I was travelling with my son on this trip. Seating wise, I had strategically stuck us together in the centre seats (others rows were staggered and apart) so that so I could monitor my son.

Center Pair of Business Smartium Seats
View of Video Entertainment Systems

Since there were three of us travelling as a group, I put MrsWT73 on the outside aisle with the goal that we could chat across aisle as needed. The outer aisle seats are much more exposed than the window seats and I’d only recommend these aisle seats as a last resort. Unfortunately, it was not great for a conversation as the aircraft noise across the aisle was too loud to carry on much discussion. If you’re going to pick the outer seats, the ones closest to the window are much better.

Asiana Airlines Airbus 380 Business Smartium Aisle Seats
Asiana Airlines Airbus 380 Business Smartium Aisle Seats

My son’s initial impressions on board as we settled in: My son announced “Wow – I could get used to this!”. He promptly started playing around with his seat. You know you’ve impressed your own off spring when they start taking an iPod video of the whole experience, complete with self narrative, describing all the features of the cabin. 

Getting back to the seats themselves, the seats are comfortable and private. Each featured an individual reading light, a cup holder and compartment featuring slippers and headphones, and a USB charging station.

Each Seat featured a USB charger, an individual reading light and a pair of slippers

The seat had a multitude of controls, including direct lie flat and upright placements. It also featured a wired remote control for the entertainment features on this Airbus A380.

A Wired Remote and Seat Control Features

The cabin featured overhead bins in both the center and outer aisles. The Business Smartium configurations made for a private, but not claustrophobic cabin.

Korean Language Exit Signs
Asiana Airlines Business Smartium Cabin Overview
Asiana Airlines Business Smartium Cabin Overview
Asiana Airlines A380 Business Smartium Cabin Overview

The Amenity Kit: L’Occitaine en Provence:

An amenity kit was left in the pod. It was an L’Occitaine En Provence branded kit. Aside from the small and tiny hand lotion, there wasn’t much “L’Occitaine” about it.

Amenity Kit: A Pouch Like Kit featuring L’Occitaine en Provence
Contents of our L’Occtaine en Provence

It wasn’t too useful. It was something at least, as Asiana didn’t offer another kit on our next intra Asia flight. 

Pre-Departure Services:

We had a pre-departure beverage of orange juice or water. In my experience, Asiana Airlines doesn’t open any of the good stuff (like champagne) on the ground in the USA. Dinner menus were also presented with orders taken on the ground.

Pre – Departure Orange Juice with Korean Doilies

Flight departure timing wise, it wasn’t Asiana’s best performance today. First, there was a fuelling delay and then a wait for paperwork. We waited on the ground on board for about an hour. Finally at T + 75 we headed to taxi. We were able to follow along the take off runway via the nose camera shown direct to our seat. It’s a great addition. We were held up a little more by Allegiant Air as we headed for Runway 14 R.

Take Off Roll: Departing LAX

A Birthday on Board Today:

It happened to be MrsWT73’s birthday while we were flying today. I offered a bit of a thank you “shout out” to her for accommodating the flying on her birthday, thanks to some patchy reward availability. As a thank you to her, I brought along some streamers and happy birthday decorations and a card. I brought it up to the purser during boarding and had the crew sign it. I also brought some small presents along on board for her. After the seatbelt sign was switched off, I self decorated the cabin. Needless to say, it was a memorable birthday for her that she probably wouldn’t forget (bottomless champagne anyone?).

The Asiana Staff presented the card with a birthday cake (which was a regular desert menu item) prior to the meal and pre meal beverage service. I have to thank the awesome performance on the part of Asiana crew for accommodating!! Hey – the crew even wrote in the card that I was the “best man ever” (laughing). Err, okay! 

The Meal: A Full Lunch

After those festivities, the lunch service started. The menus on Asiana Airlines are always quite impressive. Their menus typically feature a full Western and Korean option, which is a great way to try some regional cuisine. Asiana Airlines also happens to be one of the view carriers that consistently put a calorie count on their menus next to the items.

Business Class Menu
Asiana Airlines Business Class Western Menu LAX-ICN
Asiana Airlines Business Class Korean Menu LAX-ICN

With the exception of First Class, the wine lists on Asiana aren’t too “over the top”. Fortunately, on the long haul flights, there is usually quite a bit of choice. Today’s flight offered Piper Heindsieck Champagne, 2 white wines, 3 red wines, and two dessert wines including port and Canadian Ice Wine.

On the medium and short haul flights, they often only cater one white wine and one red wine. On these shorter flights, it’s “a take it or leave it” situation. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case on today’s flight. The wine list included Piper Heindsieck Champagne, 2 white wines, 3 red wines, and two dessert wines of port and Canadian Ice Wine. 

Asiana Airlines Wine List
Asiana Airlines Bar and Sprits Menu
Asiana Airlines Mixed Cocktail List
Asiana Business Class Wine List “Whites” LAX-ICN
Asiana Business Class Wine List “Reds” LAX-ICN
Asiana Business Class Dessert Wine List LAX-ICN

The dinner service started today with an amuse bouche of zucchini wrapped salmon and brie, paired with Piper Heindsieck Champagne.

Canapé: Zuchinni Wrapped Salmon and Brie

This was followed by today’s starter of grilled tuna and mixed vegetables.

Service of Appetizer
Grilled Tuna and Mixed Vegetables

The next course was a soup today. Why not? It’s clam chowder – which is a strange choice when heated up on a plane, thanks to the potential for strange fish odours. 

Clam Chowder: looking surprisingly jelly like

I opted for the Western menu today instead of the Korean food. I went with the beef tenderloin steak with mushroom sauce, mashed potato and carrots, paired with the Wente Vineyards Reliz Pinot Noir. It was nicely cooked but a little dry. 

Beef tenderloin steak with mushroom sauce, mashed potato and carrots,

I finished off with Sawmill Creek Ice Wine with a small serving of Cheese.

Assorted Cheese Plate

A Children’s Meal:

I had pre-ordered a kids meal by telephone through the Asiana Los Angeles ticket office My son didn’t care much for the starters but found the main okay. Dinner service concluded around 5 PM Pacific Standard Time, which was quite late for a lunch service for a flight that was supposed to start at 12:40 PM (T + 4.5 hrs). 

Kids Meal: Chicken Nuggets with Mac and Cheese, Carrots and green Beans

Visiting the On Board “Lounge”:

After dinner, we all went for a walk around on board. We ended up in the bare bones lounge towards the nose end of the business class cabin. It was completely dark with the lights off when we arrived. The crew flipped on the lights when they saw us there. It’s a pretty austere place without any real personality. We, well we as in “the adults”, had a few gin tonics here and they brought us some nuts to go along with it. My son had a Coke. It was much easier to talk here instead of across aisle and was nice to occupy all the benches as a family and spend some time together having a unique experience. My son got into his Nitendo DS, which was a must bring for a trip of this length. He also said “Daaaaadd. Enough photographs.”

The Asiana On Board Business Class “Lounge” space
View from the Lounge Couches
Lounge Area Drinks with Nuts
WT73Jr enjoying a Coke

From the lounge, the access down to what was “First Class”, and is now downgraded to “Business Suite”, was roped off.

Stairs down to First Class

We also checked out the stairs at the tail end of the plane. The lounge end is roped off that leads down to first, and the back stairs are also roped off that lead from economy section to economy section. Regretfully, you can’t do laps around on the plane if you wanted to. 

Rear Circular Stairs

On our way back to the seat, we passed through the rear economy section on the upper deck. Each seat had an oversized individual monitor.

Asiana Airlines A380 Economy Class

After the lounge, we went back to seat to relax. The cabin was dark by this point. My son lasted about two minutes before he fell asleep, tired from the exciting new experiences and the early 4 AM wake up for the Delta Airlines First Class Vancouver – Los Angeles flight down the day earlier. 

WT73Jr in Full Flat Mode for Sleeping

In Flight Entertainment:

Before I went man down, I played with the in flight entertainment system. Asiana isn’t known for fabulous in flight entertainment, and today options, while decent, were pretty much one flight’s worth of movies. If you were regularily travelling on their equipment, you’d get pretty tired of the limited options. 

Welcome to Asiana Airlines “In Flight Entertainment”
Today’s Flight Track
Asiana Airlines Movies

In terms of sleeping, I found the seat to be a bit narrow in the bottom half for my liking. As a side sleeper, the cavity for the seats were quite narrow and my knees kept bumping against the seat of the pod in front of me. The cabin was also quite warm and no air vents above the seats on the A380. The ANA Square Business Staggered on their B787 seemed a bit more roomy in terms of comparison for a similar staggered product.


The Second Service: A Snack:

I woke up with the lights coming on over Tokyo, about 1:50 minutes prior to landing.

Lights On Approaching Tokyo

I took an opportunity to take a look outside at the beautiful wing at morning flight.

Looking at the Asiana A380 Wing
The Beautiful Asiana A380 Wing

The second service was delivered promptly after a towel service. The second service consisted of the following.

The Second Service: A Three Course Snack

I started with the proscuitto appetizer with some tired frissee that didn’t travel well. It seemed to sag a little bit. 

Proscuitto Ham and Vegetables with Frisée

The main was chicken thigh, which was boneless along with the usual Asiana sauces. Spice condiments were brought around on the tray as well. 

Roasted Chicken Thigh served with Potato and Mixed Vegetables

My son shovelled kids meal spaghetti, with an assortment of plain vegetables, into his tummy. My son enjoyed his snacks and drink offering. He was such a good sport to be travelling such a long way with his dad. The decision to have him close to me in the center seats was the right one as it made it much easier to take care of him. 

Morning Wake Ups with Water

The second serving was concluded with dessert, and a coffee to help wake up after a snooze.

Fruit Tart and Coffee

Arriving to Seoul Incheon:

As we got ready to descend, the motorized seat gobbled up one of my socks. I had placed it on the ground and when I went to bed, the frame of the recliner dragged it underneath the seat. Unfortunately due to the design of the seat, it was gone forever. I attempted to get it back, but only came up with old crumbs and used ear plugs. I had the rest of the flights today with only one sock! (The horrors!) A bit funny to share this, but those that are travelling on this equipment type beware! I suppose that I could have used the brown ones supplied from the amenity kit, but didn’t.

Approaching Incheon

We arrived to gate and were let off promptly with three door disembarking. We were off and into Incheon without any issue but with kind thank you’s abound from the Asiana staff. 

Arriving to Incheon
Our Asiana A380 on the Ground at Incheon

The Bottom Line: Our experience with Asiana Airlines Airbus 380 Long Haul

Asiana’s A380 service was a terrific experience. The highlight of Asiana are the terrific crews that are always pleasant and accommodating. Sure, there are a few language problems and things that are lost in translation, but they spend lots of effort training them (it’s very apparent) that it’s a pleasure to fly with them. The ability to enjoy one of the fifteen carriers in the world that operate the Airbus A380 was an added highlight.

If you’ve flown Asiana Airlines Airbus A380 in Business or First Class, did you have a terrific experience?

One Comment on “Review: Asiana Airlines Business Class A380-8, Los Angeles – Seoul Incheon

  1. Pingback: 10 asiana a380 Ideas

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