Around the World in a Week, Part Thirteen: Asiana First Class Lounge ICN, ICN-FRA on Asiana in First Class

Part One: The Planning Process
Part Two: TPA-IAD on United in First Class, Lufthansa Senator Lounge IAD
Part Three: IAD-NRT on ANA in First Class
Part Four: ANA First Class Lounge NRT and NRT-SIN on Singapore Airlines in First Class
Part Five: The Crowne Plaza Changi
Part Six: The Grand Hyatt Singapore
Part Seven: Singapore
Part Eight: Singapore Business Class SIN-BKK, Thai First Class Lounge BKK
Part Nine: BKK-NRT on Thai in First Class, NRT-ICN on United in First Class
Part Ten: The Hyatt Regency Incheon Airport
Part Eleven: The Park Hyatt Seoul
Part Twelve: Seoul
Part Thirteen: ICN-FRA on Asiana in First Class
Part Fourteen: The InterContinental Frankfurt
Part Fifteen: Lufthansa First Class Terminal and FRA-SEA on Lufthansa in First Class
Part Sixteen: Conclusion


I got to the airport at around 10:30AM for my 12:30PM flight, and immediately proceeded to the Asiana First Class check-in counter, which was right near the entrance. There was no wait, so I was helped immediately. The conversation went something like this:

Agent: “Hello, where are you traveling to today?”
Me: “Frankfurt.”
Agent: “So you’re in business class?”
Me: “No, I’m in first class.”
Agent: “Hmm, Frankfurt only has economy and business class today.”

My heart started racing (mainly because I assumed I showed up for the flight on the wrong date), though after the agents stared at the screen for about 30 seconds, a boarding pass popped out for a first class seat to Frankfurt. They explained to me where security was and indicated they would be escorting me from the lounge to the gate (though not from check-in to the lounge).


Terminal exterior


ICN terminal


First class check-in


First class check-in

Fortunately the security line wasn’t too bad and I was through in minutes. Immigration didn’t take more than five minutes either. The Incheon terminal is quite impressive, ranking only slightly behind Hong Kong and Singapore, in my opinion.


ICN terminal

The Asiana lounges were located up the escalator immediately to the right after security, and the first class lounge, with a grand entrance, was located on the left.


First class lounge

I handed the agent my boarding pass and lounge invitation, and she welcomed me in. I asked for a power adapter, which she gladly provided.

The first class lounge is very nicely designed and was quite empty when I was there, with no more than a handful of people. It has large seating areas with a “library” theme.


First class lounge


First class lounge


First class lounge


Dining area

The food buffet wasn’t spectacular, and looked more like a business class spread at best, with some cold options, lox, tomatoes and mozzarella, etc. Nonetheless that’s plenty filling before an international first class flight. Most excitingly, they had all kinds of Haagen Dazs ice cream, both in cups and on the stick. I went with a cookies and cream bar.


Buffet


Nuts and pretzels


Pre-flight snack


Ice cream

As I tried to take a picture of the buffet area, one of the people working there came up to me and said “sorry sir, no photo.” I can understand if the Lufthansa First Class Terminal wanted to restrict photography because it’s usually crowded and it could potentially take away from the atmosphere for the “regulars,” but this lounge was empty and hardly anything special. I can’t take pictures, really? Yet I can freely take pictures on the plane?

I had assumed I would be fetched and escorted to the gate, but at around 12:10PM I still hadn’t been fetched, and there were only 20 minutes to go until departure. I went to the entrance to return my power adapter, and asked the agent whether it was time to board yet. She said “yes, board now please,” and gestured at a guy in a suit standing there waiting to escort me. I packed up my stuff and followed him to the gate.

Based on our pace, it seemed to me like we were running a bit late. There’s not a huge amount of value in this service, since they don’t have a golf cart or anything, but something is still better than nothing. We were leaving from gate 41, which was maybe a five minute walk away at the pace we were walking. The agent had already taken my boarding pass, so I was whisked right through the boarding area as he escorted me all the way to the door of the aircraft. Interestingly enough the boarding process was all finished up and the gate area was empty when we arrived, so I’m thinking someone lost track of time.

Asiana 0453, ICN-FRA, 777-200
Tuesday, June 22
Depart: 12:30PM
Arrive: 5:00PM
Duration: 11hr30min
Seat: 2K (First Class)

Once aboard I was greeted by two lovely flight attendants that immediately directed me to my seat. The first class cabin on the 777 has a 1-2-1 configuration, with a very spacious layout. The colors and pattern of the seat made the cabin look pretty old, despite the first class seats only recently being installed on this aircraft.


First class cabin


My seat, 2A


View from my seat


Entertainment system


Seat


Seat controls

Waiting for me at my seat was a pair of slippers and headsets.


Slippers and headsets

As soon as my bags were stowed the purser came by to introduce herself and wish me a pleasant flight. Another flight attendant addressed me by name, introduced herself as one of the first class flight attendants that would be taking care of me, and offered me a beverage to start off the flight. I asked for still water, which was served with some mixed, hot nuts. That’s right, pre-departure hot nuts! Not only that, but the flight attendant scooped the nuts out of the container and into the ramekin right in front of me.


Water and hot nuts

As boarding continued I was offered newspapers and magazines. I chose the Financial Times, along with some of the cool in-flight magazines they had, like Air Transport World and Business Traveler.


Newspaper and magazines

Shortly thereafter pajamas and amenity kits were offered. I went with a large set of pajamas, which ended up being a bit too small. So it’s worth noting that the pajamas on Asiana run much smaller than normal. I’m a medium or sometimes a large, and I needed at least an x-large. The pajamas were nonetheless quite nice. I changed into them almost immediately, and the flight attendants hung my clothes for me.


Pajamas, slippers, and amenity kit


Pajamas

Cabin music continued to play and eventually the occupant of seat 1K boarded. Shortly thereafter the main cabin door closed, and it seemed like I would have yet another flight with only one other cabin mate.

The captain came on the PA and in very broken English explained our flight path, flight time, etc. He indicated our flight time would be 10hr31min, but unfortunately we would be a bit late due to flow control between Asia and Europe.

The delay wasn’t too bad, and about 15 minutes after our scheduled departure time we pushed back. The safety video began to play, and the flight attendants stood in the aisle as they bowed down at the beginning of the video. It was quite funny, as I had two flight attendants on my side of the first class aisle that bowed down just for me. They had a hard time keeping a straight face, as they saw me smirking.

I was surprised that announcements were just made in English and Korean, despite the flight being to Germany.

We began our taxi to the runway, and after waiting for a few minutes rocketed off after a long takeoff roll.


After takeoff


Airshow after takeoff

There were a few bumps on our initial climb out due to some thick cloud coverage, though it smoothed out after a few minutes. The seatbelt sign was turned off for a few minutes, at which point it was turned back on.

Nonetheless flight attendants sprung into action to begin their service. The “cabin manager,” who I had first assumed was a first officer due to his pilot uniform and three stripes, came by to introduce himself and wish me a pleasant flight. His English skills weren’t that great, so he left it at that. Shortly thereafter the menus were distributed, which were as thick as a book.


Menu and wine list

The menu read as follows:

Lunch

Western

Starter
Baked Petit Choux Pastry Filled with Prawn and Lobster
Served with Fresh Asparagus

Gravlax, Abalone and Prosciutto Ham with Melon

Asparagus Cream Soup

Mixed Greens
Caesar Dressing

Main Course 1
Pappardelle Pasta with Pinenut Cream Sauce

Main Course 2
Beef Tenderloin Steak
Served with Pizzaiola Sauce
Asparagus and Fried Sweet Potato

or

Lobster Filo
Served with Lobster Bisque Sauce

Cheese and Fruit
Camembert, Edam and Blue

Dessert
Tiramisu Cake

Coffee and Tea

Petit Fours


Chinese

Starter
Deep Fried Sweet Potato & Ginseng
Sweet and Sour Sauce

Assorted Cold Platter

Crabmeat Soup

Main Course 1
Deep Fried Prawn with Oriental Sauce

Main Course 2
Stir Fried Beef and Goose Liver
Served with Pepper Sauce
Accompanied with Fried Rice and Pak Choi

Dessert
Persimmon Puree
Served with Chinese Rice Cake and Fruit

Coffee and Tea

Petit Fours

And the wine list read as follows:

Champagnes:
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 1999
Champagne Charles Heidsieck

White Wines:
Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2006
Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc Napa Valley 2007
Gewurztraminer Herrenweg de Turckheim 2004

Red Wines:
Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, Grand Cru Classe, Graves 2004
Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 2006
Ridgeline Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 2003

Dessert Wines:
Blandy’s 10 Years Old Malmsey Madeira
Port Sandeman 20 Years Old Tawny Porto
Jackson-Triggs Vidal VQA Ice Wine 2007

By the time we reached cruising altitude my beverage order was taken, and I requested a Diet Coke. This was quickly followed by a prawn and lobster pastry.


Baked Petit Choux Pastry Filled with Prawn and Lobster

The table setup was brought out shortly thereafter, which included a rose as well as some very nice china.


Rose


Table setup

The first course was a salmon and prosciutto appetizer, which was tasty. Bread from the bread basket was also offered at this point. I went with one piece of garlic bread and one piece of onion focaccio, both of which were delicious.


Gravlax, Abalone and Prosciutto Ham with Melon

Given that we always had two flight attendants serving the two passengers, and sometimes even three, the service was incredibly attentive.

Following the appetizer was a delicious soup.


Asparagus cream soup

Then came the salad course, which was a Caesar salad.


Mixed greens

As soon as I finished that, I was offered the first main course, which consisted of pasta. The pasta rivaled some of the best I’ve had in Italy!


Pappardelle Pasta with Pinenut Cream Sauce

Then the second main course was served, which was a delicious beef tenderloin. It’s worth noting that when I ordered, I was asked how I wanted it cooked, and they did prepare it to my specifications.


Beef Tenderloin Steak

As soon as the main course was finished, I was offered a cheese and fruit plate.


Fruit and cheese plate

Lastly the dessert was served, which consisted of tiramisu. Once again, it was great.


Tiramisu

To finish off the meal I asked for a glass of Baileys on the rocks.


Baileys

At this point I really can’t say enough positive things about Asiana. I had fairly low expectations, I’m not quite sure why. But I was blown away in a good way. First of all, the western meal options were spectacular. I’d say this ranks as one of the best meals I’ve ever had on an airplane. Two main courses, the first being a pasta dish? I’d say that’s pretty damn good!

Second, the service was among the best I’ve received on any airline. The flight attendants were as attentive as I’ve ever experienced. Their pace was perfect – my plate never sat on my tray table empty for more than a minute, but they never took the plate away from me as I still had food in my mouth or was just finishing.

Lastly, I can’t say enough positive things about the small touches. For example, every time my Diet Coke was refilled, it was served in a fresh glass. Perhaps somewhat wasteful, but the glass is catered anyway, so they might as well. And aesthetically it certainly helped, as much of the food left stains on my glasses.

But those were only a few of the small touches. With each course my tableware was rearranged and I was offered fresh silverware. Every course was served with a smile, and I was frequently addressed by name. The English of both of the flight attendants was quite good – one almost had perfect English, which is a rare treat after my brother’s recent Asiana flight. 😉

As the movie finished up I played around with the entertainment system for a bit. The selection was a bit better than ANA, actually, though not amazing. I instead just worked on my trip report a bit as I listened to some music from their soundtracks.


Audio selection

After a little bit I got tired, so decided I might as well sleep, with about eight hours to go to Frankfurt. The flight attendant had never offered to make my bed, so I pushed the flight attendant call button, and one of the flight attendants appeared within six seconds. I asked whether it might be possible to have my bed made, and she immediately obliged and even went so far as to apologize for not proactively offering to make my bed. She left a bottle of water at my seat.


Bed


Water

I drifted into sleep within seconds, and woke up with about 3.5 hours to go to Frankfurt. I’d say that’s the perfect amount of sleep for a daytime flight, since I still wanted to get a good night of sleep in Frankfurt. Many say that the Asiana first class seat isn’t totally flat. That may be true, but if so, the seat is maybe 178 or 179 degrees, instead of the full 180 degrees. But if it actually isn’t flat, I found it to be more comfortable than otherwise, as it was one of the most comfortable naps I’ve taken on a plane. The plane is naturally at a nose up angle, so if anything it’s good, since it allows my head to stay slightly above my feet.

As soon as I woke up, one of the first class flight attendants came by and asked if I might be interested in a snack. The snack menu read as follows:

Refreshments

Dim Sum

Ramen

Warm Noodles

Sandwich

Assorted Fresh Fruits

I agreed to a sparkling water and bowl of ramen noodles. While the ramen noodles were spicy, they were delicious.


Sparkling water


Ramen

At this point I started watching Our Family Wedding, which was one of the few movies available that I hadn’t seen. It was a good choice, as it was actually quite entertaining.

By the way, this might be a good time to mention something that really confused me on this flight – the use of the seatbelt sign. I’ve always said that Asiana seems to be the one airline that *never* turns on the seatbelt sign. I’ve had some pretty rough rides on Asiana in the past where stuff was nearly flying around the cabin, yet the seatbelt sign never went on. This flight was the opposite. It was off for a couple of minutes the whole flight. The captain would keep it on, and when we actually hit turbulence he would flick it off and then back on again so that the flight attendants had to make the whole “due to turbulence, please return to your seats” announcement. Odd. This made the US airlines look good when it came to seatbelt sign control.

As the movie started to finish up I was offered the pre-arrival meal. While I wasn’t particularly hungry, I figured I’d need to eat it so I can report back to you guys. 😉

The menu read as follows:

Snack

Starter
Beef & Asparagus Roll, Grilled Prawn

Main Course
Korean Royal Cuisine ‘Spicy Seabream Soup’
Korean Traditional Spicy Fish Soup with Steamed Rice
Served with Various Kinds of Side Dishes

or

Seafood Lasagne
Served with Tomato Sauce
Sweet Pumpkin and Vegetable

or

Chicken Breast
Served with Honey Mustard Sauce
Green Bean and Fried Potato

Dessert
Fresh Fruit

Coffee and Tea

The starter was a lovely prawn and asparagus wrapped in beef appetizer, which was incredibly tasty.


Table setup


Beef & Asparagus Roll, Grilled Prawn

The main course, which followed, consisted of a chicken breast served with potatoes and green beans and a honey mustard sauce. It was absolutely delicious yet light.


Chicken Breast

Lastly, for dessert, was a fruit plate.


Fresh Fruit

I’ve gotta give Asiana credit for some of the best meals I’ve had in the sky. The second meal was perfect – somewhat light yet tasty, while the first meal was a feast. And the service complemented the food quite nicely.

As the meal finished up I played some Blackjack on the entertainment system, which kept me busy for a bit. Soon enough we were an hour out of Frankfurt, and I began to prepare for the arrival. I changed out of my pajamas and restowed everything I took out during the flight.

The two lovely first class flight attendants thanked me for flying Asiana, and offered me a “present.” Asiana’s the only airline I can think of that offers a pre-arrival present. Even if it’s totally useless, it’s a very nice gesture. In my case, I received a leather passport case wrapped in a nice box. I requested one last bottle of water as I was still thirsty.


Passport holder

At shortly before 5PM we touched down in Frankfurt with a beautiful landing. Unfortunately we taxied for about 20 minutes, as we had to stop at least a handful of time to wait for other traffic to cross first.


Lufthansa hangar

I was sad the flight was over, though was happy to add a new airline to my favorites list. There’s no doubt I’d go out of my way to fly Asiana again, thanks to their incredible food and service, and pretty solid hard product too.

Upon deplaning I headed to immigration, where there was no line, and didn’t have to wait for more than a minute or two before my checked bag arrived on the carousel. It was off to the InterContinental Frankfurt for a quick overnight!


Carousel

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Comments

  1. So, where are the pictures of Seoul? When you click on Seoul, it takes you to this page. Oh wait a minute. He doesn’t visit the city where he travels to. Pathetic.

  2. @ Bibimbap — Sorry for the link issue, I’ll correct it shortly.

    @ Funflyer — You might want to read my report a bit more closely (or maybe not just the way you want to read it). I explicitly stated I was concerned I had shown up for my flight on the wrong date. Not sure how much clearer I could be, though I don’t want to spoil the fun for the peanut gallery either.

  3. @Bibimbap – Just scroll down a little more on his blog to see the post, it was obviously a link error. Not like a 16 part trip report with around 30,000 words can’t have mistakes. And I hope you enjoyed the Seoul part of the TR, since the link is now corrected, because I thought it was very insightful.

    @Funflyer – Well, if you were on a first class ticket, wouldn’t you be upset about being downgraded? Also, he states he was worried he showed up on the wrong date. Don’t try and be all “high and mighty” because that makes you just like the other douche bag readers. If you don’t like the blog, don’t read it, and if you do read it, well…read it.

  4. I am really looking forward to the LH segment of your report: Lufthansa First Class Terminal and FRA-SEA on Lufthansa in First Class. I will be flying LH in the future, so I am anticipating hearing about their service.

  5. As always, I am loving the report, and have been very eager for you to post the Asiana segment, as one rarely sees reports for them. I am a very picky eater, and have even found LH F food to substandard (flame away) but the Asiana food looked incredible.

  6. Lucky — First, thanks again for the great trip reports…. and for eating all the food just for us! 😉 You can really see the difference in ground service for first class readng your Thai/Lufthansa report as opposed to Asiana/Singapore. As you said, I’m suprised Asiana (and Singapore) haven’t figured out that the ground experience can be equally as important. Thanks again!

  7. Had the same issue with the seatbelt sign on 2 flights with Asiana recently. MNL -> ICN and ICN -> NRT. They pretty much never turned it off and also did the ding dign turn off and back on thing for real turbulences.
    Maybe thats their new policy to remind you to keep it on regardless of the sign ?
    ICN -> NRT my business class ticket did actually seat me in first (747, 2K) since officially they don’t have first class service. I also did like the seat and didn’t notice its not lay flat but it didn’t look like they were just installed. Must be the awful old fashioned color choice :-).
    Short flight though so only napped for 30 minutes.

  8. Thanks Lucky… I’m *really* looking forward to my Asiana F Flight myself now (I’m going on the reverse flight!

    Looks a reasonably rounded product 🙂

  9. Thanks for this whole report, but especially this section. Fond memories of our ORD-ICN-ORD flights in Asiana First several years ago. They were definitely world-class back then, and better now. We’re finally flying Asiana again this Christmas, LAX-ICN in F and ICN-HAN in C. Can’t wait!

    Many thanks for your own best-in-class work.

    David

  10. Awsome trip report so far! keep it up mate! ignore all the negatives,, these people have far too much time on their hands. Dont do many star alliance miles and BMI is pulling their generous frequent flyer programme so doubt i ll ever get on Asiana 1st class, but hey u ve provided excellent detail its like being on it myself! looking forward to the rest and future reports!

  11. I much enjoy Asiana F. Their old seats were really terrible for long haul, the new ones ARE good BUT I personally find the ‘kink’ at the neck where it *almost* goes flat a bit uncomfortable, and the area above the ottoman is too narrow. But I’d happy fly them long haul in first any time.

    The food and service ARE wonderful. The amenities are great. The deplaning gift is such a lovely touch. The food is VERY high qualty.

    My very modest gripes, beyond nit picking the seat:
    * The PJs arent just small, but if you wash them they shrink to almost nothing, they aren’t the high quality material I’ve gotten on other top carriers.

    * I’m surprised you had such good English speakers. I realize they’re a Korean airline, and they speak English much better than I speak Korean! But still, I’ve often had a language barrier that has interfered with service (where they won’t understand what I want or when I want it, eg if I want a coffee before my meal not after).

    Their first class awards from the US were available really easily, for a long time, for quite awhile. But Chicago – Seoul has had 2-cabin equipment scheduled, and JFK has been getting a 777 with fewer seats, getting pairs of F award seats are much more difficult as a result.

    Sure, LAX-ICN is still often available (not the way it used to be, every darned day of the week and sometimes 4 seats!). But sadly no F on SFO/SEA-ICN. And not a whole lot of other routes with it, either (PVG, NRT don’t count).

  12. Excellent report and pictures! I’m surprised that OZ served Chinese cuisine instead of Korean for the first meal service.

  13. I really loved the bowing on OZ, too. On FRA-ICN (777 in C), it seemed like they introduced each of the crew members in Korean.
    And I loved having Korean food in flight.

    Is the F lounge at ICN any different from the C lounge on the right side? From the looks of your pics, they seek the same (was in C there in March). I’m curious if there are any differences other than crowding.

  14. Coins,

    Looks like you’re recycling some of your pictures. Wink.
    We flew ICN/JFK in business last fall. I heard good reports, and wasn’t disappointed. Service was a well oiled machine.
    I was surprised to see the 1st class lounge empty.

  15. Lucky,

    You’re not alone with the ICN lounge “No photo” issue. I was at the business lounge last year and I’ve took a picture at the entrance. Upon entry into the lounge, the agent’s first words are actually “no photos inside the lounge please”. Everything else with Asiana was great but this gives me a funny feeling.

    Fully agreed with the service part, they focused a lot on the details and it makes a difference for sure.

  16. Actually they didn’t install F seats on the existing 772, it is delivered as F, C and Y.

    Regarding photos in F or C lounge, I certainly don’t have problems taking photos, but I always try to be discreet when taking photos in lounges, certainly lounge people saw me taking photos, no one try to interfer with me either. I am not sure maybe they treat asian differently though, as Carfield also being asian also have no problems taking photos inside their lounges.

    @David- Actually I find OZ is worser regarding their food than 5 years ago (before they change their brand identity). As I can clearly see they had cut cost even in F. Korean meal is still the same, but western meal have downsize a lot. They use to serve food from cart, where no food are pre-plated, you can ask for anything from the cart and the amount you want. The process took twice the amount of time, but it is truly F service from the old days. Besides, OZ used to serve Lobster Thermidor (in the shell) just like SQ no matter long haul F or short haul F, now it is gone. Short haul F food cut even further, the western entree now has tiny portions, OZ used to treat short haul F just like long haul F, full serving of food. Short haul F also has cut soup for western choice.

  17. Korean Airlines has been my airline of choice when I visit Seoul for the summer/winter months (God knows how many times I’ve flown the JFK-ICN route). I guess it’s time to give Asiana a try. Thank you for a great report, Lucky!

  18. OZ is also one of my favourite airlines, along with SQ and CX, and also QR (minus the occasional horrible passengers). I fly in economy though.
    I was upgraded to business once on KE, so I enjoyed the KE lounge in ICN. Took a number of photos and wasn’t stopped at all.

  19. @ORDnHKG–I had a lobster(with shell) between HKG-ICN F early this year. The size of the lobster was as twice big as SQ’s

  20. That was a great report. I’m booked on this same flight in December, but in a B744 Combi. Hopefully the cabin will be just as empty!

  21. I noticed you made more than one comment about Asiana personnel’s English speaking ability. If you want English, fly a European/American carrier. Or, better yet, learn to speak Korean, if you are capable of it.

  22. @ SpeakAnotherLanguage — I also made several comments about them being among the best crew I’ve had. I’m not faulting them for not speaking better English, though I don’t think it’s unreasonable to make that as an observation when I’m writing to a mostly US-audience, no?

    I’ve flown 50+ airlines so as much as I’d like to be able to speak the native languages of each airline, I doubt that’s practical.

  23. @Lucky, thanks so much for your detailed blog on the ICN-FRA with UA mileage OT award. I’m flying out June 17th on the same trip. I can’t wait! Thanks.

  24. @lucky
    “-The captain came on the PA and in very broken English…
    -I was surprised that announcements were just made in English and Korean, despite the flight being to Germany.”

    So what if it’s in broken English? Be glad he attempted to tell you (mono-lingual Euro) in your language.

    And surprised that no German was spoken? You now expect the Korean pilot to speak three languages, which includes another European one? You don’t even speak German, so why are you complaining?

    Not a single US- or European-carrier flight has announcements in any of the East Asian languages, so please write that in your very eurocentric reviews.

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