The Last Aeroplan Hurrah: Asiana First Class Seoul Incheon to Frankfurt

Introduction
United Global First Lounge San Francisco
Lufthansa First Class San Francisco to Munich
Le Meridien Munich
Lufthansa First Class Lounge Munich, Swiss Business Class Munich to Zurich
Swiss First Class Lounge Zurich, Swiss First Class Zurich to Bangkok
St. Regis Bangkok
Thai Airways First Class Lounge & Spa Bangkok
Thai Airways First Class Bangkok to Hong Kong
Ritz Carlton Hong Kong
Exploring Hong Kong
United Club Hong Kong and Thai Airways Royal Orchid Lounge Hong Kong
Asiana Business Class Hong Kong to Seoul Incheon
Hyatt Regency Incheon Airport
Asiana First Class Lounge Seoul Incheon
Asiana First Class Seoul Incheon to Frankfurt
Sheraton Frankfurt Airport
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt, Lufthansa First Class Frankfurt to Seattle
Four Seasons Seattle


Before I even start with the report, I should mention that I flew exactly the same flight from Seoul to Frankfurt a couple of years ago, and you can find my review from then here. The major difference was that the flight was operated by a 777 then, as opposed to the 747 that operates it now.

Asiana 541
Seoul (ICN) – Frankfurt (FRA)
Saturday, March 24
Depart: 12:50PM
Arrive: 4:35PM
Duration: 11hr45min
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Seat: 1A (First Class)

Our escort brought us all the way to the door of the plane, at which point she introduced us to the assistant purser, who directed us to our seats in row four. The nose of the 747 is configured with four rows of one seat on each side, and then a row in the center with two seats. We had selected the two center seats, 4E & 4F.


First class cabin


My seat, 4E


First class cabin from 4E

As soon as we were seated, though, we noticed just how cramped the center seats felt. The “suites” along the side of the aircraft are rather large, but you don’t get that same feeling in the center seats. Furthermore, the actual ottoman was smaller, so we inquired as to whether the other two unoccupied first class seats would remain open.

The crew gladly informed us they would, so they assisted me with my move to seat 1A, which felt much more spacious.

Waiting at my seat was a day blanket and pillow. Within a minute of settling in one of the lovely flight attendants approached me to offer pajamas. They run small, so I went with the XLs.


Pajamas


My fashionable pajamas

I was also offered an amenity kit, slippers, and Bose Quiet Comfort 3 headphones.


Amenity kit, slippers, and headphones


Quiet Comfort 3 headphones

The amenity kit consists of Bulgari amenities, which immediately makes it one of my favorites:


Amenity kit contents

The seats themselves are plenty spacious, though far from the most modern out there. The only aspect of their product that’s appalling (in my opinion) is the color scheme.


Ottoman


Seat controls


Entertainment controls


View of bulkhead from my seat


Best part of the seat — air nozzles, which are far too rare on foreign carriers

Anyway, what sets Asiana apart isn’t the seat or painful color scheme, but rather the service and food, in that order.

Once I was settled in the flight attendant asked if I might like a pre-departure beverage. I ordered a glass of champagne, which was poured at my seat. The flight attendant also brought an empty ramekin and large bowl of nuts, from which she scooped at my seat. Now that’s what I call personalized nut service! The only downside was that she gave me the smallest portion of nuts I’ve ever seen, though both champagne and nut refills were plentiful.

What sets a great airline apart from a good airline? They refill your glass of champagne before you even have the opportunity to refuse. And this was a great flight, since I rarely drink, but I was at glass four or five by departure time. Let’s just say I thought the safety video was the most interesting in-flight entertainment of the trip.


Pre-departure champagne and my paltry nuts

As departure time rolled around the captain came on the PA to advise us of our flight time of 11 hours, anticipating an on-time arrival in Frankfurt.

After pushback we had only about a five minute taxi to the runway (and trust me, Asiana pilots don’t taxi at takeoff speed like the folks at Southwest), at which point we had a long takeoff roll before being airborne.


Pushing back


Airborne

About 10 minutes after takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off, and I immediately changed into the pajamas. I did so before the curtains were closed, at which point I noticed that right behind first class is coach, as business class is only on the upper deck. Boy, the evil glares I got will scar me for life.

When I got back to my seat hot towels were distributed, followed quickly by the menus.


Hot towel


Menus

The lunch menu read as follows:

The only complaint I could possibly have about service on Asiana is that they distribute the menus, take meal orders three minutes later, and then immediately collect the menus. Ideally I like to keep the menus, but at the very least I like to be able to reference them while having an eight course meal so I have an idea of what I’m eating.

Other than that, the service was truly beyond spectacular on the flight. While Asiana flight attendants don’t speak flawless English (admittedly my Korean could use just a bit of fine tuning) their sincerity, warmth, and smiles make the airline, in my opinion.

The meal service began with drinks and a prosciutto with baked pear starter, which was delicious.


Prosciutto and Baked Pear with Balsamic Vinaigrette

After that the service really kicked into full gear, with caviar and a rose. Asiana serves full, sealed “tins” of caviar, unlike most other airlines which plate it for you. The breadbasket was offered along with it.


Caviar


Caviar

The next course was a seafood salad, which was equally delicious.


Seafood Salad with Curry and Saffron Sauce

As was the cauliflower soup.


Cauliflower Veloute with Parmesan Chip

The next course was a chicken schnitzel. Again, it was very good.


Parmesan Chicken Schnitzel and Potato with Creamy Mustard Sauce

The main course was a sirloin. One of my favorite aspects of the Asiana meal service is that they ask you how you want your steak cooked. Not many airlines do that, so it’s a real treat when you can have a steak cooked to your liking on an airplane.


Grilled Wagyu Sirloin

After the main course I was offered a cheese plate with grapes and veggies.


Cheese Selections with Apricot and Raisin Chutney

And to finish off the meal was a green tea cake, which was also very good, and I’m rarely a fan of green tea desserts. I accompanied it with a cup of coffee.


Green tea torte with caramel sauce

Not only was the food phenomenal, but the service was even better. Seriously, I can’t say enough positive things about Asiana flight attendants. They were constantly smiling, incredibly attentive, and very detail oriented. For me the service is what makes a flight memorable, and the crew on this leg really shined.

For example, every time I went to the lav one of the flight attendants opened the door for me, and every time I exited they asked if there was anything they could get me.

As lunch finished up I requested turndown service, which was immediately provided.


Seat in sleep mode

I was rather exhausted after such a whirlwind trip, so slept like a baby for about five hours, waking up with about four hours to go to Frankfurt. I figured I’d take a peak at the snack menu, which read as follows:

I ultimately decided on the soup, which took about 10 minutes to prepare.


Soup

After that I was rather awake, so decided to watch a movie. I typically only like comedies. I never understood the point of fictional dramas. There’s enough sad stuff going in the world, why watch a movie about something sad that’s made up? Asiana’s in-flight entertainment options are pretty lame with virtually no sitcoms, so I decided to watch “Abduction,” a movie I had been putting off seeing for a long time.

And perhaps I shouldn’t admit it, but it was a damn good movie, and I actually thought the acting was pretty good. I was about to kick someone’s ass by the end of it, and I thought the plot was pretty exciting too. Anyone agree? Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?

By the end of the movie we were about two hours out of Frankfurt, and it was time for the pre-arrival meal.


Airshow

The pre-arrival menu read as follows:

Service began with a variety of juices, so I went with orange juice.


Orange juice

The first course was salmon with tomato and avocado.


Salmon with Tomato and Avocado

I was a bit torn on the main course. I didn’t want to go with the Korean option (if it’s spicy by their standards, I’ll be in tears by the end of it), and the goose liver pushed me away from the chicken, so I went with the steak. Yeah, I would have rather not had two steaks on one flight, but both were excellent, and in both instances I was asked how I wanted them cooked, so… 😉


Rossini Beef Tenderloin

Then for dessert was a light but tasty fruit tart, with which I ordered some tea.


Yogurt Mousse with Fresh Fruits

About 30 minutes before landing the purser came around with gifts. Asiana is the only airline I know of that offers their first class passengers gifts, and I think it’s a really nice touch. The options were an iPhone 4S case, a CD, or an Asiana duffel bag. I went with the iPhone case, as I actually don’t have one. I mean, let’s be honest, my iPhone is now totally cooler than everyone else’s, given that it has the Asiana logo on it.


iPhone case


iPhone case

The seatbelt sign came on about 15 minutes prior to landing, and it was proving to be a beautiful afternoon in Frankfurt as we descended over the city.


On approach


On approach


On approach


Short final

After a beautiful touch down and 20 minute taxi to the gate another lovely flight on Asiana was coming to an end.


Taxiing in

It took a few minutes for the jet bridge driver to open the door, so I snapped just a few pictures of the first class cabin.


First class cabin


First class cabin


First class cabin


TAM 777


Our plane

The walk to immigration and baggage claim took about 10 minutes, at which point my friend’s bag was the first off the belt, all wrapped up.


First class baggage “wrapping”

So as usual my flight on Asiana was spectacular. Like I said, they don’t have the best in-flight entertainment or hard product, though the service and food are among the best in the sky.

I’ll leave you guys with one question, though, because I’m torn on this one — do you consider the bag “wrapping” to be a benefit or inconvenience, given that you have to unwrap a ~60 pound bag the second it comes off the belt at your destination after a longhaul flight?

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Comments

  1. Is that Kimchee that they gave you with the “soup” (I’m assuming you mean the Ramen?).

    Does the FA wait for you to come out of the bathroom at the door? I think I’d be uncomfortable with someone waiting by the bathroom during my usage… 😉

  2. It’s a plastic bag. Slide it down. Then lift your luggage out of it, or tip it over and slide the remainder of the plastic bag off.

    Wow. You’ve made mention of this in at least two blog entries and it’s something I wouldn’t ever give a second thought about. Amazing what bothers some is a non-issue for others, and vice versa.

    Here’s what I hate that most people probably don’t care much about: IFE systems that use two-prong audio plugs. I cannot stand these with a passion since I have to remember to bring my adapter. Why are these things still used?!

  3. @ jimbo — The name had slipped me, though you’re absolutely right. And they don’t really wait outside the lav, but instead in the galley so they can see when you leave.

    @ ArizonaGuy — It was tougher than it sounds, trust me!

  4. All you have to do, Lucky, is to untie the plastic bag, roll the suitcase over until its upside down, and the plastic bag will come right off. Then of course roll the suitcase upright again. No lifting involved!

  5. Gotta admit that that 747 has a weird configuration with the cargo in the back pushing coach up to first class. Coach being noisier than business, could you hear them from where you were?

  6. I can see how you could have a problem undoing the plastic bag. Did they make you get a plastic bag or did they give you a choice?

  7. I wouldn’t prefer the plastic bag, but I don’t think it’s such a big deal either. It was explained to me that it was so the bag won’t get dirty/wet and as a bit of a deterrent to theft. Actually when I’m in the Middle East I see a lot of south Asians headed home basically doing this themselves by wrapping what looks like plastic wrap all over their bag multiple times, cutting holes for the handle and wheels to come through.

  8. I’ve had some major damage to luggage over the years, so I’d rather have that bag, difficult or not. To be fair, that bag looks to be quite thick gauge plastic, and finding a trashcan to put it in without getting dirty one’s self might be hard.

  9. @ JD — Didn’t notice too much noise, fortunately.

    @ TL — They automatically did it. I’m sure we could have refused.

    @ Ken — Their new business class looks spectacular, so I’d love to try it out, since the food and service in business class is very good.

  10. “I typically only like comedies. I never understood the point of fictional dramas. There’s enough sad stuff going in the world, why watch a movie about something sad that’s made up?”

    They’re going to love you in TriBeCa! 😛

  11. Just curious… as a rather big guy myself, was XL the largest size the PJs came in? I have a feeling I’d never fit. 😉

  12. Interesting that they don’t offer 2 main dishes like they did the last trip. But, the food looks really good…I guess it’s still one of your Top 2 airlines in terms of food? I would have loved to try the Bulgogi…

    That’s a huge waste of space at the front of the cabin…

  13. Hey, Lucky, nice trip report — looks like you had a great flight. Two comments:

    1) Next time, take the duffel bag and send it to me — I’ll pay for the shipping! 😉

    2) I would definitely appreciate the plastic bag. While I’m not downplaying the hard time you had removing it, I’m sure it took no more than a couple of minutes of your time, while a damaged bag can cost hundreds, considering how expensive (good) luggage is these days!

  14. @ Andy — Yes, I felt like the front of the cabin had a ton of wasted space as well. The food definitely wasn’t quite as good as last time (I was sad to no longer see the pasta course, as you mention), though it’s still among my top two along with Swiss.

    @ A. S. — The next one is coming to you for sure!

  15. I think the plastic bag is a nice touch. And yes, it probably does deter some casual thefts, it may also ‘mark’ your bag as First Class, with better pickings. A toss-up.

  16. The food in first class is much better than that in business class. Asiana’s service is flawless. I was travelling with a friend on Asiana from ICN to SFO. They somehow delayed my friend’s meal. Ever since then, the flight attendant apoligized at least 5 times at different occations. My friend kept telling her not a big deal. And before final arrival, the head flight attendant came to say goodbye and apologize again.

  17. @Eric: I was ALSO wondering about the champagne in First Class. Lucky promised to include the wine list in this report. Promises, promises. I predict that, as the years pass, Lucky will develop more of an interest in wine, especially when he finds out what the aspartame in all those Diet Pepsis are doing to him!

    @Lucky: The above was written in that tense called Third Person Absent where we discuss you as if you weren’t here.

    I really DO appreciate your including the food menus. Wine with Korean food is a bit of a challenge. It would have been interesting to see what was on offer. Happy landings.

  18. “There’s enough sad stuff going in the world, why watch a movie about something sad that’s made up?”

    Yeah seriously. Why should people read books, see plays, enjoy paintings that depict and explore emotions other than joy? You nailed it Lucky.

  19. An excellent report lucky! If I take a future F Star award to Asia, I will consider OZ. The inflight amenities look very nice.

  20. Not a fan of the bag wrap at all. Had bag wrapped in Prague for flight to US. After claiming bag in US to forward it on to my domestic connection, I left the wrap on. Some Jack-ass TSA inspector decided to use a box cutter to remove wrap and sliced up my tumi suitcase in 6 different places when rescreening the bag in the US. Amazingly, TUMI replaced the suitcase without a peep.

  21. I’m in favor of wrapping, since it lets you know right off the bat if your bag has been opened so you can make sure nothing was taken.

  22. Lucky, lol about being ‘scarred for life’ after coming out of the bathroom in your pajamas. Why were people looking at you with evil glares?

  23. @Eric, @AUSTEX, the champagne was Winston Churchill, Paul Roger 1998 and Comte Champagne, blanc de blanc, Tattinger 2000 back in February when I last flew Asiana.

  24. If you’ve ever had your bag left out in the rain for hours, that’s an instance you’d appreciate the plastic wrap.

  25. @ AUSTEX — I feel awful. I intentionally “stole” the wine list just for you, my resident sommelier, and I spent about an hour looking for it yesterday morning. I couldn’t find it. 🙁

    @ Coutureguy — Cause I had pajamas on and was comfortable!

  26. @ Lucky – I’m flattered. There are other win lovers here as well.

    @ Eric – Thanks for the champagne report. I am amazed at the cheap (but not necessarily bad) wine that some airlines serve in their premium cabins.

    @ PanAm – No there’s not.

  27. I flew Asiana a couple of years ago. Got beat up by a little old lady who did not like it that I put my seat back. Told the stewardess, but she did nothing. Had to yell at the old bat when she tried to smack the back of my head AGAIN and hit my grandson instead. Not a nice flight!

  28. Champagne–from my memory, something with “Comet” in it—one of the European carriers(LH or Swiss) also serve it in their F class.

  29. 2 things lucky. Firstly, that gift is absolutely cool. It is a nice touch and awesome if anything. Period. Secondly, do you know of any airlines that fly their 747’s without the bulkhead upfront? It would be a pretty interesting seat.

  30. How do you get so many pics so close to takeoff and landing?

    Aren’t electronics supposed to be turned off?

  31. @ Darren — They all have a bulkhead of some sort, though some are smaller than others. For example, Cathay Pacific has an extra couple of windows visible if you’re seated in the first row, so you can almost look forward.

    @ Tripper — Nope, I have a special type of camera that doesn’t take batteries or have an on/off switch.

  32. Oh! I see. It would be kind of cool if they made a new version of the 747 with a window exactly up front. Or even just a conversion of an exsising plane. I would pay good money just to sit on a seat with a view like that!

  33. Wife and I have LAX-ICN on hold with Asiana 747 in F. Thanks for the report. Wonder if they have updated their planes at all over the past year? Agree that color scheme is pretty bad, but as long as seat is comfortable and service/food are exceptional, that’s all that really matters to us.

  34. @ Curtis — The hard product remains the same, though food and service are still excellent on Asiana, so I’d go with them.

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