Booked: Asiana Business Class & Sichuan Business Class

For the first time in years, I’ve spent 30 straight days in the US. It wasn’t supposed to be that way, as I had two international trips canceled, including one with my dad to Slovakia and Macedonia. Nonetheless I’ve had a lot of domestic travel, which in many ways I find more exhausting than international travel.

I have quite a bit of upcoming international travel, including a trip on Xiamen Air to Chengdu, a Qatar Airways ticket from Ho Chi Minh City to New York, positioning flights on American to Asia, a ski trip to Europe in a few months, etc. So in many ways I’ve been content and have been trying not to plan any more longhaul travel, since my schedule is already full.

However, I’m always up for doing a quick review trip, especially if the trip only takes a few days. I just booked my latest such trip, which I’ll be taking next month, and wanted to share what I booked. This was actually planned in reverse chronological order, so let me explain it in that order.

Sichuan Airlines business class from Chengdu to Los Angeles

The amount of expansion we’ve seen from Chinese airlines to the US the past few years has been insane. I’ve reviewed most of these airlines (Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, Hainan, and Xiamen), though one of the airlines I haven’t reviewed is Sichuan Airlines, which late last year began flying between Chengdu and Los Angeles.

As of now their longest range plane is an A330, so they aren’t able to operate the flight nonstop. The flight alternates between operating via Jinan and Hangzhou.

While Sichuan Airlines isn’t part of any alliance, what I think makes them worth reviewing is that they have incredibly reasonable business class fares. I consistently see one-way business class fares from China to Los Angeles for ~$1,000, which is a heck of a deal.

However, I guess we’ll have to see what the service is like. There’s very little out there about the airline. It’s my understanding that their A330s have angled business class seats, so I’m not especially looking forward to that. Maybe their soft product will pleasantly surprise me. Who knows. Sichuan’s website — 88888888.cn — doesn’t shed much light on what to expect.

Asiana business class from Los Angeles to Chengdu

While I’ve flown Asiana first class many times before, I’ve never flown their longhaul business class. Asiana business and first class award space is consistently wide open, so I decided to fly Asiana’s flagship A380 from Los Angeles to Seoul.

Asiana also flies from Seoul to Chengdu using an A321, so I look forward to reviewing that as well. Asiana has a staggered fully flat business class product on the A380, which has a ridiculous name — Business Smartium Class.

Back in the day I used to love Asiana, though in my opinion they haven’t kept up with the times, so I’m less impressed with them than I used to be. I’m curious what I’ll think of their longhaul business class. I’m especially curious to try their product given that I recently reviewed Korean Air’s 747-8 business class, which I enjoyed overall.

I managed to book this ticket using 75,000 LifeMiles the whole way through, which I’d consider to be a great deal.

Bottom line

I can’t wait to see what these two airlines are like in business class. Asiana is one of the biggest airlines that I haven’t yet reviewed in longhaul business class, while Sichuan Airlines intrigues me for their attractive longhaul fares. They’re also the only Chinese airline flying to the US that I haven’t yet reviewed in a premium cabin.

Has anyone flown the longhaul business class products of Asiana or Sichuan? What should I expect?

Comments

  1. What’s up with Israel? Is a trip there still in the cards?

    Also, I saw something somewhere about a Chinese airline called Lucky Air (a proud member of the U Fly Alliance!) and its new longhaul route to some European city (St Petersburg maybe? I can’t remember). Obviously, you must add Lucky Air to your “must try” list of unique airlines.

  2. I was considering redeeming some UA miles and was looking at an option on Asiana, but have come across a lot of reviews that mention how uncomfortably hot they tend to keep the cabin. Any experience with this? I know there aren’t any air nozzles (as seems to be the norm on Asian carriers) but i’m wondeirng if the cabins really are as hot as people say, or if it’s a little exagerated.

  3. I flew the Asiana Business Smartium a few years ago (2012) from ICN to ORD. Smooth flight, good service, good food. I liked them

  4. I’m on Asiana A380 ICN-LAX in J 11/1 booked with ANA Mileage Club. For reference their redemptions for round-trip are spectacular! They allow one stop over and one open jaw on their RT redemptions. LAX-PEK (Air China); HKG-ICN (Air China); ICN-LAX (Asiana) ALL in J for 95,000mi + $450 in fuel surcharge. Anyone needing round trip to Asia from the US strongly consider this I transferred 95,000 AMEX MR’s and voila!

  5. Super excited for the Asiana TR because I have a long haul J flight with them in November and I want to see how it is

  6. Sichuan should be the perfect airline for you. 8 is lucky in Chinese numerology and they paid a lot for their phone #

    From wikipedia:
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Numerology

    The number 8 (八, pinyin: bā;Cantonese Yale: baat) sounds like “發” (pinyin: fā; Cantonese Yale:faat; literally: “to prosper”). There is also a visual resemblance between 88 and 囍 (pinyin: shuāng xĭ;Cantonese Yale: sēung héi; literally: “double joy”), a popular decorative design composed of two stylized characters 喜 (pinyin: xĭ; Cantonese Yale: héi; literally: “joy”).

    The number 8 is viewed as such an auspicious number that even being assigned a number with several eights is considered very lucky.

    In 2003, the phone number “+86 28 8888 8888” was sold to Sichuan Airlines for CN¥2.33 million (approximately US$280,000).[1]

  7. @Charlie, Nick in Chicago, and Kyle B:

    I’ve flown OZ J – in the Business Smartium seat – and in the F suites several times from both SFO, LAX, and JFK. Overall, they’re great. Would ALWAYS choose them over KE. Always. Wrote a trip report a while back but I’m too lazy to find the link, so I’ll paraphrase…

    The planes are always very clean and in great shape. Boarding has always been very orderly and the gate staff and cabin crew are firm but polite. Sometimes the English of the FAs isn’t too awesome, but then I don’t speak a ton of Korean, either. But they are all very polished and super attentive. Along the lines of CX.

    All the food was very good, both Korean and Western options. The ramen snack you can order is a bit spicy if you’re more of a bland eater – so be warned. Also, they pour a stiff drink. I ordered an Old Fashioned from the cocktail menu and it felt like it could’ve stripped wallpaper.

    The cabin was hot. Yes. That was one gripe as it made it difficult to sleep, especially if you’d been partaking in some spirits in the lounge and were already running hot. I’ve asked the temp to be turned down when I was in F, and they obliged and it felt cooler immediately. In J, not so much. Unsure if they just ignored me or if the cabin was just too big with too many people for it to make much of a difference.

    As with the other carriers that have the Solstys seats, if you’re in one of the “honeymoon” rows, you’re gonna get to know your neighbor REALLY well. My partner and I are on an OZ flight to Australia for Mardi Gras, so we won’t mind those seats, but if you’re travelling solo, I’d opt for one of the true window seats.

    The lounges weren’t anything to write home about, even at ICN. The *A lounge at LAX is way better than what you’ll find at ICN, even in their F lounge which feels like a cigar club but with few alcohol and food options but, thankfully, no cigar smoke. I wouldn’t get to the airport early to spend time there; you’ll be very disappointed.

    Hope that helps!

  8. @Lucky the Chinese airlines have been interesting and the moment Juneyao airlines was introduced to star alliance first thing I tried to do was bring up on their site was the frequent flyer program. To look at any charts or anything like that but anytime you opened up anything it would be in Chinese language. I then emailed the airline directly and got s fairy swift response in asking for the information to be presented in English…. but lost in translation the support staff simply couldn’t understand what I was asking for and kept referring to different things and in the end I gave up.

    Can you please do a flight/review with Juneyao and even better try and book with star alliance points etc, try to do a review or even see about getting mileage credited.
    Being in star alliance they are potentially interesting.
    Thanks

  9. I am from Chengdu, Sichuan. I heard that they offer real Sichuan food during the flight, which may be very spicy!

    But Chengdu is a super nice and relaxed city with a variety of delicious food. Enjoy your time there, Lucky!

  10. Mrs. Dca-sea and I flew OZ J “Smartium” on the 380 from LAX-ICN, and from ICN-SFO on the 777 as part of a trip to Uzbekistan booked with US miles (the old 90k North Asia award).

    It was good. It wasn’t amazing, by comparison to CX long haul J via HKG. The seats were comfortable enough. The food, the IFE, and the lounges were better than average but not as good as CX. Service was comparable to CX. I’d fly them again but not if I could go on CX or JL, or try out SQ.

  11. Hey Lucky, as an Aussie living in Chengdu it’s awesome to see you’re checking out Sichuan Airlines! Flew business from Melbourne to Chengdu in 2013.. nice hostesses but they get a little awkward with non-Chinese customers. Should be angled seats. Load your iPad or laptop up with things to watch because their IFE is almost hilariously limited. Also, if keen to catch up shoot over an email! Oh and if you have any time to stay, it’s not part of a loyalty programme I think but The Temple House Hotel is fantastic and in an area that suits time-limited people.

  12. Hey Lucky could you write a post about your experience cancelling an international trip? I know you briefly talked about what happened on the trip with your father because of weather issues, but it be nice to see what an experienced traveler does in a situation where they need to cancel a trip. If it’s personal reasons I understand you might now want to share that part, but it still be nice to get a sense of what we all could be doing to protect ourselves.

    How/Are you covered with their credit card benefits
    Do you have some sort of travel insurance like Allianz (yearly/trip)
    Do you just eat the fees
    Etc

  13. Asiana has been cost cutting lately. In F they massively downgraded their wine list. They used to offer vintage Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill but have since switched to the very boring and significantly inferior Laurent Perrier NV. This would be a fine Champagne for Business Class but is a slap in the face in F. Even United has been pouring Ayala 2007 in F and AA has been pouring Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle!

  14. Hope you don’t get The Lecture about alcohol at altitude. Here we go. Recebtly on Asiana flight OZ601 Seoul>Sydney Kate and I enjoyed some tiny little wine glasses of white. Indicating we would like a top-up, the flight attendant launched into a lecture on the effects of alcohol at altitude, and then asked me if I was OK to continue drinking!

    Somewhat taken aback I affirmed and at the next pour endured a truncated repeat, where she said, ‘Are you OK to keep drinking?’

    I politely raised this with the flight manager who informed me it is airline policy to do this after the third drink. I advised no such thing happened on our previous flight a day earlier, in First from Frankfurt. We’ve flown a great many premium flights on various airlines, in my case since 1991, and we have never encountered this before.

    During the ‘drinking period’ we were chatting quietly and happily, and would have presented as sober. We found the encounter offensive; given it was fairly public and implied we were making or would make trouble.

    Does anyone have any knowledge of this kind of thing happening anywhere?

    Other notes: The captain on OZ601 on 15 July kept the seat belt sign on for the entire flight, which to my mind produced a safety issue. The sloper seat is horrible, as are the economy blanket and pillow. Service (aside from the above) on both flights was excellent, except we were never addressed by name.

  15. Ben,
    My home airport is ICN, I’ve done their biz before. If you’re going to fly both ways, you might as well try ICN-SFO to try their A350 which is essentially the same seat with some minor upgrades.

    However: KE’s new cosmo seat is lightyears ahead of Asiana’s smartium. Doesn’t even compare IMO.

  16. The Temple House in Chengdu is a Swire Hotel property. I agree with Mick — it is definitely worth a stay if you can. It is part of Sino-Ocean’s Taikoo Li impressive mixed-use development in Downtown Chengdu next to the Buddist Daci Temple. The area combines new construction with the adaptive reuse of ancient buildings, streets, alleys and courtyards.

    Chengdu’s Shuangliu International Airport (CTU) is less impressive. That should be corrected by 2020 with the shift of international passenger traffic to Chengdu’s massive Tianfu International Airport now under construction.

  17. Never had the Lecture about alcohol at altitude Julius but friends flying Qatar Airways (Sydney to Heathrow) were asked to moderate their consumption and shown a directive that stated that excessive alcohol consumption aboard a Qatar Airways flight would possibly incur a considerable fine (forget the amount that my friends told me) or relevant custodial sentencing in respect of subsequent law and jurisdiction in the State of Qatar. Wow! As creepy as all this sounds, I’m glad to report that my good natured and fun Aussie friends continued to request the beer and thankfully were not arrested or imprisoned either at Doha or in Heathrow.

  18. We’ll be on that flight in November on the way to Australia for our Thanksgiving trip. We stitched together that one-way trip for three in business with a combination of United miles I had, husband’s United miles, Chase Ultimate Rewards miles and some purchased miles. I made a rookie mistake with one of the transfers. We could have had him buy one of the tickets with his own UR miles plus mine for no additional cost. Oh well, without reading this blog I wouldn’t have figured out how to do any of it. We’re returning to LAX from Melbourne via Auckland on ANZ.

    We flew Korean in business a few months ago, both ways. I really liked the look of the bar in the A380. I was too shy to belly up when the bar was crowded on the way over, but I managed one of the cocktails on the way back (solo, while husband was sleeping). I sure didn’t get hassled!

  19. I was lucky enough to get upgraded to biz on the OZ A380 between FRA-ICN a couple of months ago. I thought it was very good but nothing earth-shattering. Food was good though nothing to write home about. Flight attendants were competent and courteous although I didn’t really get a sense of friendliness coming from them. The seat is lie-flat but is in a staggered config so it’s not the best of the best. That said, I had flown Singapore Airlines biz in a bulkhead seat the week prior so maybe my expectations were set pretty high.

  20. I flew OZ BKK-ICN-JFK-ICN-BKK in J and was quite surprised that other than a pre-departure beverage, there was never any beverage service. Not before the meal, not between meals. Never. When the meal order was taken on the ground I was asked what beverage I wanted with the meal, and then right after take-off linen was laid and the meal service began.

    The BKK-ICN flight departed at midnight so I had assumed at that time that the pre-meal beverage service was eliminated to truncate the service and allow for more sleep time. But on what should be a flagship routes — daytime flights ICN-JFK and JFK-ICN — I was surprised.

  21. I was very disappointed with Asiana’s A380 business class product from FRA-ICN. The food was terrible, the service was okay, the cabin very hot, and the seats uncomfortable. I was happy that the flight was over, which is usually not the case when I fly J. I would not attempt to fly this airline again unless I had no other choice. However, the service from ICN-NGO on the A321 was very good.

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