Asiana

Asiana Will Sell Memberships Offering Unlimited First Class Upgrades

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South Korea-based Asiana Airline has just announced that they’ll be selling an “Asiana First Membership,” which offers unlimited complimentary upgrades to first class. The airline has been struggling financially and hasn’t been able to fill their first class cabins, so they’re hoping that this program helps them fill more first class seats.

This membership offers upgrades to first class on Asiana’s routes from Seoul Incheon to Los Angeles, New York, and Frankfurt. Of course when I first saw this my first question was whether award tickets would be eligible for upgrades. Unfortunately the terms state that only business class fares booked in J, C, and D, fare classes qualify. Oh well!

There are two Asiana First Membership options, as follows:

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Review: Asiana Business Class Lounge Incheon Airport

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I arrived at Incheon Airport at around 10AM, a little under three hours before my 12:55PM flight to Almaty. Upon entering the main check-in hall I checked the monitor to see where Air Astana’s check-in counters were located.

Their counters were in row “D,” and I was a bit surprised to see that check-in wasn’t open yet — Air Astana’s check-in only opens at 10:15AM, or 2hr40min before the flight’s departure. As you might expect, there was already quite a queue.

Within about 20 minutes of arriving I was checked in, and issued a boarding pass and an invitation to the Asiana lounge, which Air Astana uses for their premium passengers at Incheon Airport.

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Increased Sign-Up Bonus On Asiana Credit Card

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In terms of lesser known US credit cards, Bank of America issues the Asiana Visa Signature Card, and it has an increased sign-up bonus at the moment. The card usually has a rather sad sign-up bonus of 10,000 miles, though at the moment you can earn 30,000 bonus miles after making $3,000 or more in purchases within the first 90 days of account opening.

The card has a $99 annual fee, which isn’t waived the first year.

The card also offers some spend bonus categories, including double points on gas and groceries. That still wouldn’t be my go to card for those purchases, as I’d rather use the Amex EveryDay® Preferred Credit Card (which offers up to 4.5x points at U.S. supermarkets and up to 3x points at U.S. gas stations) or Premier Rewards Gold Card from American Express (which offers 2x points at U.S. supermarkets and gas stations).

However, there are a couple of things that may make this card worth considering.

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Asiana To Pay San Francisco $3.45 Million For Their 2013 Crash

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Most of you probably remember the Asiana Airlines flight between Seoul Incheon and San Francisco which crashed back in mid-2013. The plane stalled on final approach, and ended up crash landing on the runway. Three people died, including one person who actually survived the crash but was hit by a rescue truck. The cause of the crash was ultimately determined to be pilot error.

While the crash happened almost three years ago, the city’s claim against the airline for damages is just concluding now. The airline and city have tentatively agreed on a settlement amount of $3.45 million. This includes $1.2 million towards the city’s legal costs, $1.6 million for airport damages, along with a further amount to go towards the airport’s aviation insurer.

Per SFGate:

‘“This proposed settlement represents the final chapter in the sad tragedy Asiana caused, and we’re grateful to reach a resolution on our claims without the need for litigation,” City Attorney Dennis Herrera said in a statement.’

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Asiana Introducing Double Daily A380 Flights To LAX

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Seoul Incheon-based Asiana Airlines took delivery of their first A380 in 2014. I had the chance to fly Asiana’s A380 first class between Los Angeles and Seoul Incheon shortly after the service launched, given that Los Angeles was their first longhaul destination using the A380.

Asiana has a fantastic soft product — the food and service are consistently top notch.

However, the hard product leaves a bit to be desired. While Asiana’s A380 first class product is better than their old product, the cabins have extremely unappealing finishes, in my opinion. If I didn’t know any better I’d assume I were flying a UPS passenger plane based on the colors.

The entertainment is also lacking, and there’s no wifi. Still, I love the A380, and it’s an absolute joy to fly thanks to how quiet and smooth it is — I’ve reviewed every A380 first class product out there, including Air France, British Airways, China Southern, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways.

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Asiana Offering Complimentary Chauffeur Service For A Limited Time

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Airline chauffeur service for premium passengers is something which has become more widespread lately. In some instances I “get it,” from the airline’s perspective:

— Virgin Atlantic offers it to full fare Upper Class passengers as a quirky perk which differentiates them from the competition; they also offer an onboard bar and spa with hot tub in their lounge.
— Emirates and Etihad offer it so that neither airline is at a geographical disadvantage. Etihad only flies to Abu Dhabi and Emirates only flies to Dubai, as the cities are only a roughly hour drive apart. This way both airlines can reasonably sell business travelers on flying with them, regardless of whether their final destination is Abu Dhabi, Dubai, or anywhere else in the UAE.

Some other airlines have started offering it over the years, though I’m not sure I totally get the business sense behind it. For airlines that restrict it to full fare customers, surely no one is paying for full fare business class because a chauffeur is included. If you can foot the bill for a super-expensive business class ticket, you can also pay for a car to/from the airport.

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Asiana Removing First Class From 777 And 747 Fleet

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I’ve enjoyed my flights in Asiana first class, including on the Airbus A380, Boeing 747-400, and Boeing 777-200. Asiana has always been great about releasing first class award space, and I’ve rarely found the first class cabins to be full, which is perhaps a sign of weak demand for the product.

For that matter, Asiana has never really had a cutting edge first class hard product. While the service and food have generally been excellent, the hard product leaves quite a bit to be desired.

The 747-400 first class cabins lack privacy. The 777-200 and A380 cabins have more privacy, though the color scheme is borderline vomit-inducing. And the entertainment selection has always been really bad.

Asiana has really been struggling financially lately, due in large part to the outbreak of MERS. For example, between April and June of this year the airline lost ~$72 million, nearly eight times how much they lost during the same period last year.

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Asiana Upgrades Seattle Service To 777

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We’ve seen a huge amount of international growth out of Seattle lately, much of which has been precipitated by Delta setting up a hub there. But beyond that we’ve seen other airlines both add service and improve the quality of their product offerings to Seattle.

It looks like the next airline which will do that is Asiana. Asiana presently operates an A330-300 to Seattle, which features angled business class seats. As of June 28, 2015, Asiana will fly a two class 777-200 between Seoul Incheon and Seattle.

This plane features Asiana’s fully flat, staggered business class product, which is a huge improvement over the old one.

The flight will continue to operate with the following schedule:

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Korea Proposes Dumb Solution To Improve Aircraft Safety

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Historically Korean airlines have abysmal safety records. They’ve gotten better over recent years, but going back a couple of decades, Korean Air had a pathetic safety record.

Korean cockpit culture was almost unarguably the primary cause of this. Korean society is very hierarchical and respectful, and a lot of the accidents have simply come down to first officers not wanting to question the decisions of captains, given that they’d basically be “insulting” them.

There’s perhaps no accident where that’s more transparent than Korean Air 8509, whereby the first officer saw exactly what was causing the accident, but didn’t say anything:

It’s summed up pretty well by Malcolm Gladwell, who describes the issue as follows:

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Asiana Adding More First Class Capacity To Los Angeles

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Asiana began their longhaul A380 service between Seoul Incheon and Los Angeles as of last fall, and just recently announced that they’ll expand A380 service to New York JFK as of June 13, 2015.

Asiana’s route to New York JFK was previously operated by a Boeing 777-200ER in a three class configuration, meaning it featured a first class cabin. A majority of Asiana’s 777s are in a two class configuration (without first class), so I was kind of curious which route they’d next put the three class 777 on, given that they no longer needed it for JFK. As I explained in the previous post:

“Now the question remains as to which route will get the 777-200 which is currently operating the New York JFK route. This is one of the 777s with their new first class product, while most of their other 777s are in a two class configuration, without a first class cabin. So that will be a big upgrade for whichever route gets it. My money is on either the second daily Los Angeles flight or the Chicago flight.”

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Asiana A380 Flights To JFK As Of June 13, 2015

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As I wrote about yesterday, Asiana announced on Instagram that their next longhaul A380 destination would be New York JFK. That hardly came as a surprise, though frankly I wasn’t expecting them to announce the exact schedule so quickly. Via airlineroute.net, Asiana will launch 3x weekly (Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday) A380 service between Seoul Incheon…

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Next Asiana A380 Destination: New York JFK

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Last August, Asiana launched their first A380 longhaul flight, between Los Angeles and Seoul Incheon.

I had the chance to fly from Los Angeles to Seoul Incheon in A380 first class last October, and quite enjoyed it. I’m a huge fan of Asiana in terms of the food and service. And while they were good as always, I don’t really think Asiana “stepped up their game” in terms of the overall product on the A380 compared to the product on the 777.

Anyway, Asiana has a total of six A380 orders, and so far only two have been delivered. So while they’ll operate among the smallest A380 fleets of any airline (along with China Southern, Malaysia Airlines, and Thai Airways), clearly there are still some longhaul A380 routes in their future.

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Asiana Faces 45 Day Suspension At San Francisco Airport

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I’m sure we all remember last year’s crash of Asiana 214 between Seoul Incheon and San Francisco, which touched down short of the runway, causing both death and serious injuries.

In June the NTSB concluded that pilot error was the main cause of the accident.

Aside from the overall damage this does to the airline (reputation, lawsuits, insurance claims, etc.), how is Asiana being “punished” for the accident? Well, apparently by being issued a 45 day suspension on their route between Seoul and San Francisco:

Via Yonhap News:

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Review: Asiana First Class A380 Los Angeles to Seoul Incheon

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I had intentionally left the first class lounge a bit early so that I could snap some first class cabin pictures before the other passengers arrived. Since Asiana’s A380 first class is on the lower deck, literally only the (up to) 12 first class passengers board through the forward door on the lower deck (economy passengers board through the door behind the first class cabin).

When I boarded I seemed to catch the crew somewhat off guard. I guess most first class passengers board later in the process. They were of course still courteous, and quickly directed me to my seat, 2K. I explained I’d like to take a few cabin pictures quickly, and they gladly stayed out of my way for a few minutes.

Asiana’s A380 first class cabin consists of a total of 12 seats, spread across three rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. Each seat is fully enclosed, so you can’t beat the overall privacy of the product. Since first class is on the lower deck, the cabin is considerably wider than on the upper deck. So it is generally true that airlines with first class on the lower deck of the A380 have more spacious feeling cabins.

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