Yesterday I wrote about my initial impressions of the new Asiana A380 First Class on OZ202. It was an interesting flight that had its positives and negatives, but I largely believe that the negatives were one-off occurrences than the norm. Luckily I was traveling with two friends that I could compare experiences to, so this review will provide some details perspectives from all three of us when applicable.
Note that I flew Asiana’s Quadra Smartium Business Class a while back and loved it.
Asiana A380 First Class Review
I was hanging out in the Asiana First Class Lounge at ICN with my friends before this flight, but I knew I wanted to get to the plane a little early in order to take proper pictures. Upon entry to the lounge my friends were told that they’d receive an escort to the plane, but I was never told that. When exiting, however, the front desk agent asked for my boarding pass and passport and then handed it to another lounge attendant, who said she would take me to the plane.
She walked me from the lounge all the way to the door of the plane (which means I couldn’t take a picture of the plane before getting on), where I was handed off to a flight attendant who welcomed me and led me to my seat. I was carrying a rollaboard and laptop bag, and the flight attendant said that she could store my rollaboard in the cabinets up front. I handed it to her and she took it away for the remainder of the flight (or so I thought).
My first impression of the cabin was that it looks gorgeous. There are 3 rows of 4-across seating for a total of 12 First Class seats, and each of them are suites with closing doors. If you’ve flown Etihad First Class before, this is almost the same thing, just a little more toned down.
There’s definitely nothing flashy about these seats, but I love the colors they use. The wood grain is very unique with the light-grey color, as most other airlines use the darker browns and reds. It made this product look unique.
When I got to my seat, one thing immediately jumped out at me – the size of the TV. Holy smokes is this TV huge. It’s a massive 32 inch High Definition screen, and it’s almost comically big. It’s the same size they have on their slightly older suites aboard some of their 777s, but I’d never experienced them so I didn’t really know how huge they were.
Under the TV was the foot rest, which is the same width of the TV and provides plenty of space. Underneath that is space for your rollaboard or other bag, plus the power outlet.
There were a few goodies waiting for me at my seat as well. The amenity kit was Salvatore Ferragamo branded, and there were also Asiana slippers and Bose QC3 noise-cancelling headphones.
I asked one of the flight attendants how many people would be in First Class today, and she said only 6. That meant half the cabin was going to be empty on the flight, so I was hoping for truly exceptional service this time. The Cabin Manager also came around to introduce herself, something that is common when flying Asiana First Class.
After being seated I was asked if I wanted champagne, but since I don’t drink I asked for water instead. It was served with warm nuts that actually tasted a bit stale. I was also offered a selection of newspapers.
I continued to explore the seat to see what the storage options were, and thankfully there were several storage areas including a closet with a built-in mirror.
One slightly disappointing part is that there was about 6 inches between the seat and the windows that was essentially wasted space. Singapore’s A380 uses this section for storage on most seats (some seats on Singapore can’t open the storage bins), so to see this whole area as unusable was a bit of a bummer.
If you noticed in one of the pictures above, the IFE remote is one of the fancy new touch-screen remotes that functions like a smart phone. It’s very similar to what Japan Airlines has in their new Sky Suites (review coming soon, I promise!).
I decided to go check out the lavatory after having my welcome drink and exploring the seat. There are two lavatories up front, one long and narrow one for changing and the other is a standard, small one that’s just before the entrance to the cockpit. The pictures for the below are of the larger one. Look at all the mirrors!
I mentioned I was traveling with a couple of friends. One of them happens to be Bengali Miles Guru, who occasionally writes for Hack My Trip and is known as a mileage redemption/award booking genius. Once I got back to my seat after exploring the lavatory I noticed that he and our other friend had their dinner menus and pajamas. I was excited to see the pajamas because the ones given on Asiana’s older 747-400s are really outdated. These looked newer and awesomer.
I got back to my seat and waited, but no pajamas or menu came. I was actually hoping to change into them before takeoff because I wanted to lounge the whole flight, but they just never came. Soon after we took off, and it was a very slow and gradual climb to get to our cruising altitude of 40K feet.
I fired up the TV as soon as possible to see what I was working with. This TV is simply amazing. It might be too big for the seat and distance, but I’m willing to live with that. Not all content is in HD unfortunately – movies that are actually in HD are denoted by “[HD]” in front of the title. The biggest negative is that Asiana’s IFE offerings are generally very slim. There were only about 20-25 Hollywood movies to pick from and only a handful of TV shows. There were, however, quite a few international titles to pick from.
My other friend on the flight pointed out that subtitles couldn’t be changed from Korean to English, so anyone that wanted to watch a Bollywood film and doesn’t understand Hindi or written Korean would be out of luck.
I finally received my dinner menu about 30 minutes after takeoff, but my pajamas were nowhere in sight. I was really hoping I wouldn’t have to ask for them, but decided to wait until after the dinner service was completed to do so.
Here are large images of the menus (click to expand):
I do like Bibimbap, but I wanted beef instead of chicken so I decided to look for the Western option instead. I saw the Wagyu beef on the menu and decided I had to try it, so that’s what I went with. Everything you see listed under Starters comes with the meal as well, so I knew it would be a lot of food. Thankfully I was ready and willing!
A flight attendant came by ten minutes after handing me the menu to take my order. Ordering was simple since there weren’t many options. The only question I was asked was which soup I preferred since there was an option, and I went with the Pumpkin Carrot soup. I asked for Coke Zero as my drink but she said they had only Diet Coke, which was fine with me. Note that Asiana does offer Caviar service for the Korean option as well upon request.
The food started coming out one by one soon after.
The beef bar was basically a cold kabob of beef with olives. Not that great.
As the table was set, we received a red rose that was placed at the far end of the table. We also received two breads and weren’t given an option to pick from a basket as you normally might.
Next up was the caviar service. I fully admit that I’m not a fancy food-eater on most occasions, and the only time I ever have caviar is on a plane. I wouldn’t be able to tell a good caviar service from a bad one. I find it to be a slightly acquired taste, and even though I haven’t had it much, I did think it was good.
The King Crab meat was delicious. It was served on a bed of sliced scallops that I didn’t care for much, but the crab was good. Next up was the soup.
I had a hard time deciding which soup to get, but this one ended up being pretty good. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was flavorful and warm so I enjoyed it.
After four dishes I already started seeing a trend with how the service worked. The flight attendants are constantly passing up and down the aisles just to monitor everyone and see if everything is in order. If I ate everything on the plate, it seemed as though the plate was picked up immediately and the next dish brought out within a couple of minutes. If I didn’t finish the entire dish, the flight attendants waited a couple of passes and then asked if I was finished before picking it up.
I thought this was fantastic service. One of the friends I was traveling with found the constant pacing to be annoying, but I didn’t mind it at all. It reminded me of Singapore Airlines service, which I consider to be the best. This was different in that during the meal service it seemed that a flight attendant was passing every couple of minutes.
I also kind of got the feeling that they were almost staring over my shoulder as I ate since their timing was so perfect. Kind of weird, but I suppose in a good way.
The salad dressing looked extremely thick and not too appetizing, but it actually ended up being delicious. So far this meal is shaping up to be wonderful. I was also offered more bread from a brad basket at this point even though I hadn’t touched my first two pieces. I declined, not wanting to fill up on breads.
After I finished the salad, a flight attendant came to ask me how I’d like my steak cooked. I said medium as I do for all my steaks, and she thanked me and went back to the kitchen that was in the section behind my seat.
Finally the palate cleanser of raspberry sherbet was served. I like to joke that you know you’re having too much food when your appetizers end with a dessert.
There was a slightly longer wait between the sherbet and my steak – maybe about 7 minutes or so – but it finally came out.
The steak definitely looked good, but the risotto had a creepy black color to it. It was served with cauliflower, a mushroom, and asparagus. One of my friends ordered the same dish and it was served with broccoli instead of cauliflower.
The steak was very good…until I got towards the middle. It was pretty far undercooked considering I asked for medium. It was more of a medium rare or even rare. That didn’t stop me from finishing the steak, but for those of you that can’t handle your steak still mooing, you might want to order up on the done-ness of your steak. One of my friends also confirmed that the steak was very undercooked.
I’m not a huge fan of risotto, but I took a bite and was not impressed. I didn’t eat much of it at all, but the other items were good.
When the flight attendant came to pick up my plate, I asked to skip the cheese plate and go straight for the chocolate cake. She asked if I wanted any coffee or tea which I also declined.
The chocolate cake was delicious, and the presentation was nice as well. If there was one thing I would change, it would be to add more whipped cream!
Dinner service took about 45 minutes to complete from start to finish. The service was great, my glass of water and diet coke were constantly being refilled before I asked, and empty plates were picked up immediately. I rarely had to wait long for the next dish to come out as well, so I really enjoyed the dinner service.
One of my friends ordered the Korean meal and found that the Bibimbap actually did come with beef, which is kind of confusing since the menu made no mention of it. I suppose it’s worth asking and double checking to see what they have and what you’ll get.
By the way….still no pajamas. At this point I was convinced that they completely forgot about them, so I decided to ask the next flight attendant. She asked what size I wanted and I said large (always go Large or higher), and she brought them out for me.
These were a heavy set of pajamas! I really liked the quality of these – they were the half-zip variety for the top and the bottoms were great also. The only quarrel I have with them is that there were no pockets, something I value because I always carry my cell phone with me. JAL’s new First Class pajamas are my favorites still.
The cabin lights were dimmed after the dinner service, and I decided to get some work done for a bit. At this point I tried closing the door, but it was very hard to do. I needed to expend some energy trying to close the doors. Maybe they’re too new…or maybe I just need to work out.
Anyway, my computer was in need of a charge and it became very apparent how bad the the power outlet location was that I mentioned earlier. I needed to close my tray table and get out of my seat to reach the outlet in order to plug in my computer. Opening the tray table again was awkward as I tried to move the wire around and move my laptop aside.
I think this is the biggest flaw with this seat – you simply do not have easy access to this outlet. This flaw was exposed again later on as I wanted to charge my cell phone while sleeping, but you can’t reach it when the seat is in bed mode since it’s completely covered. I think this is a huge oversight in the design of this seat, particularly for business travelers or anyone that needs to get things done in the air.
I decided to get some sleep after about an hour of work. The flight attendants had retreated to the kitchen area so I used my Flight Attendant call button to ask to have my bed made to get some sleep. An FA arrived within seconds, and I said “Hi, I’d like to have my bed made so I can go to sleep.” She looked confused for a second, conferred with another FA that happened to be walking by, and said “OK” and walked away.
I walked over to the lavatory as I usually do while waiting for my bed to be made, and when I got back a few minutes later, my suitcase, which I gave to the FAs upon boarding to store in cabinets up front, was at my seat which clearly still wasn’t in bed mode. I thought for a second and realized it was probably an honest mistake due to the language barrier. They must have confused the word “bed” for “bag” so something was lost in communication. Communication difficulties are known to happen from time to time on Asiana…no big deal.
The seat next to me was unoccupied so I put my suitcase under the footrest there. I waited for another FA to walk by, and this time it was the Cabin Manager. I was thinking about how to approach this question in a clearer way, so asked it in a way that I think couldn’t have left any doubt as to what I wanted: “Hi, do you offer turn down service? I’d like to go to sleep and have my bed made.” She looked at me with a confused face and said “You want to close the doors? Yes you can do that.”
At this point I was just dumbfounded. Could it be that they don’t offer turn down service on this flight? No way…I received it on the 747-400 on my first request with no issue, using the same wording I used on this flight. I thought about it for a second but was too tired to care, so I made the bed myself (everything I needed is in a package on the footrest). After watching it done so many times I think I can make a proper airplane bed!
Inside the bed packaging was a small pillow, blanket, and seat cover that was slightly padded. The seat itself was already comfortable so the small padding wasn’t a big deal. The bed was comfortable, very wide, and I was able to sleep easily. The one item I would change would be the pillow, which was small and kind of hard. Airlines like Etihad, Qantas, and Cathay use bigger pillows that are either down or down-alternative and very comfortable, and I would have preferred that. Still, it wasn’t like Asiana’s pillows were uncomfortable so I was able to sleep a few hours.
There was some noise coming from the kitchen area that was just behind me, so if you’re a light sleeper then this may bother you. In any case I would suggest being in row 2 to minimize any disturbances (row 1 is close to the lavatory).
After waking up I conferred with my friends to ask what their experience with this was. BMG fell asleep before the dinner service started and never got around to asking for the bed to be made, but the other friend had the complete opposite experience of me. He said he asked for the bed to be made and the flight attendant agreed immediately, led my friend to the lavatory to wait for a few minutes, and then came to bring him back once it was done.
So…I have no idea what I did wrong. The difference in these two things from my friend sitting just a few feet away from me is pretty big, but also not a huge deal. I take it as this being an anomaly for me specifically and don’t think it would be the regular experience. Perhaps the flight attendants working my aisle were not as strong in English as the one who helped my friend. The only thing I could have done differently is motion that I wanted to sleep using my hands, but I feel like the word “sleep” is one that any First Class flight attendant should know.
I decided to head upstairs to check out the “lounge” on the plane. The way this plane is configured is First Class at the front of the lower level and then Economy behind it. On the upper deck is the Quadra Smartium Business Class up front, then Economy again behind. The lounge is at the front-right of the upper deck.
The lounge was pretty boring. It was literally just four seats against the wall with not much else going on. I don’t think they’ve provided much of an incentive to sit in these seats over the normal seats. For reference, I reviewed Asiana’s Quadra Smartium Business Class in this post.
One cool thing that I noticed while boarding but didn’t have time to take a picture of was a huge Asiana Airlines sign at the door. I was able to take a picture of it mid-flight.
I got a little bit more work done before the lights were turned on. I headed to the lavatory, and when I got back all my bedding had been picked up and placed on the seat across the aisle. Glad to know they at least picked it up for me!
The breakfast service began with about 1:45 remaining in the flight. A flight attendant came to take my order, and I already had picked what I wanted when I first received the menu.
Large image of breakfast menu (click image to expand):
From the very beginning I had been eying the “Special Cooking Service” that offered either scrambled eggs or french toast. I asked for the scrambled eggs. The flight attendant said “Um let me check if we have that” and walked towards the kitchen. She came back and said “yes, we’ll try.” Um…okay.
I also ordered an orange juice, which was gross. My friends ordered some other juice earlier in the flight that was also gross, so perhaps its best to avoid fruit drinks on this flight.
The table was set and came with a croissant and a sugary pastry with the usual jams and butter. The fruit plate came out first and there was a slice of mango on it, something that’s pretty unique as far as airline fruit plates go. The strawberry was small and looked kind of sad, but the rest of the fruits were fresh, sweet, and delicious.
At this point I confirmed an earlier suspicion – the flight attendants were literally hovering over my shoulder. I was able to peek out of the corner of my eye and see one of them standing there and watching me eat. Kind of creepy, but I was also sitting in the seat just before the kitchen, so it might have just been her default station during the breakfast service. It explains the excellence of their service during my meals.
Next up was the yogurt. I was given an option of plain or strawberry and I went with the latter. It tasted as it should.
Next up were the scrambled eggs, which came with bacon, sausage, potatoes, cauliflower, and green beans. I finished taking my pictures and took a bite of the eggs, which were quite good. Literally 5 seconds after I took that bite, a flight attendant popped her head in and asked “how are the eggs?” I said they were good, which they were. She said “OK good, because it was our first time making it.” !!!
Hmmm…I can picture them reading the instruction manual of how to make scrambled eggs. One would think that they would receive proper training on this, but clearly they did not. The eggs were actually good though so I can’t complain.
Interestingly, the cereal came out last even though it was mentioned alongside the yogurt. I was asked if I wanted low fat or whole milk and I picked the former given how much food I normally eat on planes. It tasted like Cornflakes usually taste.
Note that the seats and tray table are big enough to accommodate passengers that want to dine together. Just let the flight attendants know beforehand if that’s something you’re interested in.
I looked over at the seat across the aisle and noticed the privacy screen had been raised. I believe the passenger sitting at the window at the opposite side of row 3 asked to sleep in the aisle seat across from him, something that Singapore Airlines asks passengers if they want to do, so that’s probably why the privacy screen was up.
The flight was finally coming to an end after nearly 10 hours and we landed at LAX on time.
Asiana A380 First Class Summary and Final Thoughts
The Asiana A380 First Class is a really great flight to take in my opinion. The hard product is excellent and the seat is very comfortable for sitting, lounging, and sleeping. The one flaw, which I consider to be significant, is the location of the power outlet that’s just under the foot rest. It’s impossible to plug anything in with the tray table open and impossible to charge anything in bed mode.
The service was both excellent and average at the same time for me. The flight attendants completely forgot to give me pajamas until I eventually asked for them, and I had to make my own bed. That’s something that should never happen in international First Class, especially on Asiana. I’m sure I could have had it done if I kept trying but I just wanted to sleep and ended up doing it myself.
On the other hand, service during meals was excellent. Empty plates were never on my table for more than a couple of minutes and my drinks were never empty. The Cabin Manager introduced herself at the beginning of the flight and thanked me for flying with them at the end as well.
Despite the undercooked steak, the food was still very good in my opinion. I wish I’d ordered to Bibimbap (I just love saying that!) since I enjoyed it when I flew Business Class with them, but I opted not to. The cooked to order scrambled eggs were good, but it was literally the first time someone had asked this crew, so it could have turned out differently. Still, it’s a new route and I suppose some leeway should be extended to them.
I would most definitely fly this flight again, and I’m actually scheduled to do so in December. If I had multiple options to get to Asia I would still pick Cathay Pacific or Japan Airlines First Class, even though both of those don’t offer a suite with closing doors (there’s still plenty of privacy though). ANA’s First Class Square would also be preferable, but not by much. This makes it sound like a bad flight but it wasn’t at all – I still enjoyed them and would fly them again in a heartbeat.