Almost a year has passed since my parents and I decided on taking this trip to Asia. It was at Thanksgiving Dinner last year, that I broke the news to my parents that I would be paying for Business Class Seats for this trip. The last time I flew in premium cabin was when I was in 5th grade. Delta Airlines messed up and gave our seats away even though we had confirmed seat assignments. That flight, which was to Honolulu from Los Angeles, was completely full in Economy Class and at the very last minute, we were given boarding passes for the last four First Class seats aboard the L1011 Aircraft. That was the first and last time I have traveled in anything other than Economy Class when flying until today.
My plan was simple. I wanted to arrive at the airport early so I could get my moneys worth out of the free flowing alcohol from the new Star Alliance Lounge at Los Angeles International Airport. My early arrival plan was dashed by the ever present nasty traffic on the 405 freeway. My parents and I parked our car at Van Nuys FlyAway Terminal and caught the FlyAway Bus to LAX. The traffic to LAX from the Valley was at a crawl this morning. I wanted to arrive at LAX 3.5 hours before flight time to maximize our time inside the new Star Alliance Lounge, but by the time we arrived at Asiana Airlines checkin counter, we had about 2 hours until boarding. After passing through security and finally arriving at the lounge, we had about 1.5 hours left before boarding time.
After the long crawl on the 405 freeway, our FlyAway bus finally dropped us off at Tom Bradley International Terminal. We found the correct checkin aisle that Asiana Airlines is located via the information display and walked to the correct aisle to checkin for our flight. We entered the Business Class checkin line and waited for our turn at the counter. It did not take long before we were waved up to the counter, where we were greeted by a friendly agent before asking to see our passports. My mom, when she booked our flight, already made seat assignments for us, which the checkin agent confirmed and showed us where the seats were located on a map of Asiana Airlines Airbus A380 aircraft. Once we confirmed that we were ok with the seats, we were given our boarding passes along with the baggage claim check plus instructions on how to get to the Star Alliance Lounge. We thanked the agent and headed directly for security check.
Security check entrance was right next to the Asiana Airlines checkin counter. We got in line to have our boarding passes and ID verified by a TSA Agent who was literally falling asleep at the podium. While the line at the entrance to security looked short, inside where the actual security screening was being performed was hectic and busy. Many passengers still to this day, seemed quite confused with the security screening process which created a ripple effect on other passengers. Once the three of us were through the cluster F&*k screening process, we headed directly to the Star Alliance Lounge.
At the entrance to the Star Alliance Lounge, our boarding passes were scanned by an employee manning the podium at the entrance to the lounge. Once inside the Star Alliance Lounge, we tried to find a place to sit together, but many of the seats were occupied by single travelers so group seating was not available for the three of us to sit together. We did find space at the hightop table seating available near the buffet food station which we occupied until it was time to head out to the gate for boarding.
Since we skipped breakfast this morning to eat in the lounge, the three of us were starving by this point. We each took turns looking after our belongings while the other went to the food stations to get something to eat. I made myself a plate from the items at the buffet and also poured myself a glass of champagne to wash everything down. At the Star Alliance Lounge, there is also a noodle station where one can make themselves a bowl of noodle soup. All of the ingredients are setup buffet style for one to create their own bowl of noodle soup as they wish. My parents both had the noodle soup but I passed on it. There are also instant Spicy Korean Ramen cups in the lounge for anyone who wanted to eat them, located near the bar. Beer, wine, and liquor were available as self serve but a full service bar with a bartender is also available in the Star Alliance Lounge.
Once I was finished with my plate, I left my parents to look after our stuff while I went around the lounge taking pictures. The Star Alliance Lounge has a outdoor seating area with a modern waterfall decoration and a view of the aircrafts at Terminal 3. I was the only passenger in the outside lounge area. The more popular place seemed to be the indoor terrace which has a bar and a view of the new Tom Bradley International Terminal. While the lounge was not crowded, all of the seating area were occupied by single travelers making it awkward for bigger groups to sit together.
The bar had a sign with a picture of a Mojito, explaining that it was their special cocktail being served. My mom liked how the mojito looked so she wanted to try one. I ordered couple of Mojito’s which were prepared with lots of REAL mint muddled in the glass to release the mint aroma and flavor into the cocktail. Many bars screw up Mojitos either by not using real mint or by not muddling the mint if they are used. My mom, who normally does not drink, really enjoyed the mojito that the Star Alliance Lounge Bartender prepared for her.
Just as our Mojito cocktails arrived, the Asiana Airlines staff member came through the lounge carrying a sign and announcing that OZ 201 would be boarding. Since we still had plenty of time, we stayed longer in the lounge to enjoy our Mojitos without rushing. Around this time, the Star Alliance Lounge staff members were changing out the breakfast items for lunch items at the buffet. My mom decided to taste some of the lunch items and made herself a plate. I did not eat anything from the lunch items but did take pictures of the new items. Even though my original plan was to get sloshed on the booze and get my moneys worth before boarding, I only ended but having about three drinks including the Mojito.
Once we were finished with our Mojitos we packed up our stuff and headed downstairs to gate 148 for boarding. Lucky for us, gate 148 was right around the corner after getting off of the elevator. At the gate area, passengers were already lined up to board. The Business/First Class line was long and stretched way back as can be seen in the picture above. While we were waiting in the long boarding line for Business Class, I took some pictures of the new Tom Bradley International Terminal building. The new terminal is very airy with lots of natural lights. There are plenty of dining options and lots of high end stores. The last time I came through TBIT, the old terminal building was still in use.
Our Asiana Airlines flight, was being codeshared with United Airlines and Copa Airlines of Panama, and Singapore Airlines. We finally arrived at the position where a airport employee checks ones boarding pass against ones passport, before proceeding to the podium where your boarding pass is scanned and the larger portion collected by a Asiana Airlines employee. Once all three of us had our boarding passes collected, we headed up the escalators to board through the second level which is where Business Class is located.
Asiana Airlines Airbus A380’s have both Business Class and Travel Class, on the second floor and First Class and Travel Class on first floor of the aircraft. Asiana Airlines calls their Economy Class cabin Travel Class. The second floor Travel Class cabin takes up about 1/3 of the rear of the aircraft and the Smartium Business Class the rest of the space. We walked down the upper level jet bridge to to aircraft door where we were greeted by a Asiana Airlines Flight Attendant. The flight attendant checked everyones boarding passes and directed them to the correct aisle where their seat was located.
Once I arrived at my seat, I snapped couple of pictures before sitting in it. I took a moment as I was sitting down to savor the moment. This was a special event in my life. Not only was it the first time I was flying Business Class long distance but I also bought the ticket for the seat with my money. No miles or points were used for this trip! Shortly after I was seated, flight attendants came by with pre departure beverages on a tray. I selected a orange juice which was placed on my side table along with a coaster. At the seat, headphones and slippers were already placed in front of the magazine storage. Just before aircraft doors were closed, flight attendants came through the cabin with amenity kits and bottled water.
Before the inflight safety video was played, all of the flight attendants stood in the aisles, bowed and walked down the aisle thanking each passengers for flying Asiana Airlines today. I thought this was a nice touch to begin a 13+ hour flight to ICN. Our flight was also running on time which was a relief for the three of us. We only had about one hour to connect at ICN for our flight to Bangkok Thailand. Once the safety video was completed, menus and wine lists were distributed. I read over both the Western and Korean lunch options and decided to go with the Western option.
While we were taxing to the runway, I took the obligatory legroom shot for anyone flying in Business or First Class. Our Airbus A380 taxied to the northern runways and after couple planes ahead of us departed, it was our turn to enter the runway. Once in position, we started rolling down the runway. One thing that I immediately noticed was how quiet the engines were. Normally on a 747 400, you knew from the sound that the engines were powering up, but on our A380, powering up sounded more like a hum.
After powering down the runway, our Airbus A380 was wheels up and flying over the Pacific Ocean. We had another aircraft simultaneously taking off from the southern runway. Once we were both in the air, the other aircraft veered south. I was not able to get a clear view of the aircraft type or the airline that simultaneously took off with us from LAX.
Once the 10,000 ft. chime went off, the flight attendants jumped into action. An announcement was made by the purser explaining the inflight service plan. The curtains between Business Class and Travel Class was closed and the flight attendants changed into their aprons. At this time, I visited the bathroom, while it was still fresh and clean to take pictures. There was a window letting in natural light which made the bathroom feel much warmer and friendlier than the typical harsh artificial lighting. The floor was wood and the faucet was automated. The bathroom was twice the size of typical aircraft bathrooms.
When I returned to my seat, flight attendants had already started going down the aisles taking lunch and drink orders. While waiting for the flight attendant to arrive at my seat, I took out the contents of the L’Occitane amenity kit for pictures. Except for the small bottle of lotion, none of the other items in the kit was from L’Occitane.
When it was my turn to order lunch, the flight attendant knelt down so she was eye level with me before taking my lunch and drink order. While I do appreciate the kneeling down, I do feel sorry for Asiana Airlines Flight Attendants who have to do this at every seat down the aisle. I ordered the steak from the Western option and champagne to drink. Shortly after all of the lunch orders were taken, another flight attendant came through the Business Class cabin placing white tablecloths on the tray tables. This was followed by another flight attendant with a trolley with all the table settings. No trays were used for lunch. All items were individually placed on the tray table by the flight attendant. Based on wether you ordered Western or Korean option, the place setting was different.
Following the place setting, drinks that were ordered with the lunch order was served. My champagne was stored in ice in the galley so whenever I needed a refill, the flight attendant would retrieve the bottle from the galley. Drinks were followed by the bread basket for passengers who ordered the Western option. I pointed to the garlic bread and the flight attendant placed two pieces on my bread plate.
The bread basket was followed by a plate of canapés. Courses were delivered and finished plates were cleared at each passengers tempo. Service did not feel rushed and the flight attendants were great at keeping pace with each individual passenger’s speed. Following the canapés, the appetizer course consisting of ham with melons served with a side of greens, bell peppers, and asparagus was delivered. The melons were sweet and paired really well with the ham. While I used most of the small bottle of oil and vinegar for dipping my bread, I used what was leftover on the greens. Once the appetizer plates were cleared, the soup course arrived. The cream based soup arrived hot, not lukewarm. Once I was finished with the bowl of soup, my main course was delivered.
The first thing that struck me when my steak was delivered was how much effort was put into the presentation. The steak was plated better than at most restaurants. The filet steak was cooked just right and still nice and pink inside. I finished every piece of food off of the plate. During the meal, drinks and water were constantly refilled without having to ask.
Following the main course, the cheese plate was delivered. The cheese and condiments were all pre plated and contained three types of cheese, dried fruit and nuts, bread, crackers and carrot and celery sticks. Along with the cheese plate, I ordered a class of port wine to enjoy with the cheese. I was getting full already so I just picked at the plate a bit to sample the items. Since there still was dessert, I wanted to save some room for it.
Following the cheese course, the dessert course was delivered. the mousse style cake, which was topped with a fruity sauce was light and refreshing. The dessert was served chilled, but I am not sure if that was the intended reason or if it was in refrigeration before serving. The dessert was followed closely behind by the coffee and tea trolley with both the coffee and hot water for tea served from silver coffee pots.
By the time I had finished my lunch and one of the flight attendant removed the tablecloth from my tray table, 2.5 hours had past since lunch service started. I was starting to feel the effects of the champagne and port wine that I had been drinking during lunch. I reclined my seat into bed mode and tried to get some sleep. While I was able to doze off for a bit, I kept waking up due to the pressure points on the seat which made my back uncomfortable. Also, the provided pillow was way too thin and useless. When I finally put my seat back up since I could not sleep anymore, we were about half way through the flight.
My mom and I decided to get out of our seats and go checkout the lounge area at the front of the Business Class Cabin. One awkward thing about the cabin layout is that we have to go through the full width gallery in order to get between the two halves of the Business Class Cabin. Doing so each time would cause the flight attendants to have to get up and ask if you needed anything all done with a smile, but I am sure it is annoying for them.
We sat down in the lounge and while we were talking, my dad came over to join us. The three of us hung out in the lounge area for about 30-40 minutes talking about what has been going on at work. While we were in the lounge area, I went downstairs to try and get a view of the First Class Cabin but I did not get past the curtains separating the First Class Cabin and the stairs. The curtain dividers were fastened with Velcro so I did not want to take it apart and go in.
Once I came back up from below, my parents and I decided to go back to our seats and order snacks. From my seat, I pressed the flight attendant call button to order the snacks. I ordered the sandwich and potato chips, my mom ordered the ramen noodles, and my dad ordered the fruit plate. My sandwich was heated first and then the vegetables added afterwards. My mom’s ramen noodle was served in real ceramic bowl along with kimchi and pickled radish. The flight attendant was proactive and brought a glass of water with each of our snack orders.
Later on in the flight, my mom also ordered the sandwich for another snack. I myself did not order anymore snack items but I did order a screwdriver and later on in the flight some cognac. Both drinks were delivered with a small bowl of honey roasted peanuts. I could not sleep so I thought the two drinks would help me fall asleep but sleep was still being elusive. Around this time, flight attendants came through the cabin taking orders for snacks from passengers who were awake and have not already eaten one. Shortly after the snack service, flight attendants came through the cabin again to take pre arrival meal orders. After taking the pre arrival meal order, the flight attendant explained that the pre arrival meal would be served two hours before arrival.
Two hours before arrival into ICN arrival, the all of the flight attendants came back from their rest break and began to stir in the galley. The mood lighting in the cabin was set to slowly increase the lights in the cabin for pre arrival meal service. Pre arrival meal service started with hot towels and followed closely by pre poured beverages brought around on trays.
Another flight attendant came by with white tablecloths placing it on everyones tray tables. Just as during lunch, a trolley full of table settings were rolled through the aisles and each tray table were setup by hand. Once the tray tables were setup, the bread basket was brought around. I pointed to the seeded bun and the flight attendant placed it on my bread plate. I wish butter was served but it seems Asiana Airlines likes to serve the oil and vinegar bottles instead.
Appetizer plates were served which consisted of shrimp served with greens, citrus and a light tasting sauce. The appetizer tasted light and refreshing and the sauce paired really well with the shrimp. Once I was finished with my appetizer plate, the flight attendant passing by removed the appetizer plate and the knife and fork I used to eat it with.
Shortly after my appetizer plate was cleared, my main course was served. The chicken, which was cooked in a mushroom cream sauce tasted good and the puff pastry garnish was crispy and the vegetables were not overcooked and complimented the cream sauce by balancing out the richness. I finished the whole thing except for the onion garnish. One of the many flight attendants constantly roaming the Business Class Cabin removed my plate and the remaining silverwares.
The final dessert course of this flight was delivered with a new fork. The fruit tart tasted fresh and the kiwi and strawberries were perfectly ripe which added to the sweetness of the dessert. When the coffee and tea trolly came by, I ordered a cup of coffee to wash everything down.
Once all of the pre arrival meal items were cleared away, I prepared for landing by stowing all of my stuff away. I also took the final minutes of this flight taking pictures of the outside as we began our decent into ICN. In a blink of an eyes, our Airbus A380 approached and touched down at ICN. The landing was very smooth and even when the engines reversed, the engines were not as loud as the engines on the Boeing 747 400. After slowing down, our A380 exited the runway and taxied to the main terminal building. We pulled into the gate on time with exactly one hour to catch our next flight to Bangkok. At the aircraft door, the flight attendants thanked the disembarking passengers with a slight bow and and still smiling after working 13+ hours.
Asiana Airlines offered great service in their Smartium Business Class cabin, but the Smartium Seat was not very comfortable for sleeping. I found the seat more comfortable in recline mode than in full flat bed mode. The entertainment system is touchscreen both the main screen and the remote, but there were couple of times where the simple things like returning to the previous screen was missing on the remote screen so that I had to lean forward and use the main monitor. The pillow was way to thin to to be of any use in my opinion. Since the cabin was warm, I did not use the comforter but it did look warm and comfortable for anyone who needed one. This completes flight 1 of 4 flights on Asiana Airlines during this trip.