Review: Asiana Business Class OZ602 Sydney-Seoul
To celebrate my 30th birthday we decided to fly to London for a couple of weeks of shopping and general debauchery.
Thanks to some great tips on how to secure cheap business class tickets through US Airways, I was able to get these Asiana business fares for almost a steal (under $3000/ea return).
Asiana hails from South Korea, with its international hub being Seoul’s Incheon International Airport. The airline has been flowered with a stack of airline industry awards in recent years, with Asiana winning Skytrax’s Airline of the Year in 2010, followed by two years in second spot behind Qatar.
I was champing at the bit to check out Asiana to see what all the fuss was about, and this fussy puss is hard to impress. Read on to get the goss…
OZ602 Sydney – Incheon
This night owl usually avoids morning departures because I’m far from being a morning person, but Asiana’s 10am departure meant I could wake up at a relatively normal hour. Arriving at the airport shortly after 8am, we made a beeline for the check-in desks where we waited for a moment before an Asiana rep approached us in the queue.
After checking our passports, she retrieved previously printed boarding passes and boarding pass wallets, meaning we only had to check-in our bags at the counter. Very organised I thought, and off to a good start.
Asiana uses the Air New Zealand Koru club in Sydney which is a more than acceptable lounge but tends to get a bit boring after several visits. It has a good range of hot food items and alcohol options including a decent array of wines. Spirits are lacking with only a few on offer.
Most Star Alliance partner airlines and a contingent of ‘other’ airlines use this lounge so it can get quite busy at peak times – though when I was there I almost had the run of the place. The Koru club has fantastic views of the apron where you can sip your champagne (read: sparkling wine) whilst gazing over the happenings on the tarmac.
Once boarding was called, we jumped to life and made our way to the gate only a short walk from the lounge. The business class queue was empty so we walked straight through to the aerobridge where we waited with the masses.
One observation we made was that there were relatively few caucasian travellers on this flight – this was common on all Asiana flights (perhaps Australians haven’t heard of the airline yet?). Arriving at the door, we were greeted by a flotilla of bashful, but visually easy-on-the-eye flight attendants – one showed us to our seats.
This A330 aircraft is one of 12 in the Asiana fleet and has an old-ish ‘lie flat’ business class product, where the seats recline into a shell but fails to go completely flat. Side sleepers beware, these seats can be torture as you simultaneously attempt to find a comfortable position and try to not slide down the seat (yes – first world problems I hear you say).
The supplied pillow was a typical ‘mini-pillow’ that offered little support. The blanket was thin and looked cheap but wasn’t utilised on this flight due to the high temperature of the cabin.
After packing away the bags, we were presented with a choice of organge juice, water or champagne – ideal lubrication whilst investigating the contents of our amenity packs that were waiting on our seats. The menus were distributed for the lunch and snack service we would get on this flight.
The flight was delayed by roughly 20 minutes. All cabin announcements were made in Korean first, followed by English. Unfortunately the English ability of the crew was generally poor on all Asiana flights and it was up to us to interpret and translate the best we could – i’m sure Asiana can improve this with regular staff language training.
Worthy of a mention: just before the safety demonstration, all the cabin crew in the business cabin all did a synchronised bow – quaint! During pushback, there was an Asiana rep on the tarmac who was waving goodbye to the aircraft for a good minute or so.
Meals & Service
Shortly after take-off we were greeted by the cabin manager who introduced herself and thanked us for flying Asiana. Nice thought, but seemed very scripted and riddled with awkward silences and confused uncertain nods given the language barrier. Another flight attendant shortly after approached us for lunch and drink orders. More confusion reigned, but we got there in the end.
As this was my first Asiana flight, I thought I’d roll the dice and try the Korean menu – I wasn’t disappointed. To start, there was a salmon canape that could be described as largely forgettable. Next was the ‘Roasted prawn and vegetables with pine nut juice’ that looked a bit “eww” but tasted fantastic. The next dish to appear was the ‘Shrimp and broccoli porridge’, which was quite bizarre – think rice pudding with savoury stuff.
Before the flight, I had heard from other travellers that the Bibimbap is a must when travelling Asiana or Korean Air, so I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of this famed national dish. Accompanying the bibimbap was kimchi, chilli sauce, rice, sesame oil, broth (chicken and onion?), and the mixture of vegetables.
There was also a side dish of small dried fish – colour me boring but I didn’t throw these in. I’m sure they taste fabulous. All up, this was a unique culinary journey with some odd but satisfying moments. There was also cheese and dessert to pair with the Chardonnay.
Shortly after lunch, we reclined our seats and checked out the inflight entertainment offering. Thankfully, this flight had on demand entertainment. Asiana is hit and miss in this regard with some aircraft having an older cassette style entertainment where the passenger is unable to pause or rewind.
There were roughly 40-50 english movies on offer and the system was user friendly enough (except for perhaps the annoying mouse cursor that was tricky to control and place squarely over a button or icon). Unfortunately I had seen most of the movies on offer but decided to re-watch a few to keep the boredom at bay on this 10.5 hour flight.
Asiana have the worst airline supplied headphones for a business class product that I’ve seen. They sit awkwardly, leak sound and are certainly not noise cancelling. The A330 aircraft allowed me to use my standard iPhone headphones using one of the standard three-socket plugs.
Roughly half way through the flight the cabin started to stir with passengers ordering snacks. Asiana offers ramen noodles to all business class passengers so I decided to give them a whirl. One word – declicious. The noodles are accompanied by kimchi and the noodles come in a large porcelain bowl.
I tried to sleep but found the cabin temperature to be far too hot – a theme that would frustratingly occur on all Asiana flights. Asking the crew to turn down the air-conditioning was futile and we gave up asking in the end.
Two hours out from landing, the lights were turned on and a ‘snack’ service was distributed by the crew. The word snack is loosely used however as it was still a three course meal with full laid tray tables and cart service. How much more food could I take?
It seems that Asiana feeds its business class passengers very well and I was probably going to be obese at the end of the flight. The scallop first course was extremely nice (anything with scallops gets my vote) and the seafood stiry-fry was comforting and filling.
The cabin was then cleaned and prepped for landing. We saw some fantastic night vistas of Seoul and it’s environs as we approached Incheon.
After arrival we passed through immigration where we had our fingerprints scanned. Passengers should note that there is no duty free shopping on arrival in Seoul (only when departing) so it is advised to buy anything you need at your departure port.
Our bags came out relatively quickly and we made our way outside for a cigarette. We then got a taxi to take us to our hotel – the Grand Hyatt – with the taxi fare costing roughly 60,000 KRW from the airport including tolls.
+ Organised check-in
+ Quaint departure ritual of bowing and waving off the aircraft
+ Korean Bibimbap was delicious as were the mid-flight noodle snack
– Terrible headphones
– Poor quality pillow and blanket
– Cabin temperature was consistently far too hot