Review: Asiana Business Class OZ521 (Seoul – London)
After a couple of nights in Seoul it was time for us to make our way to the airport for the next leg of my 30th birthday adventure.
A friend was travelling on a Korean air flight which was leaving before ours, so we made sure we were at the airport extra early. We decided on taking the much famed ‘limousine’ bus which whilst a nice idea, was quite frustrating. We seemed to stop at most major international hotels to pick up passengers before actually heading to the airport.
Looking back, I would probably have paid the additional $20 to get a cab to get to the destination without the fuss.
On arrival at Incheon airport, I was in awe of the airport design: the rail terminal looks stunning and the check-in/departures hall stretched on forever. We found the check-in desks and walked straight up to the counter for our boarding passes.
Turns out there was an aircraft swap and we would be flying on a new aircraft with the new QS business class product. Unfortunately this came with a caveat that meant that my partner and I wouldn’t be able to sit together – which was annoying but not the end of the world.
Passionately clutching our boarding passes we made our way through immigration after which we hit the sterile confines of the departure terminal. The shopping options weren’t bad (if you like high-end designers like Louis Vuitton) but I wasn’t hugely impressed by the duty free shops – they all looked exactly the same and it seemed that pricing was more or less the same between the stores.
Regardless, I stocked myself up with some Johnny Walker Blue and Grey Goose which came out quite competitive compared to Australian prices. Cigarettes can be purchased duty free for between $14 USD and $20 USD a carton.
We said goodbye to our friend and made our way to the Asiana Business Class lounge – I had heard poor feedback about its size and ability to cater for the number of passengers using it so was curious. Thankfully, the lounge was bright and was of a good size, but in my opinion lacked a decent range of food and beverage options. Surprising for a hub lounge, but I’ve had worse.
Thankfully the WiFi was good and kept us entertained while we waited for our flight to depart.
After leaving the lounge, we approached the gate as an announcement was made saying there would be a 2 hour delay to our departure due to the late arrival of our plane. Slightly disgruntled, we trotted back to the lounge where we decided to plow into the limited alcohol selection on offer: Jack Daniels and coke was the flavour of the day.
The good thing about Incheon is that there are smoking rooms scattered around the terminals, so those who choose to smoke have the facilities to do so at this airport. Some airports like in Sydney and London, do not offer these facilities, so the choice is nice to have.
We boarded the aircraft where the cabin crew apologised profusely for the delay. The usual pre-departure routine dance was performed well by the crew. I noticed different blankets and pillows for this new QS business class product, but the amenity kit was the same as the prior flight from Sydney. Had a glass of champagne whilst I scanned the menu for today’s lunch.
Initial thoughts of the new QS [Quantum Smartium] business class seats were fantastic. Looked very similar to Etihad’s business class seat where all passengers have an unobstructed access to the aisle. I was in the window seat which I felt had an extra level of privacy as all the seats are staggered.
There wasn’t a huge amount of storage space I felt, with the only real place to store items being under the footrest (I believe Etihad had a similar issue in their initial business class seating design which was later corrected).
After departure, the crew sprang into action and the cabin was prepared for lunch service. The Western menu wasn’t as good as the Korean option – I was fairly disappointed, but i’ve had worse meals (this was the only poor meal out of all four Asiana flights I took on this trip) – not a deal breaker.
After lunch, the cabin lights were dimmed and I was able to relax in my seat whilst gazing at the white vastness of northern China and Mongolia. What made this so special was the sunset which bounced shades of pink and orange across the blue and white landscape below – incredible. Perhaps it was the Jack Daniels from the lounge or the wines enjoyed with lunch?
I put the seat into bed mode and tried to get some sleep. However it would appear that the air-con fairies had boosted the heat in the cabin, infuriatingly made worse by my unbreathable jeans and long sleeved top that kept me warm in Seoul. After tossing and turning for an hour or two, I decided to check out the inflight entertainment.
The entertainment options were exactly the same as the previous A330 flight from Sydney, though the entertainment interface was different to the former. Similarly OK selection, but I decided to open my MacBook Air for my own downloaded entertainment. What was great with the QS seat was the side-table that had enough space for me to perch my laptop – I could easily lie down in my flatbed and watch my movies with ease.
Unable to sleep due to the heat of the cabin, I continued to watch my own stuff on my laptop for the remainder of the flight.
Just like the flight from Sydney, I utilised the mid-flight noodle service about half way through this 12 hour leg. The noodles were filling and the kimchi was just as delicious.
About two hours out of London we again given another meal – Dinner – which was just as substantial as the first meal we had when leaving Seoul. The thought of more wine or alcohol made me gag so I stuck with water. The meal was delicious.
Despite the delay, we were only an hour late arriving in London. We jumped into a cab and were at our friends apartment in Covent Garden 45 mins later and 85 pounds poorer. The QS seating was fantastic and really gave me my own space to relax. Top marks to Asiana!