Flight Review: NRT to SEA in Asiana "Smartium" Business Class
After meeting my girlfriend in Tokyo, I was looking for a last minute mileage ticket to get me home. I was hoping availability opened up on the same flight she was on, but at around 5 days out, this flight connecting in ICN opened up and I decided to book it asap.
I still had some Lifemiles which I bought during the sale for 1.375 cents a piece which I was looking to burn. I used 75,000 Lifemiles for this Asiana flight from NRT to SEA connecting in Seoul (ICN). I was hoping the direct flight from NRT to SEA on ANA would open up, but when I saw this itinerary with a short connection and all lie flats back home, it made for an easy choice. Another cool perk was the short hop from NRT to ICN was operated by an A380, one of the shortest A380 passenger routes in operation.
Check-In and Lounge
The check-in agent at NRT was friendly enough and got my documents ready in about 5 minutes and provided a map to find the Star Alliance lounges.
I found the Star Alliance Gold security line and was quickly on my to the duty free shop. I picked up some Nikka Coffey Grain Japanese Whisky before heading to the United Club. I simply wanted to see what it was like since I heard good things and I was impressed. It was massive and had plenty of room to sit along with self-serve booze and some Japanese food. It is a far cry from the dingy United Clubs back in the USA.
Even though I was happy with the lounge, I decided to head on over to the ANA lounge which I liked much better. The aesthetic was more modern and the food was great. They even had a noodle station where you could customize a noodle bowl. I grabbed a quick bowl of veggie udon noodles, some tempura and some juice before heading up to the gate.
Flight Number: OZ 101
Boarding & The Cabin
I've only flown an A380 twice before, so it's still pretty exciting for me. I was one of the last few passengers to board and was directed towards the jetway that connected to the upper deck. Upon walking into the forward business class cabin, it immediately felt pretty new and spacious.
All of Asiana's A380s are equipped with their newer "Smartium" product. Each window seat alternates being flush against the window (which I prefer), while the middle pairs alternate being right next to each other or a little further apart. I like the design and it means if you do get stuck in a middle seat, you might still have some privacy. I was seated in the second to last row of the forward cabin which is a window seat flush against the window which I really enjoyed. It's pretty sweet to get a long-haul product like this on a such a short hop.
There was plenty of storage on both sides of the seat.
There was a nice little table on the side close to the aisle which housed a magazine pocket, reading light, USB port and headphone jack. The IFE remote was located right below the table. Slippers were already placed on the seat along with a small blanket, though no amenity kits on this flight.
The IFE screen was nicely sized (probably around 15 inches), but didn't have a whole lot of content.
Service was friendly and prompt. It started with a welcome drink shortly after boarding. After we had a smooth roll and take-off from Narita, the FAs came back around to take food and beverage orders.
Shortly after, small warm towels were distributed.
I went with the a veggie Bibimbap which was excellent along with some champagne. The Gojuchang sauce was the perfect mix of spicy and flavorful.
The FAs were friendly and attentive and the cabin was kept at a comfortable temperature. I took a walk around the cabin and found this little "lounge" area towards the front of the upper deck which was slightly strange. Maybe they could sell some standing room only seats on an oversold flight!
Before I knew it we were on our descent and landed into rainy Seoul Incheon International Airport.
Similar to most international connections, you have to clear security once again at Incheon before boarding connecting flights. There was no Star Alliance "Gold Track" and they had to re-bag my duty free purchases which took a little while. Afterwards I headed over to the Asiana Business Class lounge.
The lounge was pretty large in size an had plenty of seating on both sides of the check in area. There was a grand piano in the middle of one side, though nobody was playing it while I was there.
There was a self-service bar with some pretty standard options on both sides of the lounge.
Along with some hot food and a cold salad bar.
I had put my name down for a shower upon arriving, but my I didn't get a shower in my 1.5 hours there which was slightly disappointing. I did manage to use one of the many massage chairs though which was funny and relaxing. Overall the lounge is fine, but I would not plan on arriving to the airport early to visit it. I decided to head down to the gate about 10 minutes before boarding was scheduled to start.
Flight Number: OZ 272
Boarding and The Seat
The boarding area for my flight to Seattle was complete chaos without any announcements from the gate agents. There weren't any obvious lines and everyone was kind of just huddling around boarding area. The flight was slightly delayed and boarded about 15 minutes late. While I was waiting, I headed down to the windows to catch a glimpse of the 777-200LR we'd be flying today.
After pre-boarding was complete, the announced Business Class and Star Gold could board, but just about everyone got in the queue. Turning left once on-board I was seated in the last row of business class - Seat 6K.
Each seat was equipped with a L'Occitange amenity that frankly looked really cheap. It felt like it was made out of flammable vinyl with L'Occitane stamped onto it. The contents were fine though, with all the essentials except lip balm.
Overall, the cabin was very similar to the A380 with slightly less storage space.
The FAs were friendly throughout the boarding process and offered welcome drinks after boarding. I just went with some water to get hydrated before hopefully catching some sleep. Before we pushed back, the captain mentioned we were leaving about 30 minutes late, but that he hoped to make the time up in the air. After we had reached cruising altitude, the FAs quickly came out with menus, warm towels and began taking orders for dinner.
I ordered the Seabass along with a whiskey sour.
Dinner service started with a few stuffed olives which were presented elegantly.
Next came the breadbasket, most of which looked pretty unappetizing. The bread was Wonderbread quality, overly sweet, and looked like it had been dyed yellow.
Afterwards came the butternut squash soup and the turkey appetizer (which I skipped). The soup tasted like it just came out of a can.
Lastly, came the Grilled Seabass. It was horrible. The fish was chewy and smelled strange. The tomato sauce was similar to the Prego stuff I used to buy in college. I could only muster a few bites before I called it quits and felt slightly ill.
Dinner was rounded out by a fruit and cheese plate (which I tried to decline) along with a piece of cake and glass of port.
The dinner service ended with another round of hot towels and a water bottle. Dinner could be summarized as horrible. The plating and presentation was really nice, especially for business class, though the food itself was bordering on inedible. It was also disappointing to not see any vegetarian options available. Next time I fly Asiana, I will try pre-ordering a special meal to see how that goes.
Luckily enough, I slept like a baby for 7 hours on the flight and woke up only about an hour before we were schedule to land. Since we had not begun our descent, the FAs offered some fruit and tea, though there wasn't enough time for a full service, which I was more than okay with.
Overall, Asiana offers a really competitive hard product if the aircraft is equipped with "Smartium" seats. I was able to catch a lot of sleep on my long-haul and I'd be happy to fly them again since it's the main thing I look for in business class product. While I didn't enjoy the food on my flight to Seattle, I would probably order a special meal in the future. I feel they might be better suited shifting some resources away from plating and presentation and into the food itself, but that's just my two cents. In the future, if I was burning Star Alliance miles, I would choose a longer route to fly with EVA Air or ANA, but wouldn't be disappointed to fly Asiana again.