From Mountains to Beaches – Asiana First Suite Class to Incheon

OZ235 Chicago ORD – Seoul ICN
Monday 3 Dec 2012
STD-STA: 12:00-16:50 (+1)
Actual: 12:35-16:53 (+1)
Boeing 777-200ER HL8254
Seat 2K, moved to 2A due to electrical glitch

Chicago O’Hare Terminal 5

Once I arrived at Terminal 5 in O’Hare, I went on searching for the Asiana check-in counters and was greeted with a long queue. I thought it was for the Asiana flight but turns out it was for the TACA flight, and Asiana had someone to make sure no Asiana passengers were in the midst of the queue. Check in was efficient and fast, lady who checked me in was pleasant, and my my heart skipped a beat when she told me I was the only one in First Class today. 8 suites all to myself, how wonderful! The confusing part of the check in process was the depositing of my snowboard which I had to drop at the end of the terminal. However the vague instructions given by the agent left me a bit lost. When I asked another airport employee, I was given a wrong direction, so it was really some time lost.

Checking-in at O’Hare

Security had a long queue, but with the First Class boarding pass, there was no wait at the priority lane and I was through in 15 minutes. The first lounge I passed by was the Swiss lounge which is shared with Cathay Pacific. I was rejected entry into this lounge because I think it was occupied by guests on the Cathay Pacific flight and was directed to the SAS lounge beside gate M13, while my flight was departing from M12. Thus I was able to spot the beautiful Asiana 777 on the way to the lounge.

Asiana Airlines Boeing 777-200ER

The lounge had pretty basic snacks, though they had Danish biscuits, which I particularly fancy. I had some potato chips as well to go with it. The lounge itself was pretty small but was not packed. In terms of decor, the Maple Leaf Lounge in YVR was better furnished as the SAS lounge feels like the cafeteria in Ikea. Wifi in the lounge was adequate but there was no English magazines, as all are in Swedish except for the SAS magazine. In the lounge, the check in agent came over and called for my name, as it turns out I had to move to seat 2A due to an electrical glitch in seat 2K. I was half expecting an escort into the plane though, maybe all this ‘First’ thing is just getting into my head…

Asiana Lounge Invite
The Dining Area
iMacs in the Lounge
Lounge Snacks

Boarding was announced in the lounge around 11:30, and the boarding was nearly done when I exited at around 11:40. Only one entrance to the plane, and turning left at the jetway is always special for me! The first thing one notices is the 32 inch TV, largest in the skies I believe… Upon taking out my iPad and headphones, I was immediately helped by 2 flight attendants! All this attention is the drawback when you are the only passenger in First. The ambience is so quiet that it feels like I am ensconced in a private jet. The seat and the ottoman is so wide it takes a stretch to get the slippers, Bose headphones and the amenity kit already placed on the seat. Next up came one attendant who introduced herself as Ms Bang and the other being Ms Kim. She welcomed me to the flight. Next Kim got around to offer me magazines. All of them knelt when asking if I wanted something and it just feels awkward for me… I am pretty sure I was already red-faced at that stage… Then Ms. Bang came over with 2 sizes for pyjamas (large and medium), I think I should fit with medium. And then she came over again to ask me what drinks I would like. No alcohol is served on the ground, but they have ginseng tea with honey, and I would take that since its special! Ms Kim actually came over and poured honey to the tea while holding the tray! Amazing training! As Ms. Bang cleared my tea, I was offered another one but I declined.

First Sight of the Suites
Seat or Suite 2A
Ottoman and 32-inch TV
Ginseng Tea as Welcome Drink

After asking me about my destination, Ms. Bang came and prepared a customs and immigration form for me to fill. Great service so far as the two took care of all the details to make this flight as comfortable as possible. I checked out the rest of the plane and took more photos while waiting for the pullback. All the photo taking led to one of the stewardess volunteering to take a photo of myself in the suite, and who would say no to that? Long queues at O’Hare on a Monday afternoon meant a slow wait for take off and it wasn’t until 12:34 that we took off.

Amenities onboard – Slippers, Amenity kit, Bose Headphones and Pyjamas
The Seat in the Suite
Touch Screen Suite Controls

Take off was pretty quick and we were off above the clouds! The cloudy day in Chicago meant that there wasn’t much views to be had on take-off. Immediately after the seat belt sign was turned off, the senior purser came over to close all the windows, and the wonderful Ms. Bang came over to provide the menu and explain that first class passengers can order the meal at anytime and i went ahead for the meal to be prepared in half an hours time. I chose to mix and match the order taking the Korean course with an additional cheese cake dessert. Whilst waiting for the meal, i played around the seats and the senior purser spoke with pride of the new plane.

First Class Menus
Front Middle Seats

I also explored the first class lavatory a bit before meal service started. It was small like any other lavatory, and a far cry from the one in the 747 of Cathay’s First Class. There was ample amenities stocked inside including toiletries from L’Occitane and their Green Tea fragrance. It was an ample space to freshen up I guess, though they only had one lavatory for the whole cabin of 8 in First, with a separate lavatory for crew only.

First Class Lavatory
Lavatory Amenities
Seat in Full Recline Bed Mode

One of the things I enjoy most flying is being able to watch movies while having the meal. And in Asiana Suites, this is done in full HD with their 32-inch screen. Thus I started watching The Bourne Legacy with the commencement of meal service.

HD Movie with Fine Dining on a Jet

Started the meal service with dates and pine nuts, and I had more ginseng tea with honey! Perfect combination ever! Next came the caviar service, and the generous portions with a mother of pearl spoon surpassed Cathay’s caviar offerings. I ordered champagne with the caviar and Ms. Bang actually proactively offered both the Taittinger and Pol Rogers, with my taste buds preferring the latter. After the amazing caviar, the prawn appetizer with pine nuts was somewhat disappointing!

Starter of Dried Date, Ginseng and Pine Nut
Caviar service will all the Sides
Shrimp Appetizer with Pine Nut Dressing

However the next Korean starter of Pumpkin porridge is actually more like pumpkin bisque and it was delicious and served to warm the taste buds. This was a good soup to follow on to the next course of Bibimbap with Bulgogi short ribs, which was a very filling main course. The bibimbap is very tasty though the short ribs was somewhat tough and taste a bit like jerky. I’ve definitely had better short ribs in Vancouver!

Korean Pumpkin Porridge “Hobakjuk”
First Class Dining of Korean Bibimbap
Korean Galbi BBQ Short Ribs

The side dishes of kimchi, egg rolls, seaweed and sweet anchovies was a nice accompaniment as well. I even asked for more seaweed to snack on. I had both the Korean and western desserts and it comprised of three plates, namely fresh fruits, Korean traditional sweets and the cheesecake! Paired with the icewine, it was just heavenly!

Korean Side Dishes
Pouring Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill 1999 Champagne with the meal
Fruit Platter
Korean Traditional Sweets
Cheesecake with Blueberries
Jackson-Triggs Vidal VQA Icewine 2008 to end the meal

Finally, Ms. Kim came over with truffles and offered me their whole selection of teas! That is what I call great service, though being the only passenger with 2 attendants definitely helped. The whole experience till this point was flawless, and definitely better than my Cathay Pacific First experience.

Tray of Tea Selection
Pralines at the end

Finished watching The Bourne Legacy after the meal, and Ms. Bang offered to make up the bed if necessary, while I gave the idea of using 1A as the bed, so that left my seat as the lounge. After the meal, I walked around the aircraft as I felt so full, and took this opportunity to try out an empty business class seat. The business seat is definitely adequate though its quite narrow and loses out to the one by Cathay. Or maybe the First Suites just distorts my perception of reality… The flight is quite packed though there are still empty seats in certain rows. Economy is in 3-3-3 seating, and seems to be quite spacious, similar to Cathay’s new economy seats.

Flight path after the meal
Turn Down Service
Asiana Business Class Cabin

I changed into pyjamas after the meal and found medium a bit small, thus ended up with a ‘Large’ pair of pyjamas. The drawback if I could say any was the suite was just too spacious, and the seat was a bit firm. This meant trying out the various seat functions to get the optimum seat settings, which was easy enough with the touch screen pad. The seats and suites controls are accessed easily enough from the LCD screen, and the touch screen worked well, while the entertainment touch screen controller is separately found under the left armrest.

Touch Screen Controllers

Just before I settled down in the other suite, I also asked for playing cards or postcards and Ms. Bang came back with an array of goodies including kids cutout boards too. There are lots of storage within the suites for all these goodies, and apparently there is also a pop-up minibar section beside the TV, but it wasn’t filled during this flight. Another thing I liked about the suite was the ambient lighting around the suite which does make a difference for reading, lounging, snacking and sleeping. On the right side was a light screen the size of a tablet and a reading light with an air nozzle. At the back of the chair there is also another light which can be controlled to brighten up the surrounding.

Lighting and Air Nozzle of the Suite
Asiana Kids’ Pack
Contents of the Amenity Kit

I took a nap in the prepared bed on seat 1A and had a nice 3 hours sleep. The new plane allowed Asiana to decorate the ceiling with LEDs to resemble a starry sky. Upon waking up, the flight was closing in on the international dateline and there was views of the ice shields near the North Pole. Wonderful scenery kept me awake.

Starry ceiling after dimming the lights
Somewhere near the North Pole
Sunset or Sunrise?

Ms. Kim seems to be on duty now as I do not see Ms. Bang around, and Ms. Kim came over offering snacks but I requested for some chips, not something that Asiana puts on the first class menu, though she went out of the way to get me some from the business class cabin. It came with the chocolates that I chose during the order. With the snacks, I continued to watch another movie, this time round choosing Diary of a Wimpy Kid 3, which was funny. I guess the value of first class is the ability to be like being in your own home while travelling halfway across the globe. I went back to catch another hour of nap time after the end of the movie. It is really difficult to sleep much with the day departure, similar during my first class flight to SF from HK on Cathay.

Snacks of Chips and Pralines

There was more beautiful tundra scenery as I looked out. It should be said at this point that on flights headed to Seoul, the K seats offer much better views.

There’s still some time for a nap and I went back to the confines of my suite in 1A.

Suite Signs
Mountain Ranges of Siberia
Asiana First Insignia on the Blanket
Aisle of the Suite Cabin

A short nap later, I awoke and returned to seat 2A before Ms. Kim enquired if I would like the second meal to be served. We are now approximately 3 hours away from Seoul. I decided to order a main course from the dinner menu as i was interested in the lobster. However Ms. Kim needed to check if she could do that, I guess she was the junior attendant in the cabin. The senior purser which is a male never did introduce himself though. He was just staying in the galley reading newspapers. After checking that she could serve me the lobster for breakfast, she proceeded to take the side orders. I decided also to have Shin Ramen as I am a big fan of the Korean spicy noodles! Since the ramen was meant to be a snack, I was served that first. I slurped it down heartily while watching another movie – The Expendables 2!

Movie Options
Shin Ramen Snack

After the snack of noodles, it was time for the lobster. Maybe I was full from the snack or the dinner was just too damn good, but the lobster was a disappointment in comparison. I kind  of regretted ordering the lobster for the snack. The white wine served was nice enough to go well with the lobster though! Another fruit plate followed at the end of the meal and I asked for more icewine to go along with it.

Meursault 1er Cru Clos Des Poruzots 2009
Lobster Main Course
Fruit Platter
Array of Beverages

The second meal service ended with more beverage glasses as that befitting of a first class meal. It was just relaxing for the rest of the flight as we cruised past Northeastern China. The flight on Asiana also meant we needed to do a circuitous routing to bypass North Korean airspace. That must have added an hour or so to the flight time which meant more cabin time for me! I don’t mind it at all when I have all 8 suites to myself!  The route also showed me another part of China I’ve yet to see before. Basically the route that the plane took was like watching Discovery when you look out of the windows! So this was another thing I do enjoy on long-haul transpacific flights, especially when going through the polar routes.

Snow blankets most of Northeast China
Luckily the pilot did not set it on autopilot or else we would fly past Pyongyang…
Rural Towns of Northeast China
Mountains of Northeast China

As we approached Incheon, the cabin windows were opened, letting in the warm glow of the sunset. The clear weather gave nice views of the islands around Incheon and was a fitting end to a great flight. But service have yet to end, as Ms. Bang came back to offer a pre-arrival beverage. Cathay First does not offer this except for a bottle of water, and I thought this was a mice touch in First Class. I got more ginseng tea as i watched the landing video showing how to relax the muscles and massage oneself after the long flight time. Another great touch by Asiana showing this video! The landing itself was one of the best I have experienced in a very long time, but then again, being upfront means landing is particularly smooth! The flight crew also made sure I was the first off the plane at the end of this long flight!

Route bypassing North Korean Airspace
Suite Doors
Finishing off the pre-arrival drink
Views on Descent
Warm glow in the Suite Cabin

After disembarking, the queue for immigrations was not too bad, and it was actually quite fast. By the time I was out on the baggage claim, both my bags have been pre-loaded onto a baggage cart just waiting for me to roll it off. All in all a very pleasant experience on arrival, as it is to be expected in many Asian airports.

Landing at Incheon

To recap, the flight is probably one of the best I had and I particularly enjoyed the huge TV and the attentive service by both stewardess during the flight. I would probably rate it a perfect 10 flight, and if I really want to be picky, I could probably say some parts of the meal was not that nice. But it is an airplane, you just don’t expect them to serve food as good as those on the ground right?

Thank You for Flying Asiana
Asiana Boeing 777-200ER at Incheon

3 thoughts on “From Mountains to Beaches – Asiana First Suite Class to Incheon

  1. Hello nice report thank you will fly this flight next week. Look like Asiana has great service and hard product. Could you demo hot to pack you luggage and snow board as it’s always a challenge for me to pack for a trip not mater for business or leisure. Also, how did you take these pictures in the cabin? Though I would love to take as much as pictures in cabin, I always feel a little bit weird to snap. Any suggestion? Or just up front to tell them I am so excited…I am going to take lot of pictures?

    1. Hi Shannon, Thanks for your comments! First of all, I hope you enjoy Asiana as much as I do. I have a snowboard bag and just place the board and ski gear there. For my luggage, I usually separate the clothing using hotel laundry bags so create ‘compartments’ for better organization. As for taking these pictures, it helps that I was the only passenger in the First Class cabin, so I am essentially free to take as much as I want. The stewardess were also excited about this new plane that they encouraged my photo taking.

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