Review: Asiana First Suite Class, New York to Seoul

My flight on Asiana First Suite Class was at 1pm, but I didn’t get out of my hotel room at the Four Points in Chelsea until about 10:15am.  I walked to Penn Station and took the Long Island Railroad and AirTrain, putting me at JFK Terminal 4 at about 11:30am.  I quickly found the check-in area for Asiana.  I detailed how I booked this flight in this post.

Asiana Check-In

Asiana Check-In

I was quickly helped and my boarding passes to Tokyo-Narita were printed out (I had an overnight stopover in Incheon, then continued the next day to Tokyo and Bangkok).  The agent confirmed my seat 2G, which was unfortunately an aisle seat.  By the time I booked this ticket and went to select seats, all 4 window seats were taken.  However, I was the only passenger in a non-window seat, so I would have 2 suites to myself.  I usually book window seats, so I was curious to see what a center seat feels like. I also like that at Asiana check-in, they display a seat map so that you can confirm where exactly your seat is.

I was given directions to the SWISS lounge, which is now behind security after the Terminal 4 renovations.  Unfortunately, without Pre-Check, I had to stand in the long half-hour security line, which was mostly because several TSA agents were standing around chatting.  Your $2.50 segment fee at work, folks!

After security, I quickly headed to the Wingtips lounge – I have access with my Priority Pass Select via the American Express Platinum Card.  I won’t bother with a review since it’s the Oasis lounge but with a new name (and management).  From my brief tour, the hardware and food looked almost the same.  You can read a review of the lounge (back when it was called Oasis) here.

Afterward, I headed downstairs to the SWISS Business Lounge, which was pretty full with Star Gold, Business, and First Class passengers.  I think it’s really cheap to give First Class passengers access to the Business lounge and keep the First Class side closed. Considering how full it was, I left within a couple minutes to wait at the gate instead.  I honestly think the new Delta Sky Club in Terminal 4 is better than the SWISS lounge, and wouldn’t come early to the airport for the lounge.

The gate was a short walk, and boarding was set for 12:30pm.  I was a gate louse in the First Class line since I wanted to take as many photos onboard as possible.  They spent about 8 minutes pre-boarding families, all the while I was thinking I should have brought a baby with me or something. I was allowed to board shortly after 12:35pm — 25 minutes to board a 777?

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JFK-ICN gate

Gate lice-ing

Gate lice-ing

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Asiana 777-200 with Suites

Asiana Airlines #221
New York (JFK) – Seoul (ICN)
Depart: 1:00pm
Arrive: 5:30pm (next day)
Duration: 14 hours, 3o minutes
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200
Seat: 2G (First Suite Class)

I boarded first at door 2, and a flight attendant showed me to my suite, but two other First Class passengers were immediately behind me, so I had to be creative with how I took photos.

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Suite 2D

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Suite 2D legroom

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Storage space next to seat

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32″ TV – below are blanket, headphones, slippers, and amenity kit.  There is storage in the bench area but it was full with bedding.

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View from Suite 2G

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Signage

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Seat

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Empty companion seat (from later in the flight)

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Small storage area, much of it taken up by bedding

My first impressions of the suite were quite pleasant – I’ve flown suites on the Emirates A380 and Singapore Airlines A380 – this Asiana suite isn’t huge, but it’s still fairly roomy.  You can easily stand up in the suite and move slightly about.  The seat looks rather rectangular and boring, but it was acutally pretty comfortable.  There was ample storage space next to the seat on both sides, and intuitive touch controls.  The bench across the seat has a seat belt, so I’m guessing another passenger could come to have dinner for 2, but why would they since behind them, THERE’S A FREAKING 32″ TV. ON AN AIRPLANE. IN THE SKY.  That’s larger than the pitch in coach on many airlines!

I was also glad to be the first one onboard, as I had my roller bag and my fairly large backpack.  The seats above the windows don’t have overheard bins, but there are a few bins over the center seats.  There is one set of bins that are directly above Suites 2D and 2G, so much so that if you want to access the contents of the bin, you have to be inside the suite.  The guy in 2K was eying those bins but I stuffed everything I had in the one above mine and closed it, forcing him to use another overhead bin. Sorry, man, but that’s my space. :)

Overhead bins above the center seats

Overhead bins above the center seats

Back to the suite – next to the seat is a fairly intuitive touch screen control system:

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Suite control

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IFE inputs and power outlet under the touch screen

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Suite control – seat mode

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Suite control

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Suite control – lighting

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Suite control – mini bar

I was so excited about the prospect of a mini-bar until I realized that it’s not used at all during the flight.  In fact, the bottle of water they give you during the flight won’t fit in the mini-bar.  I used it as a place to store things like my camera, since I didn’t want them getting lost in the storage next to the seat (and because I wanted to use the mini-bar!).

Video:

TV with mini-bar up

TV with mini-bar up

After I was done snapping photos, a flight attendant came by and offered a set of pajamas, either medium and large.  Someone told me that Asiana doesn’t believe in vanity sizing, so I went with the large – they were pretty comfortable.  She also asked if I wanted something to drink, but Asiana is doesn’t have champagne (or any alcohol, for that matter) on the ground at JFK.  Not even Duc de Paris! ;)  I went with water instead.

The purser came by to introduce herself and confirm that the flight would take 14 hours and 45 minutes (even longer than time blocked due to headwinds – not that I’m complaining in First Class!). Without windows, I sat back and watched the moving map. At around 1:10pm, the doors finally closed and after a tour of JFK, we were up in the air at around 1:35pm, about an hour after boarding.

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Water and warm-ish nuts

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Airshow pre-flight

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Airshow and intended route

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South Korea immigration form

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Slippers

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Blanket

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Bose QC3 headphones

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Asiana amenity kit

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Bvlgari – one of my favorites!

Pajamas

Pajamas

Pajamas

Pajamas

Once we were in the air, I played around with the IFE to see what movies were available.

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IFE controller

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Instructions

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Movie selection on TV

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Same selection on IFE controller

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Fairly decent selection of movies. Gravity in-flight on a 32″ TV? Great!

While Asiana had a fairly decent selection of movies (I recall watching Jobs, Gravity, and Rush), their selection of English-language TV shows was rather elementary.  As in, the only show they had was “Elementary.”

"... my Dear Watson."

“… my Dear Watson.”

For some reason, my movies had Chinese subtitles which I couldn’t take off.  But what bugged me the most was that despite the large 32″ HDTV, all the source material was 4:3 and around 480p resolution.  It’s a little bit of a pet peeve of mine to have such a nice TV but not have good quality source material.

Movie

Movie

Soon afterward, a flight attendant came by with the menu and wine list, and asked what I’d like to drink now that we were in the air.

Menu:

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Asiana First Menu

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Menu

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Western first meal

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Korean first meal

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Refreshments menu

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Snack menu

As well as the wine list, all decent selections in my opinion:

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Wine list

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Spirits, beers, etc.

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Cocktails

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Champagne one

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Champagne two

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White wines

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White wine

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Red wines

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Red wine

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Dessert wine

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Cognac & Liqueur

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Coffee and tea

I obviously went with the Korean bibimbap for my main course, but selected starters from the western side.  Lunch was promptly served, and I asked to taste the champagnes since I didn’t get to try on the ground.  Both were good, but I actually preferred the Charles Heidsieck Millesime 2000 slightly more.

Table (with my phone for scale)

Table (with my phone for scale)

Canapes

Canapes (melon, parma ham, marinated shrimp)

Table setting

Table setting

First was the caviar course – so far this year, I’ve had caviar on Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa, but I was more impressed with Asiana for one simple reason – they have a proper caviar spoon! Go Asiana!

Caviar

Caviar

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Caviar

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Proper caviar spoon

Afterward came the salad and soup courses

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Lobster and salmon gravlax

Lentil soup - thick but tasty

Lentil soup – thick but tasty

Mixed greens

Mixed greens

And after that – the star of the show: bibimbap!  Now this is how you serve a main course!

Bibimbap

Bibimbap

Bibimbap

Bibimbap

Bulgagi

Bulgogi

Sides

Sides

Immediately after serving the main course, the flight attendants closed not only my suite door, but the door of the adjacent suite, as if I was going to do bad things to this meal that no one else should ever see.

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2 private suites

Nevertheless, the meal was delicious, probably one of the best I’ve had on a plane. Afterward, dessert was served:

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Cheese and fruit plate

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Raspberry cake and coffee

After the flight attendants cleared the table, I asked to have my seat changed into a bed, while I changed into my pajamas.  Unlike other first class suites, the Asiana suite doesn’t have a wardrobe, so a flight attendant placed my clothes in a closet near the flight deck.

Lavatory amenities

Lavatory amenities

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Bed mode – you can see the privacy screen raised.

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A comfortable bed, but the pillow was a bit small!

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Starry night

Don't bother me.  I'm sleeping.

Do not disturb.

I slept for a good 6+ hours.  After waking up, a flight attendant knocked on my suite and asked if I’d like a beverage or snack.  I was hungry for some ramen!  I also turned on ‘Gravity.’

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Ramen

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And a movie.

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Movie

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9 hours into the flight – it looks quite longer than that with a Mercator Projection

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Reading light and a “brick” of light, next to the air vent.

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Adjacent suite, with a 2nd TV showing airshow.

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Two suites with the divider down.

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Inside the suite.

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Two suites with divider down

With a couple hours remaining in-flight, the snack was served.  Shortly after putting in my order for the Korean dish, I asked for a glass of orange juice.

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Water, OJ, towel.

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Gomtang

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I think I overdid the chili paste.

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Fruit and coffee to finish.

For the remainder of the flight, I finished up movies and kept an eye on the airshow.  Even though it was “only” 14 hours and 40 minutes, this felt like a very long flight.  I watched 3 full movies and got 6+ hours of sleep!  Not to mention, but for fairly obvious reasons, the plane made a rather circuitous approach into Seoul.

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Hey, Seoul is THAT wa- … ohh.

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Not flying Air Koryo today

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And the turn to Seoul

We approached Incheon from the west and landed at around 6pm, half an hour after our scheduled arrival due to headwinds (not that I’m complaining!).

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Final route

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Seat in lounge mode

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Preparing for landing

The jetway attached to Door 1L, but I walked behind to check out the Quadra Smartium cabin before making my way off the plane.

Asiana Business Class

Asiana Business Class

Asiana Business Class

Asiana Business Class

Despite a slow start at the beginning of the flight (terrible terminal, lousy lounge, and paltry pre-flight potations), I really enjoyed Asiana First once in the air!  The suite is a great hard product, and the service was genuine and attentive.  And the food – definitely some of the best I’ve had on a plane!

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Asiana 777-200 at ICN

Has anyone else flown Asiana’s First Suite? What did you think?

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Amol (@PointsToPointB) joined HMT in 2012. An ardent manufactured spender, he's an American Executive Platinum, Delta Platinum, and United Platinum.
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  • Kevin

    I’ll be taking this same flight in October I booked before the United devaluation – makes me even more excited now to try it out!

    • Amol

      It was one of my favorite flights (once we were in the air, at least) – enjoy!

      • DJ

        i booked before the devaluation, but am thinking about switching from Air China to this. anyone has done a change? I seem to remember they allow the old rate if booked under the old chart?

        • Amol

          If you have an award booked under the old chart, you can change under the old chart as well (I’ve heard of reports of people even changing regions and getting the old price). I haven’t flown Air China so I can’t really speak to a comparison. I believe they have suites on their 777-300ERs as well.

          • DJ

            Thanks for the fast reply, yes the F suite looks good, but several recent reviews were negative re: china southern & air china…good hard products but lousy services & food, worse is the ‘unconventional use’ of empty seats in F cabin. basically Y pax can get in F & nap if they push the right button – hint:not the call button in your seat.

          • Amol

            Yeah, there’s a reason I haven’t flown Air China … ;)

          • DJ

            just checked UA, not promising. might have to stick with it, luckily just 1-way, return on BR.

          • FlyingDoctorWu

            My parents flew IAH-PEK on Air China in F and ICN-JFK on Asiana in F… Asiana service and food was light years ahead of Air China. My mother went as far to say that Air China’s food was bad… She actually preferred the food/service in UA F…. Hard product wise she thought it was fine…

  • FlyingDoctorWu

    I really really liked the food on OZ.. the bulgogi/bimbimbap is one of my favorites dishes I’ve had in the sky… I also very much like their champagne.. I can’t think of any other airline that serves the Winston Churchill…. I do seem to recall that they had some HD content when we flew them.. one error in their menu is that Jack Daniels is not bourbon whiskey……

    FDW

    • Amol

      I liked the Winston Churchill as well — had a glass of it, though still disappointed there’s none on the ground.

  • John S.

    What is up your butt? Try flying AA or UA and let’s see what you have to complain about. Give an honest review and stop whining like a little b*tch about every little thing. You complain 95% of the review and then at the end you say you enjoyed it. What a dumbass! Don’t stop working your day job idiot!

    • Amol

      A lot of it was tongue in cheek. And I actually enjoyed the flight (like I said at the end). But thanks for reading.

    • BFrankley

      Seems like the only thing up his butt was reasonable expectations. The nerve!! Thanks for a great report, Amol.

      • Amol

        Thanks for reading!

  • John

    Could be wrong but I remember hearing that the reason most foreign carriers operating intl routes don’t serve pre-departure liquor is to avoid having to pay federal/state liquor taxes

    • Amol

      Most, but not all.

  • Sam

    @Kevin I’ll be taking the flight in November and booked prior to the devaluation, I am pretty pumped as well!

    @HackMyTrip were you able to select seats prior to checking in? If so, how did you do that?

    • Amol

      Call Asiana for seats.

      • AJK

        How far out from departure can you call?

        • Amol

          Not sure – I’d call after you book, you may be able to get your most preferred seat early on. I’d definitely go for row 2 over row 1.

  • ptahcha

    You should have had access to the Swiss HON lounge with your first class boarding pass.

    • Amol

      The First Class/HON lounge was closed. First class passengers only get the Business lounge.

      • ptahcha

        So, it would be Swiss’s fault, not Asiana as you indicated in the post, no?

        • Scottrick

          Presumably Asiana could pay to have the first class lounge opened for their passengers. (Lounge access isn’t always an alliance benefit. In Seattle, Asiana’s customers get access to the British Airways lounge.)

          • ptahcha

            Actually, lounge access IS a Star Alliance benefit. While Asiana arranged for access to the BA lounge, probably due to proximity to the gates, the same business or first class BP can be used to access United Club in case, you know, if you wanted free cheese and cheap wine.

          • Amol

            The United Club is behind security in Terminal 7, somewhat out of the way for a flight in Terminal 4.

          • Scottrick

            Yes, lounge access is a Star Alliance benefit. What I’m saying is that there are ways to offer lounge access in ways that exceed Star Alliance benefits.

        • Amol

          The First lounge and Business lounge are within the same entrance, and Asiana could certainly provide the funds for the First Class side to be open. The other major Star Alliance airline with First Class in that terminal is SQ, but they give Suites passengers access to the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse (IIRC).

          I’m just being honest about the review for First Class — part of the experience is getting there early to enjoy a good lounge and boarding early to settle in and enjoy a glass of champagne. If I could get Pre-Check with Asiana, I’d instead arrive at the airport as close to departure as possible and board shortly before takeoff.

  • Min

    Great trip report, enjoyable reading through and through. Hope to try this product soon! Btw, there is just a minor typo- “Bulgagi” should be “Bulgogi”. Just based on the picture, though, you might have been served the “galbi”- a marinated short ribs instead of “bulgogi” Anyway, look forward to the next installment report! Safe travels!

    • Amol

      Thanks! Fixed the typo.

  • James

    Excellent report! Doesn’t Asiana provide an concierge person to take you to through security and the lounge? Also, if you have a layover in ICN on your way to NRT, doesn’t Asiana provide a hotel room?

    • Amol

      No hotel room on awards, only on revenue. And I got somewhat of a concierge service at ICN — will report on that in the next post.

  • choi

    last year when I read a few blogger reports on this flight from LAX-Icn in F, at the end of the flight , a departure give was given to each guess in F. have they taken this away ?

    • Miktik

      I remember when they gave Versace cups worth about $100.

      • Amol

        All I got was $10 in cash at ICN

        • Miktik

          I guess they are cutting back to pay their crash fines and new planes!

    • Amol

      I was waiting for the gift, but none to be had :-(

  • dotti c

    NICE OVERVIEW I WANT TO FLY aSIANA..BUT WHY NO WINE ON LAND PRE-TAKEOFF no liquor license in ny??

    • Amol

      I think it’s more of a duty/tax thing since some airlines cite that.