Book flight on Asiana here.
As part of my trip to Asia I had to make back my way from Chengdu to the US. The united award rules dictate that if you flew through Europe on your way from the US to Asia you have to do so also on the way back. There weren't a lot of options for my dates coming from Asia to the US so I booked Asiana in Business. I was secretly hoping another good option would open up before the day of departure but nothing came up that could work for me.
I have flown Asiana in First Class several times on their 747 from Los Angeles to Seoul and Seoul to Frankfurt. I really liked the service and to an extend the seat. The planes are old and the interior hasn't been updated in a while but the privacy of First Class, the outstanding service and the almost lie-flat seat always made up for it.
I was curious how a ride in the Upper section of the 747 in business class would compare.
After my visit to the lounge in made my way to the gate. I arrived a couple of minutes early and to my surprise the gate agents bowed down before starting boarding – wow! Did not expect that.
Boarding proceeded quickly – seems like only half the seats were occupied for this flights.
I like the upper section of the 747 a lot as it provides a lot of privacy since the galley is in the back and you don't hear anything in the forward seats. The seats offer a lot of space but no direct aisle access for window seats. My initial impression was good even if the equipment looked decidedly antiquated.
About half of the business class cabin was occupied – allowing almost every one a full row.
Take off was delayed by 45 minutes because of delays in Chinese airspace. Asiana (like other airlines) does not allow you to use the entertainment system before 10,000 feet so I could only do a lot of reading. After a quick taxi and no wait at the runway we made it up in the air towards Frankfurt.
The entertainment system has a number of Hollywood flicks and a much bigger number of Chinese, Indian and Korean movies on offer.
I decided to go for the Korean lunch option which proved quite ok. Not a sensational lunch but certainly edible. The champagne (Pieper-Heidsieck) and wine served proved to be really good.
Now after lunch I planned on sleeping since I did not catch much sleep the night before. The seat offers a angled lie-flat position – but I think it's one of the worst sleeping positions I have seen. I can't remember such back pain after sleeping in a airplane (and believe me I have spent too many nights even in Economy). Given how much space the seat offers it's a shame sleeping is so difficult.
I also suffered from more than normal headaches when flying Asiana's 747. The 747 cabins seem to pressurize on a much low pressure and lower humidity than other planes but I felt it more than in my recent 747-400 ride with Lufthansa.
After waking up over the last bits of Siberia I decided to watch a movie and wanted to order the 'snack menu' which was equivalent to the breakfast that is usually served. But I wasn't in first class – so one needs to wait until the regular service starts which was about 2 hours later. The flight attendants came by with a plate of fruits though which helped.
In fact the flight attendants seemed almost too eager too please. Every other minute one was coming by to check up on passengers. Maybe it's me but I felt a bit watched! The FA's spoke excellent English (on my last flights I had a crew with just minimal English skills) and really tried to make sure all passengers enjoyed their flight.
Strong headwinds added another delay – so we came in about 90 minutes late into rainy Frankfurt. I was really happy to get off this flight due to my headaches and the back pain.
I'm not sure if I can recommend flying Asiana in this configuration – while staff and food were above average – the seat plays a big role in a 12 hour flight. It's light years behind Cathay Pacific and the new Air China 777 configurations. If you can't get Asiana in First Class avoid this flight if you can.
Book flight on Asiana here.