Asiana Airlines Business Class Sydney to Seoul Review
Asiana Airlines’ business class flight hits the business class basics, but that's as far as it goes.
Aircraft Type: Boeing 777
Route: Sydney to Seoul
Class: Business Class Smartium
I recently had the opportunity to fly from Sydney to Seoul using Asiana Airlines’ business class cabin. I flew as a guest of LG Electronics as part of a media tour of its robotics and ThinQ AI work in South Korea.
I departed Sydney just after 9am and arrived in Seoul just after 7pm. Flight time was a little over 10 hours in the air. That's a decent length flight, although not as hefty as any Australian heading to either Europe or the USA.
Travelling as a guest of LG, I wasn't specifically involved in the booking process. As such I can't say all that much about the difficulty of booking or comparative price points of Asiana's business class fares.
Asiana is part of Star Alliance, which means you can collect flyer miles if you're part of that program. For selected flights out of Australia (including the flight I was travelling on) Asiana also has a codeshare agreement with Qantas, but there's a trap here that's worth knowing about.
You can get Qantas frequent flyer points for Asiana flights. However, this is only if you specifically book them through the Qantas site.
You can't add your QFF number to an existing Asiana booking, even if you try at the airport. My flight was booked for me, so I couldn't take advantage of all those tasty (and much-missed) points.
The Points Finder Take
There are a number of ways to use points for Asiana flights if you’re based in Australia. Because Asiana is part of Star Alliance, if you have Air New Zealand Airpoints, Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer Miles or Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus Miles you can use these for Asiana flights.
You can also earn American Express Membership Rewards, transferring them into the Starwood Preferred Guest program and then transferring them into the Asiana Club program.
Asiana doesn't have a lounge in its own right at Sydney International Airport. Instead it uses Star Alliance partner Air New Zealand's lounge.
The Air New Zealand Lounge in Sydney
This is located near gate 59 in the airport. For my purposes this was fine, as I was flying out of gate 61.
If your gate number is significantly lower – or even if it shifted as a result of operational changes at the airport – you could be in for a lengthy walk to your flight.
I'm somewhat paranoid about missing flights and I had a lot of online work to do before boarding the plane, so I was in the lounge at 7am for my 9:30am flight.
At that time of morning it was quiet, which I favour. As time wound on it filled up, although never to a point where it felt crowded or overly noisy.
Air New Zealand provides for a wide range of business needs, whether you need a comfy chair to simply relax on or a more formal flat surface to put your laptop on for work purposes.
Power sockets are plentiful and there were no hiccups in the provision of fast wireless broadband. I can imagine in peak periods it might get a little slower.
Even at that early hour a very pleasant quantity of mixed food options were on display, all looking fresh and tempting. Coffee was via a machine (and about as average as you'd expect) but the quick caffeine hit was enough for my purposes. I could have even tied one on had I wanted to, but I kept myself to a simple ginger ale instead.
Buffet breakfast in the Air New Zealand Lounge in Sydney
My breakfast from the Air New Zealand Sydney Lounge
One other impressive aspect of the Air New Zealand Lounge is that you can't miss your departure board. There were very few angles I could spot where a departures board wasn't immediately in view. Announcements occurred on a regular basis covering flight changes. If (like me) you're nervous about missing a flight, you'll never feel as though you're lacking in information.
The actual boarding process for the flight was rather casual with a loose mess of economy and business class passengers.
Asiana only offers business and economy seats for this leg. As such there's limited capacity for business flyers and none for premium economy.
I was somewhat surprised by the layout of the business class cabin at first. Asiana's online seat selector had suggested that it would be laid out in a 2-2-2 configuration for most of the cabin, with single seats at the back.
I selected 5A at the back. Partly because I like window seats but mostly because I hate having to clamber over anyone mid-flight or have anyone clamber over me.
My seat in Asiana Airlines' Business Class cabin
In most 2-2-2 configurations the smart seats to choose are the middle ones, because you get the aisle to yourself for the whole flight.
This wasn't the case, with a 1-2-1 layout throughout the cabin, meaning that there are few "bad" seats. Without a doubt, the seats that would be the worst options are those at the rear. They're not quite parallel to the toilets, but it's close. Don't choose 7D, in other words, unless there's no other option.
The cabin in Asiana Airlines' Business Class.
I was also somewhat amused to note that, according to the sign at the front of the cabin, I wasn't in business class, but "Business Smartium Class". Asiana varies the configuration and layout of its Business Class suites depending on the aircraft you’re using for a given flight, which was almost certainly why I hit a 1-2-1 layout instead of the 2-2-2 I was expecting. Still, I couldn’t help but wonder when, in Business Smartium Class, the crew might start serving out candy-covered chocolates.
Upon boarding, I was handed my amenities kit, which covers the basics of toothbrush, various L'Occitane lotions in teensy tubes, a facemask and some tissues. It's not quite as fancy as some competing airlines, but will satisfy your basic needs. A pair of inflight slippers were already waiting in an enclosure to the side of the seat for my use.
The L'Occitane amenity kit offered in business class
Basic is also how I'd describe the supplied headset, which worked, but had nothing in the way of noise cancellation or even over-ear noise isolation to speak of. If you're a regular flyer you'll appreciate how much of a difference this can make.
The actual seat is wide with plenty of space to lay out your items and a good allotment of overhead storage for each passenger. My trip to Seoul was quite rapid, so I was travelling with a small roller and backpack only and there was plenty of space to easily accommodate them above my seat.
The seat itself has a full recline facility, as well as modes for full upright and relax modes. You can adjust the movement of individual sections of the seat as well as lumbar support, but there's no sign of any inbuilt massage modes, which you do find on some business class seats.
I was flying through the day with work to do, so I didn't try to fully sleep during the flight, but I did test the full recline feature. You could use it to sleep for an overnight flight (or if you were just exhausted), although that would put you quite low relative to the entertainment screen.
This has more of an effect than just craning your neck, though, because of the curious user interface on Asiana's business class flights. The display is a touch screen, but if you're anything but sitting up (or if you have freakishly long arms, I suppose) you're not going to be able to select that way. Instead you get a mouse-based interface that's painfully slow to move between selections. Scrolling through your entertainment options is less than optimal. It's weird, too, because I ended up flying back in the economy cabin and there you get a regular flick-between-the-icons style interface. I've no idea why you don't get that in the more expensive business cabin!
The display screen for my seat
The selection of movies and TV shows shifts between English and Korean titles, as you'd expect from a Korean carrier, but there wasn't much choice on display. I whiled away a few hours watching Rampage (and I don't recommend it), but I was struck by the fact that I was offered a range of around 16 Hollywood movies and similar for Korean-language titles. It's an even more meagre offering in the TV menus, where, for example, four documentaries were on offer. One of them was just a single episode of Top Gear.
Inflight entertainment is something of a given in this day and age, but I always tend to travel with a tablet pre-loaded with offline entertainment from the likes of Netflix and Stan. In this case, I was rather glad I was prepared!
You do get plenty of working space in Asiana’s business class, although how well you'll be able to use it will depend on how you sit and the length of your arms. There's a standard allotment of power plug and USB power to keep devices charged, but the tray table folds down into a single fixed position. It was usable, but slightly further away from my comfortable typing position than I would have liked. A simple rail to adjust its distance from your chest would work wonders here, but it's not the case.
There's plenty of room to work in Asiana's business class seat
Food choices were well explained in the inflight menu, with choices between western and Korean meals to be made. I struggled slightly to explain to the staff that I have a nut allergy, because several options didn't make it clear if they contained any nuts, so played it very safe and opted for the beef tenderloin steak with broccoli puree and vegetables.
Part of the Korean menu for my flight
The canapé served on my flight
The served lunch was a very mixed affair; while the grilled scallop canapé and prosciutto appetiser were excellent, the actual tenderloin steak was rather overdone, something no amount of red wine sauce could entirely cover. It wasn't at the level of a poor economy-grade meal, but at the same time it wasn't up to the standard you might expect from a business class meal to speak of. The actual service itself was entirely fine, with courses arriving promptly and diners (as I observed) given plenty of time to finish individual portions if they so chose.
The prosciutto appetiser
The broccoli puree and vegetables served with my beef
The beef tenderloin with red wine sauce
The beverages list was extensive, with plenty of wine options, although I will admit I wasn't in a wine mood and settled for a beer instead. Still, I have no complaints there with service as good as I've seen anywhere and lots of selections to make if you planned to make your meal a mini-degustation.
The Points Finder Flight Rating: ★★★☆☆☆
If there's a word I'd use to describe Asiana Business Smartium, it's the word "basic".
Everything works as it should do and the essential amenities you'd expect out of a business class are present and correct, excluding the lacklustre entertainment options. The Air New Zealand Lounge was excellent, but that's a consequence of Asiana's alliances rather than its own planning. Everything else was delivered competently but without a great deal of pizazz, or for that matter anything to make it stand out from your other business class flying options.
Now, I can't speak to the price paid for the flight, because I didn't book it, but I'd certainly hope that the average pricing for that flight was towards the mid-range relative to other business options, because the fundamentally basic nature of the flight certainly wouldn't tempt me to spend extra on it if I didn't have to.
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