This is the premier return leg of my trip back to my native Philippines as part of a 140,000 United Miles award from Austin, TX (USA) to Manila, Philippines. To see the corresponding outbound segment from Los Angeles to Taipei on Eva Airways Business Class from this trip, please click here.
IN THIS POST
0600 hours local Korea Time.
As soon as I hit the ground at Seoul Incheon International Airport after my first leg from Manila, I was searching for the Asiana Flagship Lounge like my life depended on it. The need for some sleep and a shower (yes, in that order) was intense. A blanket of relief covered over me as I laid eyes on the entrance to the Asiana Business Class Lounge. Since it was still very early in the morning with very few people inside, I had full run of the place. There were two identical wings, with one of them having a grand piano. Seats were plentiful and the lounge overlooked the tarmac that had Asiana Airlines and Korean Air planes in taxi.
Before settling in, I stored my hand-carry luggage in the complimentary storage lockers and then found these semi-private alcoves (dubbed “relaxation rooms”) comprising of an arm chair and ottoman to take a snooze in. Perfect! I slapped on my eye mask & ear plugs and dozed off for few hours to make a dent in my almost 9-hour layover. After 3 hours of surprisingly comfortable slumber, I made full use of the shower facilities to freshen up.
Now that I was squeaky clean, I still had about 5 hours left till the flight boarded. Boo. To pass the time, I went in search of some food. I caught the end of the breakfast service and the usual suspects of cereal and toast were well represented along with packaged ramen, which was a hit with many of the locals. I settled for some congee with accompaniments which made me even hungrier. Luckily for me, they were just turning over to the lunch service as I was contemplating my next meal. I waited in the wings, pacing like a hyena till they finally set everything up and I was off to the races. After a quick scan of the spread, I was a little let down. Aside from the fried rice and sandwiches, there was nothing really filling available. The wonderful spread at the Star Alliance Lounge at LAX just prior to my LAX to TPE Business Class on EVA Airways flight really spoiled me.
After getting enough to eat and drink (barely), it was time to board the mighty A380. This was going to be a pretty big flight with almost 500 seats onboard (417 Economy, 66 Business and 12 First Class suites). The boarding area was a frenzy but there were dedicated boarding lanes for premium cabin flyers which I took full advantage of. Sorry everyone boxed up in the economy boarding line! I don’t get to fly in Business a lot and know how you feel!
After handing my boarding pass over to the purser of the upper deck, I was escorted to seat 11K, a window seat on the last row of the forward most Business Class cabin. My first impression of the cabin was how drab and gray it was. Gray is meant to be neutral, but in this case it turned out to be more boring. If this was a blind date, I would have left the other party hanging (sorry, not sorry, but first impressions matter). The cabin was arranged in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone configuration with all the seats having access to the aisle. A blanket, L’Occitane amenity kit, cabin slippers and headphones awaited me on the window sill which also doubled as additional storage for smaller items.
The seat also came with a directional reading light, charging ports, seat adjustment panel, wired remote and a large screen for the In-Flight Entertainment (IFE) system. The cabin was half full but the stewardesses were scurrying around making sure everyone was seated and buckled for take-off. As I sat and pretended to be a grown up by reading the New York Times, it occurred to me that we weren’t handed a set of pajamas. What the…? This was going to be close to an 11-hour flight and I would really like some PJs! Thinking back, I could’ve got my grown man on by rolling up my newspaper and shaking it at the cabin staff angrily. Alas, I really needed to get back home and didn’t want to get kicked off this plane. Maybe next time (tsk tsk).
We were now in cruising altitude and I’ve gotten over the fact that I didn’t get any comfortable pajamas. Side note, it’s always a good idea to either wear, or bring along to change into, lounge ready clothing for long-haul flights. I wish I heeded my own advice at that very moment, but I digress. Before I got too comfortable, I put the lie-flat seat through its paces and it was comfortable enough for my 5’8″ frame. The only thing that I needed was some pajamas. Fine, maybe I wasn’t over it (sticks tongues out at you, the reader).
Flipping through the dinner menu, there were two options – Western and Korean. Any guesses on which I picked?
Sigh, unfortunately for me, I went against my gut and chose Western. Why on god’s green earth did I not go with bibimbap? Bad, Nico, bad. Anyway, the food started arriving and the crab croquette, followed suit by the grilled prawn, were both very good and much needed. Next up, the potato soup paired with the bread roll was mighty tasty too! That is as good as it got. As soon as the chicken and fried rice was laid in front of me, I came down from my food-high faster than a high-speed rollercoaster dropping from its peak. It tasted as bad as it looked. I know college students that can make better food than this! If I closed my eyes and tapped my heels three times, would bibimbap magically appear?
Damn, I forgot to pack my ruby red slippers.
I slogged through the rest of the meal hoping to get to dessert but was thwarted with a cheese plate barrier containing some rather stale looking crackers, vegetables and grapes. A little nibble was all it took and I was done. Just give me the chocolate, please.
My wish was granted and out came the pièce de résistance – the Gateau Chocolate. My taste buds were violated with that rather awful main entrée and the sweet, sweet taste of chocolate made it all better. Can we have breakfast now?
With 7 hours left on the flight (and about 5 till breakfast) I perused what was on the IFE to pass the time. There was a pretty limited selection of English movies (about 5 recent releases and 15 older ones) compared to other IFE’s I have used, such as Cathay Pacific, and that was rather disappointing. iPad to the rescue! It helps to come prepared. A few episodes of “Homeland” put me in the mood to sleep and I went ahead and put the lie-flat seat into sleep mode. It was comfortable, but not heavenly enough to get some good deep sleep. Maybe it’s just me?
3 hours left on the flight (1 till breakfast) and I was needing a refreshment after that quick nap. After looking at the menu, I ordered a screwdriver and sandwich from the menu and it arrived fairly promptly. I was unsure what time it was but it is never too early to have a drink in my book. Cheers!
It was finally breakfast time and the options didn’t seem very appealing at all. Beef lasagna (seriously?), eggs florentine and Korean rice porridge. Who was in charge of creating this menu? Again, any guesses on what I went with? If you picked eggs florentine because it seemed like the most breakfast like option, then you are correct. I quickly put away the meager fruit plate and yogurt in anticipation of the poultry based protein. The sandwich just prior to breakfast was a great call because this is what came out:
Gross, I know. It tasted as bad as it looked. Now, I was absolutely ready to get off this flight and check my taste buds into the ICU. This is an emergency! Before I could get a chance to order another drink, the stewardesses got everyone ready for landing. A tinge of disappointment came over me but I wanted out of this plane more than that drink. Out of my window was the haze coated City of Angels and I couldn’t have been any happier to see it.
Now, you can probably guess how I felt about this flight overall so I don’t need to dress it up with clever quips and figurative language. It sucked. Plain and simple. If Business Class on this flagship flight was so meh, I feel for everyone back in coach and at the same time wonder what First Class was like.
If you have a stash of United Miles and need to get over the Pacific from the US, I would be a little weary of recommending Business Class on the Asiana Airlines A380. Award availability on this flight is great and widely available, but that might be because the in-flight experience is a little lacking. Finally, I want to apologize for the lack of and poor composition of the in-flight photos above. The experience was far from stellar and there were very few things that actually warranted a photo – take my word for it.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
An expat remote worker based in Colombo, Sri Lanka with a penchant for window seats on planes, travel, and technology that makes everyone’s lives easier.