Asiana Airlines, Business Class – Boeing B 777-200: Hong Kong to Seoul Incheon

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GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport:
Metro and airport train.
Departs from: Mong Kok station, in the basement of the hotel.
Frequency: Every two minutes.
Journey time: About one hour from the hotel lobby to the check-in counter.
Fare: HKD18 for two persons for the metro and another HKD19 for two persons for the airport express.
Note: Keep in mind that the MTR and the Airport Express only accept cash, both at the ticketing machines or at the counters. Only the counters at the airport will accept credit cards.

To get to the airport from the Langham Place Hotel, take the Tseung Kwan O line (red line) to Lai King, which is the sixth stop. Alight and take a Tung Chung line train (orange line) from the opposite platform to Tsing Yi, which is the first stop after Lai King. The metro ticket is valid for the journey from Mong Kok to Tsing Yi.

At Tsing Yi, change to the Hong Kong Airport Express. The train stops at both Terminals 1 and 2 (Left exit for Terminal 1, right exit for Terminal 2). As easy as cutting Swiss cheese!

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CHECK-IN
Location:
Terminal 1, row J on your far right when you enter the departures concourse.
Facilities: There are two Business Class check-in counters and seven Economy Class counters.

I innocently walk up to the check-in counter and hand the agent my passport for the flight to Seoul. He checks me in straight away and hands me my passport back with the boarding pass. It is only as I am about to go through security that I actually bother to take a look at my boarding pass. Much to my surprise I am now sitting on 3F instead of the preassigned 9F. On the A380 row 9 is the third row of Business Class on the upper deck, which gives me two options. Either I have been upgraded to one of the First Class seats on the A380 or, more likely, there has been an aircraft change. With a sinking feeling I return to the check-in area and ask one of the attendants about the aircraft type. She confirms the flight will be operated by a Boeing B 777-200 tonight. Crap! After all the planning I put into this itinerary. If I had known before, I would have changed my entire schedule, instead of electing to fly at such an ungodly hour. I mean, the gall of Asiana, to go change the aircraft type without even as much as asking me in advance.

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LOUNGE
Location:
One floor down from immigration, close to gate 15.
Type of Lounge:
Singapore Airlines lounge.
Facilities:
This is rather a nice lounge, with a variety of seating options. There are toilets and showers in the Business Class section. The buffet is quite extensive, with an interesting array of Asian and western dishes, both hot and cold. A wonton noodle soup is also available upon request and will take about ten minutes to arrive.
Internet:
Wifi is available, no password is required.

Apart form the Asiana flight to Seoul there is still the Singapore Airlines flight to San Francisco at 23h30. Initially there are a few people milling about for that flight, but once the boarding call for San Francisco is made, the lounge quickly empties and I am left all by myself. The lights are turned on to full brightness and the cleaning crew set to clearing up the place.

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
There are two separate queues, one for Economy Class passengers to the right of the gate counter, and one for First Class and Business Class passengers to the left. Asiana uses two airbridges in Hong Kong.

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CABIN
Configuration:
1 + 2 + 1
Seat: 4A, window seat on the port side. Asiana operates the B 777-200 in five different cabin configurations, only two of which have a First Class cabin installed. Of the three versions without a First Class, only one has the new Business Class cabin installed. The other two are still in the old configuration with the 2 + 3 + 2 seating. At least from what I can tell I shall be travelling on an aircraft with the new cabin, because I have been assigned an F seat, which does not exist on the other aircraft. There are a total of 24 seats in Business Class. On the rows of single seats, those with even numbers are more private, because they are further away from the aisle. In the fully upright position, the seat is somewhat uncomfortable because you are sitting so far upright you are actually leaning forward! Other than that, the holder for magazines on the even numbered single seats is turned away from the passenger, so that you cannot even see where the magazines are when seated.
Pitch: 80.4
Width: 21.3
Facilities: There is no wifi, but from what I understand you can send SMS from your IFE at a charge, a 110 volt power port is available.
Length as a bed: 74.5
Audio and Video: A selection of music, films and video games is available on demand.

Originally I am assigned 3F. Once boarding is completed however, it transpires that there will only be seven passengers in Business Class on this evening’s flight anyway. So I move over to 4A instead.

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SERVICE
The service is typically Korean – very polite, warm and meticulously executed. As the purser makes the welcome on board announcement, two of her colleagues walk into the cabin and bow to join in the welcome.

Vanity kits are not distributed on this flight, only slippers. However, dental kits, combs and shaving kits are available in the toilets.

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THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Orange juice
Hot towel before the meal: Very hot towel served while still on the ground.
Choice:
One western dish, one Korean dish and a light option.
Delivery:
Tray service.
Type of meal:
In the middle of the night kind of meal…
Meal:

  1. Korean beef and mushroom porridge with side dishes.
  2. Fruit.
  3. Coffee.

Service begins on the ground with a welcome drink. There is a choice of orange juice, water or champagne. This is followed shortly after with the distribution of some exceptionally hot hot towels.

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After take-off, the menus are distributed. What always strikes me about Asiana is that they will give you a menu but will then insist on you handing it back once they have taken your order.

In any case, I have decided to go with the Korean dish, even though I am not entirely sure what it actually is. There is no starter with the Korean meal. Instead the congee comes with a bowl of Kimchi, a bowl with some other pickles and a bowl with soy sauce. In addition, there is a small sachet of sesame oil. From what I understand, the idea is that you put the sesame oil and soy sauce in the congee for seasoning. No bread is served with the Korean meal and if you ask, you may well a) get a few strange looks or b) completely disrupt the entire service concept as the cabin crew scramble to meet your – in their view – totally unusual and bizarre request. The tray comes with a glass of still water.

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And then I think we have a cultural misunderstanding of sorts. I have nearly finished the congee when one of the cabin crew passes my seat. She looks at me and points out that the congee looks awfully salty because I used all the soy sauce. She then asks me if I would like another congee. As I am still feeling a bit hungry, I agree. Shortly after she returns with a fresh bowl of hot congee. She places it down on my tray and is completely astonished by the fact that I have finished the previous bowl. It is only then that I realise that what she meant was that she would bring me a new dish so I would not have to finish the one which, in her view, I had ruined by adding too much soy sauce.

As far as cutlery is concerned, by the way, you will receive only a spoon and metal chopsticks.

After the flight I extend the seat into sleep mode and catch forty winks before the landing in Seoul.

The lights go on about thirty minutes out of Incheon. The cabin crew pass through the cabin offering glasses of orange juice before they secure the cabin for arrival.

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ARRIVAL
The temperature is only around 24 degrees Celsius when we arrive. It is just coming up to five o’clock. But it is so humid that the aircraft’s windows are all fogged up, making it impossible to see anything clearly outside. Much to my surprise though, another four aircraft land behind us in the time it takes us to vacate the runway and taxi to the apron. I would not have thought the place would be so busy at this time of the morning.

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GETTING INTO TOWN
Transport:
Taxi
Departs from: Second pavement row, between sectors 5C and 8D
Journey time: About 10 minutes.
Fare: KRW7600.-

I shall be staying at the Nest hotel in Incheon again, which is where I already stayed in February on my stopover on my way from Frankfurt via Seoul to Auckland. Unfortunately, the first shuttle to the hotel will not be leaving the airport until 06h10, which is more than an hour away. So instead I decide to take a taxi. The taxi stand is organised by destination. Taxis for short journeys to places around Incheon leave from stand 5C.

Asiana Airlines, First Class – Boeing B 747-400: Seoul to Frankfurt

Welcome! This is the last report in the series covering my trip to Okinawa early in the summer of 2012. I‘d completely forgotten to post this last part and figured I’d do so now for the sake of completion.

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Date: 02 June 2012
From: Seoul
To: Frankfurt
Airline: Asiana Airlines
Aircraft: Boeing B 747-400
Cabin: First Class
Seat: 2K

THE LOUNGE EXPERIENCE

The story begins as I make my way to the Asiana Airlines First Class lounge. Seoul airport is not too busy and neither is the lounge. In fact I have the place nearly all to myself.

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The lounge is well stocked with amenities, food and drink. Even so, I must admit I am not the greatest fan of the interior design. It is hard to describe really. It reminds me a bit of one of those old chalet hotels you still find in the Alps in some of the less popular resorts. Still, it serves its purpose and even has free wifi.

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The shelves in the lounge are stacked with books. Strangely enough though, although the books have titles on the covers, they are in fact empty.

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The food selection is rather limited, particularly when compared to what other airlines have on offer for their First Class passengers. But they do have dim sum, which I’m rather partial to.

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DEPARTURE

As the departure time approaches, I start to get that nice fuzzy feeling one gets before getting on a Jumbo. At least I get that every time. So I decide to step out of the lounge and go for a walk-about for some distraction and to take some pictures of my bird.

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This bird was parked at the next gate.

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Not sure how many IL-62 they see these days in Seoul, unless Air Koryo is about to start a direct link to Pjöngjang…

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And they have funky public toilets at the airport too!

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BOARDING

When eventually they do call the flight, I make my way to gate 45 and queue up at the back of the line for Business Class and First Class. An Asiana ground attendant is surreptitiously glancing at the boarding passes of the passengers in my queue. As she spots mine, she asks me to follow her to the front of the line and butts in just as the gate agent is about to scan the boarding card of the first passenger – he is only travelling in Business Class – at the front of the line. Sorry about that!

The attendant then escorts me to the entrance of the plane. As we walk she explains to me how she went to the lounge to pick me up and could not find me. And I start to feel guilty – just a wee bit. Before the plane she bows and bids me a safe and pleasant journey.

SERVICE

As I enter the First Class cabin I am greeted by one of the flight attendants working in First Class today and we have a good laugh as we recognise each other from the outbound flight from Frankfurt to Seoul the previous week. We have a nice little natter and I ask her where she has been in the intervening days, while she inquires how I liked Korea and if I also visited other countries. What a charming young woman!

Service is the same as on the outbound. First the newspaper, amenity kits, earphones, pjs and slippers are delivered.

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Then come the drinks with warm nuts. This time I have a Perrier with lemon and ice.

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And I also receive the first in a whole series of refreshing towels.

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DEPARTURE

Departure is to the north and by the circuitous route we’re flying it’s quite apparent that we must avoid North Korean airspace at all costs.

Pushing back.
Pushing back.
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THE MEAL

First up, the table is set for the meal. To drink I have another Perrier and a Chardonnay.

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Olive oil with Balsamico and butter for the bread:

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First course: Mousse of Foie Gras with truffle, ginger and mixed herbs on blinis

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Second course: Caviar service

Onions
Onions
Egg
Egg
Crème Fraîche
Crème Fraîche
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Third course: Grilled tuna in a pepper corn crust, with chives and carrot julienne

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Fourth course: Pickled mushrooms with chickpeas and mixed greens

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Fifth course: Cream of chicken soup with a ball of risotto. It tasted alright but it had a strange texture

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Sixth course: Tenderloin of veal stuffed with lobster, with a horseradish sauce, mushroom ragout and wilted cabbage

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A pause to take in the view.
A pause to take in the view.

Seventh course: Cheese with an apricot and grape chutney and crackers:

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Eight course: Puff pastry filled with vanilla cream on a blackberries sauce

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And to finish that, a cup of Earl Grey tea.

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And now I am full, for the time being at least, and so I change into my pjs and have a nap.

Not really my colours, but what will you?
Not really my colours, but what will you?

Around five hours before we arrive in Frankfurt I start to feel peckish again. That – together with my curiosity about the kind of ‘snack’ Asiana has on offer in First Class – entices me to try their ramen noodles in chicken broth.

And here it is: ramen and shitake mushrooms in a spicy chicken broth with kimchi and pickled turnip. It really is divine, but it’s so spicy I have to keep running to the loo to blow my nose (The Koreans and Japanese find it tremendously rude to blow your nose in public).

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Fire exstinguisher
Fire exstinguisher

About two hours before arrival the lights go on and the second service begins. Oh I now I shouldn’t, but it all sounded so nice on the menu!

First comes another hot towel, which is followed by a glass of fresh orange juice.

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The meal consists of a salad of grilled beetroot, with heirloom tomatoes (I do not think I’ve ever encountered such a strange looking and tasting tomato before in my live…), greens and boiled quail’s eggs.

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This is followed by a Korean dish with spare ribs in a spicy soup, which turns out to be indeed very spicy but extremely tasty!

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Sauce for dipping.

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Korean veg.

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Dried shrimps.

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Not sure…but tasty.

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Two different kimchis.

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Rice.

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The ribs.

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And then comes dessert. It should be some sort of vanilla parfait with coconut shavings. But it just looks strange really…

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And another tea to finish.

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After the meal I sit back and relax. I start to watch Thor and end up asking myself what on earth has happened to good cinema and good movies. And to think that such a great actor as Anthony Hopkins should sink so low as to play Odin is simply tragic.

The view outside is far more attractive!

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ARRIVAL

But I digress. The flight attendant from the outbound flight comes to bid me goodbye and wish me a safe onward journey. On this flight passengers can choose between a CD, a handbag and an iPhone holder as a farewell gift. I am now the proud owner of an iPhone holder with ‘Asiana Airlines’ written on the inside cover.

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And then we land, and my delightful Asiana experience comes to an end. I bid my goodbyes and disembark. Outside the Asiana rep is already expecting me with a Lufthansa branded reprint of my boarding pass to make sure I get into the lounge.

Frankfurt is nearly pleasant when I arrive, I head for the Senator lounge and wait for my onward flight to Basel. I spend my time in the lounge catching up on emails and talking to my mum on the phone. At around 19h00 I leave the lounge for the long trek back to gate A02 for my flight to Basel. Just as I stand up to leave the lounge, I spot the Asiana flight pushing back for the return trip to Seoul. Farewell and safe journey – it was a fun trip!

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This brings to an end this series of my trip to South Korea and Japan.

Cheers,
William

Asiana Airlines, Business Class – A 321: Naha to Seoul

INTRODUCTION

After spending four blissful days on Okinawa, the time has arrived for me to start on the long journey home. It will take me from Okinawa via Seoul to Frankfurt and then on to Basel. Today however, I will only travel as far as Seoul.

Date: 01 June 2012
From: Naha, Okinawa
To: Seoul Incheon
Airline: Asiana Airlines
Aircraft: Airbus A 321
Class: Business Class
Seat: 2F

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

There is a Limousine Airport Shuttle bus – not sure where the limousine comes into it – that connects the major hotels in the greater Naha area with the airport. The journey takes about 90 minutes, mainly due to the fact that we keep stopping at various hotels. My flight leaves at 12h30. According to the bus schedule, the 08h13 bus should get me to the airport at 10h00. Not that many people seem to use the bus service and by the time we arrive at the airport the number of passengers has swelled to a mere six persons.

AT THE AIRPORT

The bus will drop you off at the departures level, on the third floor of the domestic terminal. To reach the international terminal, you first have to take the lift down to ground level, exit the building at the arrivals end, turn left and then walk about two minutes until you see a small, flat building. That is the international terminal.

The large departure hall of the domestic terminal.

It is about 10h05 when I arrive. Check-in for the Asiana flight to Seoul does not start until 10h40. So I settle down in a corner of the building and power up my Kindle until it is time for check-in for my flight. Most airlines seem to do their own handling here in Naha.

When eventually it is my turn to check in, the agent seems somewhat flustered. I suspect she may perhaps never before have laid eyes on a Maltese passport and does not quite know what to do with it. Eventually though, she manages and and checks me all the way through via Seoul and Frankfurt to Basel.

THE LOUNGE

There is none. Instead I am given a voucher to get myself something from the snack bar at the arrivals end of the hall. With more than an hour to go before boarding starts, I decide to leave the international terminal and head over to the livelier domestic terminal.

On the fourth floor I find the lovely Royal Café, with the most godawful coffee I’ve ever had but. At lest the view of the ramp and runway is excellent. Eventually, after watching my flight arriving from Incheon, I head back to the international terminal and go through security.

My flight arriving on the inbound from Seoul.

BOARDING

There is one gate in the international terminal, which has the very simple but appropriate title ‘gate’. There are only remote stands at the international terminal so we are bussed to the aircraft. Goody! I step off the bus and an ANA handling agent sees me with the camera in hand and encourages me to take some more pictures of the plane. How nice is that!

THE CABIN

The cabin of this aircraft is newer than the one of the aircraft I had on the flight from Seoul to Fukuoka. It also has slightly different seats and a newer IFE. Of the twelve seats, only five are occupied. I have all of row two to myself, so I can take as many pictures as I like completely unobserved.

DEPARTURE

The taxi to the runway is short, as the ramp for the international flights is right by the runway threshold. We wait for two aircraft to land before it is finally our turn to depart.

SERVICE

Service begins on the ground with a welcome drink. There is a choice of orange juice or water. After take-off, the cabin crew distribute immigration cards for South Korea and those lovely scented hot towels and shortly after that we are handed the menus. There are two choices for the main course.

The crew on this flight are absolutely amazing. They are watchful, very considerate and pay a lot of attention to detail. One of the attendants sees me typing on my laptop, so before she sets my table, she opens the table of the empty seat next to me and offers to place my laptop on it while she prepares the table for lunch. Later on, once I had finished my meal she brings me a saucer to put the coffee cup on so she can remove the rest of the tray and give me more space.

THE MEAL

First the senior cabin attendant places a tablecloth of crisp linen on the tray table. She then asks each passenger for their choice of meal. Every passenger orders the chicken, which leads me to wonder if perhaps they have a full complement of each meal available in Business Class.

And here it is.

The salad with the shrimps. There is an Australian dressing with this.

The main course. Please note the ginger and the two somewhat substantial cloves of garlic. The guy as immigration will probably pass out when I give him my superstar smile…

Dessert. Very creamy, very tasty and very good.

And to drink I have a glass of Perrier.

ARRIVAL

The meal trays are removed and I have some time to relax, enjoy the view and have a nap.

I arrive in Incheon at 14h35, slightly ahead of schedule.

After arrival I’m feeling a bit peckish again, so I head up to the mezzanine floor above departures for some soba noodles.

After that I take the hotel shuttle outside door 13 to the Hyatt Regency at Incheon. The drive takes maybe 5 minutes.

Asiana Airlines, Business Class – A 321: Seoul to Fukuoka

INTRODUCTION

I arrived in Seoul the previous afternoon on the Asiana Airlines flight from Frankfurt. For all practical purposes I might as well have stayed at a hotel close to the airport, seeing as Seoul’s international Incheon airport is rather far out of town. But then again, I always find airport hotels rather depressing, no matter how nice they may be.

Date: 27 May 2012
From: Seoul Incheon
To: Fukuoka
Airline: Asiana Airlines
Aircraft: Airbus A 321
Class: Business Class
Seat: 1B, aisle. Just before pushback I move to 3D, window.

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

To get to the airport, I take the Metro line 1 from City Hall to Seoul Station and then from there the Airport Express to Incheon. The railway station of Lucerne inspired the original main building of Seoul Station. It is now closed for passengers and houses a museum instead.

The Airport Express station is on the second basement floor, the platform for the train is five floors further down on the seventh basement floor.

At Seoul Station some carriers, including Asiana Airlines, provide the possibility to do check-in and even immigration. I’ll have to try this some other time as I only have four minutes to spare before the train leaves.

AT THE AIRPORT

Once I arrive at the airport, I find the Asiana Airlines check-in counters to check if they will accept the SWISS branded boarding card I was issued in Basel two days previously. The agent looks at my passport, tells me everything is fine and writes the number of the gate on the boarding card for me.

After that I head for security, which, although very busy, is also highly efficient. After security and emigration I head for the Asiana lounge one floor up.

THE LOUNGE EXPERIENCE

The receptionist welcomes me to the lounge and tells me that I need to exchange my SWISS boarding pass for an Asiana Airlines branded one first. Fortunately the transfer counter is right opposite the entrance to the lounge. So I do that, no idea what the point of all this is though, and then return.

The lounge is elegantly appointed, but there are a few odd items: a piano that does not make a sound and shelves of faux books – covers with empty pages.

The lounge is not too full and I manage to secure a comfortable seat by the window. I pass my time watching the action on the ramp.

DEPARTURE

When I arrive at the gate I find my bird standing there with a bunch of engineers peering into the left engine. The cowling is open. It is only when I take a closer look that I realise they are doing an engine test. Standing so close to it the noise must be deafening. The gate attendant announces that there will be a delay for technical reasons. Indeed!

BOARDING

Eventually boarding commences some thirty minutes behind schedule. But the flight time is calculated at just under one hour, so we are able to make up time en route. By the time we arrive in Fukuoka we are only 15 minutes behind schedule.

THE CABIN

Asiana Airlines has a dedicated Business Class on its Airbus narrow-bodies. There are three rows with four seats on each row, for a total of twelve seats. The colours and patterns are the same as in First Class on the B 747-400. The seat is incredibly wide, has amazingly soft cushions, a footrest and is tremendously comfortable.

I arrive at my seat to find earphones, the menu and a pair of slippers placed in the seat pocket.

DEPARTURE

Take-off is to the north and as soon as we get airborne we experience some heavy turbulence which lasts for about 20 minutes during the climb. We bank to the right, making sure to avoid getting even remotely close North Korean airspace.

SERVICE

There are two flight attendants working the Business Class section on this flight. Again the crew seem friendly enough. Service begins with one of the flight attendants passing through the cabin with the customs and immigration forms for Japan.

While we’re still on the ground and once boarding is completed, the lead flight attendant passes through the cabin offering either water or orange juice for a welcome drink. This is followed by a hot towel.

THE MEAL

When eventually the fasten seat belt sign goes off, my table is set with a crisp linen tablecloth.

Every passenger is served a tray individually from the galley, not from a trolley. And here’s what we get:

Miso soup

I have a Perrier to drink and then later on a coffee. During the meal the crew serve green tea.

ARRIVAL

The approach into Fukuoka is pretty spectacular. First we fly in over the sea, along the cost. Then we bank right and fly right over the city towards the hills in the background. The hills begin to close in around the aircraft and you begin to wonder where on earth you are actually going. I hear the sound of the autopilot being disengaged and shortly thereafter we bank sharply to the left to execute a 180 degree turn at an interestingly low altitude. It reminds me a bit of the approach to Hong Kong’s old Kai Tak airport. Eventually we come out of the turn, the wings are levelled again and we gracefully glide down onto the runway. Nice one captain!

GETTING INTO TOWN

Fukuoka has an international terminal and a domestic terminal, which are located on either side of the runway. There is the metro into town from the domestic terminal. To get there I take the free shuttle across the airfield, the route of which actually takes you airside again. It is an interesting route and runs between the masts of the approach light markings as you round the runway threshold. Once you reach the other side, the bus passes another  gate and you find yourself landside once again.

The only problem on this particular occasion is that the bus is stifling. It is so hot and muggy that it takes your breath away. But luckily the journey does not take too long to complete.

The domestic terminal is divided into sections, although I am not exactly sure according to what criteria. One would expect there to be separate sections for ANA and for JAL, but that does not seem to be the case.

The trip into town only takes 5 minutes by metro. I get out at the second stop, which is Hakata main station. From where there are connections onto the JR Shinkansen mainline routes. My hotel is in a shopping mall complex known as Canal City and is some 10 minutes away from the station on foot.

CONCLUSION

On this flight Asiana Airlines certainly showed consistency in its service in that the flight, although a very short one, was equally pleasant as my trip from Frankfurt to Seoul with them the previous day. The Business Class seat is positively enormous and the crew were pleasant, professional and charming. The food is possibly a matter of taste. Asiana Airlines are certainly catering for the Japanese market here. I like Japanese food, so I don’t mind. But I can imagine there may be people who would not have enjoyed this meal so much.

Asiana Airlines, First Class – B 747-400: Basel to Seoul via Frankfurt

This report also includes the feeder flight from Basel to Frankfurt on Lufthansa Cityline.

Date: 25 May 2012
From: Basel
To: Frankfurt
Airline: Lufthansa Cityline
Aircraft: Canadair Regional Jet 700
Class: Business Class
Seat: 2F

GETTING TO THE AIRPORT

What a lovely day for flying! My first stop today, of course, is the Swiss railway station, where I pick up some Japanese Yen and some South Korean Won. Basel has three railway stations: there is the German one on the other side of the Rhine, known as the ‘Badischer Bahnhof’. And then there are the French and Swiss stations that are integrated in one building known as Basel SBB.

I collect the cash and then catch the bus line 50 to the airport. The stop is right outside the main door of the building. The journey takes 15 minutes to complete with the airport as the terminus station.

AT THE AIRPORT

In due course the bus pulls up at the departures level of the Euroairport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg – as the facility is officially known – which is quite empty at this time of day. My flight to Frankfurt leaves at 14h10.

I recently decided that I prefer checking in at the airport to doing it online or via mobile. There is some old-school charm about checking in at the airport. So I walk up to the SWISS Business Class counter and am greeted by a friendly middle-aged woman. The moment she sees on her screen that I am travelling in First to Seoul, her manner changes. She becomes even more courteous and cannot do enough. She even offers to check me in for the flight to Fukuoka, which will not be until the day after tomorrow but is already open for check-in.

She places my boarding passes in a Lufthansa First Class folder, wishes me a pleasant flight and gives me instructions to the lounge.

Before I head upstairs through security I take a quick peek around the newly renovated, extended Easyjet check-in area at Basel airport. Looks rather nice actually!

THE LOUNGE

Security is a breeze, in fact I am the whole queue.

And then I head to the lounge. Quiet as usual! The lounge is operated by Swissport on behalf of Swiss. It is the only lounge at the airport and is also available for passengers on BA. Air France/KLM passengers however, have no access, there is no agreement in place.

In many ways the lounge is like a fossil, it hails from the old days of aviation, when a setup like Crossair and its Eurocross hub at Basel was still regarded as a serious business proposition. Thus, the lounge is positively enormous! It is on two floors and offers some excellent views of the ramp from the upper level.

BOARDING

Departure is delayed by some 20 minutes. Apparently the ILS for one of the runways in Frankfurt is out of order, causing a few delays. When the flight was then ready to leave Frankfurt for the flight to Basel, the crew had exceeded their duty time and a replacement crew had to take over, causing the delay.

DEPARTURE

THE CABIN

There are nine rows of Business Class on this flight. On the Canadair Regional Jet Lufthansa only uses two of the four seats in each row in Business Class. This means that passengers will always have the seat next to them empty.

Whatever you do, if you’re travelling in Business Class with Lufthansa on a CRJ 700, never take a seat on row one. These must be the worst seats in the house, because they are exactly opposite the Business Class toilet. Thus, I am quite happy with my seat on the right-hand side of row two. It is a bulkhead too, but without the pong of the loo in your face all the time.

SERVICE

The crew on this flight consists of two male flight attendants. The younger one of the two has a bit of an attitude issue. But not too bad.

THE MEAL

Shortly after take-off the meal is served. Here is the menu.

And it is all quite tasty too! The only thing I do not eat is the poached veal.

ARRIVAL

Just as I finish the meal, the descent begins. We approach Frankfurt from the south and then make a left turn to fly due west along the length of the airfield, before finally doing a right 180 degree turn back towards the airfield for the final.

I even manage to get a picture of the cockpit. The co-pilot even poses for me!

I then take the complimentary guided bus tour of Frankfurt airport, which eventually drops me off at arrivals somewhere deep in the bowels of the terminal complex.

Date: 25 May 2012
From: Frankfurt
To: Seoul Incheon
Airline: Asiana Airlines
Aircraft: Boeing B 747-400
Class: First Class
Seat: 2K

asiana-airlines-logo-1024x310

THE LOUNGE

From arrivals I head through passport control and then to the Senator lounge. My flight is leaving from B48, which is right beneath the lounge and gives me some excellent photo opportunities as my bird arrives on the inbound flight from Seoul. The lounge is not too crowded and I manage to secure a seat by the window, where I can overlook all the action.

BOARDING

I arrive at gate B48 shortly before boarding begins. First and Business Class passengers have their own dedicated counter. I am the first to pass the gate. An Asiana member of staff introduces herself to me and shows me a piece of paper with the food options for my return flight in a week’s time. She would like to know what I would like to eat on the return so Asiana can prepare the experience for me. Blimey, I do not usually know what I fancy to eat one week in advance.

THE CABIN & SEAT

And then I go aboard my vessel. First impressions of the cabin are good. The colours are perhaps a bit strange – at least I do not fancy them much – and the seat may not be of the latest generation either. But it is rather comfortable and offers a lot of personal space and privacy. There is even a small closet for my shoes.

A day blanket and a pillow have already been placed at my seat when I arrive. In short sequence the cabin crew come by to introduce themselves personally and bring me the excellent BOSE noise cancelling earphones, newspaper, slippers, pjs, immigration and customs forms for arrival in South Korea and, above all, a lovely vanity kit. It is made of the softest leather and contains all sorts of goodies of Bulgari’s Essence de Thé Blanc.

There are six passengers in First Class today. Four seats remain empty.

SERVICE

Once the doors have been closed, two of the flight attendants working the First Class cabin on this flight position themselves in front of the bulkhead. As the purser makes his welcome aboard announcement, the two attendants bow deeply.

Service is everything you can expect it to be from an Asian carrier. The flight attendants pay a lot of attention to detail and are charming and polite. Moreover, they seem very personable in their approach. I am addressed by name and have a nice chat with some of the crew as they bring the food or remove the empty plates. They seem unrushed and very relaxed but very efficient.

DEPARTURE

Departure is to the east. Traffic is quite light so we do not have long to wait before it is our turn to depart.

Once we’re airborne I make myself comfortable. The flight to Seoul will take about ten hours. I take off my shoes and try the funky red slippers. Their XL is somewhat tight…

THE MEAL

Welcome drinks are not served while the boarding process is in progress on Asiana. But once we push back, I am asked if there is anything I would like to drink while we taxi out. I choose a Buck Fizz, which is duly delivered with a small bowl of warm nuts.

Immediately after take-off, the Asiana inflight experience begins and it is truly outstanding. Apart from its excellent crews, catering is definitely one of Asiana’s strongest points.

To drink I have Perrier with lemon and ice. The cabin crew are very attentive. Every time one of them notices my empty glass, I am asked if I would like some more. Moreover, Asiana obviously ‘don’t do’ refills, instead I am given a new glass each time I ask for more Perrier.

We begin with an amuse bouche of grilled bell peppers and diced tomatoes rolled up in grilled eggplant with garlic and basil in a drizzle of olive oil.

Next the table is beautifully laid out for dinner. Asiana has lovely and delicate Fine Bone China and silver cutlery.

Next comes the breadbasket, which also includes some lovely garlic bread.

And then comes the first course: the Caviar service!

Crème Fraîche.

Boiled egg.

Finely chopped onion.

The main event.

And of course a mother-of-pearl spoon.

While airlines like Lufthansa will give you only a portion of Caviar, Asiana gives you the entire jar!

Then we have an antipasto of veal with a roll of marinated eggplant and peppers and shrimps in herbs on a balsamico reduction.

And then comes the carrot soup with pine nuts. This is simply out of this world.

The soup is followed by a mixed salad with either a lemon and yoghurt or a French dressing.

For the main course, one of my favourites: Bibimbap.

The large bowl contains minced beef, marinated cucumber, shitake mushrooms, carrots and two different types of marinated cabbage.

First you poor sesame oil and add some of the spicy pepper paste to the large bowl.

To that you then add the rice and mix all together very well using the metal chopsticks.

You eat the Bibimbap with a tasty kind of seaweed omelette, dried small fish, a light fish broth with spring onion and Kimchi, Korea’s national dish. It is basically a cabbage that is smeared, layer by layer, with a paste made of chillies, garlic, soy sauce and oysters, which is then left to ferment. It is excellent, nourishing, very tasty and so spicy it really helps to clear the tubes if you happen to have a cold!

After the Bibimbap comes the fruit and cheese with crackers and bread.

And then there should have been dessert. But by this stage I am simply too full and so I decline. I opt for an Earl Grey tea instead.

Once the meal is over, I ask to have my bed made up while I change into my pjs. And then off I go to sleepy land until it is time for the next meal. Good night!

I get a few hours of sleep. But I am unsettled and keep tossing and turning. I probably have indigestion…As soon as the crew realise I am awake, I am brought a towel and asked if I would like to have breakfast. To which of course, I say yes! I head for the bathroom to change back into my clothes. When I return, the bedclothes and pjs have been cleared away and there is a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice awaiting me.

Then the table is set once more with the beautiful Fine Bone China and the silver ware. Then comes the breadbasket, which is immediately followed by a tray of preserves for me to choose from.

The first course is a plate of fruit.

The cornflakes are served with milk and a bowl of what must be the tastiest, creamiest and most enjoyable blueberry yoghurt I have ever had the pleasure to enjoy.

After that comes the hot dish. Leek quiche with grilled tomato and a crèpe of sweet and sour chicken breast.

During the meal the coffee and Perrier are refilled regularly.

ARRIVAL

And then, all too soon, the flight draws to an end and we start our descent into Incheon. Just before we land one of the cabin crew comes by to thank me for having chosen to fly with Asiana. As a farewell present I receive a small designer terracotta pot with a scented candle inside it. Apart from KLM and their famous little Bols-filled town houses, Asiana is the only airline I know of that gives farewell presents. It is only a small gift and I am not really sure what to do with it, but still it is a very nice gesture.

Incheon is rather quiet when we arrive. Customs and immigration do not take long at all to complete and very quickly I find myself landside.

The journey takes 43 minutes.

CONCLUSION

This concludes the first part of my journey. What can I say? Asiana were simply amazing, their crew, as well as both the quality and quantity of the food were outstanding.