Chase Sapphire Reserve℠

Flight Review: Asiana Airlines (A380) First Class from Seoul to New York

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

TO THE POINT: Asiana’s A380 first class is a phenomenal award option to Asia. The pros: award availability for 4+ passengers, a fantastic crew, incredible food and drinks, a 32-inch monitor and sliding doors for ultimate privacy. The cons: a limited in-flight entertainment selection, only one first-class lavatory and no Wi-Fi.

On my way home from last month’s Singapore A350 delivery flight, I decided to fly in first class on Korean Air’s 777-300ER from Singapore to Seoul, and in first class on Asiana’s A380 from Seoul to New York (JFK). I had originally planned to fly on this aircraft back in February before moving to Lufthansa due to a blizzard in NYC — so I was very eager to try it out.

Spoiler alert: Asiana’s A380 did not disappoint — this ended up being one of the best flights of my life.

Booking Asiana First Class

Since Asiana is a member of Star Alliance, you have a few options for booking award travel. I opted to redeem 105,000 Aeroplan miles (plus about $40) for the one-way first-class flight, but you can use 120,000 United miles instead if you wish. Aeroplan is an Amex Membership Rewards transfer partner, and since we value MR points at a bit less than Chase Ultimate Rewards (which I would have needed to use if booking via United), Aeroplan seemed like the best bet.

Asiana first-class award availability is exceptional, with 4+ seats available on many dates from both JFK and LAX. Here’s a sampling from next summer (note that some dates with premium-cabin availability only have 4+ seats open in business class):

screen-shot-2016-10-30-at-4-15-42-pm

If I had paid in cash, the one-way first-class flight would have cost about $4,600, giving me a redemption value of about 4.4 cents.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

Looking at the seat map prior to check-in, I was a bit concerned that the flight would be nearly full. Fortunately, only five of the 12 first-class suites were occupied.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

Asiana also allows you to pre-order a meal by emailing pscus@flyasiana.com. The process is a bit cumbersome, but I found the agent on the other end of that mailbox to be responsive during US business hours. Below are the pre-order options that were available for my flight:

screen-shot-2016-10-29-at-3-36-39-am

I ended up ordering the Galbi Jjim (braised short ribs), which were exceptional, as you’ll see below. Bibimbap is another good choice, but Asiana had loaded that for my flight so you may not need to order it in advance.

Airport and Lounge

After a quick transfer from my Korean Air flight, I headed into the departures terminal at Incheon Airport (ICN). Fortunately, I had been able to check in for this Asiana flight ahead of time online, and the PDF boarding pass on my phone was sufficient for passing through the security checkpoint — I was also able to get a printed version of my boarding pass in just a few seconds before entering the first-class lounge.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

Asiana’s first-class lounge is definitely a huge step up from its incredibly crowded business-class lounge, but it’s still not worth arriving at the airport extra early just to visit.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

The majority of the lounge consists of one large room, with dividers throughout breaking up the different seating areas.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

There’s more than enough seating — even though things look like they can get a bit cozy, there were only a dozen or so other passengers there during my visit.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

There are plenty of different options, too, such as these single chairs positioned around a grand piano.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

There’s also a private relaxation room, with cushy leather chairs and ottomans.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

You can work from the business center if you’d like, where you’ll find a few laptops and a printer.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

Finally, passengers can sit in the dining area — there are a handful of tables set up there, each with four chairs around them.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

The lounge food wasn’t anything to write home about — expect fresh fruit and salad items during breakfast hours, in addition to a couple of hot dishes.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

There’s also a decent (though limited) alcohol selection.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

You’ll find much better food and beverage on board a long-haul Asiana flight, though, so I’d save some room for that, instead.

The First-Class Cabin on Asiana’s A380

After a few minutes in the lounge, I headed to the gate just a few feet away. Boarding had already begun so I was able to walk right onboard — there’s even a jet bridge just for first class.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

The first-class cabin consists of 12 suites spread between three rows in a 1-2-1 configuration.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

The first-class section is at the forward section of the lower deck, which is considerably wider than Deck 2.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

Suites are quite wide, with privacy partitions and sliding doors. If you’re traveling with a companion, the center seats are a very good option — even with the suite doors closed you’ll still be able to chat and enjoy each other’s company.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

The suites are very private — I had to raise my camera quite high to capture this overhead view.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

There’s a large lavatory at the front of the cabin. While it isn’t as gigantic as the ones you’ll typically find on the upper deck, it was certainly big enough. There aren’t any special amenities on board, unfortunately, such as a shower or even a bar (which Korean Air does offer on its A380).

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

It was a bit tough to shoot, but the lav has a long seat covering the toilet. There’s also an automated sink.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

Asiana also offers a few amenities in the lavatory, including a facial mist, lotion and fragrances, among other items.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

This lav also offers a window — don’t forget to lower the shade when you’re on the ground!

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

With only one lavatory, I did find that it was occupied a few times when I went to use it, even though we only had five passengers in the cabin. Instead of waiting around, I just walked upstairs to use the business-class lavs.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

The final cabin feature is a very slick starry night mode, which the crew activated for much of the flight. I spent a few minutes staring at the stars from my bed.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

The Seat

As I mentioned, Asiana’s A380s have a total of 12 seats. Each suite measures 25.2 inches wide and has 84 inches of pitch — in other words, they’re relatively gigantic.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

Each suite also has a 32-inch monitor, which is just about as large as they come on a commercial flight.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

I selected 3A, a window seat in the last row. All seats are equally fantastic, though, with a sizable ledge and decent storage space — there’s enough room for a carry-on bag underneath the ottoman.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

There’s also a large storage compartment to the side of the display.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

And a smaller compartment to the side of the seat, which is also where you’ll find the USB port and headphone jack.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

Then, on the aisle side of the monitor is a slide-out clothing rack, and a small mirror.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

Many of the seat features can be controlled using a wired touchscreen remote.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

You can jump right into a reclined or bed mode, or make granular adjustments to each section of the seat.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

As you’d expect, the seat goes completely flat. In lie-flat mode, it feels almost as wide as a twin-size bed.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

Of course there’s plenty of privacy when you’re sleeping.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

You can easily open and close the doors during the flight — they’re fairly quiet, so you won’t have to worry about waking your neighbor.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

Amenities

A pillow, comforter and slippers were already at my seat when I arrived, while a flight attendant appeared a few moments later with an amenity kit, pajamas and a duffel bag to carry everything home in (which I very much appreciated!).

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

The pajamas were very comfortable, high-quality and they fit perfectly.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

The crew also provided Bose noise-canceling headphones (not yours to keep).

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

The Salvatore Ferragamo amenity kit had an assortment of high-quality items, ranging from an eye mask and earplugs to a sizable hand cream.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

And there’s that 32-inch screen again. It’s difficult to capture just how big the monitor is, but the Bose headphones should give you a clue.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

In-Flight Entertainment

I keep mentioning the 32-inch high-definition screen, so there must be a bunch of great content to go along with it, right? Wrong. This is one area where Asiana has really dropped the ball. I’ve had better options on just about every other long-haul flight I’ve ever taken.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

Before we dig into the content, let’s take a look at the gear. Since the screen is so far away from the seat, you’ll need to control it with this touchscreen remote, which is hidden under a side panel.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

The remote was fairly straightforward and responsive, and the touchscreen makes it easy to do things that you wouldn’t be able to with a traditional controller, like browse content or skip to a specific spot in a video.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

Speaking of content, there aren’t many TV shows to speak of, so we’ll focus on Hollywood flicks.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

There are a total of 20 Hollywood films to choose from. Not specifically new releases (although the majority were recent films), but 20 movies in the entire Hollywood category. Here’s page 1:

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

Page 2:

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

Page 3:

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

And page 4:

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

As I mentioned, there wasn’t any notable TV content, though you could catch up on 30 minutes of CNN or other news programs if you wished.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

The CNN option was a recent 30-minute clip. It wasn’t particularly high-quality (in terms of content or resolution).

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

And, annoyingly, most of the videos had bright yellow subtitles below that I couldn’t find a way to turn off.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

At the very end of the flight, the crew activated an in-flight exercise video, so I tried some of those. While I’m not really sure whether or not they made any difference, I think the video would have been more effective if it was shown to us at the beginning of the flight instead of just before landing.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

Finally, there’s a forward-facing camera, which I really enjoyed watching as we approached JFK.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

Food and Beverage

Now this is an area where Asiana really shines. If only every airline could offer catering this good…

After boarding, I was offered a warm towel.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

And then some very slick-looking menus (which were later collected).

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

In first class, you can eat whatever you want whenever you want, though I decided to stick to the outlined order.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

Asiana serves Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill Champagne, which I enjoyed. It retails for about $150 a bottle on the ground.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

The flight attendants present the bottle each time before pouring, which more than anything seemed to emphasize just how many pours I had :-) This was served with a small bowl of peanuts.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

Just after takeoff, I was served a small amuse-bouche of various mushrooms rolled up and held together with a toothpick.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

The menu included several cocktails, so I requested a Manhattan. It was delicious, but tiny. If that sword were to scale with a larger glass, it could do some serious damage.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

A flight attendant then began to set my table for the main meal — note the rose!

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

I selected caviar for my appetizer, but it seemed like I could choose as many items from the menu as I wished. As you’ll see, there was more than enough food anyway.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

The caviar spread was very nice, with toasted bread and very thin blinis, along with a porcelain spoon and the usual accompaniments of chopped onions, egg and sour cream.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

I was then served a second appetizer that I hadn’t spotted on the menu. I’m not sure what this dish is called, but it was essentially a do-it-yourself Korean taco setup. Delicious.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

Seriously — so much flavor in such a tiny package.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

I then ordered some red wine — since I had spotted the Francis Ford Coppola winery during BottleRock a few months earlier, I was really excited to try the Director’s Cut Cabernet Sauvignon. I was even more pleased to discover that it’ll only run you $20 a bottle on the ground, so I’ll likely be stocking up on this.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

I then had another appetizer that I don’t believe I actually ordered — a delicious sweet potato porridge.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

Finally, it was time for the main event. As I mentioned, I had pre-ordered the Galbi Jjim (braised short ribs), but once on the flight I really wanted to try the bibimbap. The flight attendant suggested that she could prepare (what sounded like) a smaller version of both, which sounded fantastic.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

Instead, I received what appeared to be full versions of both entrées on a gigantic tray, consisting of 11 bowls and two plates of food. Everything was insanely delicious. I managed to eat roughly a third of what was provided, and I was beyond stuffed.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

But wait — there’s more! After all of this, I was served a small plate of fruit, which was fresh and delicious.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

I could have eaten again later in the flight, but as you can imagine, that absolutely wasn’t necessary. So I waited for breakfast.

Breakfast was served roughly two hours before landing — the first course (below) consisted of pastries and more delicious fresh fruit. I also ordered a Bloody Mary, which was perfect.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

The pastries were very good, but I’m not sure I would have been so impressed on the ground.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

The fruit, of course, was of excellent quality.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

I also ordered a cappuccino, which was perfect as well.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

And then some strawberry yogurt. I didn’t need this course, but I wanted to see if it would be served in a proper bowl (which of course it was).

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

For the entrée, I selected the omelet, which was served with sausage, bacon, smoked salmon, potatoes, veggies and sun-dried tomatoes. Also, given that Asiana can prepare fresh eggs on board, I asked for scrambled eggs with tomato instead of the omelet, which was a very good decision. Everything on this plate was outstanding.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

I was so impressed with the catering, but the service was even better. The flight attendants were so incredibly polite and professional, but also managed to be a bit casual after picking up on my personality. There’s not a single thing I could fault them for.

Bottom Line

As much as I wanted to be home, I was sad to see this flight come to an end. I could probably spend the rest of my life flying Asiana first class, but I’d be very fat and a bit bored, having run out of appealing in-flight entertainment content about four hours in.

Asiana A380 First Class Review JFK

This was easily one of the best flights of my life — in terms of the overall experience, I’d say it’s a tie with the Etihad Apartment. The food was far better on Asiana, and the bed was much more comfortable, but the Apartment is considerably larger, very unique and offers an in-flight shower. The service was comparable, too.

That said, at least four first-class award seats are very frequently available on Asiana’s US A380 routes (New York and Los Angeles), so if you have the miles to spare, this is easily a product that the entire family can experience at once. Etihad’s A380 Apartment, meanwhile, can be very challenging to book, though availability does pop up from time to time. If you’re flying to Asia, though, there’s no question that Asiana’s A380 is the way to go.

Have you flown first class on Asiana’s A380? Tell us about your experience, below.

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card

Apply Now
  • Earn 50,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $625 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Named Best Credit Card for Flexible Travel Redemption - Kiplinger's Personal Finance, July 2016
  • 2X points on travel and dining at restaurants worldwide & 1 point per dollar spent on all other purchases.
  • Earn 5,000 bonus points after you add the first authorized user and make a purchase in the first 3 months from account opening
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Get 25% more value when you redeem for airfare, hotels, car rentals and cruises through Chase Ultimate Rewards. For example, 50,000 points are worth $625 toward travel
  • No blackout dates or travel restrictions - as long as there's a seat on the flight, you can book it through Chase Ultimate Rewards
Intro APR Regular APR Annual Fee Foreign Transaction Fee Credit Rating
N/A 16.24%-23.24% Variable Introductory Annual Fee of $0 the first year, then $95 0% Excellent Credit