Tried & Tested

Asiana Airlines B777-200 business class

29 Feb 2012 by BusinessTraveller

CHECK-IN I arrived at Seoul Incheon airport at 1215 for my 1400 flight to London Heathrow Terminal 1, and proceeded to area L. Each of the desks at business class check-in was busy so a member of staff opened a first class one so I didn’t have to wait. Security took six minutes to clear and immigration four minutes.

THE LOUNGE The Asiana lounge is upstairs, just to the right of immigration area four. It overlooks the tarmac and was relatively quiet and bright this lunchtime. Designed to feel like a library, with bookcases along two of the walls, it had plenty of seating, a good choice of newspapers and magazines, four TVs, a business centre, showers and a number of rest rooms with what looked like massage chairs. The food choice included nasi goreng (a fried rice dish), grilled vegetables and salads. There was a piano in the middle of the room so I wondered if a pianist entertained in the evening or at peak hours.

BOARDING This was due to start at 1330 so I left the lounge at 1320 for a leisurely walk to Gate 46, which wasn’t far away. Boarding of business class passengers started promptly. Once on the aircraft, a crew member took my jacket and offered me a drink. I was given slippers and an amenity kit containing ear plugs, an eye mask, a comb, a toothbrush and Biotherm products. As the passenger next to me had an infant with him, the crew offered to try to find me another seat, so I moved from 1C to 1D.

THE SEAT The B777-200 has a 2-3-2 (A-C, D-E-G, H-K) configuration with five rows in business (see seat plan here). The seat is angled lie-flat with four preset positions, 110V power, a reading light and a drinks tray. While it was comfortable for sitting, it was not as good for sleeping as the fully-flat beds that can be found on other Asiana planes. I found it better to stay in a reclined cradle position so I did not slide down or have a gap where the headrest had been pushed up. The external armrest can be lowered for more shoulder/upper body space, although this is not an option in the middle seat. A pillow and a thin blanket were supplied.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Middle seats in the centre of the plane are to be avoided – then it is a personal choice of window or aisle. The front of the cabin is probably better as it is away from the washrooms.

THE FLIGHT The plane pushed back on time and was airborne 15 minutes later. The crew gave out menus and returned to take food and drink orders. The choice of drinks was good and included three whiskies, seven beers and cocktails. The wine list included Joseph Drouhin Rully 2008, Bernkasteler Badstube Riesling Kabinett 2008, Château La Fleur de Bouard 2007, Emiliana Coyam 2008 and Artesa Pinot Noir 2007. I did some work and watched a couple of films – there was a choice of six movies in English. The in-flight entertainment system was not audio-video on-demand (AVOD) – this was one of five planes in the Asiana long-haul fleet not to have it.

Food was served during the first two hours. You could mix and match from Western and Korean menus, but each began with tomato and olive tortellini with crispy bacon. The Korean starters were eggplant roll with soybean paste or purple sweet potato porridge, followed by ssambap (rice and Bulgogi beef wrapped in vegetable leaves) – this was very tasty. Dessert was fresh fruit and Korean court cake.

The Western lunch started with a pepper-crusted tuna salad, which I thoroughly enjoyed, followed by sweet pumpkin velouté with ginger compôte and pesto sauce, and a main course of “naked” crumbled cod with asparagus, porcini-crusted New York strip with pepper sauce, or rubbed spice lamb loin. You could then have cheese, chocolate gâteau and petit fours. All main courses had calorie counts.

Five hours before landing, snacks were offered – I had a good warmed ham and cheese croissant. These are also available on request. Three hours later there was a substantial “snack” meal service – grain salad and dried fruit with almond vinaigrette, followed by herb-crusted lamb, coriander-crusted halibut or abalone porridge, and chestnut loaf with caramel rum sauce. Crew came around 45 minutes before landing to bid a personal goodbye.

ARRIVAL We landed early at 1700. It was a fair walk to immigration, where there was a very short queue. I had a 15-minute wait for my luggage. 

VERDICT Faultless service and good food but the seat and in-flight entertainment system were disappointing.

Fact file

  • PLANE TYPE B777-200
  • SEAT PITCH 50in/127cm
  • SEAT WIDTH 20in/51cm
  • PRICE Internet rates for a return business class flight from London to Seoul in April ranged between £2,791 and £3,231 depending on flexibility.

Julian Gregory

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