You are tired of the poor service on US carriers and are looking for an alternative on flights to Asia? You are a United MileagePlus member and looking for a good redemption for your miles? Asiana Business Class might be the answer – comfortable seats, friendly service and good food make for a great alternative – read my full review to find out more!
I was planning another trip from Manila to the US and wanted to try something new. I’ve heard good things about Asiana, but hadn’t flown their business class. I booked a flight from Manila via Seoul to San Francisco, giving me a chance to fly both, Asiana’s regional Business Class reviewed here as well as their premium Business Smartium long-haul product (find a separate review here).
Predeparture: Asiana allows for a generous amount of carry-on and check-in luggage when traveling in Business Class: You can bring 2 check-in bags up to 32kg each as well as two carry-on bags up to 10kg, even on short regional flights! As a StarAlliance Gold member, you can bring one extra check-in bag of up to 32kg – that’s a total of 116kg of luggage, more than I’d want to carry!
Asiana uses the old Terminal 1 at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport – my least favorite despite the recent renovation. I wasn’t able to check in online, but the separate business class line was short, staff was friendly and I was on my way to the contract lounge in minutes. The Miascor Lounge is in desperate need of renovation, so while you are away from the busy terminal, there is not much to look forward to. I hope Asiana will eventually co-locate with the other StarAlliance carriers ANA and Singapore Airlines at Terminal 3 with access to a number of nice lounges!
Despite the tight gate area at terminal 1, Asiana’s ground staff managed the boarding process well and allowed for priority boarding of business class travelers and elite StarAlliance members.
Service Onboard: My service experience from previous visits to Korea had been mixed – professional, but slightly cool – so I was very pleasantly surprised with the attentive and friendly service onboard.
On my 4 hour regional flight, staff had me in my seat and my jacket hung quickly. Pre-departure drinks were offered and we were on our way. The amenities offered were limited to slippers, eye masks and earplugs on requests – typical for regional Asian flights and not very useful for me.
The menu offered a choice of Korean and Western Cuisine – and I picked the chicken with pasta and asparagus. The appetizer and main course were served at the same time, restaurant style without the dreaded trays. The presentation and taste were good – much better than on US carriers, comparable to ANA or Lufthansa, but not quite as good as the “book the cook” service on Thai Airways or Singapore Airlines.
I’d call the entertainment system slightly better than average. There was a good selection of Asian and International movies, TV shows and short programs, although the selection is not as exhaustive as other carriers. I had a bulkhead seat, which puts the screen pretty far away from you, making it relatively small. You have a better viewing experience in regular rows with the screen in the back of the seat in front of you.
Hard Product: Airbus A330 Compared to US domestic First Class or European Business Class, regional Asian Business Class is significantly better and that holds true for Asiana as well! The cabin has a 2-2-2 layout with toilets and galleys located at the front and back. There are four toilets for only 30 seats in Business Class – a very good ratio!
The cabin is held in beige/yellow tones, very inoffensive and vaguely calming, but you won’t have a wow experience here. The seats are angled flat sleeper seats with 26.5in width, a 58in pitch and an angle of 168 degrees. They are covered in cloth, which makes them more comfortable to sit or sleep than leather: They breathe more and you don’t slide off as easily! I liked this seat better than the recliner on ANA or Singapore Airlines and about the same as the angled flat seats on Thai Airways and Singapore Airlines. They are not as comfortable as the fully flat seats used by all these airlines on some of their regional routes. It pays to check seatguru.com to see what you are getting on each flight before booking – the differences are significant!
The seat has an intuitive control to go from upright sitting to lounging to sleeping, giving you a chance to push one button to go flat or different ones to make specific adjustments. Each seat also has a remote controller for the entertainment system.
Conclusion: The friendly and competent ground and onboard service were a pleasant surprise, putting Asiana up there with Thai Airways or ANA, just a step behind Singapore Airlines, yet far ahead of US airlines. The food was also ahead of some regional rivals and the US carriers, but not as good and varied as Singapore Airlines or Thai Airways. The seat was comfortable for a short regional flight and very competitive with other Asian airlines. While I wouldn’t go out of my way to book Asiana business class for a regional flight, it was a great option for a short connection to an intercontinental flight. I appreciate it that Asiana clearly differentiates between their regional and long-haul business class, making it easier to avoid an unpleasant surprise when boarding!
If you are planning an international trip an Asiana, make sure to check out my review of Asiana’s Business Smartium Class, their premium long-haul product, as well as the Incheon Airport lounge and find out what you can expect!