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Asiana First Class Chicago – Seoul

Since I was beginning my trip in New York, I was concerned about my bags being delayed and missing my connection, so I booked the earliest flight possible. Because of this, I landed in Chicago several hours before my flight to Seoul, bags in hand.

Asiana’s concierge, Eleanor, graciously welcomed me and dismissed my apology for arriving so early. As she checked me in, Eleanor let me know that they had tracked my bags from New York. (I’m not sure how they did it, considering that Delta and Asiana are not partners, but she acted as though this were no big feat.) She then accompanied me on the walk to the SAS lounge, to which Asiana’s premium-class passengers have access. She introduced me to the lounge staff with genuine enthusiasm and asked if I’d like to be the first to board the plane or if I’d rather enjoy the lounge longer. I opted for the latter and worked there until she returned to escort me to the gate.

As we waited in the priority boarding lane, some of the frequent travelers in line knew Eleanor well, greeting her with a big hello or a hug. I can’t ever recall seeing a similar reaction to an airline employee. When we reached our seats and the time came to say goodbye, I’ll admit that I was a little sad to be parting ways with a new friend.

Each of the first-class flight attendants stopped by my seat to introduce themselves prior to takeoff. I ordered a ginger ale from one of them, which came with nuts and was followed by an offer of newspapers, an amenity kit and pajamas. While I changed in the restroom, I noted how clean the facilities were, complete with a rose, combs and toothbrushes/paste; the rooms stayed this pristine and well-stocked for the entire flight.

The first-class cabin on this B777 includes two rows of suites arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration. Each suite has a personal minibar, storage space, a 32-inch monitor (the largest in the skies) with USB port, multiple power outlets and a touch-screen control to adjust the seat/bed position and lighting.

After takeoff I was handed a hot, scented towel and I ordered a glass of the 2002 Taittinger Comtes de Champagne. The menu was quite extensive, offering both Western and Korean dishes, so I decided to start my cultural immersion right away by going the Korean route for my meal: beef vegetable roll, shrimp with vegetables, Korean pumpkin porridge (hobakjuk) and Calvisius caviar (for the sake of a little decadance, apparently) started things off. Each dish was so perfectly presented that I almost felt bad ruining the scene with my fork. Almost.

For the main course, I indulged in Korean bibimbap and beef short rib, or bulgalbi. It was absolutely delicious, but too much for me to finish, so I passed on dessert and allowed the flight attendant to turn down my bed.

Once I got situated again, I watched a few movies with the Bose headphones provided until I couldn’t stay awake any longer and decided to nap. The flight attendants quietly shut my private-suite doors when they noticed me nod off.

I woke after a few hours, and the moment I opened the door I was greeted by a flight attendant who offered me something to eat; the bowl of ramen noodles I ordered really hit the spot. I watched a few more movies, took a few more catnaps and soon a pre-landing meal was being served on request. Was I hungry? Nope. But I couldn’t resist all the same, so I ordered the gomtang, a Korean health food dish. I guess I should have known that if it said “health food” it wouldn’t be a favorite of mine, so I hardly touched it. After a flight attendant saw that I wasn’t eating, she asked if everything was all right with my food. I told her that it just wasn’t for me, so she offered me other options. Knowing that the end of the flight was near, I passed on having anything more to eat and dressed, instead.

I was greeted on arrival in Seoul and escorted through the airport to find my bags waiting on a cart at the baggage carousel.

The cabin, bed and amenities were incredible, but it was the personal service that prevailed as the most impressive part of this flight experience. Bar none, Asiana continues to raise the benchmark, delivering the utmost in customer service.

Adam Rodriguez
Premier Traveler Magazine  

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