Review: Asiana A380 in Economy (Y). LAX to ICNTak's dispatch released on 13 October 2014

Asiana OZ A380 Parked at LAX

There are many reviews for the Asiana A380 (OZ A380-800 or A388) out there, but they all seem to deal with business class and first class. Thus, I will do a review of coach or economy class (coach/economy class is abbreviated as Y Class).

The first experience I had with the Asiana A380-800 was flying LAX to ICN back in October 2014. I flew again on the 380 from ICN to LAX in mid-April 2015. I booked a seat to the upper deck window both times, for reasons you will understand better shortly.

As I have never been seated on the lower deck, I don’t have many comments about that. However, I have checked it out down there and, for economy class, it’s mostly a 3-4-3 configuration (meaning 3 seats together, an aisle, 4 seats together in the center, an aisle, and then the final 3 seats) spread over 3 sections. In front, of course is first class, followed by the three sections of economy.

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Compare this to upstairs, where, behind the two sections of business class seating, is economy’s one section in a 2-4-2 layout. This reduction (from 3-4-3 downstairs to the 2-4-2 upstairs) is due to the curvature of the fuselage. Due to geometry, this curvature provides extra space up there which fortunately for us, is not enough for 2 additional seats, and thus, what you will find on the window side on both sides is a cabinet and an extra lane for your leg to stretch. Both of these things are very welcome additions for a long-haul flight.

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The cabinet is quite deep and can fit a good amount of stuff. For instance, a stack of magazines and a laptop will only fill a portion of it. Having access during flight to all your necessities is a very welcome benefit. Of course, if you are seated on the aisle, you have an easier ability to access your stuff in the overhead. Thus, it works out for everyone except for those sorry souls in the very middle of the cabin.

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As a brief downside to all this cabinet luxury is the fact that the cabinets are put in there independent of the seats. Seats over the life of a craft will move forward and back depending on the needs of the airlines. As such, the cabinets don’t necessarily line up with the seats perfectly. The downside of this is that you could have a seat where the person in front or back of you leans/rest on a portion of your drawer top (which extends into their space).

The solution to this problem if it rears itself, I have found, is to keep it open for the duration of the flight. At the current moment, row 76 (starboard) has an exclusive cabinet. Row 75 (starboard) has two cabinets, with the first one overlapping into row 74 (but being under Row 75’s control), and the second one being pretty much exclusive (unless the passenger in row 76 gets greedy with their space). It seems to me that Row 75 (port) has issues with passengers behind you impeding your access to your cabinet.

Another interesting note with that cabinet, you can lean forward into it (one arm on it, one arm on extended tray table) and sleep. Sounds funny, and you might wake up with a dead leg, but it somewhat (you are still sleeping in economy afterall) works (as long as you aren’t trying to sleep on someone elses cabinet in which case they will wake you up when trying to open it)

Per observation, it appears Row 77 on the starboard side does have limited recline. I did not notice Row 78 on the port side but I assume it is the same.

The seats, each of which come with a pillow and blanket, are comfortable. While I tend not to recline my seat much, for the good karma, a full recline doesn’t intrude terribly on your seatmate behind you on this plane (unlike Asiana’s 777-200 that I flew whereby a full recline put the seat in front of you into your throat).

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For a 6′ (1.8m), 180lb (~81kg) individual, the seat width, at 17.2″ (~44cm), is quite comfortable with extra room to spare. Seat pitch (roughly equated at leg room) comes in around 33″ (84cm), and is, again, comfortable.

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The IFE (in-flight entertainment) on Asiana’s A380 comes in at 11.1″ (28cm) and provides a nice picture with excellent privacy from your seatmate (which might be a bad thing if you are sharing a screen). Each seat has a USB port which you can use to feed pictures and mp3’s to the IFE to listening, and also charges your device. Seats also have a shared power port (shown below). Calls to land cost $7/minute.

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The media selection in October was far worse than what I found in April 2015. There are a fair number of music albums available as well as a good number of solidly reviewed movies. TV & documentary options are pretty slim pickings.

The OZ 380 also has perfect funtionality. You can use either the remote control device or touch, and the touch capabilities not only included logical gestures, but was perfectly responsive. Swiping, touching, zooming—everything worked as it would on a mobile phone screen. No more jabbing your finger seven times into the screen before it registers. And, as previously mentioned, the screen was larger than normally found in economy.

Asiana Service

The FA’s are quick and efficient generally. It seems that they are more professional than they are friendly, going about their duties more like machines. However, this gets the job done and is a welcome relief versus some airlines with bumbling staff that also come with attitudes.

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For the April 2015 flight, this was the following timeline that I observed:

      Boarding.
      FA’s come by with hot cotton towels and hand out slippers and headphones. The slippers are a nice touch. Very cheap in construction but they make you feel comfortable going to the bathroom without having to do the yoga pretzel trying to put shoes on your feet.
      FA’s hand out menu cards.
      00:35 elapsed, FA’s begin beverage service with 18g snack mix.
      01:05 elapsed, Meal Service begins
      02:00 elapsed, Trash Collection
      05:25 elapsed, hot snack meal handed out
      08:00 elapsed, Wake up announcement followed by water & OJ
      08:20 elapsed, Breakfast Service followed by multiple coffee runs
      08:35 elapsed, Trash Collection
      Total Flight Time, 10.5 hours

There was a good amount of turbulence on the flight. Unfortunately, Asiana finds the need to make loud announcements every single time some turbulence is encountered. These announcements are in Korean & English (for extra duration). I realize the importance of making sure people are seated with seat belts during turbulence but making that announcement 20 times during a flight becomes overly excessive (especially when much of the plane’s passenger base is trying to sleep).

And if that isn’t annoying enough, each time an announcement happens, the IFE—if in the off position—flashes a quick bright burst of white light followed by a message that an announcement is being given, which further ensures you wake up. If your IFE is already on, then you are spared the white flash.

If you have your IFE off, I don’t see why this needs to happen. Maybe it is a precaution for the deaf? I don’t know.

Another annoyance is the need for Asiana to take over your IFE to show the UNICEF videos on each flight, to make announcements multiple times about duty free purchasing and to show a long segment on how to rub your muscles during a flight. Seeing these things once is one thing, but when you fly OZ multiple times, the videos become very annoying (i.e. take your forefinger and rub the cavity in your head just like this, et al).

Food Quality on Asiana

In both instances on the A380, my food was pretty above average. They offer a Korean dish and a Western dish. One very welcome amenity is having the meal served in a glass dish with metal flatware.

On the October leg, I had bibimbap, and it was quite nice for an economy meal. Photos make it look like a stripped down version of what is served in first and business. I don’t recall what I had for breakfast on that flight.

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For the April 2015 flight, they served Ssambap which is beef, bean paste, rice and side dishes along with a variety of greens. You put the rice, beef and bean paste into the leaf, roll it up and eat it (dipping in the soup if interested). The Western option was Beef Tenderloin Steak with a demiglace sauce.

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The breakfast for the April 2015 flight was either an egg omelette or chicken porridge. I selected the later and it was just as bad as it sounds. The side of fruit was good though.

Complimentary drinks on Asiana (and you need to ask specifically for drinks most of the time or go to the galley) are: Juices (Orange, Apple, Tomato, Pineapple); Soda (Coke, Sprite, Diet Coke, Diet 7-Up, Ginger Ale); Coffee (Regular, Decaf); Tea (Jasmine, Ginseng, Green, Black); Wine (Red, White); Liquor (Whiskey, Vodka, Gin, Cognac); Assorted Beers and Korean Rice Wine.

Cabin Comfort on the Asiana A380

It has been said many times that Asiana keeps their planes too warm. I have flown OZ a good amount of times in the last half year and have always been comfortable until this past flight. The temperature on the A380 (which lacks personal air-vents) was too hot, it felt like a convalescent home on board. As I looked around, no one was using their blankets fully (although I did use mine to try to cover my eyes from the flashing white light everytime an announcement was made which seemed to be every 5 minutes for good stretches of time).

As it relates to temperature, it is much harder cooling yourself down on a hot plane than it is putting blankets on to warm up. The lack of a personal vent on OZ’s A380 (and A333 for that matter) is a sore spot to me.

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Restrooms were nice, with complimentary toothbrushes and toothpaste, (community?) combs and lotion. Very nice touches in economy class.

Conclusion on the Asiana A380 in Economy

Overall, Asiana does a very good job. In fact, I find myself being more satisfied flying the OZ A380 upstairs than I do many times flying F on UA’s domestic planes because the service is on point, the food is good and fresh tasting (generally) and the width and seat pitch makes things comfortable. Further, the IFE system, with that ultra-responsive 11.1″ screen, is excellent.

Another nice touch was the connection in Incheon International Airport (“ICN”) outside of Seoul, South Korea. When you arrive on an OZ international flight – you have to go through security. Provided you are connecting to another OZ flight—go up the escalator to the main level of the terminal and then go up another escalator. Up on that level (there is a Transfer desk, Duty Free Pickup, etc.) there is a free shower center. You show up, get a towel and some bath gel and are given access to a free shower/bathroom for 30 minutes. This does not require club access or anything else. Very nice!

The OZ Business Class Lounge in Seoul is sufficient with middling food choices. There are nice private cubes to use tucked along the wall near the food. They are dimly lit and have an ottoman. Food in the OZ Lounge is disappointing, with fried rice and tortilla chips and a very sparse salad bar among the options. Unfortunately, if you want to have a nice salad, the bowls are so small that you are prevented from doing so.

Beverages in the OZ Business lounge in Seoul include some sodas, hot drinks, hard liquor, bottled water (no sparkling) and one beer on a self-service tap.

Will pop up some video & photos when I get a moment. Until then, enjoy!

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Tak

New York, NY
Internationally-published photographer with a passion for creative food, fine products, unique cultures and underground music. Twitter / Instagram / Email

Questions & Comments

10 Comments

  • Akilesh says:

    Thank you very much for the information was helpful
    But I wanted to know if I will be getting a free accommodation in incheon, because I have 20 hours stay in incheon
    Please let me know

    • Tak says:

      Hi Akilesh
      Last I knew, you should be able to get a free hotel stay as long as your connection is less than 24 hours but more than 12 hours, your connection is in ICN, there are no earlier flights you could have taken and you are flying on Asiana (as I’m not familiar with Korean Air, etc.). In other words, say there was one option with a 1 hour layover and another with a 20 hours layover and you got the tickets with the 20 hour, then you will most likely have trouble. Best thing to do is call Asiana and tell them you are interested in a free hotel for the long layover. You will need to request this ahead of time and pick up your vouchers, etc. from the transit desk after you land.

  • Simon says:

    Thanks for the review. Exactly what I was looking for. Probably the only review of its kind on the web. Flying exact same route ICN- LAX return. Upper deck seat selected. From the other reviews Upper deck seems to be the far better option. Makes sense too~

  • James Carter Moore says:

    Hi, thanks for the article, great writing. I’m doing the Asiana A388 from LA to Seoul in March. Does row 83 seat K have a complete window view? Some diagrams shows it to be off center. Thank You very much!

    • Tak says:

      Hey James – unfortunately not sure about 83K’s window but you dont want to sit there anyways. The biggest reason to avoid that seat is right behind you in the bathroom which can be loud and unpleasant. Furthermore, often seats up against a wall (like the further aft seats) don’t fully recline. For these reasons, try to get a different seat regardless of window position.

  • D. Nelson says:

    Thanks so much for this wonderfully written review. I found it very helpful and informative. And it lessened the stress as well. I will be flying Asiana from LAX to ICN connecting at ICN for my onward flight to Manila…

    I’ve always in the past flown Philippine Airlines, but this time chose Asiana so I could fly on the A380…

    My seat assignment is 75-A, and the information about the cabinet was a bonus. I’ll use it depending how how accessible it is, if it isn’t I’ll just put my carry-on under the seat in front of me…

    Thanks…

    • Tak says:

      Hey D – glad you found it helpful. At 75A, you should have a big compartment next to you for your use as well as the underseat. You should find the side cabinet very accessible. Thanks for writing

  • Ngoc says:

    Thank you so much for the very informative and helpful review. I usually fly with EVA airline(BA777-300ER) but this time I plan to book with Asian and will fly A380-800. I am afraid that the ceiling on the lower deck may be a little claustrophobic. Can you tell me if it is as high as BA 777-300 ? Also, some reviews said that Asiana doesn’t care to sit a family together. Can I reserve seats (economy) for my family after booking online? Thank you so much Tak.

    • Tak says:

      @Ngoc – you are welcome. I find the lower deck way too congested – there are just so many seats in economy down there. I don’t have much experience below cause I always flew upstairs, but I have never noticed anything strange with the ceiling height when I’ve been downstairs on A380s on other carriers. Reviewing technical documents on the A380 doesn’t really turn up much on the height differential either.

      I haven’t booked on OZ in a while so I’m not sure about the seat situation but here’s a couple items. First, try booking direct through the OZ site. That used to allow free seat selection. Second, after booking, if you have an OZ record locator, use the Asiana site or the mobile app to select seats. Third, try calling the call center if none of those work. The OZ App used to be a good way to choose seats.

      All the best

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