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A couple weeks ago I posted my 2016 Travel Year In Review and I’ve done so for the past several years (2015, 2014, 2013, 2011 – yeah, I don’t know what happened with 2012). I thought I’d share with you my most popular blog posts from 2016. Let’s look at that metric two ways 1) The most popular post that was issued in 2016 and 2) The most popular post from any period in 2016.
Interestingly enough, both of these posts are reviews of premium cabin airline travel. First, let’s take a look at the most popular post I wrote and released in 2016. This post comes from February 2016 and goes into the details of my flight in Business on Austrian Airlines from Chicago to Vienna (OS66). Such a great flight and a perfect way to kick off a long weekend in Vienna.
The most popular post of all time (and the most popular post viewed in 2016) is another airline review. This time it is on Asiana’s unfortunately named Business Class called Quadra Smartium from Seoul to Chicago (OZ236). I had two disappointments on this flight – they weren’t serving bibimbap (breakfast service only) and the outlandish fact that they ran out of champagne midway through the flight).
I’m not sure why these two posts are the most popular – I figured my flight from Frankfurt to Bangkok (TK 941) in First Class would have been the number one post. They were some of my favorite flights I’ve taken and perhaps they are more approachable – business class seats cost fewer dollars and fewer miles than first – plus usually there is more availability for award seats in business class than in first.
Earlier this week, Asiana announced a shuttle service between LAX and San Diego – which I thought was a great idea. Flights between LAX and SAN are on a glorified greyhound bus with wings — a nice private car service would be a hell of an improvement. Then this morning I saw that Asiana was also offering this service in Chicago. My first thought was that Asiana was trying to compete with ANA, who is offering complimentary arrival limo service at Narita on the afternoon departure from ORD.
But it looks like I got a little ahead of myself. This service for people who have a short distance connection after arriving in ORD. The Asiana service is between ORD and Champaign/Urbana (U of I), West Lafayette, IN (Purdue University), Madison, WI (University of Wisconsin) and Milwaukee, WI (Marquette). I was hoping this was going to end up being a car service into the City, which would have been a nice benefit (for me at least). Following my recent trip on Asiana in their Quadra Smartium Business Class, I would have loved to have been met at the gate and escorted home. Based on the locations it looks like they are gearing this to University students or other visitors. You can get all the details here.
While this service doesn’t look like something I’d ever use, I’m sure it’ll be useful for some. I really wonder how many people will actually use this service. My gut is that this is one of those “special perks on paper” that doesn’t really get used all that much.
The terms and conditions are listed below, in case you are interested. My favorite is of course #9:
1. Reservation must be made at least 5 days in advance otherwise not guaranteed.
2. You may request ride to/from your home instead of station for $15 oneway surcharge.
3. We do not supply baby/child seat, you must supply your own.
4. If you want cancel or change your reservation, you must do so 3 days in advance.
5. Reconfirm mail will be sent 3 day before you leave with drivers name and phone #
6. Even you are Asiana ticket holder , $40 will be collected by driver without reservation
7. Mileage award ticket holders can use shuttle with proper reservation.
8. Baggage policy is same as Asiana Airline’s, we charge $25 per extra baggages
9. Driver’s tip is not mandatory but he will be appreciated for your tips.
There are several vehicle types available too – everything from a 42 passenger bus all the way down to a Hyundai Eqqus (the latter requires a $15 surcharge and is available by special request only).
What do you think of this service? Is it a real value add or just an on paper bonus that won’t cost Asiana anything since no one wll use it? Would you forgo hopping on one of these shuttle options in lieu of taking a small regional aircraft if you were connecting to one of these Cities?
The Asiana Business Class Lounge wasn’t anything special – it’s a whole hell of a lot better than the Star Alliance lounges in Frankfort that’s for sure. The food in the lounge was limited and the wait for the showers was surprisingly long (we waited nearly 90 minutes for the showers to open up) – although it was “rush hour” at Incheon. We headed over to the gate around 10h15 as I wanted to get settled and get a glass of champagne while everyone else got settled in.
Carrier: Asiana Airlines
Flight: OZ 236
Departure: March 30, 2013 – 11h00 / 11h00
Arrival: March 31, 2013 – 09h40 / 09h10
Travel Time: 12 hour 35 minutes / 12 hours and 5 minutes
Flight Miles: 6,538
This Asiana 777-200 was equipped with their newer Business Class Seat – which has the unfortunate name of “Quadra Smartium” – no idea how they came up with that name. I did really dig the seats. The cabin was in a 2-2-2 configuration in 5 rows with the 6th row having only the two center seats (the cabin has 22 total seats). We took the center section in row 4, so we’d both have easy access to the aisle. The business class cabin was about 75% full and we consistently had 3 flight attendants working our cabin – we’d see others come up from coach from time to time and ours would head to the back and help out as well. While there was an odd movement between the cabins, service wasn’t lacking at all.
As I was getting settled into my seat, a very prim and proper stew took order for a pre-departure glass of champagne. Asiana was serving the 2004 De Venoge Champagne Blanc de Blancs. This wine was perfectly fine – I liked the 2003 Dom on Thai better, but this selection was substantially better than we received on the other flights (including Lufthansa Business). Menus were then distributed and before the doors closed and we pushed back, I had finished two glasses of this wine.
I don’t have a lot of experience eating Korean food, but I was really looking forward to Asiana’s Bibimbap – but unfortunately it wasn’t even an option on this flight, which was quite disappointing to me. I chose the Western Lunch and continued to pair the various courses with the champagne.
While the lunch wasn’t at all what I was expecting (and to this day I still haven’t had a traditional Korean Bibimbap) it was actually quite good. I usually don’t have good luck with red meat on planes — over cooked and under flavored beef isn’t high on my list — but Asiana did a really nice job on the meal preparation.
The service was pretty well executed as well. Before the safety video, all the stews did a welcome bow in perfect unison. They all looked almost exactly the same (height, weight, hairstyle, etc) and each one (that I interacted with) performed her job exactly as her colleagues did. Yes, I said she — I didn’t see a single male flight attendant on this plane.
How was the hard product, you ask? The seat was comfortable and the IFE had enough movies/TV shows to keep me entertained. I mostly just watched old James Bond films and slept, when I wasn’t eating. Speaking of sleeping, these seats are billed as angle flat seats, which I don’t get. The seats are fully flat. I slept quite a bit on this flight — even at home in bed I wake up 2 – 3 times over an 8 hour period. On board I slept a total of 6.5 hours and I woke up 2-3 times . The seat, when turned into a bed, was definitely a narrow seat, although I didn’t feel claustrophobic, it was just tight when trying to roll over, etc.
I woke up for the final time shortly before breakfast and asked for a glass of champagne (shocker, I know) and was informed they were completely out. Such a catastrophe for me. I survived.
We arrived a bit earlier than scheduled and were some of the first off the plane – as everyone exited through door 1L. When we hit Customs and Border Patrol we were the only ones there. MS headed through the traditional immigration line and I headed over to the Global Entry Kiosk. I had received my Global Entry clearance just a few days before our trip. MS beat me to baggage claim for two reasons: 1) He was the only one in line at that point and 2) I hadn’t used the kiosk before so I actually had t read the questions.
In a matter of minutes our luggage was coming out and we were on our way to a cab on this Easter morning.
Have you flown Asiana’s Quadra Smatium Business Class before? What did you think of the seats? Did you run out of champagne on your flight? Have you tried Asiana’s or Korean Air’s bibimbap?