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Seoul, Round The World First Class

Seoul, Round The World First Class
I enjoy flying new airlines and inaugural flights so when Austrian released saver Business Class seats on it's inaugural LAX-VIE flight, I was all in.  With another 72 hour hall pass, I toyed with various options for getting back to LAX.   In the end, American's Seoul-JFK mistake fare made the decision easy.  So with Mrs. SFO777's semi-blessing, I'm off to LAX and another 72 hour round the world trek.
 
In the end, the lure of First Class won out over a new Business Class experience.  So when Lufthansa released O class seats, I made the switch.   Lufthansa continues to struggle with PreCheck although they are making progress as I was able to OLCI at home and print a Lufthansa Boarding Pass with TSA PRE-CHECK.  
 
 
 
 
Since the Bradley Terminal doesn't have full PreCheck and lines can be annoyingly long and slow even for Business and First, I headed for Level 4 of the T4 garage and AA Pre-Check.  Level 4 was pretty empty and I found a parking spot close to the T4 entrance.
 
 
 
 
Amazingly, there wasn't a single person at Pre-Check security.  
 
 
Alas, despite PRE-CHECK on both my mobile or paper LH boarding pass, the TSA computer didn't recognize either and the PreCheck agent wouldn't let me in.   So it was off to TBIT and the LH counter, to try again.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
With a new official boarding pass, I headed outside and downstairs to try the "secret" TBIT security checkpoint.
 
 
 
 
Wow, talk about a find.    Only one person ahead of me and Pre-Check lite worked perfectly.
 
 
 
 
 
From security, it was up an elevator to the TBIT-T4 connector.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Oh yeah, good choice as regular TBIT security was packed.
 
 
LMAO.  Someone has a sense of humor.
 
 
 
I stopped at the Star Alliance First Class Lounge where I met fellow FTer Levi Maeshan who was also in First Class on today's Lufthansa flight.  
 
 
Some pics of this underwhelming lounge from my December visit with Mrs. SFO777.    Qantas has this place beat by a mile.

Same weak selection of serve yourself food as last month.

Austrian Airlines Inaugural LAX-VIE Flight, or maybe not...
Since the inaugural Austrian flight departs 15 minutes before Lufthansa, I had time to walk down to Gate 134 to see if there were any inaugural festivities.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Bunch of suits making the usual inaugural flight speeches.
 
 
 
And some Austrian themed goodies...
 
 
... including the famous Sacher torte.  
 
 
.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Then back to the Star Alliance Lounge.
At around T-40, a Lufthansa First Class Assistant came to lounge to escort us to the plane at nearby Gate 150.
 

LAX-Frankfurt
Lufthansa 457
A380-800
3:20p-11:20a +1
April 10, 2017
Departed 8/8
Seat 2K
 

Up the elevator to the upper jet bridge.

The always classy Lufthansa First Class cabin although it lacks the private of the closed suite products.  After a couple of really disappointing Lufthansa flights, today was a most pleasant surprise.  A wonderful and attentive crew provided flawless service.  And even the food was edible today.  

A glass of champagne at the gate to kick things off, although the Henriot was a little disappointing. 

Nice new Jil Sander leather amenity kit.   But I was reminded of the saying "you can put lipstick on a pig"...

... but it was the same old, same old inside.  

Today's menu.   Better than December but still a little on the eclectic side.

And wine list.  Meh.

Checking out the loot from Gate 134.  Yummy wafers.

Time to get this show on the road.

And we're off.  I'll be back at LAX in 68 hours.

OK, now that's pretty cool.  Air France pilots are apparently showing off as they departed after us and overtook us shortly after.

Even with the EK shower, the First Class lavs are gorgeous.

Wifi worked pretty well most of the flight.

And a bargain at only 17 euros for 24 hours.

Finally, LH changed the amuse bouche and the shrimp and cucumber was tasty. 

Showtime.

Extra garlic bread.

But the starter trio was the usual meh, although the Watermelon, Radish with black sesame Seed, Wakame salad was nice. 

The Chablis was excellent once it was chilled.   Shades of BA as I asked for some ice to cool it.

Our FA was superb and suggested that we compare all the wines on the list.  Just in case you're wondering, the front row is mine, the back row was Levi's.

For my main, I went with the Bison and filet which was excellent.

For dessert, the "Lukewarm" Salt Salt Brownie with Vanilla Bean ice cream.

Turning in for the night.

We arrived about 20 minutes early and pulled into our gate just before 11am.   All in all, a most enjoyable flight.  As is usually the case, a great crew can make all the difference and today's crew was outstanding.

 

After deplaning, we headed for the Concourse B First Class Lounge since my connecting flight is on Asiana.   Arriving Lufthansa First Class passengers are entitled to First Class Lounge access but only connecting/departing Lufthansa passengers can access the First Class Terminal.  It's been so long since I've used this lounge that it took a long, long time and I'm sure we didn't take the most direct route as it took forever.  Heck, I could have walked to the First Class Terminal and bank in that time.  But after a lot of walking and a train ride, we're in the B20+ wing and getting close.
 

There has to be a better way than walking down a flight of stairs although perhaps the escalator goes down when it works.

Et voila!

Beautiful and classy as always.

We bid our adieus and I headed for a sleep room for a couple of hours.   But wow, that mattress was firm, like as in concrete.  My back is still feeling the pain 36 hours later.

And then a welcome shower.

And then the Lounge dining room.

Lots of serve yourself options.

But I'm going to the wonderful menu.

And the signature Wiener Schnitzel.  Amazing!

And then to one of the work rooms to catch up on emails.

Around an hour before departure, I headed out for some exercise and the long trek to far end of the B concourse and Gate B46. 

Now that how to get around FRA.

Gate lice, Asiana style.

Frankfurt-Seoul Incheon
Asiana 542
A380-800
7:00p-12:20p +1
April 11, 2017
Departed 3/12
Seat 2K
 
Not a good start as First was lumped in with Business Class and Star Alliance Gold when boarding commenced.
 

First and Economy are both on the lower deck and board down the same jet bridge... 

... until the split to 1L.

I really like the fact that Asiana configured its A380 to have First Class on the more spacious lower deck.

Lovely and spacious cabin and with privacy doors.

My Suite 2K was roomy and very nice.

Love the doors.

And a huge TV screen.

Major negative as there is only one First Class lav.   Not as elegant as Emirates or Lufthansa's A380 First Class lavs.   With only 3 passengers tonight, the single lav was not an issue.  I just wouldn't want to be in a full F cabin flight.

Major point deduction as Asiana refused to pay the alcohol tax and only offers non-alcoholic pre departure beverages.

 

On the other hand, extra points for a great Ferragamo amenity kit.

With great stuff you can take home and actually use.  Tuscan Soul is one of favorite travel hand creams.

Tonight's menu.  Attractive packaging with an adequate but not overly generous selection.

And the "wine list".  Yikes.  This one isn't even worthy of Business Class.

Sure hope they are paying these three well as I'd be embarrassed to have my name on this list.

Robert Mondavi Chardonnay???  Seriously?  And the Fleur Cardinale Grand Cru was either corked or just bad from the get go.

Showtime as I went with the Korean option tonight.

The Pan Fried Yam was light and refreshing.

Unforunatly, the poor man's Laurent Perrier and not the Grand Siecle.

The surprise of the night was the caviar... beautiful set up and presentation.  And delicious.

The other starters were just OK. 

What little duck was good but there just wasn't enough to satisfy.

For my main, I went with the Korean Royal Cuisine, Bibimbap and Grilled Cod.  The cod was moist and delicious.  The bibimbap was good but not like on Korean probably because I don't know how to add the right proportion of ingredients.

I watched La La Land and for the live of me, can't figure out how it won any awards.  Jeez.

About 3 hours later, I woke up starving.  Apparently too much air in that bibimbap dish.   The Udon was OK but the ham, cheese and tomato sandwich was just what the doctor ordered.

Another movie and it was time for breakfast or "Brunch" as the menu describes it.  This was actually pretty good.

We arrived on time after what all in all was a pleasant 10 hour flight.  Service was excellent throughout, the cabin was comfy but it's just not a top tier First Class product.  Food is average, the wine list pathetic and First Class ground service non-existent.  There is no snack bar or bar of any kind for that matter.  And the lack of Wifi in 2017 is unforgivable.  Only Air France can get away with that these days.   While I wouldn't go out of my way to fly them, they are certainly better than Air China and BA, but not as good overall as Korean.

The arrival process at ICN is very efficient and dispute the lack of any Fast Track or Priority immigration, it only took a few minutes to be processed.

The fastest way to get to the city is by the Express Train.  I just followed the signs for Airport Railroad.

Paid my 8500 KRW (or about US$7.50) and followed the signs to my 1pm train.

Although seats are assigned on your ticket, there were lots of open seats.    And free Wifi!

Some 43 minutes later, we were at Seoul Station.    It's not for Mrs. SFO777, but a very clean and efficient way to get to the city.

 

I don't typically spend $375 a night for a hotel on a mileage run, but the new Four Seasons looked great and was perfectly located close to Gyeongbokgung, one of the major tourist attractions.   It was also one of the Amex FHR properties that included a $100 food and beverage credit.    The hotel opened 18 months ago and is absolutely stunning.   The staff and service were simply superb.  

Beautiful and elegant decor throughout.

But my room #1902 was a wow!   

Drop dead gorgeous.  Modern, elegant with all the latest in high tech and electronics.

 

Whoa, you don't see this everyday.

After a quick shower, I headed out in the crisp +14C spring afternoon.

The southern entrance to Gyeongbokgung.

After an hour or so nap, I headed to one of the hotel's 7 restaurants, Yu-Yuan, a 1 Michelin star Chinese restaurant that specializing in Peking or Bejing Duck.  With my body clock all messed up, I chose to eat when they opened for dinner, at 5:30pm.

Ah yes.

Beautiful decor and furnishings.  

Service was outstanding, especially since it was essentially my private dining room as no other patrons arrived until an hour later.

My fried shrimp ball starter.   Outstanding.

And my duck... 1/2 duck and then stir-fry with lettuce cups.   Simply divine.

What a wonderful meal.     Then back to the room to rest up for another day of flying.

With breakfast included in my rate, I headed down to The Market at around 6:30am.

Very cool glass floor with some type of historical dig underneath.

Impressive food options with mutliple stations.

Delicious!

After breakfast, up to the room to gather my belongings, then back down to check out and a 7 minute $4 taxi ride from to Seoul Station.

And just followed the Airport Railroad signs. 

Bought my ticket and boarded the 7:35am Express train.

43 minutes later the train pulled into Incheon station.

The Express Train Lounge, your for the day at around $8.   LOL.

Following the signs and crowd to the terminal and check-in.

Not sure this is the best choice of words.  LOL.

Easy check-in with the contract staff manning the JAL counter.   

With instructions for getting to the gate.

Pleasant agent claimed there was no Priority security but with plenty of time to kill, I just headed for the closest security entrance and joined the masses.  

Despite the throng, the line moved resaonably quickly and I was in the concourse about 20 minutes later. 

The down the escalator for another train ride to the midfield concourse for Gates 101-132.

JAL contracts with Korean for their lounge, but I had read that the Cathay Pacific lounge was better.  So I headed there first where my One World Emerald status got me in. 

The Cathay lounge is pretty basic.  Even your average US lounge is better than this.   OK, that Korean lounge must really be bad if this one is better.

Not much in the way of good options here.  Glad I ate at the hotel.

At around T-60, I decided to walk over to and check out the Korean Lounge.

Yikes.  This one is pretty ugly. 

The food options did seem a little better though.

Hidden away at one end of this lounge with this room, perhaps the VIP Room.  LOL.

At around T-55, I headed to nearby Gate 114.

Still 20+ minutes to boarding, I headed back to find some nibbles.

And then back to the gate to wait.   I have to tell Mrs. SFO777 about this fashion statement. 

Seoul Incheon to Tokyo Narita
Japan Airlines JL 954
737-800
11:10a-1:45p
April 13, 2017
Seat 2K

Ready to board.

 

Reasonably comfy regional 2-2 seating with lots of legroom.    Excellent service by our seasoned FA.

Today's menu with a take it or leave option.

Prociutto and melon were good.

But the beef was pretty gross.

Just around the corner is the First Class Lounge.  Lovely entrance...

But the lounge itself is pretty tired and in need of a makeover.

The focal point of the lounge is the Sake and Sushi bar.

My LAX-NRT 77W next door at Gate 61.

At around T-55, I'd had enough of the First Class Lounge and headed down to nearby Gate 61.

Tokyo Narita to LAX
Japan Airlines JL 62
777-300ER (77W)
5:25p-11:20a
April 13, 2017
Departed 5/8
Suite 2A
 

After a whole lot of organization scurrying and a number of preboards, the First Class cabin was invited to board.  A nice touch as 1L was reserved for First... at least initially.  Towards the end of the boarding process, a few dozen passengers used 1L and walked thru the First Class cabin on the way to Business or something less. 

 

JAL's First Class cabin is very attractive 1-2-1 suite configuration, although the suites are open as there are no privacy doors. 

The suites are very comfortable, spacious and well appointed. 

2D was not occupied during the flight and with 2G raising his privacy divider, the lack of a door was not that big a deal tonight.

As I was settling in, our wonderful lead First Class flight attendant Ban came by with pre-departure champagne.

OK, now that's a warm welcome on board.  :)

IFE was adequate with a reasonable level of movies.

And a nice and functional hand held controller.

The JAL First Class amenity kit.

A hodge podge of meh although the facial mist was nice.

Tonight's menu in an impressive leather binder.

Once in the air, our crew was quick to begin service.

Starting with a lovely amuse bouche trio.

And more pupus, nuts and a dried prawn.  Much to the delight of the crew, I tried a single dried prawn.

OK, maybe "tried" is not quite accurate.  How about smelled and put my tongue of it.   Yikes, pass!

Showtime, JAL style!

Another amuse bouche, the Scottish Smoked Salmon Gravlax.  Delicious.

For my starter, I chose the French Veal Vitello Tonnato.  OMG, this was sensational with the most perfect little gem lettuce.

My Beef Filet with Green Asparagus and Egg Yolk Soy Sauce.

This was positively divine.

With the most perfect asparagus.

I know zero, zip, nada about tea but at $50 a bottle, I was willing to try.  Very nice.

The "Kotoka" Strawberry & Rhubarb in Springlike Vacherin Style was light and lovely.

JAL offers free Wifi for First Class passengers, using a one time access.  Speed was reasonable and I was able to check emails and do a little work.  And after a movie, bedtime. 

About 2 hours from LAX, I ordered the Grilled Chicken Sandwich "Yuzu" Chili Flavor.  It was just OK.

Almost home.

We landed about 30 minutes early after a short 8:40 flight.

With no line at the Global Entry kiosks, I was out in no time, in my car and south on the 405 to Orange County.

My all too short JAL flight was most enjoyable.   Once on board and in the air, the JAL First Class product is excellent and food as good as any airline in the world.   But everything on the ground up to that point is pretty basic, disappointing and not very First Class.