Asiana Introduces “Business Suite” (First Class Replacement)

Filed Under: Asiana

Yesterday I wrote about how Asiana Airlines suddenly stopped selling first class seats for travel as of September 1, 2019. The airline presently only sells first class on their small fleet of A380s, which they fly primarily to Los Angeles, New York, and Frankfurt.

A couple of years back the airline stopped selling first class on their 747s and 777s, and this development also came shortly after Korean Air announced they’d cut first class on dozens of routes as of June 1, 2019.

Today Asiana Airlines has revealed what’s going on here:

Asiana Airlines rebranding first class as “Business Suite”

Asiana Airlines has announced that they’re rebranding first class as Business Suite as of September 1, 2019. This impacts their flights to Los Angeles, New York, and Frankfurt.

Just to make sure nothing is lost in translation here, there’s even a diagram showing this:

Essentially Asiana will be maintaining the same first class seats with doors, except they’re making it a premium business class product rather than a first class:

  • Business Suite passengers will continue to have access to the Asiana First Class Lounge at Incheon Airport
  • The catering, baggage allowance, mileage earning, etc., will all be at the current business class levels

As of now tickets for Asiana’s Business Suites aren’t on sale, though the airline has stated that fares should be 30-40% lower than the current first-class fares. It sounds to me like these will still be completely separate fares, rather than something that is available to business class passengers, where you can just pay a few hundred extra bucks to assign a seat in the cabin.

What does this mean for award seats?

One big question is what this means for award redemptions. The short answer is that as of now we don’t know, because best I can tell Asiana isn’t yet selling these new Business Suite seats (though I imagine they will shortly).

I would speculate that it will be possible to redeem miles for Business Suites directly through Asiana’s program. However, unless Asiana maintains the same current fare classes (including “O” for their Business Suite award availability), it’s unlikely that it will be possible to redeem partner airline miles for this product, which is a shame.

Asiana is following Malaysia Airlines’ lead

Interestingly Asiana is following Malaysia Airlines’ lead here. Last December Malaysia Airlines rebranded their first class as Business Suites. This is a product they exclusively have on their A350s and A380s.

They took a different approach, though. While they rebranded the product and lowered the fares, they maintained the same first class soft product for the most part, including offering the same food and drinks they had in first class (which it sounds like Asiana won’t be doing).

Bottom line

It’s interesting to now see a second airline rebrand their first class as a premium business class product. Asiana is taking a different approach to Malaysia, though, as they’re aligning their soft product for this cabin with what’s offered in business class, with the exception of lounge access.

I suspect this is bad news for those looking to redeem partner airline miles, as this may eliminate Asiana as an option.

With that in mind, it seems Asiana’s motivation for this change is one of the following (or a combination of these factors):

  • Lower their catering and staffing costs for first class, since this will now be aligned with business class service
  • Increasing demand for the cabin, by offering a more reasonably priced product
  • Hoping that rebranding the cabin will allow more corporate travelers to book this, since it’s technically only business class rather than first class
  • Reduce award redemptions, though they could have done that simply by no longer making first class award seats available

What do you make of Asiana’s strategy here, and what do you think their primary motivation is?

  1. First Class is dead!…and just on life support. Watch for more airlines to do the same!

    Too expensive to reconfig, so you use what you have.

  2. Is that the official seat map? Looks like right behind the new business suites cabin is economy past galley. I didn’t know they went 3-4-3 config., thought they still retained 3-3-3 in Y.

  3. @ Hiro — Yep, it’s the lower deck, and that’s economy behind it. On the A380 it has always been 3-4-3 on the lower deck. 🙂

  4. Talk about luck. Last September I combined the avianca 140% bonus with the 25% reduction on certain long haul *A O fares (from this blog) for an OZ flight on ……September 3. I’ve already preselected my meal, but I’m waiting for the email where they put a United spin on this like “we’re enhancing our services by taking away all the amenities you expect.” 🙂 But hey, I got two O fares ICN-JFK for ~1,500, so not bad.

  5. Two weeks ago, I’ve booked an award flight ICN-LAX in F for late October using 80,000 Asiana Club miles. While it still shows as the F award in my booking record, I will definitively reach Asiana office in Seoul and ask for a mileage adjustment.

  6. Hopefully the folks that already have tickets booked will get a mileage credit. A decrease in catering is def something I would not be happy with.

  7. I’m an outlier here, but I value the seat far above anything else.

    F pricing is stratospheric
    I just don’t value caviar and champagne that much.

    I’d far rather pay a modest premium for those seats with J service, than nosebleed prices for F service.

    In the end, extremely few people on Earth can afford $20k plane tickets

  8. So with Asiana following Malaysia’s lead on this, I think we can confirm a new fifth (albeit rare and niche) long-haul airline class: First, Business Premium, Business, Premium Economy and Economy.

  9. If they rename it business suites however apply a higher rate then what’s the difference between that and first apart from perhaps the baggage allowance It seems ridiculous to have two business products It’s still first as such

  10. so, will they be giving refunds on the difference on first tickets ( with miles) that were booked already for after sept 1 ?

  11. Haha, you guys really don’t read Korean do you.

    It clearly says that this will be the new J class. Those who purchase J fares will have access to these seats.

  12. @ Justin – this is nothing new and not really following MH, even go back to 5+ years ago, when OZ decided to discontinue F service out of ORD, the same 3 class 777 remain, F seat remain, they just sold F as premier business, an upcharge of $600 from C, and you only get the F seat but C service.

  13. lol I wonder if they’re ditching that whole “Smartium” class thing they were doing a few years ago…

  14. from UNited

    “We did not receive any official notification yet from Asiana. If this flight is no longer operating in first class, then your flight should have been cancelled by now. ^JM”

  15. I’m surprised Asiana can’t make F work, especially considering the routes are LA, NY, and Frankfurt. These are all cities with huge populations (maybe not as much so Frankfurt) and a lot of money.

  16. I’m sitting on 60,000 Asiana miles and need to get home from DAD sometime in November. I’m wondering – if I have the option should I book EVA (TPE-SEA/LAX) or see if Asiana opens up award availability (HKG-ICN-SEA/LAX) and try and grab a “business suite”? I’m a little confused by Asiana’s diverse fleet and J product and haven’t flown either airline. Seems like it’s less miles but more $ to book on EVA vs. Asiana.

    Or… try and find an elusive LH F ticket 2 weeks out before my trip to Europe in August for 50k Asiana miles. But that seems risky – any advice on booking award tickets through Asiana?

  17. I have a United award ticket in Asiana “first” for November. Surely United will have to refund some portions of the miles I used to redeem the ticket, right? Does anyone have any suggestions about how and when to approach the airline about this?

  18. I can’t see this (or MH) being a long term strategy. The first class seats take a lot more space than the business class seat, so unless you charge 50% more money for them, you’re better off replacing them with (more) business class seats.
    This has to be a temporary state towards full disappearance of F until they’ve reconfigured the planes.

  19. We flew 3 times with Asiana on the A380 from LAX-ICN. In 2014 the soft product was amazing: Vintage Champagne, Premier Cru wines, caviar, the works. Fantastic!

    In 2018, flew the A380 from LAX-ICN, gone were the premium wines, just non-vintage ordinary wines. Still had caviar, but a huge decline in catering. So disappointing, and a waste of miles for First Class.

    The in flight service on all flights was excellent. The flight attendants were always so helpful and friendly although their command of English was not so good. This new suite service will offer more comfort, the suites have privacy screens, just don’t expect exceptional catering.

    We flew Korean Air in 2018 in First on the A 380 which was far superior to Asiana in catering.

    Sad to see First Class go on another airline.

  20. Why the delay in JFK date? Does this mean first class is still available to October 27?

  21. I was wondering whether it was possible to put more business class on an A380. Apparently it is.

    Way to pack them cheap and deep, Asiana.

  22. so far checking with UNites ( mileage ticket) has no clue

    Asiana site shows all first class in 380 flights sold out

  23. on Asiana site, it looks like the seats remain the same as first, just the service changes to business.

    still no info in getting the extra mileage refunded though

  24. just got off the united chat  ( and phone call back)  they   were able to get 50K refund   and  keeping the same seat.

    very helpful 

    cudos to united 

  25. @Mike Murphy, Not only did we not get back the 40k United miles we used to upgrade from J to F, but now United can’t confirm we even have a reservation. The other 2 legs of our trip are still intact, but this flight says unable to confirm on the UA app and is nowhere to be found on the Asiana or Thai website.

  26. @Jake

    try the chat feature on the united site, thats what go the ball rolling and things taken care of for me, took a while ( and the agent called me back to confirm)

    good luck

  27. this update

    Still seems confusing ( for them also? )
    I was booked oz202 seat 2k months ago, ( using united miles). checked on the seat after the change was announced, and seat assignment was gone on the united site .
    I called Asiana, and got re-assigned to 17k. ( and got a 50k miles refund on united)
    today I checked the united and asiana site, and see they now show 2k on both sites.
    It will be interesting to see where I end up on the day of travel

  28. Received a phone call this morning from Asiana about my United award first class seat los Angeles to Seoul on Asiana A380 in October. They advised me that my reservation was downgraded to business, yet the seat remains the same (row 3). After doing some research I called Asiana again to ask if the service would be the new “business suite”, and the representative confirmed this. Now on hold with United to credit the 50,000 miles or so between business and first. Considering I will still get the wonderful first class hard product, it’s not the end of the world that the catering will be business class. At the end of the day I’m sad to see this product go, as it was my favorite Star Alliance award to Seoul.

  29. @mikemurphy
    I think we’ve finally got it straightened out, but not before a few days of panic.
    1- Called United to have miles difference between F and J credited back to account. During this call, United app changed from confirmed to unable to confirm-please call UA. UA said they were not sure we even had seats on the OZ flight. My fear is that UA mistakenly cancelled this leg, even though we specifically told them we did not want to do that. UA said we needed to call OZ to confirm our seats. At the same time, this leg of our reservation has disappeared completely from the website.
    2-Called OZ. I’m not Korean, so there was a communication barrier, but I did understand when they told me their systems showed UA cancelled the leg and we needed to talk with them. They did advise me this may be a system issue and could resolve itself, but that didn’t give me much comfort.
    3-Two days later I see 40,000 miles credited to my UA account on the app.
    4-The following day, I receive an email from UA confirming all legs and remaining in F suites as originally selected.

    Seems things needed to work their way through the system and I might have been better off not calling UA to begin with, but I wanted to be sure to get the miles credited before too much time elapsed.

  30. I’ll wait to see ( and believe it) once I plunk down in my orig 2k seat.
    I Hope others write in when the change over starts

  31. @ Ben — We just flew this and were quite pleased with what we received for our miles. I don’t care about alcohol (I don’t drink) and the food was good. We still received excellent service, a very comfortable suite, excellent pajamas, and a nice amenity kit. I would take 20,000 miles over the better product any day.

  32. @Gene Funny that you post at this exact time. Just landed LAX-ICN, flying in the Business Suite. All-around very comfortable, nice soft product. (I recommend the Orange Roughie)
    The only disappointment was the sparse IFE selection but I finished half a book and took a 2.5 hour nap, neither of which I usually do.

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