BOOKED: Korean Air First, Air Astana Business, And United First!

Filed Under: Korean Air, Other Airlines

My obsession this year has been reviewing new airlines, and it’s something I’ve found to be indescribably enjoyable. We all have weird hobbies, and trying new airlines has become my latest obsession. I’ve reviewed a lot of new airlines so far this year, and on Sunday shared the next 13 airlines I want to review.

Earlier in the week I shared how I had booked upcoming travel on four of those airlines, including Aeroflot, Air Serbia, AZAL Azerbaijan, and Ukraine International. Well, I’m excited to report on another trip I’ve just booked which allows me to sample three new products — ironically only one of them was on my list on Sunday.


Booking Air Astana business class

After my post on Sunday, a couple of readers mentioned how Air Astana looks like it has a solid business class product. It’s not an airline I knew much about at that point, but after doing some research, I became sort of obsessed.


I spent hours playing around with various itineraries, and eventually managed to find an excellent business class itinerary from Seoul Incheon to London Heathrow via Almaty and Astana. It would allow me to try Air Astana’s business class products on both the 767 and 757, and best of all, would allow me to spend a day in both Almaty and Astana. I never thought I’d make it to Kazakhstan, to be honest.


This ticket cost ~$1,300 one-way in business class.

Booking Korean Air first class

In terms of Asian airline products I want to review, Korean Air’s new first class product is near the very top of the list. While I’ve flown Korean Air’s A380 and 777 first class cabins, and was very impressed, I can’t wait to try their fully enclosed first class product.


I transferred points from Chase Ultimate Rewards to Korean Air SkyPass, and best of all, I could just hold the ticket for several weeks.

Why am I excited about that? Because I may end up wanting to try Korean Air’s new business class product instead, which is similar to what you’ll find on Oman Air and Japan Airlines.

That’s because I’m going to Asia with Ford for his birthday, and am still deciding how to get there. If we end up booking Korean Air’s new first class, then I’d much rather sample their business class product alone, so I can experience them both.

This ticket cost 80,000 Korean Air SkyPass miles.

United first class

From London I needed to get back to Los Angeles to start my next trip. I could have flown Air India from London to Newark in business class on an inconvenient day. I could have double connected on Air Europa through Madrid and Miami. I could have double connected on Aer Lingus through Dublin and New York (there’s never award space nonstop from Dublin to Los Angeles).

But United had nonstop 777 first class award space, which is extremely rare. I couldn’t turn down that opportunity. It’s on a weekday so having Wi-Fi onboard and a nonstop flight will be very helpful for me. Since United is discontinuing international first class, I’m excited to try it while it’s still around.


I’m also curious to see how this compares to the American first class experiences I’ve had between London and Los Angeles.

I booked this ticket for 87,000 Avianca LifeMiles.

Bottom line

I’m super excited about this trip. Ultimately it was centered around my intrigue with Air Astana, along with the incredible itinerary I managed to book that gave me stopovers in both of their hub cities. It just happened to work out very well that there were positioning flights that will make interesting reviews as well.

Thanks so much to you guys for the support, and for providing the encouragement and inspiration to try new products.

Which flight are you most interested in reading about?

  1. Perfect example of Tiffany’s post What Everyone Needs to Know About Redeeming Miles. Cheap business class ticket, flexibility is key, and sometimes you just get lucky (UA first).

  2. NB4 the nonstop United peanut gallery. A closed matter should remain exactly that.

    Seriously, can’t wait for the Korean Air review.

  3. United Global First?! I’ve done this weeks ago to try it before discontinuation.
    Similar hard product to British First IMO. Booked this with 70k Aeroplan and 80$ (EWR-CDG). My Flight report on milesopedia (in french):

    Can’t wait to see your review on this product!

  4. I noticed that you didn’t book UA with UA miles, after your Rolling Stone article can you share a little more on why you are choosing to fly UA now, or if you resolved your differences, while I understand that you may not be able to talk about the reenstatement with MP (if at all) it would be interesting to hear if you were reinstated. You could just say “UA and I resolved our differences.”

  5. Great!!!

    UA Global First, in my experience, is actually even more underwhelming than AA F. I am sure that your expectations are low. Keep them very low!


  6. What hotels are you staying at in Khazakstan? are you overnighting in London or Seoul can’t wait to hear about this trip.

  7. I’ve flown UA F a couple of times to and from Asia. It’s ok. Kind of like the CX J class seat. Service is UA. So, OK for meals but then they all disappear for the rest of the flight.

  8. United First? Really? And do you think that any US airline really have something that can be called first class? My parents were flying MSP-DFW-GRU early this week on AA paid business class but as always AA flights are always delayed or cancelled so their MSP-DFW was so delayed they would not be able to connect to their DFW-GRU flight. AA moved them to MSP-IAH-GRU on United business class. According to them it was the worst flight experience they ever had. Old dirty and smelly plane, terrible food, terrible customer service, terrible everything. All I had to say to them was: Welcome to United!!!!! Cannot wait for your review.

  9. Being banned from the program doesn’t mean being banned from flights, kids. Especially if you use another program’s miles (or credit to another program if you buy a ticket).

  10. Not to be a nerd but technically on SkyTeam if you are flying from LON to MAD to MIA to XXX to LAX that’s triple connecting not double connecting

  11. @Lucky, UA isn’t rolling out its newest soft product offering (With Polaris branding) until Dec 1st. This will include the Global First product (to be dubbed Polaris Global First).
    I think it would be more interesting to wait for the new soft product experience which should include a host of new touches such as wine tastings, a new menu etc.

  12. I alway am entertained by the groupthink slams of United GlobalFirst. In the past 2 years and coming year, I’ll have flown international long-haul First Class on United (LAX-LHR-LAX, SFO-PEK, SFO-ICN-SFO), American (LHR-LAX, LAX-SYD-LAX, LAX-MIA-LAX), British (LHR-LAX), Emirates (CPT-DXB-LAX, LAX-DXB-DEL, DXB-LAX), Lufthansa (LAX-FRA), Cathay Pacific (HKG-LAX), and Asiana (LAX-ICN-LAX). Say what you want, but the comfort of the UA GF seat is quite significant…and the UA IFE is among the best in the world. Yes, service can vary…but my service has been VERY good on UA. (Makes me wonder if bitter anti-UA people are simply revealing confirmation bias in all their UA experiences.) In fact, UA GF LAX-LHR last Dec had better service than EK F CPT-DXB! Food on UA is usually average, I agree…but then rarely do I have outstanding food on any First Class airline. And I’ve never had anything worse than BA F LHR-LAX last year. Wow was that horrible. In general, I’ve had MUCH better service and food on UA GF than AA FF, and I far prefer the UA GF seat to the AA FF seat, even with the AA seat being so much newer.

    So stop on being such wankers on United. Most of the people here slamming United likely haven’t even flown United recently…and more likely have less basis for comparison than they want to admit. Hate to break it to you, peeps, but you all can keep avoiding United while allowing me to fly Saver awards til the cows come home…and with one of the best route networks of ANY airline out there.

    I’m sure Lucky isn’t flying AA LHR-LAX because it’s 260K miles to 87,500 Avianca miles or 120K UA miles…

  13. Lucky, I would prefer to see Korean Business over First, and of course prefer you to do both over 1 only.

    And while I am glad that you are back on United, I would have hoped that the seat review is something more interesting than United F, as this is a potential review opportunity lost.
    (Even a review of United in J is perhaps a bit more useful; a review of United F may end up as a “good riddance” rant – which then again, not the best way to welcome yourself back to United. lol)

    And yes, Air Astana! Thank you!

  14. UA first is my most underwhelming flight experience ever. Delta One is orders of magnitude better. No wonder they’re getting rid of it.

  15. What was the YQ for the Avianca and Korean programs you were charged? I think mentioning fuel surcharges would give us the whole picture as far as how much a particular segment might cost if we were to replicate. Looking forward to all these new carriers!

  16. @Lucky that sounds great! the Air Astana route is the same but opposite directions. Glad you booked this trip, will be looking forward to it 😉

  17. United First is pretty old school at this point isn’t it? …and it is well known that soft product is pretty much bottom of the barrel but for convenience I don’t blame Lucky, but was Business available?
    …and yes, he can fly United, just not accrue miles on MileagePlus.
    Newbies: find him in the Rolling Stone article.

  18. Don’t let the cat out of the bag! Enjoy Kazakhstan. I hope you know Russian! I made it there before you haha! Have fun and enjoy!

  19. Great itinerary! On the air astana picture, it looks like the “real” isle seats in the middle block have a much wider foot cubby than the throne-like middle seats?

  20. I flew UA Global First from SFO to ICN and then continued on in Business on Asiana to Hanoi. Now this was 3 years ago when they were still using 747’s. But I was in 1A, nose cone seat, with 3 windows and a pretty decent seat.

    The food was a step below Asian business class, and the beverages even worse. But the FA’s were eager to please.

    Overall though, I was more impressed with my 5 hr flight to Hanoi on Asiana (or Thai or Singapore) than my 13 1/2 hr GLOBAL FIRST on UA.

  21. As a GS UA member, I must say I actually like flying UA. Not the same as EK or QR, but still good nonetheless. If you’re nice to the FAs, they generally will be nice back.

    UA first is much like VS upper class, except UA has larger seat with more storage. I’m very excited for the new Polaris hard product

  22. The one good thing about United GlobalFirst is the storage compartments. Seriously, the seat has great storage. That’s about it.

    And I’m guessing Lucky’s still banned from MileagePlus, hence the use of LifeMiles.

  23. Guys he’s not banned from flying United, he’s banned from being a member of MileagePlus. He can board any United flight, he can credit miles to another program, he can redeem another program’s miles for a United flight. Besides, I doubt Ben would willingly redeem miles through MileagePlus at the current state it’s at.

    Also, when will you do Garuda? Flying from CGK to LHR via SIN is just over 3,000 Us Dollars one way. Or flying nrt to dps is 3600 US dollars ROUND TRIP.

  24. @Lucky +1 for a KE Business review from your learned eyes. I’ve flown annually KE many years TPA-ATL-ICN-BKK or TPA-JFK-ICN-BKK. Service has always been very good but bipimap gets old after awhile. This year, I’m going TPA-JFK-1st CX-HGK-Business on 350-BKK & return for a change.

  25. The 350 is a wonderful plane, but even weeks after launch the seats were already falling apart. My J seat had trim panels falling off in several places, and it’;s worn down in many spots too. Pretty disappointing for a brand new plane/seat. But there’s a window in the bathroom!

  26. I live in Kazakhstan. Personally, I find flying with Air Astana akin to amateur hour: you get the feeling that they read about business class in some magazine and trying to emulate that, though you could say that they do so in good faith. The CIP lounge in Astana is a cafeteria where you have to pay. Your earned air miles will be worthless, as they have no partners to speak of, despite supposedly being linked in some way to Lufthansa or Asiana. If you do find a way, let me know! If I were you, I would chalk your Air Astana flights for a chance to see this part of the world. Almaty is pretty, with a snow topped mountain range; Astana…well, about a three hour stroll should do it. The Kazakhs are great; warm, friendly people. I live in Astana, so if you are up for a coffee when you are here, drop me a line. In the meanwhile, enjoy your trip.

  27. Have you considered the Rwandair A330 that’s about to inaugurate to Dubai? They look like they have a pretty good business class product for non-astronomical prices (~US$1,083 for a roundtrip from Dubai to Kigali, six hours each way)…

  28. @Ken, Sorry to hear that. I’m looking forward to flying on this new hardware. My upcoming inbound 350 flight is from HGK – BKK in the evening but my outbound BKK – HGK is in the morning so I’ll definitely check out the bathroom window. Ha ha

  29. I’m a bit confused. I wasn’t aware of Lucky’s issue with United (or I’d forgotten it), so I went back to the Rolling Stone article. It says, “He was banned from flying, he recalls the letter saying, unless he paid the company $4,755 …” It also says that Lucky’s offered to pay the amount since then.

    So this says he was banned from the airline rather than MileagePlus. What’s changed between then and now?

  30. Just noticing I’m not the only one in Astana reading your blogs! Although Air Astana has a seperate Lounge for international travellers (it’s not the ‘CIP Lounge’ which is indeed only a café) at quite cute Astana airport (construction for new terminal is going on). Inspired by this blog, my next travels will be TSE-AUH-ZRH, just to find out the difference in premium classes between LH and TK! If you like someone to show you around in Astana let me know!

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