Asiana axes Airbus A380 first class, rebrands as Business Suites

By David Flynn, May 8 2019
Asiana axes Airbus A380 first class, rebrands as Business Suites

Asiana Airlines is officially axing first class from its Airbus A380s, although the upmarket private suites themselves will be retained and sold under the new brand of Business Suites.

From 1 September 2019 the South Korean carrier and Star Alliance member will treat the twelve private suites at the nose of its superjumbo fleet – which currently flies to New York, Los Angeles and Frankfurt – as an upgrade business class offering, moving to what industry boffins sometimes tag as a Business Plus model.

Business Suites fares will be pitched as 30-40% lower than first class fares, Asiana says, but still at a premium above business class.

The main lure for paying that extra money will be the vastly superior first class cabin, with its spacious and comfortable private suites, compared to the larger and busier business class cabin. Access to Asiana's flagship first class lounge at Seoul's Incheon Airport is also included.

That aside, Business Suites passengers will be served the same meals and drinks as business class, along with the same mileage earning rates in the Asiana Club frequent flyer program and with other Star Alliance partners.

The ability to book Asiana's new Business Suites using frequent flyer points remains unknown at this stage.

Asiana's move borrows from the playbook of Malaysia Airlines, which adopted a similar strategy – including an identical name for its primo Airbus A380 and A350 cabins – in December 2018, although everything else such as meals and drinks, inflight amenities and pyjamas remained as they would in first class.

Read more: Comparing Malaysia Airlines Airbus A350 Business Suites and business class


David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

10 May 2018

Total posts 14

Well, I didn't see that one coming... I'm also a bit surprised that Malaysian started something (changing First Class to Business Suites) that another major airline has followed! That's a first!!

20 Sep 2012

Total posts 8

Unless I'm mistaken, this cabin is at the front of the lower deck with all economy behind.

Very unexpected, and interesting to see another airline going down this 'Business Plus' route, but especially when Asiana's first class was still a fairly competitive product, unlike that of Malaysia Airlines. Obviously this is more to do with Asiana's current cost-cutting drive than the product but in today's climate I would think that unless you have an amazing first class proposition and the routes and passengers which demand it, business class and maybe 'business plus' is the safest and most profitable bet.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

11 Oct 2014

Total posts 681

I think you hit the nail on the head with your first sentence.

Whether this is truly an industry-wide approaching trend or just the travails of two financially troubled - in differing ways - carriers, is yet to be seen. It has been evident in the financial press that Asiana is experiencing issues with it's external auditors.

As you infer, Asiana may well be taking this move to prompt a revenue boost with the re-classification of what is generally regarded as an excellent product.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1192

Minor point but Asiana's suites are on the lower (or main) deck of the A380.

Whilst borne of necessity for both Asiana and Malaysian, this repositioning of the First Class product makes sense. The main attraction of First Class is the increased space and privacy and this Business Plus model preserves this. The other items such as more premium food and beverage offerings are largely froo-froo given most airlines now offer excellent soft-products in their J cabins.

Passengers see value in the greater space and will pay for it; they are less attracted to paying more for the other perceived upgrades between first and business classes.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 407

The difference though is that Asiana is now treating its first class as just a business class suite instead of a seat, everything else is the same as in business class bar lounge lounge access, but Malaysia Airlines gives you the same first class package but under a different name. According to the articles this was done because high-ranking Govt people were no longer allowed to book 'first class'.

I would agree though that unless an airline can serve up a stellar first class experience, like SQ for example, it's increasingly hard to justify the whole price jump from business to first. First class lounge access has less cachet when many potential passengers will already have access due to their frequent flyer status. Business class these days is getting better and better, in seats and meals and drink. So unless the first class F&B can knock it out of the park, a more private business class experience in the form of these Business Suites will be more appealing than first class.

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