Introduction: Journey To Kazakhstan
Review: Korean Air First Class 747-8 Vancouver To Incheon
Review: Nest Hotel Incheon Airport
Review: Asiana Business Class Lounge Incheon Airport
Review: Air Astana Business Class 767 Incheon To Almaty
Review: Ritz-Carlton Almaty
Review: Air Astana Lounge Almaty Airport
Review: Air Astana Business Class A321 Almaty To Astana
Review: Marriott Astana
Review: Air Astana Lounge Astana Airport
Review: Air Astana Business Class 757 Astana To London
Review: Sofitel London Heathrow Terminal 5
Review: United Lounge London Heathrow Airport
Review: Singapore Airlines Lounge London Heathrow Airport
Review: United First Class 777 London To Los Angeles
I landed from Los Angeles at around 10AM, leaving me a bit over four hours before my 2:20PM flight to Seoul Incheon. After clearing security and going through a passport check I found myself in the international terminal.
Korean Air uses the Plaza Premium Lounge Vancouver Airport, which I’ve reviewed before, so I won’t do so again here. While the lounge itself is nice enough, it blows my mind that a lounge as new as this one doesn’t have conveniently placed outlets all over the place.
Shortly after 12PM I headed to the departure gate, D64, to get checked in for my flight.
Right as I arrived, I saw the gorgeous Korean Air 747-8 was just taxiing in after landing from Incheon.
The check-in process was uneventful at first, as I had my boarding pass within a couple of minutes. However shortly thereafter the gate agent approached me and asked if I had proof of an onward ticket. I showed her I was connecting to Kazakhstan. She had never heard of that before.
After spelling it out and her looking it up, she insisted that Kazakhstan was in Russia (I told her “if that’s the case, you’ll see I have a Russian visa in my passport”). I even pulled up Kazakhstan entry requirements on my phone, though she said she needed to verify. This turned into a 30 minute ordeal, as she had to phone someone else. Eventually I was given the “clear.”
I headed back to the lounge, and then an hour later returned to the gate. Boarding for the flight was only scheduled for 2PM, which was 20 minutes before the departure time. It’s amazing that they can board a 747-8 that quickly, when US carriers sometimes can’t even board a 737 in 30 minutes.
At 2PM sharp boarding was called, starting with first class. While I had flown Korean Air first class before, this was my first time in their new first class product, so I was super excited.
Korean Air 82
Vancouver (YVR) – Seoul Incheon (ICN)
Thursday, September 22
Arrive: 5:35PM (+1 day)
Aircraft: Boeing 747-8
Seat: 2J (First Class)
I boarded through door L2, where I was greeted by several flight attendants. Once they verified my boarding pass, one of them escorted me to the first class cabin. Between doors L2 and L1 is the business class cabin, and then in the very nose of the plane is first class.
Ah! As an aviation geek and 747 lover, there’s nothing quite like being in the nose of the 747. Korean Air’s 747 also has the most sparsely populated “nose” layout. There are just six seats in the nose, with three seats on each side.
There’s a huge open space in the middle of the cabin, and a small table towards the back of the cabin where the crew can set up drinks, etc.
Korean Air’s 747-8 first class features spacious fully enclosed suites. As you can see below, there’s a wall along most of the seat, and then a relatively small area where the door slides.
The seat itself looks identical to the one in Korean Air’s “old” first class, including the regrettable color choices (at least by my taste — then again, their biggest competitor, Asiana, has even worse colors).
The seat has a large ottoman, along with a fairly large storage area underneath it, big enough for a laptop bag, for example.
On top of that there are two magazine racks facing the seat. That door can also be opened to expose the large closet, which is where carry-on bags go (given that there are no overhead bins in first class).
On the right side of the seat are the seat and entertainment controls, as well as a further storage console.
The entertainment controller can be removed from the storage area and held in your hand, if desired. The USB outlet and headphone jack are also in that case.
Above that are the seat controls, where you can either choose one of the pre-set positions, or otherwise can adjust specific aspects of the seat individually.
Behind that compartment was some storage, mostly with smaller areas where you could keep a laptop, headphones, glasses, phones, etc.
Ahead of that is the massive tray table, which folds out from the side of the seat.
At the bottom right of the seat was the main power outlet. I didn’t think the location was especially well thought out, since it makes it tough to charge something while the seat is fully reclined.
Along the left side of the seat was a reading light and an individual air nozzle. Can I just point out how awesome this is? It drives me nuts that so many non-US carriers don’t have individual air nozzles, given that many airlines keep their cabins warm, which ruins any shot at sleeping. I love the fact that Korean Air has air nozzles in first class on the 747-8.
The seatbelt sign was located on the opposite wall, along with a permanent non-smoking sign.
During boarding the flight attendants noticed I was taking lots of pictures, so they invited me to take my time, and then they’d be with me when I was ready.
I could immediately tell that the crew would be phenomenal. Seconds after settling in, both of the first class flight attendants came by to introduce themselves, familiarize me with the seat, and inform me of our flight time, anticipated on-time arrival, etc.
While I’ve experienced a lot of great service, sometimes you can tell service is forced, while other times you can tell it’s from the heart. Both of these flight attendants were so genuine and kind, and every time I interacted with them I had a smile on my face. Their positivity was contagious.
Once settled in, they asked me if I wanted anything to drink before departure. I ordered a glass of champagne, though I was informed they unfortunately don’t serve it on the ground (I knew they didn’t serve it on the ground departing the US because they don’t want to pay taxes on it, but didn’t realize the same policy applies out of Canada — I guess that makes sense).
So I instead had a glass of still water, which was served with macadamia nuts. I was offered several refills on both the water and nuts.
Moments later I was offered Bose noise canceling headphones, an amenity kit, and pajamas.
I love that Korean Air has Bose headphones. It still amazes me how many super-lux airlines have bad headphones in first class.
Korean Air’s pajamas are soft and comfortable, though arguably not the most stylish (so I guess that means they suit me perfectly). 😉
Korean Air’s amenity kit is fairly decent, with toiletries from Davi. There were the usual items, like a toothbrush and toothpaste, shoehorn, eyeshades, etc.
Then there was also eye gel, after shave lotion, lip balm, hand & body cream, and a refreshing spray.
Also waiting at my seat were a pillow and very basic blanket — they also have heavier blankets available when you’re ready to sleep (or anytime, really).
Also waiting at my seat on boarding were slippers and a shoe bag.
A few more minutes after settling in, one of the lovely flight attendants presented me with the menu, wine list, and even an espresso menu.
By 2:20PM it was announced that boarding was complete. All six first class seats were taken, and I was the only non-Korean passenger. I was a bit confused about some of the passengers, because best I could tell I was the first person to board, yet when I got aboard, seats 2A and 1J were already occupied. I’m not sure if they were off duty pilots, or…
At 2:25PM the door closed, and moments later the captain announced that our flight time was 10hr40min, and that we should arrive on-time. The captain seemed to be Korean — I only mention that because I’m always fascinated by the nationality of pilots, and Korean Air also has a lot of foreign pilots.
Once the captain’s announcement was done the safety video played, which sort of felt like a cartoon from the ’90s.
At 2:30PM we began our pushback, and within five minutes we had our engines started and began our taxi to the runway. The landscape around Vancouver Airport is gorgeous, so on a clear day the views are stunning.
We were departing from runway 26L, which is basically on the opposite side of the airport of where we were parked. So the taxi took about 15 minutes, though we saw some interesting planes enroute.
By 2:50PM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 26L, immediately behind a small prop.
Our takeoff roll was long and loud, as is the norm on the 747-8, especially if you’re seated in the nose, given that you’re right above the front wheel.
Our initial climb out was gradual, and the coastal views were stunning. Man, the Pacific Northwest is gorgeous! As usual, the first 30 seconds of the flight are loud as hell in the nose of the 747-8, especially when the gear is lifted.
After takeoff I browsed the entertainment selection and noticed that there was a nose camera, though unfortunately there wasn’t much in the way of views at that point.
I then browsed the rest of the entertainment system as we continued our climb out. I’ll be the first to say that I’m probably not a great judge of inflight entertainment, since it’s probably the amenity I value least (I care a lot more about wifi, though unfortunately Korean Air doesn’t offer that).
The TV show selection was fairly limited, especially for comedies. At least they had a couple of episodes of each show.
The movie selection was a little bit better, but still bad. So overall I’d recommend bringing your own entertainment onto Korean Air if you’re picky about what you watch.
For most of the flight I simply kept the TV turned to the airshow, which is always my favorite thing to watch anyway.
I did end up watching a documentary about Champagne (the region), which seemed fitting.
I was so impressed that just minutes after takeoff the flight attendant proactively brought me a glass of champagne, remembering that I had ordered it before takeoff. It’s not rocket science, but it shows such a nice attention to detail.
On this route Korean Air serves Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque, which is very nice. However, on their routes to New York and Paris they offer Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs, which is significantly more expensive (I haven’t had it yet myself, so can’t chime in on how it is). Regardless, the champagne was lovely.
As we leveled off at our cruising altitude, the captain once again came on the PA to provide updated arrival information and inform us of a mostly smooth ride.
The meal service also began quickly after takeoff, starting with taking meal orders. The menu read as follows:
Of course since this is Korean Air, they had a special bibimbap instruction guide as well:
The espresso menu read as follows:
The beverage list read as follows:
I decided to go all out with the meal, and didn’t regret it.
Service began with the amuse bouche, which was a seared scallop with ancho chilli dip.
After that my table was set. Let me start by saying that it made my head tingle seeing the precision with which the flight attendant set my table. She took such care in how she did everything.
Next up was the appetizer, consisting of a blue crabmeat cannelloni with poached prawn and mango salsa. It was so flavorful.
I was also offered a selection from the breadbasket, and chose a piece of focaccia.
Next up I was served the soup course, consisting of fresh champignon cream soup. Again, it was incredible, and I complimented the flight attendant on how good it was, which prompted her to ask if I wanted more (which I of course declined, given the quantity of food I was being served).
Next up was the salad cart. I love this aspect of Korean Air’s service. Perhaps my favorite part of the salad course wasn’t even the salad as such, but rather watching the flight attendant plate it. I’ve never seen someone so purposefully plate a salad. She placed each cucumber, onion, etc., in a specific place, one at a time.
For the main course I almost always order the bibimbap on Korean Air. While it’s great, I tend to think it’s also an extremely consistent dish, so I didn’t want to order it again.
For reference, here’s what it usually looks like (again, this was taken on another flight):
Instead I had the kung pao chicken, which was good, though probably the most underwhelming part of the meal. I only ate about half of it (given that I was mostly full). This concerned the flight attendant, and she asked if it wasn’t good, and if she could get me something else instead. I appreciated her asking, though of course I didn’t want more food than I was already getting).
With the main course I had a glass of the chablis.
After the main course, the flight attendant rolled a cart through the cabin with a fruit and cheese selection.
I asked for very little of everything, and I appreciated that she actually followed my instructions and gave me very little.
For dessert I was offered mango cheesecake with ice cream. Nom nom.
To finish off the meal I ordered omija punch, which is a Korean drink with a very unique taste.
The meal service was done 1hr40min after departure, which I think is the perfect amount of time. Really the pace of the service was perfect, and totally centered around me, as they’d always clear my plate as soon as I was done, and offer me the next course within minutes. That’s impressive, especially since a couple of the courses include trolleys.
On top of that, it was bumpy during the meal service. The seatbelt sign was turned on a couple of times, and even when it wasn’t we were still being thrown around quite a bit.
After lunch I was tired and wanted to get some sleep, so asked the flight attendant to make my bed. In the meantime I headed to the lavatory behind the cabin. The Korean Air 747-8 has exactly the same type of lavatory you’ll find on most 787s.
There were a few amenities in the bathroom, including a razor and shaving cream.
Given that I was on a 747-8, I also couldn’t resist the urge to take a picture of the beautiful wing (up in first class you’re so far from the wing that you can barely see it — I know, #FirstWorldProblems).
Once back in first class, I found my suite already turned into a bed. Below you can see what it looks like from the outside when the door is closed.
The seat had a comfortable mattress pad on it, along with a pillow.
There was also a blanket by the ottoman.
The bed was comfortable and spacious, though I think they could do a bit of work on their bedding, like offering more pillows, a better mattress, etc.
I ended up going to sleep as we were passing Anchorage, with about eight hours till landing.
I managed to get nearly four hours of sleep, and woke up just over four hours from arrival, as we were slowly approaching Japan. I slept fairly well, aside from being woken up a couple of times by turbulence.
I decided to get some work done on my laptop, though within a few minutes of waking up, one of the flight attendants came by to see if I wanted anything. I ordered a cappuccino, which was beautifully prepared.
She also proactively brought me freshly baked cookies about 15 minutes later. Yes, they were actually freshly baked, and still warm. Mmmm….
She told me to let her know when I wanted my pre-arrival meal. I decided to work for another couple of hours, and then had my pre-arrival meal around 90 minutes out. The pre-arrival menu read as follows:
The service began with a salad, which was good, though not as good as the salad with the first meal. I also had some cheese bread to accompany it.
For the main I ordered the udon noodles with seafood, which were simple but very good.
Lastly for dessert I was offered fresh fruit, and had a coffee as well.
About 45 minutes before landing the captain came back on the PA to provide us with updated arrival information, anticipating we would be landing at 5:30PM.
About 15 minutes later we began our descent, and another 15 minutes after that the seatbelt sign was turned on.
For most of the descent there wasn’t much in the way of views, though there were finally some views as we began our final descent.
We had a smooth touchdown at 5:30PM sharp, and from there a long taxi to our arrival gate.
We taxied to gate 126, which took about 10 minutes.
My eyes were glued out the window, thanks to all the fun Korean Air planes, in addition to many foreign carriers.
I was sad to bid farewell to the crew after an amazing flight, though was also excited to get to my hotel and get connected to the world again.
Korean Air’s new first class bottom line
Korean Air’s new first class product is phenomenal. The seat is spacious and mostly well designed and the food and drinks were great. Perhaps best of all, the service was incredible, as the two flight attendants taking care of me were so genuinely hospitable.
I will say that if I were traveling with someone I’d probably prefer Korean Air’s old first class on the A380, or otherwise their new first class on the 777, where you can sit together in the center section. These seats are very private, which is both a blessing (if traveling alone) and a curse (if traveling with someone else).
Anyway, all things considered I loved my experience in Korean Air’s new first class, and can’t wait to fly them again. Korean Air first class is one of the very best uses of Chase Ultimate Rewards points.