Korean Air A330 First Class In 10 Pictures

Filed Under: Korean Air, Travel

Update: Read my full Air First Class A330 Hong Kong To Incheon review.

After a lovely flight on Air Belgium, it was time to start my journey back to the US on Korean Air. I specifically chose my flights to the US to try new aircraft, as I’ve reviewed Korean Air’s first class on the A380, 777-200, 777-300, and 747-8. So on this trip I wanted to review the A330 and 787-9.

This worked out perfectly, because I found an itinerary from Hong Kong to Seoul Incheon to San Francisco that had me flying on the A330 and 787-9, for a total of 80,000 Korean Air SkyPass miles one-way.

Korean Air has just six first class seats on the A330, in a 2-2-2 configuration. While the cabin with just one row is intimate, this is a tight configuration. Of course for the three hour flight this was more than sufficient, but for a longer flight I’d be less impressed in first class. I’d note that in my experience Korean Air first class cabins are rarely full, so odds are good that you’ll have an empty seat next to you (as I did on this flight).

Perhaps what makes this configuration even stranger is that seats in first and business class are identical. No, they’re not just similar, but they’re literally the same seats.

So the differentiation is entirely in the soft product. Fortunately that’s an area where Korean Air excels, as their first class service is great. Before takeoff I was offered a drink of choice, and selected a glass of the excellent Perrier-Jouet Rose, which was served with Korean’s infamous macadamia nuts.

The meal service on this short flight was so unnecessarily over the top. The lunch service began with grilled beef and leek with Chinese XO sauce.

That was followed by an appetizer of marinated feta cheese covered with tomato jelly and crab meat stuffed tomato with mango coulis.

Then there was a butternut cream soup.

Next up was a salad with tomatoes and mozzarella.

For the main course I selected the traditional bibimbap.

Then it was time for dessert, and I was offered fresh fruit and ice cream, though I passed on the ice cream.

My gosh, what an over the top meal for such a short flight. What I find interesting about Korean Air is that they just assume you’ll have everything. They ask for your main course preference, and then serve you all the other courses automatically. On some other airlines they’ll look at you like you’re crazy if you order five or more courses.

As usual, service was excellent. The meal was well paced, with each course being brought out as I finished the previous one. I finished the entire meal just about an hour after takeoff, and then managed to get in a 90 minute nap before landing. Korean’s A330 first class seats are angled, though only ever so slightly so. As someone who is quite sensitive to angled seats (and usually struggles to sleep in them), I find these seats to be quite comfortable, and could easily sleep uninterrupted on a longhaul flight.

Bottom line

While it’s funky that Korean Air has the same seats in first and business class on the A330, for a three hour flight the seat was more than sufficient, especially since I had an empty seat next to me. As usual, service on Korean Air was excellent. The flight attendants were friendly and polished, and the food was excellent. There aren’t that many airlines that serve a meal like this on such a short flight.

  1. Well, they’re not the same seats in first and business class. In first class you had to ottoman which probably helped a lot in bed mode.

  2. Recently flew on the 787 SFO – ICN with the same seats in F as in J. Not really sure why they do this. F cabin had only two passengers and (what seemed to be) an off-duty pilot. Terminal 2 at ICN is quite nice, as is the new F lounge. Small, but definitely an improvement of over the last one. Food offerings also seem to have improved.

  3. 90-minute NAP I assume unless Korean Air got inspired by Emirates’ April Fools joke and installed a pool in first class which would have been awesome! 😀

  4. Wait. How can the F meal be “so unnecessarily over the top” if, “the differentiation [between J and F] is entirely in the soft product.”

    I love your reviews, Lucky, but sometimes you seem to contradict yourself in the same review.

    Regardless, good to see KE offer such an abundance of food for only 3 hours.

  5. @ Kai — I’m not sure I understand how that’s contradictory? The statement about the meal service wasn’t a relative statement comparing first or business, but rather just a statement that I can barely think of another airline that serves a meal this extensive on a three hour flight.

  6. If you’re gonna talk Korean Air flight attendants, at least get a picture or three of those lovely ladies for us.

  7. @Lucky: you stated that the seats are the exact same — yes they are, for better or for worse. You also state that the only way KE can really differentiate between F and J is through the soft product. Since you didn’t touch upon amenity kits or ground service [yet], food is the focus.

    However, you add in “unnecessarily” in your description of the food service without going into detail on how KE can otherwise differentiate F and J, ergo (+1 for Latin) a contradiction between KE-has-to-differentiate-but-the-way-they-do-so-is-unnecessary.

    FWIW: I’m flying KE JFK-ICN-NRT-ICN-JFK — for my partner’s and my honeymoon — on their A380, 777W, and 748 in J and always look forward to your reviews on them 🙂

  8. “served with Korean’s *infamous* macadamia nuts.”

    I do not think that word what you think it means. Unless the nuts were truly awful, that is.

    adjective in·fa·mous \ ˈin-fə-məs \
    1 : having a reputation of the worst kind : notoriously evil “an infamous traitor”
    2 : causing or bringing infamy : disgraceful “an infamous crime”
    3 : convicted of an offense bringing infamy

  9. @ carswell — No, “infamous” is exactly what I mean. I’m referring to the Korean Air nut rage incident.

  10. So the nuts are disgraceful or evil or convicted of an offence?

    The word you want is notorious.

  11. I just flew this product between ICN-ULN and was equally impressed by their over the top meal!

  12. I can finally uncross my fingers, I was really hoping for HKG-SIN-NRT-LAX on SQ A350/787 and NH 777. Next time maybe! Or I guess I might just have to fly it myself 😉

  13. You should do the same flights in business soon and give people a comparison of the soft products. Would be heapful for those deciding if it’s worth the extra for First given the same hard product.

  14. @Kai
    Completely agree with you. Ben’s comments don’t really make a lot of sense when he criticizes Korean Air for having “identical” seats in F and J… it should not be surprising that the airline has to find other ways to differentiate the F product, in this case clearly through extensive catering in F.

  15. You have been highly critical of other airlines for uncompetitive products. This is one such product. It simply isn’t competitive. Moreover, Korean has lounges worse than US domestic lounges and has virtually no ground services for first-class.

  16. This is a mediocre J class seat at best, the food looks reasonable (but not exactly exceptional) and the champagne is also arguably just a good J class champagne.

    Seriously, this is an international F seat without direct aisle access that doesn’t even quite go fully flat! If the benchmark for this is CX F this is pathetic. If the benchmark for this is KA F this is still relatively poor. If this were a flight on a different airline (e.g. BA) you would be highly critical. I really don’t understand why you think your reviews are objective.

  17. It sure is a strange product. Most airlines would have simply gone with a 2 class configuration (or 3 with PE), even Asiana did with the A350. I guess KAL somehow feels the need to offer First Class on all flights, even if it is more or less just on paper. Might be a pride thing, or part of some government or corporate contracts.

  18. @carswell I suggest you read a little further in the page you linked to where it says “Synonyms: … notorious”
    Or consult a better dictionary to see the definition (from the OED): “Well known for some bad quality or deed.” Probably better not to be so smug, especially when you’re completely incorrect.

  19. I do not always agree with your final verdict, but I always always find your reports super helpful in planning my own travel. Thanks for doing this!

  20. I think ‘notorious’ nuts is the correct word you need here, Lucky. ‘infamous’ is simply wrong. Why let good grammar and the lack of a thesaurus get in the way of an otherwise pointless and awkward blog post?

  21. Infamous works just fine. Carswell’s second definition fits the bill. Other dictionaries have almost identical definitions for both.

    Why are people still arguing about this?

  22. lol and in american domestic first class you get a sad meal… why cant US airlines be like asian ones when it comes to domestic first!! 🙁

  23. I was on the same kindnof F class on Seoul-Tokyo shuttle between HND and GMP. The entire cabin was full. Not too sure if i accompanied 4 or 5 fellow f class pax tho.

    I was served 3 course meal for appx 2 hrs flight and found a hair on my plate. I usually dont care about “just a hair” as long as its from someone’s scalp. Reported to one of the CAs after i finished my meal and 3 of them came to my seat to apologize including their chief.

    I believe f has bigger screen than j’s?

  24. The bibimbap main looks very uninspiring, even unappetising.
    Nice to see the nuts were plated, not bagged! Presume they were warmed?

  25. The reason he isn’t being too critical is because this isn’t a review. It’s a teaser. He won’t share his final opinion until the review.

  26. @Kai… oh boy. “unnecessarily” over the top is a good thing. It means it’s beyond what is expected or what others do. Food is a soft product. The seat is the hard product. The hard product is not differentiated. The soft product is differentiated by being so over the top… that it’s diff from biz.
    This isn’t a hard concept. If you don’t understand something, say so. But don’t make accusations when you don’t understand.

  27. Lucky I just took KE F ICN-ATL on the 8i and they offered a different “authentic” meal than what I’ve seen with them before. I assumed bibimbap was their traditional stuff and I always found it bland, but this new menu (which was an insert in the full menu) was excellent.

    Should have gotten pics, I don’t even remember everything but it was also unnecessarily over the top.
    Also confused why they serve caviar on SFO-ICN but no other routes. It was a very nice setup. Is even NY not high-yield enough for that?

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