Introduction: Journey To Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, And Kuwait
Review: Air France Lounge San Francisco Airport
Review: Korean Air Business Class 747-8 San Francisco To Seoul
Review: Korean Air Business Class 777 Seoul To Kathmandu
Review: Hyatt Regency Kathmandu
Review: Kathmandu Airport Lounge
Review: Drukair Business Class A319 Kathmandu To Paro
Review: Le Meridien Thimphu
Review: Le Meridien Paro
Hiking To The Tiger’s Nest, Bhutan
How We Spent Our Time In Bhutan
Review: Drukair Economy ATR42 Paro To Dhaka
Review: Presidential Suite At The Le Meridien Dhaka
Review: Dhaka Airport Lounge
Review: Kuwait Airways Business Class A330 Dhaka To Kuwait
Review: Sheraton Kuwait
Review: Kuwait Airways Lounge Kuwait Airport
Review: Kuwait Airways Business Class 777 Kuwait To Shannon
Review: Kuwait Airways Business Class 777 Shannon To New York
Given that I’ve flown Korean Air’s first class so many times before on the 747-8, 777, and A380 (thanks to the great value of converting Ultimate Rewards points into Korean Air SkyPass miles), I was curious to see how their business class product stacked up.
Korean Air 24
San Francisco (SFO) – Seoul Incheon (ICN)
Sunday, March 5
Arrive: 5:30PM (+1 day)
Aircraft: Boeing 747-8
Seat: 20A (Business/Prestige Class)
We boarded through door L1, where we turned right into the lower deck business class cabin. Korean Air has 26 business class seats on the 747-8 lower deck, spread across five rows in a 2-2-2 configuration (the last row only has two seats in the center).
This is an extremely spacious layout for the lower deck of the 747, and the aisles in this cabin must be among the widest in any business class cabin.
Just past the business class cabin and by door L2 were the stairs to the upper deck. While the 747-8 staircase isn’t quite as “grand” as the staircase on the A380, it is more spacious than the 747-400 staircase.
I love the upper deck of the 747-8. While it’s not as spacious as the A380 upper deck, as an aviation geek it’s a beautiful place to be, given how iconic the 747 is. Korean Air has 22 business class seats on the upper deck, spread across six rows in a 2-2 configuration. The last row just has two seats on the right side.
While I don’t love Korean Air’s greenish/turquoise cabin finishes, the cabin layout as such is stunning.
Korean Air has Apex Suites in business class on the 747-8, which are the the same seats I’ve reviewed on Oman Air and Japan Airlines. The window seats in this configuration are probably my favorite business class seats out there.
I had assigned us seats 20A & 20B, which are the aisle and window seat in the last row of the upper deck on the left side.
The aisle seats in this configuration are solid. While the seats aren’t that wide, they have a lot of privacy, which I appreciate. There’s a shield on the aisle-side for extra privacy, which you often don’t see.
There’s also plenty of legroom, and your feet won’t in any way feel constrained if you’re trying to sleep.
The window seats have direct aisle access as well. There’s a narrow opening through which you enter the seat area.
What makes this seat so great is that it’s incredibly private. After takeoff you can raise the partition between seats, so that you have a private cocoon.
There’s also so much personal space in these seats. There’s an ottoman big enough so you could store a full size carry-on underneath it, if you wanted to.
What makes this seat extra super duper special is that the 747-8 upper deck has storage lockers along the side of the fuselage, which give you even more personal space and privacy. One complaint about Apex Suites is the lack of storage space, which is solved with this configuration. The upper deck window seats on the Korean Air 747-8 are the best business class hard product in the world, in my opinion.
In terms of other seat features, the tray table could be extended from the center console, and couldn’t be folded over — it was a single tray.
The power outlet was at the front right of the seat, so was conveniently placed whether you’re lounging or sleeping.
Then along the right side of the seat were the seat and entertainment controls, both of which were easy to use. You could also control the shield between the seats at the push of a button using those controls.
Then behind that was a very small storage area, where I found a pair of slippers.
The slippers were rather flimsy, though did the trick.
Also waiting at my seat on boarding was the menu for the flight.
There was also a pillow along with a blanket. The pillow was really small (it looks bigger in the picture than I remember it), and I thought the fleece blanket was pretty cheap for what’s supposed to be a good business class product. Lots of airlines have proper duvets in business class, so I’m not sure why Korean Air doesn’t.
The crew was busy for about 10 minutes after we boarded, given the number of passengers who were boarding and needed help storing their things. The 747-8 upper deck has overhead bins, though they’re not huge, and can’t fit an expanded carry-on.
About 10 minutes after we boarded the crew distributed amenity kits. They were decent enough, with eyeshades, a comb, a shoehorn, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and some creams.
The crew then distributed noise canceling headphones. They were better than what most airlines offer in business class, though not as good as Bose headphones.
A few minutes later the crew came through the cabin with newspapers, which were displayed on a cart. That was followed by pre-departure beverages. The choice was between water, guava juice, and orange juice. I had the guava juice, which was served with honey roasted peanuts.
At 11:35AM it was announced that there was a small delay due to passenger boarding. When you only schedule a 747 to board 20 minutes before departure, I can see how that could happen. 😉
Finally at 11:40AM the door closed (with every seat taken in business class), and five minutes later we began our pushback, at which point the lead flight attendant announced our flight time of 12hr9min. She also made a weird announcement saying that we had a China based cabin crew onboard today. I found that to be odd, because I’m 99% sure they were all Korean. Maybe I misunderstand her…?
As we taxied out to the runway, the cheesy safety video played. I think it’s time that Korean Air updates their safety video, because it’s way outdated.
We were departing from runway 28L, so we taxied past runway 1L and 1R, and then along the bay to the end of the runways.
At 12:10PM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 28L.
Our climb out was smooth, and I enjoyed the views after departure.
As we continued our climb out I browsed the entertainment selection.
Korean Air’s selection isn’t great. There are very few TV shows in the selection (in particular sitcoms).
Korean Air entertainment selection
The selection of movies was better, but still far from great. Korean Air doesn’t have wifi, so in general I’d recommend bringing your own entertainment if you’re picky.
For most of the flight I kept the airshow on. I don’t love Korean Air’s version of the airshow, since you can’t choose from which perspective you want to view the map, and I generally don’t like the maps where the plane is the same size as California. 😉
The seatbelt sign was turned off 15 minutes after takeoff.
I checked out the lavatories located at the front of the cabin. There were two of them, and they both featured the new Boeing design, though they were both really small. Do note that the toilet lid automatically closes when you hit the flush button.
There were some basic amenities in the lavatory, though not much.
About 20 minutes after takeoff, the three excellent flight attendants came through the cabin to take meal orders. They took lunch and dinner orders immediately, and then collected menus. I always find that a bit annoying, since I tend to think part of the benefit of the menu is that you can remember what you’re eating, can look at the drink selection, etc. I also wish they’d take meal orders before each meal, rather than taking them at the beginning of the flight for both meals. Minor gripes, ultimately…
Shortly after taking orders they distributed warm towels.
The lunch menu read as follows:
The wine list read as follows:
After orders were taken it took a while for service to start. About an hour after takeoff drinks were served. I had ordered a glass of champagne, and I was impressed that they poured it at my seat. Korean Air serves Perrier-Jouet Grand Brut in business class, which is solid.
I also ordered a glass of water, and was offered the amuse bouche, consisting of a roasted bell pepper roll with cream cheese.
From hereon out the service felt a bit like an assembly line. Don’t get me wrong, the crew was incredibly charming, but Korean Air has structured the service in such a way that it felt robotic. For example, rather than offering me a refill when I was done with my champagne, the crew took the glass, and then brought me a tray with the appetizer and an empty glass.
The appetizer consisted of a seared prawn and scallop salad with tomato celery salsa. I quite enjoyed it.
I was also offered a selection of bread. While the garlic bread was hard, the sesame loaf was tasty.
Once all the appetizers were served, the crew brought around a carrier with four types of wine. I had a glass of the Kendall-Jackson sauvignon blanc.
Korean Air business class wine selection
Next I was offered the green asparagus soup, which was flavorful.
For the main course I had the sautéed salmon with tomato sauce and vegetables. It wasn’t great — the fish was dry, and personally I can’t say I’m a big fan of salmon with spaghetti.
Ford had the bibimbap, which I usually have, but I figured I’d try something else. Korean Air’s bibimbap seems to just about be the same in business and first class, and there’s not much variance.
It even comes with handy instructions about how to eat it.
After the main courses were cleared, the crew came around with the dessert cart. Ford had Haagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream, while I had the white almond cake.
The almond cake looked incredible, though ended up being pretty dry and tasteless.
We also had a cheese plate to share, just for the photo op, of course. 😉
The crew then came around with coffee, tea, bottled water, and landing cards for Korea.
The entire meal service was done about 2hr20min after takeoff. The crew was kind, charming, and precise. They did a great job, though I think Korean Air’s service procedures could feel less robotic. Again, it’s not the crew’s fault, because they were being charming individually, but it’s clear they were just following the service standards set forth by the company.
I worked during most of lunch, and then watched La La Land, which I had heard so much about, but hadn’t yet seen. I don’t usually watch movies on planes, but when I’m not quite tired and when the selection is limited, I sometimes cave. La La Land was… overrated?
I worked for a couple more hours after the movie, and finally decided to rest about six hours before landing, thinking I’d get a solid four hours of rest before the pre-arrival meal. The window seat Apex Suite is such a lovely space to relax and rest.
Well, I was surprised to be awoken five hours before landing for the dinner service. What the heck?! On a 12 hour flight, shouldn’t you serve one meal after takeoff and one before landing, to maximize passengers’ ability to sleep? Most of the passengers seemed to be asleep when they turned up the cabin lights for the meal.
Service began with warm towels.
The crew then came through the cabin with cups of pineapple juice, orange juice, guava juice, and water.
The dinner menu read as follows:
To start I was offered a salad, which was great. It was large and more interesting than the typical “seasonal salad” airlines serve.
Then for the main course I had a shrimp dumpling noodle soup, which was also excellent. It was much better than the salmon served with the first meal.
Lastly I was offered a fruit plate for dessert.
I also had a cup of coffee, since I was awake at this point, and got back to work.
I worked for the next few hours, and couldn’t help but notice the lack of snacks. Most airlines have packaged snacks in business class between meals, but Korean Air didn’t. The only thing they had were freshly baked cookies (which were delicious), though I’m not quite sure why they offered me savory breadsticks with them.
One other slight frustration I had was how tough it was to stay hydrated. They only had one bottle of water per person, and Korean Air’s glasses are tiny, so I felt like I was drinking water one shot at a time.
Before landing I decided to watch a “Brain Games” show.
About 30 minutes before landing the captain came on the PA to advise us that we would land at around 5:30PM local time. At this point Ford woke up (he slept almost the whole flight), and I was impressed that the crew proactively offered to serve him the meal then. They offered to serve the whole thing, but he said just the salad and fruit were fine.
The flight was smooth, including during the descent.
About 10 minutes before landing, all three flight attendants working the upper deck came around to each passenger to thank them for flying Korean Air, which was a very nice touch, I thought.
We touched down at Incheon Airport on runway 33R at 5:25PM, and from there had a 20 minute taxi to our arrival gate.
The taxi took forever, despite the fact that we were taxiing at a fairly high and consistent speed.
We eventually pulled in next to a Korean Air 737 and A380.
Immigration took a while, and within about 45 minutes we were on a shuttle to the Grand Hyatt Incheon, where we’d be spending the night.
Korean Air 747-8 business class bottom line
Korean Air offers a solid transpacific business class product, though with a bit of work, they could be one of the best. Their hard product is incredible, as the upper deck window seats in this configuration are the best business class seats out there, in my opinion. The flight attendants working our flight were also fantastic — they were friendly, professional, and charming.
However, some aspects of the soft product leave some room for improvement. Korean Air could improve their bedding, improve the food a bit, and not serve the pre-arrival meal five hours before landing, meaning that you can’t get more than four hours of interrupted rest on a transpacific flight.
Overall I’d highly recommend Korean Air business class, despite their (relatively minor) flaws.