Review: Korean Air First Class A330 Hong Kong To Incheon

Filed Under: Korean Air

Korean Air 604
Hong Kong (HKG) – Seoul Incheon (ICN)
Tuesday, July 3
Depart: 12:15PM
Arrive: 4:55PM
Duration: 3hr40min
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Seat: 1A (First Class)

In my experience Korean Air is one of the most consistent airlines when it comes to their onboard soft product, both in terms of service and food. However, the quality of their seats varies greatly.

At the forward door I was greeted by the cabin manager and one of the flight attendants, and escorted to my seat. Korean Air has just six first class seats on the A330, in a 2-2-2 configuration.

Korean Air A330 first class seats

It goes without saying that this is an underwhelming first class hard product. For the short flight to Incheon it was no big deal, but Korean Air does operate this plane on longhaul flights, and I’d be very unhappy to book a longhaul international first class seat and get this. This is a subpar business class product, and most definitely not an acceptable first class product.

Korean Air A330 first class cabin

What’s even more disappointing is that Korean Air has virtually the same seat in business class on this plane. Yes, the below picture is of their business class seats. They have 18 business class seats, spread across three rows in a 2-2-2 configuration.

Korean Air A330 business class cabin

Below are pictures of the first class seats once again. As you can see, the only difference is that first class seats have ottomans and a larger console with the personal television.

Korean Air A330 first class seats

The ottoman becomes part of the seat when you fully recline it. Then there’s a personal television on the bulkhead, as well as a shelf where you could place something during the flight, given that the seats otherwise lack storage.

Korean Air A330 first class seats

The simple seat controls are along the outer armrests.

Korean Air first class seat controls

Then underneath the center armrests are the entertainment controllers.

Korean Air first class entertainment controls

The tray table, which can be folded over in half, is also located in the center armrest.

Korean Air first class tray table

Also underneath the center armrest were two 110v outlets.

Korean Air first class power outlets

There’s a small privacy shield that can be extended between seats for more privacy, though it by no means gives you full privacy, though it’s better than nothing. There are also reading lights and USB outlets in this area.

Korean Air first class privacy partition

Note that Korean Air doesn’t have individual air nozzles on their A330s.

Already waiting at my seat on boarding were the menu and wine list for the flight.

Korean Air first class menu & wine list

Also in the literature pocket were a pair of slippers and a shoe bag.

Korean Air first class slippers

There was a plush pillow and a fleece blanket at my seat, which were fine for the short flight.

Korean Air first class pillow & blanket

As soon as I settled in, the flight attendant taking care of me introduced herself and familiarized me with the seat. She asked me what I’d like to drink, and I ordered a glass of champagne. I was also asked if I wanted some nuts.

A few minutes later I was brought a glass of rose champagne (Perrier-Jouet Blason Rose) and some macadamia nuts. It’s strange that the only champagne Korean Air serves on short-haul flights is rose.

Korean Air first class champagne & macadamia nuts

I was then also offered Bose headphones.

Korean Air first class Bose headphones

The boarding process was efficient, and was completed within 15 minutes. First class had just three of six seats occupied. I really don’t mind the 2-2-2 configuration if I have an empty seat next to me (as all three of us did on this flight), but I’d feel differently if I had a seatmate in international first class.

Around this time the cabin manager came around and welcomed aboard all three of us. A minute later her colleague came by to take my lunch order.

After that the safety video was screened, and then at 12:10PM we began our pushback, among a sea of Cathay Pacific and Cathay Dragon planes.

Cathay Pacific A330 Hong Kong Airport

Cathay Dragon A330 Hong Kong Airport

We taxied for about 10 minutes, and then just stood still. At 12:30PM the captain apologized for our delay due to congestion, and said that we were number five for takeoff, and should be departing in about 10 minutes. He also announced that the flight time should be 3hr15min.

United 777 Hong Kong Airport

At 12:40PM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 25L, right behind a United 777.

Taking off Hong Kong Airport

We had a quick takeoff roll, and hit a few bumps on the climb out. Within 10 minutes the seatbelt sign was turned off.

View after takeoff from Hong Kong

As we climbed out I took a look at the flight map for our journey.

Airshow enroute to Incheon

I also browsed the entertainment selection. Korean Air isn’t industry leading when it comes to entertainment — in this case there were a handful of TV shows and about 50 movies, which is alright, though not great.

Korean Air entertainment selection

Korean Air entertainment selection

Korean Air entertainment selection

The crew was very quick with getting started on the service, and the lunch service began just 15 minutes after takeoff.

The menu read as follows:

The drink list read as follows:

Service began with warm towels.

Korean Air first class warm towel

My table was then set, and I was brought another glass of champagne.

Korean Air first class Perrier-Jouet rose

Korean Air has some of the most elaborate meal services in first class of any airline out there. Perhaps most interesting is that they just assume you want their five plus course meal. I feel like on Etihad they look at you like you have two heads if you ask for more than a three course meal (maybe just because they know they’ll run out of food?), while on Korean Air they don’t even ask if you want everything, but rather just assume that you do.

To start I was served grilled beef and leek with Chinese XO sauce.

Korean Air first class lunch — amuse bouche

Next up was the appetizer, which consisted of marinated feta cheese covered with tomato jelly, crab meat stuffed tomato, and mango coulis.

Korean Air first class lunch — appetizer

Next up was a butternut cream soup.

Korean Air first class lunch — soup

Then I had a mixed green salad with tomato and mozzarella cheese with red wine shallot dressing.

Korean Air first class lunch — salad

For the main course I ordered the bibimbap. I realize you can only get so creative with bibimbap, though I do wish they’d mix it up a little bit sometimes.

Korean Air first class lunch — main course

This came with instructions, as usual.

Korean Air first class lunch — bibimbap instructions

Lastly there was dessert, which was served off a cart. I just wanted some fruit at that point, so had melon, kiwi, and pineapple.

Korean Air first class lunch — dessert

The meal was spectacular for a short flight, I thought. The food quality was great, and the service incredibly attentive. The other two passengers just slept the whole way, so I had two flight attendants taking care of just me.

I was hoping to get some sleep on this flight, so I was also grateful for the pace of the service. The entire meal service took only about an hour from start to finish, meaning I had over two hours left in the flight when the meal was done. At this point we were just passing Taipei.

Korean Air airshow

I was quite tired at this point given that I hadn’t slept much on my overnight Air Belgium flight, so I reclined my seat. I don’t think Korean Air’s A330 first class seats are quite flat, but rather there’s a slight angle. Even as someone who is generally sensitive to seat angles, I didn’t find this to be an issue at all, and was extremely comfortable.

Korean Air A330 first class bed

I woke up about 30 minutes before landing as we were starting our descent, and the captain provided updated arrival information. I quickly checked out the lavatory at the front of the cabin, which had a few amenities.

Korean Air first class lavatory A330

Korean Air first class lavatory amenities

The cabin was prepared for arrival about 20 minutes before landing, so I spent the rest of the flight looking out the window.

Airshow approaching Incheon

There was quite a bit of cloud coverage on approach, and I could tell the pilots were vectoring to avoid some of the weather.

Descending towards Incheon

Descending towards Incheon

Descending towards Incheon

We touched down at Incheon Airport at 4:50PM on runway 33R.

Final approach to Incheon

We had to taxi quite a distance to our arrival gate.

Taxiing Incheon Airport

Fortunately we were arriving at Terminal 2, which is Incheon’s newest terminal. I was quite excited about finally getting to see it.

Taxiing Incheon Airport

As we pulled into the gate there was a KLM 747 pushing back at the gate next to us, and we parked next to a Korean Air 777 in a special livery.

KLM 747 Incheon Airport

Korean Air 777 Incheon Airport

Korean Air A330 first class bottom line

Korean Air’s A330 first class hard product leaves a lot to be desired. While it was perfectly fine for a short flight with an empty seat next to me, I’d feel much different if traveling on a longhaul flight and I had a seatmate. It’s odd to me how they have the same seat in first and business class.

On the plus side, Korean Air really nails the soft product with excellent service and an elaborate meal. There’s so little variance in terms of the quality of Korean Air’s first class soft product, so I appreciate the consistency.

If you’ve flown Korean Air’s A330 first class, what was your experience like?

  1. @Lucky, the cloud-filled approach photos in this and the Air Belgium Business Class A340 Charleroi To Hong Kong reviews are really great!

  2. When I flew KE F HND-GMP/ICN-LAX earlier this year, the HND-GMP leg was similarly catered with a peculiar assortment of beverages; we had no rose champagne at all and only red wines. The FAs were super apologetic but offered no reason why all the choices on the wine menu weren’t available.

  3. Crazy that they use those seats in First. Those look exactly the same as their J seats on their A380. My biggest issue with Korean beside the hard product, is I feel they do the second meal service on the ICN-JFK route WAY too early. Korean’s service is so robotic you know eactly what to expect every time. There’s pros and cons to this. I much prefer Asiana in every regard. I love having the onboard bar with Korean, I’ve met some interesting people while mingling there. But it doesn’t make up for the robotic service, early second meal, and subpar hard product for me.

  4. “Yes, the below picture is of their business class seats.”

    The pic immediately below that is of first class (note oversized pillows).

  5. LH First Class passengers, conneting in Frankfurt to Cairo or TLV (same duration) would be really happy to have this hard product.

  6. I transfered 80k UR to book ATL -> HKG in the winter. You get 16 hours of 747-8 first class suite then 5 hours A380 to HKG. I think it’s a seasonal destination for the A380.

  7. What a joke! As a First Class expert, I must say Korean Air is clueless on what First Class class service means. Better stick to Japan Airlines or Cathay if you want to pay for real luxury and genuine professionalism.

  8. @Endre

    You clearly haven’t flown all of Korean Air’s first class products to say something like that. I guess they must be out of your price range.

  9. @Lucky
    “It’s odd to me how they have the same seat in first and business class.” Why are you surprised? KE did the same thing on their new 787s missing the opportunity to launch a fantastic F hard product. They seem to operate like an entitled family and I don’t think they do a lot research when deciding their cabins. Even their A380 F hard product is pretty poor by today’s standards.

  10. So what can one actually expect to differ from the soft product if taking business class Vs. first class on this plane? The champagne choice and may be more courses during meal time? But I think they also serve bibambap in business.

  11. @Michelle KE also do bibimbap in economy, it’s a signature thing in all classes. It’s been a long time but I remember the KE economy bibimbap being one of the best economy meals ever. One of the differentiators is that KE have their own organic farm to supply meat and vegetables for first and business class meals. Cranky Flyer did an article on it.

  12. Bibamfrickinbap. Every KAL flight. Like Malaysian’s long-ago ‘signature satay’ chicken skewers, novelty wears off by about segment three of a long-haul slog. A little more variety would kill the consultant celebrity chefs?

    That F hard product looks little better than the dated 2-3-2 biz seats on the A380 top deck though I always get good kip on the angled lie-flat bed. F is superb though the 748 F and J all aisle access layout has the so-private window seats.

    The bar I found soulless and it was hard to get service, or a seat after two drunks gave up on a loudly snoring companion and decamped to the back, sprawling over almost all the available sofa seating. Subsequent flights I’ve stayed in the seat.

  13. Oh my if you were alive in the golden age of flying. No private suites, no laptops. What would you do? Its amazing anyone survived flying first class because you had someone sitting next to you.

  14. @Lucky

    “Even as someone who is generally sensitive to seat angles, I didn’t find this to be an issue at all”

    I’ve read this on nearly all your recent reviews of an angled seat – but I don’t recall you ever mentioning about a poor sleep due to the angled seat and your sensitivity to it. Perhaps you’re not as sensitive to angled beds as you once thought!

  15. To think that A332 with same F-class seat served ICN-LAX-GRU back in 2014… and it still serves some of European/Australian destinations

  16. I think it is a great service for a regional flight. All you can have in a European flight is an economy seat with a smoked salmon salad…

  17. interestingly, that’s the exact same bibimbap they served me in Y about 5 years ago.

    @Marco Dupre

    Note that this is First class as opposed to Business Class. Still better though.

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