Review: Korean Air 777 First Class Tokyo Narita to Seoul Incheon

Filed Under: Korean Air, Travel

Korean Air 706
Tokyo (NRT) – Seoul (ICN)
Tuesday, February 11
Depart: 9:10AM
Arrive: 11:50AM
Duration: 2hr40min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-200
Seat: 2A (First Class)

I boarded through door 1L, where I was welcomed by two very charming flight attendants that directed me to my seat, 2A.

The first class cabin consists of a total of eight seats, spread across two rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. While the first class seats are fully flat, they’re angled slightly away from the aisle.

Per SeatGuru, here’s the seating chart for the first and business class cabins on the Korean Air 777-200:


It was a really solid “hard” product, especially for such a short flight to Seoul.

Korean Air 777-200 first class cabin

Frankly my biggest issue with the design was the color scheme they used, which is downright hideous.

Korean Air 777-200 first class cabin, seat 1A

I quickly settled into my seat and acquainted myself with it.

Korean Air 777-200 first class cabin, seat 2A

Korean Air 777-200 first class cabin, seat 2A

There was a fairly large pillow waiting at my seat, which I found to be the only thing in the cabin of a non-hideous color.

Korean Air 777-200 first class cabin, seat 2A

The seat had a large ottoman which could double as a “buddy seat,” and an open storage compartment below it.

Korean Air 777-200 first class cabin, seat 2A

Waiting in the storage compartment were some slippers.

Korean Air 777-200 first class slippers

Korean Air 777-200 first class cabin, seat 2A

Korean Air 777-200 first class cabin

To the left of the seat were the seat controls, along with the entertainment controls under a panel.

Korean Air 777-200 first class seat controls

Korean Air 777-200 first class entertainment controls

Below the entertainment controls was a small pouch where you could store books or newspapers. This is also where the power and USB ports were located.

Korean Air 777-200 first class power and USB port

Because the seats are at a slight angle to the plane, there’s a ton of “counter” space to the left of the seat, where you can easily store a bag during the flight. There’s also a fairly large compartment that pops up that could fit anything you might need during the flight.

Korean Air 777-200 first class storage

I took a quick peek at the business class cabin, which was in a 2-3-2 configuration and looked comfortable enough.

Korean Air 777-200 business class cabin

Once settled in I was offered a pre-departure beverage. I was finally looking forward to having a glass of champagne, after being “deprived” for two flights in a row on China Southern. 😉

However, unfortunately Korean Air doesn’t serve champagne on flights within North Asia. Drats!

So I had still water instead, which was served with macadamia nuts. The crew couldn’t have been friendlier or more attentive and polished, which was a welcome change after two flights on China Southern. Once I finished my water and nuts I was offered a refill. Mmmm, macadamia nuts…

Korean Air 777-200 first class pre-departure beverage

Boarding was efficient, and within about 20 minutes four other passengers took their seats in first class. In the end 1A, 1D, and 2E remained empty, meaning there was just one other person on “my” aisle of the plane. All the other passengers were Korean.

Around our scheduled departure time of 9:10AM the door closed and safety video started to play, though we didn’t move for a while. As the safety video began the crew “bowed,” which was entertaining because they had four flight attendants bowing for first class – one in each aisle for each row! That’s nearly a 1:1 bow to passenger ratio. Then again that doesn’t hold a candle to the bow to passenger ratio on my Seoul Incheon to Los Angeles flight — stay tuned for that. 😉

After the safety video the purser got on the PA to announce “we are removing snows from the plane for your safety.”

Nothing happened for about 30 minutes, at which point the deicing truck finally showed up. Given that the plane sat at Narita overnight, there was an unreal amount of snow and ice falling from the aircraft.

Narita Airport de-icing

Eventually the captain came on the PA as well to inform us we should be pushing back shortly, at this point almost an hour late. One cool thing to note is that as far as I could tell the captain was actually American. At least he spoke it with “perfect” American diction and a corresponding accent, and did begin his announcement in English with “folks,” so…

He informed us we would have a “really fast” flight time of 2hr10min, and apologized for the delay.

I was impressed that during the delay the crew did a beverage service in first class and also turned on the entertainment system.

Korean Air 777-200 first class pre-departure beverage

Korean Air 777-200 first class entertainment selection

At around 10:10AM we commenced our pushback and began our taxi to runway 34L. There was some pretty cool traffic on the taxi over there, including a KLM 747, Air France A380, ANA 777-300ER, NCA 747-8, etc.

Narita Airport KLM 747

Narita Airport Air France A380

Narita Airport ANA 777-300ER

Narita Airport NCA 747-8

At around 10:30AM we began our really quick takeoff roll on runway 34L, and must have been airborne within 20 seconds.

View after takeoff

Our climb out was smooth, and the views of the countryside covered in snow were awesome.

View after takeoff

Once through about 20,000 feet the captain came on the PA once again to say “cabin crew this is the captain, please remain seated due to turbulence.” Not sure if they were expecting something or what, but it was actually a pretty smooth flight.

View after takeoff

A few minutes later the seatbelt sign was turned off and service began. The crew first closed the curtains, and then came around with the menu.

The brunch menu read as follows:


And the wine list, which was in the seatback pocket throughout the flight, read as follows:

Champagne menu Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs

Champagne menu list

Sweet white wine menu

White wine menu

List of white wines on menu

Red wines on menu

List of red wines

Red wines on menu

I ordered the bibimbap for my main course, and it was delicious. I love Korean food, and for a two hour flight I thought it was the perfect meal. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not actually an expert at eating bibimbap so I probably looked like an idiot, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying it.

Korean Air first class bibimbap

Korean Air first class bibimbap

Korean Air first class bibimbap

Then for dessert I was offered some fruit, and ordered some tea to go along with it.

Korean Air first class fresh fruit for dessert

The other four Korean passengers all passed on brunch. They slept the whole way, but what I found odd is that they didn’t recline at all, but rather slept in the upright position. Kind of reminded me of my dad… except they weren’t enjoying za ambiance!

About an hour into the flight the meal service was done, though the crew still came by every 10 minutes or so to see if I wanted anything else to drink.

Korean Air first class airshow

Korean Air first class airshow

I worked on my laptop for most of the rest of the flight, and about 30 minutes out we began our descent into Seoul Incheon. The views of the Korean countryside were pretty cool, and about 10 minutes before landing the seatbelt sign was switched on.

View on descent into Seoul Incheon

View on descent into Seoul Incheon

We did hit a bit of chop on our final descent, though had a smooth touchdown on runway 16 at 12:35PM, about 45 minutes behind schedule.

View on final descent into Seoul Incheon

View on final descent into Seoul Incheon

Our taxi to the gate took about 10 minutes, and at roughly 12:45PM we arrived at the gate.

Seoul Incheon terminal

Seoul Incheon terminal

Korean Air 777 upon arrival at Seoul Incheon

I headed towards transit security and was looking forward to visiting the Korean Air First Class Lounge, given that I’ve only ever used the Asiana First Class Lounge in Seoul Incheon.

Bottom line

I was really impressed by Korean Air’s short-haul service. The crew was spectacularly friendly, attentive, and professional, and the food was perfect for a two hour flight. While I had always heard that Korean Air is “stylish,” I never heard amazing things about their service, so was very pleasantly surprised. I was even more excited to see what was awaiting me on the transpacific flight to Los Angeles!

How you can redeem miles for Korean Air first class

The best way to book Korean Air first class is through their own SkyPass program. Earlier in this series I wrote a post about how to redeem Korean Air SkyPass Miles for travel on Korean Air.

Korean Air SkyPass allows one way awards if traveling on Korean Air metal, and in this case charges the following mileage for award tickets:

  • Travel between Japan and Korea costs 32,500 SkyPass miles one-way for first class
  • Travel between North Asia (which includes Japan and Korea) costs 80,000 SkyPass miles one-way for first class, so you could book something like Tokyo Narita to Seoul Incheon to Los Angeles, like I did.

Lastly, it’s worth noting that while Delta partners with Korean Air, you can’t redeem Delta SkyMiles for international first class on Korean Air. Rather, business class is the highest cabin you can redeem for.

  1. Is it still difficult to book their awards, i seem to recall Gary having to use a fax machine and other difficulties when booking?

  2. @lucky For those of us that will likely never have the opportunity to fly first or business class on these flights, would you consider snapping a pic of the economy cabin? Thanks!

  3. I flew in business from ICN to BKK and back last year. The seats were coney enough for a shorter flight. And the service was outstanding in every way.

  4. Great service as expected from them, but that decor looks like it was intended for a “Hello Kitty” flight.

  5. Lucky, since I’m sure many people are expecting you to compare them…who has the worse color scheme, Korean or Asiana? 😉

  6. Next time you find yourself visit your parents in TPA, let me know, as that area has some of the best bibimbops in FL!

  7. I just transferred 80k miles into my SkyPass account (and a friend’s) and booked one-way first class HKG-ICN (stop) ICN-JFK. Flights are actually on hold until two days before departure in Jan 2015. All done very easily and quickly on their website. If you can create individual SkyPass accounts and are traveling on Korean Air, you can avoid all of the faxing, etc. and book everything online in minutes.

  8. “Hideous” is in the eye of the beholder. These color schemes, as well as similar hues of pink, blue and red, are extremely popular in Korea (and some other parts of Asia).

  9. Shanghai9:

    What do you mean by your flights are on hold (2) days before departure? Are you saying they aren’t confirmed?

  10. mileswhore:

    There was an option to reserve flights until two days before departure. I emailed Korean Airlines to confirm, which they did. The corresponding award space is also gone on their website (and expertflyer), so I feel confident that it’s being held. No miles were deducted and no payment info required.

  11. About the reclining, I never recline non lie flat seats… I’ve done economy JFK to SFO and JFK to HGK many times and slept many hours in the upright positions. As long as I have a window seat where I can rest my head against the side of the aircraft, I am fine.

  12. Interesting that the glasses appear to be basically normal sized. The most annoying thing about flying business class on KE was that all of the glassware was tiny; you basically got one gulp anytime you asked for a drink.

  13. I move that “bow-to-passenger ratio” be introduced as a new metric in the beginning part of TRs, right after “flight duration” 😛

  14. I’m a bit in a quandary over a future flight to South Africa. Would you do SFO-LAX-HKG-JNB on Cathay, or SFO-LAX-ICN-NBO on Korean? The flight to JNB on the latter itinerary would be issued separately, but we’d have 2 longhaul legs in first. The flight to JNB on CX would be in business, but to HKG would be in first.

    Thanks, Lucky.

  15. Korean Air is fantastic. Those are the slightly older seats, but still very comfortable.

    It is easy to book KE awards using Skypass miles for your own ticket. The issue is that Skypass only allows one to book awards for oneself or their family. They enforce this by asking one to submit family verification if you want to book a KE award for someone in your family. I haven’t had to do this because I have only booked awards for myself, but I would imagine and hope that the documentation would only need to be submitted once, then that family member would be added to the passenger drop down list within the online Skypass award booking engine.

  16. Lucky, did the bibimbap include an extra plate of grilled beef? I didn’t see it in the picture. When I ordered bibimbap in F ORD-ICN, they included an extra plate with grilled beef…just wondering if that is one of the differentiators for Bibimbap in F on short haul vs long haul.

  17. @ Sheena — Going forward I’ll do what I can to snap pictures of economy cabins. On short flights it can get a bit tricky since the cart is blocking the aisle for most of the flight, though I’ll do what I can!

  18. @ fred — Korean, Asiana, and ANA are all absolutely top notch airlines. The one thing worth noting about ANA is that for the most part they have a pretty crappy regional product. They don’t offer a first class product for intra-Asia flights, and a majority of their regional flights are operated by 767s with uncomfortable recliner seats.

    So it all depends on the route, but you can’t go wrong with any of them.

  19. @ Holly — While ICN-NBO would be in first class, it’s operated by an A330, where first class is in a 2-2-2 configuration. For that sector I would say that business class on Cathay Pacific is actually better than first class on Korean Air. So I’d go with Cathay Pacific in that case.

  20. @ Andy — In this case there was no extra plate with grilled beef… maybe because it was a shorthaul flight?

  21. Lucky – Nice to see such a gorgeous champagne being served. Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque is my favorite.

    Slight difference to the “champagne you were served on China Southen.

    Korean Air $500 champagne, China Southern $5!

  22. @ john — Amazing champagne no doubt, though sadly it’s only available on their routes to New York and Paris. 🙁

  23. Sorry Lucky i did not notice that. Hopefully you got to have Perrier Jouet Bella Epoque. That is still about $200 and a light champagne, handpainted bottle.

  24. @ John — I did indeed, though unfortunately only on the flight from Seoul to Los Angeles. They didn’t have any champagne on this flight, sadly.

  25. That’s terrible Lucky and you are getting a taste for it! p.s your friend was so spot on with his champagne list which you published a little while ago. I always have at least a couple of rows of champagne in the fridge and most of the list is in there.

  26. and I have spotted a mistake with my first post, sorry Lucky, sorry all. I meant Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque Blanc de Blanc 2002 is $500 and “normal” Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque is $200. Either way they are both lovely and the in the UK still pricey but worth it.

  27. @ Lucky – would you say that an under-appreciated part of your job is that you can’t just board a plane and go to sleep but must stay awake for the meal service(s) and document everything else?

    I’ve tried to imitate you and document my last trip (at friends & family’s request) but it wasn’t easy, especially on flights after crossing the Atlantic. Ended up falling asleep while waiting for food on ORD-IAH (UA F) and FAs didn’t wake me up even though I placed my order. Woke up with 40-45 minutes to go & it was too late to get anything, so had a bag peanuts/crackers/whatever to show for my UA flight which didn’t significantly improve my outlook on them (DirecTV was nice thou).

  28. Great report. I am kind of appalled at the fact that they serve Lipton tea (which is hideous). I wonder if they had any Korean tea or Korean green teas from Boseung.

  29. Thank you for your posting. Here i my country anyway.

    As you know, Skypass miles will be better for multiful routing.

    For example, NRT-ICN-KMG or NRT-ICN-DPS better than NRT-ICN or DPS-ICN etc, because of stopover permited each way and less seperated miles. Also. no penality for refundable and free change within 1 year.

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