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Korean Air A380 First Class Seoul Incheon to Los Angeles
Asiana first class is one of my favorite first class products out there. While most of their fleet features an old first class hard product, the food and service on Asiana are among the best I’ve received on any airline. I could hardly wait to see how Korean Air compared!
Korean Air 11
Seoul (ICN) – Los Angeles (LAX)
Tuesday, February 11
Aircraft: Airbus A380
Seat: 2A (First Class)
The A380 has three jet bridges — one upper deck jet bridge for business class, one lower deck jet bridge for economy class, and one lower deck jet bridge for first class. I took the one for first class, which let out at door 1L.
Korean Air’s A380 first class cabin consists of 12 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. Since the first class cabin is on the lower deck it’s a bit more spacious than on those airlines that put first class on the upper deck, given that the cabin itself is wider. To recap, of the airlines operating the A380, Air France, British Airways, China Southern, Malaysia, Qantas, and Singapore have first class on the lower deck, while Emirates, Lufthansa, and Thai have first class on the upper deck.
Here’s the Korean Air A380 first class seatmap, via SeatGuru:
Compared to other A380 first class products, Korean Air’s actually isn’t that snazzy or innovative. All 12 seats are “open,” so they’re not fully enclosed and don’t have any awesome gadgets or anything. As a result, the cabin does feel extremely spacious. And the seats do also have a good amount of privacy, given that there’s a shield that goes up between center seats, in addition to the “shells” around seats going up as well.
The center seats looked spacious as well, and actually pretty decent for people traveling together since you can actually easily communicate with one another.
I quickly took my seat, 2A, and started exploring it.
The seat had a large ottoman (it doesn’t double as a buddy seat, for what it’s worth), and under it was some “open” storage, so you could leave a laptop bag or shoes there, for example.
There’s a ton of space at the side of the seat. There’s both a huge “armrest,” as well as a huge “gap” along the side of the plane by the window.
To the right of the seat are the seat controls, which are intuitive. That’s also where the controls are for raising or lowering the “shield” around your seat.
Also to the right of the seat was a storage compartment for magazines and glasses.
Then to the left of the seat were the entertainment controls.
I had noticed all along a massive “faucet” looking thing along the side of the seat. I figured my dream had finally come true — Emirates might have a minibar at your suite, but maybe Korean has a Diet Coke with lime (or maybe Krug?) fountain? I mean, surely that’s the only explanation for such a massive, ugly fixture at each seat, no?
Yeah, nope, it was just a reading light. And a really weak one at that. Don’t get me wrong, it didn’t actually bother me, I just don’t get why. It’s not well placed for reading, it’s massive, and it’s not exactly a decorative piece.
So yeah, as far as I’m concerned this is one of the world’s most oddly placed onboard seat features.
Behind the reading light was even more storage space, which the seat had no shortage of!
Then in front of the reading light was the biggest storage unit of them all.
The crew gave me my space as I was taking pictures, but once settled in they warmly approached me and welcomed me aboard. I could tell almost immediately it would be a great flight.
I was offered a bunch of amenities, including Bose headphones, an amenity kit, slippers, and pajamas.
The amenity kit was Davi branded, and featured hand & body cream, eye gel, after shave lotion, lip balm, face cream, eyeshades, and a toothbrush set. That’s a great amenity kit, as far as I’m concerned.
The pajamas were made by Gianfranco Ferre. They were extremely soft and high quality, possibly among the most comfortable I’ve received on any airline.
They even had a quote on the back of them that almost made sense after a few glasses of champagne… I think?
After being offered the amenities I was offered a glass of champagne…. ah, champagne! After three champagne-less flights I was quite looking forward to this one. They served Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque 2006, which was really great.
As a sidenote, if you want a truly spectacular champagne experience, fly Korean Air to New York or Paris, as they serve Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs 2002 on those routes. For more information on which airlines serve the best champagne, check out the post my friend Matt wrote a few weeks ago.
I know this probably sounds silly to some, but I just loved the delicacy and precision with which the flight attendant served. She was very graceful in all her movements, from the way she set down napkins and glasses, to the way she poured champagne.
I was offered macadamia nuts along with my champagne.
About 10 minutes after I boarded one other first class passenger arrived, and he was seated in seat 2J, on the other side of the aircraft. He was an immaculately dressed middle-aged Korean guy, and even wearing a suit with a tie.
I quickly changed into pajamas before departure, and as I emerged from the lavatory one of the flight attendants was standing there waiting with a clothes hanger. When I mentioned that I could hang the clothes myself, she said “allow me.” Now that’s service!
Before pushback I was offered several refills of champagne. I’m not sure how many glasses I had exactly, though I did hear two corks pop before takeoff, so I did okay, I think…
At 2:55PM the captain came on the PA to welcome us aboard and advise us of our flight time of 10hr40min, which he anticipated would get us into Los Angeles right on schedule. While the captain on my last Korean Air flight was American as far as I could tell, this one was Korean.
As we pushed back the safety video began to play, and as seems to be the norm on Korean Air, the flight attendants bowed shortly before it began. There were two passengers in first class. How many flight attendants were lined up to bow for the two of us? Six! That’s a 3:1 bow to passenger ratio. I challenge any airline to beat that. The next time I have a 1:1 bow to passenger ratio I’ll just be shaking my head in disappointment. 😉
Anyway, our takeoff runway was 33L, which was literally a 30 second taxi from our gate.
We quickly found ourselves at runway 33L, and at 3:15PM were airborne after a long takeoff roll.
As we rocketed off the American 777 had just landed a few minutes prior and was taxiing past us.
The views were gorgeous on the climb out, as it was a beautiful day, seemingly without a cloud in the sky.
Less than five minutes after takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off and the crew began their service, starting with distributing menus and the wine list. In this case there was a Western Menu, Korean Menu, and wine list.
After giving me a few minutes to review the menu, the flight attendant returned to take my order. The western dinner menu read as follows:
And the brand new Korean menu read as follows:
Meanwhile the wine list read as follows:
While most of the crew didn’t speak English very well (as I’ve often also found to be the case on Asiana), “my” flight attendant spoke English the best of anyone in the crew I interacted with. I assume that was by design, in which case kudos to them.
I asked her for a recommendation as to which menu was better, and I appreciated that she gave a direct answer and said “I think you should try the Korean menu.” She explained what each dish was in great detail, and said that if I didn’t like it I could always take the western option later.
She quickly set my table, and then offered me the starter, which consisted of marinated apple in pomegranate with garlic cream cheese stuffed prosciutto ham.
I thought it was cute that the napkins were A380-specific.
Next my table was set with great precision, and I was offered bread from the breadbasket. I chose some baguette as well as a Korean rice roll, per the flight attendant’s recommendation.
The Korean meal began with cold seafood with mulberry yogurt sauce. Not only was it beautifully presented, but it was delicious.
Next I was served the black rice and walnut porridge. It was mild yet tasty, different than anything I’d usually order.
Next the flight attendant came around with the salad cart. Korean Air does salad better than any other airline. Hands down. I mean, I think the cart speaks for itself.
As I mentioned earlier I loved how delicate and deliberate the flight attendant was in her service. She added each additional item to the salad so carefully and deliberately. Like, she wouldn’t just take a tong worth of cucumbers and throw it on the salad, but rather she placed them on the salad one by one, as if there were specific salad zoning regulations she was trying to comply with. Simply spectacular!
I was actually happy that the main course wasn’t a traditional bibimbap, since I just had bibimbap on the previous flight from Tokyo to Seoul. But the main was just great. The salmon with spicy sauce was especially good.
After that the flight attendant rolled around the cheese and fruit cart. I was full at this point, so saved my little remaining appetite for dessert.
For dessert I ordered tiramisu with ice cream. It was perfect, from the taste to the presentation.
I finished off the meal with a cappuccino.
Everything about the meal was perfect — the taste, the service, and the pace at which it was served. The flight attendant couldn’t have been more friendly and engaged. With each course she asked how it tasted, and my glass was never more than half empty.
The meal service was done about two hours after takeoff, at which point turndown service had already proactively been taken care of. The flight attendant turned seat 1A into a bed for me, so that I would have 2A for lounging.
At that point I decided to roam the plane for a bit. One thing worth noting is that Korean Air has by far the spacious A380s of any airline, thanks to all the onboard amenities. Their A380s have a total of 407 seats. As a point of comparison, here’s how many seats other airlines have on their A380s:
- Air France: 516 seats
- British Airways: 469 seats
- China Southern: 506 seats
- Emirates: 489 seats
- Lufthansa: 526 seats
- Malaysia: 494 seats
- Qantas: 484 seats
- Singapore: 471 seats
- Thai: 507 seats
They literally have 62 fewer seats than the next less dense A380. Crazy, huh?
In front of the first class cabin on the right they have a bar setup with a pretty cool liquor and martini glass display.
It’s worth noting that Korean Air has a single first class bathroom, on the left side in front of the first class cabin. That wasn’t an issue at all with just two passengers, though with a full cabin that’s an unacceptable ratio, in my opinion. It’s also worth noting that I never saw the crew use the first class lavatory, and it was always in good condition.
Between the bar and the bathroom is the staircase to the upper deck, which is dedicated exclusively to business class.
In the forward part of the upper deck are two couches with seating for four. There’s another pretty snazzy bar and liquor/martini glass setup.
Then on the left side of the forward part of the upper deck is a large lavatory.
The upper deck has a total of three cabins, all of which are business class. Seats are fully flat and in a 2-2-2 configuration, with a total of 94 seats.
So the most impressive part of the business class cabin is the rear bar, which puts the Emirates A380 bar (or any other onboard bar, for that matter) to shame, in my opinion. They call it the “Celestial Lounge,” and it’s sponsored by Absolut, so they serve a variety of aviation themed Absolut Vodka cocktails.
It’s kind of funny, as I was walking around the upper deck I got some weird looks from the crew. The business class cabin wasn’t especially full, so I think they were a bit confused as to where I came from, since they didn’t recognize me. Seemingly out of nowhere the first class flight attendant taking care of me the whole flight appeared on the upper deck and had a word with the crew. From thereon out I was treated like royalty by the upper deck flight attendants.
As I got to the bar and started taking pictures they tried to be as proactive as possible. They asked if I wanted my picture taken, they insisted on turning up the lights so I could get better pictures, etc.
The seatbelt sign was turned on as I was at the bar, so I decided to have a seat there, since they have seatbelts. I sat there for about 15 minutes, and was offered a cocktail no fewer than five times.
Eventually the seatbelt sign was turned off, so I took the spiral staircase down the rear of the aircraft to the lower deck.
The cool features aren’t just limited to business class passengers — on the lower deck Korean Air has a duty free display. It’s quite possibly simultaneously the most awesome and useless thing ever!
Between the bars, lounges, and displays, I couldn’t help but wonder how much work it must be on each flight to set everything up — yowzers!
I walked through the economy cabin back to first class, and it actually looked fairly spacious. The aisles were wide and seat pitch was good.
Once back at my seat I headed straight to bed, and woke up just about 90 minutes out of Los Angeles.
While I didn’t partake in it, for reference the “refreshment” menu read as follows:
As soon as the flight attendant saw I woke up she came by my seat with a glass of orange juice and some facial spray. She said “I trust you slept well, sir.”
Shortly thereafter the breakfast service began. The menu read as follows:
My table was quickly set, and I couldn’t help but be impressed by Korean Air’s breakfast service. They have more than a handful of cereal choices, including Lucky Charms, Apple Jacks, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. How awesome is that?
As I said earlier in the review, one of the most impressive parts of the service was the attention to detail. You know how most airlines serve yogurt directly out of the container? Even airlines like Cathay Pacific and Singapore do it. Well, not Korean Air.
The flight attendant presented me with multiple types of yogurt to choose from (in their containers), and once I selected strawberry yogurt she “spooned” it into a bowl. Not only that, but she had garnishes for the yogurt, including toasted almonds, raisins, and dried cranberries.
I know at times the things that make me happy are a bit ridiculous, but I thought it was just such amazing attention to detail and such a cool little touch.
For the main course I had chive scrambled eggs. They were phenomenal.
Lastly I was served some fruit, including apple and melon.
After breakfast the flight attendant brought me some omija punch. She said “since you enjoyed the Korean dinner, I wanted you to try this.” Omija punch is “five flavor tea,” and the taste was just… wow.
It’s that kind of proactive service that differentiate airlines in first class, in my opinion.
About 30 minutes out of Los Angeles we began our descent, and I changed back into my jeans and t-shirt and packed my bags. As we began our final descent into Los Angeles the two person first class crew came by twice to thank me for flying Korean Air.
Our descent was smooth, and shortly before 9AM we touched down on runway 24R at LAX.
Our taxi to the gate was exceedingly long, almost 15 minutes. After the crew finished their announcements they played music in the cabin, starting with “Hello Seattle” by “Owl City.” Not what I’d expect to hear as boarding music on a Korean airline (or any airline for that matter).
At 9:15AM we pulled into Bradley International Terminal right next to a China Eastern A340-600. Hmmm, inspiration for my next trip report? 😉
Korean Air A380 first class was phenomenal. The seat itself might not be the most private out there and the color scheme might be pretty “bleh,” but the cabin felt spacious. And with only two passengers in first class I almost prefer an open cabin to one with enclosed suites. For what it’s worth the entertainment selection was also quite good, though I didn’t watch any movies on this flight.
Everything else about the Korean Air A380 experience was perfect, from the food to the service to the awesome onboard amenities. This definitely ranks as one of my best first class flights, so as far as I’m concerned Korean Air is in the “big leagues” when it comes to their first class product.
I’m quite looking forward to trying Asiana’s A380 between Los Angeles and Seoul Incheon a bit later this year, even though it’s configured with nearly 100 more seats than Korean Air’s.
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. Travel between North America and North Asia costs 80,000 SkyPass miles one-way for first class, so for that price you could book something like Tokyo Narita to Seoul Incheon to Los Angeles, like I did. A380 first class award space on Korean Air is phenomenal, possibly the most readily available first class product for transpacific awards.
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.