Review: Korean Air First Class Lounge Seoul Incheon

Filed Under: Korean Air, Travel

Upon deplaning I headed towards transit security, where there was a lengthy queue. Since my inbound flight from Tokyo Narita was late and there were lots of passengers with short connections, they were all allowed to cut the queue, which was understandable.

Within about 15 minutes I cleared security and headed towards the Korean Air First Class Lounge.

Seoul Incheon terminal

Seoul Incheon terminal

The first class lounge is located in the central part of the terminal, just past the immigration checkpoint. So it was just a very short walk from the transit security checkpoint.

Seoul Incheon terminal

The lounge is located on the upper level, near the transit hotel and some other lounges.

Seoul Incheon entrance to Korean Air First Class Lounge

Seoul Incheon upper level

The First Class Lounge can be accessed via a walkway which takes you above the concourse of the terminal.

Korean Air First Class Lounge entrance

Korean Air First Class Lounge entrance

At the entrance I was welcomed by a friendly agent along with a fairly large A380 model — neat!

Korean Air First Class Lounge entrance

As a point of reference, my previous first class lounge experience at Seoul Incheon has been with the Asiana First Class Lounge. While it’s not a spectacular lounge by any means, it’s spacious and private, given that it’s a large lounge and Asiana only has a few flights featuring a first class cabin. So I was curious to see how the Korean Air Lounge compared.

Well, the Korean Air Lounge was substantially bigger, with plenty of seating. It features tons of seating and really had more of a business class lounge feel to it than anything. Also, while it was far from crowded, it did feel much busier than the Asiana First Class Lounge, which I’ve never seen occupied by more than a handful of people or so.

Korean Air First Class Lounge

Korean Air First Class Lounge seating

Korean Air First Class Lounge seating

The lounge had a sparsely furnished TV/dining room… I’m not sure which it was meant to be.

Korean Air First Class Lounge seating

Korean Air First Class Lounge seating

Korean Air First Class Lounge seating

Korean Air First Class Lounge seating

Korean Air First Class Lounge seating

Korean Air First Class Lounge seating

Korean Air First Class Lounge seating

Korean Air First Class Lounge seating

In addition to tons of lounge seating there was also a small room with three massage chairs.

Korean Air First Class Lounge massage chairs

The lounge did boast some pretty awesome views of the tarmac, with good views of the runway in the background.

View from Korean Air First Class Lounge

Having hotels cater airline lounges seems to be the new “thing” lately. For example, the Cathay Pacific Wing in Hong Kong is catered by the Peninsula Hotel. The Korean Air First Class Lounge, on the other hand, is catered by the Hyatt Regency Incheon. Hmm…

Korean Air First Class Lounge Hyatt Regency catering

In terms of the lounge’s catering, they had a cooler with Haagen-Dazs ice cream. Let me take that a step further — they had Haagen-Dazs macadamia nut ice cream, which is quite possibly the most delicious 10.6 ounces on earth. So as far as I’m concerned they get a perfect score on catering for that alone. šŸ˜‰

Korean Air First Class Lounge ice cream

In all honesty, the food spread was good but not amazing. There was a decent selection, though nothing “first class” about it.

In terms of cold options they had fruit, veggies, cheese, finger sandwiches, sweets, and salad.

Korean Air First Class Lounge buffet

Korean Air First Class Lounge buffet

Korean Air First Class Lounge buffet

Korean Air First Class Lounge buffet

Korean Air First Class Lounge buffet

Korean Air First Class Lounge buffet

Korean Air First Class Lounge buffet

They also had a handful of hot dishes which looked edible, though I was saving my appetite for the flight.

Korean Air First Class Lounge buffet

Then there was a cappuccino and espresso machine, fridge with soft drinks, and a self serve bar with wine and booze.

Korean Air First Class Lounge coffee machine

Korean Air First Class Lounge fridge

Korean Air First Class Lounge wine selection

Korean Air First Class Lounge booze selection

At around 2:15PM I decided to leave the lounge and make the five minute walk to gate 10, where my flight to Los Angeles would be departing from.

Seoul Incheon terminal

Gate 10 — departure gate to Los Angeles

Gate 10 — departure gate to Los Angeles

I was like a kid in a candy store when I saw the Korean Air A380 whale jet waiting at the gate!

Korean Air A380

Korean Air A380

I’m always amused by how many gate agents the average flight seems to have in Asia. I mean, the picture below speaks for itself, I think.

Gate 10 — departure gate to Los Angeles

At around 2:30PM boarding began, starting with first class.

Gate 10 — departure gate to Los Angeles

Anyway, as far as the Korean Air First Class Lounge goes, it felt more like a nice business class lounge than a first class lounge. It lacked any special amenities, an amazing food selection, servers, etc. It certainly can’t even begin to compete with some of the best airport lounges in the world, like the Air France First Class Lounge Paris, Emirates A380 First Class Lounge in Dubai, Lufthansa First Class Terminal in Frankfurt, or Thai Airways First Class Lounge & Spa in Bangkok. But it certainly wasn’t a bad lounge either…

  1. The reason Hyatt Incheon caters KAL Lounge is that Korean Air also owns and operates Hyatt Incheon dba Hyatt. I can certainly see lacks. I always wonder myself how much it would cost having a dedicated chef in the lounge. Perhaps, with my greedy, KAL could consider having a sushi master and a talented chef in both Korean and Western to serve fresh meal upon request. Certainly, they need to upgrade a dining area for sure BTW.

  2. When my wife and I went through ICN last year we were totally disappointed in this lounge. They have a limited number of shower rooms and it took 30 minutes for them to find someone to clean up one of them for us to use. I’m pretty sure much of our disappointment stemmed from the fact that we just came from the Thai FC lounge.

  3. My wife and I visited the F lounge a few weeks ago. We found it underwhelming. We planned to have dinner there so we could sleep more on our flight to SYD, but the food didn’t look very appetizing. We did make a meal out of bread, cheese, fruit and the Haagen-Dazs ice cream.

  4. How would you compare it to the Asiana lounges?

    In my experience, the ICN lounges look nice, but have pretty weak amenities. The airport itself is so nice and has so many things to do, the lounge almost feels like a waste. For example, there’s a great spa at the airport, the movie theater that’s land-side, a number of nice restaurants and other areas, that the lounges are somewhat disappointing.

    Probably my favorite ICN lounge was the Oz lounge on the remote terminal, probably because every other time I’ve passed through ICN, the lounges have been very crowded.

    A couple of photos from the lounge I’m talking about are at:

  5. Asiana First Lounge has the macadamia nut ice cream too!! That, plus a chaser of Johnnie Walker Blue, helped me ignore the two folks wearing F pajamas in the lounge at 8:30am.

  6. KAL First is a very mediocre business class lounge. I much preferred Asiana First lounge which has a cozier feel, cook-to-order noodle bar and a private chef.

  7. @ Dylan — Haven’t been to the lounge in the remote terminal, I’ll have to check it out next time. Ultimately I do think the Asiana first class lounge is nicer. It’s not an amazing lounge by any means, but I did find it to have a better food spread and be slightly more elegant.

  8. @Lucky – the engraved luggage tag is a souvenir, it was strange though putting my SkyPass FF# on it and stranger still having them do it with 0 miles in my account šŸ™‚

  9. Just curious lucky, what camera do you use for your pictures when traveling? Or do you use your cell phone?


  10. was at ICN last week & visited OZ bus lounge, nice seating and ambiance deco like a library, liked it a lot. my 1st time in Korea, stayed at sheraton songdo, walked in central park and ngc. great refreshing air like in an oxygen bar, clean & uncrowded streets. have to go back.

  11. looks decent. i love ICN because even without lounge access, there are some really peaceful and comfortable lounge areas for all passengers. i recall taking a nap on a super comfy chaise for one of my 6+ hour layovers a few years ago.

  12. So final verdict, Lucky, this lounge or ANA? It’s rare to have 2 major airlines in the same country outside the US, so just curious to see which of the 2 Korean airlines trump the other…

  13. @ wwk5d — ANA? Or Asiana? I’d say Asiana definitely has a better lounge. ANA doesn’t have a lounge at Incheon as far as I know.

  14. Yes, Lucky. Many people did not know that at First Lounge souvenir. Gold or Silver color with name and Skypass number or telephone number.

  15. @ Lucky – perhaps, I missed it, but how was Wi-Fi there? Also, did they have a business center with some PCs and was it closed off (quieter)?

  16. I think I’d take the OZ J lounge over that – super stylish, with varied and interesting seating areas, though the food options don’t compare with SKL or the Wing or even NH noodle bar at NRT.

    Interesting that while the Korean airlines have such amazing food and service, their hub lounges lag pretty far behind the competition.

  17. @Kacee

    For what it is worth, based on Lucky’s reviews, most airlines in Asia that offer a top notch first class service in the air seem to have a good but not great first class lounge, with Thai being the exception (and ironically, their on board services are underwhelming compared to their Asian rivals).

  18. The KL first lounge at ICN looks very similar to the business (prestige) lounge – perhaps a but more space around each seat.

    Food and beverages appear to be slightly better.

  19. @ Ivan Y — Great question, sorry I didn’t mention it. The wifi was okay. Not super fast, but not slow either. I actually didn’t see a business center, which is a bit odd.

  20. No one has mentioned the ICN lounge with the best food, the private Hub Lounge with two locations in the main terminal, accessible with Diners Club and Priority Pass. Among the choices are decent bulgogi and piles of rambutans. They are basic rooms but do have the massage chairs.

    I have not been in the first lounges, only the business. Asiana is stylish but weak food. Korean is slightly better food but less stylish (the Korean lounge in the satellite terminal is really weak, feels a bit like a weak Air France lounge).

  21. I have been flying for over 50 years. There was a time when a hot meal was served, a 4 pack of Winston cigarettes and 2 miniatures of alcoholic beverages was on each tray. If you flew across the USA and your flight was not direct , a split flight , you would get a double meal, 4 more smokes, and 2 more miniatures. You could change from airline to airline without penalty and this was before deregulation.

    I have used the first class and the business lounger at Incheon. The last time a year ago, it was the first class lounge, nearly empty, so so food selection, great alcoholic and beer selection, quiet comfort. The business lounger was more crowded and actually more fun with happy people trying to stuff themselves with free food.

    The first class lounge is good and I have a 5 hour layover so I will spend a good deal of time there.

    Airline travel has changed. United (my carrier) has comfortable seats in the 777 first cabin but on the 747, its like being in a dark tomb downstairs. I have not flown in the upper cabin.

    Service in general is poor. This is what the public wants and gets. Champagne taste but soda water budgets. On USA cross country flights, no more hot towels, no more meal service, no cover for the back of the seat to keep somebody’s hair grease off your head, and before all the earphones were gathered up at the end of the flight. They were packed and cleaned and put into a plastic bag before they were given to you. Now its Ear Wax City and nobody knows what other fungus is growing on them.

    The sad thing is that everybody is flying these days. There really isn’t any class distinction. Downstairs keeps on coming upstairs and tossing cigarette butts and beer cans everywhere while wearing flip flops and short sleeved t shirts to show off their tats. Its now called, Slobbus Internationalus Rex. I am a quiet, non descript person, but still part of that 1% referred to by Occupy.

    Let them eat cake she supposedly said, I say let them eat their young if they can’t stop breeding nor afford food.

  22. Hi Lucky – I’ll be flying JFK-ICN in KE first class this weekend. Will I be able to use the KE lounges at ICN upon arrival? (I do not have a connecting flight – ICN is my final destination.) Thanks!

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