Korean Air 012
Los Angeles (LAX) – Seoul Incheon (ICN)
Wednesday, July 22, 2015
Arrive: 4:15AM (Friday, July 24, 2015)
Duration: 12 hours 45 minutes
Aircraft: Airbus A380
After a rather disappointing lounge visit to Korean Air’s facility, it was time to board our A380, our First Class Kosmo Suite, as they call it, to Seoul! Their paltry lounge couldn’t quell my excitement for the main event. This would mark our 4th A380 flight! Our first was coming home from Europe in Lufthansa Business Class, our second was JFK-DXB on Emirates First Class, and our third was DXB-BKK on Emirates First Class. Interestingly enough, all three of those A380 premium cabins were configured to be on the top floor of the A380. Korean Air puts their First Class product on the bottom floor, which allows for a wider cabin.
We began the trek from the lounge all the way to the end of the concourse. I wish they let us board directly from the lounge, a la Emirates, but it was nice to walk that concourse late at night. There were so many interesting carriers flying to interesting places on huge airplanes. It really was a planespotter’s paradise, as well as a reminder that there were still so many award redemptions for us to aspire to.
We finally made it to the Korean Air gate, and while I couldn’t get a side shot of the plane due to our angle, I was able to capture the beauty head-on. I don’t think the baby blue colored Korean Air livery is the pinnacle of design, but it sure did look nice at night. Boarding was already well underway for our flight, and we were able to utilize the separate jetbridge for first class and business class passengers.
The best way to describe the cabin is with video. I uploaded a video overview combining our two Korean Air First Class flights a few days ago, and it’s embedded below.
As we boarded, we were individually greeted and shown to our seats by the flight attendants. I thought it was cute that these quaint, Korean ladies wanted to do the heavy lifting and put our luggage in the overheard bins. Please, ladies… I know I’m in first class, but chivalry ain’t dead. I got this. On the note of overhead bins, I like that they exist. Emirates configures their First Class A380 cabin with no overhead bin, pushing you to put your baggage in the space in front of you. I like to travel with a carry-on and a personal item. I want the carry-on archived away, and I want the personal item easily accessible.
They thanked me for putting the luggage up, and I snapped some shots of the cabin. I’m not sure how I feel about the Korean Air color scheme. I think much like the outside paint job of their planes, you either love it or you hate it. It has grown on me… Daniel refers to the whole thing as a “hospital plane,” and I could see that. It certainly has that sterile kind of look. It’s much more of a minimalist style, totally opposite from Emirates.
In the first cabin shot, that sloping roof is actually the front A380 staircase. The seats are in a 1-2-1 configuration, and there are 3 rows. While I prefer the style of suite that has doors to enclose it, one great feature of the Korean Air configuration is how large and open it makes the cabin feel. This cabin is a claustrophobe’s best friend.
And when you hop into your seat, the feeling of spaciousness doesn’t go away. In fact, I think this is the widest first class seat I have ever been in. Heck, there was enough room for my wife and I to both sit together in there!
I could sprawl out, and there was plenty of room next to me. And in terms of length, I’m 5’10”, and my feet could barely reach the footrest.
The sparse design that makes the Korean Air configuration a bit boring actually serves to make the seat super comfy, though. Instead of having niceties like flowers, lamps, writing kits, and mini bars, there is a big seat without much else in the way.
The bottom line is that you’re not going to be giddy exploring your seat, as there isn’t too much to explore, but once you get past that mild disappointment, you realize that you’re incredibly comfortable, have a huge amount of space, and a large 23″ screen in front of you to enjoy in-flight entertainment. There is one part of the seat that I find silly, though. It’s the reading light.
I think it looks like a water faucet, and it’s an eyesore! It doesn’t fit with the minimalist design in the cabin. If I were the designer of this cabin, I would have integrated that into the headrest somehow.
The seat controls are fairly basic, with buttons for reclining in all sorts of ways and turning the seat into a bed. There’s also a controller to control the in-flight entertainment, which is necessary considering how far away the screen is. The screen does say it’s a touch screen, but if I can’t touch it with my toes, how am I going to be able to touch that with my fingers? And while there aren’t suite doors on this plane, there are controls to raise the partition. The seat already offers a good amount of privacy, and raising the partition gives even more. If you’re sitting in one of the middle two seats, there is a movable partition on each side.
The flight attendants came by to drop off my amenity kit, noise canceling headphones, and pajamas; she asked if I would like a beverage and nuts to start. Nuts… as in… nut-rage nuts!?! How could I resist?? I wanted champagne, but she told me I could only have that after take-off. Odd. I’m not sure about that, but fine… Coke Light, please.
I took some time to peruse the menu. It’s worth noting that Korean Air deems this to be a “supper” service, rather than full dinner. It’s still essentially a full meal, but there are less courses. If you take this midnight flight, you’ll miss out on an appetizer and a dessert. Do you care? Maybe. I didn’t. We still got caviar, at least! I decided to go with the first option, Korean beef.
And before I knew it, the plane started to rumble, and we were taking off. It was midnight, and I was getting sleepy. This supper service would be perfect, as I was anxious to get to sleep. Speaking of sleep, I love the midnight west coast departures to Asia. Leaving at midnight gets you to Asia early in the morning, 4:30AM in the case of this flight to Seoul, and it allows you 13 hours of pure darkness. Even if some jerk opens his window shade, it won’t wake the cabin up. If you’re looking to pick a time based on maximizing service, then don’t pick a midnight flight, but if you want to give yourself the best chance of arriving well rested at your destination, I definitely recommend it.
Pretty soon the flight attendants were there to set my table, and they took care to make a very beautiful, full place setting. They also decided to drop the bomb on me that they didn’t have Korean beef on this flight. There were only three passengers in first class, and I know my wife got the soup, and the other passenger got the seafood. Are you really telling me that you didn’t stock a single dish of beef? That was pretty disappointing. I was certainly annoyed, but oh well – I wouldn’t let this spoil my flight. I was ready for some caviar.
I really don’t know much about caviar, but I enjoyed this serving of it, even if it wasn’t as good in flavor or in preparation / condiments as on Emirates.
After the caviar, it was time for my dumpling soup. My wife loved hers. I thought it was a bit bland. Meal service wrapped up fairly quickly, which I appreciated, as I was getting about ready to hit the sack. While I only have a sample size of one flight, I think the takeaway here is that if you take this midnight flight with supper service, as opposed to full dinner, you might be underwhelmed by the food offerings. Just manage your expectations accordingly. I was surprised to not see the traditional Korean bibimbap on the menu.
Before I was ready to hit the sack, i wanted to explore the plane a bit. Korean Air’s A380 actually has THREE bars / lounge areas onboard. Let me show you…
If you walk to the front of the first class cabin, just beyond the curtains, there’s a first class bar. This bar is self serve, and the options are pretty minimal. You can make yourself a basic mixed drink, have some almonds, or savor some anchovie crackers. I decided to pass. Just next to that bar, the stairs lead up to the second floor, which is entirely business class, and it includes one self serve bar with lounge area as well as Korean Air’s signature “celestial bar,” which is located in the rear of the upper deck.
When you get to the top of the stairs, on the right there are a couple lavatories and to the left is the lounge area with self serve bar. This bar offered the same selection of drinks and snacks, with the addition of beef jerky as well. Beef jerky? Yeah… I’m not sure why this is there, but it is. Katy and I went up there for a few minutes, but I seriously couldn’t figure a reason to stay. There’s no waitress / drink service, the seats aren’t as comfy as the business / first class seats, and the food / drink options are weak. Four seats in a row isn’t exactly conducive to having a conversation either. The bottom line is that airlines are trying to be creative with the “dead space” to either side of the stairwell. Let me tell you – Emirates had it right by putting a shower there! After instantly getting bored, we walked to the back of the plane to check out the celestial bar.
I think that If you’re going to have a bar on the plane, you need to make sure the culture of your company is up to the task of making it fun. Take Virgin Atlantic as an example. They have a bar on the plane, complete with bar stools, and it’s a fun place to meet passengers. There’s an attendant there ready to make drinks and chat you up. On Emirates, when you go to the bar, they make you feel like it’s a party as soon as you arrive. There’s a huge variety of drinks, there are multiple attendants staffing it, and they offer you drinks right away. Once you’ve had a drink or two, they offer to take pictures of you behind the bar. It’s a blast! The Korean Air bar is just a bit stale… Once we arrived to the bar, the flight attendant stood obediently behind the bar, waiting for us to ask for a drink. I looked through the drink menu, which is basically just an advertisement for Absolut, and I got bored. It was time to hit the sack, anyways. Back to the front of the cabin and down the stairs to first class we went, but here’s a picture of the business class cabin:
If you’re interested in a full report of Korean Air business class, check out Rocky’s ride here.
We got back, and as soon as the flight attendants saw that we were getting ready to put on pajamas, they asked permission to prepare our beds. That sounded great – by this time, it was definitely past 2AM LAX time. I went into the bathroom and put on my pajamas. Oh – quick note about bathrooms. Korean Air only has one lavatory for first class. With only three passengers, it was never a big issue, and one can always hop upstairs to use the business class lavatories, but this does seem like an oversight. I can’t imagine if there were twelve of us in first class, each of us waiting to change into pajamas. I came out ready to sleep!
That last picture really serves two purposes: showing off what a goofball I am and showing how large the bed is. There was plenty of room. I could fully stretch out and roll over.
The flight attendants actually put a mattress pad and comforter on the seat so it’s super comfy. I also liked that the minimalist seat went completely flat, and rather than having a pillow integrated into the headrest, there were separate pillows, of which I had two. One came with the seat, but given the empty cabin, I helped myself to another.
As I started to curl up, it occurred to me that this was perhaps the most comfortable airplane bed I had ever been in. Emirates First Class, United Global First, etc. These are all pretty comfy beds, but the Korean Air bed was the best yet. I conked out quickly.
I slept for nearly 7.5 hours! That’s pretty darn good for a plane, and to be honest, I could have slept even longer if it were not for the turbulence. I felt genuinely well rested, as if I had slept on a real bed, not like the usual “well rested for being on a plane.” As I woke up, there were only a couple hours left before landing in Seoul. I felt great about getting such a good sleep, as we had a full day tour booked.
After awkening and sitting up, I looked over and saw my wife was still sleeping. I grabbed my clothes to change out of my pajamas, and I went to the bathroom to change. When I returned, my seat was back in the normal position, the bedding was removed, and the flight attendant was chatting with Katy about her breakfast order. Before I sat down for breakfast, I decided I would take a quick walk back to the Celestial Bar and see if it was bumping or not. It was empty. I returned to my seat. I chose the egg soufflé for breakfast, and it was quite delicious. I also got a couple breakfast pastries, one being a croissant and another being some fluffy muffin-like pastry. It was like a muffin, but fluffier, and had some fruit in there. Pretty soon, we touched down.
Katy and I made our way to the first class lounge for a shower, and we felt extremely rested, ready to take on the day! After our day in Seoul, we would continue on Korean Air to Singapore, giving us one more opportunity to test out the Korean Air Kosmo Suite experience.
But after one flight, can I recommend Korean Air first class? In short, yes! In fact, if you’re flying from the west coast to Asia, aside from Singapore Suites, you would be hard pressed to find a more comfortable bed to sleep in. The service and style could use some work. There is definitely a bit of a language and cultural barrier with the flight attendants, which weakens the service, but if you’re taking a late night west coast flight to Asia, I think Korean Air’s first class is a winner for a super comfy sleep.