Korean Air A380 First Class Seoul Incheon to Los Angeles

I have a confession to make — assuming I’m traveling alone, I don’t actually care whether my flights are amazing as could be or entertainingly horrible. While a good flight is nice to report on, as a blogger I’m kind of amused when I get to report on a subpar flight. That’s why I didn’t at all mind my outbound flights on China Southern from Los Angeles to Guangzhou and Guangzhou to Tokyo Narita.

So for the return portion of my SkyPass award I booked Korean Air A380 first class from Seoul Incheon to Los Angeles. I really didn’t know what to expect with Korean Air. I’ve always enjoyed Asiana’s first class. Despite their outdated hard product, they’re still one of my favorite airlines, between their excellent service and top notch food.

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Based on what I had been told as far as Korean carriers go, Korean Air is generally known to be the more “stylish” airline, while Asiana is known to be the more “substantive” airline.

Well, based on my Korean Air A380 flight from Seoul Incheon to Los Angeles, I have to say Korean Air is 100% style and substance. The flight was literally flawless, which isn’t a claim I make often.

I’ll have a full trip report early next week, but here are my initial thoughts:

Korean Air A380 first class seats

Korean Air’s A380 first class cabin is located on the lower deck and consists of 12 seats. The cabin has a total of three rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. So on the surface this isn’t an especially private layout. China Southern, Lufthansa, and Malaysia have just eight first class seats on the A380, and China Southern, Emirates, and Singapore have fully enclosed suites.

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That being said, the seats themselves were extremely comfortable and spacious. Now, admittedly there was only one other passenger in the cabin, and when the cabin is that empty I almost prefer an “open” layout than a confined private suite. I’m not sure I would have felt the same way if the cabin were full, but the seat is spacious.

It’s worth noting that there’s also a partition that raises around the side of the seat on demand, for added privacy. So the cabin isn’t necessarily quite as “open” as it may look.

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The bed was also extremely comfortable, and the bedding was top notch. After Cathay Pacific, Lufthansa, and Qantas, it was probably among the best bedding I’ve had.

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Korean Air A380 first class food & drinks

OMG — AMAZING! One of my favorite parts about flying Asiana is the excellent food, and the same was true on Korean Air.

For one, they had champagne. I know that doesn’t sound all that exciting, but after having three flights in a row without champagne onboard, it was a welcome sight. And lets just say I was drinking for both the 10 empty seats and the three previous “dry” flights.

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For dinner I decided to do the Korean option all the way through (well, minus the dessert), and it was phenomenal. Like, I can’t even describe how good it was.

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All the little touches with the service impressed me. There was a salad course, and the salad was literally made “table side” off the trolley.

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Here’s another example of how good the meal service was, which will sound totally silly to anyone that doesn’t appreciate small details. You know how on Cathay Pacific, Singapore, etc., they serve you yogurt directly in the plastic container in first class?

So on Korean Air I was presented with my choices of yogurt off a galley cart, and once I selected my preferred yogurt the flight attendant delicately scooped the yogurt out of the container and into a bowl. Not only that, but then she offered to “garnish” my yogurt with toasted almonds, dried cranberries, and/or raisins. That level of attention to detail left me feeling a bit tingly.

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Korean Air A380 first class service

The service was amazing. The flight attendant working the first class cabin spoke English fairly well, and couldn’t have been more professional, friendly, and engaging. I asked her what tasted best on the menu, and she confidently made suggestions. Not only that, but she’d follow up to ask how I was enjoying each course.

Similarly, for breakfast I ordered the western option, but since she saw I took a liking to the Korean food for dinner she proactively brought me some omija punch (which means “five flavor tea”) to see if I liked it.

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Korean Air A380 first class amenities

So I’ll have a lot more on this in the actual trip report, but damn does Korean Air have a pimped-out A380. They might just give Emirates a run for their money. There’s a nice bar set up in the forward galley in front of first class.

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Then at the front of the upper deck is a business class lounge with a handful of seats and a nice snack setup.

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Then in the rear of the upper deck is a massive bar, which puts Emirates’ A380 bar to shame, in my opinion.

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Then at the rear of the lower deck is a pretty cool duty free display. It’s definitely style over substance, though still pretty nifty.

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Bottom line on Korean Air A380 first class

I don’t know whether I just lucked out with a great crew and an empty flight, or if this is the norm. Regardless, Korean Air absolutely blew me away, and as far as I’m concerned they have one of the top first class products out there. This is an awesome use of Chase Ultimate Rewards points, and I can’t wait to fly with them again.

Stay tuned for the full trip report!

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Comments

  1. Lucky, can you please remind us how to book KE using either Chase or DL points? Also how to check for availability? Are they a carrier that releases a lot of last minute premium class space?

  2. @lucky – I recently flew the KE A380 ICN-ATL and our flight was actually surprising light in terms of passengers too and I was in economy. It was only about 70% full which seems rare now adays. Was the cabin hot? It was really noticeable on our flight and with no personal air vents, made it slightly uncomfortable…

  3. Interesting. Most of the TRs I’ve read about this airline have pretty much averaged to “good but not great”. Either you were…lucky (no pun intended), or they’ve improved quite a bit.

    Did the reading lamp on the side not bother you? It usually tend to piss off quite a few people in their own TRs lol

  4. You didn’t get lucky with great crews. Korean Air always got fantastic young attendants. Especially for business and first class, service is just always superb.

  5. Look forward to the full trip-report!

    And yes, being served yogurt and ice cream in containers is a bit strange.

  6. That’s champagne! No asswiper though ­čÖü

    Asiana announced they are planning to compete more aggressively in first and will be flying their first two A380s between ICN and LAX starting in July. I’d bet they will be suites.

  7. I did the KE A380 from JFK to ICN last fall. I was in business, and it was full upstairs, but the service was flawless, as was the food, as you describe.

    And no one used that lounge in the front at all, so it was nice place to sit and read for a bit to get out of the seat.

  8. Flew ICN-LAX in F on the A380 as part of the RGN mistake fares last year. I had a similarly flawless experience. KE offers a top-notch product across the Pacific.

  9. @ Adam P — I’ll have a full explanation of Korean Air award bookings with the trip report, but basically they charge 80,000 miles one-way in first class between the US and Northeast Asia.

    They release a TON of first class award space, both in advance and close to departure. It’s not unusual to see 2-4 first class award seats per flight. So they’re a readily available option.

  10. @ David — At the end of the day I’ve had some horrible airline meals that looked amazing, and some amazing airline meals that looked not-so-amazing. For the record I didn’t post all the meal pictures, which I’m saving for the full report.

    But I not only found the presentation to be gorgeous, but I thought the quality was even better.

  11. @ wwk5d — Hah, I have to save some content for the trip report. ­čśë

    Did it bother me? No. Did I find it to be one of the most ridiculous features on an airplane EVER? Yes.

  12. Hi Lucky, I think KE F is a great product for trans-Pacific flying…my question for you is when did they serve the second meal? In my experience they seem to serve the second meal early, maybe about 4 hours before landing. They are very polite and have no issue when I ask to wait another hour or 90 minutes.

    On one flight I had a filling mid-flight snack (during the middle of the flight) and about an hour later they asked if I was ready for the second meal.

  13. This seems like a far contrast from KE J. Flew the A380 in J LAX-ICN and the xxperience was just so-so. FA’s were generally cold and never smiled. Hard product was ok but serving the pre-arrival meal 4 hrs prior (as Andy mentioned) was really weird.

    The forward lounge, while neat in concept, wasn’t all that practical I only used it to get water but they never refilled the bottle so it was empty most of the flight.

  14. I flew Korean last September from NRT to HKG and I must say i had two of the best business class flights I have ever had. The service was excellent on both flights, the food was great (I now love bibimbap) and the hard product was very comfortable (a brand new 738 to ICN and a 77W to HKG).

    The only issue was that the lounge was ridiculously busy in ICN. All in all I would fly them again in a heartbeat.

  15. I have flown both, and they’re both fine products.
    However, I wouldn’t go out of my way to fly in those planes on KE A380 or OZ suite F.
    They’re not that much better over the 777 or 747 on KE/OZ.

  16. @TravelinWilly I’ve had hot cabin on some KE A380 HKG flights and cool cabin on other flights (eg ATL). Certainly not consistently hot (unlike say Lufthansa or British Airways).

  17. @Lucky
    my only KE F experience was as good as yours!… some may say it wasnt that good but base of many comments here, seems like it generally has good service in F. I am looking forward to fly KE F again in April. Need more data points from KE.

    My KE F salad was also the best salad I even had, so fresh, I asked for double salad I remembered.

    Yogurt in the bowl was done on my SQ Suite and F most of the flights I had with them, as I remember.

    I actually feel indifferent about either enclosed-suite or openness version of the F seat, as long as it is big, comfortable, and looks good with comfortable/stylish color tone. For A380 F I think CZ anx MH seat don’t look as classy, EK blingy as we know but is ok overall. Others are all good to me.

    I care about soft product more cuz I am raised from the culture that have more human interaction vs wanna be left alone and do things on my own. Some who say the service level on Asian carriers are too much and they prefer to be left alone, that’s fine but Asian services are built from Asian cultures that most Asian don’t like to be left alone. Giving suggestions/opinions for choosing entree/wine/desserts, attentiveness, do it with smiles, follow through asking how I like it, and engage in small talks, are part of making the service great either on the planes, nice hotels, or restaurants.

  18. @ hkairlinenews — Yes, but might as well by dry at that point. Not going to drink sparkling wine that’s less than $5 per bottle.

  19. Just flew business on 380 KAL, and it felt like a bus. Hated the lack of intimacy and privacy. They need better design for the architecture of the seat layout and stacking. Bad lighting too. No temp. Control.

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