Korean Air 787-9 First Class In 10 Pictures

After flying from Hong Kong to Seoul Incheon in Korean Air’s A330 first class, it was time to connect from Incheon to San Francisco in Korean Air’s 787-9 first class. While the A330 and 787 have different configurations, the planes have something in common — both planes have the same seats in business class and first class.

Korean Air has Apex Suites in business class on the 787-9, which is my favorite generic business class seat out there.

But they also have exactly the same seats in first class. There’s one row of first class seats, in a 2-2-2 configuration. In these Apex Suite configurations, the window seats are by far the best, given how much privacy they have, as you can raise the divider between seats.

Of course it’s disappointing to only get a business class seat in first class. However, in this particular instance I really loved this seat. There was only one other passenger in first class, so I had the whole side of the cabin to myself, and I could use the tray table on the seat next to me to store things. Also, in bed mode this seat is exceptionally private and comfortable (especially since Korean Air has better bedding in first class), and I got nearly seven hours of sleep. I woke up so well rested that I had a hard time sleeping my first night back in the US.

Also, as usual, Korean Air’s first class soft product was very good. There were comfortable pajamas and an amenity kit that was pretty well stocked.

The meal service was over the top. The flight departed at 8PM and landed at 3PM, so dinner was served after takeoff, followed by breakfast before landing. Dinner started with canapés, and was followed by a caviar service. This was my first time ever being offered caviar in Korean first class, so I’m not sure if that’s new, or if only certain longhaul flights feature this.

Then there was an excellent soup, and that was followed by a salad. I love Korean Air’s salads, as they plate them right at your seat.

For the main course I ordered the roasted chicken breast, which was the safe/boring option, but was good.

Next up there was a selection of cheese and fruit, which I passed on, since I was so full.

I did save a bit of room for the dessert, which consisted of raspberry white chocolate mousse cake with ice cream.

I can’t say enough good things about the two flight attendants working first class. The other first class passenger slept almost the whole way, so I basically had them taking care of just me. The flight attendants were reserved, yet professional, attentive, and kind.

Getting so much sleep on a 10 hour flight is great, and I woke up in San Francisco feeling very well rested.

Bottom line

It’s odd that Korean Air installs the same seats in first and business class on their 787s and A330s. In these particular circumstances, though, I found this to be an excellent product. I wouldn’t have felt that way if the cabin were full, and if I weren’t in one of the window seats, but having a nearly empty cabin (and therefore having the flight attendants turn lights on and off based on when I was awake) was awesome.

Add in the great soft product, and I ended up being more impressed by the overall experience than I was expecting.

Would I have been happy if I paid a huge cash premium for this, and/or if the cabin were full? Probably not. But redeeming an extra 17,500 miles over the business class cost for a mostly empty cabin with excellent service was well worth it. For those looking for the true first class experience, though, I recommend booking a Korean Air 747-8 or 777-300ER (though only select 777s feature their new first class).

In the past I’ve called British Airways first class the world’s best business class. That’s definitely not true anymore — Korean Air’s 787 first class is the world’s best business class, in my opinion.

Comments

  1. Sounds like both first class passengers slept most of the journey! 😉 Glad it was a great trip and you got excellent sleep!

  2. @ chub — That’s how it’s marketed, though in reality all the other airlines that offer it do so in business class (Gulf Air, Oman Air, JAL, and Korean).

  3. Flew KA Kosmo Suites in April-May from DFW to ICN. Excellent hard and soft product. Service was the best combination of precision and warmth. I think you nailed it with this review.

  4. I had a very similar service ICN-IAD in February KE F on the 777. Very comfortable and private first class seat, and excellent service on board. I had the exact same caviar preparation/ service you did. Great all around.

  5. Just flew JAL in one of the window seats with an empty seat next to me: NOT a fan. In fact I pretty much hate the Apex seats which just goes to show how it is impossible to please everyone.

    Because I had an empty companion seat I was OK but otherwise I really dislike how narrow the seats are. For this to be considered a first class international seat is really unacceptable in my mind. I much prefer having side storage, a table area next to me to spread out. Apex seats offer literally none… I feel like I’m in a casket. Yes it’s private but I was able to keep the divider down, had it been up it’s suffocatingly tight. United Polaris, ANA, reverse herringbone, I prefer bassically any Business configuration more. I’ll go out of my way to avoid it and certainly would not even consider Korean Air first.

    I get that everyone has specific desires and preferences but for the life of me I don’t see the appeal here. Any modern business seat has plenty of privacy and still offers side to side room to spread out. I feel like a flying sardine in Apex seats.

  6. I kind of agree with Ted. Apex suites have absolutely no storage. It is a bit weird compared to all the other types of staggered or herringbone seats. I thought they were great for sleeping, but bad for doing work or using a laptop.

  7. I agree with @Ted. Not a fan of the Apex Suite. You know how AA was having issues with their Zodiac seats rocking? Whenever I fly Apex Suite I am often awakened by the person next to me removing/stowing their tray table. I much prefer a solo seat.

  8. Please don’t support this nonsense as a legit first class product. It’s another example of airlines throwing it in their customers face. BA is another prime example of F being a business class product.

  9. @Lucky – I’m really wondering how you handle the sleep schedule on flights like this. I have read that you try your best to keep to a US schedule (though I forget if you try to stay on Eastern time zone or Pacific time zone time).

    However, since you flew for 10 hours and landed at 3pm PDT, you took off at 5am PDT. Which would mean you got to ICN at roughly 3am – yikes. What did the night before look like?

  10. It might be a reasonably pleasant product, but given how KAL prices their first class at rack rates, no one in their right mind would book this. You would pay 3 times as much as for business class, basically for a better blanket and improved meal.

  11. @Ted Keep in mind that if you flew on a jal 777 then the cabin would have been in a 2-3-2 configuration. KE has a more generous 2-2-2 configuration on their 777 fleet (yes it is a bit narrow on the 787).

    I have to say though, this is literally the perfect seat for the 747 upper deck : spacious, private, side storage.

  12. Why do you always fly on your own? Why not spend your miles on Ford more often? Do you prefer your own company?

  13. I flew Korean First from ICN-YYZ on the 787 in F with a full flight. It was pretty bad (considering it was first class and that it wasn’t my first rodeo up front). It was tight, the seat had no storage, and just didn’t feel exclusive or private at all.

    However a few months ago I flew J on their 77W (ORD-ICN) which is the apex suite and the cabin wasn’t particularly full. I had a window seat and no one next to me. It felt fine and a solid business class seat. But for first, no thanks. I flew F on the way back in a “proper” first class seat and wow, what a difference! Fantastic.

  14. I honestly don’t see how they can justify using a clearly biz class seat for first. It really just seems wrong. With no one next to you these seats are OK, fine even. With someone they are tight and claustrophobic but still ok for Biz. But in no way are these acceptable first class seats. Why not just not offer “first” on these flights and make it all business class? This hurts their reputation in my opinion.

  15. KE has flights where the first class seats (the apex suites mentioned) are not first class but are part of biz. So on routes they dont sell 1st. Though I noticed an award res can’t choose that seat online but paid can interestingly.

  16. I would be curious to hear your ranking of A380 vs. 777 vs. 787 vs. 747 for Korean in F. Thoughts?

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