Korean Air A380 First Class Overview
Korean Air offers a solid First Class product. Not one of the best in the world, but the A380 First class makes the world of difference compared to Korean’s business class. Polished FAs, wide seat and an onboard bar make the experience really cool.
The Good: The seat on Korean Air’s A380 First class is really wide. Flight attendants were some of the most polite I have encountered, although there were some language barriers.
The Bad: Korean Air keeps their cabins extremely warm. I was sweating after sleeping for about an hour. The food is limited, as far as First Class food options go.
The Noteworthy: I personally like the color scheme and finishes. The A380 has an onboard bar sponsored by Absolut AND a full on duty free shop.
Arrival at Sydney and SkyTeam Lounge
I was flying in from an international flight from New Zealand. It took me about 20 minutes to go from my arrival gate, through security, and to the departures area. Talk about efficient! By the time I was at the lounge, I had about 20 minutes before boarding. I decided to catch up on phone calls, and send a few emails from the SkyTeam Lounge. The lounge itself is very small and was quite crowded while I was there. It has all the basics, but nothing wow.
After finishing up, I walked over to the gate.
Gate and Boarding
This is where the real first class experience began. As soon as my boarding pass was checked, I was escorted to the area next to the boarding counter. The ground manager told me that I was going to be the first passenger to board after families with small children. As soon as the crew were ready for boarding, families were called up. When it was my turn, I was escorted to the aircraft door by the Korean Air ground manager. She informed me that the flight was on time, and that, barring any unexpected situations, we would depart early.
Airline: Korean Air
Cabin: First Class
Flight Number: KE122
Route: Sydney – Seoul ICN
On Time: No, only because of gate availability upon arrival.
Entering an A380 feels like you’re entering the belly of a whale. The aircraft is so wide and tall, that it seems impossible that it can fly. The Korean Air first class cabin is ample and spacious. The seats have light blue upholstery, but the rest of the cabin feels sterile. There are 12 seats in a 1x2x1 configuration. I picked seat 2J, since I was traveling alone. If I were traveling with someone I would pick the two middle seats, or two window seats right behind each other.
The seat is wide. I mean, WIDE. It is basically an open suite concept, and reminded me a lot of the Qatar Airways first class seat on their A380. Seats have a raisable partition on the aisle side, which provides a bit of extra privacy. Seat controls are on the aisle side armrest, but are a bit counterintuitive. I found myself having trouble finding a right lounge position because the controls would overshoot or undershoot. The IFE remote is next to the seat, below the armrest. There is a reading light that looks more like a sodastream fountain. The IFE Screen is wide, and the ottoman doubles as a partner seat.
Korean Air amenities were underwhelming. The amenity kit is provided by DAVI, the skincare arm of the Robert Mondavi vineyards. It had all the basics, plus a water spray. Noticeable absent, however, were a pair of socks. First class passengers also receive Bose noise cancelling headphones. These were good, but not the newest iteration that American Airlines offers on its international business class flights.
Departure and Take Off
By the time I was done taking it all in, a family of four had been upgraded to First class from Business (Prestige). I didn’t matter because they were mostly on the other aisle of the aircraft. It still felt like I had my own private cabin. The flight attendants came by offering water or orange juice as a pre departure beverage, alongside cold almonds. I was surprised they did not offer champagne, and when I asked they said they would serve it in the air. Probably a move to save paying taxes on the alcohol, but a very cheap move nonetheless.
The captain came on the PA system and address the cabin first in Korean and then in English. He informed us of our flight time, expected on time departure, and projected on time arrival. Afterwards, the crew began the safety demonstration. As soon as the demonstration was over, I turned my IFE screen to the tail camera until after we took off. We were lined up for take off in a matter of minutes, and somehow the giant A380 lifted up like a graceful bird.
On this flight, Korean Air had structured breakfast and then lunch. Since I am truly not a breakfast person, I asked if I could have one of the lunch entrees served. After many words lost in translation, mainly why I wanted to have the lunch entree, the crew agreed.
The menu read as follows:
The drinks menu was limited based on the region you were flying to/from. I found this strange, but I didn’t care to question it. The champagne available was only a rosé, so I did not drink on this flight. Here are the drinks options:
Brunch began with a superb table set up. I was marvelled by the elegance of the ceramic dishware, and by the precision that the crew used to prepare the the table. I ordered orange juice and water, and they were both served chilled.
The crew then asked what kind of pastries I would like. Followed by a selection of cereals. I chose Apple Jacks because why not? I can be a 5 year old sometimes.
My brunch entree was a codfish fillet, with saffron sauce and a potato cake. The fish was good, but the sauce and accompaniments were disappointing. Overall, a decent, but nothing wow, meal.
Since I didn’t order any dessert after my breakfast, I got a bit hungry halfway through the 10 hour flight. The only thing that I was interested in from the limited snack menu was the Ramen. The flight attendants prepared it quite quickly after I ordered it. It was amazing. One of the best ramen/noodle dishes I have had on an airplane. It came with kimchi and other pickled vegetables.
About two hours before arrival, the flight attendants served lunch. Since I was on a Korean airline, I couldn’t help but order the Bibimbap.
The meal started with a scallop amuse bouche. Afterwards, the table was set with the same precision as before with less flair. The appetizer was a foie gras dish. It was my first time having foie gras in years, and it was pretty good. This was followed by a green pea mint soup. It was served lukewarm, but it was very flavorful.
The next course was the bibimbap. It was so much food. They even have an instructions pamphlet on how to eat it. I am still not certain what everything was, all I know it was delicious and by the time I was done, I was full and round.
Like I mentioned before, the Korean Air First class seat is very wide. It is actually a hard surface without the mattress pad. Once the flight attendants make your bed, it becomes a lot more comfortable than most first class seats out there. My main issue was the temperature that they kept the cabin. It was sweltering. I asked on two occasions to have the temperature decrease. Even after that, I was still sweating. Eventually, this cut my nap(s) short, and I decided to watch some tv on the IFE screen.
IFE & Wifi
The IFE selection was very limited, with about 1 or 2 episodes per show, an about 6 English shows per category. I did end up watching a Korean drama, which was pretty good, but it also only had 3 episodes. Korean Air does not offer wifi on any of its long haul aircraft, and that left me unproductive and uncommunicated for 10 hours.
Duty Free Shop On Board
As I mentioned before, the Korean Air A380 is one of the most unique aircraft configurations out there. There are two bars and a whole duty free shop. The duty free shop is located in the aft of the airplane, behind the economy cabin. They stock it with duty free alcohol selections, and basically that’s the extent of what you can see.
On Board Bars
There is a small bar in the front of the First class cabin. It has the top shelf liquors available for first class passengers, as well as snacks and non-alcoholic beverages. They also display some duty free items. The bar is self serve.
The biggest, and probably coolest, feature of the aircraft is the Celestial Bar at the aft of the Prestige class cabins. The bar footprint is small, but it is a cool space. It has dark blue leather seats, and blue mood lighting. The bar offers a selection of Absolut-themed drinks.
There is one lounge in the front of the Prestige cabin, which I found to be busy two of the three times I was there. I was very confused, as why would anyone use that small couch, instead of going to the bar in the back? Who knows, but I was happily in the Celestial Bar for about an hour.
There is one large bathroom in the Prestige cabins at the front of the aircraft. It is not as large as other airlines’, but it gave enough space to walk around. The two first class bathrooms, in the front of the first class cabin, had windows. I love loos with views. More aircraft should have that feature.
Notes on Service
The service was very polished, well intentioned and attentive. There were issues with some language barriers. However, even when there were issues understanding me, the crew made an effort to try to understand me, often looking for the purser when communications broke down. I can’t say enough nice things about the crew, really. They embodied Korean hospitality, something I would find to be the norm with other Korean crews.
Landing and Arrival
Although the flight felt long, this was mainly because I couldn’t sleep. By the time the crew began preparing the flight for arrival, I was ready to land. We landed on time, but had to wait about 35 minutes to get a gate. By the time we were there, we were about 20 minutes behind schedule.
Korean Air offers a solid product. This is not because anything per se is great, but because the overall experience on their A380s is well thought out. I found that some details were a little sub-par (such as the limited drinks selection), but the crew’s attentiveness truly made the flight memorable. An onboard bar (as well as a duty free shop) is still something that will never cease to amaze me. This bar is about the size of Virgin Atlantic’s, but I still find it to be cooler somehow. I would strongly recommend Korean Air First class, especially on the A380, because the differences between F and J (in terms of seats) is Heaven and Earth.
Here is a list of all my flight reviews: The Millennial Traveler Flight Reviews
Here is a list of all my lounge reviews: The Millennial Traveler Lounge Reviews
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