Tokyo and Seoul: Part 6 – Korean Air A380 Business Class - Bottle Service in the Sky?

My flight home was on an Airbus A380, operated by Korean Air, in their business class cabin.  While in internet travel circles, we often hear about Singapore, Cathay or Thai as top Asian carriers, Korean offers a very solid business class experience (at least in the air).

I had tried to book this flight on a Korean Air ticket, so I could pay the difference (personally) to upgrade to First Class.  Alas, Delta was offering a significantly lower fare for this same flight, so I was forced to fly on Delta paper.  Upgrading would have been doubly expensive, and required a change in ticketing carrier.  While not impossible, the double cost, plus the burden of the other-than-trivial ticketing change left me content to fly in business class for this flight.

I arrived at Incheon via private car.  My driver let me off in front of the business class check in area at Incheon Airport, which was convenient.  There was a queue of about 10 people waiting to check in for business class, but the queue cleared in a few minutes, as there were at least half a dozen agents working.  There were two agents serving the first class queue who also called over business class passengers when there were no first class passengers waiting.

Within the security channel, off to the far left, there was a special screening line for passengers heading to the United States, where I was directed to.  The screening was prompt and courteous.  I was required to remove my shoes and electronics, which I don’t think would have been applicable had my destination been other than the US.  Disposable foot covers were available for those so inclined.

Airside at Incheon

Korean operates separate business and first class lounges at Incheon.  The business lounge was good by US standards, but at the lower end of acceptable by Asian standards.  The lounge had a large food area, with a fairly limited selection of foods.  A limited selection of alcohol (wine, beer and liquor) was available.  Seating was crowded, owing to Korean’s busy evening departure schedule.  A group of four would have had a hard time finding seats together.

Food and drink area in lounge

Lounge

Along the window side of the lounge, there was a continuous desk-height counter which had power outlets (in a number of different countries’ formats).  This provided a nice spot to sit and catch up on some work.

A full house

Staff with trollies came through fairly regularly to pick up dirty glasses and dishes.

Boarding for my flight was delayed about half an hour.  No reason was given for the delay.  The plane had arrived at the gate at least one hour before our departure time (it could be seen from the lounge).  Passengers queued up at both the premium and regular boarding lines well in advance.  When the unspecified delay was announced, about half of the people queuing sat down, others remained standing.

Gate area

Once boarding began, the jetbridge for passengers seated in business class took us directly to the upper deck, as is standard for nearly all A380 gates.

View from the jetbridge

Korean has outfitted the entire upper deck with their lie-flat (not angled lie-flat) business class seats.  There are no economy-plus or economy seats on the upper deck; first class is also downstairs.  It was quite pleasant having the entire level for just a single premium cabin.  Korean has configured their cabins in a 2-2-2 setup, fairly standard for business class on A380s.  Due to the lie-flat seats (not angled lie-flat), there was plenty of pitch (room between each row of seats).  The business cabin was about half full, with a concentration of passengers near the front of the plane.  I was seated in the front row.

Business class cabin

Business class seat

Service was excellent throughout the flight, as was the food.  The flight attendants were attentive, used my name several times (without a passenger manifest in front of them).  To the surprise of the flight attendants, I ordered the Korean meals for both services. Menus are below.

Breakfast

Of the three carriers’ A380s that I flown (QF, AF, KE), Korean dedicates the most amount of space to uses other than seats in the business cabin.  (I’ve not flown on EK’s 380s.)  All 380s have a small lounge or gallery in the front of the upper deck, on the starboard (right) side.  Korean’s had seat belts on the benches, allowing for passengers to stay in the area during turbulence, I presume.

Forward lounge

In keeping with Korean custom (of having plenty of alcohol on hand), there was a full sized bottle of vodka, several mixers, chips, nuts and other snacks available for self service.  I enjoy a vodka tonic more than the average guy; that, plus a helping of chips, made this front lounge a spot I visited more than once during the flight.  This is the only carrier where I’ve seen “bottle service” available in a self-service situation.

Bottle service in the forward lounge

Chips, too!

There was also a more special bottle in a locked case.  I’m not sure it was available for passenger consumption (I suspect not).

For display purposes, only?

In the far aft of the upper deck, Korean has an additional lounge, with bench seating and a serviced bar.  This was a very nice area, and a flight attendant worked as a server in this area.  Unlike Virgin Atlantic’s business class bar (which I often find to be heavily used), this bar and lounge was largely unused.  Perhaps this is because there was no announcement of KE’s aft lounge, versus VS’s which is in the middle of the cabin, and extremely visible.  I only found it because I vaguely recalled knowing that there was a bar on the KE planes, so I went looking.  Had I not known about the aft bar in advance, it was quite likely that I never would have found it.  In any event, I hope KE doesn’t decide to turn this section into seats at some point in the future.

Aft lounge

I understand downstairs there is also a bar for first class passengers.  I didn’t poke my head in this area.

In the front, opposite of the starboard lounge area, were two washrooms.  One was quite large, in fact, the largest of any aircraft lavatories that I’ve ever been in.  (I’ve not yet been in EK’s shower rooms).  Frankly, the lavatory in the very front wasn’t much smaller than the arrivals shower suites in BA’s LHR arrivals lounge!  It was a convenient spot to change out of my suit into something more comfortable.

Forward lavatory - Huge!

Forward lavatory

Forward lavatory

A few drinks in the lounge, two meals, some resting time, some reading, a movie on my iPad and very good service made the 13-or-so hour flight go by very quickly.

The journey home

Arrival at JFK was uneventful, and the departure delay was “made up” enroute.  There was no queue for Global Entry.  Having no checked bags, I was landside within 20 minutes of our touching down.

Combined with Air France and Qantas, this was my third different carriers’ A380.  While each has very nice business offering (though AF would have benefited from lie-flats), of these three, Korean had the best on board setup for business class.  This is my fourth or fifth time in Korean business class, and my first on their A380.  Korean’s onboard business experience punches well above its reputation.

As a side note, I use Delta as my SkyTeam accrual carrier.  This flight earned me 10,359 Delta MQMs and put me over the 1 million mile mark on Delta, which earned me a very nice Hartmann suitcase!

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