I had the chance to fly Korean Air First Class back in April, from Vancouver to Hong Kong, via Seoul. 80,000 Korean Air Skypass miles were required for this ticket, along with $95 in taxes.
Unfortunately, there is no way that I’m aware of to acquire Korean Air Skypass miles in Canada, other than getting a US credit card. I’m consider myself very lucky to have friends and family in New York, as well as a Social Security Number, making this possible.
The amazing thing about Korean Air is that they release significant amounts of First Class Award space to their own frequent flyer members, both far out and close-in. I actually booked this ticket 1am the day of my flight, having just finished all my final exams for the semester. There was award availability on this flight from Vancouver, as well as two flights on the Airbus A380 from Los Angeles. Unfortunately, that meant I would have to take a 6:30am flight on Alaska to connect, so in the end sleeping won out. 🙂
I arrived at YVR international departures at around 12:20pm. Check-in was smooth at the dedicated First Class check-in.
They were also serving other premium cabin and Sky Priority passengers at that lane.
When I got to the counter, I learned that I was the only ticketed First Class passenger for my flight! I also had to have my credit card verified, as per Korean Air policy. To my knowledge, they use it to combat fraud as you need to present the card that was used when making the ticket purchase. They are one of the few airlines that require this, especially since most of my and (I’d assume your) redemptions are made from North America programs, that don’t require such verification the majority of the time.
The supervisor stopped by at my counter and we joked for a bit for how close to departure I had made the purchase. My tickets were issued promptly, and I headed to the lounge.
Korean Air uses the Plaza Premium Lounge at Vancouver. You can also use your American Express Platinum Card (see my review) for entrance, as well as Priority Pass. If you don’t have access to that, LoungeBuddy also offers you access. I didn’t get any additional photos on this visit, but the best thing about this lounge was probably the fact that they had cheetos puffs, and mini marshmellows. You rarely get that at airline lounges!
This was my first time flying Korean Air, but surprisingly I didn’t feel the same excitement that comes with a major trip like this. Perhaps it was flying out of Vancouver since I’m very familiar with the airport, and the ground experience. There wasn’t any major ground assistance like an escort to the gate, but since I have NEXUS anyways that security line was faster.
Soon, it was time to board at Gate D71.
Korean Air First Class Review
Boarding started with business class, first class, and SkyTeam elites. The aircraft that would be taking me to Seoul was a Boeing 777-200ER.
Korean Air KE72
Vancouver to Seoul Incheon
14:20 to 17:50 +1 (11 hour 30 minutes)
Korean Air operates two varieties of Boeing 777-200ER’s, one with newer Kosmo Suites, and one with older First Class suites. Mine was operated with the former edition, with 248 seats.
Their First Class Cabin is in a 1-2-1 configuration, with 8 seats.
For a city that doesn’t see heavy premium demand, the cabin on this plane is quite nice.
The cabin configuration is quite open, although the center seats have a divider that can be electronically raised.
The colour scheme made the cabin feel slightly sterile, similar to what other reviewers have stated, but otheriwse, it was very tolerable.
I selected Seat 2A, a window seat in the second row.
The seat was wide enough, similar to the seat width on Thai First Class.
A flight attendant then came over with a set of pyjamas from Gianfranco Ferre, a Davi amenity kit, and a Korean Air Water Spray.
As well, I asked for water as a pre-departure beverage, served with the infamous macadamia nuts. Apparently the correct process of presenting these nuts are the flight attendant first presenting them in the sealed plastic container and asking if I wanted any, and then presenting them on a china dish. At least that’s how it worked on my flight.
The menu was also presented, although apparently I only got the first page of it on my camera.
Newspapers were also offered.
After departure, I took a chance to explore the seat in more detail.
Row 2 has four windows, while Row 1 only has three.
The seat also featured various several storage spaces, as well as a oddly designed reading light.
Then, it was time for lunch. The meal started with a hot towel.
The champagne on offer was Perrier Jouet Belle Epoque 2007. I have no idea of the cost, but apparently the average price on wine searcher is around $160.
The amuse bouche was tasty, and was a stuffed tomato with cheese.
Bread was served.
The lobster appetizer was tasty as well.
The potato soup was fairly simple.
I really liked the concept of the salad cart, and the salad being custom made with the ingredients you liked.
The cod was fairly bland as a main.
The dessert was pretty nice, and I love it when airlines have both ice cream and another sweet dessert available.
I had hot tea after the meal.
The whole meal was filling, although not up to standards of international first class for the most part, in my opinion. There was no caviar or Balik Salmon, and no foie gras on this route either (although I’m not a big fan of the taste). There weren’t any celebrity chefs, book the cook, or special plating or ingredients that usually distinguish international first class meal services. The food however was for the most part tasty. I’d actually say in terms of First Class meal services this would rank around the standard of British Airways.
The bed was then made, and I tried getting some sleep. One of the captains took 1K as a crew rest during the meal service, so it wasn’t an empty cabin for the rest of the flight.
I took a walk around the plane, which was fairly full in both business and economy class.
The lavatory in the First Class cabin featured limited amenities and a changing seat that folded down over the toilet.
By the time I woke up, we were more than halfway past the flight. I had more food from the snack menu, including some cookies, hot soup noodles, and coffee. I also had some food from the second light meal service.
I also had some Omija punch, which was delicious.
I watched some media from the IFE, which had a limited selection typical with airlines from North Asia.
Before I knew it, we touched down at Seoul Incheon Airport.
Korean Air First Class Overall Impressions
I think Korean Air has a decent first class product. It’s definitely not as good as top carriers like Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and Emirates, but probably on-par with British Airways in terms of soft product, and Thai Airways in terms of hard product (i.e. the seat). However, that doesn’t matter because availability is so good, at any point in the year outside of peak dates.
I’m excited to fly them again in the near future on their Airbus A380!