Trip Report: Korean Air A380 First Class New York JFK-Seoul

As eager as I was to board our 14-hour noon-departing flight to Seoul, the Korean Air employee working the first class side of Korean’s JFK lounge insisted that we wait until the last minute, at which time she would escort us to the gate. At about 11:45AM she finally called us to begin the approximately 5-minute walk to our gate.

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Escort to our gate.

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Our A380.

Since we boarded so late, the airplane doors were closed pretty quickly. Soon I realized that we hit the jackpot. Our 23-month old daughter (at the time) was traveling with us as a lap-infant. However, five of the twelve first class seats were empty, including one of the window seats besides us. We set up this seat (2A) as our daughter’s “bed”.

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Seat 1A

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Seats 2D and 2E

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Seat 2A

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Footrest and TV

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Seat Controls

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Seat 2A

Initially I took seat 2D while my wife sat in seat 2E, the two middle seats in the 1-2-1 configured first class cabin. Eventually we switched so my wife could be seated beside my daughter.

DAVI amenity kits, dining menus, noise-cancelling Bose headphones and Gianfranco Ferre pajamas were distributed prior to departure. Surprisingly, no champagne was offered pre-departure, so I asked for a glass of water, which was served along the infamous Korean Air macadamia nuts, which were good but certainly not worth going to prison for.

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The flight took-off about 20 minutes after scheduled departure. Nothing like watching an Airbus A380 take-off from the plane’s tail camera:

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I never wear airline pajamas. On long flights, I usually change to a t-shirt and comfortable shorts shortly after departure. On this flight I decided to give the pajama pants a try. That turned out to be a good decision as they were comfortable and easy to roll up whenever the cabin felt too hot, which was the norm on this flight.

The meal service started about 90 minutes after departure. Always a fan of trying foreign beers, I ordered a Hite Pale Lager (Korean), which was really good. I then skipped the asparagus and foie-gras and went straight to the roasted sweet pumpkin cream soup. As I am sure my daughter would attest, the soup was extraordinarily good. The soup was followed by a salad which did the job.

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soup

salad

For the main course I was really tempted to go with the Korean Bibimbap, but I just was not brave enough to pull the trigger. I ended up ordering the barbecued beef tenderloin, which was extremely good. Not the best steak I have ever had on a plane (that distinction goes to Cathay Pacific first class), but it was very close.

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Beed

For dessert I skipped the cheeses and fruits and simply ordered vanilla ice cream.

Once the meal service was done, I asked for my bed to be made. I found the seat to be very comfortable while seating or lounging, but I was never able to find a super comfortable “bed” position.

Bed

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With eleven hours to go and still in the middle of the day based on where I departed from, I was at the mercy of the inflight entertainment system for much of the rest of the flight and it did not disappoint. There was a healthy selection of both new releases and classics.

I watched four movies and seemingly spent the rest of my time on the flight following my daughter up and down the front stairs of this superjumbo jet.

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Korean’s A380 has three bars/lounges: the Celestial Bar in the back of the upper deck, the Prestige Class Bar Lounge in the front of the upper deck and the First Class Bar in the front of the main deck. They were all mostly empty, but at least the Prestige Class Bar Lounge provided space for my daughter to walk around.

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First Class Bar

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Prestige Class Bar Lounge

About three hours prior to departure I started getting hungry again, so it was time for the second meal service. The second meal service on this flight, which is considered “Dinner”, appears to be pretty much served on demand. The service started with a salad, which was as good as the first one. I did not like any of the main course options on the menu, so I was offered a chicken with potatoes and vegetables. It was not very good. The flight attendant noticed I did not eat it, so she offered a Korean spicy ramen soup. I took her up on the offer. She warned me that it was extremely spicy and boy was she right, but it was very very good.

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My daughter’s meal (she had no problem with the chicken)

A couple of hours later we landed at Seoul’s Incheon International Airport a little bit ahead of our 4:25PM (+1) arrival time.

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About to touch down in ICN

All in all, I was extremely satisfied with our Korean Air A380 first class experience. I definitely would have liked the cabin to be at least a couple of degrees cooler, but everything went as expected or better than expected. However, nothing stood out more than the service, which was exceptional, easily the best we have ever experienced while flying. It is a shame that I did not write down the name of the flight attendant that mostly took care of us because she was an absolute delight.

Keep in mind that Korean Air is a transfer partner of both Starwood Preferred Guest and Chase. Therefore, earning enough points to book an award with Korean should be relatively easy. Although Korean does impose fuel surcharges on awards, they are not excessive and can be as low as around $50 depending on where you are flying from/to.

Also worth pointing out for those with young children is that Korean is one of the few airlines that requires 10% of the award fare for lap infant tickets. That means that instead of paying 10% of the standard revenue fare, which can be as high as $1,000.00 on a long-haul first class ticket, you only pay 10% of the award rate of the parent, which should not exceed 10,000 SKYPASS miles.

Last but not least, remember that Korean allows a stopover on even one-way award bookings on their own flights. We took advantage of this benefit and spent a couple of days in Seoul before continuing to Bali.

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Comments

    • Thanks! It actually could not have gone better. Our daughter appears to be a fantastic traveler. Of course things would be different if traveling coach, but as long as you are traveling on a premium cabin, having an infant should not be an issue.

  1. Miguel –

    I’m doing the same routing, just backwards. We’ll be stopping at ICN on the way back to JFK. Instead of the A380 we’ll be on the 748i with the Kosmo 2 suites 🙂 🙂 :). Looking forward to hear more about your experience in Bali as lodging is the one thing we haven’t booked yet!

    Howie

    • Ha! I will admit that I had never heard of it before. Perhaps I liked it because everything tastes better 37,000 feet above ground.

  2. Couldn’t pull the trigger on bibimbap? Too bad. It isn’t anything to be scared of – Rice with veggies, a protein and usually egg mixed together with chili sauce. Really basic but really good.

  3. Very good info on the the 10% award for lap children! My wife will go first to korea soon on award booking and very good info to make sure I transfer enough points!

  4. A shame you skipped the foie gras, cheese, and wine. They are the most sophisticated parts of the service! As is the wonderful sauternes they serve as a dessert wine.

    But the finance guys must be happy you only had beer!

  5. Thank you for the report. How easy/hard was it to book it via the call center? I dont’ think you can book awards on line?

  6. I’m surprised the airline allowed a two-year-old (who is far from an infant) to travel as a lap “infant”. They should know that there’s no way you can keep a child that age on your lap all that time should the cabin be full, potentially driving other passengers nuts by her/his running up and down the aisle, etc., and getting in the way of the cabin crew. No, I don’t hate young children…..I just feel that taking on a child that age without her/his own seat is ill-advised.

    • Hi Ree. No airline that I am aware of will allow a child that has already turned two to travel as a lap infant. Our daughter was a few weeks short of her second birthday at the time of this flight. And yes, you can keep a child that young within your seat area all the time or at the very least prevent her from disturbing other passengers. It is all about the parents being committed to make it happen, which I admit not all parents are committed to doing.

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