Korean Air A380-800 Prestige Class (business class) Seoul to Los Angeles

Korean Air A380-800 Prestige Class (business class) Seoul to Los Angeles

As I mentioned in my previous post, today was a day that I had been looking forward to for quite some time. Korean Air has been at then top of my “must try” airline list for a long time, and watching my good friend Okyoung from Instagram fly around the world on this airline has only made that itch stronger. All those pics of the in-flight experience look so good!

I know what you’re thinking. What’s so special about Korean Air? For the most part, it’s the principle of the matter that has brought me to this point. Mix together natural curiosity with the inability to find award space in Prestige Class on the A380 to and from the US (ExpertFlyer’s awesome award search tools help a lot though), and that was all it took for me to put them on such a high pedestal in my mind. It’s like when you were a kid and your older sister dangles something in front of your face that you really want, then snaps it away right before you can grab it. That’s the kind of frustration I’ve been feeling with Korean Air lately.

Seoul, South Korea (ICN) – Los Angeles, CA (LAX)
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Aircraft: A380-861
Registration: HL7614
Duration: 11 hours 3 minutes
Seat: 10H (Prestige Class / business class)

korean air a380 side view
Korean Air A380-800 (HL7614) side view illustration by norebbo.com
ICN to LAX route map
Our route from ICN to LAX today: SEL Y697 PILIT Y697 LANAT Y51 KAGIS OTR13 SEALS 3600N:15000E 3600N:16000E 3700N:17000E 3900N:18000E 4100N:17000W 4100N:16000W 4000N:15000W 3900N:14000W 3900N:13000W DACEM PAINT PIRAT AVE SADDE7

My short attention span got the best of me while sitting in the lounge, and it was hard to resist the urge to leave a bit early so that I could have enough time to wander the terminal a bit before the flight. I really like ICN – it feels like a world-class airport, which I like, and I can easily have just as much fun wandering up and down the terminal as I could sitting in the lounge with a delicious snack and a cold drink in my hand. Today was no exception, and I ended up having about an hour to wander before boarding commenced for KE17 to LAX.

ICN airport terminal
I really like ICN. It’s big, bright, busy, and very well designed. Everything I like in a big international airport!
SANspotter airport selfie
In my opinion, wandering around and having a look at everything is just as much fun as sitting in the lounge.
Korean Air A380 HL7614
There she is. The Korean Air A380 (HL7614) that would be taking me to home to LAX today.
SANspotter airport selfie
I just had to get a selfie with the big gal, because #avgeek.
gate 10 ICN airport
Gate 10 is our departure point today.
gate 10 ICN airport
Gate 10. Ok, so I was just a little bit early.
korean air prestige class boarding pass
My Korean Air ICN-LAX Prestige Class boarding pass.

The sense of anticipation was strong as the gate agent called for Prestige Class passengers to board, and oddly enough there was a feeling of satisfaction coming over me as well. Finally, after all these years, I am getting my chance to fly Korean Air.

boarding gate 10 ICN airport
Here we go! Boarding is just getting started.

I’ve mentioned before how dangerous it is to be filled with so much anticipation before trying a new airline (it’s a recipe for major disappointment), so I tried to chill out a bit as I handed my boarding pass and passport to the gate agent. “Be cool Scott, be cool…”

US passport boarding pass ICN airport
Oh man I’m so ready for this.
boarding korean air a380 ICN airport
Looks like there’s another AvGeek over there by the window…
Down the escalator we go
Down the escalator we go.
korean air a380 hl7614
Getting a close up look at HL7614 just before stepping onboard. Such a beautiful airplane!
boarding korean air a380 Incheon airport
Prestige class on the A380 is on the upper deck, so make sure you pick the right jet bridge.

Stepping onboard this A380 seemed oddly familiar to me thanks to Okyoung’s detailed pics over the years, and right away I felt perfectly at home and familiar with the light green and gray materials covering all parts the business class cabin. The seats here in Prestige Class are not as private as the A380 business class seats on Asiana Airlines, but what they lack in privacy they more than make up for in legroom. Never in my life have I seen so much leg room in a business class cabin!

korean air a380 galley
Stepping onboard the Korean Air A380. My seat (10H) in the business class cabin is straight ahead and to the left.
korean air a380 prestige class
Korean Air A380 business class cabin.
Korean Air A380 business class seats
Korean Air A380 business class seats. Check out that leg room!
Korean Air A380 business class seats
Korean Air A380 business class seats.
Korean Air A380 business seat pitch
Korean Air A380 business seat pitch. Not too shabby.
Korean Air A380 business class cabin
Korean Air A380 business class cabin, looking forward from a seated position.
korean air prestige class seats
Wide angle view showing more of what you see from a seated position.
korean air business class seat controls
Seat controls in the armrest, which did feel a bit dated.
korean air business class entertainment system
The entertainment system remote control is located on the other side, lower in the seat.
korean air business class USB power ports
USB and audio ports are located in the center console between the seats.

Despite the seats looking a bit outdated, they were perfectly comfortable and I knew I wasn’t going to have an issue getting comfortable. It took me a few minutes to get familiar with all the buttons and controls, and while doing that, the flight attendants were coming around with pre-flight snacks and drinks. Noise-cancelling headphones were also distributed while on the ground, but hot towels and menus were not. Those would have to wait.

korean air pre flight drinks
Pre-flight drinks and snacks.
Korean Air Prestige Class amenity kit
Korean Air Prestige Class amenity kit.
Korean Air business class amenity kit
Details of the Korean Air Prestige Class amenity kit.
Korean Air Prestige Class amenity kit contents
Korean Air Prestige Class amenity kit contents.

None of the flight attendants on this flight seemed to be very proficient in English, and it was amusing to watch the lead FA introduce herself to each passenger one by one. She was much more talkative to the Korean passengers than anyone else, and I could tell she was struggling with English when she greeted me. All I got from her was a quick “welcome aboard Mr. SANspotter, please let me know if you need anything during the flight”. It’s times like this that I wish I knew more languages! I always feel bad for having someone struggling to speak my language to me when I don’t know any of theirs.

Korean Air A380 safety card front cover
Korean Air A380 safety card front cover.
Korean Air A380 safety card inner cover
Korean Air A380 safety card inner cover.
Korean Air A380 safety card interior
Korean Air A380 safety card interior.

Our push off the gate was delayed 10 minutes due to airport congestion, and the flight attendants did well to keep the business class cabin passengers happy with plenty of drinks and snacks. The safety demonstration video was also played during this time, which was surprisingly robotic and bland. Korean Air could use a new marketing team, that’s for sure!

korean air a380 wing ICN
Finally pushing off the gate. Here we go!
a380 porthole windows
Heres a wide angle pic of the same view, which shows how “porthole” like the A380 windows are. To be honest I don’t like them much.

Once off the gate and taxiing to the runway, we had another 10 minute pause – airport congestion was a definite problem today here at ICN. While waiting, I took the time to look around the seat a bit and it was then that I discovered that the menu was actually in the magazine rack on the seat back in front of me. I had missed it earlier no doubt due to the fact that it’s impossible to reach without getting up out the seat and walking over to it. Yes, there is that much leg room here in Prestige class. I’ve never seen so much room between seats!

Korean Air Prestige Class menu front cover
Korean Air Prestige Class menu front cover.
Korean Air A380 Prestige Class dinner menu
Korean Air A380 Prestige Class dinner menu.
Korean Air Prestige Class drinks menu
Korean Air Prestige Class drink menu.

Take off in an A380 is a non-event due to how quiet it is. It’s so weird. You’d think an airplane of that size would create a noise on take off that could be heard (and felt) for hundreds of miles, but it’s so quiet that you can actually have a quiet conversation with your seat mate without raising your voice. I wasn’t having any quiet conversations with my seat mate though – he was a Korean businessman who appeared to know very little English. He was very nice though – we exchanged smiles and laughs as we both took pictures of our seat before sitting down.

korean air a380 takeoff
Turning onto the active runway after a bit of a delay.
korean air a380 takeoff ICN
Engines spooling up now, but the A380 is so quiet you can barely hear them (unfortunately).
korean air a380 shadow
Casting a very large shadow as we lift off out of ICN.
korean air a380 takeoff incheon
Climbing away from Incheon. I really like Seoul, and I was feeling rather bummed at this point that I wasn’t able to stay a night or two.
korean air a380 wing and engines
So long Seoul. Next stop: Los Angeles!

That famous in-flight Korean Air hospitality began shortly after takeoff, with hot towels coming first and then followed up with appetizers. There were no snacks served with the drinks – they simply got right into the meal service without skipping a beat.

korean air business class slippers
I’ve got my slippers on – I’m ready!
relaxing in korean air business class
Kicking back and relaxing just before the dinner service.
korean air business class noise cancelling headphones
Time to unwrap the complimentary noise-cancelling headphones so that I can enjoy a movie with dinner.
korean air business class entertainment
I’ve got the entertainment system remote in hand and I’m ready to wine and dine!

The dinner service, as I anticipated, was superb. The food wasn’t anything I’d call spectacular, but the service from the flight attendants and care that they took in presenting the meal more than made up for any lack of quality. I chose the Korean meal option and it did not disappoint. For comparisons sake, it tasted exactly the same as the meal I had on Asiana a week prior. All this stuff is probably made in the same factory anyway.

Part of what made this meal service seem more professional than what I experienced on Asiana was the fact that meals were served from a cart, and they assemble your dish to your liking right there in front of you. Dessert was also served this way, and I really feel this level of presentation goes a long way to enhance the in-flight experience.

Korean Air Prestige Class pre dinner snack
Korean Air Prestige Class pre-drink service: mini tartlet with shrimp salad.
Korean Air Prestige Class dinner appetizer
Korean Air Prestige Class dinner appetizer: marinated scallop and eggplant with tomato.
korean air Bibimbap
Korean Air business class dinner main course: Korean Bibimbap. I love this stuff even though I still can’t pronounce it correctly.
SANspotter selfie
Happy SANspotter.
korean air cheese plate
Korean Air business class after dinner cheese plate.
korean air ice cream
Wow, I didn’t realize that I ate so much on this flight until just now as I’m uploading all these pics. Ice cream too?? Oink oink.
flying into sunset korean air a380
I was too busy eating to take pics of the sunset out there, but it sure was pretty.
korean air a380 business class seats
After dinner and feeling fat.

My only gripe about the meal service was that they left the cabin lights on full blast for the entire time. In that sense it felt more like cafeteria dining rather than being in a fine restaurant. It wasn’t until the last tray had been cleared that they finally dimmed the cabin lights, and I kind of like the way they did it. The light started dimming so slowly that I didn’t notice at first, and it was gradually replaced with red and blue mood lighting. But only for a minute or two, fading away fully until the cabin was completely dark. I wish they would have left the mood lighting on a little longer. It was so pretty in that cabin for those few brief moments!

korean air a380 mood lighting
Mood lighting that could easily compete with Virgin America. How pretty is this?

I started watching Nerve during dinner, and then continued with it after the lights had been turned off. I didn’t think it was a very good movie at all, but I will admit that it held my attention to the very end. Casey Neistat even made a brief appearance in it, which totally threw me for a loop when I saw him. I didn’t know he was in it!

Right before putting my seat into it’s fully lie flat position, I checked our location on the moving map display and was floored to see that our ground speed as 730mph. Wow! We were obviously getting a nice ride on the jet stream, and I am thinking that may have been the fastest I have ever moved. Like forever ever. The only downside with riding the jet stream like that were the few brief moments of butt-puckering turbulence we had several times during the night.

Turbulence over the North Pacific Ocean can be gnarly at times, and it’s a scary feeling to be woken up from a dead sleep with the plane violently jolting side to side and up and down with no land for thousands of miles in every direction. If something bad happens to the airplane way out here, you’re pretty much screwed. The flight attendants handled it all perfectly though, with the lead flight attendant coming over the PA to briefly tell the other FA’s to sit (all in Korean, of course), sounding calm and cheerful the entire time.

pacific ocean air turbulence
This part of the Pacific Ocean is notorious for really gnarly turbulence when flying eastbound. This flight was no different – it got bumpy!
Korean Air A380 business class lavatory
Korean Air A380 business class lavatory.
korean air lavatory amenities
Asiana has Korean Air beat when it comes to bathroom amenities. Korean air did hand out amenity kits though (while Asiana did not), so I guess it all evens out.
korean air a380 lounge
Korean Air A380 business class lounge. I didn’t see anyone hanging out here during the flight. Wasted space perhaps?

I somehow managed to sleep really well despite the turbulence and the noise of the galley which was right behind my seat, and I felt like could have slept for another 8 hours as the lights were slowly coming on for the breakfast service.

korean air a380 mood lighting
Cabin lights slowly coming on. Ugh. I always hate this part of overnight flights.
korean air ICN-LAX map
Only two more hours to go, and I was actually bummed about that. I would have been perfectly happy to go 10 more!
sunrise korean air a380 wing
Looks like a beautiful morning out over the north Pacific Ocean.

I wasn’t hungry at all, and sleep was the only thing on my mind, but I couldn’t refuse another meal from this amazing cabin crew. I went with the congee for breakfast, which was light enough to not make me feel like a total pig. There’s no way I could have done a full western option with eggs, potatoes, and sausage.

korean air business class breakfast
Rice porridge (congee) for breakfast. The perfectly light option after pigging out just a few hours earlier on dinner.
SANspotter selfie
We both look as if we had been up all night partying…
korean air a380 wing and window
It’s getting brighter out there. Almost home.
Korean air a380 interior
California coast in sight!

The descent into southern California was beautiful on this clear and sunny morning, and those of us on the right side of the airplane got really nice views of LAX and downtown LA as we made our downwind approach.

approaching LAX Korean Air a380
We made landfall just north of Los Angeles. Sure looks like an awesome morning in SoCal!
LAX from the air
An amazing view of LAX as we get into position for 24R.
korean air a380 over los angeles
Making the big turn back towards LAX over east LA.
korean air a380 los angeles approach
Flying over the LA aqueduct (the motorcycle chase scene from Terminator 2 was filmed here) with downtown looming in the distance. I love LA!

It was right then, as we were scraping the rooftops of the buildings just east of the airport that I was actually starting to feel a bit bummed and sad that the fun parts of this trip were now over, and it may be a long time until I get to fly Korean Air again.

korean air A380 LAX approach
Only a few more seconds to go and my first ever Korean Air experience will be over.

We glided down and landed gently on 24R, and that was that. My first ever Korean Air experience was now over and it was time to snap back to reality.

korean air a380 touchdown lax 24R
Welcome to LA!
lax korean air a380 taxi
That’s the midfield concourse coming up on the left.
world way road LAX
Crossing over World Way.
WOW airlines LAX
WOW! (sorry… 🙂 )
korean air and asiana a380 LAX
Pulling up along side the competition at the Tom Bradley International Terminal. These are two of my favorite airlines for sure.

So I’ll bet you’re just dying to know: did this experience live up to the expectation I had built up in my mind? Well…yes and no. Starting with the negative first, I’ll just say that I did not like the “open” layout of the Prestige Class cabin on the A380. I prefer as much privacy as possible when flying in premium airline cabins, and the Korean Air business class product is anything but that.

On the other hand, the Korean Air cabin crew working this flight was one of the best I’ve ever experienced. Their professionalism, care, and politeness towards every passenger is something western airlines can (and should) learn from. It was such a good experience that I’ve realized that I shouldn’t let the lack of available award space keep me from flying this airline in the future.

I’ve even got ExpertFlyer searching for award space 24/7, and I’m getting automatic notifications when something pops up. That’s a huge time saver! But still, even if I can’t find award availability that works for me, I actually wouldn’t think twice just to buy a ticket outright. There are very few business class products I’d be willing to pay out of my own pocket for, and Korean Air is now one of them.

Comments (9)

  1. John S

    April 21, 2017
    • SANspotter

      April 21, 2017

    November 25, 2017
  3. John

    December 20, 2017
    • SANspotter

      December 20, 2017
  4. Richard

    January 29, 2020
    • SANspotter

      January 29, 2020
  5. SDRSpotter

    May 4, 2022
    • Scott (SANspotter)

      May 4, 2022

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