I have always had good experiences flying Korean Air whether in economy, business, or first class.  Business class, or Prestige Class, on the Korean Air A380 is a special treat since this aircraft is the only Asian airline with an onboard bar, The Celestial Bar.  Worldwide, only a handful of airlines, including Emirates, Qatar and Etihad, offer on-board bars.

Korean Air Flight 081 Seoul to New York

The direct great-circle flight path covers 6,898 miles.  Even though this was the last international leg of the trip to Bangkok, I was very much looking forward to this flight  because of the food, beverages and service on Korean Air that I always find to be topnotch and because of the wonderful Celestial Bar on its A380 aircraft.


After a delightful stay in the Asiana business class lounge thanks to Priority Pass, I arrived at the boarding gate 25 minutes before the scheduled 10:00 departure.  Boarding was ongoing through the Sky Priority Lane and about to start for economy passengers.

Departure gate at ICN

Many Asian carriers and airports have mastered the art of boarding aircraft without the usual crowding and blocking of access (gate lice) that normally accompanies boarding in the U. S..  Airport design is only a small part of the problem in the U. S..  There is no magic to it.  Asian airlines reduce boarding congestion by:

  •  assigning more agents,
  • creating easily distinguishable boarding lanes, and
  • checking boarding passes to ensure passengers are in the right lane.

Korean Air A380 Business Class Seat

Korean Air devotes the entire A380 upper deck to business class.  There are 94 Prestige Sleeper seats arranged 2-2-2 in three cabins.  The seats are 21.6 inches wide and have 74 inches of pitch according to Korean Air’s website.  Seats recline to full flat.  This is the same seat as on the Korean Air 777-300ER business-class flight from Bangkok, Thailand to Seoul.

The best business-class seats in the Korean Air fleet are the lie-flat, all-aisle-access Apex Prestige Suites found on certain 777-300ER, and A330 and all 747-8 aircraft.

The middle business class section which is the largest of the three upper deck cabins

My seat was 11H, a window bulkhead seat on the starboard side.   This flight was reasonably full, and it looked like 11H was the best bet to have a window seat with an empty seat on the aisle.  In this case I lucked out, as the aisle seat, 11G, went unoccupied.

My preferred seats on this aircraft are in rows 20 (incredible leg room) or 21 in the rear section.  This three-row cabin offers more privacy and easy access to the Celestial Bar.  If passengers talk loudly in the bar, it might disturb passengers in this cabin, but that is why they make noise-cancelling headphones.

I like window seats for the view.  On this plane, the spacious storage compartments next to the window are an added benefit.  Korean Air 747-8s have the same storage compartment on the upper deck and have the Prestige Suites,  which are much nicer seats.

Amenities and Seat Features

Korean Air provides a blanket, small pillow, a well-stocked amenity kit, slippers, and noise-cancelling headphones but no pajamas.

Amenity Kit

Amenity kit with logo for the PyeongChang Olympic Games
Amenity kit contents, including Davi face cream, cooling eye gel and lip balm, displayed on one of the storage lockers by the window

Storage Locker

Window seats have easy access to large stowage lockers (pictured above) next to the windows.  These compartments are ideal places to securely and conveniently store pillows, blankets, and other personal items throughout the flight.  Just remember to check the locker at the end of the flight before getting off.

Noise-Cancelling Headsets

The headsets in Prestige Class are more than adequate for watching movies and drowning out cabin noise.  I travel with Bose headphones but use the ones Korean Air supplies and save the battery and wear and tear on mine.


Power Ports

A/C power is located near the floor between the seats.  Two USB ports and the headphone connection are easily accessible at shoulder level.


Tray Table

As on Korean Air 777-300 aircraft, the tray table deploys easily without having to remove items from the console.

The tray table is under the console but easily slides out and up without disturbing items on the console.

Video Screen and Controller

In the bulkhead seats the video screen is located in a compartment that is an extension of the console.  This extension provides some additional separation from the lower body of a seatmate, if there is one.  The video controller is mounted below the armrest in a somewhat awkward position.

Video controller and small storage area below

Seat Controls

Seat controls are located on the armrest.  It takes only one touch to move the seat to a  preset position indicated on the control.20170420_010156

Pre-Departure Service

Pre-departure service consisted of beverages (champagne, juice or water) and distribution of newspapers. menus, and headphones.

Champagne in a glass and packaged nuts but this is business class not first.


At 10:00 the flight attendants performed the traditional welcome bow to passengers.  The Service Manager, the head flight attendant, also came by to introduce herself.  The pilots announced that the projected flight time to JFK was 13 hours and 17 minutes.  ETA at JFK was 10:43 almost 40 minutes ahead of schedule.

Pushback was at 10:07.  We taxied to Runway 15R (One Five Right) and departed at 10:22.

View from tail-mounted external camera departing 15R in light fog.  I wish US carriers had external cameras on their widebody aircraft.

In-Flight Service

First Meal Service

The service began at 11:06 with hot towels.  Here are the menus.20170420_111822_resized


A drink service followed shortly after hot towels.

18-year Glenfiddich and king crab with mango puree

The appetizer was served at 11:30.

Roast chicken appetizer
Wine with the appetizer

Soup and more wine at 11:45.

Celery and potato soup

The flight attendants served the entrée at 11:56.

Beef tenderloin, snap peas and mushroom, and mashed potatoes

Everything from the amuse bouche to the dessert was presented and prepared well and tasted great.  I chose the western steak (Australian or New Zealand  beef) for the entrée because I knew it would be prepared medium as requested.  Plus, the excellent bibimbap and bulgogi, although served more elegantly in business class, are pretty much the same as what is offered in economy.  Korean Air bibimbap has won awards.

The flight attendants brought the dessert carts and port wine at 12:16.  I always try a little of everything if they let me, and they always let me.20170420_123403_resized20170420_121901_resized

Haagen Dazs ice cream

I like being served from these carts and eating off of linen as opposed to trays.

The Celestial Bar

Back in the 80s, I flew many flights on Continental Airlines DC-10s.  They had a Pub where passengers could gather and order drinks.  Korean Air’s business class Celestial Bar at the rear of the A380 upper deck reminds me of that era.  Bars on Emirates, Qatar, and Etihad A380s maybe more opulent, but I’d put the Korean Air Celestial Bar right up there with any of them in terms of size, service, and enjoyment.

The Celestial Bar is sponsored by Absolut Vodka and features specialty vodka drinks.  A flight attendant is on duty while the plane is at cruise altitude.

Flight attendant manning the Celestial Bar
There is room to stand or sit.  Seat belts are available during turbulence.
Reading material and large video screen

In addition to drinks, the bar offers some finger food (“anjou” I believe Koreans call it) to consume while enjoying a beverage.

Anjou to go with a drink

The Celestial Bar stocks only Absolut Vodka.  When I asked for scotch the attendant brought the whole supply!  The scotch selection (18 year varieties) is equivalent to what most airlines reserve for first class.


A smaller lounge is located at the front of business class.  Passengers must ask cabin crew to for service here.

Self-service lounge

The Celestial Bar and forward business class lounge are great places for getting up and stretching one’s legs and meeting and talking with fellow travelers.   We will see if features like this last as airlines struggle to make the A380 profitable or if they go the way of the Continental Pub and other airborne lounges of the 70s and 80s.

Mid-flight Snack

Korean Air does not offer much in the way of mid-flight snacks.  I opted for  Onigiri over ramen.

Onigiri, a rice ball wrapped in seaweed.  I liked the nori (seaweed) wrapping best.

Arrival Meal

Before landing flight attendants served a light meal.  It was nice to have an alternative to the breakfast foods that are usually served at the end of a long flight.

Chicken thigh light meal main course
Fruit dessert

Business Class Bulkhead Seat

There is a lavatory and galley in front of the bulkhead at seat 11H.  A curtain separates the lavatory and galley from the passenger cabin.  Another curtain at the entrance to the galley.  On a night flight with a darkened cabin, light from the galley was annoying when both curtains were not closed.

I mentioned it to the head flight attendant.  Thereafter, flight attendants made sure the galley curtain was closed because passengers often failed to close the curtain to the passenger compartment when they went to the lavatory.  I was being a little fussy because I could have worn the eye shades, but I don’t like being essentially blindfolded.

When the curtain to the passenger cabin was open, the curtain at the galley kept light out of the cabin.

Prestige Class Bathrooms

As usual on Korean Air, the lavatories were always clean as a whistle.  They are stocked with dental and shaving items that are not included in the amenity kits.20170420_145957_resized

JFK Arrival

We started the descent over the Finger Lakes region of New York and touched down on Runway 31L (Three One Left) at 10:52.

Fog, light rain, and limited visibility on short final to JFK Runway 31L. The landing conditions were much the same as the weather at departure.

We reached the gate at Terminal 1 at 11:06 ahead of the scheduled arrival time of 11:20.

Overall Impression

This flight reinforced my high regard for Korean Air and the experience in business class on its A380.  While the seating arrangement is not all aisle access and they do not provide pajamas, the food, service, beverages, and the wonderful Celestial Bar make the Korean Air A380 an excellent choice for long haul business class travel.  It was the last flight on my Asia trip but definitely the best.

Other posts about this trip:

Delta CRJ 900 First Class, Charlotte, NC (CLT) to New York, NY (JFK) and a “Midfield” Takeoff

Delta Airlines SkyClub, New York, NY (JFK) Terminal 4

China Eastern Airlines Business Class New York, NY (JFK) to Shanghai, China (PVG) – Terminal 1 Check-in and Expedited Security Process

Quick Look, Korean Air Lounge, New York, NY (JFK) Terminal 1

China Eastern 777-300 Business Class, New York, NY (JFK) to Shanghai, China (PVG)

Transfer at Shanghai, China (PVG) and China Eastern VIP Lounge, Terminal 1

China Eastern 777-300ER Business Class, Shanghai, China (PVG) to Bangkok, Thailand (BKK)

Bangkok Hotel Review – The Sheraton Grande Sukhumvit, A Starwood Luxury Collection Hotel

Bangkok Hotel Review –JW Marriott, The Best Hotel Lounge Buffet

Review — Air France/KLM Lounge, Suvarnabhumi Airport (BKK), Bangkok, Thailand

Korean Air 777-300ER Business Class, Bangkok, Thailand(BKK) to Seoul/Incheon, Korea (ICN)

Asiana Airlines Business Class Lounge Seoul/Incheon (ICN), Republic of Korea — Priority Pass Lounge Review