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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A/C power is located near the floor between the seats. Two USB ports and the headphone connection are easily accessible at shoulder level.
As on Korean Air 777-300 aircraft, the tray table deploys easily without having to remove items from 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.
Seat controls are located on the armrest. It takes only one touch to move the seat to a preset position indicated on the control.
Pre-departure service consisted of beverages (champagne, juice or water) and distribution of newspapers. menus, and headphones.
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.
First Meal Service
The service began at 11:06 with hot towels. Here are the menus.
A drink service followed shortly after hot towels.
The appetizer was served at 11:30.
Soup and more wine at 11:45.
The flight attendants served the entrée at 11:56.
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.
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.
In addition to drinks, the bar offers some finger food (“anjou” I believe Koreans call it) to consume while enjoying a beverage.
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.
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.
Korean Air does not offer much in the way of mid-flight snacks. I opted for Onigiri over ramen.
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.
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.
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.
We started the descent over the Finger Lakes region of New York and touched down on Runway 31L (Three One Left) at 10:52.
We reached the gate at Terminal 1 at 11:06 ahead of the scheduled arrival time of 11:20.
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: