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. 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 upper deck of the A380 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. The seats recline to a fully flat position. This is the same seat as on the Korean Air 777-300ER business-class flight from Bangkok, Thailand to ICN.
My seat was 11H, a window bulkhead seat on the starboard side. My preferred seats on this aircraft are in rows 20 (incredible leg room) or 21 in the rear section. I like the window seats for the view and because of the spacious storage compartments next to the window. These compartments are perfect for storing blankets, pillows, amenity kits, etc. 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.
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. The lockers are ideal places to securely store pillows, blankets, and other personal items throughout the flight. Just remember to check the locker before leaving.
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 Korean Air ones and save the battery and wear and tear on my own pair.
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 777-300s, 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 and headphones.
At 10:00 the flight attendants (FAs) performed the traditional welcome bow to passengers. The Service Manager, the head FA, 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. The menus for the flight were distributed before takeoff.
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 entree 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 entree because I knew it would be prepared medium as requested. Plus, the Korean bibimbap and bulgogi, although served more elegantly in business class, are pretty much the same as what is offered in economy. Korean Air has won awards for its bibimbap.
The FAs brought the dessert cart at 12:16. I always try a little of everything.
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 that had a Pub where passengers could gather and order drinks. Korean Air’s business class Celestial Bar at the rear of the upper deck reminds me of that era. Bars on Emirates, Qatar, and Ethiad 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 bar is sponsored by Absolut Vodka and features specialty vodka drinks. The bar is staffed by a flight attendant.
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 vodka. When I asked for scotch the attendant brought the whole supply.
There is another smaller, self-service lounge at the front of business class.
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 as profitable as possible or if they go the way of the lounges of the 70s and 80s like the Continental Pub.
Korean Air does not offer much in the way of mid-flight snacks. I tried the Onigiri.
Before landing we were served a light meal. It was nice to have a meal rather than the breakfast foods that are usually served at the end of a long flight.
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 and there is a 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. The 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.
Prestige Class Bathrooms
As usual on Korean Air, the lavatories were always clean. They were stocked with dental and shaving items that were not included in the amenity kits.
We started the descent over the Fingerlakes region of New York and touched down on Runway 31 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: