Experiencing the outstanding Apex Suite on Korean Air’s 777-300 was completely unexpected. Arriving at Suvarnabhumi Airport I learned my flight on Finnair from Bangkok to Helsinki was cancelled. Adding insult to injury, I didn’t know that Finnair had booked me on Qatar Airways to New York through Doha. One flight would have been my first chance to experience the new Q Suites. That flight had departed. The next option was Korean Air.
The Korean Air flight to Seoul was on a 777-300. Having flown this flight a few times from Bangkok over the years, I was disappointed. Business class was always a 2-3-2 seating arrangement. Great service, but the seat was a mediocre business-class product. At least this time I got a window seat, and the agent said the aisle seat was unoccupied.
The agents issued a pass for the Premium Lane and directions to the AirFrance/KLM lounge. All security lanes at BKK use the same process. The Premium Lane just ensures that the lines for security and passport control are shorter.
The AirFrance/KLM lounge serves SkyTeam airlines and is also one of the many lounges at BKK open to Priority Pass members. This lounge was renovated recently. It has very good food, alcoholic beverages, and seating for a Priority Pass lounge.
(Click each photo above to enlarge and read the caption)
Korean Air 658 Bangkok to Seoul
Departure was scheduled for 23:20 at Gate E8. Boarding was delayed until 23:15. At boarding, I was thrilled when I saw business class on this Korean Air 777-300.
I had one of the remodeled 777-300s that Korean Air outfitted with 42 Prestige Suites in two business-class cabins. Seats are arranged 2-2-2. The forward cabin consists of just one row slipped in between the business-class galley and the first-class cabin of eight Kosmo Suites 2.0. The aft business-class cabin has six rows between the second and third boarding doors. The economy section is composed of 227 seats in an undensified 3-3-3 configuration.
Korean Air Prestige (Apex) Suite
Business class on a 777 that is arranged 2-2-2 might seem undesirable. But by using the Apex Suite (Korean Air calls it a Prestige Suite) Korean Air turns that arrangement into a very positive passenger experience.
All suites have direct aisle access, 75 inches of pitch, and seats that are 21 inches wide. The window suites and those in the one-row cabin are the best of the bunch as far as privacy.
Window suites are amazing. They are more private than the Delta One Suites even though Prestige Suites have no door. My suite for the flight was 12A, a window seat on the port side in the next to last row of the aft cabin.
The best feature of the window suites is that they are a long way from aisle traffic. People walking in the aisle cannot see into them. They feel roomy unlike the cramped Delta One Suite.
I’ve flown the Apex Suite (Sky Suite) on a Japan Airlines 787-9 and loved it. Business class on JAL 789’s is also arranged 2-2-2. On a Korean Air 777, the Apex Suites are even nicer and roomier due to the extra width of a 777 compared to a 787. For one, there is more secure storage.
The JAL Sky Suites don’t have a locker under the monitor and the compartment under the armrest is smaller. The fuselage of a 777 is more than one foot wider than a 787. That allows for a wider armrest and storage compartment next to the adjoining seat and roomier aisles. Both armrests have a bit of padding.
Controls for seat position, lighting, and the divider between the adjacent suite are easy to use and are close at hand. The tray table ejects from a compartment under the armrest ledge.
Seat controls at the top are preset. One touch and the seat moves to the position indicated. Suite lights have three brightness levels.
A panel in the wall between adjacent seats can be raised for privacy or lowered to communicate with a seatmate.
The audio/video remote control is recessed in the wall under the armrest next to the adjoining suite. It can be awkward to reach. The Japan Airlines Sky Suite a/v remote is located on the wall above the armrest and is angled so it can be seen and used without removing it. The location of the a/v remote is the only feature of the JAL version of the Apex Suite that I prefer over the KAL version.
The video monitor is positioned directly in front of the seat. Fixed in place, viewing is available from boarding to disembarking.
Here’s why I really like Korean Air’s 777-300ER Apex suites: There is a lot of room for your legs and feet which also translates into plenty of floor space. That makes this seat feel more like a first-class seat than a business-class seat.
It is easy to find multiple comfortable positions for the whole body. Under the foot rest cushion is ideal for shoes or a backpack in flight. Shoes and other personal items can also be stored in the locker under the screen. I had the same wonderful experience with this seat on a Korean Air 747-8i.
I hate to keep picking on Delta (not) but its vaunted Delta One Suite (Thompson Vantage XL) is a distant second in comfort and privacy to the Korean Air Apex Suites window seats. I’ll find out in a few weeks if the same applies to the Qatar Q Suites.
Update: After trying Q Suites on a flight from Doha to New York I think the window Korean Air Apex Suite feels roomier and more private than a Q Suite but the Q Suite offers superior looks and technology and comes with Qatar’s world-class service.
This 777 has overhead lights but not handy individual ventilation outlets I prefer.
Korean Air supplied slippers and noise-cancelling headsets (in the storage compartment beside the seat). A blanket and small pillow were on the seat at boarding. There was no amenity kit, but hand lotion and dental and shaving supplies were available in the lavatories.
Pushback was at 23:25. After a short wait, we taxied to the active runway. Takeoff was at 23:41 on Runway 1L (One Left).
Shortly after takeoff the captain announced that the estimated flight time to Seoul was five hours and five minutes. The distance between BKK and ICN is 2,286 miles on a great-circle route.
Prestige Class Service
Service began at the gate with packaged nuts, moist towels, and a selection of beverages.
(Side Note: I find it puzzling that on most domestic flights in the U.S., business-class passengers place orders for pre-departure beverages. But outside of the U.S. airlines usually only serve a tray of beverages in business class on international flights. In this atypical instance, U.S. domestic service beats service on many highly rated international airlines. It is not like the international flights are generally pressed for time. Plus flight attendants on wide-body aircraft don’t have to contend with economy passengers clogging up the aisles in business-class as happens on U.S. domestic flights.)
Flight attendants also distributed menus and offered newspapers in Thai, Korean, and English.
A light snack after takeoff and breakfast options before the early morning arrival in Seoul were the only meals or snacks on this five-hour, red-eye flight.
The selection of wine and liquor was pretty good for business class.
Hot Savoury (sic) Snack
In-flight service began with warm wet towels at 23:56. Three minutes later the flight attendants brought a cloth for the tray table and then offered juice and water. I requested the 18-year-old Chivas which was delivered at 00:04 along with the chicken satay snack.
The sauce was sweet. The satay was juicy and tender. It was just the right amount of food after sampling a few of the entrees and side dishes in the AF/KLM lounge.
In-Flight Entertainment (IFE)
After the snack, the cabin lights were dimmed and most passengers hit the hay. I explored the IFE and the Voyager 3D flight following system for a bit before sleeping.
The video monitor in the Apex Suite is the same size as the one in the Delta One Suite, but the D1 monitor is sharper and brighter.
The Prestige Class bathrooms are located between the two business-class cabins. That means economy passengers don’t use them. Korean Air lavs are always clean. Since there were no amenity kits on this flight, Korean Air outfitted the lavs with mouthwash, toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, shaving cream, and Jurlique hand lotion.
The arrival service started 91 minutes out when the cabin lights came back up. For the arrival meal I selected the Korean porridge with side dishes over the noodles and fried tofu. I normally avoid American breakfasts because eggs dishes on a plane never seem to have much taste.
Hot towels were offered five minutes after the lights were raised. We hit some turbulence and table cloths and beverages weren’t given out until about 72 minutes before arrival. Flight attendants served my meal 14 minutes later.
The rice porridge benefited greatly from the side dishes and seaweed being mixed in. It was the first time I tried it. I’m glad I did.
The final service was completed and cleared away with a little more than 30 minutes left in the flight. We landed at 06:50 on Runway 33R (Three Three Right) and arrived at Korean Air’s new Terminal 2 Gate 254 at 07:00. The flight was five hours and 34 minutes gate to gate.
The Terminal 2 Tower reminds me of a golf ball on a tee. Things have changed since Goldfinger’s comment about Oddjob in the third James Bond film. Golf is indeed fast becoming the national sport of Korea.
The Korean Air 777-300 Prestige Suite version of the Apex Suite is flat out one of the best business class seats I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing. The privacy of the window Apex Suites is unmatched. They feel big enough to merit the name “suite.” I’d take it over a Delta One Suite any day. Next month I’ll see how the Korean Air Prestige Suite stacks up against the Qatar Q Suite.
Would you rather ride in a Korean Air Prestige Suite window seat or a suite with a door like the Delta One Suite or the Qatar Q Suite? Leave a comment below.