On the A330-300 flight from Seoul to Denpasar (Bali) I was sitting in Seat 1A, a Korean Air Prestige (Apex) Suite. This flight was going to be very interesting in part because, in 2016, I sat in the same seat on the same plane from Seoul/Incheon to Ho Chi Minh City, Socialist Republic of Vietnam except on that flight 1A was designated as first class. To put it politely, that A330-300 first class flight was disappointing. I wondered how I would feel about this flight now that seat 1A had been reclassified as business class.
My 747-8i flight from Atlanta, GA arrived at ICN’s brand new Terminal 2. Terminal 2 has been open for just over one year. It is used exclusively by Korean Airlines and its SkyTeam partners. ICN always ranks in the top two or three of the world’s best airlines. SkyTrax’ 2019 survey ranked ICN as the third best airport in the world behind Singapore Changi and Tokyo Haneda. That survey was mostly conducted before Terminal 2 opened. Because Terminal 2 is such an improvement over over Terminal 1 and the Concourse in terms of esthetics (living walls and full-size trees), lounges, immigration and security facilities, and overall feel, I wouldn’t be surprised to see ICN move up to No. 1 or 2 next time.
Other posts about the trip to Bali:
Korean Air Flight 624 Seoul/Incheon to Denpasar, Indonesia
Class of Service: Business (Prestige) Class
Great Circle Distance: 3,262 statute miles
Estimated Flight Time: Six hours and 3 minutes
Scheduled Departure: 18:00
Scheduled Arrival: 00:15
The layover was short, but I enjoyed a brief stay in the new Korean Air Prestige Lounge West near Gate 249. The Terminal 2 KAL Lounges are a big improvement over the ones formerly located in Terminal 1. Then it was time for boarding the flight to Bali. Flight KE 36 boarded at Gate 241.
Boarding started at 17:35. The process was hassle free. As is the general rule at ICN, gates are large and have easily identified lines on opposite sides of the gate. Economy passengers lined up on the left and premium cabin and Korean Air and SkyTeam elites lined up on the right in this case. The secret to fast and orderly boarding is that Korean Air assigns agents to check boarding passes and passports as passengers line up to ensure everyone is in the right spot and has the proper documents before boarding starts.
There were separate jet bridges for each cabin. Using two jet bridges makes getting to your seat faster and easier for everybody including the flight attendants in business class who can provide pre-departure service without having to contend with boarding passengers in economy. Boarding through the forward door, it was a short trip to my seat, 1A, a bulkhead window seat on the port side.
A330 Prestige Cabins and Prestige (Apex) Suite
This A330 is a two-class aircraft and holds up to 272 passengers total. There are 24 Prestige Class Suites and the rest of the seats are economy. Prestige seats are arranged 2-2-2 each with direct access to the aisle. A bulkhead behind the first row separates Prestige Class into two cabins. In 2016, Prestige Suites in the first row were called first class seats.
In fact, Seatguru and even Korean Air’s website still identify them as first class seats! When I purchased the business-class ticket I was surprised that I could select a seat in the first row. I kept expecting an email advising that my seat was being changed to one of the 18 Prestige Suites in the three-row aft business cabin. That never happened.
To paraphrase Crocodile Dundee: “That’s not a first class seat (above). That’s a first class seat (below).”
The Prestige Suite is the same Apex Suite described in the previous review of the 747-8i and in the A330 post where this seat was a first-class seat. See those posts and one for the Korean Air 777-300 for detailed discussions of the pros and cons of the Korean Air Apex suite. Basically, I think the Apex Suite/Prestige Suite is an excellent seat for business class especially the ones by the window. Differences with impressions and conclusions in those other posts are the primary focus here.
Since the Prestige Suites in the first row are essentially identical to the ones in the aft cabin, I prefer the smaller cabin just because fewer people make the first row seem more private.
Amenities were limited – blanket, pillow, noise-cancelling headphones, and a small bottle of water. But no amenity kit or slippers. The lavatories were stocked with dental and shaving supplies so the lack of an amenity kit was no big deal. Not having slippers or socks was surprising.
Before takeoff the flight attendants offered newspapers in English and Korean, a selection of beverages, packaged nuts, and took dinner orders. The lead flight attendant came by to introduce herself and provide a welcome greeting.
Korean Air cabin crew always count the passengers once the door closes. Other airlines probably do this, but on Korean Air it is very obvious and somewhat comical. In my experience, crews often look visibly relieved when the number of passengers onboard matches the paperwork. Like they almost expected that wouldn’t be the case.
The door closed at 18:00. Push back followed four minutes later. Takeoff was at 18:23 on Runway 33L (Three Three Left).
The menus for the flight:
I chose beef tenderloin as the entree. Somewhat surprisingly, the flight attendant asked how I wanted it prepared. Service began with tablecloths and moist, warm towels 20 minutes after takeoff.
Since I was having a western meal, dinner came with soup.
The entree was presented at 17:29. The beef tenderloin was prepared medium just as I requested. Korean Air does as good a job as any airline in preparing beef.
Ice cream and coffee topped off the meal.
Before the descent, I tried the shrimp sandwich refreshment. It was very tasty.
We landed at 23:53 and parked at the gate at 00:00 15 minutes ahead of schedule.
Apparently expectations play a big part in how I perceive similar experiences. In 2016, after 14 hours in first class in a terrific Kosmo Suite, Seat 1A just didn’t cut it as anything close to what I would describe as a first class experience. Korean Air must have finally realized that it was a cruel joke to designate A330 Prestige Suites in row 1 as first class. Calling Seat 1A a business-class seat changed everything. The seat, while tight, seemed more comfortable. The food tasted better.
In short this was a wonderful flight. My overall satisfaction with Korean Airlines was enhanced rather than degraded. It is a pleasant surprise when an airline benefits passengers by recognizing and correcting a mistake.