REVIEW: Korean Air Business Class
by Dominic Lalk.
This review focuses on the second leg of a Hong Kong – Seoul – Frankfurt Korean Air Business Class flight on the airline's new flagship B747-8. About 70% of the -8, by structural weight, incorporates new advanced aluminium alloys and carbon composites to reduce the weight drastically and giving a 16% improvement in fuel consumption and emissions over its predecessor the B747-400, while generating 30% less noise.
I arrived at Seoul Incheon International Airport at 1130 for the 1335 departure on KE905 to Frankfurt. Having connected from Hong Kong the night before, my luggage was already checked through, but because I left the airport for a few hours I had to go through customs and security again, which was a half-hour ordeal given the airport was busy and is lacking premium fast track facilities.
The Korean Air lounge is a five-minute walk from immigration. The facility was very busy that Friday noon I visited, so finding a seat proved challenging. There was a fair selection of newspapers and magazines on the shelves, most of them in Korean, and a scarce selection of food and beverages.
Using the priority boarding channel, I was quickly onboard and shown to my seat on the upper deck where a very plush blanket and a good-size pillow were waiting on my seat. My coat was hung and a welcome drink offered, including Perrier-Jouët champagne. The crew then distributed slippers and Davi Napa-branded amenity kits, which I thought were fantastic, given they contained a deep moisturising face cream, eye cream and even a box of truffles. This definitely elevated the experience, and easily outrivaled most business class amenity kits on offer at other airlines.
Upper deck is configured 2-2, while the lower deck has the 2-2-2 configuration. The 48 Prestige Suites are exceptionally well-designed. All are forward facing private suites with direct aisle access and increased privacy due to a divider between them. The Prestige Suites turn into 74-inch-long fully-flat beds, and when not fully reclined the seats are still a generous 22 inches wide.
There was plenty of storage for personal items underneath the seat's ottoman and in the in-built personal cupboards lining the cabin walls. The on-demand in-flight entertainment was screened on massive, crystal-clear 18-inch personal touchscreens, the largest I've experienced so far in business class. Quality noise-cancelling headphones were distributed.
A round of drinks was offered about 15 minutes into the flight, followed by lunch. There was a tasty marinated shrimp and yam appetiser to begin with, followed by a piping-hot lentil cream soup. For mains, there were four choices: tenderloin of beef, sautéed red snapper, Korean bulgogi (hashed beef) or the airline's signature bimbimbap (mixed rice). I had the tenderloin, which was accompanied by mashed potatoes, vegetables and a red wine sauce – a good choice, with the beef a perfect medium and the vegetables cooked al dente. There was a snack menu for those who felt peckish in between meals.
The crew was welcoming and accommodating, but lacked the charisma and attention to detail found on some competing carriers. The beverage selection was fair, with two quality reds, two whites and Perrier-Jouët's Grand Cru, a very nice champagne indeed when properly chilled.
There was a dinner service two hours before arrival in Frankfurt, comprising one Korean and two Western options.
We got into Frankfurt 25 minutes ahead of schedule. I was quickly through customs and my luggage was one of the first out.
A significant improvement over Korean Air's previous business product. The seat itself, and the comfort and privacy it provides, as well as the amenities, rank among the best in the skies. The catering was good and the on-board service quick, albeit a little inconsistent here and there. KE offers very competitive business class fares from Hong Kong to Seoul, and then on to Europe or the U.S.