Korean Air's new lie-flat style seating on services from London to Seoul are a clear sign that the airline is upping its service standard by another notch.
The new business class product, which was launched on five of the seven flights out of London in April this year, will complete its roll out by June 13. First class will feature the fully flat Kosmo Sleeper seat on the London route later this year, while Prestige (business class) cabins have been fitted with the new angled lie-flat bucket seat.
The seat reclines 170 degrees, with individual controls for different sections of the seat, a power source, directional lighting and AVOD in-flight entertainment with an extensive range of recent films (both Western and Korean) and music. New menus were introduced last year with healthy organic choices. [For a review of Korean Air business class London to Seoul see the July/August issue of Business Traveller].
Korean Air flies daily from London Heathrow Terminal 3 to Seoul Incheon Airport at 2130 arriving the following day at 1620 local time. The return journey departs at 1325 arriving at Heathrow at 1655. Asiana is the only other airline serving Seoul direct from London, flying on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 2100 arriving in Seoul at 1550 and returning on the same days at 1300 arriving at Heathrow at 1705.
Korean Air is clearly pushing its onward Japanese connections and taking advantage of the fact that, while Tokyo Narita is served directly from London by four airlines with five flights a day, other Japanese cities have been neglected. For example, JAL is the only airline that flies directly to Osaka from London.
Connecting passengers in Seoul will certainly not be in any discomfort at Incheon. The futuristic, spotless and stylishly designed airport was completed in 2002 and is built on entirely reclaimed land. It has had such a successful reception in Asia that the designers of Heathrow's T5 flew out to look at the convenient "one terminal" concept.
As well as a good selection of duty free shops, Incheon has a spa area for massages and trees growing inside the terminal. Connecting Korean Air passengers will be well looked after in the spacious lounges. With natural daylight and clear views onto the gates, seating is divided into smaller quiet areas and there are several hot and cold meal options provided by the Hyatt hotel group in the kitchen and bar area. There are showers, free internet connection, a smoking room and for first class lounge users, massaging chairs in a separate relaxation room.
A spokesperson for Korean Air says: "Korean Air traffic from the UK to Japan has been traditionally strong, but has recently seen an increase in passenger numbers because of the ease of transfers at award-winning Seoul Incheon. Passengers can transfer with ease through Incheon's 'one terminal concept' to a variety of regional gateways in Japan without having the hassle of landing at Tokyo Narita and then having to change airports to Haneda Airport for the domestic leg of their journey."
Korean Air has connecting flights to 15 destinations in Japan: Tokyo Narita, Tokyo Haneda (from Seoul Gimpo Airport), Sapporo, Hakodate, Aomori, Akita, Komatsu, Niigata, Nagoya, Osaka, Okayama, Fukuoka, Oita, Nagasaki and Kagoshima. Some services are offered on a code-share with JAL to offer passengers more options.
Connection times are attractive, for example: London-Seoul-Nagoya has a two and a half hour connection time at Incheon Airport and one hour 25 minutes on the return journey; London-Seoul-Osaka connection times on the outbound flight are one hour 35 minutes with one hour 55 minutes on the return leg.
When Business Traveller checked online with Airline Network for Korean Air flights in mid-June, business class fares were from £1,931 return. Business class fares for Japanese destinations via Seoul were £2,286 return for both London-Seoul-Nagoya and London-Seoul-Osaka.
Report by Felicity Cousins