FIRST IMPRESSIONS I arrived at London Heathrow Terminal 3 two and a half hours before the 2130 departure to Seoul and went to check-in zone 3. Flights leave daily, arriving at 1620 the following day. The airport was quite busy, but the member of staff was very chatty. He explained where the lounge was and I went through security quickly. There was a large queue of people taking off their shoes to be scanned but I was waved through.
THE LOUNGE The Korean Air Morning Calm lounge is near gate 12, and is small with blue and cream furnishings and an area with three computers for free internet access. The bar area had peanuts and olives, crisps and Twiglets on offer, and an array of alcoholic and soft drinks. There were two large TVs but they were "not in service", and a selection of newspapers and magazines. There are no toilets inside the lounge – you have to go out and use the disabled toilet next door. (The business class lounge in Incheon airport, Seoul is impressive and luxurious compared with Heathrow.
It has grey marble flooring with a huge slanted window running the length of the lounge from floor to ceiling and armchairs around low tables divided up by wooden screens. There is a separate TV room, phone booths, shower rooms and a smoking room. There are full hot dinners and snacks in the kitchen area, which are provided by the Hyatt hotel group, and a bar and soft drink selection.)
BOARDING At 2100 a member of staff informed us we should go to gate 20 for boarding. The gate was quite a long way down a corridor on travellators and when I arrived boarding had begun. After showing my passport again there was an additional security check of hand luggage and I took the fast-track path to board.
THE SEAT My seat was upstairs on this B747-400, where six rows of four seats are configured 2-2. Korean Air's new business class seating is angled lie-flat in grey and pale green, with a privacy cocoon and a recline angle of 170 degrees. I was upstairs in 21H, an aisle seat; the window seat has the advantage of having a ledge with compartments where you can store your bag instead of putting it in the overhead locker. A storage space for shoes is in front, and at the side of the seat is a small space for glasses or a bottle of water. The seat is multi-adjustable, with set positions for upright, relaxing and sleeping, as well as a massage function. There is a directional light at the right shoulder, which has three levels of brightness. For privacy, there is a screen which slides across, and the table comes out of the right armrest, where the AVOD IFE is located. The emergency exit row is 19, a good tip if you want even more leg room and to avoid climbing over your neighbour if you have the window seat.
THE FLIGHT A flight attendant in a smart pale green uniform took my jacket and offered me guava or orange juice, water or champagne. There was a good selection of magazines and papers. We waited in a queue for take-off and were finally airborne at 2210. I asked for some socks but socks are not provided, so I put on the open-toed slippers. I couldn't see an amenity kit so I asked for an eye mask and ear-plugs, which were brought promptly. (Korean Air has stopped providing amenity kits to reduce wastage, but individual items are issued on request.)
After around 20 minutes the menu card was handed out. The pre-drink starter was marinated eggplant with mozzarella and balsamic vinegar, followed by terrine of smoked salmon, zucchini and marscapone with balsamic oil. Korean and western options were available for the main course. I chose the Korean bibimbap – minced beef and vegetables, sesame oil and hot pepper paste – which was very tasty, and I enjoyed the kick of the pepper. For dessert there was a cheese trolley or Ben & Jerry's ice-cream. Dinner and breakfast orders are taken at the same time – I ordered fruit salad for the morning, but hot food was available including bacon and eggs or Korean porridge.
By the time I had finished eating it was midnight. I played with the AVOD, which was easy to use and extensive with 40 films, 60 short features, 16 music channels and 55 music albums. I started watching Notes on a Scandal but fell asleep for six hours, finding the bed very comfortable. You can put a sticker on your chair saying "leave me to sleep" or "wake me for meals" or "wake me for duty free". I only woke up when I heard the whirr of seats moving back into the sitting position for breakfast.
ARRIVAL We were handed arrival forms and landed at 1615 local time (0815 UK time). The queue for passport control took a long time but the bags came very quickly. From Incheon airport it is about an hour and 20 minutes into central Seoul by car.
PRICES Return fares for a midweek departure in July: economy class £756, business class £2,373, first class £10,167.
VERDICT A great seat and service. On the return leg the plane was delayed by two hours (waiting for connections, and a bag had to be taken off because the passenger missed boarding) but it was handled very well with the purser personally explaining the situation to every passenger in business class and apologising.