BACKROUND Korean Air currently operates three types of First Class seats from the latest flat beds to the older cradle style seats. The London route currently operates the older seats but these are expected to be replaced.
CHECK-IN I arrived at London Heathrow Terminal 4 very early for my 2010 flight to Seoul. I had to wait a few moments for the check-in desks to open at 1610. There is a separate area (H) to the right as you enter the terminal for first and business class and four desks were open on time.
THE LOUNGE Korean uses the Skyteam Lounge near Gate 10. This is set over two floors with the spa/showers on the ground floor and a small VIP room with waitered service for First Class passengers on the first floor. I was told this has its own ‘servant’ but as there was nobody else in the room I opted to be in the main lounge which itself was not that busy. The first and second floors are similar and the lounges are bright with a vertical garden on one wall. There is a choice of a couple of hot dishes, soup, salads, wraps and crisps. Hot and cold drinks are available from a couple of bars and other areas. There was also free wifi, plenty of computers and Playstations. My only complaint was the rather cold air conditioning where I was sitting.
BOARDING I proceeded to the gate 30 minutes before departure and boarding started a little late 25 minutes before the flight. First and Business passengers received priority boarding. As I entered the plane I was personally escorted to my seat and my jacket taken from me. Before take off a drink was offered as was a Gianfranco Ferre sleep suit. Amenities were in the toilet with the exception of the face mask, ear plugs, slippers and an aerosol of mineral water.
THE SEAT Korean has four configurations of B747-400 in the fleet and this one has 12 seats in First Class fitted over 3 rows in a 2-2 configuration. To see a seatplan click here. I chose seat 2A as I believed it had a feeling of being more spacious. While Row one has nobody in font, and hence more privacy, the aisle seats are very close to the closet and the pair of seats are closer together. Row three‘s pair of seats is separated by a bar area that holds some snacks and drinks, so in my view row 2 is likely to be noisier than row 2.
The seat on this plane is very old – it even had an ashtray! Despite its age it was very comfortable for sitting, wide with arm rests containing the table and AV controls, although these are not required too often as most functions are touch screen. The seat has three buttons for adjusting – One to recline, one for lumbar and one for the leg rest. It had a good recline that was almost horizontal but not flat (ie. it was still a little cradled like a seat). Despite that I slept well aided by a pillow, blanket and quilt. Privacy is fine as the seat has a hard shell back. There is no in-seat power and the only storage is in the magazine holder in the seat in front, or space for a bag in an area cut out of the shell in front.
THE FLIGHT The plane pulled away from the gates a few minutes late and joined the usual queue to depart Heathrow. 20 minutes after take-off the food and drinks orders were taken. There is a good wine list: The Champagne was Laurent Perrier Grand Siecle. There are two whites were Albert Bichot’s 2006 Chablis and Gewurztraminer Mambourg 2005. The reds were Chateau Leoville Poyferre 2004 and a Corton Grand Cru 2001.
The food choice included a canapé of Roasted eggplant and mozzarella skewer followed by either caviar or foie gras and asparagus rolls. Then the meal service of watercress soup with crawfish tails, salad. I skipped the canapés and started with a salad with blue cheese dressing and was offered a selection of extras such as peppers, tomatoes, seeds etc. to add. The main course was either sautéed beef tenderloin, mushroom pasta with fresh water crawfish or Korean ‘bibimbap’ with minced beef and vegetables. I opted for the bibimbap which was delicious if a little cold. To complete there was a cheeseboard, fruit or berries with strawberry coulis and amaretto cherry ice cream which I skipped.
The IFE is far newer than the seats and offers video on demand. There is a good size screen that pulls out from between the seats and most commands operate by touching the screen. There was a good choice of movies in English, Korean and other languages.
I woke up about 2.5 hours before landing and within minutes I was offered a drink. About an hour before landing I was asked if I wanted any breakfast. There is a selection of fruit, yoghurt, cereal, pastries, Korean porridge or tortilla with sausage and mushrooms. I had a bowl of cereal with a banana.
As the cabin was prepared for landing the crew came and gave a personal thank you which sums up the personal service on the flight.
ARRIVAL The flight landed seven minutes late due to head winds and I was first off the plane. Immigration was quiet and my bags arrived within ten minutes of being at the carousel.
VERDICT Very good service but the seat is now rather old.
PRICE A mid-week return in November from Korean’s website starts at £5,470.