I arrived at Seoul Incheon International Airport at 1130 for the 1335 departure on KE905 to Frankfurt. Korean Air started deploying the B747-8, the stretched version of the jumbo jet, on the route in September complete with its latest business class product, the Prestige Suite. The airline began deploying the -8 on services to Hong Kong and San Francisco from November, with future plans to place it on the Auckland route too.
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 30-minute-plus 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 it was rather challenging to find a seat. There was a fair selection of newspapers and magazines on the shelves, most of them in Korean, and a rather uninspired and scarce selection of food and beverages.
Boarding from gate 15, a mere four-minute walk from the lounge, began at 1300. Using the priority boarding channel, I was quickly onboard and shown to my seat on the upper deck where a plush blanket and a good-size pillow were waiting on my seat. My coat was hung and a welcome drink offered.
Very impressive. I was in seat 18A, a window on the upper deck configured 2-2. Sitting down and playing with the seat controls, I quickly realised that my seat was not reclining, in fact, it would not budge an inch, which was surprising given this was a brand-new aircraft. But the cabin crew managed to accommodate me in 8J, also a window, on the 2-2-2 configured lower deck.
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 comfortable 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 in-flight entertainment was underwhelming; the selection was limited, with only a handful of recent Hollywood additions and a shortlist of rather outdated TV shows. However, the massive, crystal-clear 23-inch widescreen touchscreen with hand-held controller in part made up for this shortfall.
We took off at 1405, half an hour behind schedule, but as the estimated flight time was 10 hours and 45 minutes, this was no issue.
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, including ramen, onigiri, pizza and fresh cookies.
The crew was welcoming and accommodating, but lacked the charisma and attention to detail found on some competing carriers. For instance, they could not seem to remember which tea I was drinking, even though I must have ordered ten of them. The beverage selection was good, though not impressive, with two reds, two whites and Perrier-Jouet’s Grand Cru.
There was a dinner service two hours before arrival in Frankfurt, comprising one Korean and two Western options. I had the roasted chicken thigh with lemon and bordelaise sauce, which was good.
We got into Frankfurt at 1715 – 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 (which I overheard several fellow passengers remark upon as well). The seat itself, and the comfort and privacy it provides, rank among the best in the skies. The lounge, IFE selection, and crew interaction were satisfactory, but not on par with the regional competition from Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore.
- AIRCRAFT TYPE B747-8
- CONFIGURATION 2-2-2
- SEAT WIDTH 22in/56cm
- SEAT LENGTH 74in/188cm
- SEAT RECLINE 180 degrees
- PRICE Internet rates for a semi-flexible, mid-week Seoul-Frankfurt return flight in March start at 3,836,100 Korean won (US$3,273) including taxes and surcharges.
- CONTACT koreanair.com