Korean Air New York (JFK) to Seoul-Incheon (ICN), April 2011

The previous posts of this quasi-‘Round the World adventure:

Korean Air
Flight #86
New York City-Kennedy (JFK) – Seoul-Incheon (ICN)
April 14, 2011
Departure: 00:48 (scheduled 00:50)
Arrival:  03:47 (scheduled 03:50, April 15)
Duration: 13’59”
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Seat: 18J (Window, Upper deck, Prestige / Business class)
Miles flown including this flight: 14,045
 

Originally, from here to the end (Asian portion of this trip) was the only trip I was taking.  London and Amsterdam was a last minute add-on.  I managed to work out getting all these flights for only 120,000 Delta Skymiles, booking everything in business class over three airlines, none of them being Delta.  It took about 4-5 hours of research on my own, then about another 3 hours on the phone with a few Delta agents getting everything ticketed.  Most people would agonize over such a task, but I’m an airline geek.  And I’m estimating that if I paid for a similar itinerary (too complex to actually ticket, so I can only speculate), it would be somewhere in the $7,500-$10,000 range.  For me, its worth it.

Check-In

Korean Air has separate dedicated lines for First Class and Prestige Class (what they call their business class).  Also allowed in the Prestige line are the Skyteam Elite Plus, Skyteam Elite, and their own Elites.  I believe the Korean Air Million Milers get to use the First Class line, but I may be mistaken.  When I got there, nobody was in line so I just walked up to the first agent, which was the First Class line.  My first final destination was Bangkok (BKK), but I was traveling ICN-CAN-BKK (Seoul/Incheon – Guangzhou – Bangkok) with ICN-CAN-BKK on China Southern Airlines.  In the process of checking in, I was told that she could only give me my first two boarding passes.  When I get to Guangzhou, I would need to get my last boarding pass at the China Southern transit desk.  Ok, not a big deal.  My luggage however could be checked all the way through to BKK.

Travel Tip:  Always check the luggage tag that the airline prints out for you.  Especially for this leg, I was connecting twice, and traveling on two different airlines.  While I haven’t personally ever had that tag print incorrectly, I’ve heard stories where it has.  Check to make sure that ALL your flights/connections are on there in the correct order, and the flight numbers are correct.  Only takes 10 extra seconds.  If your bag isn’t on the belt at your destination, you wouldn’t want it to be something that you could have prevented.

I was at the desk for at most 5 minutes, grabbed all my documents, and then headed off to do my tour of 3 lounges in JFK.

Lounges

I previously wrote about my lounge surfing experience.  Read it HERE.

Boarding

Until this point in my life, I was mostly an economy flyer.  But after recently (Nov 2010) moving up to Gold Medallion, I have seen more upgrades to First Class compared to when I was a Silver Medallion.  Even still, when I have confirmed seat in First Class, all my domestic flights only have one jetway to board the plane.  But all the big birds flying over a pond usually have TWO jetways.  Ok, 1 boarding door and 1 jetway that then splits off to First/Prestige & Economy cabins.  I have only made a left turn in the jetway on one other trip (again on miles).  A year previous when I was flying from Nagoya, Japan – Shanghai, China when I performed for the 2010 Shanghai World Expo.  I still giggle on the inside like a schoolgirl who just had her first conversation with her first crush when making that left turn.

I was greeted as soon as I entered, and was shown the way to the staircase to head upstairs to my seat.  The upstairs of a Korean Air Boeing 747-400 is configured for 24 Prestige class seats.

First class. Kosmo Sleeper seats

Upstairs Prestige cabin, Boeing 747-400

Seat

Korean Air is in the middle of renovating their fleet with improved seats in all 3 of their classes.  The new business class seat, the Prestige Sleeper Seat, which unfolds out into a 180º flat bed, unfortunately was not on this flight.  This plane was equipped with their Prestige Plus Seat, which is pretty much a really fancy recliner seat.

Prestige Plus seat in sleep mode

In the sleep position the seat is almost flat, and still at an angle. While I thought being almost stretched out like that would be comfortable, it was actually uncomfortable. I am a side sleeper, and its just enough where I think I may be able to turn on my side, only to keep finding out that it doesn’t work. And you do tend to slide down a bit. I heard using the seat belt as like a harness for your rear to keep you from sliding can work. But I didn’t have any luck trying to get that to work. It was actually an easier time sleeping with the seat in the recline position.

My window seat was on the “passenger” side of the plane.  One cool aspect that the upstairs cabin has which the downstairs Prestige cabin doesn’t have is the under-window storage bins.

My backpack and world bag in the space. There was still enough space for another backpack and duffel.

These bins are huge!  If the other person doesn’t need to put anything in there and I have the entire storage space to myself (which I did), its big enough to not have to put anything in overhead storage.  Though it wouldn’t fit many roll-aboard bags.  When closed, it also can double as more table space if you need to spread out while working.  So unless I had to use the toilet, I could stand, stretch, and get anything I needed from my bags without disturbing my seatmate….and this wasn’t an exit row/bulkhead seat!  I may have just screwed myself for life, since ignorance is bliss.

However, there were a couple negatives to the seat.  It’s a little awkward on these Prestige Plus seats with the heights of the armrests. On the non-shared armrest, it’s a little narrow, maybe 2-3″ wide and at the end are the controls to the seat.

Seat controls

The opposite is the center console which stores the tray table, remote control for the in-flight entertainment, USB power, AC power, and little niche for storage next to the power ports. The center shared armrest is a few inches higher than the other, making it slightly awkward when just sitting watching a movie.

In the sleep position the seat is almost flat, and still at an angle.  While I thought being almost stretched out like that would be comfortable; it was actually uncomfortable.  I am a side sleeper, and it’s just enough where I think I may be able to turn on my side, only to keep finding out that it doesn’t work.  AND at that angle you do tend to slide down the seat a bit.  I heard using the seat belt like a harness for your bum can work to keep you from sliding.  But I didn’t have any luck trying to get that to work.  It was actually an easier time sleeping with the seat in the recline position (as opposed to sleep position) with the ottoman as high up as it goes.

Each Prestige passenger gets a pair of slippers, a small bag for the slippers, and a set of cheap headphones, all of which you can keep.

KE slippers

Compared to other business classes, these amenities are greatly lacking.  Delta gives out Bose noise-cancelling headphones to their international BusinessElite passengers (though you definitely can’t keep those).  No lotions, no eyemasks.  The bathrooms were equipped with those little amenities if I wanted to use them.

Bathroom amenities: lotion, aftershave, cologne/perfume, razor, comb, toothbrush, toothpaste

But where they lack in amenity packs, they certainly make up in top notch service.

Service

As soon as I got to my seat, I started putting away my things, and about 2 minutes later, the stewardess came by with our pre-flight drinks / snack.

Pre-flight offerings. I'd rather have a mimosa, but these'll have to do.

This was a red-eye flight (Or red-eye departure.  I think its impossible to go between NY & Asia, and not pass the time you should be sleeping either at your origin or destination), so the meal was sort of an abbreviated service.  Starts with the hot towels, then a plate of nuts, then the meal on a tray, but with real bowls and plates instead of the disposable things that economy gets.  Usually you get your drink and nuts at the same time, then a few minutes later your appetizer course, then the main course.  I think they expedite it a little bit so that people can get to sleep a little earlier.

I didn’t have any other experience, at that moment, with other airline’s business class, but I thought it was nice how they had separate menus printed for each route & direction they fly.  Meaning, there was a separate menu for JFK-ICN and ICN-JFK.  I thought I took one with me to reference what meal options were available, but I may have left it on the plane.  For my main course, I had the Bibimbap.

Bibimbap with minced beef and seasonal veggies, accompanied by sesame oil and 'Gochujang' (Korean hot pepper paste). Sans wine and soup.

The wine I had

Bibimbap mixed and all ready to eat with my wine and soup.

Midflight snack. 🙂

Pre-arrival breakfast: Almond pastry, quiche with broccoli and roasted potatoes. Yogurt and fresh OJ.

The cutest little ketchup bottle.

The service is spectacular, though I think there is a little discrimination.  Sometime midflight, between the main meals, the stewardesses were walking around handing out bottles of water, but they also had this little aerosol spray bottle they were handing out.  I know the guy I was sitting next to was Korean, and did get one.  But for some reason, I didn’t get one.  Sometime later when I got up to walk around, the galley had water, snacks, and these little spray bottles available.  They’re just water sprayers for your face to freshen up a little bit.  Why didn’t I get one?  Do they just assume that only Koreans use this?  Was it because I was on an award ticket and not a revenue ticket that I didn’t get one?  If anybody has any experience with this happening to them, I would love to know your insight on this matter.

One little thing that I always appreciate is that the purser comes around to every First Class/Prestige passenger, addresses them by name, and thanks them for flying Korean Air.  This happens twice on the flight…before takeoff, and before landing.

Deplaning

We arrived pretty much on time.  The walk from the plane to the transit security was pretty far, even using the moving walkways.  I did pass a sign I don’t see everyday on my way.

Though it obviously makes sense from all the things going on at the Fukushima plant in Japan since that incident was only about a month prior.  If you are a transiting passenger, security can take awhile, so try and use the bathroom when the plane is on approach to land as opposed to right after you get off the plane.  There are only 2 or 3 x-ray machines and you can easily wait 20-30 minutes if you are last to get in line.

Lucky for me, the Prestige lounge was open when I got there (4:00am), though on the website it wasn’t supposed to open for a few more hours.  I’ll talk about the lounge in a separate post.

Wrap-up

The experience as a whole was great, but there are a few points that were unfavorable.  The thing that sticks out the most was the intense cabin temperature.  For some reason, Koreans like the cabin temperature to be borderline HOT.  It was almost hot enough that I would have sat there shirtless.  I removed everything but my sleeveless undershirt.  AND they don’t have those personal air vents.  I guess it didn’t help that I was upstairs either.  Those little water sprayers helped cool down a bit, too bad I wasn’t initially offered one.  I know I would be miserable if I were doing this flight in economy.  So many people so close to me, with the temperature what it was, for 14 hours….I would be hating life.  Despite these negatives, the service on the ground and in the air well make up for these shortcomings.  If I have the choice, I will still choose to fly Korean Air over Delta on these long haul flights.

I borrowed this flight report format from “olafman” of FlyerTalk.  He’s currently taking a year off with his husband to take his son around the world, staying in a new location every month.  Read his story and flight reports here.
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4 Responses to “Korean Air New York (JFK) to Seoul-Incheon (ICN), April 2011”

  1. […] The older at an angle seats, the Prestige Plus seats, aren't actually flat. They're almost flat. And you do tend to slide down a bit. The newer Prestige Sleeper seats are the full flat, 180 deg, seats. When you are planning, go to koreanair.com>on board>flight schedule with new aircraft. type in your date and you'll see which seat you'll end up getting. I recently did a blog post about my trip on JFK-ICN in a Prestige plus seat. HERE is the KE JFKicn trip report. […]

  2. […] Korean Air New York (JFK) to Seoul-Incheon (ICN), April 2011 April 15, 2011 I love these enormous departure boards. […]

  3. check

    Korean Air New York (JFK) to Seoul-Incheon (ICN), April 2011 | Get Gowing!

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