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Getting upgraded to business class on a domestic flight from New York to Los Angeles is nice. But flying in business class for 14+ hours from New York to Seoul is MUCH nicer.
The cherry on top? Flying in Korean Air business class on the Airbus A380, which includes its onboard Celestial Bar. Talk about flying in style.
I’ll first give a review of Korean Air business class in the Airbus A380 (New York to Seoul). Then I’ll give a short review of my Korean Air business class flight in the Airbus A330 from Seoul to Bali. Because if you’re traveling for almost 24 straight hours, you might as well fly in business class.
I’ll also reveal some secrets on how I was able to redeem some really good deals for my flights using my personal travel credit cards.
Korean Air Business Class with Credit Card Points
I was fortunate enough to transfer Chase credit card points to my newly created Korean Air frequent flyer account. I say that I was fortunate because unfortunately, Chase and Korean Air are no longer transfer partners. However, you can still transfer Marriott points to Korean Air, so it’s still possible to accrue Korean Air miles through credit card points.
At the time of booking, my flight from New York to Bali cost only 75,000 Korean Air miles. Since I was flying with my wife, the two one-way flights cost a grand total of 150,000 miles. Considering the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card has an 80,000 point sign-up bonus, it was easy to accumulate the 150,000 points between the two of us.
That same Korean Air business class flight from New York to Bali would currently cost $4,888.33 each.
That yields an *amazing* 15.3 cents/point valuation. The goal is always to earn a valuation over 2+ cents/point, so this redemption blows that goal out of the water!
Quick tip: when booking flights on Korean Air, be sure to check the aircraft type. I lived in Washington, DC when I made this trip, but Korean Air only flew the Boeing 777 to DC. The bar onboard Emirates’ A380 was the highlight of our flight to Dubai, so I really wanted check out Korean Air’s Celestial Bar on their own A380. So we opted to fly out of New York City just so we could fly Korean Air business class on the A380.
Our trip started with an early morning train ride from Washington, DC to New York City. Korean Air flies to about a dozen different U.S. destinations, and Washington-Dulles airport is one of them. However, Korean Air doesn’t fly the Airbus A380 to Washington, and since NYC is just a train ride away, I convinced my wife that we should make the trek north if it meant we could enjoy drinks at the Celestial Bar.
We arrived in Manhattan early Saturday morning, then headed to JFK airport in Queens. The Airbus A380 is a huge plane, so the check-in line for the economy class was super long. Luckily, the business class check-in line was empty, so after checking our bags, we headed straight to the terminal’s Korean Air lounge. No wasting hours in line when you’re flying in business class.
Korean Air Business Class Lounge at JFK
As I’ve mentioned before, we never intend to spend much time in airport lounges, and this time was no different. We arrived at the lounge about one hour before boarding, which meant we could grab a quick coffee and check Facebook one last time before the 14+ hour flight to Seoul. You’ll see that there are two sides to the lounge: one for first-class passengers and another for business class (what Korean Air calls “Prestige Class”).
The attendant checked our boarding passes, and surprisingly directed us to the first-class portion of the lounge. I read lackluster reviews of the business class lounge (it’s also available to Priority Pass holders, so fairly easy to access), so I hoped the first-class side would be different. Sadly, it wasn’t.
The Korean Air lounge was very mediocre. It was crowded, small, and food offerings were sparse. They had a small area for snacks and drinks, which was already picked over by other passengers.
But we knew we were going to be served lots of food on the plane, so no big deal. We had some fruit and coffee, then headed to the boarding area after about 50 minutes in the lounge.
As we were lining up to the board, I snapped a quick picture of our plane. As you can see, the A380 is HUGE and has lower and upper decks. The upper deck is reserved for the business class passengers, while the lower deck has first-class and economy seats. The A380 is literally the largest passenger airliner, which is also how it can squeeze in amenities such as an onboard bar.
Once again, the best part of flying in business class is avoiding the long lines. We were among the first to board from our dedicated business class boarding area, so we didn’t have to join the 100s of other passengers cram in line like sardines. It’s the little things that make the whole flying experience much more enjoyable.
Korean Air Business Class Seats
We were among the first to board and made our way to seats 19G and 19H. Seats in business class were arranged in a 2x2x2 pattern, which meant passengers in the window seats don’t have direct access to an aisle. That might be inconvenient for someone traveling alone, but not a big issue for a couple flying together.
Of course, the first order of business was the credit-card-points-collector photo in the business class seats.
I then proceeded to explore the rest of the seat. Unlike our previous flight to Chile, the seats were not at an angle. But there was still plenty of legroom to stretch out and allow for the seat to lie flat.
While I was getting acquainted with the seat, the flight attendant brought by pre-departure juices and nuts.
I also kicked back into the “lounge” mode using the seat controls.
With the push of a button, our seats could be transformed into a lie-flat bed.
Since most of the business class passengers were already snoozing by the time it was ready to sleep and the cabin was pitch black, I refrained from taking too many pictures with the lie-flat seats.
The lie-flat seats had plenty of room for my six-foot frame, and since the headrest was in a small cocoon-like enclosure, it felt decently private. Obviously, my wife’s window seat allowed for a little more privacy. But since the seats faced directly forward, they weren’t nearly as private as our previous angled Emirates or American Airlines seats. Angled seats = more privacy, but often less roomy.
The seats weren’t private and the chairs weren’t especially comfy… but I still had a fantastic night’s sleep. Way better than any of my other business class flights. I’m not saying the lie-flat seats were that good, but you won’t be hearing any complaints from me.
Korean Air Business Class Amenity Kit
Here’s a closer look at the business class amenity kit.
The amenity kit included a small bottle of “eye gel”, an even smaller bottle of lotion, lip balm, a dental kit, a shoehorn (do people actually use these?), eyeshades, and a collapsable comb. It was a pretty random assortment of goodies, but apparently Davi face creams are super expensive. Which is probably why the lotion bottle (in the brown box) is so small.
Inflight Entertainment System
As we took off from JFK, I explored the in-flight entertainment system.
While American Airlines’ business-class offered fancy Bose headphones, Korean Air offered its own generic version of noise cancellation headphones.
Overall, the in-flight entertainment system was a bit disappointing. It had a handful of new release movies as well as a few classics, but it seemed that a significant amount of the entertainment selection was for Asian-language movies and TV shows. That should be obvious, but it’s a noteworthy difference when compared to Emirates, which has a massive selection in a variety of languages. To put it another way: I could keep myself entertained just fine for the 14+ hour flight, but I was glad that I was flying with Singapore Airlines for the way back from Bali.
Korean Air Business Class Meal Service
The meals in business class are one of my favorite parts of flying in premium cabins. It might not be Michelin-star quality food, but it’s lightyears better than what they serve in economy!
The flight attendant passed our menus at the beginning of the flight.
The menu was relatively simple but had more than enough options.
While we weren’t offered champagne before takeoff (since airlines often have to pay extra tax on alcohol served on the ground), the flight attendants quickly served rounds of Perrier Jouet before the meal service.
Aside from the photo in our business class seats, a picture clinking champagne glasses is also always required.
The champagne was followed with our chosen courses: the amuse bouche,(eggplant and zucchini with cream cheese), the appetizer (seared tuna), soup (cream of tomato). the Korean bibimbap. a cheese course, and dessert.
Note: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Korean Air business class meal service my significantly change.
The tuna and soup were fine… but ultimately they were just building my anticipation for the real star of the show: the Korean bibimbap.
My tray already included the pickled cucumbers and radishes (top left corner) as well as a tube of the gochujang hot pepper paste. There’s a Korean restaurant near our house in DC, and I’ve fallen in love with this stuff. I could seriously take this entire tube to the face.
The flight attendant worked her way down the aisle with a cart full of bibimbap goodness.
It doesn’t look like much. And it doesn’t look fancy. But bibimbap is delicious. I’ll take it over steak or lobster any day of the week.
For those unacquainted, bibimbap is essentially a rice bowl with a bunch of veggies. That’s really not doing it justice, but believe me… it’s amazing. And it’s definitely something that translates well to airplane food, so we were both more than satisfied with our meals.
After devouring our Korean rice bowls, the flight attendants carted over the cheese course They arranged a cheese plate complete with crackers and grapes for our cheese course. Because, business class.
This was definitely my first cheese course on a plane.
The three kinds of cheese available were camembert, stilton, and Chaumes.
After the cheese course came dessert. I opted for the coconut mousse cake, which was light and not too rich.
But little did we know that was only the start of the meal service.
I woke up after about five hours of sleep and felt hungry enough for a midnight snack. I recalled the menu mentioned ramen noodles, so I flagged down a flight attendant and ordered a bowl.
I was half expecting a simple Cup O’ Noodles or something in a styrofoam cup. But Korean Air made some delicious ramen noodles on demand and served it with business class dinnerware. It hit the spot, and after slurping up my fair share, I dozed off for another hour or two.
Before I knew it, the flight attendants turned on the cabin lights and announced dinner would be served prior to landing. I really didn’t NEED to eat more, but if you put free food in front of me, I’m definitely going to eat it.
The dinner service was smaller and quicker than the meal served (technically “lunch”) after takeoff. The meal started with a citrus salad and focaccia bread. Once again, they served the pickled cucumbers and radishes to go along with the main dish.
There were three options for the main course – chicken bulgogi, seafood tortellini, and beef wonton noodle soup. I opted to have the chicken bulgogi. Naturally, I requested more gochujang paste.
The chicken bulgogi was fine, but seemed a bit sloppy. I guess expected it to look and taste more appetizing rather than just having big chunks of chicken and a thin “bulgogi” sauce. In any case, it was tasty enough for me to eat the whole plate. Maybe it was the gochujang paste?
Meanwhile, my wife was more than happy with her wonton soup. It looked similar to my ramen noodles, so I figured it would be hard to mess up noddle soup.
The dessert consisted of a fruit plate, which was a welcomed change rather than a rich pastry. The fruit came in huge slices and was super fresh. After all those carbs in the previous meals, it really hit the spot. There’s something to be said about fresh fruit after eating carbs for 14 hours.
The Korean Air Business Class Onboard Bar/Lounge
Note: due to the coronavirus pandemic, the onboard bar and lounge may be limited and look drastically different.
I need to make a confession. I might have been more excited to try the Korean Air business class Celestial Bar than actually going to Bali.
After the first meal service, my wife and I quietly made our way to the back of the airplane in hopes of beating the crowds to the onboard bar.
We were able to score seats at one of the “couches” and waited a few minutes for the flight attendant/bartender to set everything up. Surprisingly, there was only one other couple in the lounge area.
The Celestial Bar was very well designed. I loved the purple backlights, table lamps, simple benches for passengers, and the TV displaying the flight map. The bar itself was a bit small; there was little room to “belly up” to the bar, and given the plates and food items on one side of the counter, it was clear that it was only meant to order drinks at and find a seat elsewhere.
What’s also unique about Korean Air’s onboard bar is that it isn’t advertised as a full bar. Instead, Absolut vodka sponsors the Celestial Bar, and the menu consists entirely of Absolut vodka themed drinks.
I’m always down for a good vodka cocktail. But my wife’s college experience with bottom shelf vodka has forever ruined her taste for the spirit. So Absolut cocktails wouldn’t be in the cards for her.
No big deal, right? I read the flight attendants/bartenders could make other kinds of drinks in the galley, and since there were plenty of other spirits on the plane, I figured Taryn could order a gin and tonic.
So I tell the bartender I’d like an Absolut Collins, and Taryn would take a G&T. And the bartender says that we can only drink Absolut cocktails or champagne in the lounge, but that my wife could order a different drink at her seat if she wanted something else.
Seriously? You have a swanky onboard bar/lounge and you’ll ONLY serve vodka and champagne? That’s a total buzzkill. Luckily, the bartender semi-discreetly brought out a G&T for my wife after delivering my Absolut collins.
As we sat in the lounge and sipped our cocktails, we expected a steady flow of other passengers heading to the bar. But nobody else joined us in the Celestial Bar. We had the entire place to ourselves. I seriously couldn’t believe it, especially compared to the raucous atmosphere at the Emirates onboard bar.
It was unique and fun to have free rein in the lounge, but at the same time, it was kind of boring. You don’t usually seek out empty bars to hang out in. But in any case, it made taking the requisite bar photos easier.
Overall Experience – Korean Air Business Class on the A380
Overall, the trans-pacific flight in Korean Air business class was awesome. The service was quick and friendly, the food was fantastic, and there was plenty of room in my lie-flat bed for a restful night’s sleep.
The cabin itself was not as luxurious or updated as the Emirates A380 or American Airlines Boeing 777 that we flew earlier in the year. But that was quite alright with us. The meals more than made up for the slightly tacky teal green upholstery, and having the onboard was obviously a cool feature.
While the bar was the cherry on top and the main reason we flew out of NYC rather than DC, I couldn’t help but feel underwhelmed. It was super hip and swanky – even cooler than the Emirates A380 onboard bar.
But it was decidedly more of a lounge than a bar. There was no place for multiple people to “belly up” to the bar, instead offering benches and couches for passengers. Honestly, that’s probably a more appropriate feature for an aircraft. But that also meant the area was less of a gathering place and more of a location on the plane for people to walk around and sit down. This is probably why we saw more toddlers climbing on the benches and couches in the lounge than vodka-drinking adults when we shuffled past the bar on the way to the bathroom throughout the flight.
Was it worth taking the train to NYC for the Airbus A380 rather than flying out of DC with a smaller aircraft? Probably not, but hindsight is 20/20. Plus FOMO would have kicked in, and I would have always wondered what the Celestial Bar is like. So in the end, I’m happy we made the trek.
I’d definitely recommend Korean Air business class to others flying to Asia. While Korean Air is no longer a transfer partner with Chase, they remain transfer partners with Marriott. With free stopovers in Seoul and flexible cancellation and change fees, Korean Air can be a great option. Not to mention the awesome bibimbap.
Check in/Airport Experience: 6/10
While heading to the front of the check-in line and dropping off our bags was easy… the lounge left a lot to be desired. Was that the best Korean Air could do for their New York airport? Yikes
Seats/inflight entertainment: 7/10
Despite being in dentist-chair-blue, the lie-flat seats were comfortable and practical. The IFE system also had an adequate selection of options. But the lack of direct aisle access for all business class passengers is a bit of a letdown.
The Asian airlines are known to excel in their customer service, and Korean Air is no exception. Our flight attendant was attentive, but not overwhelming or pushy. She also catered to my numerous requests for drinks, food, pictures, etc.
It’s not lobster or fois gras, but that Korean bibimbap was spectacular. I wish I could order that on Grubhub and eat it everyday. Best meal I’ve ever had on a plane.
Onboard lounge/bar: 7/10
This lounge has SOOOO much potential! It is super sleek and inviting; nicer than the Emirates A380 onboard lounge. But there isn’t a real “bar” to stand at, which means there isn’t as much energy; in fact, nobody else really joined us in the lounge. And you have this swanky lounge but only offer Absolute vodka drinks? LAME. Luckily the great flight attendant obliged for our request for a G&T instead.
There were highs (the food) along with some lows (the Korean Air lounge at the airport). But overall, Korean Air business class on the A380 is a great experience and one that I would recommend.
Korean Air Business Class – Airbus A330
*This is our second flight during our Bali vacation booked with credit card points.*
After our great flight in Korean Air business class on the Airbus A380 from New York to Seoul, we hustled across Incheon International Airport to our departure gate to Bali.
Incheon International Airport
We were worried about the tight 95-minute connection. But transiting through Incheon Airport was an absolute breeze. Like, seriously too easy. We could have made a 45-minute connection. It’s no wonder the airport is among the best international transit airports in the world.
The airport was easy to navigate, and it was also super nice. Korean Air operates out of Terminal 2, which is brand new, opening in January 2018. JFK airport is laughably inadequate compared to Seoul’s airport.
As connecting Korean Air business class passengers, we probably could have snuck into one of the airline’s airport lounges for our short layover. But considering we had just scarfed down a meal before landing, we decided to forgo the lounge altogether. Seating at the gate was plentiful, so it’s not like we needed extra space or any more food.
Korean Air Business Class Seats on Airbus A3330
We kept our expectations relatively low for the shorter flight from Seoul to Bali. Compared to our 13+ hour flight on the A380 from New York, how nice could the smaller, shorter flight to Indonesia be?
Well, surprisingly, the flight to Bali isn’t so short; it’s actually about seven hours long. And the seats on our A330? They were the exact same seats as we had on the previous flight.
Granted, the A330 is a smaller plane without an onboard bar. But having another lie-flat seat after an exhausting day of travel was definitely awesome.
Because it’s the same seat, I didn’t do the usual photo session after boarding. In addition, being the same seat, it also featured the same lackluster in-flight entertainment. There was also no amenity kit for this flight (I still had plenty of goodies from the last flight anyway). So I’ll skip ahead to the meal.
Meal Service – Korean Air Business Class on A330
The in-flight dining menu was neatly placed at each seatback pocket, so I perused the options while we settled into our seats.
One awesome menu feature included offering Beaujolais Nouveau wine. We aren’t wine connoisseurs in any sense, but my wife was aware of the annual Beaujolais Nouveau Festival, which celebrates the French wine’s annual release.
Sure enough, the official Beaujolais Nouveau release day was the third Thursday of November (the 15th), and we were flying the following Sunday (the 18th). Mad props to Korean Air for offering this special wine on an inter-Asian flight only days after release!
In addition to the wine, the menu included a five-course dinner, and then a pre-arrival snack. Good thing we didn’t eat in the lounge!
For the main course, the menu had four different options: bibimbap, stir-fried octopus, Chinese-style cod, and beef tenderloin. We had both just devoured the bibimbap on our previous flight, which was the highlight of the trip. And I even said that I could have that dish for every flight and be happy… but I opted for the beef tenderloin like a totally basic American tourist. Total amateur hour.
Service started with the amuse bouche: smoked salmon with cream cheese. I started out with a beer since I figured I would switch to wine when they served the entree.
After the salmon, the flight attendants quickly cleared plates and served the shrimp salad along with trays with the dinnerware.
The salad was good, and while I was hoping the steam bread roll would be filled with BBQ pork or something delicious, it was only the bread. The individual salt and pepper shakers are always a nice touch, though.
Because we both picked the beef tenderloin, we each received the potato and leek soup, which was probably the highlight of the meal (other than the wine).
Along with the soup, the flight attendant filled our wine glasses with the Beaujolais Nouveau. After the soup came the beef tenderloin and pumpkin risotto.
The pumpkin risotto was what convinced me to pick the tenderloin, and even though it didn’t look super appetizing, it was delicious. As was the mushroom cream sauce. But the steak? Meh. I should have known better and gone with the bibimbap (good life advice in general).
Throughout the meal service, the flight attendants were enthusiastically filling up my wine glass with the Beaujolais Nouveau. I’m not sure if it was because they were always so quick, because they thought I was a lush, or because they were excited about the unique wine offering. In any case, I didn’t complain.
For dessert, the flight attendants distributed ice cream and offered coffee.
Overall, the meal was great, the service was quick, and we were happy flyers. I was disappointed with the beef, but I got what I deserved for cheating on the bibimbap.
After the meal, I was able to catch some sleep, but before long, the cabin lights came back on and the flight attendants announced the snack service prior to arrival in Bali.
If I wasn’t hungry before the flight, I DEFINITELY wasn’t hungry now. But I can’t help but be curious and sampled the turkey, ham, and cheese sandwich.
It didn’t look pretty, and it didn’t taste pretty either. Since it was served at the end of the flight, my assumption is that it was in a refrigerated compartment until being zapped in a microwave or oven just before serving. That’s how most airplane food is “cooked,” but after the service and quality Korean Air brought to the table before, I had higher expectations. It tasted like one of those sandwiches you find at gas stations under the warming light.
After the quick snack service, the flight attendants cleared our plates and we soon landed in Bali. Now on to our vacation.
Overall Experience – Korean Air Business Class on Airbus A330
Considering it was an intra-Asia flight with a five-course meal and lie-flat seats, I’d say it was an enjoyable flight. The service onboard was smooth and the food/wine plentiful. I wish I would have picked the bibimbap and was disappointed with the heated up sandwich, but those are minor complaints from an otherwise great flight.
After experiencing Korean Air business class in both the Airbus A380 and Airbus A330, we’d definitely recommend checking them out! Korean Air is a member of the SkyTeam airline alliance and transfer partners with Marriott.
Airport Experience/Lounge: N/A
Korean Air’s terminal in Seoul is brand new and incredibly nice. But unfortunately, our quick layover didn’t allow us to check out the Korean Air business class lounge. With a terminal like that, I but the lounge is top notch.
Seats/Inflight Entertainment: 9/10
How are the exact same seats and IFE for our trans-Pacific flight on our intra-Asia flight? We didn’t need that much space, but we gladly took it.
Once again, the flight attendants didn’t disappoint. They weren’t quite as personable as the crew on the long-haul flight, but still great.
Meh… I should’ve stuck with the bibimbap. And that lackluster reheated gas station sandwich? Hard pass. The saving grace was having Beaujolais Nouveau.
Yes, I realize this doesn’t add up mathematically. But since the flight was short, we were eating for a good portion of our flight. And that food wasn’t exactly impressive.
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