Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Trip Report: Korean airlines Seoul to JFK in Business Class 747-8 KE 85

pros
  • 747 upstairs Business Class cabin is my favorite place to fly
  • newest (and likely last-ever version) of the 747 has updated interior similar to JAL's fantastic Business Class suite
  • exterior cameras feed into a pilots-eye view channel on the in-flight entertainment
  • the coolest in-flight map ever 
  • good food and liquor 

cons
  • no wi-fi 
  • no pajamas
  • the blue interior plus white LED lighting makes the inside feel like a hospital
  • very warm cabin 
  • no mattress pad

how i did it

This trip is the second leg in this this booking75,000 Korean Air points for Manila – Seoul – JFK (For comparison, JFK – Seoul is 62,500). 40k points came from a sign-up bonus for a Korean Air credit card. The rest came from Chase Ulitmate Rewards, most of which we acquired from a 60k point bonus for a Chase Ink Business card. (Both cards we've since canceled). Planning is here.

conclusions

Korean Air has great award availability and accepts instant point transfers from Chase, so this will stay a go-to option to check when getting to Asia provided I'm not flying on one of their Peak dates when redemption rates jump. 

(UPDATE: Chase Sapphire Reserve's runaway popularity means that Korean's wide-open award availability of yesteryear is no more. Plan as far in advance as you can)

If timing means I need to fly the A380, I might spring for First Class since the Business Class seats aren't as nice as those on the 747.


lounge

Since this is Korean Air's home base, the lounge was vast and busy. This and the First Class lounge are completely separate, so don't go up the stairs until you see the sign for the Prestige Class lounge or you'll end up in the wrong place. 

As I mentioned in my review of the First Class lounge last year, there's no gin and there's no kimchi. Other than that, it's a full featured lounge with hot meals, fast wi-fi, snacks, bathrooms, work areas, and even an enclosed smoking area. My favorite feature, though, was the automatic beer pouring machine. We grabbed a seat and a snack and chilled out for an hour before our flight. 


Vast "Prestige Class" lounge in Seoul

Cup noodle ramen

Premium spirits and wine

Buffet with several hot dishes

Beverages and cheese

Work areas

boarding

Boarding was unusually orderly. There was a separate line for the premium cabins and the staff made sure the First Class people were at the front of the line before the doors opened.

Save for a couple of luxury items (Johnny Walker Blue, foie gras, fancier amenity kit) the service was basically identical to what i had in First on Korean's A380. Even though the premium for First Class is small (15k more miles one-way) I wouldn't bother with First if i was on the 747

The new lie-flat Apex Suites (Korean calls them "Sky Suites") in Business have nearly as much privacy as the First Class ones do, and every seat has direct aisle access. On the A380 (which has different, not-so-nice Business Class seats), I might spend the extra miles to get into the Kosmo Suite.

Hooray for orderly boarding!
Our 747-8

New Business Class seats

I love the upstairs cabin!

Pillow, blanket, and amenity kit
Love the forward-facing exterior camera on the IFE

food

The food is better than any USA domestic carrier but man, I wish they'd put an egg in their bimbimbap! Or give you sesame leaves with you boolgogi.

The second meal is breakfasty even though the flight lands at 7pm. the FA suggested that i have the ramen from the snack menu instead of the korean porridge or western omelette options. she warned me several times that it was very spicy. Fruit, coffee, and tea were offered afterward. 

Menu (click to enlarge)

Beverages 

Amuse-bouche


Seafood salad to start

Boolgogi

Cheese cart

Cheese

I ordered ramen off the snack menu for the 7:30pm "Breakfast"

More perfect fruit


sleeping

As usual, the FAs ran the cabins really warm – I'd guess around 26C. Since they didn't have pajamas, and because I'd accidentally put mine into my checked bag I was a lot smellier upon arrival than I'd have preferred. I perused the entertainment system quite a bit and the choices were fairly sparse, even for local tourism content. It had some games, though.

I also love their flight progress animation.


landing

We landed on-time and immigration was a breeze even for those without Global Entry. The baggage claim was really slow, though... Welcome to JFK. We took advantage of the Uber promo and got a free ride back into the city. Gotta love the forward cam for the landing!







2 comments:

  1. Great Blog- I'm looking to book an award thanks to about 175K UR Pts. Flying from the states to Hong Kong (My final destination in BKK but it's 15K more miles) so I will book a cheap CX Ticket from Hong Kong to BKK- Usually under $200 for the short flight..

    Anyway- Having a hard time deciding to spend the 18K miles for 1st class.. Its A380 from states to ICN then the 747 to HKG... I do like that Biz members have access to the bar on the a380... I know you mentioned several times in your blogs is the extra 18K is worth it.. What do you think? Is it really worth it? The only other time I flew 1st class to Asia was on Cathay... So would be nice to treat myself; but if there isnt much a difference I would rather save the 18K..

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    Replies
    1. Thanks! Since I took this trip, they've added doors to the suites, so you'll have an extra bit of privacy in First Class now.

      Personally, if the timing worked out, I'd always aim for their 747-8 in the upper deck Business Class. It's just perfect (I just posted a recent trip report from that)

      The food and bev in First isn't that much nicer than Business, and the foie gras was executed so poorly that I didn't even eat it. I say save the 18k :)

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