A Guide to Korean Air’s (Older) International Business Class

Over the years, Korean Air’s reputation has risen quite a bit. I’ve had the pleasure of flying Korean Air on shorthaul and longhaul flights, though haven’t had a chance to sample their newest cabin product. Nevertheless, I feel like it’s safe to say that Korean Air is a fine choice – unless you can score their newest 777-300ER or 747-8 business class product, which seems top notch, I don’t think they have one of the world’s best hard products, and some of their amenities could be lacking, though I do enjoy all of my flights on them.

Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Hong Kong Airport

I decided I’d quickly throw together a guide on Korean Air’s business class, as there’s no denying that the popularity of the product is increasing.

I’ve flown Korean Air on both longhaul and shorthaul routes, and here are the reviews that I’ve written on their flights:

I haven’t actually managed to fly their 747-8 – while I was scheduled on a flight on their 747-8, I ended up with a 747-400 due to an equipment swap. Given that their prices aren’t too high, I’d like to try Korean’s 747-8 in business class sometime.

Korean Air Boeing 747-8 Hong Kong Airport

Korean Air’s Business Class Seat

Korean Air has three versions of business class seats (plus a fourth version, which they only fly on shorter flights with 737s). The first version is an Apex Suite, which Korean Air features on all their 747-8s, as well as select A330s and 777s. I’d try my best to snag a flight on the 747-8, as there’s an exclusive upper deck, though if you can snag a flight with this product I’m confident that you’ll have a great time.

Korean Air Boeing 747-8 Business Class

Unfortunately, I haven’t tried Korean Air’s Apex Suite product, so the comments I can say regarding the product are limited. I have tried Korean Air’s other two products, one of which is still flown on most planes, including their 777-200s, A380s, and select A330s/777-300ERs. Korean Air calls this their Prestige Sleeper seat, and they’re fully flat beds (I believe they’re B/E Aerospace Minipod seats), arranged in either a 2-2-2 configuration (on A330s and A380s) or a 2-3-2 configuration (on 777s).

IMG_2335Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Business Class

IMG_7282Korean Air Boeing 777-200 Business Class

The last business class product is featured on other 777-200s (though I’m assuming most of their 777-200s have been retrofitted) and all of their 747-400s, though this product is being phased out, so I won’t speak much of it. Korean Air calls this their Prestige Plus seat, and they’re angled lie-flat seats in a 2-3-2 configuration (on 777s and the lower deck of the 747) and a 2-2 configuration (on the upper deck of the 747).

IMG_3105Korean Air Boeing 747-400 Business Class

I’ll focus more on the Prestige Sleeper seat, as it’s still run on most routes and seems to gather quite conflicting opinions from different people. The Prestige Sleeper seat is no longer industry-leading anymore – I believe that staggered seats, reverse herringbone seats and Apex suites are definitely more comfortable, and I find the B/E Aerospace Minipod seats to be uncomfortably flimsy, at least on Korean Air (for example, I didn’t find Lufthansa’s A380 business class seat to “sway” as much as this seat did when I put my weight near the bottom of the seat). However, the seat is still fully flat, and comfortable for sleeping.

IMG_2391Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Business Class Bed

Which seats are top picks?

I’ve written about the best seats on Korean Air’s 777-200s, and concluded that rows 7 and 8 on those aircraft are some of the better seats as they’re in the front cabin, and the aisle seats aren’t necessarily great for sleeping. I believe that’s true of all of Korean Air’s configurations for general. There’s considerable privacy between seats in Korean’s Prestige Sleeper window and middle seats, and ultimate privacy in the window seats in Korean’s Apex suites (though the aisle seats seem plenty private as well).

IMG_7286Korean Air Boeing 777-200 Business Class Bed

Meanwhile, if you’re seated in an aisle seat, you kind of feel like you’re sleeping in the aisle, due to how little head privacy there is. I’ve found that to be contributive to quality of sleep, so if you find yourself flying alone in Korean’s business class, I’d opt for a window seat if you don’t mind clambering over your aisle seatmate to get to the washroom.

IMG_7113Korean Air Boeing 777-200 Business Class Aisle Seat Bed

The same is true for the A330s and the A380s as they feature the same product – the A380 feature side bins as well, and storage in this product is lacking. However, the product is still lie-flat, and usually comes with affordable prices, so overall I wouldn’t avoid this product no matter which seat I was in.

I would generally recommend against the first row, as it features a stowaway screen that has to be put away during takeoff and landing. However, on the 777-200 (which I’ve noted), I’ve said that the forward two-row cabin is quieter during boarding, and row 8 is missing a window. Therefore, row 7 on the 777-200 probably should be your row of choice.

IMG_7181Korean Air Boeing 777-200 Business Class Row 7

The seat is also well powered and the entertainment system is fine (though definitely not industry leading), so I have no complaints there.

What Food Should You Order?

Korean Air consistently features one meal, which should be your meal of choice if you’re flying them for the first time – bibimbap. While the meat may be slightly dry, with the gochujang and sesame oil put together, the flavours in there are great. Of course, this isn’t your traditional bibimbap with a crackle at the bottom of the pot, but that’s slightly hard to do onboard a flight, so I’m happy with what I’m offered.

IMG_2405Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Business Class Meal – Bibimbap

The second meal mostly featured that I love is steak, which usually is a tender, flavourful fillet steak cooked to order. The steaks run rare, though, so if you’re expecting a textbook medium rare steak, you might want to order a medium steak.

IMG_7240Korean Air Boeing 777-200 Business Class Meal – Beef Tenderloin

If you order the Western option (i.e. not bibimbap/bulgogi), your meal will be served with a soup, which is usually on the salty side but incredibly flavourful.

IMG_7238Korean Air Boeing 777-200 Business Class Soup – Chickpeas Cream Soup

All their other options are lame, ranging from overcooked fish to overcooked chicken. I’ve never had a good chicken or fish dish in Korean Air business class, and I’ve only heard one account of a good fish dish served in Korean Air business class.

I guess it’s also worth noting that Korean Air only features two packaged honey roasted peanut packets per person in business class, which are slightly addictive but definitely not screaming of class. I’ll take them, though.

IMG_2399Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Business Class Honey Roasted Peanuts

Korean Air’s Business Class Amenities

If I had to choose one thing that Korean Air’s business class product severely lacks, it’s definitely the range of amenities that they offer. While Korean Air’s seat is fine, their pillows are way too small for sleeping, and their blankets are fleece, which doesn’t represent the caliber that the airline is trying to aim for.

IMG_7165See Korean Air’s business class pillow and blanket setup in the above picture

Korean Air also provides amenity kits in business class, which contain the basics such as a toothbrush and moisturiser, though it’s generally pretty no-frills.

IMG_7178Korean Air Boeing 777-200 Business Class Amenity Kit

Back when I flew Korean Air in 2016 they offered pretty crappy headphones, though lately they’ve upgraded the headphones to a more substantial noise-cancelling option, which I’m happy about.

Korean Air Business Class Service

Korean Air’s flight attendants are consistently great, with an amazingly memorable crew on my flight in February 2016 from Seoul Incheon to Vancouver. Through the six flights I took with them I can only name one crew that seemed remotely disengaged from the service procedure, though otherwise I have no complaints.

It’s also worth noting that Korean Air doesn’t feature a trolley service, so the meal service is executed at your own pace. That can sometimes lead to some bizarrely overcooked steak as they reheat it in the oven, though I like Korean Air’s meal service concept. Korean Air flight attendants also generally seem to strike the balance between privacy and attentiveness, so overall their service experience is consistently great.

Which lounges can you use?

Korean Air features a decent lounge in Seoul Incheon, featuring a crap ton of rather comfortable armchairs, a decent food spread, and subpar showers (I’d love to think that having a shower at an airport is a luxury in itself, but seriously…)

IMG_7152Korean Air Prestige Lounge Seoul Incheon

IMG_7152Korean Air Prestige Lounge Seoul Incheon Shower Room

I’ve heard that Korean Air’s satellite terminal lounge is much worse, but I haven’t had the chance to visit so can’t report back. Korean Air also operates their own lounges in numerous destinations, none of which seem to be particularly appealing.

At Hong Kong, Korean Air uses the SkyTeam lounge, which is decent, but usually crowded. I visited once in February 2016 and was later guested in by a friend last November, though I didn’t manage to take any decent pictures the second time as the lounge was loaded by people on the flight to Shanghai. I wouldn’t spend extra time here, though it’s decent if you want to work or something.

IMG_6926SkyTeam Lounge Hong Kong

Bottom Line

Korean Air sometimes offers prices that aren’t exactly indicative of their product, though if I could, I’d snag their Apex Suite hard product with the same soft product any day. If Korean needs to change up their business class product, they should start with improving the bedding, and eventually improving the other meal service options. However, they’re a solid option, and if the price was right I wouldn’t hesitate to fly with them.

1 comment

  1. I just flew KE in J from JFK-ICN-BKK, with the 747-8 on JFK-ICN and the A380 on ICN-BKK. Frankly, I don’t know how KE can sell Apex and non-Apex J as the same product. The difference in experience was really astounding.


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