How To Know Which First/Business Class Product You’re Getting On Korean Air

This should be particularly useful for those of us in Hong Kong flying to Seoul in a Korean Air premium cabin, as I’m sure Korean Air has a “never fly the same aircraft type with the same flight number twice” policy on each of their four daily flights between these two cities. 😉

Korean Air has one of the most poorly designed airline websites I’ve had the pleasure of using. It’s easy to actually (dummy) book and access flights, though there’s a buffer time upon selecting each seat upon seat selection (you have to wait 8-10 seconds after you select each seat, so you better not misclick), you can’t “cross-reference” cabins (pull up economy and business class fares at the same time), a lot of the time you can’t check-in online because of issues with Korean Air’s website with verifying non-Korean credit cards, and mobile boarding passes rarely work during check-in.

It’s a shame, because the onboard experience is exceedingly pleasant, and in quite a few cases, competitive – especially in economy.

However, there’s one benefit to Korean Air’s website – it’s very easy to identify which product you’ll be getting (provided there isn’t an equipment swap). The issue is that no one seems to know – I’ve seen so many complaints, even from so-called “travel experts”, when flying Korean Air that they had no idea which product they were getting. I decided I’d write about that in a separate post.

So, here’s how you know which premium product you’re going to be flying on a Korean Air flight:

How to get to your seatmap

To get to the seatmap on the flight you’re on, you can pull up your booking in Manage My Booking, or alternatively you can make a booking on Korean Air’s website (which is as straightforward as booking a flight gets). From there you’ll be directed to flight selection.

Now the booking system states the aircraft that your flight will be operated by, but that’s common practice for many airline sites. However, not all airlines tell you exactly which product you’ll be getting onboard.

The key is to click on the linked aircraft type next to your flight. I clicked the “A330-300” link next to the KE 602 flight on the panel above, and was linked to Korean Air’s A330 seatmap. As you see from the link below, there’s both a 272-seater A330, and a 276-seater A330 (the 272-seater features Apex Suites, whereas the 276-seater features standard fully flat seats in both first and business class).

Here’s the thing – if your flight is operated by one of Korean Air’s older aircraft (the KE 602 operating on the date of the dummy booking wasn’t), Korean Air’s interface will automatically redirect you to the 276-seat A330 seatmap. So Korean Air will automatically redirect you to the seatmap of the exact configuration that you’ll be flying.

On the right is a seat guide, which even more clearly indicates the exact seat type that you’ll be seated in (this wouldn’t be needed on a 777 when you’d be able to tell if your flight had a 2-2-2 or 2-3-2 configuration, but the A330 features a 2-2-2 configuration either way, so…).

Here’s the quick scoop for passengers seated in business class:

Korean Air’s newest Apex Suite product

Korean Air’s Prestige Sleeper product

IMG_3105Korean Air’s Prestige Plus product

Here’s the quick scoop for passengers seated in first class:

  • If you’re seated in the Kosmo Suites 2.0 product, you will get Korean Air’s newest first class, which I flew here
  • If you’re seated in the Kosmo Suites product, you’ll get Korean Air’s older, non-fully enclosed first class product – picture below
  • If you’re seated in Korean Air’s Sleeper product, it depends which aircraft type you’ll be flying, though the picture will accurately indicate the seat you’ll be flying in:
    • Passengers on the 787-9 and new A330 get a seat identical to Korean Air’s Apex Suite (attached picture will be one of an Apex Suite)
    • Passengers on the old A330 (A330-200 and old A330-300) and 777-300 will get a seat identical to Korean Air’s old business class product (attached picture will be one of a standard fully flat seat with an ottoman)
    • Passengers on the 747-400 will get a different, fully flat padded seat altogether

Korean Air’s Kosmo Suites 2.0 product, featured on the airline’s 747-8s and newer 777-300ERs

Korean Air’s Kosmo Suites product, featured on all older 777s, as well as the A380

IMG_3221Korean Air’s Boeing 747-400 “Sleeper” first class product

IMG_2332Korean Air’s Airbus A330 “Sleeper” first class product, also featured on their 777-300s

Which aircraft feature Korean Air’s best first and business class products?

While Korean Air offers a variety of products, it’s obvious that some are better than others. So, which ones should you try to book yourself on?

If you’re in first class, look out for Korean Air’s 747-8s and 777-300ERs – all 747-8s feature Korean Air’s new first class, but only the 277-seater 777-300ERs feature Korean Air’s newest first class product. Korean Air’s new first class has a door (so it’s fully enclosed), along with a lot of extra storage. They call this new product “Kosmo Suites 2.0”, which you’ll be able to see in the seat guide detailed above.

Korean Air Boeing 747-8 First Class Bed

Korean Air’s 291-seater 777-300ERs, A380s and 777-200s feature a less luxurious, though also spacious “Kosmo Suites” configuration (also detailed above), which is substantially inferior to the Kosmo Suites 2.0, but still decent.

If you’re in business class, look out for Korean Air’s 747-8, 787, 777-300ER and A330-300. Once again, all of Korean Air’s 747-8s and 787s feature the airline’s newest business class product, but only the 277-seater 777-300ERs and 272-seat A330-300s feature Korean Air’s newest business class product. Apex Suites are very private, very spacious, and very comfortable – easily one of my favourite business class configurations out there (though not my absolute favourite).

Korean Air Boeing 747-8 Business Class Bed

If these aircraft aren’t offered on my preferred route, I also wouldn’t mind a window seat on the A380, which at least feature storage bins at all window seats.

Which aircraft to avoid?

In business class, I’d say that Korean Air’s non-Apex Suites products are all substantially inferior, though not much different. If anything I’d avoid the 291-seater 777-300ER, as the business class configurations feature middle seats, and the cabin is larger than on other aircraft, leading to a (marginally) less private experience.

Korean Air’s old 777-300ER business class isn’t substantially worse than the rest, though it’s a large cabin, and thus least private

I’d also avoid flying the 747-400, which features angled lie-flat seats. However, at this point, given Korean Air only has two of them left and both are 20+ years old, flying an antiquated Korean Air 747-400 is more of a novelty experience than not (they fly exclusively regionally now, thankfully).

The real differentiation between products across cabins is in first class. I would actively try and avoid a first class flight on the A330-200, 276-seater A330 and 777-300, as they feature the same seats in first class and business class, and they’re mediocre business class seats at best.

Korean Air’s old “sleeper” seats – boring in business class, let alone first class

I’d also avoid flying the 272-seat A330 and the 787, as they feature Apex Suites in business class. The Apex Suite is a very good business class product, but is less impressive in first class, and certainly can’t compare to Korean Air’s “true” first class products on the 777, A380, and 747-8.

Korean Air’s Apex Suite in business class, also used for first class on their A330 and 787

Bottom Line

Korean Air has some confusing cabin products, especially if you’re flying first class. However, it’s nice that they make it easy to identify on their website. I also appreciate that the photos aren’t PR photos, since you can see exactly how good or how bad the seat is. Hopefully this served as a decent guide to how you can tell which product your flight will feature on Korean Air, and which products you should try to book yourself on.

Did you know that you could check which product your Korean Air flight had in advance?

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