Korean Air Boeing 777-300ER First Class Review (Singapore > Seoul)

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Airline: Korean Air
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER (HL 8216)
Flight #: KE 646
Route: Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) to Incheon International Airport (ICN)
Date: May 04, 2019
Duration: 6 Hrs 15 Mins
Cabin + Layout: Originally booked on the Kosmos Suites 2.0; downgraded to Kosmos Suites. 8 first class suites in a 1-2-1 configuration across 2 rows.
Seat: 1A
Miles Used: 45,000 Korean SKYPASS Miles (transferred at a 3:1 ratio from Marriott Bonvoy) + $141.44 (including taxes and fees per person)
Fare Paid: N/A
Typical Retail Fare: $2,033 per person including taxes and fees

Introduction

Having heard rave reviews of both Korean Air (KE) and Asiana Airlines (OZ), I took up the opportunity to try out the first class product of both the airlines during my trip to Seoul in May 2019. I booked a one-way first class ticket from SIN to ICN with Korean Air on the Boeing B777-300ER and then from ICN to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) with Asiana on the Airbus A380-800.

In terms of fleet size and destinations, Korean Air is South Korea’s largest airline that includes a mixed fleet of narrow and wide-body Airbus and Boeing aircrafts. With such a diverse fleet, they have different products and cabin layouts. Below is just a summary of the different seat configurations they have equipped on their wide-body fleet.

Korean Air Seat Configuration - Wide-Body Fleet
Korean Air Wide-Body Fleet Seat Configurations; Image Credit: Korean Air

Since I was flying on the Boeing 777-300ER, I’ll just focus on the details of this particular aircraft.

Boeing 777-300ER Configurations

Korean Air flies 2 versions of the Boeing 777-300ER and is known to interchange their Boeing 777-300 ER versions, as it happened on this flight. Even though my ticket clearly stated that I would be flying in the first class Kosmos Suite 2.0 with the privacy door, I ended up in the Kosmos Suite without a privacy door. So other than checking on the seat configuration map on what product you will be flying, you can also verify using the aircraft tail numbers.

Though there isn’t much of a difference between Kosmos Suites and Kosmos Suites 2.0 other than a privacy door, I believe you should get what you pay for, whether it be a cash booking or mileage redemption.

Version 1

Version 1 of the Beoing 777-300ER has a total capacity of 291 seats. There are 8 open Kosmos suites, 56 flat bed Prestige Class seats, and 227 standard economy seats.

Version 1 with the open Kosmos Suites is available on the aircrafts with the following tail numbers:  HL 7782 – HL 7784; HL 8208 – HL 8210; HL 8216 – HL 8218; HL 8250; HL 8274 and HL 8275.

Korean Air - B777W V1
Korean Air B777-300ER – Version 1

Version 2

Version 2 of the aircraft has a total capacity of 277 seats. There are 8 closed Kosmos suites 2.0, 42 flat-bed Prestige Class seats, and 227 standard economy seats.

Version 2, with the partially enclosed Kosmos Suites 2.0 is available on the aircrafts with the following tail numbers: HL 7202 – HL 7205; HL 8006 – HL 8011; HL 8041, HL 8042, HL 8346 and HL 8347

Korean Air - B777W V2
Korean Air B777-300ER – Version 2

Booking

The mileage redemption required for this redeye flight from SIN to ICN was 45,000 Korean Air SKYPASS miles plus $141.44 per person including taxes and fees.

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Mileage Redemption Cherag Dubash
Korean Air First Class Mileage Redemption

Korean Air is a member of the SkyTeam Alliance. Though partner redemption is available to book economy and business class award seats, first class award seats can only be booked using the airline’s frequent flyer program: Korean Air SKYPASS.

Based in Abu Dhabi, UAE, the only way for me to book the a first class ticket using miles was by transferring Marriott Bonvoy points which I earn using my Emirates NBD SPG credit card at a 3: 1 ratio to my Korean Air SKYPASS account.

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Marriott Transfer - Cherag Dubash
3:1 Marriott Bonvoy Points to Korean Air SkyPass Miles transfer. Image Credit: Marriott

I proceeded to transfer 135,000 Marriott Bonvoy points at a 3:1 ratio for the required 45,000 Korean Air SKYPASS miles to book the first class award ticket. I also received 5,000 bonus miles since I transferred 60,000 Marriott Bonvoy points. The transfer took 12 days to go through and post to my SKYPASS account.

Hot Tip: Korean Air only releases 2 first class seats for award redemption. See our Korean Air first class booking guide for more information and tips!

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Marriott Transfer - Cherag Dubash
135K Marriott Bonvoy Points to 45K Korean Air SkyPass Miles transfer

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Ticket - Cherag Dubash

At Singapore Changi Airport (SIN)

I flew into SIN from Dubai International Airport (DXB), on the morning of May 3, 2019, and stayed the day at the airport’s Crowne Plaza Changi Hotel, one of the best airport hotels with sweeping views of the airport tarmac.

Crowne Plaza Changi Airport - Cherag Dubash
Runway Views from the hotel room

After dinner with friends at the hotel, I headed to Terminal 4, from where Korean Air operates along with AirAsia, Cathay Pacific, Vietnam Airlines, Cebu Pacific, and others. Note that there is no SkyTrain available between Terminal 4 and the other terminals (1, 2 and 3). There is only a regular shuttle bus service between Terminal 2 and Terminal 4, which means that if you are arriving in to Terminal 1 or 3, you will need to take the SkyTrain to Terminal 2 and then the shuttle bus service to Terminal 4.

To avoid all this, I just took a taxi from the hotel to Terminal 4, which cost me around $7.30 (SG$10). I arrived at the terminal at 11:00 p.m. and proceeded to the Korean Air check-in desk located at Row 5. The most convenient drop-off location is Door 3.

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Check-in Changi Airport - Cherag Dubash
Korean Air First Class Check in at Changi Airport
Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Check-in Changi Airport - Cherag Dubash
Korean Air First Class Check in at Changi Airport

Check-in was fairly straightforward and I was informed that I am the only passenger traveling in first class. This further enhanced my expectations of being pampered by the famed Korean Air service onboard. Immigration clearance through the auto-gates was a breeze as well, and I was starting to get a good vibe about this trip to Seoul.

Blossom Lounge

Korean Air uses the Blossom Lounge located on Level 2 of the departure area for first class, business class and SkyTeam Elite members. The lounge is a product of the partnership between SATS and Plaza Premium and is also accessible using Priority Pass, various credit cards issued by Singapore banks, and by purchasing a day pass (10 hours) for $78.

Hot Tip: Many credit cards offer a complimentary Priority Pass membership simply by being a cardholder! 

Blossom Lounge Entrance Changi Airport_T4 - Cherag_Dubash
Blossom Lounge

As you enter the lounge, there are 2 showers located on the left for which you are required to book your slot. Since both the showers were occupied, I could not check out those facilities.

Blossom Lounge Showers Changi Airport T4 - Cherag Dubash
Blossom Lounge – Showers

As you walk further ahead, the dining area is located on the left followed by seating stalls for passengers traveling solo.

Blossom Lounge Dining Area Changi Airport T4 - Cherag Dubash
Blossom Lounge – Dining Area
Blossom Lounge Seating Stalls Changi Airport T4 - Cherag Dubash
Blossom Lounge – Seating Area
Blossom Lounge Seating Stall Changi Airport T4 - Cherag Dubash
Blossom Lounge – Individual Seating Stall

For first class passengers traveling on Korean Air, there is a special area reserved right at the end of the lounge, from where you can enjoy the Peranakan Love Story show – a story of the romance between two musician neighbors that runs every 15 minutes.

Blossom Lounge First Class Area Changi Airport T4 - Cherag Dubash
Reserved for Korean Air First Class Passengers
Blossom Lounge Gallery View Changi Airport T4 - Cherag Dubash
Gallery View of the Peranakan Love Story

The lounge offered both hot and cold food options including a noodle and laksa bar, with a selection of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages but nothing to shout about. The only other lounge in Terminal 4 is the Cathay Pacific lounge, which was out of bounds and since I had already had a sumptuous dinner back at the hotel, I just grabbed a beer and put my feet up.

Blossom Lounge Hot Meal Selection Changi Airport T4 - Cherag Dubash
Blossom Lounge – Hot Meal Selection
Blossom Lounge Hot Meal Selection Changi Airport T4 - Cherag Dubash
Blossom Lounge – Hot Meal
Blossom Lounge Salad Selection Changi Airport T4 - Cherag Dubash
Blossom Lounge – Salad
Blossom Lounge Noodle Laksa Changi Airport T4 - Cherag Dubash
Blossom Lounge – Noodle and Laksa bar
Blossom Lounge Dessert Changi Airport T4 -Cherag Dubash
Blossom Lounge – Dessert
Blossom_Lounge_Alcoholic Beverages Changi Airport T4 - Cherag Dubash
Blossom Lounge – Alcoholic Beverages
Blossom Lounge Beer Changi Airport T4 - Cherag Dubash
Blossom Lounge – Alcoholic Beverages and Sodas

Scheduled departure was at 01:10 a.m, and I started making my way to the designated gate G19, which was a good 10 minutes walk from the lounge.

Hot Tip: You don’t have to fly first or business to have lounge access. Many credit cards grant lounge access regardless of which class you’re flying. 

Flight

Aircraft

The aircraft registered HL 8216 was delivered to Korean Air in May 2011. This was the high density Version 1 with a total capacity of 291 seats configured as follows:

  • First Class Kosmos Suites: 8 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration across 2 rows
  • Business Prestige Class: 56 seats in 2-3-2 configuration across 8 rows
  • Economy class: 227 seats in a 3-3-3 configuration
Korean Air Boeing 777 - Cherag Dubash
Korean Air Boeing 777-300ER

Boarding was via 2 jet bridges. Through L1 for first class and Prestige Class passengers and through L2 for economy class passengers.

Cabin

The first class cabin is set in a forward facing 1-2-1 configuration with direct aisle access.

Korean Air - Boeing 777 First Class Cabin - Cherag Dubash
First Class Cabin

Upon entering the aircraft, I was greeted by the head purser and settled into my designated seat of 1A. I was surprised to notice that the aircraft was equipped with the Kosmos Suites and not the Kosmos Suites 2.0 that have privacy doors as mentioned on my ticket, as there was no communication from the airline on the aircraft and product change.

Since I was the only passenger in first class, I was not that bothered. However, it would have been nice to receive an email notification from the airline stating that there is an aircraft change.

If you are traveling solo, the window seats are the way to go and if traveling with a companion, then it is the middle seats that are equipped with a partition, which can be raised or lowered.

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Seat 1A - Cherag Dubash
Seat 1A
Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Middle Row Seats Cherag Dubash
Middle Row Seats

The cabin interior is dull with palettes of cream and light blue seat upholstery and the dim lighting does not help the cause.

The first class cabin has 1 standard sized lavatory located at the front of the cabin.

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Lavatory - Cherag Dubash
First Class Lavatory

Seat

The seat is comfortable and well padded with a generous 83″ pitch and 26.5″ width that transforms into a 180 degree flat bed with foot support being provided by the ottoman. The ottoman is not fitted with a seat belt, so companion dining is out of the question.

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Window Seat - Cherag Dubash
Seat 1A
Korean_Air_Boeing 777 First Class Flat Bed - Cherag Dubash
Flat bed
Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Ottoman - Cherag Dubash
Ottoman

The seat controls are fairly simple to use with 3 pre-set modes: Take-off, Dining and Flat Bed.

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Seat Controls - Cherag Dubash
Pre-Set Seat Controls

The seat can further be individually adjusted using the below illustrated controls.

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Seat Control Cherag Dubash
Seat Controls

The seat is also equipped with a reading lamp that looks more like a beer tap or spigot.

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Reading Lamp - Cherag Dubash
Reading Lamp

Storage

Each suite is equipped with ample storage facilities; there are 3 storage compartments that run flush between the aircraft frame and the seat.

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Storage Cherag Dubash
Storage compartment
Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Storage Cherag Dubash
Storage Compartment
Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Storage Cherag Dubash
Storage Compartment

Additionally, there is storage available beneath the ottoman, which is decent space.

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Storage Cherag Dubash
Storage space below the ottoman

Inflight Entertainment and Wi-Fi

Each seat is equipped with a 23″ LCD monitor with limited entertainment options.

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class TV Monitor - Cherag Dubash
23″ LCD TV monitor
Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class TV Monitor - Cherag Dubash
Movie options

The TV monitor is not touch screen, and can only be controlled by a dated handheld controller that is stored in the left-hand arm rest.

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Remote Control - Cherag Dubash
Remote Control

Korean Air provides the Bose noise canceling headphones to complement the IFE, which again are pretty dated.

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Headphones - Cherag Dubash
Headphones

There is no Wi-Fi service available on these aircraft.

Plug Points

A universal power socket and 2 USB ports are provided in each suite.

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Power Socket - Cherag Dubash
Universal Power Socket
Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class USB ports - Cherag Dubash
USB Ports

Food and Service

The first class cabin was manned by 3 flight attendants including the head purser and being the only passenger in first class, I was really looking forward to getting spoiled rotten. However, that was sadly not the case, and it all started going downhill from here.

After boarding and settling in my designated seat of 1A, I was served the Perrier Jouet Blason Rose Champagne prior to take-off , which was fruity and crisp along with some nuts.

Korean_Air Boeing 777 First Class Champagne - Cherag Dubash
Perrier Jouet Blason Rose Champagne

I was then presented the wine list and food menu. The wine list was decent and had some good selections of red and white wines including the Chataeu Gruaud Larose 2007 and the Louis Latour Corton Grand Cru 2014.

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Menu Cover - Cherag Dubash
Menu
Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Alcoholic Beverage List - Cherag Dubash
Alcoholic Beverage List
Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Champagne List - Cherag Dubash
Champagne List
Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Red Wine List - Cherag Dubash
Red Wine List
Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Red Wine List - Cherag_Dubash
Red Wine List
Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class White Wine List - Cherag Dubash
White Wine List
Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Sweet Wine List Cherag Dubash
Sweet Wine

Unfortunately, I was dismayed at the meal offerings. On a 6-hour flight, Korean Air offered a measly pre-drink service of a mozzarella, kalamata olives and cucumber skewer, and breakfast.

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Breakfast Menu - Cherag Dubash
Meal Menu

To make matters worse, out of the 3 breakfast options, the only option available was the Noodle Soup with fish. I have flown intra-Asia on similar 6-hour red-eye flights that depart around midnight, namely Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, Japan Airlines, ANA, and they all offer 2 proper meal services and that too in business class. One being a light supper after take off and the other being breakfast prior to arrival. If these were the meal options in First Class, I wonder what the poor souls back in Business and Economy Class were offered?

It was 1:30 a.m. and by now I was feeling peckish. But since there was no light meal or snack after takeoff (other than a measly skewer), I decided to go for the breakfast on offer. Since I wasn’t exactly spoiled for choice I decided to go with what was available, both of which were strictly okay!

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Appetizer - Cherag Dubash
Mozzarella, kalamata and cucumber skewer
Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Noodle Soup - Cherag Dubash
Noodle Soup

I was determined to recoup in kind some of my miles that I had redeemed for this flight, so I decided to engage in a solo wine tasting session to drown my disappointment.

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Wine Offerings - Cherag Dubash
Wine Offerings

I opted for:

  • Mambourg Gerwurztraminer 2016 (white)
  • Albert Bichot Chablis Premier Cru 2015 (white)
  • Chataeu Gruaud Larose 2007 (red)
  • Louis Latour Corton Grand Cru 2014 (red)
Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Wine Tasting - Cherag Dubash
Wine Tasting

The onboard service was no great shakes either, given the crew had a very lackadaisical attitude. After I had boarded and settled in my seat, the flight attendant did not even once offer to take my jacket until I had to finally press the call button and hand it just before push back.

The service was rushed, not allowing me to enjoy my only meal. The flight attendant kept coming and asking if I was done. I had to finally tell her that I will inform her once I am done. They seemed in a hurry to complete the service, dim the cabin lights and knock off.

After my solo wine tasting session, I decided to hit the sack and slept for a good 4 hours before I was woken up at the top of descent. I just had a coffee prior landing into Seoul.

Amenities

Korean Air offers an amenity kit that contains an eye mask, dental kit, shoe horn, and Atelier-Cologne branded Aftershave lotion, body lotion, hand cream, face cream, and lip balm. All these were offered in a flimsy blue colored plastic pouch that looked more like a toddler’s crayon pouch.

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Amenity Kit - Cherag Dubash
Amenity Kit

For the 6 hour red-eye flight, Korean Air also offered Gianfranco Ferre branded pajamas and a pair of slippers that were very comfortable.

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Night suit - Cherag Dubash
Pajamas
Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Slippers - Cherag Dubash
Slippers

The bed which was comfortable was prepared complete with a mattress and comforter.

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class Flatbed - Cherag_Dubash
Flat bed

Final Thoughts

An utter disappointment! I had lofty expectations, based on all that I had heard and read about Korean Airlines’ service. Was it worth redeeming 135,000 Marriott Bonvoy points for this first class ticket? Absolutely not!

Korean Air Boeing 777 First Class - Cherag Dubash
Korean Air First Class

In May 2019, Korean Air, announced that starting June 01, 2019 they will be cutting first class service on 27 of their international routes and it seems their crew have taken that announcement in earnest. I still cannot get over the fact that for a 6-hour flight their meal options were so limited. I read on one of their Instagram posts where they mentioned as follows: “When it comes to service, we go above and beyond”. Sadly, this wasn’t the case on this particular flight.

This year, the airline is celebrating its 50th year in service and they didn’t exactly cover themselves in glory. If you are selling a first class ticket, please ensure you deliver a first class service.


Cherag Dubash

About Cherag Dubash

Cherag was born in a family associated with aviation and was hooked on to planes since the age of 3, the time he undertook his first flight on an Airbus A310 from Mumbai to Dubai. Based in Abu Dhabi, the London City University graduate is regularly seen on Instagram, travelling over 100K miles each year in First and Business Class while holding down a regular job.

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