I’ve always heard Korean Air offered one of the best in flight experiences, and last month, with my flight from Vietnam to Korea being requisite of a Delta Air Lines ticket, I got to try them out for the first time. So how do they compare to other Asian airlines in the market? Read on!
Airline: Korean Air
Route: KE 484 (HAN to ICN) (Sold as DL9033)
Seat and Class: Economy – 35H – Window (2-4-2 layout)
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Flight Time: 3 hours 50 minutes (scheduled 4:15)
On time? Arrived 25 minutes early
Checking In and Boarding in Hanoi
Flying on a Delta ticket came with its challenges, notably without the ability to check in online (saying an e-ticket hadn’t been issued). Co-shared flights often have their issues, but this was a new one. It meant I couldn’t choose my seat or check in before arriving at the airport. I ended up with a window seat over the wing; not my preferred seat but for a four hour or so flight it’s fine, especially when there’s only one other person in your row.
I was running a bit late, but there was no queue as a SkyPriority holder; thankfully they recognised this status even though it was with Virgin, but only because it’s a Delta ticket. This didn’t extend to any lounge access, however. It was a bit of a hassle getting everything into the system as there was the e-ticket issue, but it was resolved without much issue. I had a quick bite to eat at a pho place before going through security, and ended up in a bit of a rush to make it through; while the initial security check was moving quickly, the passport control was not. My flight was almost fully boarded by the time I made it through security, so probably eat after security; there are some options there too! Internet is easily accessible, free and fast in the terminal.
Seats and Comfort
The Airbus A330-300 felt like a pretty new plane, with very comfortable seats with excellent leg room and excellent recline. A pillow and blanket was waiting on the seat. The headrest sat at the width of the seat and had moveable sides. I generally hate the window seat, but the 2-4-2 setup lends itself to not feeling too cramped in at any seat, and the man next to me was nice enough to move whenever I needed to use the restrooms.
In Flight Entertainment
The seat backs had the latest in in-flight screen technology, removable gaming controller, touch screen with USB charger and AC Plugs under the seat. Tonnes of new release movies on the flight; basically everything that was nominated for an Oscar! And a solid selection of “classic” films too. Next to no TV options, however. Just the single headphone jack so you can use your own headphones – ones are sitting on the seat waiting for you though just in case. I like the “Sky Theatre” pre-roll when you watch the film; pretty sure that hasn’t been updated in 30 years. Which is similar to my sentiment about screening censored movies; it’s a little bit dated at this point isn’t it? No in flight wi-fi but this much I appreciate. Entertainment worked gate-to-gate.
Food & Drink
Meal service started about 40 minutes after scheduled take off; not long after we hit elevation. No menus or hot towels, just meals with drinks. The options were bibimbap, beef with noodles or seafood with pasta. The bibimbap was served with soup, with kimchi, hot sauce (gochujang), fruit and water – the rice presented separately. I had the beef with egg noodles and vegetables, which came with a warm bread roll with rice, and a salad with sliced pork and a balsamic dressing, as well as melon, and water. There was so much taste to the dish; among the best economy food I’ve ever had; great quality meat too. Hite extra cold beer was the beer of choice, and there were juices and wines and sodas too. I had my usual air drink of choice, a scotch and soda, which they went and got for me without any drama. A hand sanitising towel was provided with the meal, as was a toothpick. An additional wine top up followed by tea (black or green via teabag) and coffee was provided after the service.
Beyond the meal services, the staff spoke English and Korean, and were very attentive. There are stickers for your use, too – one to request not to be disturbed during the flight, the others requesting to be woken for meal and duty free services. You put this sticker on your headrest. Not quite as fun as the red/green eye masks that are (from memory) supplied by Emirates, but still an excellent inclusion. Every airline needs some sort of communication method regarding being woken up for a meal. Lights were turned off not too long after service and duty free, and lights were turns on about 20 minutes before landing, at the same time as water and juices were brought around.
Arrival into Seoul
There was a lengthy taxi on arrival, so thankfully the entertainment systems still worked. Although I had an overnight stopover in Korea, my bags were checked through. Which made the stopover an easy one (as I didn’t have to worry about baggage), but did mean I had to pack for the extra day (and luckily I had indeed done just that just to be safe; I was told different information over the phone). All the tickets for my flights out of Korea were also provided at check in which made things easy the next day. You can bring up maps of the ICN terminal and access more information about the airport via the in seat screens. Wiifi worked like a treat in the terminal without any login requirements, and it was fast too!
Getting into Seoul from the International Airport
The easiest and cheapest way to get into town is the train, (5250 won including deposit for the card which you can get back from machines – about $7 AUD). But you do need cash for this. Meanwhile, the bus option can be paid via credit card. There aren’t many ATMs around, but you’ll find a bank around the corner from the rail entrance. I got out 20k won for the trip there and back (about $25 AUD) and some snacks along the way. With a 3.5k fee, this is only worthwhile if you have a bank like ING that reimburses such fees. Which is highly recommended for international travel. It takes about an hour to get downtown from ICN.
Their status as one of the world’s best airlines does not come unfounded. The food is phenomenal – from taste to presentation – with excellent service, comfortable seats and planes that feel sparkling new. You really can’t ask for much more than this.
FOUR AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
To book your next flight with Korean Air, head to koreanair.com.
The writer flew at his own expense.