Review: Korean Air Airbus A330 Business Class
Korean Air's latest-generation Prestige Suites show how the SkyTeam member is going big on business class.
Brisbane - Seoul (Incheon)
- The window seats are private, almost suite-like
- Inflight dining caters to both Korean and Western tastes
- Brisbane's only non-stop flight to Korea
- Shorter bed length and smaller TV for most seats compared to the very first row
- Flight timings don't suit most connections
- Seats may be in a 2-2-2 layout, but there's still direct (and uninterrupted) aisle access from every one
With Korean Air recently axing first class from many of its aircraft, the airline is going big on business class instead, flying its latest-generation Prestige Suites on most flights to Australia and further afield.
Executive Traveller puts Korean Air's Airbus A330 business class to the test following a recent flight from Brisbane to Seoul's Incheon Airport, aboard the same aircraft as also has a separate 'business class plus' cabin, as previously reviewed.
- Frequent flyer program: Korean Air SkyPass, SkyTeam. The airline also maintains partnerships with other frequent flyer schemes outside the alliance, including Emirates Skywards and Etihad Guest.
- Checked baggage allowance: 2x32kg bags as standard. Korean Air's Morning Calm Club, Morning Calm Premium Club and Million Miler Club members, as well as other SkyTeam Elite and Elite Plus cardholders, can check a third 32kg bag at no charge.
- Carry-on baggage allowance: 2x115cm bags at a combined total weight of 18kg.
- Priority airport services: Look for the 'Prestige Class' lanes at check-in and boarding, and the Express Path channel to the left at security screening in Brisbane. With minimal queues at passport control in Seoul, my priority-tagged bag arrived on the belt mere seconds after I'd approached it.
In Brisbane, Korean Air uses the independent Plaza Premium Lounge, offering solid barista-made coffee to begin the day aside a buffet of hot and cold food, and selected breakfast dishes prepared to order.
Just keep an eye on the time, as boarding calls aren't made here.
Executive Traveller review: Plaza Premium Lounge, Brisbane
When departing Seoul, your business class ticket unlocks Korean Air's Prestige Lounges, labelled East and West: they're both relatively similar, so we'd suggest visiting the one closest to your departure gate.
That is, unless your travel wallet also boasts a Korean Air Morning Calm Premium or Million Miler Club membership card, in which case, the much quieter Miler Club Lounge awaits:
Read: Your guide to Korean Air's Seoul Terminal 2 lounges
Korean Air operates four weekly return flights between Brisbane and Seoul, with KE124 departing the Queensland capital at 8:25am on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, to reach Seoul at 5:35pm.
On the return, KE123 is an 8:05pm departure on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, touching down in Brisbane at 6:50am the following day.
It's a schedule that works reasonably well for business travellers jetting solely between these two cities, although the Brisbane-Seoul leg departs too early to accommodate any passengers arriving into Brisbane on same-day domestic connecting flights, and also arrives in Seoul too late to facilitate any seamless connections to onward European destinations, which are only possible with an overnight stay.
Korean Air also flies daily between Sydney and Seoul.
Korean Air’s Prestige Suites come in a 2-2-2 layout, but interestingly, this doesn't require passengers seated at the windows to step past their aisle-side seatmate.
Instead, the window seats each have a small corridor straight across to the aisle, passing in front of their neighbour's seat and leaving them undisturbed:
Frequent high flyers may recognise this as a customised version of the Apex Suite – also a favourite of airlines like JAL – which adopts a staggered layout at the outer pairs, making them suitable for both solo travellers and duos alike...
... although the seats align better in the centre pairs, and may make them the preferred choice of couples travelling together:
In any case, take note of this opening in the shell between the seats:
After take-off, a privacy divider can be raised here, creating a more suite-like experience for passengers sitting against the windows; acting as a light barrier for those in the aisle hoping to rest; or simply providing some privacy if you're in the centre of the cabin but flying solo.
In terms of storage, there’s a literature pocket to the side where you’ll find the menu on boarding, along with the headphone outlet and a USB charging port tucked away:
Above that, your control keys, where a green light indicates you’re set for take-off or landing:
Further along, an international-style AC power outlet. There's plenty of open space around it, so there are no issues connecting larger power bricks – but being at knee height, I found myself bumping the adaptor when passing to and from the aisle, and in one instance, knocked my laptop charger out completely.
Directly in front of each passenger resides a fixed footrest, either within the seat shell if you’re by the aisle, or mounted in place for window-siders:
With a blanket, slimline amenity kit and headphones found on my seat at boarding, that leg rest proved to be a better home so that I could actually sit down.
However, I quickly spotted a separate storage closet in front, which comfortably fit everything inside:
Alternatively, passengers on the aisle side of these outer pairs have a storage nook to their side, rather than in front:
Conversely, those by the window seats have an added storage shelf across their aisle-reaching corridor, but it's both easily visible and easily bumped, and mainly served as a handy place to rest glasses for collection by the crew:
These 51cm/20-inch-wide seats also transform into fully-flat beds measuring 190cms (75 inches) from tip to tail, including the fixed leg rest in front which forms the end of the bed.
As a tall traveller (6ft) with broad shoulders to boot, I found the seat a little on the tighter side when briefly testing the bed on this daytime journey, and so was glad to have pre-selected a seat in the aircraft's separate 'business class plus' zone for the overnight leg home.
Formerly sold as first class, 'business class plus' refers to the very front row on these Airbus A330s, which have much the same seat but a longer bed, stretching to 195cm.
Executive Traveller review: Korean Air 'business class plus'
In any case, pyjamas are BYO, and the only bedding provided is this thick blanket:
On that overnight flight home, I draped it across the seat and slept on top, as the cabin was already quite warm, and felt even more so with the seat's privacy shield raised as there are no individual air vents.
The service begins with an offer of water or juice on the ground, with the bar opening after take-off for another round of drinks, from which Perriet-Jouet Brut Champagne was an easy choice.
Given the relatively early 8:25am departure time from Brisbane – for which many travellers would wake around 5am and eat breakfast before they fly – the first meal of the flight is pleasingly lunch rather than breakfast.
That began with an amuse-bouche of seared prawn with tomato and olive tapenade, which was nice and fresh:
Next, a smoked salmon appetiser with Italian dressing, which you can drizzle to taste. I found half the sachet more than enough, as the salmon was beautiful and stood well on its own.
Then comes a choice between the iconic Korean Bibimbap, or a standalone broccoli cream soup served with a Western main course. Here’s that full list:
- Korean Bibimbap: minced beef and seasonal vegetables accompanied by sesame oil and Korean hot pepper paste
- Grilled beef tenderloin with red wine sauce, served with potato gratin and assorted vegetables
- Stir-fried chicken with hot bean sauce, served with noodles and assorted vegetables
I opted for the traditional Bibimbap, and paired it with a glass of the 2007 Brothers In Arms No. 6 Shiraz Cabernet.
If you’re not sure where to start, there’s a helpful instruction card in the seat pocket, explaining that you first pour the rice into the main bibimbap bowl, add the hot pepper paste (half a tube gives a mild flavour, the whole tube makes it hot), add the sesame oil, mix everything together, and then enjoy!
I found the saltiness of the seaweed (added from the packet on the left) gave the dish a nice sharp flavour, after having mixed through around three quarters of the pepper paste to achieve a medium heat.
To follow, a cheese course with a camembert and a cheddar, with crackers, grapes and a glass of port (Founders Reserve Porto, Sandeman):
If you have room, that can be followed with ice cream for dessert: available in a beautiful and creamy strawberry jam flavour.
If you get peckish during the flight, you can order ramen with side dishes or enjoy baked cookies, and of course, the bar remains open.
Spirit selections include Chivas Regal 18yr Whisky, Johnnie Walker Gold Label Whisky, Glenfiddich Cask Collection Select Cask Single Malt Whisky, Jack Daniel’s Whisky and Remy Martin XO Cognac, along with standards like Absolute Vodka, Bacardi white rum and Beefeater Gin.
Closer to landing, a second meal service begins with a mixed green salad with orange segments and balsamic dressing, joined by warmed rolls from the basket...
... along with a main course from the choices below:
- Roasted chicken thigh with bulgogi sauce served with steamed rice and spinach
- Stir-fried beef in oyster sauce served with egg fried rice and mixed vegetables
- Seared barramundi in white wine sauce served with pasta and mixed vegetables
I selected the beef which was enjoyable, although the presentation wasn't on-par with the earlier courses and looked very 'airline meal', having been heated in the dish rather than plated on board.
Bottled water is also provided early in the flight and can be squeezed into the literature pocket beside the seat.
Entertainment & Service
You'll find a 17.5-inch widescreen panel fixed in front of you, serving up a variety of movies and TV shows – although the TV line-up is rather brief, and of those shows included, many featured only two episodes rather than a whole season.
The screen responds to touch but is generally out-of-reach while seated, so there's a separate remote control, found to the side.
Still, the main screen wasn't as sharp or vibrant as you'd expect of a more modern business class seat, and is one of the more noticeable differences between Korean Air's regular business class cabin and that front row, 'business class plus', where the screen is boosted to a hefty 23 inches of high definition.
Branded amenity kits are also found at each seat, featuring the usual contents with the addition of a shoe horn:
Service was prompt and professional, with the Head Purser greeting and farewelling each business class guest, and bowing during these interactions.
In the coming years, Korean Air will upgrade these flights to feature an all-new business class seat, replacing the current mix of business class and 'business class plus': but until then, the experience still ticks most of the boxes, especially if you can snag a seat in that favourable zone up front for a little extra space, more privacy and the larger TV.
Executive Traveller review: Korean Air Airbus A330 'business class plus', Seoul-Brisbane
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Seoul as a guest of Korean Air.
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