Korean Air readies new business class, premium economy

The SkyTeam member will debut new suites and seats on its Boeing 787-10 jets, with 777 upgrades to follow.

By David Flynn, November 10 2023
Korean Air readies new business class, premium economy

Korean Air will rely on the arrival of its first Boeing 787-10 to reboot its premium travel experience, with all-new business class and premium economy products making their debut on the Dreamliner in 2024.

While the business class suites will be a next-gen play for Korean Air, premium economy is a fresh addition to the mix.

Speaking with media this week, Korean Air CEO Walter Cho this week said the 787-10 jets – delivery of which has now been pushed back from late 2023 to sometime in 2024 – would be the launchpad for premium economy, with other parts of the fleet to follow.

The SkyTeam member has yet to reveal details on its premium economy offering, but expect this to follow the same lines as other airlines have adopted for this ‘in-between’ class, such as comfortable recliners with noticeably more legroom in a self-contained cabin, plus upgraded food and drinks.

As for business class, a regulatory filing made with the US Department of Transportation earlier this year described a “new business class suite seat design” for the Boeing 787-10s, with the same suites later being added to the long-range Boeing 777-300ER fleet.

And they’ll even be the same physical size, rather than being a wider version to make the most of the 777’s wider cabin, so passengers and crew will instead see the refurbished 777s sporting wider aisles.

The airline’s DoT submission redacted details such as the suite’s manufacturer and the specific model, as well as the layout, for reasons of commercial confidentiality.

Korean Air’s current flagship business class is based on the Apex suite, but expectations are that the new 777 and 787-10 business class suites will follow a more conventional 1-2-1 layout with sliding privacy doors.

Korean Air's current Boeing 787 business class.
Korean Air's current Boeing 787 business class.

The new business class has been in the works for some time, but like that of many other carriers – including Turkish Airlines’ own 777 suites – the program was stalled in early 2020.

“Currently, we are testing designs (and) talking to suppliers,” Korean Air Chairman and CEO Walter Cho told Executive Traveller on the sidelines of the World Air Transport Summit in Seoul in mid-2019.

Cho also indicated the airline’s new business class seat would also replace the current first class and business class seating mix on selected aircraft, moving instead to a single, larger and much better business class cabin – also a move being adopted by several airlines, among them American Airlines and Qatar Airways.

Additional reporting by Chris Ashton

12 Jun 2018

Total posts 5

Good news, I remember KE was one of the first airlines to install wifi with connection by boeing back in 2005 or 2006. They had invested alot in it and were even certified to carry out the modifications themselves until boeing pulled the plug on the whole project... nice to see they're back in the game.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

23 May 2018

Total posts 22

Flew AMS to ICN  business 777-300 and jagged a free upgrade to first class ICN to BNE 777-200

Both were a good sleep  but a bit narrow , first had ample room (I am 184cm) The service in both classes was the best I had encountered so polite and obliging. Food was top notch as well

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Sep 2012

Total posts 233

@David Flynn any idea on what the new business and premium economy seats will be based on? An off the shelf product like Thompson Vantage/Safran Unity or a completely new design?

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2561

If we had any idea of what was in store, it'd be in the article. That said, 'off the shelf product' and 'completely new design' are not mutually exclusive – every seat in a manufacturer's catalogue was at some stage 'a completely new design' (Safran Unity is a recent example of this).

If you're thinking more along the lines of a totally custom seat, those are few and far between: Finnair's latest business class is the best example of this and we are seeing fewer and fewer such forays as the seating market moves towards a set of common criteria (the latest of which are doors, wireless charging, Bluetooth audio streaming), so premium airlines are working more in 'co-creation' mode with seat-makers and designers to take a platform (such as Vantage or Unity) and then significantly customise it.

My 2c is that these new Korean Air 'suites' will HAVE to have doors plus wireless charging etc, and they will be an 'off the shelf' business class like mentioned above, but not Thompson, as Korean Air will want to go as 'premium' as it can, so more like Unity or an equivalent from Collins, Recaro etc. It will be customised and styled as DF mentions above, but certainly not some ground-breaking all-new product, Korean Air will play it safe and settle for something which they can claim is 'bespoke' without the risk.

09 Sep 2023

Total posts 2

Business class seats these days are way too narrow, but, there is no going back now.

Back in the day (2007), Emirates Business Class was like sitting in a nice recliner: it was open seating 2-2-2 with plenty of leg room and aisle space.

All these BClass offerings now are tight little plastic boxes.  F&B service is better, easier to use the loo and less crowded overheads and less screaming infant than economy, but the seats are not sweet.  The lay-flat thing is no prize for me: I enjoyed dozing of in my plush recliner of old.

Korean Airlines do whatever they do pretty well: I'm ROK based and I'm done with Delta and United to US, Aus or Europe. American has always been inferior.

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