Flying Korean Air Prestige (Business) Class was one of the greatest travel experiences that I have had. It was a day of firsts. It was my first business class booking as well as my first time flying in an A380, flying to Asia, and my longest flight ever. I think this a story that need two posts to be properly told.
My day started out in Cleveland again. I breezed through Hopkins security after checking in my bag through Delta’s priority line. Oddly Delta’s priority line is the furthest possible counter away from the PreCheck line, but on the whole it’s inconsequential since Hopkins is such a small airport. I went to the Airspace lounge, accessible with the Amex Platinum card. You get $7 dollars of credit per person, including guests in the lounge. Alcohol is available from a manned bar, but it isn’t open. I got the breakfast sandwich for $6 and abandoned the remaining $1. Unusually, I did not get a bottle of water on the way out as is the norm.
I proceeded to my assigned gate around the corner from the lounge. For the first time, I was assigned to one of Cleveland’s only tarmac gates. First Class was called first, and we then proceeded to the plane after passing through a door, down a few flights of stairs, and through another passcode door, until we got to the aircraft. Large carry-on’s were gate checked on this flight.
After boarding, the stewardess offered drinks. We had a short delay waiting for our final passenger, but soon made it into the air. We landed about 20 minutes ahead of schedule.
After picking up my bag, I looked around for transfers, but it turned out that I had to exit the airport to get to Terminal 1. I got back into the security line, this time the VIP/Business Class line. After passing through it to get my ticket and passport checked, I was directed to the PreCheck line. Here, for some reason, shoes were required to be removed. I unfortunately got lucky and the 3D X-ray thought that I had an excessive amount of metal on me. I got an extensive pat-down. I was offered a private room, but declined. Apparently it was enough to call over a supervisor to observe it to prevent against lawsuits. After that was over, I had all my baggage swabbed. This took about five minutes as they rooted through all of my stuff. After I was cleared, I went to check out the duty free store. Surprisingly, it was rather small.
I then headed for the Korean Air lounge. The door was open, so I headed up the stairs. About halfway up, I was turned around by a flustered employee. It turns out that the lounge didn’t open for another hour, but the hours sign was obscured by the open door. Oh well, I had time to kill, so I went to the Air France lounge to try and use my Priority Pass card. They had a paper sign posted on the door that the lounge was closed to Priority Pass holders, despite it being within the allowed hours. Sometimes, it does really seem that the card is a bit useless.
After the lounge opened, I finally went up. I checked in with a pleasant hostess, who showed me to the Prestige Class lounge area, and went off to give me a new ticket for the flight. The lounge was fairly empty at that point. There is a small self-serve bar area with a variety of sandwiches in a fridge next to it. There was also coffee, ramen, and a variety of beverages. I sat down and worked for the next few hours, going back to grab the occasional sandwich. The lounge filled up rapidly with about 90 minutes to go until boarding began. I was one of the few Westerners in the lounge. Right before boarding began, the lounge became exceptionally crowded and rather warm. I headed to the restroom and found it to be perfectly decent, but nothing spectacular.
I then walked to the boarding gate and was immediately led to the jetway. On this flight, I was in the upper deck of an A380. I was in row 18, so I had a view of the wing, but was far enough back that I could also see some of the ground. The seat was huge, with vast amounts of storage and legroom. I was able to easily fit my laptop bag into the side storage wells. A flight attendant soon came over with preflight drink options. I again chose orange juice, but surprisingly, it was rather warm.
After about another 40 minutes, the plane finally took off. The takeoff was surprisingly quick, but I could still feel the huge weight of the plane as it took to the air. It climbed out quickly, the wings visibly moving to smooth out turbulence. After climbing for a few minutes, and watching New York City recede in the distance, I leaned back to check out the seat and in-flight entertainment options.
Overall, the in-flight entertainment was perfectly adequate. It had a fairly wide selection of Western and Korean movies. However, after watching three movies during the flight, I felt like I was scraping the bottom of the barrel of the selection.
The first service went very well. I got the bibimbap as many people had recommended.
A flight attendant asked me if I had ever had it before, and showed me how to mix it after hearing that I hadn’t. The bibimbap was quite good. After finishing, I settled back to finish my first movie.
About two hours later, the cabin lights dimmed for our simulated night. Outside, the sun was still bright. At this point, I looked at the provided amenity kit. It had a toothbrush, a small toothpaste, comb, and a Korean Air branded sleeping mask.
After watching another movie, I got bored and decided to explore the cabin for a while. It turns out that there’s a bar at the back of the business class cabin. There’s a small couch and standing area near a short bar. There are snacks and hors d’oeuvres available as well as a selection cocktails sponsored by Absolut. The Tom Collins was particularly good.
After some time in the bar, I went back to my seat. As I had the window seat, I had to climb over the person next me’s legs to get back in. This is rather inconvenient, but is an acceptable tradeoff in exchange for the massive lie-flat seats.
I set the seat to lie-flat and went to sleep. The Airbus A380 has an exceptionally quite cabin that, when combined with noise cancelling headphones offers a pleasant sleeping experience. The bed was more than long enough for me to sleep comfortably although the pillow left much to be desired. I ended up asking for another to make it a bit more comfortable.
I woke up a few hours later for the next meal. This time, I ordered udon noodles. They came hot and smelled wonderful. The shrimp was surprisingly fresh.
After the meal was over, I began my final movie. I opened the window again to see what it looked like outside and was greeted with a sunset.
Soon after, we began our descent into Seoul Incheon. It went smoothly and we landed a few minutes ahead of schedule. The disembarkation went smoothly and I headed towards customs to officially start my time in Korea.
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