Korean Air’s Super Unremarkable First Class Lounge Seoul

Arriving 15 minutes early off of my Chicago – Seoul flight gave me a two hour connection. I headed straight for the Korean Air first class lounge which is centrally located in the terminal, one level up from departures.

Korean Air is unique in the amount of first class they offer — not just on the bulk of their long haul flights, but even on many of their short- and medium-haul services too. I was even connecting from first class to first class for my onward flight to Singapore.

I showed my boarding pass and was welcomed to the lounge. It’s really just several large seating areas, and a few small seating areas, plus a mediocre buffet.

Normally I’d go right for the showers after a long flight but since I was flying on a weekday without internet access I had a half day’s messages and news to catch up on, and only a limited amount of time to do it in before my next flight with no internet so I had a seat by the window and plugged in my laptop.

The lounge is bright with fantastic views, which is really the only great thing you can say about it. There aren’t any servers to assist you, though plenty of staff are around to bus tables. And there aren’t any ‘plus’ features to speak of either.

There’s a buffet, with an unimpressive array of food offerings. However I wasn’t hungry since I had a meal a couple of hours before landing, and I knew I’d be have food on my upcoming flight, so didn’t graze the offerings.

Several years ago I had custom luggage tags made in the lounge but that’s really the only plus feature I’ve ever found here.

After an hour and 20 minutes of catching up on work I headed out to my connecting gate. The lounge was fine for what it was, a nice bright atmosphere to catch up between flights and a place for a shower. But it’s really more of a business class lounge that’s not too crowded than a first class lounge.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Completely agree that the lounge is unimpressive. Their first class experience on the aircraft itself was fine, but KE loses me at the lounge and the lack of priority service/security in ICN. Although since their first class is priced barely more than most airline’s business awards, I guess it all evens out?

  2. Gary and/or Becky. I’ve got an eight hour layover between my JFK-ICN and ICN-HKG 747-8 flights in First in February. Have either of you had a chance to check out any of the Priority pass lounges? Looks like the Asiana business lounge could be a good option.

  3. KE lounges do offer some pretty good Scotches, if that’s of interest.

    For Andrew – depending on your interests, you might want to look into the various free tours that the airport offers into both Seoul and Incheon. Details can be found on the airport website. Some book up well in advance, so I suggest you look now, even for a February trip.

  4. I get the sense that Korean just doesn’t invest much in their lounges. Their LAX lounge, which isn’t a first class lounge, is super super unimpressive which is kind of surprising given the frequency of flights Korean has to LAX on a daily basis. The Star Alliance LAX lounge beats it badly. Very badly.

  5. Also agree that the lounge is very unimpressive. I spent most of my layover there shopping downstairs. The showers are okay but service is not great. I got in early in the morning and found the showers to not be cleaned. Took forever to find an attendant to help me. Then on the way back, it was busy but there was no waiting list or sign-up for the showers. I basically had to camp out in front of the showers and wait my turn.

  6. @Andrew, I haven’t checked out any of the other lounges, certainly will next time I transit ICN. But with 8 hours, I’d be leaving the airport, if only for a meal and a stroll.

  7. It’s a major disappointment if you’ve experienced the Asiana 1st Class Lounge. Korean also doesn’t escort you through security like Asiana if checking in at ICN. But, can’t complain to much with all the 1st class availability they have.

  8. Sure beats the KE business class lounge at ICN, which is possibly the worst J lounge offered by any major carrier at its main hub.

    As for comments re Asiana F lounge, I’ve been there several times and feel it is nothing special, either. “Quiet” is its best attribute.

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