Review: Alone in Korean Air First Class, Seoul – Singapore

After flying Austin – Chicago and Chicago – Seoul I was fairly beat. I had just spent an hour catching up on work in the first class lounge, since I’d been without internet on Korean and was about to be without internet again for my upcoming flight.

But Korean really did have the best schedule to get me to Singapore for a morning event. I could leave in the morning in the U.S. and arrive the next night, rather than having to depart from home the night before. That’s because of their late morning and noon-time departures from the US, versus afternoon and night flights that several airlines offer. Plus of course first class award space was available and I have plenty of Chase points to burn (they transfer instantly to Korean Air Skypass).

My connecting flight in first class from Seoul to Singapore was included in my 95,000 mile award ticket. And while for this flight I wouldn’t have Korean’s new Kosmo Suites, I’d instead have their older open first class seats, I would have the entire first class cabin to myself.

That has its advantages. The crew on this flight was great, since I was the only person they had to tend to. I received an amenity kit, pajamas, a menu and slippers again before takeoff. This time I changed into pajamas even before pushback.

My plan was to give myself an hour or an hour and a half to nap but no more. And I wanted to do it right at the beginning of the flight. So I let the crew know that I wouldn’t be taking my meal right away.

Once we were in the air they set up the first class seat next to mine as a bed. That way I’d have one seat to use for sleeping, another for dining and watching television. The crew proactively checked with me about the cabin temperature and I asked for it to be ‘cold’ since I knew cold to them would mean ‘room temperature’ to me. I just didn’t want another sauna flight like the last one. They obliged, and I went straight to sleep.

I woke up just over an hour later and considered just laying there and sleeping some more, but I knew I wanted to sleep once I made it to my hotel in Singapore. That would be shortly before 1 a.m. Too much sleep and I’d be up all night.

So I went back to my original seat, and the crew brought me the meal service.

I watched some television and soon enough our 6 hour flight was over and I’d landed in Singapore — mere hours after the new terminal 4 had opened there. In fact I didn’t realize at first that I was in the new terminal, since the trademark carpet was the same, although after a few seconds it dawned on me that I was in a separate international arrivals hall and not in the main part of the terminal (which I would be in the airport’s other terminals).

It was a few minutes’ walk to immigration, but there was no queue there, and I was through in moments with no bags to collect and I was quickly on my way to my hotel.

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, 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. The Korean Air First Class Lounge at ICN is rather disappointing in terms of facilities, food and beverages. Korean Air is “excellence in flight” but in the lounge, not so much.

  2. I was waiting for you to say they ran out of your first meal selection, but this wasn’t a US based carrier….

  3. Seems like a lot of empty F seats across the Pacific lately – here with only a single passenger paying in miles. The airlines might consider that they have their prices for F set too high — especially for fare paying customers — as it certainly seems to be the case.

  4. There is something special about being the only one in a premium cabin, especially when one is used to United States carriers who have a habit of giving away all empty premium seats, so it is almost unheard of for this type of thing to happen with them. An unfilled premium cabin just shouts “aspiration,” but in the United States there is an endless stream of frequent fliers who think they are entitled to get those seats at no charge, and for some weird reason the airlines agree with them.

  5. I am surprised they had the cabin open. Some KE flights I have been on in the past the F cabin was closed and not bookable.

  6. @john, yes I agree. I was not too impressed with their first class lounge. It was very nice, but I was expecting a lot better for being KE.

    Also, I flew from BKK-ICN in F on the 777 and I was the only one in F and paid with miles. Was a great experience.

  7. @RC, For those with Priority Pass, the Asiana business class lounge in the ICN Main Terminal (or the one Concourse A) is as good as if not better than the Korean Air first class lounge in my opinion.

  8. My wife and I had the exact same experience on that flight in August (except for the new terminal in SIN, obviously).

    We had the F cabin entirely to ourselves, and the two flight attendants provided wonderful service including 2 delicious meals. Definitely a memorable experience for us.

    The most humorous part was on landing we were greeted by a bunch of screaming teenagers and paparazzi. Turns out at least some portion of the k-pop group BTS was in J behind us. There was something pretty thrilling about having spent the flight in the “better” seats than the stars, all for just an extra 15k miles over the JFK-ICN award by itself.

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