My old nemesis revisited – Korean Air Business Class Review A330 and B777 Ulaanbaatar (ULN) to San Francisco (SFO) via Seoul (ICN)

Posted on June 15, 2019 by in Airline Reviews

Korean Air has been on my ‘airline blacklist’ for a few years after my fateful flight from Busan to Hong Kong.

I felt it was time to give them a chance again and booked a Business Class one-way flight from Ulaanbaatar to San Francisco.

Korean Air Business Class A330 from Ulaanbaatar to San Francisco

Ulaanbaatar airport is a small scale affair – especially compared to the mega-airports just a bit south of it. check-in, security and immigration would not be open until 2.5 hours before departure. That means you have to wait in the tiny seating area – seemingly lot’s of other passengers had not known that either.

Once check-in was open it was a breeze and five minutes later I was at the lounge ‘Business lounge’ which is also accessible via Priority Pass. The lounge was quiet and some drinks and snacks. The Internet was too slow to use despite just a few guests in the small lounge.

Departure was set at 11.15 PM but boarding was supposed to be just at 11 PM. I walked down to the boarding gate a bit earlier but this being Korean Air – boarding wouldn’t start until 11.00 PM sharp.

With that many Korean passengers it ended up being extremely orderly and fast.

Korean Air uses an angled lie-flat seat in a 2-2-2 configuration for these flights. They resemble the Qatar Airways old 777 model quite a bit. Business Class would be 100% full that night and my aisle seat was better than I expected.

Shortly after takeoff into the windy skies the flight attendants started service. I really liked the red wines on offer.

I chose the Korean entree and loved the fresh salad. Likely the best salad I had ever on a plane. The leaves were perfectly washed and crisp. The dressing was a lemon/ olive oil dressing – small but beautiful.

The bibimbap was good – healthy but a bit bland.

I reclined my seat right after the meal and caught about two hours of sleep – right until the landing preparations for Seoul. The flight lands at an ungodly 3.30 AM in Seoul and the airport was deserted.

The Korean Air lounge was just about the open luckily. I chose to get some sleep instead of sitting at the lounge.

 

Korean Air Business Class Lounge Terminal 2

After some good rest I returned to the Korean Air lounge (there are two of similar size) in the new Terminal and was hungry. There are two different dishes served – I found the spicy chicken dish edible though not great. I was thirsty too but the only water available were 3 ounce packages of water. It’d go through 20 of them in a few minutes.

 

 

Korean Air Business Class Review B777 Seoul to San Francisco

The new Terminal 2 is just magnificent – it’s almost a worthwhile destination on its own. There is a lovely third wave coffee shop as well for the caffeine addict like myself.

My flight to San Fransisco boarded right on time (surprise!) and Business Class was again 100% full. I wasn’t happy with my seat in teh first row and switched seat four (!) times until I found a somewhat quiet seat in the back.

 

Korean Air uses the Sky Suites (similar to what JAL and others use) for the Business Class on the B777. The biggest difference is that the entrance to you suite is bigger. Japan Airlines really makes you squish into a small spot before you get to your suite.

 

For some reason about one third(!) of the Business Class seats were filled with toddlers under the age of 5.

With just a short taxi wait we set off for San Francisco – just under 10 hours of flying time. Strangely we flew south Eats for about one hour despite our destination being east/ north east.

Service started quickly again and my appetite for Korean food was not filled yet. Again I liked the entree a lot – it seemed fresh and of high quality and I also loved my dessert and the wines that came with the meal. I really felt the quality of the catering was above Cathay Pacific or even Japan Airlines.

 

The cabin lights dimmed quickly after and I was happy to get some rest. I felt there was a lot of space in my Sky Suite especially in terms of width. It was pretty open towards the aisle but there was almost no foot traffic in the aisle. Slept well for a few hours until the shrieking toddlers woke me up. It was about 9 PM body time and most of them seemed ot so happy to settling down into their lie-flat seat.

Despite a major tailwind there was almost no turbulence and we trundled along just 600 miles north of Hawaii. I fell back asleep and missed breakfast service.

Landing was fast into SFO and immigration and customs were benign that day.

In sum

I have a hard time finding a hair in the soup of this flight. I loved the high-quality catering, I did like the Sky Suites and even was happy with the angled lie-flat given the short distance. I found the flight attendants to be helpful though not fluent in English. The flights were perfectly on time and it all seemed very organized.

I’m happy I re-engaged with my old ‘nemesis’ and would love to fly Korean Air again – I like it even more than Asiana.


About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]

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