Opinions, reviews, analyses & recommendations are the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, endorsed or approved by any of these entities. UponArriving has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. UponArriving and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers.
I recently flew on Korean Air’s first class in their A380 from Los Angeles (LAX) to Seoul (ICN) and had an overwhelmingly positive experience. The suites were spacious and comfy and the dining and service were on par with some of the best airlines. The Korean Air A380 is also tricked out with bars and a duty free shop making it a novelty worth experiencing. Here’s my full Korean Air A380 first class review.
First class configuration
Korean Air’s A380 first class is in a 1-2-1 configuration with a total of 12 suites and is located on the lower deck of the A380. The remainder of the lower deck is economy in a 3-4-3 configuration while the entire upper deck of the A380 is configured with business class seats in a 2-2-2 layout.
Our first class cabin was half empty with only four other passengers in the cabins besides us, so we had a very quiet and private flying experience.
The A380 first class cabin
Initially, I wasn’t overly impressed with the appearance of the suites. Something about the color scheme just didn’t jive with me and from the outset, and it didn’t look like I’d have a lot of privacy in these “suites.” However, most of my reservations wouldn’t last very long.
The first class cabin feels very spacious since the bottom deck of the A380 has plenty overhead space. There’s also plenty of aisle space and so it’s very easy to get in and out of your seat at all times. All this room creates a relaxing and inviting feel to the cabin.
The overhead storage bins easily fit my two carry-on bags, one of which is quite thick.
We made our way to our seats which were 3D and 3E, the middle seats in the back of the first class cabin.
I thought the actual seats were moderately comfortable. Nothing to rave about exactly but they didn’t have any glaring deficiencies that made them uncomfortable to me.
What I really loved about these suites is all of the leg room. I’m not a fan of business or first class seats that limit your space in a confining footwell so having all of this open space to rest my feet was a huge plus.
Although the open Cosmo suites don’t fully enclose like the new Korean Air Cosmo 2.0 suites, they still are very private. You can raise the partition between the middle seats and also a side partition that both allow you to have better privacy.
You can see the difference with the side partition raised in the photo below. While not the most private first class experience, it works okay when sitting upright and feels very private when in a reclining position.
You can see just how private the view is in the photo below.
On our big round the world trips, we try to sit in conjoining suites at least once for the sake of trying out the experience. However, if I could’ve gone back, I would have chosen the window seats for this flight mostly because they just felt more private. With four windows to each suite, they also have a cool private jet look to them.
Even though you’re a bit far from the monitors, the TVs are 23 inches, so the distance really isn’t an issue. The TV screens are quality and I didn’t have any issue with the picture quality being reduced when I reclined into my seat. I enjoyed the in-flight entertainment and thought they had a decent collection of movies and TV shows.
Like other A380s, the aircraft comes equipped with exterior cameras which are cool to view but only so entertaining when you’re flying over the ocean 99% of the route.
Korean Air first class storage compartments
The first class suites on the A380 come with plenty of storage compartments. Underneath the ottoman, you can fit your smaller carry-on bags or other items like shoes, blankets, amenity kits, etc.
On the side of the seat there are three additional storage compartments. One is very deep and can fit things like laptops but the other two are better suited for things like smaller electronics or passports.
Inside the middle storage compartment, you’ll find two USB ports and the headphone jack. (The universal power outlet is found on the outside of where the larger compartment is.)
Korean Air first class A380 seat controls
The seat controls for Korean Air first class are very intuitive. You have three separate tiers to control within the seat and the two arrows below those controls are for the privacy partition.
You can also easily move your seat into lie flat, dining, or the upright position for take-off.
The Korean Air first class pajamas were from Italian designer, Gianfranco Ferré. These pajamas were extremely soft and comfortable and probably my favorite pair that I’ve ever been given by any airline.
I ordered a size large and it was nice not to be swallowed up for once because so many airlines have ridiculously sized MC-Hammer inspired pajamas. I’m about 6’1″ and you can see that the large pajamas fit me perfectly.
The first class Bose headphones were high quality and a nice addition to the other amenities.
The amenity kit came with a set of lotions and creams along with lip balm and a dental kit. They also provide you with a face spritzer that I enjoyed from time to time.
We were also given some Korean Air slippers, which were pretty small and thin.
I’ve come to value slippers a lot on flights as it makes it much easier to make your way around the cabin when relaxing. I still shutter when I see others walking in and out of the lavatories with only socks on!
The dining experience
I felt that the hard product for Korean Air’s first class was pretty good but not enough to blow me away on any significant level. However, once the dining experience kicked off the first class flying experience bumped up to another level.
It started with some nuts and a glass of water. One thing I found odd was that they didn’t serve any alcohol, including bubbly, on the A380 before departure. Considering the quality of the bubbly poured out on this flight, it would’ve been nice to kick it off with some before we even took off. Still, other airlines like Qatar have done this so this isn’t unique to Korean.
However, as soon as we got up in the air, they came around serving Perrier Jouët Belle Epoque Rosé 2006, which is a premium champagne that costs a pretty penny. This was my first time trying out this bubbly and I fell in love with it and honestly liked it more than some of the other premium champagnes like Dom.
And then it was time for the dining experience to begin.
They started us off with appetizers consisting of asparagus with rolled salmon, which were very tasty.
Then came the garlic bread.
And then came the caviar. I’d never had caviar on a plane that came with such an elegant presentation.
I’m not sure how it happened but after not caring for caviar the first time I tried it, I actually enjoy eating it now. And it’s not like I acquired the taste by eating it everyday. I guess taste buds really do change?
Then came the creamy tomato soup, which was absolutely delicious.
After the soup came the salad. I’m not sure if it’s a cultural thing, but the salads on Asian airlines I’ve tried are very very small. Still, the dressing was tasty and I finished the salad very quickly.
Then it was time for the main dish. I had to go with the famed Bibimbap.
It’s a dish Korean Air is known for serving up. It requires you to do a little bit of work to put it together but it’s something I highly recommend. You’ll receive an instruction page when you get your meal so that you know what you’re doing.
They then served me up a barbecued beef tenderloin dish with port wine reduction. I tried it out and it was quite tasty and seasoned well but I generally try to avoid beef on planes.
Then they brought out seaweed soup. I tried out a few spoon fulls but after that, the seaweed flavor was just too strong for me to keep going.
So by the end I had a full tray with way more food than I could handle. The Bibimbap was great but watch out for the gochujang hot pepper paste! I definitely got carried away with it to the point that it almost ruined the dish for me because it was so freaking spicy.
For dessert, they brought out strawberry cheesecake and ice cream. I honestly wasn’t in love with the dessert dish but I also was so full by that time that it was hard to really enjoy anything.
By the time they brought around the cheese and crackers I was wayyy too full to try anything else so I just asked if I could take a quick photo of the cheese tray.
After all of that they came around and offered Korean Air branded toothpicks and dental floss.
All things considered, this was surely one of the best first class dining experiences.
The staff was also extremely attentive and helpful during the entire dining experience. The only drawback to the service was that the staff didn’t speak great English, especially compared to other airlines like Singapore. This made it a bit difficult to work some things out regarding the meals but overall it wasn’t a major inconvenience.
The Celestial Bar
One of the cool features of the Korean Air A380 is that is has a bar. It actually has three bars but the Celestial Bar at the back of the upper deck is the primary bar in the aircraft. It’s a beautiful bar and lounge area that’s a bit more spacious than I though it would be.
The bars are only available to first class and business class passengers.
While at the Korean Air Celestial Bar, you can grab something to read while you relax and enjoy the bar.
In addition to drinks, they also served up snacks that they keep out on the bar.
I liked these little colorful snacks that taste like sweet Cheetos.
There’s a special bar menu that they serve drinks from so your choices will be limited to that menu.
We made our way back to the bar for a second time at some point during the middle of the flight to check out some more drinks. We were the only ones in pajamas but without a care in the world.
Korean Air A380 duty free shop
If you follow the stairs down from the Celestial Bar, you’ll enter the Sky Shop, which is a physical duty-free shop in the sky. It’s pretty wild.
The Sky Shop had all sorts of different colognes, perfumes, and random things like multi-vitamins and probiotics. We didn’t purchase anything but it was sort of a spectacle to see a shop set up in the A380.
As mentioned there are two other bars on the A380. On the opposite end of the Celestial Bar on the upper deck, there’s a smaller bar area with a couple of seats where you can make your own drinks.
Brad served up a bloody Mary when we made our way to the bar.
There’s also a special first class bar on the A380 which is located just outside of the first class cabin on the lower deck. It also comes with some snacks and different alcohol options.
There’s nothing very special about the lavatories on board the Korean Air A380.
Unfortunately, I lost the photos of the bedding due to a memory card issue. However, I felt that the bedding was decent. The padding and pillows could have been a bit softer or fuller but they weren’t nearly as bad as some of those paper thin pillows some airlines are guilty of handing out.
Also between the pajamas and duvet, it was pretty warm in the suite but aside from that I was pretty comfortable.
The Korean Air First Class Lounge at ICN
When we arrived at ICN, the Olympic theme song played which I thought was pretty cool (the 2018 Winter Olympic Games were going on at the time so it made sense). After landing we went on to visit the Korean Air First Class Lounge at ICN, which was a decent lounge but not on par with top first class lounges.
Overall, the Korean Air A380 first class experience is special. The A380 loaded with bars and a duty free shop is a unique departure from your normal flying experience. While they are somewhat gimmicky, it’s great having an area to walk around in for a change of scenery and to and stretch your legs during the ultra long-haul flights.
And while the first class suites are adequate and spacious, it’s the quality of the dining and service that puts the Korean Air first class experience on par with other top airlines, in my opinion. I genuinely enjoyed almost everything we were served and felt that the attentiveness of the crew was top-notch. If it weren’t for some language barrier issues, the flight would’ve been virtually perfect in the service department.
I would happily fly the Korean Air A380 again, though I’m interested in trying out those Cosmo 2.0 Suites.
UponArriving has partnered with CardRatings for our coverage of credit card products. UponArriving and CardRatings may receive a commission from card issuers. Responses are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and creator of the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned full-time credit card rewards/travel expert and has earned and redeemed millions of miles to travel the globe. His content has been featured in major publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, Forbes, CNBC, US News, and Business Insider. Find his full bio here.