Inside Look: Flying In Style in Prestige Class on Korean Air's A380
PHOTO: The Prestige Class sleeper seat aboard Korean Air's A380. (All photos by Tim Wood unless otherwise noted)
There are times in life when you get to jump off the hamster wheel of life, take a deep breath and realize that at this moment, you have it pretty darn good.
As a proud and blessed parent of two young boys, those exhale moments are rare commodities. I had one of those selfish, lavish-me-with-luxury episodes during a recent flight round trip from Atlanta to Seoul flying in Korean Air’s Prestige Class.
The flights were part of a 10-day tour of Seoul and an on-site look at the preparations in Pyeongchang leading up to the 2018 Winter Olympics. And traveling on the A380 out of Hartsfield International got the trip off to a decadent start.
Simply put, it’s the kind of experience that gave me a first-hand view of the cavernous gap between U.S. airlines’ approach to customer service compared with the rest of the world – specifically the Pacific Rim airlines like Korean Air.
The boarding process was organized and smooth, the plane itself was immaculate and the staff made me feel important from the minute I stepped on to the plane. My generation hears stories of what flying was in America in the ‘60s – the wonder of flight combined with the elegance of even the basic flying experience.
For two glorious flights, my modern-day rushed, sardine-can, milk-them-for-every-last penny flying experience was replaced with a transformative glance at what air travel could and should be. Case in point: The A380 can technically fit 550 seats, but Korean Air fitted it with just 407 total seats. This gives travelers the room to spread out, making a trans-Pacific flight less taxing on the knees and back than a 35-minute flight from D.C. to New York on some U.S. airlines.
I had one of the Prestige Sleeper seats, a full-flat, 180-degree reclining seat, 21.6 inches wide with over six feet of space between rows. The seat adjusted to my individual comfort as the backrest and footrest incline was fully adjustable.
My personal in-flight concierge welcomed me with a selection of newspapers, a hot towel for my face and an amenity kit, filled with products from the DAVI luxury brand. The face cream, eye gel and wine extract-infused lip balm made me feel like I’d just come from the spa. The eye mask proved quite useful in fooling my body into sleeping for a bit while the toothbrush and toothpaste allowed me to avoid the morning breath upon exit.
Photo courtesy Korean Air
Like a five-star restaurant, my concierge was at my seat before I even knew I needed something. A glass of wine to start the journey, a menu to preview the meals ahead, a glass of water, a snack – it was all so expertly choreographed. The wines were a selection of classic styles, regal brands rather than the mass-produced variety. Belle Epoque and Jouet champagne, Chablis … all driving home the literal prestige of the service level in Prestige Class.
The meals were an adventure for me. I jumped outside my comfort zone with the bibimpap, a traditional Korean meal. But even then, there was a step-by-step brochure on how to assemble the various ingredients into the final dish.
Pumpkin rice, Dongchimi noodles, Jedong Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup – all touches that gave me a farm-fresh sample of Korean culinary culture before I ever landed in Seoul. And when I longed for some “American” food on the trip home, succulent beef ribs, moist, flaky lemon-infused fish and potatoes (pictured below) and chicken dishes were on the menu as well.
It’s a step above economy class, but as my colleague James Ruggia experienced, Korean Air’s economy class is many steps above what we’ve been forced to except as the norm from U.S. airlines.
The mood lighting was also a little touch that helped me to avoid jet lag. The cabin lights dimmed and brightened gradually to give my eyes time to adjust.
My living area for the flight came with a power outlet and a USB port, so I was able to recharge three devices at once.
The 15.4-inch LCD monitor was packed with what I’d estimate to three DVRs worth of on-demand movies and TV shows. I started off watching a few “Big Bang Theory” episodes before delving into a Korean-made action thriller and a pair of movies I hadn’t yet seen at the U.S. theaters, “Edge of Tomorrow” and the Jon Favreau ode to the culinary world, “Chef.”
And when I needed a little middle-of-the-night gaming fix, Pac-Man was ready to oblige.
The 12 Kosmo First-Class passengers and 94 Prestige Class passengers also had access to the exclusive Celestial Bar, where bartenders mixed up customized cocktails in a modern, chic setting that set it apart from the main cabin.
Photo courtesy Korean Air
I was one of the few Americans on my flight to Seoul and my next-door neighbors were continuously amused by my kid-in-a-candy-store glee throughout both flights.
A septuagenarian Korean businessman summed it up best to me.
“This isn’t how the other half lives. This is what we expect flying to be, and they always deliver here,” he said with a smile as we deplaned in Seoul.
I had never been on a flight longer than five hours, so I was worried the 13-hour flight to Seoul was going to ignite my claustrophobic fears. Instead, I landed at Incheon International saddened that it was time to deplane. A full adventure ahead of me and yet, all I could think of was getting back on this majestic marvel.
Until next time, my love. We'll always have bimimbap.
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