Tuesday Trip Report: Korean Airlines A380

I have been systematically working my way through all of the airlines that have A380 products. So far I have flown (in date order) Singapore Airlines, Qantas, Emirates and  Lufthansa. Today’s  trip report: Korean Airlines A380.

Korean was founded in 1962. For a long time it had a very dubious safety record with 16 aircraft involved in serious incidents and accidents in the 1970s to 1990s. Total loss of life:  700. Their safety has improved enormously, with the last incident in 1997. They have also received several awards for their service with Skytrrax rating them four stars. They are a member of Skyteam Alliance, along with Delta and Air France.  I have never flown them until this year. Their A380 flight was my second with them.

a close up of a sign


Booking:  ? out of 10

I initially searched for flights at Korean’s website. I thought the search feature was very nifty as you could look for Business Class, Full economy and discount economy seats easily. I found re entering some of the data a little tedious. As I was intending to upgrade my flight using Delta points, I was searching for Full Economy. I actually made my booking 24 hours before I flew and discovered that  you cannot make an online booking five days or less before travel. I rang the Korean Airlines call centre in Sydney. Their service was professional, friendly, prompt but I was given the wrong advice. I ended up paying full fare economy but never got my upgrade despite my rigorous efforts. Read more in Delta/Korean Fare Codes and Upgrades mean Downgrades. It is hard to rate the booking experience. I want to fail it but the process itself was largely excellent.

After confirmation of my booking, my next task was seat selection. Even as a Delta Gold Medallion®  customer, I could not request an exit row seat.

Check in: 10 out of 10

a large glass ceiling with a large archKorea’s Incheon airport is huge. Apart from gates, terminals and check in area, apparently there is a a golf course, spa, ice skating rink, a casino and a Museum! Korean Air uses the massive main terminal which has 44 gates- all of which can cope with the A380.

As I was searching for the priority check in area, I came across a check in booth for passengers with no luggage. It had two staff waiting for passengers – and no line! The service was very friendly and very helpful. Again, I asked for Exit row but they were not available. . While, there was no direct acknowledgment of my Skyteam status except to note it was in the booking, the woman organised to block the middle seat off in my row (row 32) so that there would be an empty seat between myself and the next passenger. Thank you!

I gave  Emirates (EK) 10/10, Qantas   (QF) 9/10 and Singapore (SQ) 8/10 Lufthansa (LH) 7/10 for their A380 Check in processes.


 Boarding: 10 out of 10

Security was impressively efficient. I boarded with the Skyteam elites so I missed the main boarding. The gate lounge felt very relaxed and orderly. Welcome on board was very warm. Cabin crew were very attentive all the way through the plane with welcomes, advice on how to find seats and where to put luggage.

True to the check in staff member’s promise, I had an empty seat between myself and the next passenger.

EK: 10/10, QF: 9/10,  SQ 7/10, LH 7/10

Takeoff: 10 out of 10

I cannot express enough the absolute pleasure of an A380 take off and Korean gave a perfect rendition.

On Board: 10 out of 10

Korean’s a380s are brand, brand new being delivered between July and September of this year (my flight was in November). I knew already that Korean’s is the least densely packed of all of the A380s choosing to focus on Business Traffic. Seeing the configuration up close helped me understand how much room they have provided.

a man holding a book in an airplaneThe airline has chosen to place the First and Economy cabins on the lower level with 12 First suites at the front of the plane (I didn’t see them) and 301 Economy seats in a 3/4/3 arrangement. In addition, Korean have placed a duty free store at the back of the lower deck.

On the upper deck, Korean have 94 flatbed Business seats. The interiors, even in Economy, felt very spacious. Seat-wise, Korean seats are 18″ wide and there is a 34″ pitch between the seats. They are the most generous economy seats of all of the A380 operators I have been on. Compare the space to Lufthansa’s mean  17″ by 31″ pitch.

Take off was followed by the distribution of amenity kits which included by the crew. Korean provided a pair of slippers for each passenger. Initially, I was sceptical because my feet are so large. The slippers turned out to fit well. It is part of Korean custom but I really liked the feel of the slippers and it was nice to wear something else to the lavatories.

Speaking of the lavatories, the staff cleaned them very regularly through the night. They were always spotless.

I asked one of the staff what she thought of the plane and she seemed pretty excited about it. She didn’t seem too interested in talking about comparisons with other A380s.I found the staff while very very friendly and courteous did not interact with the  passengers.  The exception being the Cabin Manager who came down to welcome the high status frequent flyers personally. I noted he did not welcome similar status passengers from other Skyteam airlines.

EK: 10/10, QF: 9/10,  SQ 8/10, LH 7/10

Meals: 6 out of 10

On this flight, I chose a Korean meal: Bibimbap for dinner. The Korean woman sitting in the same row in seat 32A, chose a Western meal. This meant we  could both compare notes! Even though, I have eaten Korean food before, I appreciated that my meal came with instructions for how to prepare it. Both meals were delicious and presented very very nicely BUT the portion size of the meals were dismally small! This was the same for my other Korean flight. I was hungry for most of the two flights I did with Korean. I discovered, after many hours that the staff will make you noodles in a cup and that there was a small range of snacks available. This was not mentioned by the crew. Reading other reviews on Skytrax, there are a lot of comments about the food portions.

The breakfast the next morning was also very miserly, consisting of a a small omelet with hashbrowns and tomato, a small yoghurt  and muffiny cupcake, water and two (count them- see below) two slices of fruit.  I left the flight feeling very hungry.

a tray of food on a tray

EK: 10/10,  SQ 9/10. LH 8.5/10, QF: 7/10,

a fruit in a bowl










Entertainment: 8 out of 10

The entertainment system is called Sky Program. It offers Movies, Short films, Music (Approx. 500 albums), A Children’s World, games, and in-flight duty free shopping functioned well but  I felt the quantity of TV programming was a bit limited. While there were a lot of albums, there were not many that ended up grabbing my attention.

SQ 10/10, QF 9/10, EK: 8/10  LH 7/10

Landing: 10 out of 10

We landed early into LAX with a perfect touchdown.


My rating overall: 86%

Out of all of my A380 flights, Korean came third- just. EK: 92%, QF: 87%, SQ: 83%, LH 80% (4 out of 5).

Positives:  Ease of check in, nice layout of A380, great leg room

Negatives: Lack of sufficient on-board TV programming, entertainment,  miserly meals. My  other negative comment is that my frequent flyer points have taken a long, long time to come through.

Would I fly them again? Yes,but would eat beforehand and bring my own snacks

Related Posts:

Tuesday Trip Report: Lufthansa’s A380

Tuesday Trip Report: Air France A380

LAX-SYD on Qantas A380

Emirates- comparing the A380

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  1. Granted, yes, there was the terrible shooting down of KAL 007 in 1983 and the firing at a KAL flight in 1978 and in 1987, a Boeing 707 crashed because of a bomb it is alleged.
    However, the incidents in 1989 in Tripoli, and Guam in 1997 are of themselves terrible disasters for an airline (68 dead and 207 dead respectively). Korean had both incidents and several other “smaller” ones. This was not a good safety legacy

  2. “Compare the space to Lufthansa’s mean 17″ by 31″ pitch.”

    Thats why its called ‘Lufthansa punishment class’

  3. why do you choose an economy seat? of course there is not much diff compared to other airlines. A380 only makes a diff in biz and first class and suites.

  4. There are some big differences between airlines for all of classes. I cant always afford or dont want to always afford Business or First. The reality is most people travel in Economy!

  5. KE has a lot of nice snacks available on its long haul flight such as pizza and Korean rice row. Try it next time.

  6. Noted and agreed. They dont tell their passengers about the snacks. And passengers should not have such a small meal they have to find snacks to survive

  7. The bibimbap size portions were perfectly fine and there were also snacks during the flight.

    Not sure what you expect out of economy class meals.

    Maybe u should cut down on the calories.

  8. Thanks for your comment. Glad you had a good experience. In my defence:
    1. I definitely didn’t have a calorie issue!
    2. Out of all the international flights in Economy I flew on in 2011 where a meal was served, Korean had the smallest meal portions
    3. On Skytrax reviews there are a lot of negative comments about the food and size does feature quite a bit. I don’t think I have seen another airline get so many comments about their serving portions! e.g. : Tasteless, rubbery and small portions sums it all up!, and “As for the food, the rice dish was too small, about 3/4 the normal size. Had been quite hungry for the rest of the flight.” and “Food portions were unbelievably small.”
    4. There were no announcements made about the availability of snacks on any of the Korean flights travelled on. I discovered their existence by happenstance on my second flight with them

  9. FWIW, Korea is the land of small portions. Everything, from sandwiches at a cafe for lunch to ice cream after a restaurant’s dinner, is smaller here. When I first moved, I was always annoyed and feeling hungry.

  10. I flew Asiana last month and they served a fairly big portioned bibimbap that I was quite full after the meal! Asiana’s a380 is arriving in 2014 so it would be interesting to read your review of their a380 and compare it to KE.

  11. I fly Korean air many times during the trip home in Southeast Asia. It is very true that their meal portion is small and I’m Asian and does not eat much.
    Feeling hungry only after a few hours of flying but always pack some snack. I did not realize you can ask for small snack in between meals. I will ask for it nex time when I fly.

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