Review of Korean Air flight Los Angeles Sao Paulo in Economy

Airline Korean Air
Flight KE 61
Class Economy
Seat 51A
Aircraft Boeing 777-200ER
Flight time 12:10
Take-off 22 Dec 14, 17:30
Arrival at 23 Dec 14, 11:40
KE 126 reviews
CH
By 3656
Published on 9th December 2015
photo untitled
KE 61 LAX-GRU (Los Angeles->São Paulo/Guarulhos)
DEP LAX 17:30 22 DEC 2014
ARR GRU 11:40 23 DEC 2014
Flight Duration: 11:50
Aircraft: B777-200ER

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Courtesy of www.flightware.com

I had a great opportunity to take time to visit my brothers and sisters in Sao Paulo, Brazil. There is a significant Korean population living in Sao Paulo, estimated at about 50,000. Most of them are concentrated in Bom Retiro, Bras, or Liberdade. I have always known that Korean Air operates 5th freedom right flight from LAX to GRU, so I jumped on the chance to take the flight down to Brazil. It did indeed feel weird that I was taking a Korean Air (which I usually take to go back to Korea) to a country that is in opposite direction from US to Korea.

Walking toward TBIT on Monday afternoon to check into my flight today.
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The new TBIT's been opened for close to an year, but the entrance to the terminal remains the same.
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You can still see construction activities going on for the Bradley West Project.
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Korean Air check-in counter. There were like zero Koreans checking into today's flight.
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A Brazil-bound dog with Christmas spirit on.
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After obtaining the boarding pass, it was time to check out the new TBIT for the first time! I believe there used to be some kind of shops and restaurants here long time ago. Perhaps they are renovating them right now?
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Still an old part of the terminal here.
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These escalators are where the new terminal concourse begins.
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I arrived at the new terminal's food court area.
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The proximity of the planes to the windows is really astounding. You can almost feel like you can touch the planes in front of you. This is the Frankfurt-bound Lufthansa B747-8i.
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The central portion of the new TBIT concourse, looking toward north side.
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I saw my plane landing from Korea. KE 61 is a two-flight segment originating in Seoul/Incheon and terminating in São Paulo/Guarulhos with about 2-hour stopover in Los Angeles Airport. Today's flight would be B777-200ER.
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The north part of the terminal still had old parts of the terminal still in operation. I assume that they will bring these old parts down soon. That's one of the new gates in the north part of the TBIT which will probably be used once all of the remaining old parts are demolished.
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I walked back toward Gate 159 (at the southern portion), where my flight would be waiting for me.
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The beautiful Korean Air B777-200ER, bound for São Paulo.
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A lot better looking terminal than the old TBIT for sure.
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Money exchanged, and ready to go!
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The terminal was very quiet. I was impressed with the architecture of the structure. When the drawings first came out I wasn't quite sure if I liked it. But now I'm in love with this terminal.
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KE flight attendants being briefed.
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Boarding started at 1700.
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The passengers were separated into lines according to their seat row numbers.
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Flight attendants greeting at the door.
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The divider between economy and business class.
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Business class, when will I ever ride these seats?
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Tonight's flight would be a full one. Everyone of these seats will eventually have been taken.
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My window seat, 51A. Inflight amenities such as water, headphones, pillows, and blankets were already placed on the seats.
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Most passengers were non-Koreans who were traveling from USA to Brazil. Only a couple of the passengers were continuing from the previous flight from ICN.
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The sun was setting fast by this time.
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AVOD system on each of the new economy seats.
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Push back was slightly behind scheduled, at 17:40.
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I think I was watching Taken 3
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At around 17:55, the plane took off toward the Pacific Ocean.
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Looking over the Palos Verdes.
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Not too long after the take-off the snack/beverages services began.
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I took the red wine and honey roasted peanuts.
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And the dinner services began not too long after.
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The choices were Korean style Bibimbap, beef, or fish. None of the flight attendants unfortunately spoke Portuguese. This made it hard for Brazilian passengers who couldn't speak English.
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I chose the beef dish.
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The beef dish was actually some ground beef with Brazilian style rice. Had I known about the details of this dish, I would have chosen another one. I didn't look appetizing at first.
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But when I took a bite, it wasn't actually bad. The meat was pretty well seasoned. Still, I would've gone for another dish.
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After 7 hours of flight, the sun was rising above Brazil. I am only assuming that we are above Brazil since the route map portion of the AVOD system wasn't working for this flight.
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That is perhaps the Amazon River..
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The cabin lights brightened gradually for the lunch services.
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I was watching Get on Up
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The lunch services commenced at the same time with the beverages services.
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For lunch, the choices were Fish or Chicken.
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I chose the chicken. The chicken was also served with sautéed onions and rice.
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The flight attendant, knowing that I was a Korean, gave me a Gochujang, a Korean hot pepper paste, perfect for mixing with rice. Chicken was very nicely done. The portion was perfect since I wasn't too hungry.
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Photo of the cabin interior from the back of the plane.
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My rowmates were Brazilians going back home for holidays. One of them was a UCLA student.
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It was a very cloudy day in São Paulo.
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And there it is! Some glimpse of São Paulo suburbs. First time in about two years. If not for the clouds, I could've probably been able to spot my friend's house.
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Flying over BR-610, a roadway that connects Rodavia Pres. Dutra to Guarulhos Airport terminals.
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Not only cloudy day, but it was a very rainy day!
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First time arriving into the new terminal T3 of GRU. Last year I arrived into T2, an outdated facility.

At the end of walkway in T3, there's an escalator toward immigrations and customs.
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Immigrations, where you gotta show your Brazil Visa or they will kick you back to where you from.

Baggage claim was right after the immigrations.
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The uniquely shaped T3 building.
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Welcome to São Paulo! This is the point where you know you're about to enter the city.
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A kid painted in metallic silver was throwing some fire bottles around.
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Feijoada, only served Wednesdays and Saturdays. This was my first meal after arrival into Bom Retiro, São Paulo.
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And there are pork meat and cabbages to accompany the dish.
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Brazilian churrasco party in my friend's house
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At the top of Circolo Italiano (the observation deck is free to public access) in São Paulo near Paulista.
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Playing futsal (indoor soccer) in one of the friends' apartment.
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The best part of Brazil is the açaí bowl in a local fruit store.
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Thanks for reading my trip reports!
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Verdict

Korean Air

9.0/10
Cabin9.0
Cabin crew10.0
Entertainment/wifi9.0
Meal/catering8.0

Los Angeles - LAX

7.5/10
Efficiency9.0
Access4.5
Services8.0
Cleanliness8.5

Sao Paulo - GRU

8.1/10
Efficiency10.0
Access7.5
Services7.5
Cleanliness7.5

Conclusion

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14 Comments

If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 152010 by
    eminere™ 274 Comments

    What a great report for a little known fifth freedom flight. Is the flight usually operated by a B77W?

  • Comment 152025 by
    CH AUTHOR 29 Comments

    @Eminere - The flight was operated with 772ER or 77W until March 2015, when KE downgraded to A330.

  • Comment 152039 by
    jetsetpanda 2294 Comments

    Thank you very much for sharing this FR of KE on this unusual route. I have friends in GRU and have thought about using KE instead of AA when flying to Brazil. It's too bad that JL no longer flies this route.

    Catering looks decent and when you add the great service then KE is a winner.

    • Comment 329809 by
      CH AUTHOR 29 Comments

      I would love to see an AA FR on this route. I heard that AA recently changed the aircraft to B787 on this route, so it may be worth giving it a shot! Also, I think JL flew JFK-GRU long time ago, not LAX-GRU. KE also used to fly JFK-GRU before 2000s.

    • Comment 329818 by
      jetsetpanda 2294 Comments

      Back in Oct. AA operated an old configuration 772 on this route which was not ideal. I think that plane is being used for domestic flights now (there is a LAX-MIA with this configuration). It's about time that they use a new 787 instead. Yes, JL flew JFK-GRU, but also LAX-GRU a long time ago. I believe that route started way back when they had DC8 and it went NRT-LAX-LIM-GRU from what I have read.

      Maybe I will try the AA 787 to GRU next year. We'll see.

  • Comment 152056 by
    NGO85 1622 Comments

    Thank you for sharing another very comprehensive report on this fifth-freedom with KE!

    Is this flight still on a B772? I guess this report is a year old, but I was just looking at tickets ICN-LAX and both flights by KE were on A380s now.

    “Business class, when will I ever ride these seats?”
    The older KE J-cabin is not very nice on the B772s in 2-3-2. Moving to the suites was the correct choice, but I think retrofitting is very slow. I found these seats pretty uncomfortable for sleeping when I flew ICN-NRT-HNL last year.

    The Y-cabin looks decent, the seat pitch looks good and the IFE screen is fairly large. I think KE offers a pretty good Y product for long-haul.

    Both meals had the same quantity, just served on different sized trays, haha. The mains look very basic on KE. Both are just rice, a few vegetables, and meat. Their meals do not look much better than what the US carriers offer. I think AA operates the same route from LAX?

    • Comment 329827 by
      CH AUTHOR 29 Comments

      LAX-GRU segment has been switched to A330-200 since March 2015. Not sure if KE is planning on re-upgrading it back to B77W anytime soon. AA started its own operations on this route recently.
      I can't wait to try out the suites! Gotta make more $$ and accrue points. I've been reading blogs and advises on boardingarea.com this year.
      KE, for some reason, serves the first meal portion on the bigger tray. I think it's because of the Bibimbap meal (which tends to take up a lot of space). Other meals also are served in same tray size as Bibimbap during first meal service. That's only my guess.

    • Comment 329913 by
      NGO85 1622 Comments

      LAX-GRU segment has been switched to A330-200 since March 2015. Not sure if KE is planning on re-upgrading it back to B77W anytime soon. AA started its own operations on this route recently.
      - My questions was that if both ICN-LAX flights are on A380s, where is this plane coming from to qualify as a fifth-freedom since KE does not operate A332s on ICN-LAX?

    • Comment 329927 by
      CH AUTHOR 29 Comments

      Ahh Gotcha.
      https://www.koreanair.com/global/en/booking/schedule-flight.html#schedule
      The link above has the schedule for Korean Air on weekly basis. The route between ICN and LAX has at least three daily flights (KE 017 & 018 A388, KE 011 & 012 A388, and KE 061 * 062 A332). So there is a A330-200 flying ICN-LAX route.

    • Comment 329944 by
      NGO85 1622 Comments

      Thanks for the response! Weird, when I did the flight search last week, I only saw two options for the ICN-LAX leg and both were A380s. But checking that link, the A332 is not daily service, which explains why I didn't see it on the dates I was looking for. There is incredible traffic on that route then if KE operates 2.5x daily and OZ operates 2x daily.

  • Comment 152075 by
    757Fan 611 Comments

    Thank you for sharing this report!

    I have always known that Korean Air operates 5th freedom right flight from LAX to GRU, so I jumped on the chance to take the flight down to Brazil.

    I had no idea KE operated this route. Very cool!

    • Comment 329828 by
      CH AUTHOR 29 Comments

      Yeap KE has been flying this route since May 2008. I think it's a great fifth freedom right route for the airline.. only problem is that they don't have much Portuguese-speaking flight attendants (if any). All of the Portuguese announcements onboard are recorded.

  • Comment 152195 by
    KévinDC TEAM GOLD 5828 Comments

    Cool report! I don't think I've ever seen a report on this route, though I was aware that it existed. I have always wondered WHY it existed, however. I was surprised to find out from your report that there was a large Korean community in Sao Paulo. With that comes family and business ties, so now I understand why this flight exists. I know there is a really large Japanese-Brazilian population, and 5th freedom flights by Japanese carriers have always made sense to me.

    I guess the 77W was just too much metal for this route since it was downgraded to an A330. AA also downgraded their LAX-GRU flight to a 788. Seems demand to Brazil is just generally weak with the Economic downturn there. Good for KE for continuing to fly the route in spite of this!

    Thanks for sharing!

  • Comment 152262 by
    Rl 777 806 Comments

    Thank you for sharing this interesting and detailed FR with us!

    The cabin looks to be in pretty decent condition, the seat pitch looks acceptable as well.

    The IFE system looks good, the cup holder on the back of the tray table is a nice feature!

    Overall the meals didn't seem bad on this flight. It's nice to hear the meals tasted well, the presentation could use some minor improvements though.

    GRU T3 has a pretty nice look IMO.

    Thank you for the bonus! I've always wanted to visit Brazil!

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