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   #13 out of 95 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 139 reviews
By 3979
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

photo 1
Courtesy of

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.
photo IMG_3571
The new TBIT's been opened for close to an year, but the entrance to the terminal remains the same.
photo IMG_3572
You can still see construction activities going on for the Bradley West Project.
photo IMG_3573
Korean Air check-in counter. There were like zero Koreans checking into today's flight.
photo IMG_3581
A Brazil-bound dog with Christmas spirit on.
photo IMG_3583photo IMG_3584photo IMG_3587
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?
photo IMG_3588
Still an old part of the terminal here.
photo IMG_3589
These escalators are where the new terminal concourse begins.
photo IMG_3591photo IMG_3592
I arrived at the new terminal's food court area.
photo IMG_3593
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.
photo IMG_3596
The central portion of the new TBIT concourse, looking toward north side.
photo IMG_3597
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.
photo IMG_3600
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.
photo IMG_3606
I walked back toward Gate 159 (at the southern portion), where my flight would be waiting for me.
photo IMG_3612
The beautiful Korean Air B777-200ER, bound for São Paulo.
photo IMG_3613
A lot better looking terminal than the old TBIT for sure.
photo IMG_3615
Money exchanged, and ready to go!
photo IMG_3616photo IMG_3619
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.
photo IMG_3620
KE flight attendants being briefed.
photo IMG_3624photo IMG_3625
Boarding started at 1700.
photo IMG_3629photo IMG_3630photo IMG_3631
The passengers were separated into lines according to their seat row numbers.
photo IMG_3633photo IMG_3634
Flight attendants greeting at the door.
photo IMG_3637
The divider between economy and business class.
photo IMG_3638
Business class, when will I ever ride these seats?
photo IMG_3639
Tonight's flight would be a full one. Everyone of these seats will eventually have been taken.
photo IMG_3640
My window seat, 51A. Inflight amenities such as water, headphones, pillows, and blankets were already placed on the seats.
photo IMG_3641
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.
photo IMG_3642
The sun was setting fast by this time.
photo IMG_3643
AVOD system on each of the new economy seats.
photo IMG_3645
Push back was slightly behind scheduled, at 17:40.
photo IMG_3646
I think I was watching Taken 3
photo IMG_3655
At around 17:55, the plane took off toward the Pacific Ocean.
photo IMG_3656
Looking over the Palos Verdes.
photo IMG_3659
Not too long after the take-off the snack/beverages services began.
photo IMG_3660
I took the red wine and honey roasted peanuts.
photo IMG_3661
And the dinner services began not too long after.
photo IMG_3666
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.
photo IMG_3669
I chose the beef dish.
photo IMG_3673
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.
photo IMG_3674
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.
photo IMG_3675
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.
photo IMG_3677
That is perhaps the Amazon River..
photo IMG_3679
The cabin lights brightened gradually for the lunch services.
photo IMG_3681
I was watching Get on Up
photo IMG_3683
The lunch services commenced at the same time with the beverages services.
photo IMG_3685
For lunch, the choices were Fish or Chicken.
photo IMG_3686
I chose the chicken. The chicken was also served with sautéed onions and rice.
photo IMG_3687
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.
photo IMG_3689
Photo of the cabin interior from the back of the plane.
photo IMG_3690
My rowmates were Brazilians going back home for holidays. One of them was a UCLA student.
photo IMG_3692
It was a very cloudy day in São Paulo.
photo IMG_3694photo IMG_3695photo IMG_3698
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.
photo IMG_3702
Flying over BR-610, a roadway that connects Rodavia Pres. Dutra to Guarulhos Airport terminals.
photo IMG_3705
Not only cloudy day, but it was a very rainy day!
photo IMG_3709
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.
photo IMG_3716photo IMG_3717
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.
photo IMG_3727photo IMG_3728
The uniquely shaped T3 building.
photo IMG_3826
Welcome to São Paulo! This is the point where you know you're about to enter the city.
photo IMG_3828
A kid painted in metallic silver was throwing some fire bottles around.
photo IMG_3831
Feijoada, only served Wednesdays and Saturdays. This was my first meal after arrival into Bom Retiro, São Paulo.
photo IMG_3879
And there are pork meat and cabbages to accompany the dish.
photo IMG_3880
Brazilian churrasco party in my friend's house
photo IMG_3903
At the top of Circolo Italiano (the observation deck is free to public access) in São Paulo near Paulista.
photo IMG_4066
Playing futsal (indoor soccer) in one of the friends' apartment.
photo IMG_4104
The best part of Brazil is the açaí bowl in a local fruit store.
photo IMG_4116

Thanks for reading my trip reports!
See more


Korean Air

Cabin crew10.0

Los Angeles - LAX


Sao Paulo - GRU





If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 152010 by
    eminere™ 271 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 27 Comments
    @Eminere - The flight was operated with 772ER or 77W until March 2015, when KE downgraded to A330.
  • Comment 152039 by
    jetsetpanda 2283 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 27 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 2283 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 SILVER 2002 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 329913 by
      NGO85 SILVER 2002 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 27 Comments
      Ahh Gotcha.
      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 SILVER 2002 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 329827 by
      CH AUTHOR 27 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 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 152075 by
    757Fan 632 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 27 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 SILVER 6858 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 777 802 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!

Login to post a comment.