Greetings, Flight-Report readers. I've been an avid reader of this website for a year now, and figured it was about time I contributed a report of my own. This trip took place back in January, and was the first leg of a roundtrip to Narita that I booked with SkyMiles. This trip marked several firsts for me: first time flying KE, first time on a 747-8i, first time trying the Delta One product on DL's A330, and, most importantly, my first time visiting Asia. The ticket ran me 140,000 SkyMiles, which was the lowest redemption rate for a round-trip J ticket to Asia at the time. The flights looked like this:
I should note that all of the photos for this report were taken with my iPhone, as I don't own a proper camera. This means that a few photos have a bit more reflection / glare than is ideal, but I'll do my best to explain those away as artistic flourishes instead of the amateurish photography mistakes that they are.
My journey began on the JFK AirTrain:
Look, there I am! And yes, I absolutely meant to capture both the tracks and my reflection in the window. Don't I look excited for my very first trip across the Pacific? You can't tell from the photo, but I was also wearing a rather stylish cardigan, as my preferred look for business class is Mister Rogers chic.
As my train pulled up to Terminal 1, I decided to take another terrible artsy photograph.
Eva Air and Turkish flights have yet to depart to Taipei and Istanbul respectively, and that third airline, well, I'm sure they went somewhere pretty neat, too.
Terminal 1 at JFK was relatively quiet as this was the middle of the week in January. I'd already checked in online, but visited the SkyPriority counter because boarding passes printed on KE card stock were going to make way better souvenirs than the ones in my Apple Wallet. I was given both my JFK-ICN and ICN-NRT boarding passes and sent on my way.
Security was mostly easy and uneventful, but because I now exist in the TSA-Pre bubble, I always forget to take my electronics out of my bag when flying on non-US airlines. My bag was pulled aside to be searched, and during this process I learned that TSA screeners don't much care for riffing.
TSA: Sir, do you have any electronics in your bag? Me: Yes, my MacBook and iPad. Sorry, I forgot to take them out. TSA: Do you mind if I search your bag? Me: Not at all. TSA: Your bag is vibrating. Me: I know, it's always doing that. TSA: What? Me: Why do they even sell vibrating bags? I honestly don't see the purpose. TSA: Sir, your bag is vibrating. Is your cell phone in here? Me: Oh, yes, it is. I'm sorry, I thought you were doing a bit.
Pro tip: your improv training won't come in handy as a TSA checkpoints. Apparently, they don't appreciate it when you 'yes and' them.
Terminal 1 doesn't offer much in the way of amenities, unless you're a fan of lousy food and electronics vending machines, in which case, shine on you crazy diamond! Because I'd arrived early and had a bit of time to spare before departure, I decided to go catch a glimpse of the plane that would be taking me to Korea. I consider it a treat to fly on 747's, and was very excited to be taking my first flight on the new type.
"Surely he didn't just post a photo with garish fluorescent light reflections," you're no doubt saying to yourself right now. The answer to your (very fair) question is, no, I did not. What look like garish fluorescent light reflections are, in fact, the heady, supernatural aura radiating off this brand-new 747-8i. My trip that evening would be aboard HL7633, just two months after it rolled off the factory floor in Everett. If you look closely, you can still see the dealer plates.
I'd already been to both the Air France and Alitalia lounges in Terminal 1, and had heard some not-so-great things about the Korean Air lounge. So naturally, I decided to check it out. The Korean Air lounge left a lot to be desired, as most SkyTeam travelers who frequent JFK are probably already aware. I only stayed about a minute before fleeing for greener pastures. My lasting impression of the place was a room packed with stressed out, exhausted people, their only relief a single bottle of Scotch. Or, as we call it at my house, Thanksgiving.
I decided to take advantage of my SkyTeam Elite+ status and headed for the Air France lounge. They were momentarily confused when I handed them my KE boarding pass, but admitted me after I pointed out my SkyTeam credentials and explained that this was the only place in the terminal currently serving free Ricard.
Ricard and Biscoff cookies, the classic combo for those who lack the ability to taste. I'd also like to mention that that was not my USA Today, but I did briefly consider using it as a coaster.
As our midnight boarding time neared, a strolled back over to gate 8, which was located at the end of the terminal pier. Boarding was fairly calm and orderly, a refreshing change of pace from the rugby scrum that Delta encourages when boarding their aircraft.
Because mamma didn't raise no fool, I selected a seat in the J cabin located on the upper deck. My choice was 18A, the window seat located just behind the port exit door. This aircraft was equipped with KE's new Prestige Suites, arranged in a staggered configuration that offers every seat direct aisle access. The seats located behind the exit have even MORE access, ideal if you need to get a running start when returning to your seat. Speaking of the seats, here's mine:
The J cabin only ended up being about half full, and the seat next to mine remained empty. I loved this cabin – with the single aisle and cozy feel, it was easy to forget that you were flying on the longest commercial jetliner in the world.
The view up to the flight deck. There are two restrooms located off to the right after the front row of passenger seats, more than enough for the few of us onboard that evening.
Here's a head-on view of the seat. The bedding was fairly standard, not much better than what you'd get in coach. I was fine with this, as the seat was quite comfortable and cabin was kept just warm enough as to not need a blanket. I was also able to poach a few pillows from the many empty seats and build myself a nice little coccoon when it came time to sleep.
The legroom and ottoman shot. The IFE screen was big and bright. I didn't watch any of the movies, but the 3D in-flight map and nose gear camera looked great on this screen.
IFE remote and seat controls. I particularly enjoyed how the remote screen would display additional data while looking at the in-flight map.
I'm sure that many of you, while reading the myriad flight reports on this site, have said to yourselves, "They always show the contents of the amenity kit, but why don't they ever take an excruciatingly unnecessary closeup of the outside of the amenity kit?" Well, I'm happy to report that your wait is over. Here is every stitch of the amenity kit and its accompanying satchel for miscellaneous items in all their painstakingly accurate glory.
Ample room in these overhead bins.
Let's take a look at the menu, shall we?
Even though dinner wouldn't be served until 1:30AM local time, I still had to give it a try, because what else was I going to do to occupy myself for 14 hours? I selected the bibimbap. I wish I'd tried the ramen with side dishes between meals, but I think I was too tired to realize that was an option. Oh well.
There are some handy storage bins that run along the side of the fuselage on the upper deck, ideal for small personal items that you want easy access to during the flight. Or, if you're one of those types that puts all your clothing in the hotel dresser when you travel, I suppose you could also use these to store your entire wardrobe while in the air. I used them to store my dinner menu and amenity kit so as not to make them feel underutilized.
It was quite difficult to see the wing from the upper deck. It required angling my iPhone and using it as a sort of rear-view mirror.
The safety card. Was disappointed to see that they do not allow the use of remote-controlled cars during the flight, but I disregarded this and used mine anyway.
Here we are lined up on runway 31L, ready to climb out over Jamaica Bay before making a 270-degree left turn to the north.
Our wing pointed back towards the airport as we climb out.
Overflying JFK. If you look closely, you can see all the passengers in Terminal 4 cursing to themselves as they realize they still have another mile to walk before they reach their gate.
Getting settled in as we head north. This was before my wardrobe change into the KE socks that came in the amenity kit.
The meal service was fairly quick as it was the middle of the night. Most passengers opted to skip it entirely and just go to sleep. Here's the bibimbap. It wasn't anything particularly great, but I'm still glad I tried it. A part of me was hoping it would be served in a smoking-hot dolsot bowl, but alas, that wasn't to be.
Every airline meal, no matter what the cuisine or class of service, should come with a tube of gochujang. I defy you to come up with a dish that couldn't be improved with the addition of this magical paste.
With dinner done, it was onto everyone's favorite dessert: a bowl fruit and a pint glass of scotch. I finished the fruit, but not the scotch, as blacking out would have made recalling the details of the flight for this report problematic.
After dinner, I put the seat into bed mode and slept for about six hours. The bed was spacious and comfortable, and although the cabin was kept a bit warmer than I'm used to, it didn't bother me at all. I did notice that I didn't quite fit in the seat. I'm 6'2", and couldn't fully stretch out without my feet hitting the ottoman wall. The bed was still perfectly comfortable though, and way better than any J class seat I'd experienced before.
I woke up somewhere over Siberia. It was at this moment that I had the first real sensation of traveling very, very far. As I mentioned earlier, I’d never been to Asia before, and here I was 7 or so miles over the most remote stretch of it in complete darkness. Looking out over a vast, empty stretches of Siberia was a real trip. I would occasionally see the lights of cities or towns and would try to imagine what it must be like to live in such a remote place.
I also thought it was curious that the entire flight was during the night, and that we never once saw the sun during our whole 14.5 hour trip. Feeling wide awake even though the cabin was still completely dark, I decided to get some water from the galley and spent the next few hours watching movies on my iPad and playing with the in-flight map.
I had so much fun playing with this map, probably more than I should have.
The HUD view was especially cool, allowing a full-grown adult, who is ostensibly mature enough to travel abroad by himself, to pretend to be the pilot.
About 9 hours into the flight, the cabin lights were flipped on and breakfast was served. I selected the rice porridge, which tasted about as exciting as it looked. Should have asked for some gochujang.
Overflying Harbin, China, the first big city along our route since New York.
After breakfast, the rest of the flight was fairly uneventful. The cabin crew was courteous and attentive when I needed something, and I occupied the rest of my time watching movies and fiddling with the map.
Making our descent into ICN, flying around the problematic neighbor to the north.
You might not be able to tell due to the poor quality of this photo, but take my word for it: that's definitely a runway.
Heading down the stairs to the boarding door. The crew waited until the upper deck had deplaned before allowing passengers in economy to disembark. They also offered to help each passenger carry their bags down the stairs, which I thought was especially kind.
Saying goodbye to HL7633, quite a nifty plane.
I entered the nearly deserted terminal and set off to find a proper breakfast. I found it at Banjoo:
Now that's a bowl of bibimbap!
After breakfast, it was off to the KE lounge to while away my 4 hour layover, where I had a shower and met this automatic beer pouring machine:
It was love at first sight.
Thanks for reading!
Air France Lounge
New York - JFK
Seoul - ICN
All in all, this was a very enjoyable flight on Korean Air. The 747-8i is a great ride, and I thought the cabin was well-appointed and very comfortable. I would definitely fly this airline and configuration again.
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