Hello, and welcome to a series of flight-reports chronicling a quick trip to Hong Kong in business class with Delta and Korean.
Here’s the rundown of what’s already happened, and what comes next.
DL2551 YYZ-ATL 1/29/2017 - Check it out KE36 ATL-ICN 1/29/2017 - You are here KE607 ICN-HKG 1/30/2017 - Coming soon KE608 HKG-ICN 2/1/2017 - Sometime after this DL158 ICN-DTW 2/1/2017 - After the previous one DL6197 DTW-YYZ 2/1/2017 - Eventually
Before we get into the review of this flight, I wanted to touch on how I ended up on this flight, as alluded to in the previous flight-report. (You did read that one, right? Of course!) Originally, this trip was booked all the way to Hong Kong with Delta, flying YYZ-MSP-SEA-HKG. On the return, it was HKG-ICN on KE, connecting with DL for ICN-DTW-YYZ. I was looking forward to trying out Delta’s 332 product on SEA-HKG, and then getting a short taste of the Korean 747-8i on HKG-ICN.
However, about two months before departure, Delta Schedule Change SaturdayTM happened, and Delta thoughtfully rebooked me on an afternoon YYZ-MSP flight that would leave Toronto after my still-confirmed flight to Hong Kong had departed Seattle. Way to go, computer!
I called the Delta Platinum line and pointed this problem out, and the very friendly agent on the phone agreed with me that this probably wasn’t an ideal situation. I fully expected to be rebooked onto YYZ-DTW-SEA-HKG, which was another available routing, but was quite surprised when the first thing she suggested was “How about I send you through Atlanta, on the Korean Air codeshare to Seoul, and then down to Hong Kong with them as well?”
I was quite pleased with this suggestion. Seeing as how Delta’s “partnership” with KE currently involves punishing Medallion members who fly Korean, and also how KE is pretty stingy with award space released to Delta, I had figured I wouldn’t be flying KE anytime soon. To my delight, I discovered that the ATL-ICN flight on which they rebooked me was to be operated by the 74H, and I was sold. Sure, I’d miss my first flight on a Delta A330, but in return, I get a (much longer) longhaul on a 747-8i in a very interesting business class seat I’ve yet to try, with a new airline to me, to boot. That’s a fair trade.
So that’s the backstory. Back to the present, shall we?
When last we saw each other, your humble flight-reporter was arriving on the shiny F concourse at Atlanta, home to primarily international traffic, and a very nice central atrium area.
A visit to the lounge is, of course, in order. But before that, a check of Flightradar24 on my phone suggested my ride over to Seoul was just about to arrive from its inbound sector. So I made my way over to Gate F1, from which we would be departing today, to see if I could see her arrive. The gate was already clearly set up for Korean Air.
No sooner did I arrive on the scene than I saw the sight of a four-engine giant lined up for the runway right outside my window. Oh look, it’s my plane!
Taxiing back to the terminal.
Making the turn.
And finally, arrived.
Well, that was fortuitous timing. But now, it’s time to check out the Sky Club here on the F concourse. This lounge is located upstairs at the mezzanine level of the central atrium in the first picture. My boarding is scanned, but the very friendly lounge agent working the desk advises me that I should go check in with KE at F1, as they like passengers to trade in their DL-issues boarding passes for KE-issues boarding passes.
Alright then. Back out to F1 I go, where my boarding passes for ATL-ICN and ICN-HKG are quickly printed. An interesting (to me) note on the boarding pass — this is the first time I can recall I’ve had a codeshare boarding pass that actually shows the codeshare flight number, as well as “operated by KE 036.” The agent tells me I can come back around boarding time, 11:25, and that if there’s any change to boarding time, they’ll announce it in the lounge.
So back to the lounge I go, where the agent working the desk recognizes me, and waves me in with a “Oh, you came back!”
Some reading materials and FIDS in the short haul between the foyer of the lounge and the lounge itself.
This is my first time at this particular Sky Club, and it looks very new, or at least very recently refurbished and clean. It feels surprisingly small for what is I presume the main international lounge for an airline the size and scale of Delta at an operation the size and scale of ATL. But despite my surprise at its size, it is nowhere near full this morning.
Seating options in the main room include these red “cubicle” chairs.
And more traditional seats for those feeling more social.
At the centre of the lounge are the bar and buffet. The bar is staffed by a super-friendly woman.
The island and the buffet includes cereal, juice and milk, fruit, some muffins, a water dispenser, and because it’s Atlanta, an iced tea dispenser.
On the other side, the buffet begins with oatmeal and some bagels.
Bread, toaster, hot items, and coffee.
Only two hot items. First, there’s these raisin bread puddings.
And second, these “Southern stuffed hash browns.”
And finally, an espresso machine.
I grab myself a snack, but am unable to find any cups to take some juice. Upon noting my apparent confusion, the bartender offers up a nicely chilled beer glass with a “Here you go, hon.” I thank her, and return to my seat with my breakfast snack.
The oatmeal was okay, but not on par with Air Canada’s Maple Leaf Lounge oatmeal. The two little warm items were quite nice. The “stuffed hash brown” had some cheese to it, onions and peppers, while the bread pudding made a nice, dense, semi-sweet treat. All in all, much like most Sky Clubs, the catering was underwhelming in terms of number of choices, but what was offered was pretty good.
Happy enough with my breakfast, I decide to continue to explore the lounge.
On the “other side” of the bar and buffet, there’s more seating in this hallway, with seating and window-facing high stools.
The sign on the doors out to the Sky Deck said it was open, so let’s go take a look shall we? It is indeed a chilly January morning, although I think it’s warmed up with the sun out, as it doesn’t feel anywhere near 1 C. In long sleeves without a jacket, I found it cool but comfortable.
Airside views are fantastic from out here, and it seems like a great place to spot, as it has clear visibility on major sets of runways on both sides.
I’ve previously enjoyed some time last fall on the JFK Sky Deck, and I really like these as a lounge amenity. But alas, it’s really too cold to hang out here too long.
Besides, there’s still these stairs that beckon to be climbed.
Upstairs, one gets a good sense of just how big, and how good, the two-storey-high windows on this lounge are. Almost as good for spotting as being out on the Deck.
There’s a small area upstairs where I set up shop for a while, check in with home, and do some work. The whole time I was up here, there were only one or two other passengers, so this appears to be a nice quiet oasis, which probably remains relatively quiet even when the lounge is busy. So much like my experience with China Eastern a few weeks previous at PVG, the key to getting some privacy seems to be to go upstairs.
I find this lounge, as usual for Delta, very visually appealing, new-looking, clean, well-designed, and well-thought-out. Power outlets and USB ports are quite literally everywhere throughout the lounge, so it’s really easy to stay powered-up. This is a key lounge amenity, in my humble opinion.
WiFi is offered through AT&T, and offered behind a password, which is posted for all to see on the check-in desk, and is easy enough to remember as the current password is also Delta’s marketing name for its international business class product. I found it fast, which shouldn’t be a surprise given how quiet the lounge was. Corporate shot time!
This top-floor vantage point also offers a good look down onto the main floor of the lounge before, which gives a pretty complete sense of its size and scale, although obviously not including the area immediately underneath the upper floor, nor the bar/buffet/beyond area on the other side of the lounge.
At about 11:10, 15 minutes before the boarding time on my boarding pass, I packed up, headed downstairs, then downstairs again, and out to gate F1. When I got there, the scene was a little bit more hectic then when last I was out at this gate.
It seems that boarding had started a little early. There was no one in the Sky Priority line, so clearly we were well into general boarding. When I showed up in that queue, my boarding pass was quickly checked, and I was on my way down the jetway.
Flight: KE36 From: Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson (ATL) To: Seoul Incheon (ICN) Date: 1/29/2017 Aircraft: Boeing 747-8i Registration: HL7631 Seat: 18A ATD (STD): 12:10 (11:55) ATA (STA): 16:30+1 (17:15+1)
Once aboard, I was pointed from door L1 aft, and up the stairs to my seat in business class. This is my first time going upstairs on the 74H. My only previous flight on this bird was in Lufthansa First, in the nose.
For this flight, I’m in seat 18A, a window seat in the third row of the upstairs deck. For the 74H, KE introduced the Apex Suite, so the configuration is 2-2 upstairs (2-2-2 downstairs) but because of the staggered nature of the seats, every seat has aisle access. The colour palate is a very KE turqoise/teal and white, and looks quite sharp. The row 18 window seats supposedly have a bit of extra legroom because of their location just behind the upstairs emergency exits.
The seat is quite wide, and comes equipped with a small pillow and a towel-like Korean Air blanket. As you can see in the shot below, there’s a “pass through” area between the two seats, so passengers traveling together can still be together. But there’s a privacy shield that can be raised if you want to keep some distance from the stranger seated next to you.
Over-the-shoulder view of the seat.
Legroom shot. It’s a straight-forward flat bed seat, so needless to say, it’s not an issue.
The ottoman in front.
A look at the area in front of the emergency exits.
With the privacy dividers down, one can look right across the cabin, so privacy is somewhat limited.
Seat controls, including a control for the privacy divider, are in the centre console armrest.
One of the upper-deck benefits of the 74H — nice big storage bins, just like on the 388.
A power outlet is in the forward part of the centre arm rest.
A modern wired IFE remote is stowed in the side wall of the centre console.
There’s another small storage cubby below the centre console. Slippers are provided here.
And there’s a USB port and the headphone conenctor in the front wall of the cubby.
Almost immediately, a very friendly flight attendant appears with a smile, presenting first noise-cancelling headphones, and then an amenity kit, proclaiming KE’s sponsorship of the upcoming Winter Olympics. “It contains a toothbrush, and an eye mask and… other things,” I’m advised.
The headphones are just fine. The quality is good, and the comfort is as well, although the earpieces are foam and I generally prefer leather-style earpieces. I didn’t feel the need to swap out for my trusty Bose on this flight.
And the amenity kit, unpacked. It does, indeed, contain a toothbrush, an eye mask, and other things.
The slippers are simple, but are fine. They’re a little small for my feet, though. As always, “one size fits most.”
The IFE screen is a good size, and doesn’t need to be “deployed,” the benefit of a straight-forward-facing seat. IFE is activated at the gate. The system is very quick and quite responsive. There’s a good amount of content, both Western and Korean.
Pre-departure beverages are then offered. Sadly, no bubbles are offered, so this orange juice will have to do for now.
Then menus are presented. They’re very simple, but cover what’s on offer.
Shortly after the menus are presented (and these photos taken), a smiling flight attendant appears to take my order for both the post-departure lunch, and the pre-arrival dinner. I go Korean for both. When in Rome, after all. The menu is then collected and taken away. Glad I didn’t waste time in taking pictures of the menu.
After that, the purser stops by to introduce herself, wish me a good flight, and make very awkward small talk. “What’s your final destination?” “Oh, that’s nice.” “Your camera looks very good. Is it new?” “Our flight time will be about 14 hours today. I hope you have a pleasant flight.” Yep, awkward for sure.
Boarding is pretty quick, and the safety video rolls. It’s hard to get a picture of the beautiful 74H wing and powerplants from this seat, but here’s my best shot at it.
And pushback as seen through the nose camera.
The downward-facing camera is decidedly less interesting. Still, I love having these cameras.
It’s a very light load up top — well less than half occupied, with some rows only having one occupant all the way across. The aisle seat next to me remains empty, which gives the benefit of having a second screen. I shall keep it on the moving map so I can stay up to date at a glance. Brilliant!
Lining up for the runway.
And so long, Atlanta, we are out of here.
As our climb completes, I select my first movie of the flight, going with Snowden, a film I have long wanted to see.
As soon as we cross 10,000 feet, the flight attendants are released from their seats — including the one staring directly at me from in front of my seat — and spring into action. First, a hot towel is presented.
Oh hey, look at that — the IFE remote defaults to showing the moving map while content is on the main screen. So as well as my second screen, I have a second second screen.
Once the seat belt lights are turned off, it’s time to check out the lavs. There are two located in front of the upstairs cabin, and behind the flight deck. They’re kept clean and orderly, but aren’t particularly large or well-appointed. No surprise, given the limited space they have to work with up here.
By the time I get back to my seat, most pax have their table cloths laid, and in fact, my table cloth is set out on the ledge in front of the aisle seat next to me. When I sit down, it is almost immediately set. A flight attendant then appears with the drink cart, and presents the amuse bouche. I ask for a glass of champagne to accompany it. I very much enjoy the Perrier-Jouet.
The amuse bouche is a simple prawn with a bit of onion and sauce. Fresh and tasty.
The appetizer is then presented, along with the rest of the accompaniments for the bibimbap. The flight attendant attempts to explain the purpose of the pickles to me.
The starter is tasty, with a generous serving of crab underneath the radishes. The prosciutto is very good as well. I get having citrus or similar in this presentation, but I question the grapefuit. It kind of overpowers everything else.
As soon as I’m done, my plate is cleared, and the main course is presented. My champagne is kept topped up throughout the dinner, and water is also poured and refilled as needed.
On the side, there’s a simple stock with some smoked fish in it. Quite nice.
The bibimbap before being mixed up.
And the rice.
Close-up on the pickles, which are very good.
And on the condiments for the bibimbap.
Alright — bibimbap apparently roughly translates to “mixed-up rice,” so let’s mix this up. And get some sesame oil and gochujang on the scene. As has been said elsewhere on this side — everything is better with gochujang.
I find the main course solid and satisfying, although nothing particularly spectacular. It has a nice kick and garlicky taste to it, though, thanks to that magical paste.
When I’m done, a flight attendant appears with the cheese and dessert tray. First, a selection of each of the cheeses, cut by the flight attendant from large selections. It’s a very cheese course, I must say, and a great semi-final round to dinner.
Dessert is also offered at the same time — either the “orange plum pie” (which actually appears to be an orange cake in a raspberry sauce, or ice cream. The cake is very good.
With dinner done, coffee and tea offered. I take a black coffee, and it’s good and strong. Dinner wraps up about 90 minutes into my movie — I’m quite happy with that pace. Nothing felt rushed, but it certainly didn’t feel like it dragged on, either.
Looking across the aisle, my row-mate has put up his privacy screen, and with no one else visible form my seat, it is suddenly very private up here.
With lunch done, the mood lighting slowly shifts to the dark. Linens and service items are collected, and a bottle of water, as well as a water-based face spray, are then presented. Korean arrival cards are offered, but I don’t need one as I’m in transit.
I’d heard that KE keeps its cabins very warm, but I actually find the temperature on this flight very moderate by Asian carrier standards. Also, as it’s my first time upstairs on the 747-8, I’m startled by just how quiet it is up here. Even on the takeoff roll.
The the time the movie is over, we’re just under 12 hours out of Seoul, over northwestern Ontario.
I select my next movie, put my seat back into a very comfortable lounging position, and just relax for a while.
About an hour into my movie, I decide it’s time to nap for a while, and put my bed down to lay flat, use the blanket as a mattress pad and quickly fall asleep.
I nap for a couple of hours, and wake up at about 4:30 pm Eastern, as we’re over Nunavut.
Shortly after I wake up, a smiling flight attendant appears with a plate with a couple of warm cookies. Who can say no to that? They’re clearly fresh baked, warm and gooey — one chocolate chip, and one white chocolate macadamia. A nice little treat.
Minutes later, she’s back with a tray of juice. It’s important to stay hydrated, right? Orange juice hits the spot, although a bit of an odd pairing with the cookies.
When the movie’s over, we’re making some nice progress, leaving mainland Canada for the Arctic Ocean.
Up next in my movie marathon, a modern remake of an old classic, Ben-Hur. It’s not bad.
As this movie comes to an end, we’re out over the middle of the Arctic Ocean, about halfway to Russia, and about 6:15 out of Incheon. To my surprise, as the ending credits roll, the mood lighting starts to come up, eventually reaching full brightness.
One of the flight attendants stops by with a tray of juice and water. I grab a water, and notice for the first time that she’s very tall — like, almost-head-scraping-the-ceiling tall. Easily a head higher than the other flight attendant working the upper deck.
I choose my next movie — it’s a decidedly teen-focused thriller, but it’s entertaining enough.
Sure enough, once the house lights are up, the flight attendants reappear with the meal tray. I guess we’re doing the dinner service now, rather than pre-arrival. Much like my China Eastern PVG-YYZ flight a few weeks before. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this before these two flights.
The salad is nothing too exciting, but is nice and fresh, with a good balsamic vinaigrette.
The bread basket is offered — it occurs to me now that it was not with the first meal. Perhaps because I chose the bibimbap? — and I take request some garlic bread. Not bad.
As with everything in meal services on this flight, everything is very customized — the next course is delivered almost as soon as I’m done the previous. I suppose that’s the benefit of having only a handful of pax upstairs, with two flight attendants working the second floor. So the main course of beef bulgogi is soon presented by my very tall flight attendant. The beef itself is a little tough, but the flavour is pretty good. I give them credit — the spinach is just about perfect, just starting to wilt, as opposed to the cooked-to-mush lump one often sees on aircraft.
When I’m done, the tray is quickly taken away, and a fruit course is offered as dessert. All very good and fresh.
After dinner, tea and coffee service is offered. I choose a a cup of green tea. It’s a nice end to the meal.
With dinner over, the lights are brought back down, I put my seat back in a lounging position, and finish my movie.
By the time the movie is over, we’re well into Siberia.
Up next from the movie selections….
The premise of the movie is interesting enough, but I’m pretty tired at this point, and about 30 minutes in, I decide it’s time to see if I can get some sleep. I put my bed down, and quickly doze off, waking up about an hour and ten minutes out of Incheon, feeling still a little groggy, but somewhat refreshed.
The lights are still down, and there are no flight attendants to be seen, so I presume there’s not going to be any kind of pre-arrival snack. That strikes me as a little odd, given that it’s been almost six hours since the last meal service at this point.
After a few minutes of puttering on my notebook, the captain comes on and gives us the pre-arrival briefing, telling us we’re about 40 minutes away from landing, and that’s it’s a balmy -2 C in Seoul currently. As we get a briefing on Korean immigration formalities from a flight attendant, the mood lighting starts to kick in, getting progressively brighter over the course of a minute or two.
Announcements complete, the tall flight attendant comes by with a tray of juice and water. Water is greatly appreciated at this point — I probably should have called for an FA earlier to get a drink after waking up.
Time to get reacquainted with the world outside my window. It looks like a nice afternoon. But then, it’s always a beautiful day up here, isn’t it?
I pack up my computer and other items into my backpack, and as I’m doing so, the purser stops by for more awkward idle chatter. “Did you have a good flight? That’s good. I hope you have a pleasant journey to your final destination.”
Soon enough, we’re well into our descent, and clearly getting closer to civilization.
And touch down. The big bird sets down on the runway with remarkable grace.
As always, there’s lots going on at ICN. Here, China Eastern takes off behind one of the terminal buildings.
The satellite terminal where foreign airlines arrive.
We’ve following our big brother in to the gates.
Both of Air Canada’s daily 787s (to YVR and YYZ) on the satellite terminal.
Our twin arriving at the same time as us.
Finally, this journey came to an end in this rather quiet stretch of the main terminal.
As we were setting up to get off, I finally got a count of the upper deck pax — in all, there were seven of us up there. With two flight attendants working the area, no wonder meal service was so quick and personalized.
We make our way down the stairs, which come out where the business and economy cabins meet. There are flight attendants physically blocking the aisles into economy to make sure business passengers can disembark first, and we do so through door 1L. Time to make the relatively short walk to the international transfers area.
Transit security was quick but thorough, and about ten minutes after arriving into the terminal, I was airside in the always-bustling ICN main terminal, in search of a lounge in which to kill some time before my flight on to Hong Kong.
Thanks for joining me for this long TPAC flight, and please look for the continuation of this series in the near future.
Delta Air Lines Sky Club (Concourse F)
Atlanta - ATL
Seoul - ICN
All in all, I enjoyed my first upstairs ride on a 74H, and my first flight ever with Korean Air. I thought the service was solid, friendly and polished, if somewhat quiet and polite.
The seat is very good. I found it very spacious and comfortable, and appreciate how it meets what passengers want (a flat bed with all-seat aisle access) with what airlines what (as many bodies in the plane as possible.) Quite an innovative design by B/E.
My only criticism would be on meal timing — while I get the desire to provide a service at the time the dinner was presented, as it was almost six hours after the previous meal, it seems weird to present it, and then not offer anything to eat for the next six-plus hours of flight. I think I would have preferred to have a small snack at the half-way point (or a little past), and then the dinner as presented between two and one and a half hours from arrival. But that’s just me.
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