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Korean Air is generally known to offer a top-notch experience and satisfying customer service in its business and first class cabins. The airline, based in Seoul, South Korea, currently has 160 aircraft that fly to 120 cities in over 40 countries. Korean Air is a founding member of the SkyTeam alliance, which includes airlines such as Air France / KLM and Delta Air Lines.
Incheon International Airport is Korean Air’s international hub airport, and it offers nonstop flights to 10 U.S. cities. Korean Air’s loyalty program, Skypass, allows members to earn miles that can be redeemed to book award flights — even in the airline's first class cabins.
What to expect flying first class with Korean Air
Here's what you need to know to make the most of a Korean Air first class flight experience.
Bag allowance. First and Prestige class passengers are allowed up to two carry-on bags that weigh no more than 40 pounds. Your baggage cannot be more than 45 inches in total dimension, which is measured by length plus width plus height. In addition, you're allowed to check up to three bags that weigh no more than 70.5 pounds each and are no more than 62 inches in total dimension.
Boarding. First class passengers have a dedicated lounge where they can check in for their flight. At Incheon International Airport, you will be escorted from the lounge to the boarding gate. The boarding process starts with infants and children, special needs passengers and seniors, followed by SkyPriority passengers and then Zone 1, which is for first class passengers.
Seats/Suites. Korean Air first class seats are offered on its 777, 747 and A380 aircraft. If seclusion is what you’re after, the Kosmo Suites 2.0 on the 777-300ER and 747 have a sliding door, which offers ultimate privacy.
Lounges. Honolulu International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport and New York-JFK International Airport each have a Korean Air lounge. As a first class passenger, you receive access to these lounges as well as the Incheon Airport first class lounge.
In-flight bar. If you’re looking for a unique flight experience, look no further than the Dream Lounge onboard the A380. It's a “Celestial Bar” available to first class passengers where you can have a drink with other flyers.
Food and drink. The first class food menu is dubbed “From Farm to Fly.” Passengers are treated to fresh ingredients from Jeju Island, and the menu includes dishes like bibimbap and Korean-style chicken soup. In addition, premium wine and champagne are available from world-class wine regions. Bordeaux wines are ordered three to four years prior to the expected flight service date to give the wine time to age.
» Learn more: How to save money on international flights
How to book a first class ticket with Korean Air
Searching for Korean Air first class availability is straightforward. Login to your Korean Air Skypass account. Select "Award" on the right side of the webpage, fill out your flight details and click the light blue airplane logo below "All Class."
If a monthly calendar search doesn’t appear, select "Search" next to the number 1, turn on the "Check Nearby Dates" button and navigate to "Search Flights." You’ll then see a calendar view of available flights, including award flights, at which point you select a date that offers first class seat availability. Select the first class flight you want to book, pay the associated taxes and fees and get ready to enjoy a premium experience in the sky.
Ways to get good value
Book Korean Air first class with miles
Prior to Korean Air leaving Chase Ultimate Rewards® as an airline transfer partner, one could routinely find a rave Korean Airlines first class review. If you had Chase Ultimate Rewards® points, you simply transferred these points to Korean Air and you could generally book at least one seat in a premium cabin from the U.S. to Asia.
While those days are gone, that doesn’t mean you can’t fly Korean Airlines first class with miles or points. It just means that you’ll have to be more creative on the earning side. You can:
Air France-KLM Flying Blue miles, Delta SkyMiles and Korean Air Skypass miles are some of the best loyalty programs to use when booking SkyTeam alliance flights on Korean Air.
Of these three programs, Korean Air requires the least number of miles at 80,000 to fly Korean Air first class one-way from the U.S. to Seoul. Delta requires 120,000 miles and Flying Blue requires 115,000 miles. To that end, making a point of booking your award travel with Korean Air miles will pay off.
» Learn more: Your guide to SkyTeam
Save miles with off-peak travel
Korean Air offers both off-peak and peak pricing when listing award flights for its own flights. This means you can save miles by flying during off-peak travel dates. For example, you can use 80,000 miles to fly Korean Air first class to Korea during off-peak dates, versus 120,000 miles by flying during peak travel dates. Being flexible on your dates of travel can mean substantial savings on the number of miles required.
Redeem miles for lounge access
As mentioned, first class flights come with lounge access. This includes Korean Air lounges in New York, Los Angeles and Honolulu airports.
If you aren't able to fly Korean Air first class but still want a taste of the premium travel life, you can redeem 4,000 Korean Air miles to receive access to KAL Prestige lounges.
» Learn more: Reasons you should be using airport lounges
If you fly Korean Air first class
With 10 U.S. destinations, you should have no problem flying Korean Air first class once the airline opens up first class on all routes. When you’re booking your first class flight, keep in mind you have access to premium lounges in select cities, as well as a Dream Lounge if you fly the A380.
Booking Korean Air with miles is likely to be a good value since the cash cost can be high when compared to the number of miles required.
How to maximize your rewards
You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2021, including those best for:
Flexibility, point transfers and a large bonus: Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
No annual fee: Bank of America® Travel Rewards credit card
Flat-rate travel rewards: Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
Bonus travel rewards and high-end perks: Chase Sapphire Reserve®
Luxury perks: The Platinum Card® from American Express
Business travelers: Ink Business Preferred® Credit Card