Trip Report: Korean Air 747-8i First Class ICN-JFK

ICN (Seoul Incheon) – JFK (New York)
KE 85
06/05/2016
Boeing 747-8i
First Class

Seats 1A, 1J

Well this flight was a full-on treat. We haven’t been in long haul First Class in a few years so it was great to be able to experience 2 of them during this trip. This Korean Air flight easily out shined the Japan Airlines flight we took to Japan. I can easily say that this was one of the best flights we’ve ever taken.

Boarding

We arrived a few minutes after scheduled boarding time of 7:00p. They were only pre-boarding those who needed assistance, but the queue in every line was already extensive. We showed our First boarding passes to the attendant and he escorted us to the front of the premium line.

After a few minutes, an announcement was made & all the gate attendants bowed in unison. Our boarding passes were scanned and we were off to the First & Business Class jet bridge. The chief purser (who would introduce himself later) had us escorted to our suites – 1A & 1J, right in the nose of this still-fresh 747.

Cabin

The First Class cabin was beautiful. Clean whites, mellow creams, and then of course the signature Korean Air Celadon Green seats. The overhead lighting was set to bright white & blue for boarding, something that would change during the stages of the flight.

The cabin was very spacious with only 6 First Class suites. Like other 747 First Class cabins, the rear of the cabin was used for staging drinks & snacks for passengers, of which there were only 3 on this flight. Up front where we were, the cabin narrowed to the contours of the nose of the plane; so much so that the space between 1A & 1J, only one person could fit.

Korean Air First Class

Settling In

As we got to our seats, the flight attendant was quick to offer to stow our bags in a closet at the very front of the cabin. She then asked if we’d like anything to drink which was quickly answered with “Champagne!”

She came back shortly with Bose noise cancelling headphones, an amenity kit (advertising the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang), and facial mist. After that, she offered Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque 2004 & macadamia nuts.
2016-06-05 19.14.13

2016-06-05 19.17.37

Korean Air First Class

Korean Air First Class

She came back again and asked what size “comfortable clothes” (pajamas) I’d like. I don’t wear them on planes because I get way too hot but I’ll certainly take them home as a souvenir. Slippers & menus were already at the seat so I put my shoes away & perused the menu for the flight while she returned with the Gianfranco Ferre pajamas.

Korean Air First Class

The Seat/Suite

First impression of the suite was that it was great. Reminiscent of Cathay Pacific First Class with 4 windows-worth of space and a wide seating area, it is designed slightly better with a wider footwell and a bigger screen above that. There’s even a little lamp about head-level behind you, which reminded me of Swiss First Class.

Korean Air First Class

Korean Air First Class

There’s plenty of small storage to your side; max capacity is probably the size of my Tom Bihn medium cafe bag.

The seat itself was very comfortable; maybe it’s because the plane is fairly new & the cushions aren’t worn in yet.

Because this is technically a suite, there were, of course, doors that made you feel quite secluded. Since I was traveling with my wife, we only used them when sleeping. They’re easily deployed via a release button on the top of the door.

Korean Air First Class

Speaking of sleeping, the completely flat bed is quite comfortable. The flight attendant only added a thin foam mattress pad, but that seemed to be enough because it felt more pleasant than the last Airbnb we stayed at in Tokyo. It was definitely more comfortable than Japan Airlines’ air weave foam mattress pad. The duvet is substantial yet soft, but it was too hot for me (any duvet on a plane will be).

Korean Air First Class

The best thing about the suite, BY FAR, was air vent on the side of the suite. I hate that premium cabins don’t have dedicated air vents because I get hot VERY easily. It might be stupid to some but the existence of this vent ensured I had a pleasant flight and, most importantly, an agreeable sleep.

Korean Air First Class

Overall

Korean Air must have one of best First Class offerings on the market right now with this new Kosmos Suite 2.0. The cabin is well designed and the suite is private enough if you want it to be. The seat is comfortable & the service was amazing, both personable & attentive. The only shortcoming was probably the food, which I’ll get to in another post. I really just wanted to write about the rest of the flight which we loved. It was certainly worth the 80,000 miles per person we redeemed (more on that in another post, too).

Probable Southwest Rapid Rewards Devaluation

Last week, Southwest Airlines sent an email to its Rapid Rewards loyalty program members informing them of a future change in the program. Sadly, they weren’t very specific about the change but it reads as a devaluation.

We created Rapid Rewards® because we think you deserve to actually feel rewarded. And, from time to time we must make some updates to our program. Beginning April 17, 2015, the number of Rapid Rewards Points needed to redeem for certain flights will vary based on destination, time, day of travel, demand, fare class, and other factors.

Previously, Rapid Rewards points basically had a fixed value that were correlated to the cash fare of a flight. However, this cryptic message from Southwest makes it seem like they can charge however many points they want for a given flight on a given day to a given destination.

I really do like Southwest because they have great availability from my home airport (EWR). Another reason Southwest must be considered for is that it is a transfer partner for Chase Ultimate Rewards points. Ultimate Rewards points transfer to Rapid Rewards instantly at a 1:1 ratio.

If you book flights with points, you can cancel them any time before the flight and you will receive the points & taxes/fees back 100%. This is great for making speculative bookings and it’s a feature that other airlines charge big bucks for (often $150+).

When you throw in a Companion Pass, Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards program hard to beat for affordable domestic travel for one, let alone two.

The only thing we can do now is wait but we do have 2 months to make preparations in case these changes are quite terrible. If you have a lot of points, you may want to consider making some speculative bookings to lock trips up at the current rates. You really have nothing to lose since you can get a full refund at any time.

This is just another lesson in the frugal flying game. Things change all the time to be ready to react. Stay tuned.

British Airways Avios Devaluation

The biggest news going around the travel blogosphere lately is one we’re sadly all too familiar with… devaluation. British Airways announced some pricey changes to their loyalty program that will take effect April 28, 2015. The last time they changed their loyalty program was over 3 years ago so I suppose they’re due.

Earning Avios

There are changes to earning rates that, honestly, don’t concern me because I don’t ever fly or credit my miles to British Airways. You can read about them here.

Redeeming Avios

The changes that I care about most are the ones for redeeming Avios. Luckily, economy awards aren’t changing, but Avios amounts for premium cabin awards are definitely changing. Below is the new award chart for British Airways & Iberia metal.

New British Airways Award Chart

New British Airways Award Chart

Below is the peak calendar for 2015. Not bad if you fly BA/Iberia because most of the year is off-peak.

Peak & Off-Peak 2015

Peak & Off-Peak 2015

 

What if I use Avios to fly on partners instead of BA or Iberia?

Again, economy award rates won’t change. Premium Economy, Business and First class rates will definitely change.

Business Class redemptions will increase 50% on any route Zone 4 and beyond. This is unfortunate because there were some great sweet spot routes that fell in Zone 4. BOS-DUB & JFK-YVR are very popular.

Examples:

Boston to Dublin (Zone 4) is 25k one-way in Business Class on Aer Lingus, probably one of the best deals with Avios. On & after April 28th, BOS-DUB will be 37.5k in Business.

New York to Vancouver Zone 4) is 25k one-way in Business Class on Cathay Pacific’s Fifth Freedom flight, another top redemption with Avios. This will be 37.5k in Business going forward as well.

New York to Hong Kong (Zone 8) is 70k one-way in Business Class on Cathay Pacific. On April 28th, JFK-HKG will be 105k in Business.

What do I do now?

If you have a huge stockpile of Avios, it’s time to start thinking of redeeming the premium award you were saving for. Come April 28th, that award is only going to get more expensive. Devaluations are always good lessons for us; don’t hoard your miles & points!

As for me, I have less than 70k Avios in our household account so I won’t be employing any drastic measures. I also like to use Avios for their short-haul leverage; I flew to Montreal twice in 2014 for a mere 4,500 Avios each way. Since that award isn’t changing, I think I’ll keep some Avios handy for it.

Overall, this upcoming devaluation is bad news for those of us who like to redeem for premium travel. British Airways’ last devaluation made long-haul premium travel more expensive; this time around they might as well be unattainable.

My Biggest Mile Manufacturer – TD Go

During a time where Joann & I have more miles & points than we do vacation days, I’m looking for easier ways to manufacture these points instead of ways to just amass a stockpile of them. Notice my emphasis is on easy. 

I’m not a fan of driving to Walmart to load my American Express Bluebird 2-3 times a month.

I don’t enjoy driving to multiple CVS stores to find $500 gift cards (and then driving to Walmart to load them to Bluebird).

Buying $200 gift cards from Staple with my Chase Ink is pretty easy, but then I’m stuck with several small denomination gift cards to liquidate.

Enter TD Go.

This is a prepaid product that is intended for parents to issue their “teens” debit cards with certain limits.

The main advantages are that this debit card can be funded by a credit card online and TD is very lax on what they consider a “teen.”

The main disadvantage is that this card is ONLY offered in the following states:

CT, DC, DE, FL, ME, MD, MA, NH, NJ, NY, NC, PA, RI, SC, VT, VA

Continue reading

US Airways MasterCard 20% Bonus Miles

This summer, earn 20% more miles with your US Airways Dividend Miles MasterCard.

IMG_1934

Earn 20% more miles on every purchase you make with your card between July 1 and August 31, including US Airways purchases, up to a maximum of 10,000 bonus miles. 

The mailer also said that there’s no need to register as you are automatically eligible. Bonus miles will appear 6-8 weeks after the end of the promotion. Barclaycard is usually quite good with bonuses posting in the allotted time frame.

Also, for international purchases between July 1 and August 31, the 3% foreign transaction fee will be reimbursed in your October 2014 statement. Of course, your account has to be open and in good standing for you to receive this refund.

Will this offer be enough for me to bite?

Probably not. Earning US/AA miles at 1.2 miles per dollar is better than 1:1 but still not as good asas the American Express Starwood Preferred Guest card that effectively earns a multitude of airline miles at 1.25 miles per dollar spent.

I’d like to see a promotion like the ones we’ve seen in the past from Barclaycard – something like earning 5 miles per dollar spent in certain shopping categories.