The Complete Guide to Booking Korean Air First Class

Korean Air offers three distinct First Class cabins among its highest class of service: “Kosmo Suites”, an updated version known as “Kosmo Suites 2.0”, and a third product called “Kosmo Sleeper”.

While all three are classified as First Class and are no doubt an outstanding way to fly, they’re not all created equal. Moreover, Korean Air First Class can be a fair bit more challenging to book with points compared to some other First Class products out there.

In this guide, we’ll cover everything there is to know about Korean Air First Class. We’ll look into what to expect on the ground and in the air, as well as everything you need to know about cabins, routes, and how to book using points.

The Korean Air First Class Experience

Korean Air offers a well-regarded First Class product that mainly focuses on the onboard experience, with some degree of variance depending on the aircraft type. 

Ground Experience

As airlines around the world continue to elevate the ground experience, especially for First Class passengers, Korean Air doesn’t necessarily live up to the same high standards.

Korean Air’s flagship lounge in Seoul for First Class passengers has all of the base-level elements that you would expect in a lounge. You’ll enjoy an à la carte menu, a light buffet spread that includes Häagen-Dazs ice cream, Champagne, wine, spirits, and Korean soju.

Korean Air First Class Lounge Seoul – Galbitang & pancakes
 Korean Air First Class Lounge Seoul – Häagen-Dazs ice cream

However, the lounge has a limited dining area, and also lacks an office space with desks and workstations. There are a variety of other seating types available, including armchairs and lounge chairs. 

Korean Air First Class Lounge Seoul – Seating

There are showers available in the lounge, and you’ll also find an electric massage chair. But otherwise, there’s not much else that really makes this lounge feel truly “First Class”.

Korean Air First Class Lounge Seoul – Shower room
Korean Air First Class Lounge Seoul – Massage chair

What’s more, if you are flying out of an outstation airport, you should lower your expectations even more. For example, the Korean Air First Class Lounge in New York is rather disappointing.

The lounge is essentially one room, with only one type of seat available. There’s a small TV room tucked away in the back of the lounge, too.

Korean Air First Class Lounge New York JFK – Seating

As for food, there’s typically a limited buffet spread that’s also home to the modest alcohol and beverage selection. 

Korean Air First Class Lounge New York – Buffet

Lastly, there are showers available to departing passengers. The shower rooms are shared with the adjoined business class lounge, and there’s not anything that make them particularly special.

Korean Air First Class Lounge New York JFK – Shower room

Seat

Even though the ground experience may fall short, the onboard product is a different story. As previously mentioned, Korean Air has three First Class products that all differ from one another.

The best of the bunch is known as Kosmo Suites 2.0, which is the only First Class product that offers complete privacy with a sliding door.

Korean Air 747 First Class – Doors closed
Korean Air 747 First Class – Doors closed

Not only that, but each suite has a personal monitor that measures 34 inches, compared to 23 inches on the original Kosmo Suites, and only 17 inches on the Kosmo Sleeper.

Korean Air 747 First Class – Entertainment screen

The seat size is also the largest out of the three, with a pitch of 83 inches and a seat width that starts at 24 inches, but increases to 32 inches when in the bed position.

Korean Air 747 First Class – Seat
Korean Air 747 First Class – Seat
Korean Air 747 First Class – Bed

The older version of the Kosmo Suites is still a fantastic product, which still offers plenty of storage space and privacy, despite not having the sliding door feature.

Korean Air Kosmo Suites First Class

Lastly, the Kosmo Sleeper would be better compared with a top-of-the-line business class seat, rather than First Class.

You’ll still have the ability to turn your seat into a lie-flat bed, but you won’t be able to enjoy the same level of privacy offered on Korean Air’s best First Class products.

Korean Air Kosmo Sleeper First Class

Despite the differences, all Korean Air First Class seats come with Bose noise-cancelling headphones and high-quality pajamas to help you enjoy your flight.

Korean Air First Class – Bose noise cancelling headphones
Korean Air First Class – Pajamas

When you want to get some quality rest, Korean Air offers a premium turndown service, in which the crew will assist you with setting up a mattress pad and duvet.

Food and Drink

Similar to most First Class flights, Korean Air offers an on-demand dining service, meaning that meals are served whenever you desire.

As to be expected, you can find quintessential Korean dishes, such as bibimbap, Korean spicy pork, acorn jelly, and rice soup served with bulgogi beef.

Korean Air 747 First Class – Tuna and scallop appetizer
Korean Air 747 First Class – Bibimbap presentation
Korean Air 747 First Class – Beef bulgogi

To accompany your meal, you can choose from a wide range of beverages, including premium drinks such as Perrier-Jouët Champagne.

Korean Air 747 First Class – Champagne

If you’re hungry at any point during your flight, there are a range of snacks ready to order. While the offering may differ depending on the route you take, it’ll usually include spicy noodles, Jajangmyeon, ramen, fresh cookies, beef jerky, and sandwiches.

Korean Air 747 First Class – Ramen with side dishes

Needless to say, you should bring a big appetite with you onboard Korean Air First Class, and you certainly won’t go hungry.

Korean Air First Class Cabins

Korean Air First Class can be found on four different aircraft: the Boeing 747-8, the Airbus A380-800, the Boeing 777-300ER, and the Boeing 777-200ER.

Boeing 747-8

On the double-decker Boeing 747-8, the Kosmo Suites 2.0 are found on the main deck at the very nose of the aircraft.

There are a total of six First Class seats, set up in a 1-1 layout across three rows.

If you’re flying solo, you really can’t pick a bad seat, as all seats provide a fair amount of privacy.

Seats 1A and 1J at the very front of the cabin will experience the least amount of disturbance, as the lavatories are situated behind the First Class cabin. These seats also provide the unique opportunity of sitting at the very nose of a plane.

Korean Air 747 First Class – Cabin
Korean Air First Class – Cabin

If you’re travelling with a companion, the two of you won’t be able to sit next to each other in any of the First Class seats.

Seats 1A and 1J happen to be the closest to each other, and may be the best option if you wish to share the flying experience with a loved one.

Airbus A380-800

Similar to the Boeing 747-8, the double-decker Airbus A30-800’s First Class cabin is also found on the main deck. There are 12 of the original Kosmo Suites in a 1-2-1 layout across three rows.

If you‘re travelling by yourself, it’s hard to pick a bad seat; however, since there’s a small lounge area at the front of the cabin, it may cause more disturbance if you’re sitting in Row 1.

If you’re travelling with a companion, you’ll want to select either Seats 1D and 1E, 2D and 2E, or 3D and 3E in order to fully enjoy the shared experience with another person.

In addition to the small First Class-only lounge at the front of the main deck, there’s also a much larger bar and lounge on the upper deck. This bar is called the Celestial Bar, which is available to all First Class and business class passengers.

Korean Air A380 Celestial Bar

Boeing 777-300ER

Korean Air’s Boeing 777-300ER aircraft have seen upgrades to their First Class cabin to the Kosmo Suites or the Kosmo Suites 2.0.

With only one main level, the Boeing 777s have eight First Class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration across two rows.

If you’re travelling on your own, Seats 1A, 1J, 2A, or 2J would be the best choices, as they’re all window seats without any other seats beside you.

If you’re travelling with someone else, you’ll want to select either Seats 1D and 1E, or seats 2D and 2E.

Boeing 777-200ER

Korean Air’s Boeing 777-200ER come with the Kosmo Sleeper, which is the least desirable out of all three First Class cabin types.

The eight seats are arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration across two rows, so the seating recommendations would be exactly the same as the Boeing 777-300ER.

However, the Kosmo Sleeper seats are essentially a glorified business class product, so it’s worth avoiding the Boeing 777-200ER altogether if you can.

Korean Air First Class Routes

Korean Air offers a fair number of flights to North America with a First Class cabin. Furthermore, the airline also operates First Class to a number of other destinations in Europe, Asia, the Middle East, and Oceania.

In North America, Korean Air uses First Class-equipped aircraft to and from the following destinations:

  • Los Angeles
  • Las Vegas 
  • San Francisco 
  • Seattle 
  • Chicago
  • Atlanta 
  • Washington
  • New York (JFK)
  • Boston

Note that while all of Korean Air’s Airbus A380-800s and Boeing 747-8s have First Class cabins, not all of their Boeing 777-300ER aircraft have First Class cabins.

Furthermore, Korean Air may change the aircraft on a route after it’s been assigned, and there may be more or less First Class options as a result. You’ll want to check your specific desired flight on a certain date to see if the First Class cabin is being offered.

How to Redeem Points for Korean Air First Class

Even though Korean Air is a part of the SkyTeam airline alliance, they only allow First Class seats to be booked with Korean Air’s own SKYPASS miles (in line with a SkyTeam-wide policy of member airlines largely keeping First Class redemptions off-limits to partners).

While this makes it fairly difficult to book Korean Air First Class on points, it also means that there will be significantly less competition for award seats if you’re able to earn Korean Air SKYPASS miles.

On top of that, Korean Air consistently releases a generous amount of First Class award space, compared to other aspirational products out there.

The major challenge is that there simply aren’t many options for earning Korean Air SKYPASS miles. The easiest way for North American travellers would be to transfer Marriott Bonvoy points at a ratio of 3:1, with a bonus of 5,000 SKYPASS miles for every 60,000 Bonvoy points transferred.

If you have access to US credit cards, you have a couple more options. US Bank offers three co-branded Korean Air credit cards, with two personal cards and one small business card.

Lastly, crediting paid fares with SkyTeam (especially discounted business class fare sales, of which there are plenty throughout any given year) can also be a great way to build up your SKYPASS balance. 

When it comes time to redeem, Korean Air currently uses an award chart with peak and off-peak pricing, along with a seasonality calendar to determine peak and off-peak dates.

Note that the below prices are for round-trip itineraries, and the cost is cut in half for one-ways.

A one-way off-peak First Class flight to or from Korea and North America, Europe, the Middle East, or Oceania costs 80,000 SKYPASS miles plus applicable taxes and fees.

(If you were to convert this balance entirely from Marriott Bonvoy points, it’d be equivalent to 195,000 Bonvoy points.)

Note that tickets issued on or after April 1, 2023 will be subject to an entirely different award chart. The updated chart has 10 zones, based on mileage flown, rather than on regions as seen in the current chart.

More specifically, flights between North America and Korea will fall in Zone 7 (for Honolulu), Zone 8 (for destinations in the Western US), and Zone 9 (for destinations in the Eastern US).

The new award chart as of April 1, 2023 will result in a significant increase in the miles required for a Korean Air First Class redemption.

Under the current award chart, 80,000 SKYPASS miles are required for an off-peak First Class flight between Korea and Western US cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco.

With the new award chart, these cities will fall into Zone 8, and you’ll have to spend 120,000 SKYPASS miles for the same First Class flight.

If you’re flying to or from Korea and one of the Eastern North American cities, such as New York, or Chicago, your route will be placed in Zone 9.

Once the new chart kicks in, you’d need a staggering 135,000 SKYPASS miles for a one-way off-peak First Class flight, which is an increase of 55,000 SKYPASS miles from the current cost.

While the increase may hurt, you still have up until March 31, 2023 to make your booking under the old chart. As long as the ticket is issued, you’ll still fall under the current award chart, which is among the cheapest price points for flying First Class across the Pacific.

Korean Air First Class Award Availability

In order to find Korean Air First Class award availability, search on koreanair.com and select “Mileage Booking”. You’ll need to create a SKYPASS account if you don’t already have one.

From there, you simply select your destination and desired dates.

If you choose “Flexible Dates”, you’ll be shown a one-month calendar, where you can quickly view available First Class seats. Look for a light blue “F” in the search results, which indicates First Class award availability.

As is the case with all First Class seats bookable with miles, you’ll want to plan far in advance. However, Korean Air releases a fair number of last-minute First Class seats, so you won’t have as hard of a time as with other First Class products.

It isn’t uncommon to see as many as five First Class seats available the day before on a popular route, such as New York JFK to Seoul.

Tips & Tricks for Korean Air First Class

If you’ve built up enough SKYPASS miles and are eyeing down one of the many Korean Air First Class seats available, you’ll want to try and fly during the off-peak season. 

The difference in miles required is significant, increasing from 80,000 miles on off-peak dates to 120,000 miles during the peak season.

If you want to get the full experience out of Korean Air First Class, you’ll definitely want to fly on the Boeing 747-8, which has the newest Kosmo Suites 2.0 and the unique opportunity of flying in the nose of the plane.

Failing that, the Airbus A380-800 would be a fine choice as well, which has the original Kosmo Suite but also the famous Celestial Bar.

Lastly, note that you’ll generally have access to First Class ground facilities at all connection points along your ticket.

For example, if you were flying First Class from North America to Seoul and then onwards to your final destination in business class, you’d have access to the Korean Air First Class Lounge in Seoul during your layover.

However, if your journey ended in Seoul, you wouldn’t get to experience Korean Air’s flagship First Class lounge. Make sure to plan your itinerary accordingly if you’d like to maximize your experience. 

Conclusion

Korean Air First Class is a fantastic way to cross the Pacific if you have access to a meaningful quantity of Korean Air SKYPASS miles. 

This First Class experience showcases amazing Korean food at 35,000 feet within a fully-enclosed Kosmo Suites 2.0 hard product. If you can snag a seat on the Boeing 747-8, you’ll also enjoy the novelty of flying in the nose of the “Queen of the Skies”, too. 

With lots of award availability from major North American cities and a generous award chart for bookings made before April 1, 2023, now is perhaps the best time to scrape together enough SKYPASS miles to experience Korean Air First Class before it gets more expensive. 

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