It was eerily quiet in Seoul Incheon Airport’s Terminal 2 when I stepped off Korean Air First Class at the early hour of 5:30am. My flight to Beijing wouldn’t be boarding for another four hours or so, and I intended to pass the time in the Korean Air First Class Lounge Seoul.
Generally speaking, First Class lounges are usually open to passengers who are departing in First Class, as well as those who have just travelled in First Class and are waiting for their next flight, even if it’s in a different class of service.
Korean Air’s flagship lounge is no exception, so I would be able to access it as a connecting passenger, and I hoped to have a better experience here in Korean Air’s hub airport than I did in the downright disappointing Korean Air First Class Lounge New York JFK.
After clearing transit security, I needed to make my way to the lounge at the far opposite side of the terminal. Thankfully, Incheon Airport’s new Terminal 2 is a gorgeous building, and it was a real pleasure to stroll through its relatively empty departure hall en route to the lounge.
On all previous occasions that I’ve flown through Seoul, I was travelling with Asiana Airlines via their base in the significantly older Terminal 1, so it was cool to check out Korean Air’s turf in the newer Terminal 2 as well.
Eventually, I arrived at the escalator to access the Korean Air First Class and Miler Club Lounges. After verifying my documents, the front desk representative invited me into the First Class section of the lounge to my left.
There was also a model airplane of a Korean Air Boeing 747-8 on display, which was a nice reminder of the plane I had just arrived on.
(For what it’s worth, the other side of the check-in desk leads to the Miler Club Lounge, which is the designated lounge for Korean Air’s mid-to-top-tier elite members that’s similar to, but separate from, their Prestige Lounges for business class passengers.)
Anyway, the First Class Lounge leads you down a long hallway, where you’ll find some the Signature Suite, some lockers, and a newspaper rack. The Signature Suite appears to be a private room that’s reserved for VIPs only, a feature shared by many First Class lounges around the world.
The hallway brings you to the main sitting area, with the dining space located just around the corner at the far side of the room.
I quite liked the wavy pattern on the dropped ceiling, as well as the emphasis on light marble on the walls and floor, both of which contributed to a heightened sense of luxury and elegance that was sorely missing from the lounge in New York.
(It’s my understanding that this lounge only opened in the last year or so, and had replaced the older First Class Lounge that had similarly drab and outdated design and furniture. Hopefully this will be indicative of Korean Air’s plans to renew their other lounges around the world as well.)
The seating area consists of about 20 intimate seating booths, which matches the expectation of privacy that First Class passengers are likely to have. Most of the booths were designed for a single occupant, offering a side table with full charging capabilities, a reading light, and sometimes an ottoman to put your feet up.
There were also some booths with recliner chairs, where you could sit back and take a nap if you wanted. As the first guest in the lounge this morning, I posted up in one of these recliner booths, even though I never actually ended up taking a nap.
For passengers travelling together, there were private booths for groups of two and four passengers as well, which would allow you to face each other.
Some of the seats were positioned against the floor-to-ceiling windows, although there weren’t any tarmac views to speak of; instead, the lounge simply overlooked the rest of the Terminal 2 concourse.
Upon settling in to my seat, a staff member was quick to welcome me to the lounge and ask if I wanted anything to drink. I started the day with a black coffee, and would also order several cappuccinos throughout the rest of my time here.
Then, I went to check out the food offerings. Korean Air provides an à la carte menu combined with a light buffet spread, although they don’t make this very clear, so at first I thought that the buffet was all there was.
The spread was quite limited indeed: a handful of pastries, a yogurt and fruit station, a few cuts of cheese, and some mixed nuts and snacks seemingly represented all of the breakfast items on offer.
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Then, among the items that were decidedly less suitable for breakfast, there was Häagen-Dazs ice cream and a variety of liquor, including champagne, wine, spirits, and Korean soju.
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Returning to my seat with a paltry plate of croissants and cheeses in hand, I was genuinely quite confused at the sparse food offerings until about 30 minutes later, when a staff member approached me with a tablet and asked if I wanted to order any real food.
Ah, so that’s how it’s done! I didn’t get a picture of it, but the tablet menu consisted of several varieties of Korean and Western dishes that I could order, which would be prepared in the kitchen and brought over to my seat. After mulling it over, I decided to order a galbitang breakfast (Korean beef short rib soup), along with some blueberry pancakes on the side.
The breakfast was delivered in about 20 minutes’ time. The galbitang was served with rice, steamed egg, and a fried fish fillet as side dishes, all of which were pretty appetizing.
The real highlight, however, must’ve been the blueberry pancakes. Man, these must have been some of the softest, fluffiest, and tastiest pancakes I’ve ever had, which I certainly wasn’t expecting from an airport lounge in Korea of all places!
I could cut through the entire stack of pancakes with one swipe of my fork, and finished off the entire plate in a matter of minutes.
It’s definitely quite nice that the lounge offers à la carte dining; however, it did seem like a pretty major oversight to me that there wasn’t a dedicated sit-down dining section, which meant that we all had to eat from our seating booths while hunched over the side table.
After breakfast, with about two hours to go until boarding, I decided to work on my laptop for a while. Another weakness of the lounge was that it lacked a office space with desks and workstations, which meant that I could only work from my lap, and I saw several other passengers doing the same.
What other facilities does the lounge have, then? Well, there’s a massage treatment room that’s situated behind a frosted glass pane near the dining section, but instead of complimentary spa treatments or anything like that, there’s a single electric massage chair for passengers to use.
As with many other aspects of the Korean Air First Class experience, this feature seemed like it catered more to Korean luxury sensibilities than Western ones, which is of course perfectly understandable.
The lounge’s restrooms were modern, spacious, and well-appointed, taking the form of two large individual rooms, one for each gender.
Before leaving the lounge, I decided to take a shower as well, partly to freshen up after a 14-hour overnight flight, but also partly out of curiosity as to what the shower rooms looked like.
Since there was only one room available, I was instructed to wait a while for it to be cleaned, and then I was shown to the shower room.
The shower room was actually extremely luxurious, and was definitely among the highlights of this lounge. It featured an illuminated shower wall, a closet for hanging up your clothes, glossy surfaces on all the walls, and a comprehensive set of amenities that included shaving cream and skin toner.
I imagine that a similarly upscale set of female amenities would have been stocked for any female passengers wishing to use the shower room as well.
I took my time enjoying a cleansing shower, and remarked to myself how this must’ve been one of the best First Class Lounge shower rooms I’ve come across, ranking just behind Cathay Pacific The Wing’s famous “cabanas” and the Lufthansa First Class Terminal’s bathtub experience.
Finishing up my shower just as boarding time was called for my Beijing-bound flight, I made my way back through the lounge, waved goodbye to the staff members who had taken great care of me for the past few hours, and headed for the gate.
COVID-19 had only just taken hold in China as this point, so I donned my face mask as I embarked on the rather unremarkable Korean Air Airbus A330 business class flight that would bring me to Beijing.
I was only taking a slight precaution against what seemed like a localized outbreak at the time, and certainly couldn’t have expected how things have turn out since!
Korean Air’s flagship First Class lounge in Seoul is a significant improvement compared to their New York location, successfully evoking a sense of luxury through its tasteful marble surfaces, private seating booths, well-executed à la carte dining, and a gorgeous shower room.
The lounge does suffer from a few notable shortcomings, though, as it doesn’t offer dedicated dining tables for guests to enjoy their meals comfortably, nor an office-type setting for guests wishing to work.
As far as First Class lounges go, Korean Air’s offering can be described in the same way as its actual First Class onboard product: an impressive showing, but still with plenty of distance to go until it can be mentioned in the same breath as the world’s biggest names.