- Introduction: Constructing — and Re-constructing — the Award Trip
- American Eagle DC – New York and the New Nicest JFK Airport Hotel, the Hilton
- Cathay Pacific First Class, JFK – Hong Kong
- The Wing lounge in Hong Kong and Cathay Pacific Business Class Hong Kong – Kuala Lumpur
- Grand Hyatt Kuala Lumpur
- Malaysia Airlines Business Class, Kuala Lumpur – Langkawi
- The Andaman Langkawi
- Malaysia Airlines Business Class, Langkawi – Kuala Lumpur
- Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur
- Things to See and Do in Kuala Lumpur
- Korean Air First Class, Kuala Lumpur – Seoul and the Korean Air First Class Lounge Seoul
- Korean Air First Class, Seoul – Washington Dulles
After a 50 minute straight shot out to the airport we were at KLIA again, and walked straight up to the Korean Air check-in counter.
The check-in process was long and involved, with the agent having to find first class boarding pass stock and also having to verify the credit card used to pay for taxes and even requiring me to sign a document related to the credit card (even though at booking I also had to sign documents authorizing the redemption of miles for the account). There’s about as much paperwork involved in a Korean Air Skypass redemption as there is in refinancing an underwater rental property.
With boarding passes in hand it was through security, passport control (we were given fast track passes at checkin though the lines weren’t terribly long either way), and down to the airport train out.
Up the escalator to the upper level where the lounges are situated, Korean provided a lounge pass for the Malaysia Airlines satellite lounge which had both a business and first class side. Our pass was good for the first class lounge.
We walked past the seated dining area and buffet and found some comfortable chairs near the window looking out over the rather quiet airport operations. We were immediately greeted with hot towels and presented a menu.
The lounge was fairly quiet. At this point it was about 9:30pm and I was getting tired. I plugged in my computer having drawn down the battery a bit in the hotel lounge (which had no easily accessible outlets) and wanted to be fully charged for the flight since I’d be on an older 747 without seat power. The I had picked my seat based on available power, which used the local British connections but I had anticipated that an had adapters in my laptop bag.
I didn’t get much done, though, since the lounge had some of the slowest internet I’ve ever had — even worse than at the Andaman days earlier. So after awhile I walked back towards the dining area to check out the buffet.
I wasn’t really hungry but had to try the lobster tail. It was a bit overcooked and a bit heavily doused in sauce but still a novelty to have lobster in a lounge, while I’ve had lobster onboard a few times (notably on Singapore Airlines and on Thai on multiple occasions) I can’t remember having any in an airport lounge previously.
At around 10:30pm I headed to the gate. The flight was in ‘last call’ even though it was still 50 minutes to takeoff. I’ve accustomed never to go to the gate in Asia before last call since they direct people to the gates incredibly early at nearly all Asian airports. Probably like setting your alarm clock time ahead to try to trick yourself into getting up, only you pretty quickly make the mental adjustment.
Except in this case I arrived at the gate and boarding actually was underway (not that I had to be there yet). There was security screening to get into the gate area and the line was snaked around for that, although it moved reasonably quickly.
When I had checked the loads a few days earlier there was supposed to be one other person on the flight in first class. When I boarded I discovered we were alone in the cabin, something I hadn’t had since February of 2011 (for Chicago – Tokyo on ANA and Bangkok – Tokyo on Thai). I suppose it’s not surprising that a Saturday night redeye from Kuala Lumpur to Seoul wouldn’t have other passengers flying in first.
Menus, noise cancelling headphones, slippers, eye shades and ear plugs were distributed. There were no pajamas and no formal amenity kits.
Here’s the menu for the flight:
Chicken teriyaki skewer served with teriyaki sauce
Korean style shrimp rice porridge served with side dishes
Scrambled egg with chive cream served with potato onion cake and vegetables
Egg noodle soup with squid ad vegetables
Seasonal Fresh Fruit
Croissant, blueberry muffin, apricot Danish, whit soft roll
Selection of jam and butter
Coffee / Tea / Green Tea / Ginseng Tea
I knew not to expect pajamas on this six hour overnight flight so I came prepared with my own. Immediately after takeoff I went into the lavatory to change into my American Airlines PJs. The Korean Air flight attendant was right there when I emerged to take my clothes and hang them up.
She asked whether I wanted to be woken for breakfast two hours prior to arrival, I said no. If I was asleep I definitely wanted to sleep as long as possible. The flight isn’t quite long enough and I fully intended to get the most rest possible.
She also asked whether I wanted to have the meal immediately instead of prior to arrival and I declined, I really just wanted to go to sleep. Which is why I think it’s almost fitting that the only food scheduled to be served at the outset was a chicken skewer. It wasn’t much though, and had I not eaten a bit in the lounge prior to takeoff I might have taken them up on the offer to have breakfast right away. I didn’t want more food, but I would have liked to see them have the option of more food considering this is international first class.
After this modest snack I reclined my seat into fully flat position. The seat isn’t a suite, there’s really not privacy to speak of. And it’s a bit on the narrow side. But it did go completely flat. The flight attendant had brought around blankets earlier and I used mine to cover the seat. I asked for a second blanket and took a second pillow from one of the unoccupied seats. Now I had a bed, I was in pajamas, so I was ready to sleep. And that’s exactly what I did.
I woke up 52 minutes prior to arrival. A flight attendant quickly came up to me and I asked about breakfast, which earlier had been proposed for two hours prior to landing. She hesitated, had a momentary pause, and then assured that it would be no problem. I was offered the full 3-course (main, yogurt, fruit) treatment but opted only for the eggs.
I finished my breakfast about 25 minutes out of Seoul, changed back into my clothes, and we were on the ground quickly. I didn’t have a ton of experience with the flight crew since I slept for most of the flight, but I was really pleased despite the old cabin and old style seating and despite the limited menu options. The flight attendants were cheerful, helpful, and responsive. It really was a perfect redeye.
Once up to the gate we walked through to transit security where there was no line to speak of, and were inside the terminal quickly. We took the escalator upstairs where we were greeted into the first class lounge. My mission was going to be a shower right away.
The bath amenities — shared large bottles, and not of premium products — struck me as cheap for a first class lounge at an Asian airline’s hub airport. But otherwise the shower room was fine.
The one item I had failed to pack on the trip was the power cord for my razor, but it held a charge sufficient to shave every day of the trip up to this point. In the lounge shower though I turned on the shaver and found that the battery was dead. Which gave me a challenge, and an opportunity. See, this is something I’m almost embarrassed to admit. When I first started shaving it was with an electric razor. No one ever taught me to shave and it wasn’t a part of any growing up ritual. Up until this point I had never shaved with a blade.
But there, sitting in the shower room, was a packaged disposal razor blade. I decided to use it.
It wasn’t a very good blade, the look and feel was cheap and truly one-time use disposable, so probably not the best first-time tool. But I figured, “how hard could this be?” and gave it a shot. And it worked. Beautifully. There was one spot where I was probably a bit rough on my face but it recovered quickly. I had a nice clean shave. I’ll have to try this again!
Finished with my shower I headed back into the lounge. There were massage chairs near the showers.
It was an open, airy, and uncrowded lounge with plenty of seating.
And a nice view of airport operations.
But it was otherwise fairly unremarkable. There was dim sum on the buffet, no table service, and while I snacked on the Asian items I wasn’t especially hungry in any case.
One thing I did find interesting about Korean’s ground service — at least as it’s presented on the website — is that they distinguish between paid first class and awards/upgrades. First class passengers departing from Seoul or connecting through Seoul to or from the U.S. There’s a meet and greet service for paid first class passengers, from checkin through to the lounge and gate if originating in Seoul, or from arrival in Seoul to the lounge and then gate if connecting. But not if you’re on an award ticket, so no one was there to meet me. Curious if this would be available on request rather than automatically, I asked about this in the lounge and the attendant there seemed genuinely not to know what I was talking about.
However there is a hidden benefit to the first class lounge, and that’s personalized baggage tags on request. I asked this same attendant about that and she happily provided them. She asked for my boarding pass (which had my name and Korean Sypass number on it), went to work, and then delivered two metal luggage tags with my name and account number.
After a shower, snack, and some luggage tags it was time to head over to the gate for my final flight home.