Korean Air’s First Class Experience

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

By now, you’ve all probably heard of Korean Air’s former vice president’s “nut-rage” tantrum. For those of you unfamiliar with bizarre case, Heather Cho, the eldest daughter of the airline’s chairman, was traveling first class in an Incheon-bound flight on Dec. 5 when she forced a taxiing plane to return to the terminal to boot off the chief flight attendant for serving macadamia nuts in a package and not on a dish.

While news and media outlets have extensively covered the charges against Cho, her recent indictment and the influence of South Korea’s chaebols, this writer still had one question left to ask: What kind of plate does Korean Air demand its nuts to be served on?

Is it a styrofoam plate? Plastic? Ceramic? Funnily enough, most of the news sites didn’t mention this small detail.

Since I have never flown first class on an international flight before, I had no context regarding what kind of immaculate first-class service Korean Air provided. Therefore, I couldn’t understand what the big fuss was about serving nuts on a plate. This prompted me to wonder just how high Korean Air’s standards were for excellent onboard service. What’s it like to travel first class on this prestigious airline anyway?

My curiosity eventually led me to a detailed review of a 2014 Korean Air flight on the website BoardingArea. According to the seasoned airline reviewer, Korean Air’s first class service was “phenomenal” and ranked it as one of the best in the world. Below are some photos that reveal glimpses into Korean Air’s high-end service.


Each Korean Air’s first class pod comes with a personal LCD monitors, extendable shields for additional privacy and has more leg room than a college dorm room bed.


First class seats also have storage compartments inside arm rests for passengers to store personal items, such as glasses, wallets and passports.


As soon as the passengers settle into their seats, flight attendants offer them several amenities: noise canceling headphones, pajamas, slippers, facial mist, hand & body cream, lotion, eye cream, eye gel, lip balm and a toothbrush set.

Korean-Air-A380-First-Class-024Korean Air’s first class pajamas were designed by Gianfranco Ferré.  According to the reviewer, the sleepwear is made of incredibly soft material. There’s even a Konglish quote embroidered on the back of the shirt that reads, “Tonight.. My dream… Fly… Good night.”


Here are the notorious, pre-departure macadamia nuts. As you can see, the nuts are served in a small ceramic bowl, allegedly following the airline’s nut service policy. Notice the painted flower near the bowl’s rim. That is one fancy bowl for a couple of macadamia nuts.


Once the seatbelt sign turns off, flight attendants distribute menus and wine lists. The flight serves a Western or Korean meal set in several courses: amuse-bouche, appetizer, soup, salad, main course, cheese tray, seasonal fruits, desert and coffee/tea. Hot towels are given to passengers before each meal.

Korean-Air-A380-First-Class-050First class amuse-bouche: marinated apple in pomegranate with garlic cream cheese stuffed prosciutto ham

Korean-Air-A380-First-Class-0531First class appetizer: cold seafood with fresh fruit marinated with mulberry yogurt sauce

Korean-Air-A380-First-Class-0541First class soup: black rice and walnut porridge

Korean-Air-A380-First-Class-056All salads are made from scratch by the flight attendants.

Korean-First-Class-Sao-Paulo-062First class Korean main course: bibimbap

Korean-First-Class-Sao-Paulo-063First class bibimbap

Korean-Air-A380-First-Class-0591First class dessert: tiramisu with ice cream

Korean-Air-A380-First-Class-0771Korean Air’s business class bar

Korean-Air-A380-First-Class-084Korean Air’s duty free display has as many skin care products as a cosmetic store.

After glancing at some of the amazing amenities Korean Air provides, it’s clear that the airline has ridiculously high standards for its first class and expects its flight attendants to be meticulous with details. With this context in mind, Cho’s anger at the flight attendant over incorrectly serving nuts is not completely unwarranted.

However, was the mistake worth forcing a flight attendant off the plane and violating aviation safety laws? Could Cho have disciplined her subordinates after the flight, without resorting to those antics? Regardless, Cho now faces a possible 15-year prison sentence if she is found guilty of all charges, according to prosecutors.

To learn more about Korean Air’s first class service, you can visit BoardingArea.com.


Photos courtesy of Lucky/BoardingArea.com