Korean Air – Yes or No?

Like most travellers, I have my favourite airlines.

My “go-to” airlines. The biggest thing I do when planning a trip is to compare prices between my favourites.

But I love reading a good review and that is what I have aimed for here.

I am happy to be swayed from my regular choices if it suits my comfort levels and budget. Read on and find out what I think of Korean Air and why I think they should be your next choice.

Why Fly Korean Air?

I was penny-pinching on my last trip. Budget travel does not come easily to me. But I was off to walk the Camino Frances, and I wanted to see how little I could spend.

As always, I researched my flights first, then I used my travel agent to do the booking. Yes, I can book it myself, but why not share the love around. I would book directly with the airline anyway, so why not use my travel agent and we can all benefit in some small way by my purchase.

It was the travel agent who suggested I look at Korean Air. A client had flown with them and had loved the experience.

I had never given Korean Air any thought. I didn’t know anyone who had flown with them.

The upside was the price. There was a $400 difference (for my selected flights) between my favourite airlines and Korean Air. That was enough to convince me.

The downside was a 20-hour layover in Seoul. However, the airline offers a free stopover with a stay at the Grand Hyatt Incheon, only a 15-minute shuttle ride from the airport.

So, would I fly Korean Air again? Let’s find out.

Details of My Flights 

  • Flying from Sydney to Paris on 28 October with a return flight from Madrid to Sydney on 17 December 2019. 
  • Flying Economy  
  • I paid $1101 for my return flight 
  • Flying times 
    • Sydney to Seoul – 10 hours, 50 minutes 
    • Seoul to Paris – 12 hours, 30 minutes 
    • Madrid to Seoul – 12 hours 
    • Seoul to Sydney – 10 hours, 10 minutes 

What I Disliked 

In-Flight Entertainment 

In-Flight Entertainment was limited. 

I like to catch up on movies when I fly. Although there were a few of interest, there wasn’t the usual variety I have found on other airlines.

But it wasn’t an issue. I had downloaded movies on my phone via my Netflix, so I was good to go in the distraction department. 

Timing of Flights 

The timing of some of my flights was not ideal.  

I prefer to fly out late afternoon or night. I find it easier to sleep. I suffer from jetlag badly so I do what I can to make things easier on my body. 

On my first flight from Sydney to Seoul, I flew out at 9 am. I stayed in an airport hotel the night before, not wanting to leave home in the middle of the night to get to the airport on time. The extra night accommodation was a small dent in my penny-pinching budget.

My body protested going to sleep on that flight. 

However, it did mean I arrived at 5.50 pm in Seoul, and by the time I arrived at the hotel and ate a light dinner, I was ready for bed and got a good night sleep. 

Plus I slept in and dawdled around in the morning as I didn’t fly out until 2 pm. 

I usually make it a rule to not arrive at a destination at night, especially when I am not sure where I am going, and I have to catch public transport. 

That was not an option on this trip. I arrived in Paris at 6.30 pm and then caught the train into the city. I arrived at my hotel at 9 pm in the dark and rain.

I didn’t have a lot of options for this trip, but it’s not something I would like to do again.  

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What I Loved

Legroom

Oh, my goodness. I had read that Economy class on Korean Air had a lot of legroom.

I admit I was dubious.  

I am 175 cm tall. I usually feel like a sardine. Wedged into my seat, my knees pressing into the seat in front.  

But I had 10 cm between my knees and the seat in front. Happy days!

Bathrooms 

I hate public toilets. It’s a thing with me. I knew on this trip (walking the Camino for 40+ days and staying in hostels) I would have to get over that.

When flying, I can usually time it so I only have to go once, maybe twice on each leg. I know, it can’t be good for my bladder. 

Not this time. The attendants were continually going in and tidying up. These were the cleanest toilets I have seen on a plane.  

The only exception was the last leg of my trip home. We had a lot of turbulence, and the unfortunate crew were trying to get everything done in between seat belt signs dinging off and on. But even that flight was to a better standard than others I have experienced. 

Water 

It’s easy to stay hydrated. 

There is a bottle of water waiting at your seat. The crew regularly come around with water and juice. 

Together with my own bottle of water, I was well hydrated, a rare occurrence when I fly. I usually have a massive headache by the time I land. 

Food 

I don’t mind airline food. But in recent years some of the airlines have been sorely lacking in the appetizing department.  

The food on Korean Air was great. There were Korean and Western-style meals available. I love trying new food, so when Bibimbap (Korean rice dish) was offered I took it. 

The attendant checked if I had eaten it before. I received an instruction card on how to put it together. I loved it!!! 

That meant I could try the other options on other flights, not getting bored with the same meals. The desserts were the best I have had flying. 

Yep, the pep talk I had with myself about eating clean and healthy went out the window the minute I saw that cake. So much for willpower! 

Bibimbap – before
Bibimbap – after

Flight Attendants 

I think we have all encountered the grumpy, if not downright rude, attendants. I get it; the job would suck.  

Not on Korean Air. The attendants are polite, helpful and efficient. I could not fault them. 

How the Free Stopover works 

Because Korean Air doesn’t have a direct flight from Australia to Europe, they offer a free stopover. 

It was so easy and much better than expected. 

The image below outlines the process.  

The Grand Hyatt is lovely, well-appointed. The bed was very comfortable and bathroom and shower a delight after a long haul flight. As were the robes and slippers.

Breakfast is included, and it was fabulous with an extensive selection of both Korean and Western-style foods. The staff were friendly and helpful. 

Dinner is not included. Room service is very, very expensive. I opted for this; I just wanted something light to eat. 

However, because your credit card details are not required upon arrival, paying became a bit difficult. 

If you think you would like to opt for room service during your stay, I suggest giving your credit card details at check-in.  

The only clothes I had with me were for hiking. Not very stylish at all, so I wasn’t comfortable going to the restaurant. 

If I did this again, I would make sure I packed more clothes options. 

Tip: You need to heed the signs not to put toilet paper in the toilet but in the bin. Don’t defy it. The toilet will block. If putting paper in the bin grosses you out, take biodegradable nappy bags. You might be smarter than me and work out how to use all the functions on the control panel next to the toilet. I was at a loss. 

Grand Hyatt Incheon Foyer

Baggage Allowance 

I carried on my backpack and a bum bag (fanny pack). Don’t judge me. I was walking the Camino!! 

Carry on luggage must fit in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you. As well as your personal item (overcoat, laptop, purse), your carry on bag should weigh no more than 12 kg and be no bigger than 115 cm. 

No one measured or weighed my backpack, although I knew it was within the limits. Before a flight to Italy in 2018, my carry on suitcase and handbag were both weighed on a couple of my flights (Etihad), but not all of them.  

It seems some airlines are doing this and others are not and even the ones who are, are not consistent.  

I would suggest if you are taking carry on luggage, make sure it is within the airline’s requirements because you just don’t know if, and when, they will weigh it.

And no one wants surprises when they least expect it. 

You are allowed two bags checked luggage up to a combined weight of 23 kg. 

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Korean Air – Yes or No? 

Yes! Absolutely. 

Even though some of the flight times are not ideal, the overall experience was great, especially when I am saving money. 

The ample room in Economy alone will keep me coming back. It was the first time I didn’t feel anxiety creeping up when I sat in my seat. It was downright roomy! 

Throw in the lower price tag, and I am sold.  

Have you flown Korean Air? 

I am dying to hear if you have flown Korean Air and what you thought. What were the reasons you chose Korean Air? What was your favourite and least favourite thing about them?

I hope this article was helpful. Let me know what other types of posts you would enjoy reading.

Cindy x

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Cindy Reid

Cindy is the founder of Travel Charm and her exclusive Travel Club. She is passionate about travel and planning and loves nothing more than helping travellers plan their best trips and fulfil their travel dreams.

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