Who would’ve guessed that I would go from *broke from student loans* to *flying my first first class flight* just three years later? I’m very grateful for the beauty and strategy behind travel hacking. The fact that I could treat myself after paying for my college tuition (for my foreign readers, yes, Americans pay an exorbitant amount for college, even for public school with highly selective criteria) and living expenses 100% out of my own pocket was really my light at the end of the tunnel. Also, this treat only cost me $200. After accumulating a ton of points (read about how you can do it here!), the flight was technically free but taxes and fees added up to $200.

So, where did we fly first class? We flew back to the US from Shanghai, China. We chose first class on Korean Airlines.  Korean Airlines seemed like an easy choice given it’s good reputation.

Before we cover the experience of sitting in first class on the plane, let’s start with the lounge experience on the ground.

The Lounge

Wow! What a classy area. There was a massage chair in a private frosted glass room with an automatic door. I could’ve gotten a glass of wine and sat in that massage chair all day long. But of course I couldn’t sit there all day or else how would I enjoy the gourmet food selections? There was a menu for traditional Korean soup and also a westernized selection with steak. I had some pasta which wasn’t just your plain old pasta. It was good pasta. I cleaned my plate up. The pasta and the Korean bulgogi were made-to-order. There was plenty of wine, beer, and soju. They had a high end selection of wine and spirits.

shrimp pasta

Shrimp Pasta: I ordered this from a server, so the chef prepared this dish on a made-to-order basis!


bottega gold wine first class lounge korean airlines

Bottega Gold: poured me a glass of this bubbly 🙂


remy martin xo jack daniels whiskey ballantines

Remy Martin XO, Jack Daniels, Ballantines


korean bulgogi soon tofu

Korean Bulgogi (beef) with soon tofu soup

The Seats

Now, let’s get onto the main event: the seats! You get your own fully reclining seat with an automated retractable wall. It creates a sense of exclusion and luxury in a plane.

Plenty of compartments for your things which is great but if you’re paranoid like me about forgetting an item in an obscure covered compartment then probably not that great! 🙂


First Class Seat in Korean Airlines


My fully reclining travel buddy!


The retractable wall was a bit slow but it still served its purpose.


The pajamas by Italian fashion designer Gianfranco Ferre were soft and cooling. I tend to run pretty hot (read: sweaty) so the material was just right for me. Also the toiletries bag was sturdy and felt pretty luxe. It came with a mineral water spray that I loved given how dry it is in an airplane. Other things the Davi goodie bag came with include

  • cooling eye gel
  • after shave lotion (why would a female need this? oh shoot, we’re supposed to shave? I always forget about this because I never do… What I mean is that I never have to)
  • moisturizing lip balm
  • hand & body cream
  • sleeping eye mask
  • face cream
  • toothbrush and tooth paste
  • Korean Airlines branded shoe horn

Aside from the Davi bag, they also provided Bose head phones for the duration of the flight. I found the noise cancelling capability to be very helpful for the flight. The background noise of the flight always prevents me from sleeping.

Davi bag

Davi bag


Gian Franc Ferre pajamas

Gianfranco Ferre pajamas


Due to the time of our flight, the first service was breakfast. It was pretty standard but with great variety.

breakfast menu

Breakfast menu


The real show stopper of the food service: dinner. I was given the option for the Korean or the Western. Why not try both?

dinner menu

Dinner Menu


Smoked Salmon with Apple


Red bell pepper soup

Red bell pepper soup


Salad tossed TABLE SIDE!


Rib eye steak

Rib eye steak


Cheese plates

Cheese plate – I just ordered some brie with fruit


One thing about this fruit plate: they cut all those slices (see picture directly above) for just two people sitting in first class. Two. People. We were the only ones in the first class cabin. Amazing service. I hope they got to eat some!

Here are the Korean plates that I ordered from the Korean menu (aka Hansik Jeongchan) in addition to the Western dishes I enjoyed above:

spicy chicken salad with mustard dressing Hansik Jeongchan

Spicy Chicken Salad with Mustard Dressing


Hansik Jeongchan Crabmeat Soybean Paste Porridge

Crabmeat Soybean Paste Porridge


Bulgogi with water dropwort soup Hansik Jeongchan



The Bulgogi (a traditional Korean dish of marnated beef served with a variety of vegetables that accentuate its roasted flavor and create a harmony of taste and colors) included side dishes:

  • seasoned deodeok root with chili vinegar sauce
  • sauteed anchovies with mixed nuts
  • shrimp and seaweed salad
  • bellflower roots with wild sesasme sauce
  • braised wild sesame leaves
  • water dropwort clear soup: a soup of water dropwort, a spring vegetable that can detoxify the body, slightly cooked in beef broth

There was also an entire coffee menu that offered

  • Espresso
  • Americano
  • Caffee latte
  • Cappucino
  • Espresso Macchiato

The Wine

A portion of the wine list with their most aged wines:

wine list

Wine List


Cocktail, Spirits & Brandy


straight glass of Remy Martin XO Cognac

I chose to have a straight glass of Remy Martin XO Cognac


For my dinner I chose to have a glass of Perrier-Jouet Belle Epoque 2008.

The Service

The flight attendants were super attentive and very accommodating with all of our requests. They were very friendly and very accessible. I enjoyed interacting with them very much… I feel like we had bonded on this flight with just us in the first class cabin, but I know we’ll probably never see them again. Of course, that’s a mark of exceptional service.

The Verdict? Glorious!

I found Korean Airlines first class to be glorious. I used to dread flying to Asia from the US because of the long flight. It felt like torture having to sit in a stuffy, dry cabin for 16+ hours with snoring and/or crying adults and/or children who were just as uncomfortable as I was if not more. I also tend to be very sensitive to dry air, so flying in an airplane for an extended time would be very unpleasant to say the least… But after this first class experience, I would totally fly to Asia again!

From the amazing entertainment choices to the comforting food selections, it was well worth the wait and effort for this long haul flight. I’d fly Korean Airlines again. Wouldn’t you??

For my airplane travel enthusiasts, I tapped my awesome travel buddy for the details on the airplanes. For the first leg of our flight (layover in Seoul) we were seated in a Sleeper A330-200. Then for the second leg of the flight where most of the first class action happened (from Seoul to LA) we were seated in the first class cabin of the Kosmo Suites Airbus A 380-800.

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