Flight test: Korean Air economy class

Route Sydney to Vladivostok via Seoul.

Aircraft Boeing 747-400 from Sydney to Seoul; Boeing 737-800 from Seoul to Vladivostok.

Class Economy 37A, then 47A from Seoul.

Flight time Sydney to Seoul takes 10hr 30min. After a night in a Seoul hotel (included in the ticket price), the Seoul-Vladivostok flight takes 2hr 45min.

Seat width and pitch The 18-inch-wide seat reclines to 121 degrees. There are 34 inches between seats.

Seat configuration 3-4-3 layout for a total of 262 economy-class seats on the Boeing 747-400; 3-3 layout for 129 economy-class seats on the 737-800.

Comfort Economy seats have a little more legroom than those on several other airlines but let's not get carried away — it's still cattle class. There is just about enough room to shove a small backpack beneath the seat in front but add a jacket and a pair of shoes and things get crowded.

Luggage Twenty kilograms of check-in and 12 kilograms of cabin luggage.

Service The turquoise-clad flight attendants are polite and efficient, if formal. The announcements are too quiet to hear over the hum of the plane.


Food and beverages Breakfast arrives shortly after take-off — a thin, flexible omelet scattered with ham slivers. The single accompanying cherry tomato doesn't go far but the nuggety, deep-fried potato chunks are surprisingly tasty. There are Western-style meal options but the Korean dishes are a better bet. A tasty lunch of "bibimbap" comes with detailed written instructions and almost qualifies as inflight entertainment. Separate dishes of steamed rice, minced beef and sauteed vegetables must be combined and mixed with sachets of sesame oil and "gochujang", or chilli pepper paste.

Entertainment A high-resolution touchscreen unit in the back of each seat gives access to an adequate selection of new releases, classics and Korean films. There are also games, television shows and music channels.

Overnight stopover On arrival in Seoul, I clear customs and head to an information counter to be assigned a hotel for the night. The system seems haphazard — staff divide passengers into groups then ferry them onto buses — but it works. I end up at a comfortable hotel with instructions to wait outside the next morning for a transfer to the airport.

Flight frequency Korean Air flies daily from Sydney to Seoul; three times a week from Melbourne to Seoul; and daily from Seoul to Vladivostok. An economy return fare from Sydney and Melbourne to Vladivostok costs from $1760 low season, including tax.

Online See koreanair.com.

Tested by Louise Schwartzkoff