Wednesday, March 20, 2013

ICN to NRT with Korean Airlines Lounge

HND to GMP with Japan Airlines First Class Lounge
Park Hyatt Seoul
ICN to NRT with Korean Airlines Lounge

Incheon International Airport (ICN) is the largest airport in Korea and has been consistently ranked as the best airport on the face of the planet by numerous rating agencies.  As the primary hub for Asiana Airlines (Star Alliance) and national carrier Korean Airlines (Skyteam), ICN has limited oneworld routings restricted to flights to/fro oneworld hubs.  For my return trip, I flew on Japan Airlines from ICN-NRT because the timing worked out better than GMP-HND's morning flights.

Korean Airlines Lounge
Cathay Pacific is the only oneworld carrier that has a lounge at ICN, and I definitely wasn't looking forward to it based on the subpar quality of their NRT lounge.  Oddly enough, JAL directed me to the Korean Airlines (KAL) Lounge, which is typically reserved for premium Skyteam passengers.  Korean carriers are known for beefing up their lounge products, so I was looking forward to this one.

The KAL Lounge definitely had a western touch to it.  Cold foods included a salad bar, danishes, and cheeses.  Hot foods were pasta, fried shrimp, and grilled chicken.

Soft drinks and beer were the usual.  Where the lounge really felt short was with the meager premium alcohol selection, which was reminiscent of a U.S. carrier international lounge.

KAL copied American Airlines and United Airlines on this crap

The lounge had individual private bathrooms and shower rooms.  The seating capacity was good with a TV room and lounge sofas.

TV room
Individual restrooms

The lounge had one of the best terminal views with floor to ceiling windows, all facing the main terminal.

Cathay Pacific Lounge
30 minutes before departure, I decided to stop by the Cathay Pacific Lounge just to see what it was like.  To no surprise, it was pretty much in par with their NRT lounge.  In other words, I did feel relieved with my KAL Lounge invitation.

ICN-NRT on Japan Airlines
I was able to secure an emergency exit aisle seat at the time of booking for this 2-hour flight.  However, economy class is economy class, so nothing to boast about here.

"Special" seafood meal request
Nothing special about this super light meal
Once again, requesting a seafood meal in advance was a big mistake.  Based on my experience for the en route segment, I tried to cancel my request at the check-in desk, but was denied because it wasn't 24 hours in advance.  So you'll need that 24-hour cushion to either cancel or request a special meal.  The normal meal was a seafood donburi, which far surpassed my special meal of salmon sashimi over a half slice of bread.

Bottom line
The KAL Lounge is an average Asian carrier international lounge.  As a oneworld Emerald, I've become accustomed to first class lounge access, which evidently only exist at oneworld hubs.  So whereas it was a bummer not getting bumped to KAL's first class lounge, I was still happy to be thrown into their biz class lounge so that I could avoid the Cathay Pacific lounge.  And, at 10,000 award miles each way, this is one of the best AA redemption values.


  1. The KAL lounge looks like the cafeteria at Ikea, but with inferior food.

  2. It was better than Ikea's food, though you can't expect much out of a biz class lounge. I'd still take this over the terminal.