Room to shop, schmooze aboard Korean Air's new Airbus A380


When Korean Air's Flight 81 from Seoul touched down at New York's Kennedy Airport on Aug. 9, the landing marked the arrival of not only several hundred passengers but also three industry firsts.

For starters, the nearly 14-hour trip was the first scheduled flight aboard a double-decker Airbus A380-800 aircraft from East Asia to Kennedy, according to Korean Air officials. (Emirates Airline A380s have served the airport from Dubai, on and off and on again, since August 2008, but the Arab city-state is located in western Asia.)

Perhaps more importantly, the flight marked the introduction of Korean Air's new cabin configuration for A380s to the U.S. market. The superjumbo that landed in New York last week -- the carrier's newly arrived, second A380 -- boasts never-before-seen (or long-ago-abandoned) airplane features such as an onboard duty-free shop and three passenger lounges. It also boasts the only upper deck dedicated entirely to business-class seating.

"This is the most spacious flight to Asia yet," said John Jackson, Korean's vice president of marketing for the Americas. "The A380 is designed to give a sense of openness and freedom in the air, [and] our configuration ... builds on that spaciousness."

More space, and a shop

When aircraft manufacturers such as Airbus float plans for new large jets, their marketing materials often tout the space available for features such as gyms, casinos, bedrooms and such. When revenue-hungry airlines place their orders, however, they usually fill all that extra space with seats.

Korean Air, however, took a different tack, putting fewer seats on its A380s and devoting the extra square footage to passenger comfort, in terms of both roominess and in-flight diversions.

Korean AirThe results intentionally hark back to aviation's golden years, according to Jackson. "Our intention with the A380 was to bring us back to the good old days of flying, when you had plenty of room," he said. "This is the most spacious flight to Asia yet."

So, Korean Air A380s have only 407 seats, including 12 first-class Kosmo Suites spaced almost 7 feet apart from one another and, upstairs in the Prestige business-class cabin, 94 lie-flat seats with more than 6 feet between each.

First- and business-class passengers also enjoy new in-flight amenity kits filled with cosmetics made of grape and wine extracts from California's Napa Valley.

Down on the A380 main deck, passengers can "window shop" for cosmetics, along with other products, in the Duty-Free Showcase.

Shoppers can inspect product samples at the showcase before returning to their seats to make purchases.

Jackson said the facility is "a natural fit" for Korean Air, which he said is "the world's leading carrier when it comes to in-flight duty-free shopping sales."

And on Korean Air A380s, socializing goes beyond turning to seatmates. "There are several areas where passengers can socialize," Jackson said.

The planes boast three watering holes: a full bar in the first-class cabin and, on the upper deck, both a lounge at the front of business class and the Celestial Bar, developed with Swedish vodka purveyor Absolut.

The chic Celestial Bar is outfitted with couch seating, a large-screen TV, reading materials and a fully stocked, hosted bar.

"We're providing a product that is just unmatched on transpacific routes, and that brings back a romanticism in flying that people have not been able to experience for a long time," Jackson said.

Korean Air's A380 is operating from Kennedy as Flight 82, one of the airline's two daily departures to Seoul.

The carrier next plans to bring its new A380 in-flight experience to Los Angeles, which gets daily superjumbo service from Seoul as of Oct. 11.



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