In early 2017, Korean Air received its first Boeing 787-9. Currently, the airline operates eight of the type, and besides using the aircraft on long-haul routes from Seoul to Vancouver and Istanbul among others, it also uses them on some shorter, regional routes.
One of those is a short hop between Seoul and Fukuoka in Japan, a city on the island of Kyushu which is, in fact, closer to Seoul than Tokyo. When making my way from Japan to Europe back in October, I had a chance to fly between the two cities – from Fukuoka to Seoul – in economy class, so here’s the review.
Are you interested in trying business or first class for the price of economy?
If so, you might want to check out Four Ways to Try Business Class Without Breaking the Bank - a free guide that I put together detailing some of the ways I was able to do so - and experiment with some of the methods mentioned in it.
Check-in at Fukuoka Airport International Terminal
I arrived at Fukuoka airport around 1PM onboard a JAL flight from Tokyo, and right after picking up my bags, I made my way to the international terminal using the free shuttle bus. When I arrived at Korean Air’s check-in counters, they were still closed – they wouldn’t open until two hours before departure which was 2:25PM – and so I decided to go to the terminal’s observation deck.
On my way there, I stopped by a small exhibition of drawings made by local children and a concert that was being held in the terminal. Then, I spent a bit of time at the deck before making my way back to the check-in counters.
When I got to the check-in counters the second time, around 2:20PM, there were already about 100 people waiting in the line to have their bags X-rayed. I asked the staff whether there was a priority queue, and after he confirmed I was a Sky Priority member, I was let through immediately.
With a boarding pass in my hand, I left the counter and headed through the immigration and security. One thing worth mentioning here is the interesting “self-service” body scanner the airport used.
Airside, I went to the compact KAL Lounge where I stayed until fifteen minutes before the boarding was scheduled to start.
Boarding the Korean Air Boeing 787-9
When I got to the gate, though, I realized the inbound flight was delayed (I should have checked FlightRadar24 before heading out of the lounge) and the plane still wasn’t at the gate. In fact, the aircraft didn’t arrive until 3:45PM – ten minutes before the originally scheduled boarding time.
Shortly before 4PM, the ground staff announced that boarding would be delayed until 4:25PM. However, in the end, the plane was ready in thirty minutes and boarding started at 4:15PM.
Thanks to Sky Priority, I was among the first people to get their boarding pass scanned, tak an escalator down a floor, and walk into the jetway. At the end of it, there was a rack with a variety of English, Japanese, and Korean newspapers available for passengers to take.
Onboard, I turned right into the first aisle and headed down to my window-side aisle seat, 36C. Before continuing with the review, though, a quick word about Korean Air 787-9’s configuration.
Between the first and the second pair of doors, there was a first class cabin with 6 seats followed by a business class cabin with 18 seats. Interestingly, both the first and the business class seats were the same – Apex Suites. No first class was offered on this short hop.
Economy class featured 247 seats in a (mostly) 3-3-3 layout.
The economy class seats offered good leg room – I wouldn’t have minded flying across the Pacific in the seat, and each of them was equipped with a high resolution screen and audio and USB ports. There were also power ports under the seats – one per a pair of seats.
And, even though it was just a short one-hour flight, there was a pillow waiting on each of the economy class seats.
Throughout the boarding process, instrumental versions of well known songs including What a Feeling! and I Have a Dream were played.
Departing Fukuoka Bound for Seoul
The boarding was finished in about fifteen minutes after which, the cabin crew distributed earphones. Once again, something I considered to be a nice touch given that the flight was just one hour long.
Immigration forms (including pens for people that needed them) were distributed as well.
We were pushed back at 4:36PM, and at 4:49PM, we took off from runway 16. In the meantime, I started watching How I Met Your Mother on the IFE.
Korean Air 787-9 In-Flight Entertainment System
Speaking about the in-flight entertainment system, let’s take a closer look at it.
Each of the economy class seats was, as mentioned above, equipped with a high-resolution screen. Unlike on some other airlines, the touchscreen was quite responsive and the IFE system was easy to operate.
As for the contents, there were dozens of movies ranging from latest releases such as Ocean’s 8 all the way to local Korean movies. Then, there were some TV shows including a couple of sitcoms (only a couple of episodes of each) and some sports programs and documentaries.
Music selection was plentiful as well with over a hundred albums and a number of preprogrammed “radio stations” available.
Korean Air’s in-flight entertainment system offered about twenty games of a variety of genres as well. Given that there was no remote control, they could only be controlled using the touchscreen.
Finally, there was the in-flight map which not only showed the flights current position, but could be moved and zoomed in and out freely. For some reason, the line on the map showed not only our flight from Fukuoka to Seoul, but also the route of the inbound flight from Seoul to Fukuoka.
Overall, the in-flight entertainment system offered enough options to keep most people busy even on the longest flights Korean Air operates.
Korean Air Short-Haul Economy Class Service
Back to the flight itself, the seatbelt signs were switched off at 4:58PM – nine minutes after take-off. Around the same time, one of the crew members brought a special meal to a passenger sitting across the aisle from me, and then the regular meal service started.
The meal service consisted of a snack box containing a beef rice ball, a pack of rice crackers, a cup of water, and a wet towel. Separately from that, a drink service was conducted as well.
While the meal service was very simple, it was more than sufficient for the short hop.
Shortly after I got my snack box, there was an announcement from the cockpit. The captain mentioned that we were flying at a cruising altitude of 30,000 feet with a speed of 500 miles per hour, and that the flight would take one hour and five minutes.
Just fifteen minutes after that, we started our initial descent towards Seoul Incheon airport. Around the same time, the cabin crew went around the cabin collecting the finished meal boxes, and after that doing duty free sales.
Landing at Seoul Incheon Airport
The seatbelt signs were switched back on at 5:29PM after which we entered some thick clouds as we were making our way to the ground. The clouds didn’t last long, though, as once we were below them, we could witness a beautiful sunset.
We landed at 5:50PM – one hour and one minute after take off. And, we reached our parking gate at 5:57PM – just two minutes behind schedule in spite of the fairly late departure.
Korean Air 787-9 Economy Class Fukuoka – Seoul Summary
Overall, the service that Korean Air provided on the one hour flight was perfectly adequate. Combined with the fact that the flight was operated by aircraft generally used by the airline on long haul flights, the flight was about as good as it could get on such a short flight in economy class and I would recommend you to take Korean Air on the route when you have the chance.
That said, if buying the flight for cash rather than miles like I did, I would just go with the cheapest option given how short the flight was.