Opened in March 2014, the Korean Air / SkyTeam first class lounge in Los Angeles is one of the airport's relatively newest facilities and represents quite the step-up from what Korean Air used to offer at LAX.
However, as we found during our visit, the airline still has a fair way to go in making this space a truly first class facility – here's what we thought.
Location & Impressions
Swing a left after clearing airport security, take the elevator up to level five and follow the signs to the Korean Air/KAL lounge and you'll be here in no time. First thing's first: if you were expecting something like the Qantas LAX First Lounge or even the Star Alliance LAX first class lounge, you'll probably be underwhelmed – the first class lounge here consists of a simple 'lounge' room... ... and an indoor balcony that looks out over the terminal. Neither of these options are great for privacy – something usually sought after by first class travellers – with the only semi-suitable option being to select one of the eight seats that face away from the terminal.
- Korean Air first class passengers
- International first class passengers of other SkyTeam airlines currently including China Eastern, China Southern and Saudia
- Korean Air Skypass Morning Calm Premium Club and Million Miler Club members when flying in Korean Air business class (or first class)
VIP-tier travellers of Korean Air and its airline partners can also relax in one of four private suites. If that's you, the staff will escort you to one of four subtle timber doors... ... with the rooms inside ranging from smaller lounge settings... ... through to larger spaces fit for your entire entourage, with curtains lining the windows for added privacy: Otherwise, Korean Air also operates an adjacent business class lounge for its business class passengers plus SkyTeam Elite Plus frequent flyers and Morning Calm Premium Club/Million Miler Club members booked in economy.
In addition, SkyTeam member Air France sends its first class passengers to the Qantas First Lounge instead, which too has VIP rooms for those eligible – appropriate being the home of Hollywood.
Remember when we said not to get your hopes up about this lounge? That carries over to the food, too – only one penne pasta dish and two hot nibbles were available... ... joined by sushi, sandwiches, fruit, snacks and cheese cubes... ... plus the same corn chips and salsa as offered in the adjacent business class lounge... ... cups of noodles... ... and machine-crafted coffees: While everything we sampled was actually quite tasty, particularly the dumplings, it's ultimately at the bottom end of what we'd expect to find in a business class lounge, let alone an international first class facility catering mostly to genuine long-haul first class passengers.
The alcohol selection also leaves a lot to be desired with one red and one white wine – sold locally in California for around US$5.99 and US$10.15 per bottle, respectively – no Champagne or even basic sparkling wine... ... and an incredibly small selection of spirits. To Korean Air's credit, the Remy Martin XO Cognac (centre, above) is at the more premium end being around $229/bottle by Australian standards, but heck, even the American Airlines Flagship Lounge breaks out the Taittinger.
Where the Korean Air first class lounge does recover, however, is when it comes to getting things done.
Certainly there are no dedicated desks or workspaces here, but the 'indoor' chairs inside all provide easy access to AC and USB power – embedded in the cocktail tables in between the seats... ... with more plugs located just behind the chairs lining the walkway from the entrance... ... and those on the balcony having the odd floor-based power point in front of them, although which admittedly isn't ideal from a 'tripping over the cable' perspective. The WiFi here is shared with the business class lounge and provided super-fast download speeds of 86.7mbps and upload speeds of 5.98mbps during our visit.
The lounge also proves welcoming for passengers looking to relax with all of the chairs quite comfortable (and also incredibly clean)... ... with some facing towards the TV which was tuned to NBC Golf during our visit, but being the only guest in the lounge wouldn't imagine there being an issue if we'd wanted to watch something else. Joining that is a selection of magazines and newspapers, many of which were foreign language publications although with an English Los Angeles Times tucked away in the corner... ... and a private first class shower suite which can be booked via reception. As the suite is actually located inside the business class lounge, there's a handy shortcut between the two... ... but don't try to sneak from the business class lounge into the first class lounge unless you're eligible for access – the staff tell us they frequently catch people trying to do so, which is awkward for all involved.
Chris Chamberlin was a guest of Korean Air.
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