Earlier this week, at the Everett Delivery Center, Korean Air and Boeing celebrated delivery of the airline’s first of ten 747-8 Intercontinental aircraft. The delivery marked Korean becoming the only carrier of both the freighter and passenger variant, with Korean already operating seven freighters. We were invited to attend the delivery ceremony and it certainly did not disappoint.
Arriving about an hour prior to the ceremony beginning, I had the opportunity to do a little light plane spotting and to chat with some other members of the media. As you can imagine, security is tight at events like this and we had to go through a couple security checks. Once in the delivery center, I was allowed to step out onto the terrace to watch the big 747-8I be towed up to the Delivery Center. As the plane neared, the Korean Air pilots were also outside on the terrace with us. You could tell how excited they were to be a part of this event and to fly this beautiful plane home.
As soon as the plane arrived, Korean Air and Boeing executives quickly began arriving. The two key attendees were Walter Cho, Executive Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer for Korean Air, and Ray Conner, President and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
After the usual greetings, Mr. Conner and Mr. Cho both thanked each other and cited the long history these two companies have together. Mr. Conner joked that Korean Air had operated nearly every type of the 747, to which Mr. Cho quickly pointed out “even the 747SP!”
Mr. Conner handed over the ceremonial keys and cracked another joke, telling Mr. Cho that he should, “try to start the plane with them,” (no, that’s not how it works). At the conclusion of the press conference, it was time to head downstairs for the ribbon cutting ceremony.
As is typical in these events, in addition to the ribbon Boeing had decorated the area with some beautiful flowers. There were also some big gold scissors to cut the ribbon. Following the ceremony, I was excited to get onboard to check out the cabin.
The new 747-8I is configured with 368 seats across three cabins, including the new First Class Kosmo Suite 2.0 – a newer version of their premium product currently on the Airbus A380. Korean now becomes only the second carrier (in addition to Lufthansa) to operate both the A380 and the 747-8I.
Up front, the new premium cabin boasts six first class suites, which feature a sliding door passengers can close for more privacy. While not completely enclosed, it certainly allows for a tremendous amount of privacy. Combine that with 24-inch in-flight entertainment system screen and it makes for a great place to spend a long flight.
If you have to “slum it” in business class, the aircraft is equipped with 48 staggered seats with 18-inch touch-screens. Mr. Cho certainly was a great sport, despite all the attention. He quickly sat down in the Kosmo Suite and made himself comfortable, even exploring the amenities within the suite.
Another first for me was going upstairs on the new 747-8I – I’ve flown on a 747-400 before but never upstairs. One thing that particularly struck me was just how long the cabin was on the upper deck. While narrower than the main deck, Korean certainly did a nice job laying out their remaining business class seats (26 are on the main deck and 22 are upstairs).
Another unique opportunity was provided to visit the crew rest area, located at the rear of the main deck. The Boeing delegation initially had a little difficulty locating the code to unlock the crew rest, but both Korean and Boeing had a good laugh about it. Once unlocked, Mr. Cho was the first to take the narrow stairs up to inspect the crew rest. It was pretty cool to visit the crew rest area and I must admit it would be nice to sleep up there instead of coach on a long flight.
Throughout the ceremony and tour it was evident that Korean Air is very focused on being a global airline and one that caters to their high-end clientele, while looking at the bottom line.
“This new aircraft delivers better fuel economy,” Cho said. “That is important to a global airline such as ours. And it supports our goal to build and operate a first-class fleet of world-class aircraft.” He certainly isn’t kidding that this is a premium product designed to take their passengers long-haul. With a nautical range of 7,730 miles, it can connect many distant cities.
All-in-all, the Korean Air delivery ceremony definitely was a classy affair. The airline has a further 80 Boeing aircraft on order, including nine 747-8I to be delivered.
The 747-8I flew into the sunset that afternoon on the way to Seoul for initial crew testing. Korean Air plans to put it into revenue service at the end of the month.