Review: Korean Air 737 MAX 8 Economy Class from Tokyo Haneda to Seoul Incheon

The first flight of my whirlwind trip to South Korea earlier this year was Korean Air’s sole flight between Tokyo Haneda and Seoul Incheon (there are many more Haneda – Gimpo and Narita – Incheon flights). Originally, the flight was scheduled to be operated by a Boeing 737-900. In the end, it was changed to a Boeing 737-8, becoming my first MAX flight.

Continue reading this review to see what the quick redeye flight was like in economy class.

Korean Air 737 MAX 8 Economy Class
Korean Air Boeing 737 MAX 8 economy class.

Check-in, Lounges & Boarding at Haneda Airport

Since the flight was only departing at 2AM but I wanted to go airside early to review some lounges, I checked in online using Korean Air’s app.

I also tried going to the airline’s check-in counters at Haneda Airport around 6:40PM to see if in-person check-in would be possible too but was told only the evening flight to Gimpo was being handled at that time and that the check-in for the 2AM Incheon flight would only open at 11:45PM.

Korean Air Check-in at Haneda
Check-in counters.

With that, I got in line for security. That, combined with immigration using one of the automated gates available to Japanese passport holders, took about 15 minutes. There is no priority security check lane at Haneda Airport’s Terminal 3.

Airside, I spent a few hours lounge hopping. In total, I visited five different lounges including the Delta Sky Club which was the main reason behind this trip being born in the first place and which became my favorite lounge at the airport, JAL Sakura Lounge and JAL Sakura Lounge Sky View, TIAT Lounge, and SKY Lounge.

Delta Sky Club Tokyo Haneda
Delta Sky Club.
JAL Sakura Lounge Sky View
JAL Sakura Lounge Sky View.
TIAT Lounge Tokyo Haneda
TIAT Lounge.

I left the last one of the five lounges I visited, the JAL Sakura Lounge, just after 1AM and headed to gate 148 where my flight was scheduled to depart from.

Boarding started around 1:30AM. First, passengers requiring assistance and those traveling with children were invited, followed by Sky Priority passengers including SkyTeam Elite Plus status holders and business class passengers. Lower-tier Korean Air frequent flyer status holders, those seated in rows 40 through 50, and those seated in rows up to 39 followed in that order.

I was one of the first passengers to board thanks to my SkyTeam Elite Plus status.

Haneda Airport Gate 148
Gate 148.
Haneda Airport Gate 148 Waiting Area
Gate 148 waiting area.
Korean Air 737 MAX 8 at Haneda Airport
Korean Air 737 MAX 8.
Korean Air Haneda Incheon Boarding
Almost time to board.

Korean Air 737 MAX 8 Cabin & Seat

The aircraft, just like Korean Air’s other Boeing 737 MAX 8s, was equipped with 146 seats including eight recliners in a 2-2 layout in business class and 138 economy class seats in a 3-3 layout.

While content could be streamed through the onboard wi-fi network (more about that later), there were no in-flight entertainment screens in either of the two classes. This was in stark contrast with the considerably better-equipped (and completely differently looking) A321neo cabin that I had a chance to experience on my way back from Seoul.

Korean Air 737 MAX 8 Business Class
Business class.
Korean Air 737 MAX 8 Economy Class
Economy class.
Korean Air 737 MAX 8 Economy Class
There were no personal screens.

The seat pitch in economy class is advertised as being 31 to 32 inches.

That combined with the relatively compact seats translated into decent legroom.

Korean Air 737 MAX 8 Economy Class Seat Pitch
Seat pitch.
Korean Air 737 MAX 8 Economy Class Legroom

Zooming in on the seats, each seat was equipped with a USB-A charging port and a smartphone/tablet holder on the seatback in front. There was also a regular seat pocket with a duty free shopping catalog in it and a separate document compartment above it with a safety card, a waste bag, etc.

There was a coat hook on the side of each seat.

The headrest was fully adjustable. The armrests were, for better or worse, very thin.

Korean Air 737 MAX 8 Economy Class Seatback
Korean Air 737 MAX 8 Economy Class Device Holder
Device holder.
Korean Air 737 MAX 8 Economy Class Coat Hook
Coat hook.
Korean Air 737 MAX 8 Economy Class Seat Pocket
Seat pocket contents.

In addition to the USB port on the seatback, there were also two universal power outlets per group of three seats.

Korean Air 737 MAX 8 Economy Class Power Outlet
Power outlet.

Last but not least, the overhead panels were equipped with individual air vents.

Korean Air 737 MAX 8 Economy Class Individual Air Vents
Individual air vents.

Korean Air Flight 720 Departure

Not too long after boarding, presumably because of my SkyTeam Elite Plus status, one of the flight attendants approached me to tell me that our flight time would be two hours and 20 minutes and that I should let her know if I needed anything.

At 1:47AM, the captain welcomed us onboard, wished us a good morning (I wasn’t sure morning was the right word!), and informed us of the expected flight time. Then, one of the cabin crew members made an announcement saying wi-fi and entertainment streaming would be available during the flight.

Korean Air 737 MAX 8 Economy Class View
Ready to go.

With less than half of all seats full, we were pushed back at 1:53AM – seven minutes ahead of schedule.

At that time, Korean Air’s new safety video featuring an AI-generated model was played. I found the video to be a good blend of marketing (AI-generated) and practicality (conveying the safety messages clearly unlike some of the more creative videos being used by airlines recently).

We took off at 2:26AM and shortly after that, I briefly fell asleep.

Korean Air 737 MAX 8 Safety Video
Safety video.

Korean Air Short-Haul Economy Class Midnight Meal

About fifteen minutes after take-off, the cabin crew turned the cabin lights on in preparation for service. Another five minutes later, a box with a hot fish dish and sides of salad, cut fruits, and bread was handed out.

Yes, a proper (and rather tasty) hot meal on a two-hour flight in the middle of the night…

To go with the meal, I asked for Coke Zero. I was pleasantly surprised when the flight attendant handed me the whole can by default.

Korean Air Short-Haul Meal
Meal and drink.
Korean Air Short-Haul Meal

It was also great to see the crew place a “May we serve you now?” sticker on the seatbacks in front of those passengers who were sleeping during the meal service.

Korean Air Short-Haul Meal
Sticker for those who slept through the meal service.

I finished the meal around 3AM (shame on me for eating at such time of the day) and the box was cleared just five minutes later. I appreciated the efficient service which left me with at least some time to try to sleep a bit.

Korean Air 737 MAX 8 In-Flight Entertainment System

As mentioned earlier, there were no personal entertainment screens on the aircraft. However, it was possible to enjoy entertainment on one’s device by connecting to the onboard wi-fi network.

In fact, sometime before the flight, I got an SMS from Korean Air mentioning that and advising me to bring earphones.

The in-flight entertainment system was easy to connect to and did not require any app to be pre-installed.

Korean Air 737 MAX 8 Onboard Wi-Fi

There was a good selection of movies. The selection of TV shows, on the other hand, was rather limited and each show only had a couple of episodes. There was also a selection of music and a kids section with a selection of kid-friendly content aggregated into one place.

A simple in-flight map that rotated between different views was available too.

Korean Air 737 MAX 8 In-Flight Entertainment

Korean Air 737 MAX 8 In-Flight Entertainment

Korean Air 737 MAX 8 Onboard Wi-Fi

Korean Air’s 737 MAX 8s are equipped with onboard wi-fi.

That said, while an announcement that it would be available was made at the beginning of the flight, that was not the case in the end. The “Korean Air Wi-Fi” button on the wi-fi portal’s top page stayed grayed out throughout the flight.

Arrival at Seoul Incheon Airport

After the meal service was finished, duty-free sales were done (as expected no one seemed to be looking to shop at 3:10AM). Then, around 3:15AM, the cabin lights were switched off (although dark blue mood lighting remained on) and I tried to get some sleep.

Korean Air Haneda Incheon Flight
Cruising toward Seoul.

Less than an hour later, at 4:08AM, the seatbelt signs were switched back on and a couple of minutes later, the cabin lights were switched on again.

We landed at 4:32AM and parked at our arrival gate 232 at 4:41AM – nine minutes ahead of schedule. We parked between a Delta A350 and a Korean Air A380.

Korean Air Haneda Incheon Flight
Almost there.
Korean Air Haneda Incheon Landing
Korean Air Haneda Incheon Flight
In blocks.
Korean Air A380
Korean Air A380 at the gate next to ours.

Korean Air 737 MAX 8 Economy Class Summary

While Korean Air 737 MAX 8s are not equipped with personal entertainment screens and on my flight the wi-fi did not work, neither was an issue given that it was a two-hour flight in the middle of the night.

Other than that, the flight was about as good as it gets. The crew was professional, the meal was tasty, and the flight was on time.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

How Can I Help You?