I suppose it probably is unusual for me to take as much as four flights with the same carrier in one trip. Perhaps that is also why I am not really quite sure what else to write about on this last leg of my journey. Having said that, I think the fact that I really am somewhat at a loss for what to write is a testimony to the consistency and strength of the Korean Air product. On all the flights I have taken, the crews have been excellent, friendly and very professional.
In the sum of all things, I think Korean Air is highly underrated. But possibly that is just my perception because I live in Switzerland. Although Korean Air flies to Zürich, they are not at all prominent in the market, most likely because the Swiss market is such a Star Alliance stronghold. In a way, Korean Air feels a lot like an invisible airline, and I can not fully explain why, because I think they can certainly hold their own compared to many of the other Asian carriers.
In my view, the only area where Korean Air is seriously lacking, is the inflight entertainment. The selection is really very limited and the available choices are somewhat strange. The Business Class earphones are nothing to write home about either. But at least you can work your way around that problem and use your own pair. The standard plug works.
My first stop is at the check-in counters on Row C to drop off my bag for the flight to Frankfurt. My boarding pass for the flight was already issues the day before when I checked in for the flight from Auckland to Seoul. The check-in agent writes the gate number on my boarding pass and wishes me a pleasant journey.
The airport is very busy this morning, especially the Korean Air counters. The line for Economy Class check-in is winding itself along the length of rows A, B and C. Even so, everything is neat, calm and orderly and even security and emigration do not take long to complete, despite all the passengers.
The Korean Air Lounge
In contrast, the Korean Air lounge is nearly deserted this morning. Later on, one of the flight attendants explains to me that there is a big Korean holiday in two days time. I suspect that might explain the long queue for Economy check-in and the lack of Korean passengers in the Business Class lounge.
As it happens, my flight today will be boarding from gate 22, from where I caught the flight to Nadi earlier in the week. There do not appear to be any First Class passengers on today’s flight.
The load on today’s flight is very light. Of the fourteen seats in the forward Business Class compartment only six are occupied. One of the cabin crew confirms that there are many empty seats on today’s flight.
Once the doors close, the cabin crew position themselves in both aisles at the front if each cabin compartment and bow as the first announcement is made, welcoming passengers aboard. Once the announcement is finished, the purser comes by to introduce herself personally and thank each passenger for flying Korean Air. It is obviously just a small gesture, but I think it has style.
Welcome drink on the ground: A choice of sparkling wine, still water, guava juice or orange juice, served with a packet of coated peanuts. Hot towel before the meal: Scented hot towel Pre-meal drink: Sherry Choice: There are two Korean dishes and two Western dishes to choose from. Delivery: Trolley service Type of meal: Lunch
Green olive, mozzarella and cherry tomato in olive oil.
The First Course
Seared scallops with mixed salad, black mushroom and filled aubergine.
The Main Course – Bibimbap
Crackers and cheese – Chaumes, Carré de l’Est, St. Maure de Touraine.
Mocca Chiffon cake.
Just as the meal finishes, I look out to see we are just passing over Beijing, the airport clearly visible from above.
The Second Service
Hot towel before the meal: Scented hot towel. Choice: There is one Korean dish and two Western dishes to choose from. Delivery: Trolley service. Type of meal: Snack.
Seasonal greens with roasted garlic, courgette and aubergine with dressing
Rice cake soup
Seasonal fresh fruit
Selection from the bread basket
Tea or coffee
The second service starts four hours out of Frankfurt. By the time the service is completed, we still have three hours to go to our destination. So the lights go out again. This is really the one thing I do not understand about Korean Air. Would it not make more sense to start the service later, rather than waking people up to feed them in mid-flight, at the risk of them not being able to fall asleep again?
The rice cake soup was a mistake, by the way. Like a really big mistake. It is not that the meal was badly cooked or anything like that, it is just that it does not really tasty of anything much. When the cabin crew sees my plate is still full, she immediately offers to bring me something else from the menu. She seems genuinely upset that I did not like the dish. I try to explain to her that it is okay, but she seems reluctant to let it go.
45 minutes out of Frankfurt the captain makes an announcement to inform us that we have started our initial descent. The cabin crew make one last drink round, offering water and juices and then secure the cabin for arrival.
Korean Air uses Terminal 2 in Frankfurt. I collect my suitcase and head over to Terminal 1 from where my flight to Basel will be leaving.
In Auckland I attended the wedding of a very old friend of mine. Obviously the whole thing was very romantic and it certainly helped matters along that in the end both parties clearly enunciated an enthusiastic and excited ‘I do’. And now it is time for me to start my long journey home to cold and dreary Switzerland.
Getting to the Airport
Transport: Car. Journey time: The distance from Devonport to Auckland airport is approximately 22km. On an early Sunday morning the journey will take roughly forty minutes to complete. There is not much traffic on the road at this time of day, but there does not seem to be a main road that leads you from the city to the airport. As a result, you end up having to take the smaller roads.
Location: Departures and arrivals are both located on the ground floor level at Auckland airport. Counters: There are six counters open for check-in this morning. One for First Class passengers, one for Prestige class passengers, one for Morning Calm Programme members and the remaining three for Economy Class passengers.
In Seoul I shall be stopping over for one night, there is no same day connection to Frankfurt, what with the flight from Auckland only arriving in Seoul around 18h00. Even so, the check-in agent issues both my boarding passes and asks me if I would prefer her to check my suitcase through to Frankfurt or if I shall be need it before in Seoul. She also hands me an invitation to the lounge.
Departures is one floor up from check-in. The escalators are at the back of the check-in hall. Before you go through passport control, you will need to complete an embarkation card.
The one thing I really never understand in New Zealand in why it always takes so long to clear emigration. I mean, you would think they would not be too bothered about who is leaving the country. In any case, the queue is pretty long and it takes me twenty minutes to reach the front of the queue. Well, at least security does not take long.
The Air New Zealand Longe
Location: Immediately behind security there is a huge duty free shop. As you exit the shop, do sharp right turn and follow the signs marked ‘Airline Lounges’. All airline lounges are one floor up from the general departure lounge. Type of Lounge: Korean Air uses the Air New Zealand lounge. Facilities: Toilets and showers in the lounge, workstations, and extensive buffet with hot and cold dishes.
Really charming. I arrive at the reception of the Air New Zealand lounge and the lounge dragon has evidently decided to ignore me by not acknowledging my existence. I am standing in front of her while she persistently concentrates on scribbling something tremendously important on a piece of paper. Probably her shopping list. She does not look up once. Eventually another attendant comes along and beams a loud ‘Kia Ora’ at me. Not that her colleague notices or even cares…
The lounge looks, I am sorry to have to say this, like a right shit hole. First of all, the place is crawling with people frantically trying to get a cup of coffee and something to eat before their flight. There are nearly no more places left to sit and all the tables are piled up with dirty dishes and stacks of half-finished meals.
But apart from that, the place just looks shabby. Most of the chairs and seats look worn and are stained from god knows what. The toilets do not looks so fresh any more either and the used paper towels are spilling over and lying on the ground. Not that anybody seems to care around here.
It should also be noted that boarding announcements are made in the lounge. So just in case you thought you might encounter an oasis or tranquility in the lounge. Think again.
Boarding for the flight starts at 09h25, thirty minutes before departure. Passengers seated in the Business and First Class cabins are invited to board at their leisure. There is a separate queue for SkyPriority passengers.
There is a trolley with newspapers for passengers to help themselves as they board the aircraft, although in Business Class the crew will come round to every seat offering papers and magazines.
Configuration: 2 x 3 x 2 on the lower deck and 2 x 2 on the upper deck. Seat: 17C, aisle seat on the upper deck. Pitch: 60 inches, which is 10 inches less than on the B777-300. Width: 21.6 inches. Facilities: Reading lamp, USB port, power outlet. Audio and Video: Audio and video on demand. The selection of films and music is quite limited through.
Korean Air operates the Boeing B 747-400 in three different configurations with either 45 or 61 seats in Business Class. In all three configurations there are six rows with four abreast on the upper deck, which is really the only place to sit when you are flying on the Boeing 747.
The seat on this aircraft is slightly different to the one on the A330-200 and the B777-300. It looks older. Even so, I think I like it better because there is a lot more storage space. On the downside however, this is an angled lie-flat seat.
Earphones, a blanket and pillow and slippers have already been placed at every seat before boarding. A vanity kit and the menu are distributed after take off.
Once more the crew are very friendly and willing to interact, even with the Western passengers. There is a woman sitting in the row in front of me who is travelling with a little boy. The crew go out of their way to make sure the mother has everything she needs and do baby talk with the boy, who is obviously enjoying all the attention.
With this being a morning departure, the service on this flight is in reverse order to the previous two I took with Korean Air. The first service is just the snack, with the full meal being served before arrival later on in the day.
Welcome drink on the ground: There is a choice of Guava juice, orange juice and still water. The welcome drinks are served with sweet, coated peanuts. Hot towel before the meal: Scented hot towel. Choice: There is a choice of two Western breakfasts and an Asian dish. Delivery: Trolley service. Type of meal: Breakfast.
The Main Course
Pork and shrimp Wonton soup with noodles and pak choi with chilli sauce, pickled onion and pickled cucumber.
Selection of fruit.
With the Western dishes yoghurt and bread are also served, but these are not part of the Asian meal.
After the meal, the crew hand out immigration cards and customs forms for South Korea, a bottle of water and fresh water spray to keep you hydrated. And then the lights go out.
The Second Service
Choice: There is a choice of one Korean dish, one Western dish and one Asian dish. Delivery: Trolley service. Type of meal: Dinner.
Roasted bell pepper roll with cream cheese and a balsamic reduction, served with pre-meal drink.
The First Course
Tomato and mozzarella with Italian dressing.
Green pea soup, offered only with the Western dish.
The Main Course
Beef tenderloin with wholegrain mustard sauce, roasted potatoes, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms and onion rings.
Cheese: Camembert, Cheddar and blue cheese.
The second service already begins four hours out of Incheon and by the time the meal is over, we still have more than two hours to go. So the crew switch the lights off again to allow passengers to continue napping. It is not a big thing really, But I think I would have preferred for the service to start a little later.
Incheon is very busy when we arrive, which is probably why we end up pulling onto a stand at the satellite terminal. Gates numbered 1 through 50 are in the main terminal complex, while the gates in the hundreds are in the satellite.
From the satellite there is an automated shuttle to take passengers across to the arrivals concourse. The journey takes approximately two minutes. I am slightly apprehensive as I alight from the train, there are people everywhere and there is a long queue for the escalators. Fortunately, it turns out that most of the passengers are not heading for Seoul but are only changing planes in Incheon. Subsequently, the queues for immigration are not at all that long. By the time I reach the carousel, my suitcase is already expecting me.
Once I am through customs, I head for exit 14 to catch the shuttle to The Nest Hotel.
In Auckland I am staying at the Peace and Plenty Inn. The Peace and Plenty is a charming B&B in a seaside town called Devonport, which lies across the bay from Auckland. From the Peace and Plenty it is only a short walk across the square to the ferry terminal that takes you into Auckland. The journey into Auckland takes about ten minutes to complete and there is a ferry every fifteen minutes during the day, with frequency going down to every thirty minutes in the evenings.
But about the Peace and Plenty. It is a very nice and cosy place to stay. All the rooms have their own bathroom and are decorated in a style that looks like it came straight out of a Laura Ashley catalogue. And there are some nice touches. There is a decanter with port and another with sherry in the room. There is also a water boiler to make tea or coffee, for which there are also some very pretty porcelain cups and saucers.
I do think that the Peace and Plenty is a place which typically women will enjoy more than men. Or perhaps that is just my stereotypes getting the better of me. But in any case gents, if you want to score with your better half with a romantic getaway, I think this might be the place for you.
How it rains in Fiji! This morning Fiji looks decidedly worse for wear. In fact, the place looks as though the apocalypse is about to set in. The streets have turned into not so small rivers and through the window of the car I see people walking along, huddled together under their umbrellas in a futile attempt to escape the downpour.
I arrive at the airport just after seven in the morning. My flight to Auckland will be departing at 08h45. Fortunately, just as we pull up to the pavement, the rain eases up enough for me to disembark without getting completely soaked.
Location: Ground floor Facilities: Airport check-in only Counters: Dedicated Fiji Airways counters. There are dedicated check-in counters for each flight. Three counters are in use today for the flight to Auckland, all of which are marked for Economy Class passengers. The gentleman checking me is friendly enough. He asks me if I enjoyed my holiday and looks slightly surprised when I tell him that I was only in Fiji for two days. He labels my check-in luggage with a priority tag, puts a hand-luggage tag on my backpack and sends me on my way.
At Nadi airport, check-in for all flights closes one hour before departure. If you arrive later, you will not be accepted for the flight anymore.
The airport facility is a small, two-storey building. It looks rather old and I have the impression that it is the kind of facility that was haphazardly added to and extended to meet demand for the growing number of passengers passing through it.
From check-in I head for security, which is a far more laid back affair than it is in Europe. What always strikes me about the Fijians is that they all seem so interested to know where you are from. The lady at security eyes my passport and then utters a questioning ‘Malta’?
The Fiji Airways Business Class Lounge
Location: On the ground floor, behind the escalators leading up to the departure gates. Type of Lounge: Dedicated Fiji Airways lounge. Facilities: The lounge is rather small, but it provides all the amenities and facilities one can expect from an airline lounge. There are two workstations, toilets and showers are available inside the lounge. Food options are somewhat limited, but there is a toaster, müsli, and coffee. Internet: Free wifi is available, the code can be obtained at the reception desk.
The boarding procedure at Nadi airport is somewhat odd, mainly due to the fact that on the upper level there is not enough space for a holding area for every individual gate. Subsequently, passengers must wait on the ground floor until their flight starts boarding before they are allowed to go upstairs. Priority boarding in Nadi means that you are allowed to head upstairs before every body else.
Configuration: 2 x 2 Seat: This aircraft is equipped with a dedicated Business Class cabin and seats. There are two rows with four abreast. All eight seats are occupied on today’s flight. The seat is rather comfortable, even though it does not have a foot rest. The controls work mechanically, instead of electronically. If I am not mistaken, this is the same seat Malaysia Airlines have installed on some of their B 737-800 as well. Facilities: Reading lamp. Audio and Video: There are no individual screens, only drop down screens throughout the cabin.
There is a blanket and pillow at every seat. Shortly after settling in on 2A, the flight attendant comes around offering welcome drinks. There is a choice of sparkling wine, orange juice and some cocktail made with local rum. Next the crew distribute small bottles of Fiji water and a nice thick, warm and scented towel.
The cabin crew on this flight are very friendly and personable, make jokes with the passengers while they go about their duties.
Welcome drink on the ground: Orange juice, sparkling wine or a rum cocktail. Hot towel before the meal: Scented hot towels are distributed on the ground. Pre-meal drink: None. Choice: Burrito with scrambled egg and salsa or English breakfast. Delivery: Individual tray service. Type of meal: Breakfast. Menu: There are no menus, but every passenger is presented with the two option on a tray to choose from.
Fruit salad with pineapple, papaya, water melon and mint.
A selection of müsli or cornflakes with milk.
A variety of yoghurts
English breakfast with omelette, caponata, chicken sausage, mushrooms and a rather spicy hash brown. Bacon is served individually once all passengers have receive their hot meal.
Selection from the bread basket, including croissants and white or wholemeal toast.
Butter and strawberry jam.
Coffee or tea.
Blimey! I must say I really am impressed. I was not expecting anything much from this flight but so far, I have to say the inflight product is excellent. There is definitely more than enough food to go around. The meal is tasty and the presentation of the tray is attractive. The only complaint I have, is that there is no drinks service during the meal service. Coffee or tea are only served once the cabin crew come to remove the tray.
Our approach into Auckland brings us in over some beautiful islands. Looking out into the bright sunshine it is hard to imagine that it is still only February! The airport is fairly calm. A Singapore Airlines A 380 is parked at the gate, which does not bode well. But by the looks of it, all the passengers from that flight have already cleared immigration and only a few of them remain at customs.
Getting into Town
Transport: Car rental. Journey time: About 45 minutes from Auckland airport to Devonport, depending on traffic.
The first time I visited Fiji was back in 1997. My memory of the trip is somewhat fuzzy – after all is has been 18 years. But I do remember Cyclone Gavin. Oh yes, how could I ever forget Gavin? In fact, my sister and I are still bickering about Gavin, even after all these years!
But I am sure you will see my point. At the time, my sister and I were staying at the Sheraton Denarau on Viti Levu island. As Gavin approached, the hotel distributed food packages and instructed all the guests to stay in their rooms until somebody came to fetch them or we had to evacuate. My package contained, among other things, two Bourbon Vanilla biscuits, which I have never really liked much. My sister’s package however, contained two chocolate biscuits. Now I know my sister has a thing – okay, let’s call it a fetish – about chocolate. Even so, in the face of adversity, and possibly death, I would have thought she would have had the graciousness to swap at least one of the chocolate biscuits for a Bourbon Vanilla with her kid brother. But no. No swap. Not even a measly crumb…
Getting to the Airport
Transport: Hotel shuttle Departs from: Right outside the lobby of the hotel Frequency: Every 60 minutes Journey time: Roughly 10 minutes Fare: The shuttle is complimentary for residents of The Nest Hotel
My flight to Nadi will be leaving at 19h25, which gives me nearly a full day in Seoul. The shuttle back to Incheon leaves at 16h45. Part of the journey takes us along the perimeter fence of the western runway. Just in time I notice something big and broody creeping up from behind us, to find it is Asiana’s A 380 coming in to land.
The shuttle bus will drop you off on the ground floor, which is the arrivals level. Check-in is on the third floor.
Location: 3rd floor, Korean Air check-in is on rows A, B and C. SkyPriority check-in for First Class and Business Class is on row C Counters: There are two First Class counters and two Business Class counters open when I arrive. There is a bit of a queue, mainly due to the copious amounts of luggage the people are checking in. Are they all migrating or what?
At the far end of row C is security check-point 1. The process is swift and efficient and the staff are very careful and polite in their handling of the cuckoo clock I have with me.
Right behind security is immigration. The agent quickly stamps my passport and boarding pass and sends me on my way.
The Korean Air Business Class Lounge
Location: The entrance is right after immigration. The lounge itself is one floor up with access via an escalator. Type of Lounge: Dedicated Korean Air Business Class lounge. Facilities: Showers, workstations, newspapers, toilets, hot and cold snacks, smoking room. Internet: Complimentary wifi – no password required.
The lounge is rather bland and dark. Moreover, the seating is clearly intended to be functional more than elegant or stylish.
The entrance to the lounge is a bit confusing. There are two queues, one for Morning Calm passengers, and one for Prestige Class passengers. I am assuming this means there is a dedicated lounge for status card holders with Korean Air that are travelling in Economy Class. Or something like that.
Well, at least the view is good…
There is a separate lane for SkyPriority passengers. First and Business Class passengers board through the L1 door, while Economy Class passengers use the L2 door.
The flight this evening is not full, at least not in Business Class. In the forward compartment, where I am sitting, only five of twelve seats are occupied. Originally I am sat on 8C. However, once boarding is completed I move to 7A, which is the bulkhead row.
Our flight is running thirty minutes last this evening, presumably because the aircraft arrived late from its previous mission. In any case, it looks as though the cabin has had to be prepared in a hurry. Some passengers are missing earphones, others slippers and some do not have either. But the crew quickly realise their mistake and check the cabin to make sure all passengers eventually have everything they need.
Configuration: 2 x 2 x 2 Seat: 7A Pitch: 74 inches Width: 21.6 inches Facilities: All seats are equipped with 110 volt ac plugs and USB outlet. Audio and Video: Every Business Class seat has a 15.4’’ LCD monitor. Audio and video are on demand.
There are 24 seats in the Business Class cabin. With six seats abreast that give you four rows of Business Class in total. The configuration on this bird is somewhat odd though. Rows 7 and eight – the first two in Business Class – are located between the First Class cabin and the L2 galley. The remaining two rows of Business Class however, are located aft of the L2 galley. As on the previous flight with the B 777-300, there are no overhead bins in the middle of the forward Business Class cabin.
On a side note, from what I can tell, the First Class seat on this aircraft is only very slightly different to the Business Class seat.
Let me guess: no urine samples on the LCD? No…
The crew on this flight are very friendly and chatty, there is a good and welcoming vibe in the cabin. Admittedly, I suspect that may have something to do with the destination. I think I would be happy too if my work saw me flying off to Fiji regularly. It probably also helps that the cabin is far from being full. But apart from that, the crew really impress me with their attention to detail and the seemingly sincere and elegant way in which they go about their duties.
Last thing before we depart, the crew distribute the amenity kits. The cosmetics are by DAVI Napa, which, if I remember correctly, is the same brand of cosmetics they have at the Peninsula in Hong Kong and in Bangkok.
The vanity kit does not contain earplugs. However, these can be obtained from the cabin crew on request.
Welcome drink on the ground: There is a choice of water, sparkling wine and orange juice. The drinks are served with peanuts. Hot towel before the meal: A scented hot towel is served ahead of the meal. Pre-meal drink: Diet Coke, served with a mini tartlet of shrimp and sundried tomato. Choice: There are four choices for the main course, three of which contain beef and the fourth chicken. Two of the dishes are Korean (Bibimbap and Bulgogi) Delivery: Trolley service. Type of meal: Dinner.
No bread is served to passengers who have chosen the Korean option for the main. The meal concludes with coffee or tea. Koran Air only serve either black tea or green tea.
Mini tartlet with shrimp.
The First Course
Marinated scallops, served with grilled vegetables and salad with a balsamic dressing.
The Main Course
Bibimbap, served with sesame oil, spicy Korean chilli paste, Kimchi and cucumber pickles and a bowl of sticky rice.
Chocolate ice cream.
Once the meal is over, the cabin crew pass through the cabin distributing landing cards for Fiji, as well as a bottle of still water and mineral water spray to stop you from dehydrating.
90 minutes after take-off the first meal service has been completed, which is quite impressive, especially seeing as the service does not seem rushed at all.
I manage to sleep for a few hours. When I wake up, we are still more than three hours out of Nadi. One of the cabin crew spots me moving around and immediately comes to ask me if I would like some freshly baked cookies and a cup of coffee. God, this is so good. The cookies really are freshly baked, so fresh in fact, that they still warm.
Later on, when she comes to clear up, the flight attendant who brought me the cookies suggests that if I like Bibimbap, perhaps I would like to try a Korean style Onigiri with Bibimbap and Kimchi in it. To be honest, I have my doubts about what it will taste like. But I do not want to appear ungrateful either after being taken such good care of. So I agree to the Onigiri. And damn it, it is good. So good in fact that I forget to take a picture of the unwrapped thing before demolishing it!
The Second Service
Hot towel before the meal: A scented hot towel is served ahead of the meal. Pre-meal drink: Orange juice. Choice: There are two choices for breakfast, the Korean option is rice porridge – which is really bland – or an omelette. I do not really fancy either much, so I ask the cabin crew if I can have the ramen from the snack menu instead. Delivery: Trolley service. Type of meal: Breakfast.
Selection of fruit
Spicy ramen soup with more pickles
Tea or Coffee
The ramen are very tasty and spicy, but not overly so. Nonetheless, the cabin crew keep coming round to ask if I am okay with the hot food. One of them gives me some advice to dilute the soup with a bit of water if it proves to be too hot. And once more I am impressed with the warm hospitality displayed by the crew.
Eventually we begin our descent into Nadi and I start to get all excited. I am curious how much I will still remember and if the place will look even remotely familiar.
But in actual fact, Fiji has not really changed that much. The airport certainly has not. The cool thing about Nadi airport is that although they have airbridges, you still have the full on al fresco experience. The airbridge leads to an open air terrace which eventually leads you to immigration.
There is a bit of a hold up at immigration. Because I shall only be staying for a short period, the immigration officer wants to see my onward ticket, which, in theory is not a problem, seeing as I have all hotel and ticket confirmations in my mail account. The problem is though, that I have no 4G reception and there is no wifi at the airport. Eventually I am escorted to the immigration office where I am asked to take a seat among a surprising amount of empty Gordon’s Gin cardboard boxes. The officer checks my passport and once he is satisfied that I really shall be leaving the country, he send me on my way.
Getting into Town
Transport: Taxi Departs from: Taxi stand outside the terminal Journey time: 25 minutes Fare: This is interesting. Although all taxis in Fiji have a meter, none of the drivers actually use them. Common practice is to negotiate the price before you get in. In my case, the taxi driver quotes a price of 35 Fiji Dollars to make the journey to the Hilton Denarau resort. Upon arrival, I take the bank notes I have in my jeans pocket. I have a five dollar note, a twenty dollar note and the rest in fifty dollar notes. I hand the driver the fifty, to which he simply says that twenty-five will be fine. Um, okay. I do not think I have ever had that happen to me before!
My previous flight with Korean Air from Frankfurt to Seoul was nice, decidedly pleasant. But this flight from Seoul onward to Nadi is an absolute delight. And that is mainly down to the crew. With their friendly manner and easy going but respectful way of interacting with the passengers they set the stage for a very relaxing voyage.
If you are looking for a good place to stay in Seoul that is close to Incheon airport, there are a number of options. Probably the closest hotel to the terminal facility is the Grand Hyatt, which seems to be operated as a franchise by Korean Air. The Grand Hyatt is a nice enough place and perfectly adequate for a short stay.
This time though, I am staying at the Nest Hotel, which is slightly farther away from the airport. There is a free shuttle bus to the hotel that leaves every thirty minutes at 15 and 45 minutes past the hour. The journey from Incheon to The Nest will take approximately ten minutes to complete.
The Nest Hotel only opened in autumn 2014. Modern industrial probably best describes the architecture and style of the hotel. It is a very stylish establishment that manages to pull off the whole design hotel thing without seeming pretentious.
The rooms are elegantly appointed in an understated way, with a lot of wood and bare concrete.
I wonder if you can connect the toilet’s mission control to the iPhone via Bluetooth…?
There is only one restaurant which serves mainly Western food with a Korean Twist (Think Pasta Bolognese with a side order of pickles). The quality of the food is excellent, especially the desserts.
The hotel also features a sauna, spa and gym. The latter is pretty well equipped, with a good selection of cardio machines and weights. It even has a boxing ring!
I like The Nest a lot. In fact I shall be staying here on my way back to Europe and again in August.
I only arrived back from a meeting in Amsterdam yesterday, and today I am off again. So I can hardly say I am well prepared for this trip. But that does not matter that much anyway. I am on vacation. In fact, I am on my way to attend the wedding of a very old and dear friend of mine. So as long as I arrive in time for the cake, everything else will be just fine.
Getting to the Airport
I arrive in Frankfurt just before four in the afternoon on a Lufthansa flight from Basel. With all the changes Lufthansa is making right now, I do not think I could say whether the flight was operated by Lufthansa, Lufthansa Cityline (Do they still exist?) or Germanwings. But it is of no real importance one way or another.
I pick up my suitcase from the A arrivals concourse in Terminal 1. My flight to Seoul with Korean Air will be leaving from Terminal 2.
To get there, turn right upon exiting customs and keep on walking until you reach the escalator. From there, head one floor up, which should bring you to the main Lufthansa check-in area. There are signs indicating the way to Terminal 2, although in fact eventually they will lead you to the automated people mover that makes the journey between Terminals 1 and 2 in approximately two minutes.
Location: Korean Air has its own dedicated check-in counters on the D concourse of Terminal 2. Facilities: There are six counters: the Duty Manager’s counter, one First Class counter, one Business Class counter, one Morning Calm counter (KE’s loyalty programme) and then two Economy Class counters.
The check-in agent is friendly enough I guess, but her welcome is far from courteous. I place my case on the belt and hand her my passport. She types my name into the check-in system and then belches out a loud and obviously very annoyed ‘Was soll denn das jetzt wieder – Now what?’. Apparently they only just switched to a new reservations systems which requires the agents to verify that you are in possession of the credit card with which you made the booking. Eventually one of the Korean Air staff comes along, explains every thing and finishes checking me in. With my boarding pass I also receive an invitation to the Sky Lounge Korean Air uses here in Frankfurt.
The Sky Lounge
Location: The Sky Lounge is located before the security check for gates D1 – D8, from where my flight will be leaving this evening. Type of Lounge: Contractor lounge Facilities: Toilets and showers are available in the lounge. There is a small area with workstations. As far as food options are concerned, there is a buffet with a small selection of cold food – sandwiches, Würstchen with potato salad and gherkins, doughnuts, slices of cake. Internet: There is a bowl with wifi codes and passwords at the reception desk. However, as soon as I select the correct network I am online, without having to provide neither a username nor a password.
The Sky Lounge is, admittedly, not particularly nice. In fact it reminds me a lot of those ghastly lounges you find at American airports, which usually have the sad and tired look of a mid-range hotel lobby. Still, the lounge’s saving grace is that it has windows, providing an excellent vantage point for aircraft making their approach to the northernmost runway as they fly past fairly low above the ground.
There is a priority lane for security. Boarding is via the L1 door for First and Business Class passengers. Boarding for all other passengers is via the L2 door.
Boarding for my flight is scheduled to begin at 19h15. So I leave the lounge thirty minutes before. I still need to go through security. I am travelling with a cuckoo clock – the wedding gift for my friends – which caused a bit of a stir when I left Basel earlier. So security might take a moment.
Configuration: 2 x 3 x 2 Seat: 8A, window Pitch: 74 inches Width: 21 inches Facilities: Reading lamp, USB port, power outlet. Length as a bed: Audio and Video: Audio and video on demand. The selection of films is somewhat limited and a bit strange, think ‘Charades’ with Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. I mean, seriously?
There is a total of 56 seats across eight rows, with a mini Business Class cabin of only two rows located between the First Class cabin and the L2 galley. That is where I am sitting. I suspect that previously this may have been part of the First Class cabin, because there are no overhead bins over the middle aisle, contrary to the main Business Class cabin.
Korean Air’s configuration on the B 777-300 is pretty standard, it is a classic set up. The configuration with three seats abreast on the middle row though, is a bit antiquated, especially given the fact that carriers like Cathay Pacific have long switched to a 1 x 2 x 1 configuration. Having said that, I recently saw a press release in which Korean Air announced that it was introducing a new cabin layout across its B 777-300 fleet that will be introduced with the arrival of new aircraft.
The seat Korean Air has is pretty similar – if not even the same – to the one Air France has in stalled and is currently in the process of replacing. It is a comfortable enough seat to sleep. When fully extended to a bed, the seat is only lightly angled. However, it is slightly too short. I am 184 cm tall and am unable to fully stretch my legs.
Earphones, a blanket and pillow and slippers have already been placed at every seat before boarding. A vanity kit and the menu are distributed after take off.
The crew on this flight are pretty much what you would expect. They are all very polite and attentive in the way they go about their work. The guy on the other side of the aisle from me has fallen asleep sitting upright. I think he was out before the wheels even left the ground. Later on when on of the cabin crew comes round taking orders for dinner, she fetches a blanket to cover him up and extends his seat into a bed. Other than that though, the crew seem reserved, but that is mainly a cultural thing I think.
Welcome drink on the ground: A selection of still water, orange juice and guava juice and served with nuts. Hot towel before the meal: Yes, scented. Pre-meal drink: Orange juice, served with a capsicum and eggplant dip with sundried tomato and an olive and garlic focaccia. Choice: There are three choices for the main course. Delivery: Trolley service. Type of meal: Dinner.
The First Course
Mixed seafood with a fresh green salad and Thousand Islands dressing.
The Koreans use metal chopsticks instead of wooden ones.
The Main Course – Bibimbap
This is just a minor detail, but I notice during the meal service that there are no salt and pepper shakers on the trays of passengers who have chosen the Korean option for the main course. Quite apparently bread is also not foreseen if you are having the Korean dish.
For the main course I am having the Bibimbap. It is a very typically Korean dish made with seasonal vegetables and cooked minced beef. The get the full on Bibimbap experience, here is what to do:
Dump the rice in the bowl with all the other ingredients.
2. Take the sachet of sesame oil and poor it over everything.
3. Take the tube of Korean chilli paste and squeeze that into the bowl as well.
4. Use the spoon provided to give everything a good stir and mix it until it starts to look like somebody just threw up on your plate.
Your Bibimbap is ready to eat. As condiments there are pickled onions and cucumber served with the dish. I think it is delicious!
Panna cotta with strawberry.
Once the tray is cleared away, I extend the seat into bed mode and go off to sleep. Earlier in the day I had been to the gym, which usually leaves me feeling completely knackered. So as soon as my head hits the pillow, I am out like a light.
I awake just over two hours out of Seoul.
The Second Service
Hot towel before the meal: Yes, scented Pre-meal drink: Guava juice Choice: There are two choices for the main course Delivery: Trolley service Type of meal: Breakfast
Selection of bread with butter and jam.
Quiche Lorraine with potatoes, grilled vegetables and a pork sausage.
A selection of jam.
A selection of fruit.
Coffee and tea.
The second service begins with the distribution of a refreshing scented hot towel, which is followed by a glass of juice. For some reason the juice is served in a plastic cup.
The service is completed with one hour to go to Seoul. I change back into my winter clothes and spend the rest of the flight gazing out the window. To me, the view from up here is simply addictive.
Our approach is a circuitous one, presumably there are a few restrictions in place towards the north of the airport. But it also looks as though Incheon is rather busy at this time of day, so we end up doing quite a few rounds before eventually we are cleared to make the final approach and land.
Getting to the Hotel
Transport: Complimentary shuttle bus Departs from: Door 14 Frequency: Every thirty minutes at 15 and 45 past the hour Journey time: Fifteen minutes
In Seoul I shall be staying at the Nest Hotel in Incheon, which only recently opened. I chose this hotel due to its close proximity to the airport and the fact that I simply liked the way it looked.