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.
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.
Priority Boarding: 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.
CABIN & SEAT
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.
- Mixed seafood with a fresh green salad and Thousand Islands dressing.
- A selection of cheese.
- Panna cotta with strawberry.
- Selection of bread.
The Koreans use metal chopsticks instead of wooden ones.
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!
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.
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 INTO TOWN
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.