GETTING TO THE AIRPORT
Transport: Metro and airport train.
Departs from: Mong Kok station, in the basement of the hotel.
Frequency: Every two minutes.
Journey time: About one hour from the hotel lobby to the check-in counter.
Fare: HKD18 for two persons for the metro and another HKD19 for two persons for the airport express.
Note: Keep in mind that the MTR and the Airport Express only accept cash, both at the ticketing machines or at the counters. Only the counters at the airport will accept credit cards.
To get to the airport from the Langham Place Hotel, take the Tseung Kwan O line (red line) to Lai King, which is the sixth stop. Alight and take a Tung Chung line train (orange line) from the opposite platform to Tsing Yi, which is the first stop after Lai King. The metro ticket is valid for the journey from Mong Kok to Tsing Yi.
At Tsing Yi, change to the Hong Kong Airport Express. The train stops at both Terminals 1 and 2 (Left exit for Terminal 1, right exit for Terminal 2). As easy as cutting Swiss cheese!
Location: Terminal 1, row J on your far right when you enter the departures concourse.
Facilities: There are two Business Class check-in counters and seven Economy Class counters.
I innocently walk up to the check-in counter and hand the agent my passport for the flight to Seoul. He checks me in straight away and hands me my passport back with the boarding pass. It is only as I am about to go through security that I actually bother to take a look at my boarding pass. Much to my surprise I am now sitting on 3F instead of the preassigned 9F. On the A380 row 9 is the third row of Business Class on the upper deck, which gives me two options. Either I have been upgraded to one of the First Class seats on the A380 or, more likely, there has been an aircraft change. With a sinking feeling I return to the check-in area and ask one of the attendants about the aircraft type. She confirms the flight will be operated by a Boeing B 777-200 tonight. Crap! After all the planning I put into this itinerary. If I had known before, I would have changed my entire schedule, instead of electing to fly at such an ungodly hour. I mean, the gall of Asiana, to go change the aircraft type without even as much as asking me in advance.
Location: One floor down from immigration, close to gate 15.
Type of Lounge: Singapore Airlines lounge.
Facilities: This is rather a nice lounge, with a variety of seating options. There are toilets and showers in the Business Class section. The buffet is quite extensive, with an interesting array of Asian and western dishes, both hot and cold. A wonton noodle soup is also available upon request and will take about ten minutes to arrive.
Internet: Wifi is available, no password is required.
Apart form the Asiana flight to Seoul there is still the Singapore Airlines flight to San Francisco at 23h30. Initially there are a few people milling about for that flight, but once the boarding call for San Francisco is made, the lounge quickly empties and I am left all by myself. The lights are turned on to full brightness and the cleaning crew set to clearing up the place.
Priority Boarding: There are two separate queues, one for Economy Class passengers to the right of the gate counter, and one for First Class and Business Class passengers to the left. Asiana uses two airbridges in Hong Kong.
Configuration: 1 + 2 + 1
Seat: 4A, window seat on the port side. Asiana operates the B 777-200 in five different cabin configurations, only two of which have a First Class cabin installed. Of the three versions without a First Class, only one has the new Business Class cabin installed. The other two are still in the old configuration with the 2 + 3 + 2 seating. At least from what I can tell I shall be travelling on an aircraft with the new cabin, because I have been assigned an F seat, which does not exist on the other aircraft. There are a total of 24 seats in Business Class. On the rows of single seats, those with even numbers are more private, because they are further away from the aisle. In the fully upright position, the seat is somewhat uncomfortable because you are sitting so far upright you are actually leaning forward! Other than that, the holder for magazines on the even numbered single seats is turned away from the passenger, so that you cannot even see where the magazines are when seated.
Facilities: There is no wifi, but from what I understand you can send SMS from your IFE at a charge, a 110 volt power port is available.
Length as a bed: 74.5
Audio and Video: A selection of music, films and video games is available on demand.
Originally I am assigned 3F. Once boarding is completed however, it transpires that there will only be seven passengers in Business Class on this evening’s flight anyway. So I move over to 4A instead.
The service is typically Korean – very polite, warm and meticulously executed. As the purser makes the welcome on board announcement, two of her colleagues walk into the cabin and bow to join in the welcome.
Vanity kits are not distributed on this flight, only slippers. However, dental kits, combs and shaving kits are available in the toilets.
Welcome drink on the ground: Orange juice
Hot towel before the meal: Very hot towel served while still on the ground.
Choice: One western dish, one Korean dish and a light option.
Delivery: Tray service.
Type of meal: In the middle of the night kind of meal…
- Korean beef and mushroom porridge with side dishes.
Service begins on the ground with a welcome drink. There is a choice of orange juice, water or champagne. This is followed shortly after with the distribution of some exceptionally hot hot towels.
After take-off, the menus are distributed. What always strikes me about Asiana is that they will give you a menu but will then insist on you handing it back once they have taken your order.
In any case, I have decided to go with the Korean dish, even though I am not entirely sure what it actually is. There is no starter with the Korean meal. Instead the congee comes with a bowl of Kimchi, a bowl with some other pickles and a bowl with soy sauce. In addition, there is a small sachet of sesame oil. From what I understand, the idea is that you put the sesame oil and soy sauce in the congee for seasoning. No bread is served with the Korean meal and if you ask, you may well a) get a few strange looks or b) completely disrupt the entire service concept as the cabin crew scramble to meet your – in their view – totally unusual and bizarre request. The tray comes with a glass of still water.
And then I think we have a cultural misunderstanding of sorts. I have nearly finished the congee when one of the cabin crew passes my seat. She looks at me and points out that the congee looks awfully salty because I used all the soy sauce. She then asks me if I would like another congee. As I am still feeling a bit hungry, I agree. Shortly after she returns with a fresh bowl of hot congee. She places it down on my tray and is completely astonished by the fact that I have finished the previous bowl. It is only then that I realise that what she meant was that she would bring me a new dish so I would not have to finish the one which, in her view, I had ruined by adding too much soy sauce.
As far as cutlery is concerned, by the way, you will receive only a spoon and metal chopsticks.
After the flight I extend the seat into sleep mode and catch forty winks before the landing in Seoul.
The lights go on about thirty minutes out of Incheon. The cabin crew pass through the cabin offering glasses of orange juice before they secure the cabin for arrival.
The temperature is only around 24 degrees Celsius when we arrive. It is just coming up to five o’clock. But it is so humid that the aircraft’s windows are all fogged up, making it impossible to see anything clearly outside. Much to my surprise though, another four aircraft land behind us in the time it takes us to vacate the runway and taxi to the apron. I would not have thought the place would be so busy at this time of the morning.
GETTING INTO TOWN
Departs from: Second pavement row, between sectors 5C and 8D
Journey time: About 10 minutes.
I shall be staying at the Nest hotel in Incheon again, which is where I already stayed in February on my stopover on my way from Frankfurt via Seoul to Auckland. Unfortunately, the first shuttle to the hotel will not be leaving the airport until 06h10, which is more than an hour away. So instead I decide to take a taxi. The taxi stand is organised by destination. Taxis for short journeys to places around Incheon leave from stand 5C.