Flying Korean Air – Pleasantly Surprised

For your next trip, you could do much worse than fly with Korean Air. In fact, you might be very surprised…

If an airline can be defined by its high-budget advertising, then check out Korean Air’s TV commercial to put you in the right frame of mind.

That said, it is a bit of a stretch.

But, you just know you are going to have a good flight when you sit down and notice a widescreen TV in the headrest of the chair in front of you. What makes it even more blissful is that your headphones arrive before the plane takes off. AND you can start browsing a wide range of recent movie releases before the last passenger is onboard. In fact, you can even start watching the film before the multi-lingual safety video interrupts with its important information for travellers.

Already I am thinking, wow, innovative service. Or as their advertising campaign goes “excellence in flight”.

Somehow the quality of the entertainment system has become an essential part of me enjoying my flight experience. If it isn’t working, or it doesn’t exist (as in the Taipei to Bangkok flight I took earlier this year to Sydney), then the hours of sitting with the back of a chair in your face seem that much more unbearable.

On Korean Air, I had no problem with accessing or using the personal entertainment system, and there was a wide selection of inflight movies you could choose from.

Seating also seemed a tiny bit more generous, with what felt like more leg room in economy than compared to, say, Cathay Pacific.

The food in economy was also pretty nice. My favorite was the “Pork with Rice” though the “Beef with Noodles” (ie pasta) seemed pretty bland. The staff seemed eager to ensure I had any drink I wanted too.

On my return trip, I did encounter something to complain about. Not feeling too well, I asked for an alternative to a cooked meal, something simple like “a cookie” to which I got “Cookie? No, we only have Fish, Beef or Pork.”

Okay, nice try. But I am taking half a point off for that remark. Another half point goes to the fact the headphones where not handed out before we took off between Seoul and Ulaanbaatar; by now I was expecting far better than that!

When you arrive at Incheon airport, you quickly enter the transit area. Depending on the time of day it can be a bit of a line up at security, but once through you are soon into the departure zone. The airport is designed as a huge arc, with what appeared to be multiple passport check points. Shops are located between each gate, with toilets also located near each gate. This seemed to spread people out more (and with things to do) than at airports like Bangkok or Hong Kong, and the floor plan does make it easier to navigate: you just follow the curve.

Restaurants and cafes aren’t concentrated in sections, so you don’t need to walk far to find a coffee or grab something to eat. Yes, the terminal design is a bit repetitive, as there is an endless supply of duty free cosmetics, glasses and liquor stores. But as airports go, it is an efficient space to wander through.

Korean Air’s website is a bit annoying, as I found with online check-in. Some of the requirements for completing specific fields could be improved with notes or warnings about using spaces and other characters. To do online check-in, you must sign up as a member and provide detailed personal information to the website. This could be improved, with a decision made as to what is legally required and what is just of interest to their marketing team.

  • Flight Schedules: 8/10
  • Airport Facilities: 9/10
  • In-flight Services: 9/10
  • In-flight Food: 8/10

Overall Rating: 8.5/10

Ticket Class: Economy. Seated in rows 5o and 43.

Itinerary: Taipei to Ulaanbaatar via Seoul on Korean Air. 2.5 hour afternoon transit in Incheon Airport. Return trip: Ulaanbaatar to Taipei with 6 hour pre-dawn transit.


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