Posts tagged HKG
Korean Air, First Class – Seoul to Hong Kong – Trip Report

I have a habit of grabbing one of those tiny jars of Häagen-Dazs chocolate ice cream whenever I'm passing by a lounge, and this time is no exception. I’m spending a few more minutes at the Korean Air First Class lounge munching away on my cold treat along with a plate of fruits, checking my phone to make sure I head off in time to gate 17 and my Hong Kong flight.

This lounge is not all that different form Asiana’s nearby first class offering and quite far from what you would expect at Lufthansa’s first class terminal and lounges. Still, it’s perfectly decent and trying out the shower facilities was great having had a bit of a non-optimized journey from Seoul to the Incheon airport. Time flies and I should get going, the font desk lady promptly rises from her seat, bows, smiles and says good bye when I pass by, as per Korean customer service protocol, and I manage to almost send myself tumbling down the escalator as I bump into a steel structure on my way down. Manage to stay stabilized, though.

A few more minutes of walking and I'm at the gate, making my way through the priority boarding lane, I turn left into the beloved first class jetway and at the very moment I step onto the aircraft I'm greeted by a flight attendant and escorted to seat number 3J. Korean Air has opted to have their A380 first class cabins on the main deck, providing a slightly less intimate feel than what you would get on a typical A380 with the first class cabin positioned on the upper deck. Adding to the lack of intimacy is the the somewhat clinical interior with its white, grey and trademark turquoise shades, but still, it's a new, fresh and perfectly decent first class cabin and the seats are comfortable with no blocked windows. Love that. This pic gives you an idea of what the first class seats look like.

As I settle down and put my stuff in the various compartments, a flight attendant walks by offering a pair of headphones, but they're similar to my own and we agree that I'll stick with the Bose set I already have. Then, a few minutes before pushback, the purser in charge and the first class cabin’s senior flight attendant both stop by to introduce themselves in a very polished, slightly formal way. It's done a notch above the first class experiences I've had in the past where the purser is the only one to do the pre-flight greeting. A few moments later we're clear of the jet bridge and this being an A380, I can’t resist bringing up the tail camera on the 23 inch flatscreen I have in front of me, watching as we move towards the runway. Love that camera.

The KE607 flight to Hong Kong only lasts about 3.5 hours and the meal service kicks in as soon as we've reached our cruising altitude, the schedule being a bit tight for a proper first class dinner service. I ask for some pink bubbly, yep, awesome, and ask to have the bibimbap main course option. By now I have had a bazillion different bibimbaps in the air but I simply can’t resist having the Korean signature dish one more time.

A younger flight attendant starts setting up my table and Korean Air has, by far, the most elaborate way of doing this, ever. All items are carried on a small silver tray and placed in front of me with immaculate precision and care. She spends a few minutes making sure everything is laid out perfectly, it feels like forever and I start getting a bit uncomfortable not knowing what to say or do while she executes her table setup procedure, I end up going with a cheerful »thanks!«.

First up is the appetizer, »Garlic cream cheese and yam terrine with crabmeat and persimmon jelly on goat cheese«. Nice looks, nice taste. I stay on the pink bubbly throughout the meal.

A »Carrot cream soup« is up next and seriously, this is one of the best soups I've ever had, be it on the ground or up in the air. Fantastic.

Once I'm done with the delicious soup, a salad with mixed greens arrives with a choice of yoghurt or korean dressing. Good crunch, decent taste.

And then, the bibimbap. Not quite as big of a meal as the one served in Asiana's first class, but it's still a lot of food. It tastes good, fresh and ends up being a solid bibimbap, though my favorite in-air version is still the one I got on a Lufthansa flight out of Seoul in business class a few years back. 

What happens next is a bit interesting. They remove all traces of the main dish, make sure I'm comfortable, and after a while the dessert tray comes out, manned by both the senior flight attendant who presented herself right before pushback, and her younger colleague. I ask to have the green tea ice cream and some fresh fruit and the junior flight attendant is just about to put the ice cream in front of me when the senior woman intercepts mid-air, says something in Korean, and in a split second she rearranges the entire table setup – cloth, glasses, cutlery, everything – into absolute perfection. And then proceeds to serve the ice cream and fruit herself. I have no clue what just happened, but it was stunningly amazing. What a professional. The perfectionist in me gets all warm and fuzzy as I dig into the green thing. Lovely.

The ice cream has a somewhat funny taste to it, this being the first time ever I try the green tea variety. Still, a good experience and I love that they put a few cherries on the fruit platter. Good stuff.

By now I'm all full and our giant Airbus will soon start descending towards Hong Kong, so I jump out of my seat to explore the aircraft. I know the Korean Air configuration has a few extra surprises up its sleeve and I'm eager to check them out. There should be two bars and a tax free shop. Slightly insane, I know. I miss out on getting a drink as they are packing down things in preparation for landing, but I make sure to walk through both bars, located on each end of the all-business class upper deck. I skip the tax free shop and head back to my seat, strap myself in, and bring the tail camera back up. And whoa.

What a sight. 

It's pitch black outside, but as we pass through a layer of scattered clouds the landing lights get switched on, and the tail camera captures everything perfectly as we're swooshing through the clouds, lit by the light beams, and the sensation is so hard to wrap up in words but it looks incredibly awesome, like an action scene straight out of a playstation game, with an insane sense of speed and kinetics as brightly lit clouds appear out of nowhere with our fuselage cutting straight through them like a rocket. The clouds soon disappear as the plane gets closer to HKG, strobing runway lights in sight, we touch down pretty hard, roll out, taxi, gate, disembark, bye, and boom, I'm in Hong Kong. And everyone in economy stayed calm, no fistfight this time around.

By now it's 11pm and I'm crazy tired, I pick up my bags, go grab a burger and then walk over to the Regal Airport Hotel. Can't wait to get some sleep.

I'm glad I got to try a first class product outside the good old Star Alliance network, and despite being a short trip, Korean Air did deliver a pretty great experience with a few touches I haven't seen elsewhere – such as the insane attention to detail during meal service, and some of the formalized passenger interactions. And of course, the two bars and the tax free shop add to the experience. Good stuff.

As always, if you're looking for a ton of pics, check out the trip reports over at The Australian Frequent (a business class trip report, but with a ton of good photos of the cabin, bars, tax free shop and more) and Life According to Kai (yet another business class one with a ton of photos).

Fistfight in Economy Class

It’s a warm summer morning in late July. I’m in a cab on my way to Kowloon station to catch the Airport Express out of Hong Kong and we’re driving through a maze of streets lined with shops, people, concrete, steel and all these odd scaffolding structures made entirely of bamboo sticks. A big seatback monitor runs airline commercials inside the cab and my mind drifts away for a few seconds, thoughts racing through skies and clouds and blue and oh, it seems we’re just about to arrive at Kowloon, better get the money out, pay, thanks, and I’m in the queue to get a train ticket. In a few hours I’ll be on LH739. Should be a nice flight, first time ever on the 747's upper deck. And when I get to Frankfurt I'll have three hours between my inbound and outbound flights. Lots of time.

I blip my way through the ticket gate, the train arrives, I grab a seat, get my earbuds out and tell my iPhone to dig up 내가 너무 아파 by T-ara. Great k-pop right there. Before I know it doors open, I head left to departures and walk up to the Lufthansa first class check-in desk, red carpet and all. I get a boarding pass, they get my bags and make sure I know my way to the United first class lounge. Turns out not to be too bad. Decent buffet with lots of hors d’oeuvres, dumplings, sushi, fruit, desserts and a freezer filled with Häagen-Dazs ice cream. A woman approaches me with a menu and explains the a la carte options available, I ask for a crab sandwhich and a glass of champagne. Seems like an appropriately classy breakfast.

Time flies and rain falls outside as I walk down to the gate, passing by a ton of economy class passengers lined up for boarding. I make a left when the jet bridge splits in two, leave the poor business class people behind on the main deck and make my way up the stairs and settle down in 82A.

Now, this is where things start derailing. First, they let us know we’re not going anywhere for an hour and 45 minutes due to bad weather over mainland China. No worries, I still got plenty of time to make my connection and the first class cabin is a pretty decent place to be stuck when waiting for the skies to clear up. They get some appetizers out and keep my diet coke topped up. Time passes by fairly quickly, the weather gets better and we do pushback, get 20 meters or so. And stop. Hm. That’s strange. I watch them scramble to reconnect the jet bridge, the captain gets on the PA and says there’s been a fight in economy class and they need to get two passengers off the plane, authorities waiting. Me and the guy across the aisle share a funny look.

Once their bags have been dug out from underneath we make a third attempt. But no. A distinct smell of fuel fills the cabin. Not good. Captain gets on the PA again and says “attention! all crew to stations”. That means they’re on immediate standby to evacuate the aircraft through all available emergency exits. Whoa. Firetrucks line up. They eventually get back on and make a “cancel alert, cancel alert” announcement. Seems the leak wasn’t us.

Fourth attempt to get going. This time, one of the engines won’t work. They have no clue how long it will be until that stuff gets fixed. Ugh. By now we’re 3.5 hours late and there’s no way I’m going to make my connection in Frankfurt. I ask a flight attendant if I can get off the plane and be rebooked onto tomorrow’s flight instead. I’d much rather have an extra night in Hong Kong than having to do the whole airport hotel thing in Frankfurt. And sure enough, a few minutes later I’m being escorted back through immigration and my bags pop up on a tiny luggage carousel. So… bonus time in Hong Kong. Not too bad.

I call Lufthansa to make sure I’m rebooked, grab some food and then call Hyatt to make a reservation at the very same hotel I left this morning. Turns out they only have semi-expensive rooms available but hey, who cares, let’s do it. I catch a train back, get to the hotel, a lovely lady checks me in and says they got me upgraded. A suite. Oh, awesome, thanks, I get my stuff and head up to my room. Whoa. Amazing. Great view of the harbor. Basically an apartment with a few rooms and a large jacuzzi. I settle in, fire up my computer and chat with my dear friend X, she suggests I catch a ferry cruise around Victoria Harbor. Sounds great. Last one leaves pretty soon so I get my stuff and head down to the pier, jump on the ferry and grab a seat. Summer night mist and all the skyscraper neon lights mix into a beautiful cityscape. Stunningly awesome.

The next day I get myself a proper breakfast with a view, the club floor at the Hyatt Regency Tsim Sha Tsui is really pretty decent... and then I do it all over again. Cab ride, Kowloon station, train, check-in, bubbly in the lounge, buckle up in 82A. This time though, we do take off. And I get to Frankfurt in time. Good stuff.

Oh, and the fight. Before I deplaned my delayed flight I asked the purser what that was all about. Turns out one guy reclined his seat. The guy behind him wasn’t too happy with that and… boom. Fistfight.