Korean Air Lines - KAL
7 reviews from the community
Review of "Korean Air Lines - KAL"
Steve Cooke is a travel agent by day and a wannabe freelance journalist & photographer by night. He has visited over seventy countries and has worked in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Germany and South Africa.
Once you get over the initial excitement of economy-class long-haul plane travel - it all pretty much sucks.However, some long-haul airlines suck less than others - Korean Air is one of these.
If you are going to be locked-up in a tin can for an obscene amount of time - the best you can hope for is that: you don't have to pay too much for the pleasure; the flight is as quick as possible; the trolley dollies / flight attendants are pleasant; and the safety videos are mildly erotic.That's why I'll fly Korean Air again.
THE PROS* Under-seat sockets for laptop plugs
* 4-star accommodation included in the cost of the flight [where no same-day longhaul connection exists to/from Australia & New Zealand]
* Comparatively cheap compared to other airlines
* Skyteam Frequent Flier Points
* Fast and friendly
THE CONS* No seat back monitor between Seoul and Auckland
* No foot-rests
* Hostess unable to lend me an adapter for the two-pin socket under the seat [Etihad Airways once managed to find me one]
I travelled out in September 2008 in economy class between London & Auckland.
THE BITS & BOBS
The ticket cost £760 return all-in - £200 less than the next cheapest airfare I could find for my dates.A travel visa is not necessary for transit or stopover when travellers use a NZ, AU, GB passport [90 days] or US passport [30 days].In addition there is only one change of plane.
Korean Air operate a Boeing 747-400 between London & Seoul and then a 777-200 down to Auckland.The over-all flight time is faster than even Air New Zealand.
The connection time on the way out is three-hours.On the way back there is an overnight stay - great if you are not in a hurry.
ON THE PLANEThe seat-pitch on Korean Air is pretty decent compared to other airlines.
When I say 'decent,' it's not degrees of comfort I'm referring to - rather degrees of discomfort.Korean Air are less uncomfortable than other carriers.
Between London and Seoul the seat-pitch is 34-inches; From Seoul down to Auckland it is 33-inches. For context - the typical BA economy seat-pitch is 31-inches.Those extra few inches help. It means when the person in front of you reclines their seat - your whole face does not irradiated by their seat-back screen. It also means that your knees are not wrapped around your ears. A problem for most, except: Romanian gymnasts; Bikram yogis; or dwarves. None of which are known to ply the route to the antipodes. Much to our disappointment.
The 747 has a row configuration of 3-4-3, except at the back - where the plane narrows to 2-4-2. I always try and get a side seat there. It means you don't have to crawl over as many people to go to the loo - or have them crawl over you.An additional bonus is that Korean Air put the headphone socket on the front of the armrest. This makes a pleasant change to the airlines who place it on the inside arm so it digs in to your thigh. Especially troublesome for those apportioned with a generous flanks.
The little things make a big difference. On the 747 the aisle arm-rests come-up [There is a latch under the arm at the base] for a little extra lateral room - but not on the 777.There is room for improvement, most notably - Korean Air need to add foot-rests. They lift your legs off the seat to permit easy blood circulation and prevent blood clots. A condition known as Economy Class Syndrome or Deep Vein Thrombosis.
A simple addition that prevents death might be worthy of some consideration.Another demonstration in design master class is the placement of the seat-back remote on the top of the armrest. It means you can unwittingly turn your seat into the world's highest disco. The overhead light turns on-and-off and the flight attendant's bell 'ding dings' as your elbow runs along the console buttons.
Finally, both planes have single middle armrests only - except the very middle seat of the 777. It means elbow wars with you neighbours - especially at meal-times.For an experiment, at home tonight - try to eat dinner with your elbows glued to your ribs.
SOCKETSRound two-pin Asian sockets are under the seats in economy. Bring your own adapter plug.
MEALSKorean Air has no scruples in arming its passengers with steel cutlery - which is the safer option really.
Plastic cutlery can easily be snapped in to sharp dagger-like shanks; planes hijacked - then flown in to a sky-scrappers. Sound implausible? None-the-less, it's tougher to do this with butter knives.Western and Asian meal options were available on each flight. I turned my nose up at the chicken, beef & fish and decided to try a few different Eastern treats.
The same meals were served on each flight. If this were prison, there would be a riot. There is only so much seaweed soup, pumpkin porridge and rice cakes a man can take.The main was called Bibimbap. It is a mixture of rice, bean-shoots, lettuce, cucumber, pickles, finely minced beef, sesame seed oil, and hot red pepper paste. It was pretty bland really, but nutritious and light - so good for a long flight.
THE TOILETSToilets on airplanes are like plastic coffins - with amenities. It says a lot about the cramped conditions that a visit to the toilet is something to look forward to.
I went for the space, squirty bottles and music. And something to do. There I was soothed by Pachelbel's Canon. It's ironic that one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever composed is named after heavy artillery.On the sinks sat moisturiser and toilet water. Not splash-back from the bowl, rather eau-de-toilet. A few squirts of the refreshing pine and musk fragrance transformed the cubicle into a damp forest edge. I flushed the toilet and added a waterfall effect.
ENTERTAINMENTIn the old days to entertain yourself, you would try to read a book or talk to other passengers - whether they liked it or not.
These days most airlines provide seat-back entertainment systems. It means you can now comfortably ignore the person three inches away from you for eleven consecutive hours.The 747 between London and Seoul had a 21cm seat-back touch-screen which showed a selection of on-demand: games, films, TV shows and documentaries.
There were more movies than you could shake a stick at. Over 50 of them. They covered everything from Hollywood Hits to Asian Cinema.I watched a Korean film with English subtitles called BA:BO. A wholesome concert pianist returns to her village after ten years in Europe and decides to hang out with a brothel pimp and the village idiot. I initially thought the relationships were unlikely, but if Rupert Murdoch [who looks more like a Sith Lord as each day passes] can hook up with Wendi Deng - I suppose anything is possible.
The airline also showed a documentary titled: 'The Great Global Warming Swindle'. It correlated solar activity to climate change much more closely than carbon emissions - which are random by comparison.A neat piece of education by, err… a member of the carbon producing aviation industry.
To consolidate their position as Carbon Deniers [They'll be forbidden from flying to Germany soon, or its executives expediently extradited under the new European Arrest Warrants], Korean Air do not have a programme to offset passengers' carbon emissions.But I crap on / digress...
The in-flight entertainment system has ten games. They are mostly generic computer games like Tetris or dice and board. Bored games if you are under 20-years-old. The chess is Mickey Mouse - metaphorically that is. Were it literally Mickey Mouse - it might have some novelty value.The entertainment on the 777 was almost back to the bad old days of air travel. I would not have been surprised not to see people sleeping on the floor or smoking. Screens dropped from the ceiling at what seemed like 50m intervals. Unfortunately my binoculars has been confiscated by security. Lucky I had my laptop though [I bought an adapter plug at Incheon]. I could now ignore my next door neighbour without guilt.
INCHEON INTERNATIONAL AIRPORTIncheon is the main international gateway for Korea. The capital, Seoul, is about 50km away.
The airport is an oasis of calm and civility. multi-story-high exposed steel girders and glass walls create space and room to circulate air and light. It was a relief from the claustrophobic confines of the plane. Tranquil even.There is noise - but not much. The International Terminal is more akin to a library than an airport. It's so quiet that you can hear footsteps on the marble floors. People talk in muted whispers - if they talk at all. The tannoy announcements are so gentle you need to strain to hear them
There are lounges with big comfy chairs where you can plug in your own computer [once you buy an International adapter] and connect to the Internet for free. Otherwise there are Mac notebooks with free Internet access - although some are loaded only with Korean language packs.The airport does disappoint in a few areas. It is too big for one. There are probably quite a few bars and restaurants - but they are spread so far apart - they seem to be almost non-existent. The duty free is unremarkable. Actually the prices are similar to the duty free at other airports. I smell collusion, or is it Issey Miyake - either way something stinks.
STOPOVER ACCOMMODATION PACKAGEWhen there is no same-day connecting flight between Australia/New Zealand and the UK - Korean Air provide a complimentary night's accommodation. It includes meals and transfers.
Once you have paid for your flight ticket in full - get your travel agent to contact Korean Air to request the stopover package. Confirmation takes 24 hours.The actual hotel and vouchers are not assigned until you arrive at the transfer desk at Incheon airport.
On arrival, go through passport control and collect you bag [unless you have checked it all the way through to London - In which case remember to take out a change of clothes prior].Once you step in to the arrival hall - the Korean Air transfer desk should be visible in front of you. At the desk you name will be checked from a list - and food vouchers given. I was given a breakfast voucher worth KRW 20,000 [£10.00] and a lunch voucher worth KRW 10,000 [£5.00]
The attendant will direct you towards one of many hotel representatives standing nearby.Korean use different standards of hotels in their stopover programme. If you end up with a chit for the Best Western - ask if you can stay at the Hyatt Regency. it is a four star hotel less than five minutes drive away. Rooms usually cost about £120 per night.
HYATT REGENCYAt the reception I made a mistake in that I didn't ask for a non-smoking room. Or the receptionist made a mistake in that she never gave me the option. The error became apparent as soon as I opened the door. It was like someone had just waved a full ashtray under my nose. I soon became immune to the stench. The room is what you would expect from Hyatt: tastefully decorated with neutral colours; spacious [30sq/m + at a guess] with a big desk, king-size bed, large bathroom and big TV.restaurant - and helped myself to the buffet. Everything was there, from: cooked breakfast, cereals and fruits to Asian breakfasts.
FREQUENT FLIER PROGRAMME [SKYPASS]Korean Air is part of Skyteam. It means once you have accrued enough air-miles, they can be redeemed for flights on Korean - or one of its partner airlines. They include: Air France, KLM, Alitalia, Continental and Delta to name a few.
CHECK-INCheck-in was painless. In London I checked-in all the way to Auckland and vice-versa on the way back. I was given my boarding pass to the final destination. In both London and Auckland there was no queue at all. I went straight to the check-in counter.
ONBOARD SERVICEThe flight attendants were all young and beautiful with easy smiles and a warm seemingly sincere charm. They liked their jobs.
The one in the seat-belt safety video liked her job - a lot. It was almost C grade smut flick. It certainly had my attention - which is the point I suppose.The last time I saw such intense concentration and deliberate movements combined with a partially open mouth and demure eyes flicking-up with long lingered looks to the camera - Debbie was in the process of doing Dallas...
I'm willing to bet that less people are injured on Korean Air due to in-flight turbulence than any other airline.Safety first after all...
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Listed on Ciao since: 07/08/2002