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Friday 24 April 2015

Flying on Asiana Whale Jet from Seoul Incheon to Hong Kong


Flying with Asiana on HKG-ICN route is a no-brainer and its a perfect way to sample the airline's A380 even on a short-haul route. Bangkok and Osaka are the other options for the A380 short-haul flights but at that time I flew, only HKG was the only regional destination as the airline has only had 2 Airbus A380s in operation and they were used on ICN-HKG-ICN-LAX-ICN rotation. If one of them gets a lengthy delay, a change of aircraft is inevitable. I would only have to hope for the best that the A380 that was assigned on my flight was fit to fly. The negative thing about taking this A380 flight is the bad timing, taking off in the evening at ICN and arriving just before midnight at Hong Kong, leaving me about 6-7 hours in the airport for my next flight. The good thing is there is a 24-hours airport lounge at the arrival hall, so I headed there after my flight. 

When I made the changes to my itinerary (More info can be found here.), I had to check carefully which flights on OZ745 (ICN to HKG) were operated by A380. Its because at that time, Wednesday and Thursday were operated by Airbus A330-300 and I didn't want to fly on that aircraft, so checking my schedule, I decided to change it to 24th March, Tuesday. From 15th May 2015, this aircraft would fly on this route on a daily basis. This is, of course, subject to changes, you can check the changes at Airlineroute.

For my Boeing 747 Combi Trip report, click here.

ICN- Seoul Incheon
HKG- Hong Kong Airport
LAX- Los Angeles  

This is my original booking, same seat but the date was changed to 24th March.

Online Check-in was done successfully. 

Lower Deck Y Class Seats

Upper Deck Economy Class Seats - I chose 77A. 

Some photos of my time in Seoul

My very first Russian Beer

After dinner, my friend took me to Apgujeongrodeo Station where we walked around a fair bit to explore the lavishing lifestyle of some of the folks living there. That's where some of the Elites stay.

Interesting colours on this building.

Took the public bus to the Gangnam area after that. There is even free Wifi on the bus!

Gangnam District 

My friend had the bread toast from Ya Kun Coffee and Toast at that area.

The next day, I met up with another friend and she had this for breakfast at Myeongdong Station.

This was for dinner - Japanese curry beef rice! Delicious as always.

Cakes at Starbucks, definitely more variety than the ones back home.

I ordered the Chocolate Brownie Cake to share with the others and a drink from Jeju, can't remember what is it called.

Doesn't this remind you of Hong Kong?

This is what I had for dinner! Spicy Korean noodles and yes I had a tough time finishing it. 

Korean's Dumpling - filled with meat. 

If you are still hungry, you can still order this. 

On the day of departure

Time passed by so quickly especially when you are having fun. Since the checkout time was at 1100 and my flight was at 1940, I could hang around a bit longer in town and then an idea struck my head. I could do an in-town check-in at the Seoul Station, purchase the express train ticket then hang out in town for a few hours before taking the train to the airport. I did just that and was at the check-in counters at Seoul Station half an hour later. 

Take note: You can check in here (Seoul Station - Same level as the Express Train Station)only if you are flying on Asiana or Korean Air flights departing from Incheon Airport. 

Other airlines, you have to head to ICN Incheon airport to do the check-in. 

For Gimpo departure with these two carriers, please head to the airport to do your check-in. 

This is your ticket and you have to book your preferred timing. For my case, I chose the 1500 hours. I am not sure what happened if you miss the timing, does anyone know?

There were two staff at the check-in counter. One of them was a supervisor and the other was a trainee, so the supervisor was guiding her through the steps and she was pretty strict with the check-in procedure. Not impolite but she went everything by book, so I had no choice but to show her my return flight itinerary and explained to her why I am flying to Hong Kong, not back home to Singapore. She smiled and made my life easier after telling her I was after the Airbus A380 and the Airbus A330 flies to Singapore, so guess she knew I know a bit of thing or two of the airline and aircraft types. 

I had already checked in with my assigned and preferred seat number, but she asked me which seat I want, I was quite puzzled and got a little scare from her when she gave me an impression that my flight's aircraft had changed to an A330, but that's not the case. I got my seat 77A which was what I originally wanted.

Check-in counters at Seoul Station (Only Asiana and Korean Air flights departing from ICN)

You have to purchase your ticket first before checking in and show the check-in staff your ticket. 

Need help?

Once that was done, I had some time to kill, so I decided to head to Itaewon for lunch. 

I settled for Lamb Kebat.

Dessert at Cacao Green, looks tasty right? 14,500 Won including the Americano Coffee.

I was so looking forward to watching this movie, have you caught it?

Once it was 1430, I made my way back to Seoul Station and I reached there just a few minutes before 3. Got into the train and was on my way to the Airport.

The lounge is useful for those who arrive early ahead of their scheduled departure time. 

This is my first time using the Express Train, so it was a new experience for me.

After payment, you will receive a card and a receipt. On the receipt, there will be an assigned seat number, for example, 9A which means row 9, window seat. You can't choose where to sit. 

The train system is similar to the Airport Express in Hong Kong.

 I was at row 9A which is strangely on the right side. 

Lots of advertisement on the back of the seat, there should be some in English.

The comfortable ride to Seoul Incheon took around 45 minutes, Arex train is only faster by less than 10 minutes, I would choose that option if I had a choice.

Back to Seoul Incheon Airport, one of my favourite airports visited so far. 

Here are some photos of the land side. 

A short walk of 5 minutes from the train station to the Check-in counters.

Check your flight check-in rows before you continue. 

A performance was going on when I arrived. I didn't feel like leaving Korea at that moment. 

Off to the departure hall. Do take note that the airport offers Free Wifi. 

Pleasant and spacious terminal, at that time it was quite crowded.

I could have checked in here, this is where the Asiana Counters are, row L. 

So many departures at that time!

I made my way up to the second level where the restaurants are. 

An overview of the departure hall in Seoul Incheon airport.

The restaurants are one level above the departure hall. Unless you are using the lounge, it is better to have your meal over here before heading for airside. 

Photos of the airside

My gate was at Gate 43, so I made my way there to have a look.

This was where I was departing from, I prefer the open concept similar to Hong Kong. 

Taking a stroll to the other side of the terminal. 

Asiana's Business Class Lounge 

Another performance, this time at the airside. I enjoy the atmosphere at this airport very much.

Korean Air's territory! The airline's livery certainly blends in well with the beautiful weather. 

A Korean Traditional performance took place near the cultural centre, for foreigners like myself to understand the culture better.

Korean Air's Airbus A380 HL7611 was being prepared for departure to Los Angeles. 

The airline's Boeing 737-900 was resting. 

After that, I went back to the gate and wait for the call to board the aircraft. HL7625 is getting ready to take me to Hong Kong! 

My ride: HL7625 

Manage to catch photograph it before the sunset. Very nice, right? This would be my 4th A380 airline. Previously I flew with Thai, Singapore Airlines and Emirates quite some time ago, it was nice to fly on the 'Whalejet' once again.

Photos credit to the respective photographers

Flight route: Seoul Incheon to Hong Kong 

Miles: 1284

Date: 24th March 2015
Airline: Asiana
Flight: OZ745 
Route: ICN-HKG
Aircraft: Airbus A380
Registration: HL7625 
Delivered on: 28th May 2014
Engines: 4 X Roll Royce Trent 900 
Configuration: 12F C66 Y417
MSN: 152 
Gate: 43 
Seat: 77A (Upper Deck)
Duration: 3 hours 20 mins 
Load: 60% Y class
Push back: 1945
Take off: 1955
Scheduled departure: 1940 
Scheduled arrival: 2230
Actual arrival: 2218
FL: 380 then 400
Departure runway: 33L 
Arrival runway: 07L 

It was hard to tell whether it was a full flight since I saw quite a lot of passengers were waiting at the gate, of course, there could be more on its way. Mostly were from Hong Kong who was heading home.

Soon, passengers started lining up and I joined the Y class queue and we had our passports checked (due to the recent incident), ours were checked thoroughly before we were allowed to board the aircraft. There were two doors, one leading to the upper deck and the other to the lower deck, I headed to the Upper Deck and soon find myself walking very quickly towards the door. I greeted the cabin crew and told them I was looking so forward to flying with the Airbus A380, but I was given a half enthusiastic smile and was directed to my seat. Well, that wasn't what I expected, guess they are not excited about working on this aircraft? Well, pretend to be if its the case. I got to my seat, a 2-seater, glad to have the seat beside remain vacant for the rest of the flight. 

While waiting for the other passengers to board, I decided to have my own tour around the Y class cabin, including the lower deck. I am glad to have done that because, during the flight, the lower deck was out of bound even after the meal service. 

Unfortunately, I was only to photograph the J and Y class. I have taken some F class photos from Airliners.net, credit goes to the photographers. Please enjoy! 

A glimpse of the Airbus A380 before boarding. 

Almost there!

F Class Cabin

There is a sitting area just in front of the First Class Cabin.

J Class Cabin - Personally I find it quite cramp, don't really like it. 

1-2-1 seating configuration

You can choose to sit either with your partner or away from your seatmate. 

The J Class cabin simply looks very claustrophobic. Between this and an empty Y class cabin at the rear, I rather take the latter. 

What do you think of the seats?

Economy Class Seats 

Upper deck seats

Seat colour looks inviting and gives you a warm feeling. 

2-seater is always better than 3-seater! 

This is my seat, row 77A.

Every seat has a USB port and the IFE system looks dated. 

Legroom space is decent. 

Most of the seats were empty. I think an Airbus A330-300 could have been used if the return flight's load was similar to this sector. 

More passengers were coming in. 

These seats are at the last few of the upper deck. 

Only the side seats were taken up. 

There were many vacant seats, but the passengers behind my row (strangers to each other) didn't move. 

The cabin crew on the right informed the passengers about the emergency procedures, this applies to those sitting at the emergency row.

Everyone was seated, the crew came about to do some checks before we pushed back.

There are AC adaptors below each seat and are visible to your eyes.

Tried the emergency row, plenty of legroom space. 

The photo was taken during in-flight.

The lights were dimmed and notice one section's light not working.

This was taken after the meal service was completed. 

Notice a closet compartment below the window? Only the Airbus A380 has this on the upper deck. I had a hard time opening it, took me quite a while before it finally open. I didn't dare to place my items in as I scared I might not be able to open it quickly. True enough, when I closed it and try again, it just won't want to open! 

You can place your laptop, tablets or small bags into this compartment, pretty useful for long flights. 

Heading down the lower deck. 

Cabin crew's working station on the upper deck.

Lower deck: It doesn't look full. 

Asiana's A380's Lavatory 

Once I was done, I headed back up. 

Some photos of my seat, IFE screen and the remote control.

The small window offers some view but would be better during day flight.

The seat is comfortable and with the next seat vacant, I got to stretch my legs. In this case, I rather be on this seat than in the J class cabin of this aircraft. 

The legroom space with the leg rest. AC plug was at the right place and you could use it immediately. 

The foldable tray

Overhead compartment 

The 'No Electronic Device' and 'Fasten the Seat Belt' sign.

The legroom space is decent, it is about 32-inch. That's the standard among the international airlines flying the Airbus A380.

WiFi Onboard - Only available for the cabin and flight crew. 

The IFE System

During the flight, the IFE system was inoperative during the meal and the crew took about 20 minutes to reset the system. For a short flight like this, it doesn't matter but for the long haul and it doesn't work? Night flight = no problem, sleep! Day flight: Good luck! (Yes, in this era, we are spoilt) Fortunately for us, the system came back and we were able to enjoy our movies till the end of the flight.  

I had a go at it, you can either use the remote controller or the touch screen which is user-friendly. My preference? Touch screen as I get what I want faster than using the remote controller which can take some time for you to get used to especially for those who are new to it. 

I prefer the controller to be below the screen, not beside it. 

This arrangement is quite neat and is pleasing for my eyes. 

Remote control and below the screen are some short cut buttons including the red button (Switch off the screen). 

Welcome to Asiana Airlines! 

4 languages to choose from! 

Time to enjoy some movie!

Located at the end of the arm support which can be a struggle for some trying to find the holes to fit in the earplug's connector.

The sound quality of the earpiece is average, I had to increase the volume to the maximum in order to hear. 

I played around with the Thales' in-flight system, its pretty user-friendly.

How I wish my flight wasn't coming to an end! 

You can adjust the view by using the menu over here. 

Touched down! It was a smooth landing by the pilots. 

My in-flight experience

The first impression wasn't very good, the crew weren't very welcoming or friendly. Some of them seemed to be undergoing training on this aircraft and it does make sense since this route ICN-HKG-ICN is used to give the flight and cabin crew more hours and experience instead of letting it idle at Seoul for more than 12 hours before the next flight back to Los Angeles. However, I had to thank them for being accommodating, allowing me to walk around to take photos without stopping me. 

As the aircraft was ready for departure, they did the normal checks on us and we were soon on our way. The engine startup was very quiet, a slight vibration and some whining sound and soon all 4 were started. Taxiing was fast and soon we were at the runway with the last crew on the upper deck sitting just seconds before the aircraft turned into it. Throttle up and we made a normal take-off and climbed to our assigned flight level. It was slightly bumpy at the initial stage, the seat belt sign was turned on and off a few times but nothing serious. After 1/4 of the flight passed, it was smooth for the rest of it. The only issue after that was the IFE system that decided to go "AWOL". Fortunately, we got it back and for the rest of the flight, it was uneventful. 

The crew on board this aircraft wasn't as good as my previous flight, but not the worst I experienced. The Flight Captain spoke good English and he kept us updated with the flight progress and also both the 'Welcome' and 'Goodbye' speeches. 

What's inside the seat pocket? 

Asiana's Airbus A380 safety card 

Vomit Bag 

Asiana's in-flight magazine 

Asiana's duty-free magazine 

Asiana's Entertainment Magazine 

What's on the seat? 

Blanket and Pillow are provided for each passenger. 

What's for dinner? 

Beer and Beef Rice - Good combo

Frankly speaking, it didn't really look very appetising when first looked at it, but eating it is a different story, it's actually good, not that salty. With rice, it wasn't a problem. 

I asked for the beer and I was given this. First time trying it, not bad. 

Since this is a night flight, I didn't take any video or window-shot photos. 

Once we touched down, we reached our gate pretty quickly and arrived at the gate just before the scheduled arrival time. The ride on the Whalejet was a very pleasant one and I am happy to have got this off my wishlist and now looking forward to flying other operators' A380s; Qatar and Etihad are in my mind. 

Along the way out, I took some quick photos. I should have asked for a visit to the First Class Cabin, but a toilet visit was needed at that point. I wished the crew goodbye and was soon out of the aircraft heading towards where I need to go. This set of crew and the A380 aircraft was to fly back to Seoul in around an hour plus time. 

My rating: 

On ground service at (Seoul Station): 6/10
Incheon Airport Experience: 8/10
In-flight Experience: 6/10 
Seat comfort: 7/10
Cabin interior: 9/10
Cleanliness: 10/10
In-flight Entertainment: 7/10 
In-flight Meal: 7/10
Punctuality: 10/10
Aircraft condition: 10/10 
Overall rating: 80/100


Finally ticked this airline off my list. Does it deserve the 5-star rating? Maybe but not until it gets the website sorted out especially for foreigners. The Airbus A380 Y class experience isn't as good as Emirates and Singapore Airlines especially for the hardware but I won't hesitate to fly on it again, cabin crew on my 747 Combi flight were much better, in fact, that is one of my best flights for quite some time. As this is my last Korean flight for this trip, all I can say is you can expect good service from the crew regardless of which airline. Its the Korean and Japanese culture thing that other countries can learn. Equality = That's what I been telling my friends about when it comes to flying. All skin colours should be treated the same, regardless of age and background, no racism or favouritism. That's what I love about flying with these airlines, I know I will be taken care of by them. Passengers also have to play their part by behaving themselves, not causing sexual harassment or any other sorts of trouble on board the flight, causing the flight to be delayed or diverted. So if both passengers and crew play a part with their role, everyone would be happy and that's important.  

Thanks for reading! 

Click here for my Boeing 747-400 Combi Trip Report.

Best Regards
Charles Ryan Teo

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