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Domestic Flying In South Korea: 5 A'lines Compared  
User currently offlineHT From Germany, joined May 2005, 6525 posts, RR: 23
Posted (3 years 8 months 1 day 21 hours ago) and read 14154 times:

Recently I was able to sample and compare the product of 5 different airlines offering domestic flights in South Korea. This TR is a personal evaluation of the product offered by them in terms of
- Ease of booking flights as a non-Korean being unable to read Korean language
- Check-in
- Boarding
- Hard product op board (= Seats)
- Soft product on board (= Service)
- Fares

Note: I did not check any luggage with any of these airlines, so there are no comments on this service nor on any (potential) related costs (fees).

Airlines sampled are (in alphabetical order):
- Air Busan (BX)
- Asiana (OZ)
- Eastar Jet (ZE)
- Jeju Air (7C)
- Korean Air (KE)
___________________________________________
Common note valid for all airports and airlines I used:
Whenever I showed up for check-in (early or late), there never were queues at check-in; this has to be seen in combination with the fact that most flights had a near-full load (especially those flights to/from CJU).
Check-in always was handled very professionally.
If there were lines at BP-check prior to security check, these moved quickly; every traveler knew what to do.
Lines at security check, if in existence at all, moved quickly; again every traveler was prepared be it student (pupil) on some field trip, be it Grandma and Grandpa on a package tour.
Boarding : Once called upon, a line forms very swiftly (almost like at Southwest (WN) but minus any signposts).
BP check is very quick.
My biggest surprise was, that I only once encountered a queue within the PBB even I often boarded at the end of the line: People were moving into their assigned seats very quickly, seldom causing backlogs in the aisle.
All were on board at least 10 minutes prior to STD. Planes left the gate before STD.
Arrival: After the aircraft had come to a stop at a contact gate, it was only a matter of seconds (= less than a minute) before the PBB was docked and the aircraft door was opened.
Once the aircraft had come to a complete stop (sometimes even earlier) Koreans jumped out of their seats, preparing themself for a dash to the aircraft door.
___________________________________________

REVIEW:
Air Busan (BX)
Route: CJU - PUS BX 8114
Date: 22-MAR-2011
Aircraft: B-737-500 HL7232 Seat 08F

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Photo © Yunjin Lee - Korea Aero Photos


Each Air Busan flight also has a OZ-flight number. I booked this flight via a broker in Germany as a OZ-flight with no problems for around 50 €.
Handing over my passport at check-in I got an aisle seat assigned. No questions asked.

Airport related note:
The island of Jeju has a special status in South Korea: Many Asian nationals that would need a visa to enter peninsular-South Korea do not need a visa for the island of Jeju. Therefore foreigners have to use a signposted line before security where their passport gets checked. It again brought confusion to the official that I had on one page Entry and Departure stamps of South Korea with the same date, coming from my daytrip ICN-FUK-TPE-ICN. I really wish that officials would put stamps into passports in consecutive order not just placing them into some available space ...

Seat had very little space between the armrest and also my knees were hitting the back of the seat in front of me.
This was the least comfortable seat(-ing) I encountered on all my domestic flights. But then it was bearable for a flight of 35 minutes or so.
Service consisted of a cup of Orange Juice being offered.


___________________________________________
Asiana (OZ)
Route: RSU (Yeosu) - GMP OZ 8738
Date: 23-MAR-2011
Aircraft: B-737-400 HL7513 Seat 27A

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Photo © Soon-Gyu Ko - Korea Aero Photos


Booked through Expedia for 56 €.
Yeosu is a smaller airport in the south of South Korea, having only 4 gates of which 2 have PBBs.
Checking in ("Window or Aisle, Sir ?") I got offered a seat in exit row which I declined due to it not offering any downwards views. I received a window seat in the aft of the cabin.
Seats were narrow and seat pitch only marginally better then Air Busan, but as I had a row for my own, this was no problem.
As with Air Busan, onboard service consisted of Orange Juice being offered.

___________________________________________
Eastar Jet (ZE)
Route: GMP - CJU ZE 0213
Date: 23-MAR-2011
Aircraft: B-737-700 HL8207 Seat 04D

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Eastar Jet is the only South Korean LCC having a website available in English language for domestic flights. Direct booking and use of my german Credit Card were no problem. IIRC, confirmation eMails arrived with some delay (up to 1 day ?), so, as always, noting down a confirmation number separately is recommended.

This was the only flight I took in South Korea that was not using PBBs - in this case on both sides of the flight; other ZE-flights were using contact gates with PBBs.
Bus transfer at GMP was by smaller limo-bus offering lots of seats (in contrast to the usual "standing only" cattle transport found on most other airports worldwide).
Again having boarded late, I found my originally assigned seat 05A occupied by some elderly Korean. After reconfirmation with the flight attendant I settled into 04D.
Seats were the most comfortable I encountered on my domestic flights (save my flights in [/i]Prestige[/i], KE's domestic business class mentioned further below) with good width and seat pitch.
The aircraft was nicely decorated on the inside with a dark-blue ceiling featuring yellow stars; side walls were sporting sketches of simple flying machines. Sadly I took no pictures here nor have I found any on the net so far.
Service again was OJ-only.

___________________________________________
Jeju Air (7C)
Route: CJU - GMP 7C 0110
Date: 23-MAR-2011
Aircraft: B-737-800WL HL8214 Seat 05F

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Photo © Jerry Pang


No website in English language, but printed time tables available at airports.
Originally having booked my return leg with Eastar Jet again, I decided to give Jeju Air a try hence I booked with them one day in advance at CJU
airport (while being there on a KE-BX-KE routing). Alternative would have been one other LCC T'way.
Purchasing the the ticket was only little problematic, as only the second Credit Card worked.
The flight I had to use (I was time restricted) only had full fare available at 72,700 KRW - slightly less than 50 €.

Returning the next day, I got seat 09D assigned without questions being asked. However I found this seat to be occupied (again); I then settled into 05F after reconfirmation with FA.
Seat width and -pitch were nothing to write home about.
Service, again, consisted of OJ-only.

A sticker on the tray table in front of me that started to peel off made me curious about this airframe's fate as I could read "halten", which I rephrased into "Gurte während des Sitzens geschlossen halten" (Keep seatbelts fastened while seated).
Upon having access to the internet I found out that HL8214 is c/n 28608 and in earlier life was D-ABBQ with AB (before that with Futura). An aircraft I had flown with earlier while in service with AB.

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Photo © Manuel Mueller



___________________________________________
Korean Air (KE)
Route: TAE - ICN KE 1414
Date: 24-MAR-2011
Aircraft: B-737-900 HL7726 Seat 44A

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Photo © Weimeng


Also this flight was purchased only 1 day in advance in person at Gimpo Airport at a fare of 82,300 KRW, roughly 55 €, using my recently created KE-SkyPass account.
Getting to Daegu, I chose to take KTX, Korea's Highspeed train, technologically based on the French TGV; I purchased the ticket for this train ride about 1 hour in advance directly at Seoul Station, paying 58,300 KRW for First Class (about 39 €).
The city of Daegu will be host to IAAF World Championships in August this year.

TAE again is a smaller airport with, IIRC, 5 gates of which 3 have PBBs. Its twin runways are shared with Daego (Taegu) Airbase. While waiting for my flight a handful of F-15s were practicing. On the lengthy taxi run to the runway I counted at least 50 covered hardstands for fighter aircraft, plus some for helicopters; also some C-130s were present. Some more hardstands were under construction.

Surprisingly seat pitch and available seat width were quite limited; the shape of armrests were the problem here.
This flight had a very light load of around 40 pax only, some of which exited the airport together with me while a considerable number were continuing onto some international flight (note: This flight was into international ICN, not domestic/regional GMP); anybody who had downtown Seoul as destination would have taken the train, as no flights between TAE and GMP are offered.)

Drinks were offered off a trolley, with multiple choices available; sticking with tradition I ordered ... OJ !  

KE has some weird row numbering system: Prestige always starts with row 7, while Economy Class starts with row 28, independent from the a/c-type, hence me sitting on row 44 on a B739.

Side note on KE:
Apart from this single TAE-ICH flight in Y I also had taken 3 flights flying in Prestige KE's domestic Business Class. The difference in Fares was about 25 € which gives you a real Business Class seat (4 abreast on the B737, 6 abreast on the A300) with good seat width and -pitch.
Priority boarding also in included. Service on board is a bit even more personal, although, apart from a second round of drinks, nothing else in offered.

Booking flights on KE's website had two obstacles.
1. You have to sign up with their FF-program SkyPass in order to get a quote for domestic flights. Positive things then is that you get much better quotes than what is available through the usual bunch of brokers. Fares then match those of OZ, while originally KE was double the fare of OZ.
2. Booking around the turn of the year, a problem with using non-Korean Credit Cards came up after a change to their website. I then called their European call center (located in Ireland) via Freecall and made reservations for 2 flights - but no payments were foreseen; these had to be done prior to (or "upon" ?) check-in for the flights.

___________________________________________

Two more LCCs are around and also offering flights between CJU and GMP: T'way and Jin Air.
Neither airline has a website in English language (for domestic flights).
I just ran out of time to sample them too.

_________________________________________

Conclusion:
So, who is the winner ?
Of the 5 airlines in used in Economy Class, no clear winner can be identified.
All airlines transport you from A to B on time and in a professional way.
Booking early with the LCCs one can find discounted flights, however with normal (full) fares typically around the mark of 50 € only for a oneway flight purchased on the spot, flying is affordable by many nations and/or A.netter's standards.
The unavailability of English-language websites for Jeju Air, Jin Air and T'way can pose a problem. Schedules of ALL airlines plying domestic routes can easily be seen using website www.quicktrip.com which thankfully was pointed out ut to me by A.netter hOONS90 recently.

If one is willing to spend those extra 25 € per sector, flying KE in Prestige surely is something to consider, especially for customers being a tad bigger in size than the normal Korean.

If KE in Prestige is no option, just go for the airline offering the best schedule and fare (check if any cost for checked luggage applies).
Speaking of "best schedule", keep in mind that for a given week in March 2011 there were 92 nonstop flights between GMP and CJU among those 6 airlines plying the route - these are 92 departures per day not per week !


All questions / comments are welcomed !
-HT


Carpe diem ! Life is too short to waste your time ! Keep in mind, that today is the first day of the rest of your life !
9 replies: All unread, jump to last
 
User currently offlineCarfield From United States of America, joined Dec 2003, 1943 posts, RR: 8
Reply 1, posted (3 years 8 months 1 day 20 hours ago) and read 14004 times:

Thanks for an interesting trip report!

I am aiming to do a similar trip like you in the future, and good to know about the special status of Jeju Island!

Most Korean domestic flights do no exceed 60 minutes and I presume onboard service has to be somewhat limited. OJ is good and at least they can't do BOB on those flights!

Thanks for all the tips and it will definitely help me in the future!

Thanks,
Carfield


User currently offlineHT From Germany, joined May 2005, 6525 posts, RR: 23
Reply 2, posted (3 years 8 months 1 day 14 hours ago) and read 13489 times:

Quoting Carfield (Reply 1):
at least they can't do BOB on those flights!

I think on one carrier (either Eastar Jet or Jeju Air) a flight attendant came through the cabin with a menu card for BOB. But as I had no intention I did not pay any attention.

Quoting Carfield (Reply 1):
I am aiming to do a similar trip like you in the future

Apart from basing yourself at the Seoul area and fly from there (= GMP), flying daytrips out of CJU is another option, as a few airports in South Korea are only served from CJU but not from ICN or GMP.
-HT



Carpe diem ! Life is too short to waste your time ! Keep in mind, that today is the first day of the rest of your life !
User currently offlineWhereToNext From United States of America, joined Jul 2010, 96 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (3 years 8 months 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 13299 times:

Very nice breakdown of the South Korean domestic offering! I didn't realize there was such a diverse offering given the geography of South Korea. Thanks for sharing and hopefully I can sample some of these airlines if I ever make it up to the Korean peninsula!

-Matt
WhereToNext



Next Adventure: TBD
User currently offlinekiramakora From Argentina, joined Aug 2006, 549 posts, RR: 0
Reply 4, posted (3 years 7 months 3 weeks 4 days 1 hour ago) and read 11877 times:

Perfect timing. I am headed to Korea and this will actually be an invaluable guide to my planning process. Thank you!

User currently offlineairtrainer From Belgium, joined Aug 2003, 1559 posts, RR: 12
Reply 5, posted (3 years 7 months 3 weeks 1 day 19 hours ago) and read 11602 times:

Great trip report bringing up some airlines I've never heard before. With all these info it will surely help for a visit ! South Korea is definitely on my wishlist  


Life is short : eat dessert first !
User currently offlineba319-131 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2001, 8578 posts, RR: 54
Reply 6, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 5 days ago) and read 11167 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

Interesting review, thanks for sharing your experiences.

I will be in Korea later this year, though only in transit, shame I 've no free time to experience more.

Rgds

Mark



111,732,3,4,5,7,8,BBJ,741,742,743,744,752,762,763,764,772,77L,773,77W,L15,D10,30,40,AB3,AB6,A312.313,319,320,321,332,333
User currently offlineHOONS90 From Canada, joined Aug 2001, 3046 posts, RR: 52
Reply 7, posted (3 years 7 months 2 weeks 4 days 22 hours ago) and read 11138 times:
AIRLINERS.NET CREW
CHAT OPERATOR

Excellent trip report!

My last domestic flight in Korea was in June of 2006, and back then KE and OZ were literally the only airlines based out of South Korea, while Jeju Air was in its start-up stage. It's simply amazing how many low cost airlines have proliferated the Korean skies since then. Back then, Korean Air had five A330-300s solely used for domestic runs. Nowadays with the advent of LCCs it appears that the focus has shifted to the use of smaller aircraft with more frequencies. Oh, and back then, KE and OZ served muffins on the morning GMP-PUS runs, not sure if they still do that anymore.

Domestic flying in South Korea is a unique experience because most routes are like shuttles. Glad you got to experience it!



The biggest mistake made by most human beings: Listening to only half, understanding just a quarter and telling double.
User currently offlineHT From Germany, joined May 2005, 6525 posts, RR: 23
Reply 8, posted (3 years 7 months 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 10529 times:

Sorry guys for paying no attention to my own thread for a while ...

Thanks for all replies !

Quoting HOONS90 (Reply 7):
Back then, Korean Air had five A330-300s solely used for domestic runs. Nowadays with the advent of LCCs it appears that the focus has shifted to the use of smaller aircraft with more frequencies.

Nowadays KE employs quite a number of A306 on domestic routes, most of them connecting CJU with numerous airports on the peninsula (i.e. more than just GMP and PUS).
"Belly Freight" appears to play a major role here, too, not just pax.

A small number of KE's otations between GMP and PUS also see the A306 employed, as the B739 appears to lack capacity ...

While sitting at Korean airports, I asked myself how KE's domestic fleet will consist of, once the A306's will have left the fleet due to age / number of cycles.
With flight times of less than 60 minutes and turnaround times of 45 - 50 minutes (especially at CJU) these airframes must accumulate quite a number of cycles each year !
According to http://www.planespotters.net/Airline/Korean-Air-Lines KE has only 8 of them left in active service and they were built between 1991 and 1994.
Switching to B739 will mean a considerable drop in pax capacity and, especially on CJU-routes, in belly freight capacity.
Looks like KE will find itself in the same situation as LH a while ago when they retired their A306 nicknamed "Kontschaufel" who did not find a suitable successor (the A321 is too small for some routes ...).

I am not sure if KE will simply add more frequency with narrowbody-a/c. But this might be the more economical solution, compared to either employing widebodies configured for longhaul flights or creating a own (sub-)fleet of widebodies (B744/B777/A330) configured in a domestic layout.

Quoting HOONS90 (Reply 7):
Domestic flying in South Korea is a unique experience because most routes are like shuttles. Glad you got to experience it!

I must say, I am tempted to make a return visit to South Korea some time in the future. I likely will include it again in my planning for the A.net Meeting planned at Tokyo in Spring 2012 (deferred from 2011), even though I have alternatives in mind, too.
-HT



Carpe diem ! Life is too short to waste your time ! Keep in mind, that today is the first day of the rest of your life !
User currently offlineVasu From United Kingdom, joined Apr 2005, 3966 posts, RR: 0
Reply 9, posted (3 years 7 months 5 days 17 hours ago) and read 10310 times:

Quoting HT (Thread starter):
The aircraft was nicely decorated on the inside with a dark-blue ceiling featuring yellow stars; side walls were sporting sketches of simple flying machines. Sadly I took no pictures here nor have I found any on the net so far.

Here you go! Certainly unusual...


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