Welcome to a new trip report. This one, also with pictures to make it attractive to more a.netters, deals with the outbound flights of my recent trip to Asia to attend the wedding in Singapore of a.netter Coal, who is a very good friend of mine.
When you live on the other side of the world, you do not just go for 3 or 4 days to Singapore for a wedding and return. I mean, don’t get me wrong; if I had not had the chance to take the whole week off, I would still have come up with a plan and traveled to be there next to my friend when he tied the knot, but the truth is that this was the perfect opportunity to take a small break from work.
Initially, I decided that before going to Singapore, I would fly to Australia and pay my Aussie friends a visit… after all, I had only been to Australia once in 2007 and I am itching to go back. The first obstacle that I encountered is that now one of them is in Brisbane, one is in Sydney and the third one is in Adelaide, so a city had to be chosen and all of them would have to agree. When it seemed that we had all agreed to meet in Sydney, I encountered more obstacles. For starters, the fares for a NYC-SYD
-NYC itinerary were too expensive (and the schedules where somewhat awkward); this, however, was eventually resolved in a favorable manner. One of my Aussie friends helped me found online certain routings/combos that were very attractively priced (and that I had not found during my initial searches). The second obstacle, however, actually killed the plan. Due to work reasons, I would not have as much time as I needed to do this. Ideally, I would have flown out of New York on May 4 or 5 so as to spend the weekend of May 7 and 8 with my friends in Sydney, but as the date of the trip approached, it became clear that the earliest that I would be able to leave NYC was the afternoon/evening of May 6. Since the Brisbane and Adelaide guys needed to be back home on Monday, May 9, the Australia plan started to seem like a really bad idea.
It was then when Coal, the groom, said I should consider leaving Australia for a more auspicious occasion and visit Cambodia before arriving in Singapore instead. I had always wanted to go to Cambodia and visit Angkor Wat, so why not! It was a brilliant idea! Shortly after the decision to go to Cambodia was made, I booked my itinerary:
00:50 – 03:50 (+1) 747-400
19:00 – 22:25 737-800
3K 0594 PNH
12:50 – 15:40 A320-200
06:10 – 14:05 777-200LR
15:15 – 14:59 747-400
Now, on to the outbound flights!
As always, the day of my departure was a busy and hectic day at the office, but at 15:45 or so I decided to go home and get ready for my trip. Not only did I have to finish packing, I also had to wait for the arrival of a friend of mine and his fiancée who were going to housesit my apartment that weekend. After my friends arrived and we had a beer, I let them go out and explore the city, and I took a shower and chilled for a bit before taking a taxi to JFK
’s T-1. I was tempted to take the shuttle bus from Grand Central Station, but time sort of crept up on me and I did not want to be late (i.e., I wanted some quality time at the KE
lounge), so taxi it was.
As you can see, the check-in area was pretty empty, so checking in did not take too long. Before I go on, I would like to explain that choosing my seats was a bit of an issue. I booked my flight on cheaptickets.com because (i) for some reason, the DL
site did not show REP
as a destination even though DL
codeshares on KE
flights; and (ii) KE
’s website would only show return flights from SIN
at a very expensive price (and inconvenient schedules). Anyway, the ticketing airline was DL
, and I was able to choose my seats for the SIN
segments on DL
.com immediately after buying the ticket. Choosing the JFK
seats was more complicated though; the DL
website was basically useless, and the KE
customer service agents could not help me. I had to call DL
’s number and only then was I able to choose my seat (basically I asked for an aisle seat, and I was given that: a “G” seat). Anyway, back to the airport. The agent who checked me in was not exactly rude, but I did not find her kind or friendly. I tried to get her to see if there might be an emergency exit or bulkhead seat available, but she simply said it was a full flight and most seats had already been assigned without actually checking. She also made a bit of an issue out of the fact that I said I would leave ICN
to do some exploring considering that I had a 15-hour layover. She said she had to check in her system and with her colleagues if I needed a visa or something (which I knew well was not the case). Anyway, eventually she convinced herself that I could stay at ICN
or leave and it’d be fine, but by then I was beginning to feel annoyed. I got really mad when her colleague, who was standing next to her and helping her, handed her a priority bag tag for my suitcase (he was just being nice to me since I was not a SkyTeam Elite flyer at that moment) and she refused to tag my bag with it because, well, I was neither in F/J, nor a SkyTeam Elite flyer. I mean, strictly speaking she was right, but her colleague was just being nice and it did not cost her anything to tag my bag with it… more often than not I find AM
check in agents tagging my bags as “priority” when flying coach, even without me asking. Oh well, it is not my fault she does not get any.
After queuing for, and passing through, security, I made my way to the KE
lounge (it is the Priority Pass lounge at T-1). On the one hand, I was happy about visiting this lounge because it is quite nice, perhaps nicer than the AF
lounge, but I was not so keen on being in a very full lounge. As I had anticipated, the lounge was very full. The vast majority of passengers were South Koreans who would be on my flight to ICN
. However, there were also some Americans, and even a few Mexicans (most likely Priority Pass members) who were going to fly to MEX
’s redeye (AM’s business class passengers are invited to the AF
lounge at T1, not the KE
lounge). I am sorry I did not take pics of the lounge, but it was really full, I spent a substantial amount of time on the phone with my firm’s I.T. guy, and everybody seemed to be sleeping (and the ones who weren’t tried their best to be quiet). After sending some e-mails and having a couple of vodka tonics, I made my way to the gate, where I arrived just a few minutes before boarding started. Even though boarding was carried out by zones, a very long line of people formed even before the premium class and Elites were invited to board. I really don’t understand why people do that.
When the time for me to board came, I quickly found my way to my seat, placed my carry-on luggage on the overhead compartment, and sat down. I was glad that the passenger on seat “F” was already on his seat because that meant I could sit down, fasten my seatbelt and relax. An amenity kit, a blanket, a bottle of water and a headphone set had been placed on each Y-class seat.
After a few seconds, I started to feel that something was wrong but could not quite figure out what it was. I soon realized that KE
has a more spacious arrangement for seats ABC and HJK, than for seats DEFG. Yes, believe it or not, the seat pitch that the guys on HJK had was way better than mine. I am sorry I did not take pictures, but I swear it was not my imagination. It was very clear from my seat that the people on HJK seats could stretch their legs quite a bit more, and had a lot of space, whereas I and all the others on the DEFG section of the cabin had less legroom (not bad, but noticeably less than ABC and HJK).
Anyway, it was too late to regret my choice of seats, so I decided I’d make the best out of my flight. I decided to turn on the IFE to the moving map feature, and read my book. I was in the middle of a book about how Maximilian of Habsburg and Charlotte, emperors of Mexico during the 1860s, in order to have an heir apparent, decided to “adopt” the grandson of Agustín de Iturbide, hero of the independence of Mexico and self-proclaimed Emperor Agustín I following the consummation of independence in 1821. I had to finish the book because I had promised to give it to Coal, and I knew that once I was in Asia and my flights were over I would not have any time to read it. About 45 minutes after take-off, the crew came with peanuts and a beverage service (I had juice).
Coal had anticipated that the KE
flight attendants were famous for being very pretty and tall, and I have to say he was right. I am not sure I’d say they were very tall (although for Asian women they were indeed of a very good height), but they were impossibly thin, with really small waists and very beautiful legs, so they looked very classy. Moreover, some of them were very pretty, especially the one who, by chance, ended up taking my meal orders and interacting more with me throughout the flight. Her nametag only had her initials, A.J., and her last name. I really love the uniforms of the female KE
flight attendants (I think they are by Gianfranco Ferré), and I really like how most of them wear their hair in a bun and they place a very smart ribbon next to it… very cute. In addition to A.J. being very cute and elegant, she was also genuinely kind and had a very nice smile. How I wished I were in F and have her as the purser.
Shortly after the beverage service, the meal service started. I decided to go for the Western option. The meal consisted of a small salad of lettuce leaves, mayo and a cherry tomato; a kind of beef stew with mashed potatoes, carrot batons and zucchini slices; a Rubschlager (a Chicago-area bakery) bun; and a fruit salad. I decided to have a glass of red wine (it was a quite decent French Bordeaux) to accompany my meal.
I don’t know for a fact if KE
loads more bibimbaps than Western meals, but I guess it is safe to say they do. The vast majority of passengers on the flight opted for the Korean meal (then again, it was expected as most were South Koreans), including two American backpackers in their mid-twenties sitting across the aisle from me, who were traveling with a Korean-American girl. In any case, the Western meal option was not a bad choice; the taste of the salad, the main course and the fruit was good… I just wished the portion of beef had been a bit bigger. During the meal, one the flight attendants came around with the bottles of wine in her hands and she topped the glass for those passengers who wanted more. I thought that was a very nice gesture and the last time I remember something like that was during an AM MEX
flight I took in 2008 (the wine, back then, was quite crappy by the way).
Anyway, once people had finished eating, the coffee and tea service started. I did not have any, but asked for some water. While I waited for the flight attendants to remove the trays, I listened to my iPod and looked at the movie and show selection on the IFE. Once the trays had been removed and the trolleys had been stowed in the galleys, I decided to pay the lavatory a visit for the requisite photo that all a.netters expect.
As soon as I returned to my seat, I decided to watch The King’s Speech. I was very looking forward to seeing the movie (I did not have the chance to see it in a movie theater), so this was the perfect opportunity. Once I made sure the guy sitting next to me was fully asleep and would not wake up and want to get up in a while, I started watching the movie. The movie was preceded by a short advertisement on the KE
A380, which made me salivate. How I wished Coal’s wedding had taken place in mid-August as opposed to mid-May!
My attempt to watch The King’s Speech did not prosper. I fell asleep shortly after the scene where Bertie (King George VI
) listens to the recording where he recites a soliloquy from Shakespeare without stuttering. I had had a long day and it was already 3 a.m. or so, New York time, so it was kind of expected that I would fall asleep. When I woke up a couple of hours later, I realized that the movie had finished and that everybody was sleeping or resting, so I decided I would read a bit more, listen to my iPod and relax. I must have dozed off a couple of times because when I realized we were more than halfway into the flight. After reading some more, I gave The King’s Speech another try… and I again I failed. I got as far as the preparations for King George VI
’s coronation and then I fell asleep again. This was actually good because I was tired and I had a busy week ahead, so it was in my best interest to rest as much as possible. I finally woke up (not entirely sure where we were at that time) and was finally able to finish the movie hehe.
I spent the rest of the flight reading my book, listening to my iPod and looking at the map. I was quite immersed in my book, so time really went by quite quickly. During the time I was awake, I noticed that A.J. and the other flight attendants did several beverage runs. I was very happy to see that they had water as well as orange and pineapple juices on offer. I love pineapple juice, especially in Asia, where pineapples are quite sweeter than in the Americas. At some point, I got up from my seat and went to the bathroom again.
After a bit of more reading and a final nap, it was time for breakfast. I was impressed by how refreshed and pretty A.J. and her posse looked. The beverage service came first (yes, I went for the pineapple juice), and then the meal was served. Once again, most passengers chose the Oriental meal, which consisted of some sort of congee. I opted for the Western selection, which was scrambled egg with ham and potatoes. I know the eggs look disgusting on the picture, but they were not so bad in reality (they were not good either, but oh well). In addition to the eggs, there were some fruit slices, a blueberry yogurt and a muffin. I think KE
did a good job with the choice of sides.
As you can see from the following pics, we were quickly approaching ICN
. When we started getting close to the PRC
-North Korea border, the plane started going eastward so as to avoid flying over North Korean territory.
I took one more cabin shot and soon enough we started our final descent into ICN
Disembarking took a bit as you can imagine, considering that the load was 100% in Y (not sure in F and J). After disembarking, a bilingual KE
employee was at the hall helping direct passengers to the immigration counters and to the sterile area (for those who had connecting flights). Since I had an almost 16 hour layover, I decided to go through immigration and explore the city. Given the ungodly hour of our arrival, first order of business was a shower and a nap, so I went to the spa on the underground level of ICN
’s main terminal. After I had a nice shower and a relaxing hour or two on a mat in the lounge of the “spa” (all for just 20 dollars), I decided to go to the ATM for some cash, grab a coffee and some light bites at the café by the viewing terrace, and leave ICN
to explore Seoul.
I took the train (not the Incheon Express which is quite expensive) to the city and had a wonderful day of sightseeing and shopping. I definitely have to go back to Seoul in the near future for a longer stay!
After an entire morning and part of the afternoon exploring Seoul, it was time to fly to REP
! I returned to ICN
by train and quickly made my way through security. I really wanted to enjoy the lounge at ICN
, but I unfortunately did not have a lot of time to do so. Once I had gone through security, I walked to the KE
lounge. I did not have my Priority Pass booklet with me, but I was sure the KE
lounge at ICN
was a Priority Pass lounge… well, not! I was directed to the “Hub Lounge” (I later found out the OZ
lounge is a Priority Pass lounge, but oh well… too late), and I have to say that the Hub Lounge is quite subpar. The lounge was a bit crowded, it was too warm and the food selection was not very appetizing. I had a couple of drinks while I sent some e-mails and then it was time to go to the gate. After a quick walk, I reached the gate and sat down for a few minutes.
Boarding was more orderly this time. As I was approaching my seat, I accidentally bumped my laptop case on the knee of a pretty blond woman sitting one seat ahead of mine. I apologized and quickly took my seat, which was an aisle seat by the way. My seatmates, a young father on seat A and a small boy on seat B were already on their seats. As you can see, there was a blanket, a set of earphones and a pillow on each seat, and the legroom was awesome.
This flight was not 100% full, but had a very healthy load. Based on what I saw at Angkor Wat, many South Koreans visit Cambodia… additionally, I am sure many people from the U.S., Japan and China fly to Cambodia with KE
Sadly, there were no PTVs in coach on our KE
738 (I dunno if other KE
narrowbodies have PTVs or not), but this was not entirely bad because I would be able to read some more.
About an hour after take-off, the meal service took place. I chose the Western option (chicken, veggies and rice), and I chose to have, you guessed, pineapple juice to wash it all down.
The crew on this flight was good, but not nearly as great as A.J. and her team on the JFK
The flight from ICN
is quite long… more than five hours. I must say I was surprised that a flight of such duration by a large Asian carrier was operated with a narrowbody instead of something like an A330. I guess the low-yield nature of the route and the great capabilities of the 737NG explain why.
The flight was quite uneventful. Not too long after the trays were removed, I dozed off a bit. Between intermittent naps and the reading of my book, the flight went by quickly. There was a bit of turbulence at some point, but it did not last too long. During the final hour I just listened to my iPod and started to get really excited because in a few hours I would be exploring the magnificent Angkor Wat.
We finally landed at REP
and, as we were deplaning, the blonde whose knee I had earlier banged with my laptop case and I got to talking. At the terminal, I had to line up to apply and pay for the entrance visa, while she was able to go straight to the immigration desk because she had applied for her visa in advance, so before we went our separate ways, we exchanged e-mail addresses and made arrangements to meet at 8:00 a.m. the next morning at the main entrance in order to explore the temples together.
Alright a.netters I hope you have enjoyed this trip report. I am sorry it took me so many weeks to write it, but better late than ever. Stay tuned for the second part of this report, featuring my SIN
flights on DL
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