Thank You for Flying

By: Mark van Harlingen

Flying is an amazing thing. We are sure you agree with that. However there are many different ways of flying. In this column the emphasis will be on the great diversity in service offered by airlines throughout the world. We assume all our readers are airline fanatics and some of you have already had the opportunity to fly quite some miles. Therefore, together we form an interesting group of critics when it comes to airlines and service.

This column appears in Aerlines on a regular base and gives all you critics out there the chance to share your experiences, good and bad, while flying any airline in the world, with all Aerius-members.

The editors would like to stress that the given opinion is a personal one.

KE 914 Amsterdam – Seoul (14 July)
KE 1161 Seoul – Pusan (15 July)
KE 1011 Pusan – Cheju-do island (26 July)
KE 1014 Cheju-do island – Pusan (28 July)
KE 1142 Pusan – Seoul (03 August)
KE 913 Seoul – Amsterdam (04 August)

Class: Economy

Total mileage according to Skypass (FFP): 12900

Most adopted children want to know more about their roots and biological parents. Well, I’m one of them. I was adopted in 1977 at the age of 3 by a Dutch family. Since 1986 I have contact with my biological mother in Korea and we correspond with each other on a regular base. This summer was a good moment for me to visit her (for the first time in 20 years). I was anxious to know how I ended up being adopted and how my family in Korea lived.

There are several options to get to Korea. All major European carriers fly to Seoul, but because I had to take a connecting flight from Seoul to Pusan, Korean Air was the best (and the cheapest) option. The connecting flight Seoul-Pusan cost me only 25 guilders more. My flight departed on Monday 14 July at about 23.55 hrs. At the check-in I collected my Skypass miles (Korean Air FFP). Your miles never expire which is a big advantage for the not so frequent flyer like me. I said goodbye to my parents and headed for the terminal. At the arrival information was giving my flight was delayed for an hour. Due to this delay I could face some problems with my connecting flight at Seoul Kimpo. Then there was a gate change. Instead of concourse G4 the plane arrived at concourse F3. Finally at 0.10 hrs a big light blue Boeing 747-400 arrived. At the side of the plane big letters reminded me for the 2002 World Cup Soccer hosted by both Korea and Japan. Finally at 0.50 hrs we departed. The plane was only filled for about 50 percent and almost all of the passengers were Korean. No Dutch or English newspapers were offered (only Korean newspapers) which was a little disappointment. Soon after take off I started to browse through the inflight magazines ‘Morning Calm’ and ‘SkyShop’.

Korean Air offered a wide selection of music channels. Two movies and many features would be played during the flight. After about an hour the first meal was served by very good looking flight attendances. When the ‘fasten seatbelt’ sign was turned off the flight attendances took off their jackets of their uniform and they looked more informal. I choose pulgogi, sliced beef in soy sauce (probably most famous dish outside Korea), and it tasted good. Wine and other beverages (except for beer) were served in little plastic cups what really annoyed me because the cups were quite small and I had to ask several times for more. After dinner the lights were dimmed and a movie (Metro with Eddy Murphy) started. Unfortunately I missed all the movies because it was already 3.00 AM and I fell asleep. When I awoke time of arrival was within three hours. The weather was very cloudy and I couldn’t see the landscape below. Then the trolley with the SkyShop, tax-free shopping, was passing through the aisle. They sold many Korean Air merchandise items. Perfumes were quite limited in number. After an eleven hour flight I finally landed at Seoul Kimpo. I had to pick up my suitcase and check in for my next flight. I forgot to ask my travel agent to send me a map of Kimpo airport so I had no idea where to go. When I walked to the information desk I met my brother (he works in Seoul) who brought me by bus to the Domestic Terminal. In retrospect quite a strange meeting, because I didn’t expect him at all. An Airbus 300-600 brought me from Seoul to Pusan. The flight took only one hour and during the flight non-alcoholic drinks were served. Newspapers were (again) only in Korean language, which gave me the impression that Korean Air is mainly focused on their domestic customers. After a short flight I finally landed at my destination, Pusan. Pusan is the second biggest city in Korea with over 4 million inhabitants and in possession of a big harbour. The airport was relatively small for a city this size. After I claimed my baggage I was welcomed by almost my whole Korean family from my mother’s side. It was a quite emotional reunion and I was a little overwhelmed by so much attention.

After spending two weeks with my family they decided I had to visit Cheju-do island. Koreans call it their own Hawaii and many Korean newlyweds spend their honeymoon on the island. My family had arranged a bus tour, hotel and a return ticket Pusan-Cheju for a cousin and I. The flight was a domestic flight drill like the Seoul-Pusan flight. After takeoff the stewardesses served coffee, tea and juice. Newspapers were only in Korean. The plane flew at an altitude of approximately 15.000 feet so I could take a good look at the coastline of the Korean peninsula. I noticed that both in Pusan and Cheju the runways and aprons were very bumpy. Taxiing to the gates and runways was almost like a themepark attraction.

On the 2nd of August I flew together with my mother and brother back to Seoul for a one day sightseeing. Thunderstorms and bad weather made the trip a turbulent one.

Monday the 3rd of August, check-in at Kimpo at 8 o’clock AM. I noticed that Kimpo had a three separate terminal system, two international terminals (one for Korean carriers and one for other international carriers) and one domestic terminal. It was really crowded in the terminal like an ant-hill. At the walls of the terminal you could see the plans for ‘Inchon International Airport’, a new airport which will be built in the sea with a maximum capacity of 120 million passengers annually after the entire project is finished.

Gladly the farewell to my mother was not too emotional, but more a goodbye. We will see each other again. At the gate a Boeing 777 (my favourite plane) was waiting. I was quite surprised because normally Korean Air would put on a 747 on this route. It was probably the first long haul flight for this plane because I missed the inflight magazines (only a air sickness bag and a safetycard were present). This time the plane was quite full and no available windowseat this time. A lot of short features were played while serving drinks. The quality of the audio was very good, especially the sound by the features and movie. Diner was a real Korean style dish. A bowl with rice and a little plate with beef and vegetables which I had to mix together with hot sauce. Of course there were chopsticks but also cutlery for people like me who gets stiff fingers after using chopsticks for more then 5 minutes. After lunch a movie, Vulcano with Tommy Lee Jones (NOT recommendable), was played. In my aisle there was a ‘womens only’ lavatory, which made the line for the other lavatory even longer. So going to the toilet was almost like going on an expedition. After more than 11 hours and a pretty smooth flight we finally landed at Schiphol Airport at about 15.00 hours.

In conclusion I’m glad I made this trip. I know more about my roots, culture and family in Korea and many unanswered questions are solved now. Korean Air was a good airline for a fair price and gave an extra cultural touch to my trip.

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