FIRST IMPRESSIONS: One of the few drawbacks of Seoul’s futuristic Incheon Airport is its distance from the capital. A delicious Korean dinner downtown that went on later than planned, left the trip to the airport a little too close for comfort. However, the efficient Korean Air limousine buses had our group of a dozen people at the airport just before midnight, with around an hour to spare before our flight’s departure time at 0050. The airport is due to have its own train connection by the end of 2008.
Korean Air’s check-in desks were clear and all of us were swiftly processed and headed for the security checks and immigration formalities within a matter of minutes. Full marks to the ground crew.
Korean Air is justly proud of its First Class lounge. The spacious lounge has a dozen computer terminals and its own massage room (closed unfortunately by the time we arrived). Catering is organised by the Hyatt Regency Incheon and is a cut above the normal lounge fare.
Attendants seemed genuinely pleased when Westerners chose the Korean food options. I asked for the beef bibimpap for the main course and the attendant took great pains to ensure that I mixed the meat, vegetables and rice dish correctly with the chilli paste provided.
BOARDING: A painless and efficient procedure although the boarding gate was at the far end of the airport. A final search of hand luggage to ensure passengers were not carrying restricted items was swift and thorough. The extra checks delayed push-off from the gate for about 15 minutes, which the flight crew apologised for in their welcome announcement.
THE SEAT: The flight was on an older version of the Boeing B777, with a Prestige Class seat rather than the new Prestige Plus Seats that are being introduced. With a seat pitch of 50 inches, this wasn’t the most comfortable long-haul flight I’ve ever had but nonetheless I managed several hours of rest. A few members of our group were seated in the roomier First Class cabin, although only a Business Class service was provided throughout.
THE FLIGHT: Inflight entertainment in English seemed a little limited for a long-haul flights but a friendly attendant spoke individually to all the passengers showing the options and explaining how the in-flight entertainment system worked. Pirates of the Caribbean 2 helped pass the time before I dozed off.
ARRIVAL: Arriving about 10 minutes ahead of our scheduled 1630 arrival at McCarran International’s Terminal 2 more than made up for lost time. My fears of a huge bottleneck at security and immigration checks proved unfounded. The snaking queues were dealt with swiftly and also courteously, although the latter was unfortunately not true of the return leg.
In comparison with the notorious delays at Los Angeles and San Francisco airports, disembarking at Las Vegas was quick and efficient. Korean Air is cleverly marketing this route as a hub to other cities in the southwestern US, such as Phoenix, arguing persuasively that the saving on connection times is a major boon for business travellers.
VERDICT: While the ageing hardware left a little to be desired, Korean Air staff on the ground and on board showed the best of their country’s hospitality and professionalism throughout.
PRICE: Return fare Incheon-Las Vegas is US$5,160 including tax but not fuel surcharge. For more details, visit www.koreanair.com