Welcome to another series of flight reports by Quirrow. For this journey, it will be about a return trip from North America to Asia. The journey was a one way itinerary on board Korean Air. This would be my first time on Korean Air and I will be heading to Shanghai for some work. Finally I will be on an Asia Miles redemption towards Jakarta on Cathay Pacific.
Like my previous TR, the journey can also be read in my blog for the original format.
As I was pre-occupied before my flight back, I arrived at YVR being one of the last to check in with an empty check-in area. After tagging my bags, I had to push it to the odd sized luggage. Going past security was thankfully a fast affair and that was the great part of departing on international flights from YVR.
Korean Air Prestige Class check-in
Korean Air provides Business class passengers with entry to the Plaza Premium Lounge which I have talked about in my previous post. Considering Korean Air, China Southern, China Airlines, Air France and KLM uses this lounge, it is high time for SkyTeam to consider opening a lounge here since Xiamen Air is planning to fly into the airport as well.
Tea and snacks at Plaza Premium Lounge in YVR
Due to the short security line, I was able to grab a quick lunch inside the lounge before heading to the departure gate to take some photos of my plane.
Korean Air Boeing 777-200ER
KE072 Vancouver YVR - Seoul Incheon ICN STD-STA: 1435-1750 Actual: 1453-1751 Boeing 777-200ER HL7575 Gate D58 Seat 10J
Boarding was notable for the presence of Canadian border security after the boarding pass check. Apparently I was targeted to be asked a lot of questions such as my motive for visiting Canada and how much money I have with me. It was my first time experiencing this flying out of YVR for international flights so I wonder if it applies to just this flight or if it is a new thing Canada introduces.
Onboard Korean Air Prestige Class
Business class cabin onboard the 777-200ER is split up into 2, with the galley and entry into the cabin dividing the cabin equally into 2 rows of seats in a 2-3-2 configuration. While this is not a class leading Business class, it is very good for families as I will explain later. There was also one row of First class up front with a 1-2-1 configuration.
Aft Business class cabin on the 777-200ER
Once onboard the plane, I was shown the directions to my seat. A pillow and a blanket was already on my seat, though I never needed the blanket as the cabin was quite warm like most Asian airlines. In this segment, I was seated in seat 10J, a window seat with seat 10H being reserved for crew rest area. Though during this flight, it was not occupied at any time, and I was glad for that.
Seats 10J and 10H
There is also a pair of slippers inside a reusable shoe bag placed by the seat-back pockets with all the magazines. And the cupholders in the armrest have a neat design featuring the yin-yang theme which is also the logo of the airline.
Slippers with reusable shoe bag
As I got settled down, newspapers were offered to passengers from a trolley. Welcome drink that was offered includes guava, orange juice or water. A packet of honey roasted almonds accompanied the drinks with serviettes.
Welcome beverage and almond
The seat Korean Air uses are the lie-flat versions of forward facing shell seats found in many airlines for their 777. A version of this seat exists in an angled-flat version that can be found in China Eastern, Shanghai Airlines and Thai Airways. Because of the forward facing nature, there is a middle seat in the center section and that could be easier for parents to care for their kids by placing them in the middle. However for business and solo travellers, these middle seats are terrible.
Great spacious legroom onboard Korean Air Prestige Class
These seats also have very generous legroom to allow for the full recline of the seat, and there is no ottoman below the shell. Korean Air has a better staggered lie-flat seat on the A330 which it dubs as the Prestige Suites, differentiating it from the Prestige Class on the 777.
While these seats are not my favourite, they were great when you have no seat mate like I experienced on this flight as I get plenty of space. These seats have a reading light on the centre armrest and a power and USB outlet which I made use of during the flight.
Reading lights and USB outlet
Flight time of 10 hour and 15 mins announced by the captain during boarding. During this time, one of the passenger seated in the middle row offered to switch seats with a family of 3 which includes a toddler. The family was originally occupying 2 seats in row 9 That made it comfortable for the family as they were able to use the whole 3 seats in the middle section. With that, the load on Business class made it about more than half full, and the flight completed the boarding process to begin pullback.
Over the ear headphones
Amenity kits and noise cancelling headphones were handed out during the taxi, though they were not Bose. The purser also came around to welcome guests onboard. She was quite fluent in English too if I must say and that was somewhat noteworthy in a Korean airline.
Korean Air amenity kit
Take-off today was quite a direct approach as we headed in the right direction. That meant I was able to have a last glance on the city I spent several years in. This flight would bring me back to Indonesia eventually as I am relocating back to Asia. It would perhaps be months or years before I return to Vancouver for a visit.
The runway at YVR
Point Grey view just after take-off
Menu for today's flight was distributed after takeoff. A hot towel was also offered during this time for passengers to refresh themselves. After that I proceed to the lavatory to change my attire so that I can get comfortable and prepare for a nap after the meal. Surprisingly the lavatory is stocked with Jurlique hand lotion but otherwise it is quite sparse.
I ordered the steak for the lunch and a Korean beef stew with rice for dinner. The menu for the flight described the food in 3 languages; English, Korean and Chinese:
Prestige Class menu
There is also a page for the wines and liquors.
The meal service starts out with an pre-dinner aperitif and snack. I asked for champagne and another guava juice which instantly became my favourite drink onboard. The snack was a roasted bell pepper roll with cream cheese which was quite nicely done and started the meal well.
Roasted bell pepper roll with cream cheese
A salad with prawn and scallop was served next and they were succulent and tasty with the lemon and honey mustard dressing. Bread was also offered from the basket and I had some garlic bread which went well with the soup that was offered along with the western style dish.
Seared prawn and scallop salad with tomato celery salsa
I wonder if passengers that ordered the Korean dishes could ask for the soup as well, since the menu did state the soup came only with the western set main course. The soup was tasty and had the right flavour.
Green asparagus soup
For the main course which was a beef tenderloin, I liked the colour in the presentation. Though the beef was a bit too small, considering it was very nicely cooked to a medium rare. I could also do with a little bit more sauce
Grilled beef tenderloin with lemon thyme sauce served with roasted potato, cauliflower, zucchini and cherry tomato
Nice medium rare steak
Meal was very good and the service stood out here. Throughout the meal service, the crew uses a smaller trolley to bring food to the guests and the purser came around the cabin with wines in between meals to ensure the glasses are full.
Cheese tray with icewine
Cheese was offered at the end of the meal from the tray before the dessert selection. There was also a bottle of Inniskillin icewine that was served with cheese. It seems both Korean and Asiana serves these Canadian icewines onboard their premium cabins!
Cheese and cracker
For dessert I had the wildberry mousse cake which was not bad and a nice change from the usual ice cream I get.
Wildberry mousse cake
At the end of the meal the service ended with coffee and tea. I was also asked if I would like a top up of my ice wine. I was a bit disappointed that Korean Air did not have some red ginseng tea onboard Business class considering ginseng tea is a common Korean drink.
A bottle of mineral water was distributed to passengers to conclude the meal service, as I continued to watch my Korean movie 'Assassination' featuring Korean actress Jun Ji Hyun.
Mineral water bottle
The icewine and champagne allowed me to sleep for a few hours on this daytime flight even with the noise emanating from the toddler beside me. These forward lie-flat seats are not bad for sleeping and the passengers co-operated as well in keeping the cabin dark and conducive for a nap.
I woke up about 3 hours later and since I felt a bit hungry, I asked for some chips from the galley. I had also finished my bottle of water and requested for another bottle.
Prawn crackers served as snacks
At this time I decided to check on out location and saw some land ahead. A check on the inflight map shows we were flying over the Bering Sea off the eastern coast of Russia. That meant there was still a few more hours off into the flight and I went on to watch some TV shows.
Flying past Bering Sea
Roughly 2 hours before we were scheduled to land, the crew started preparation for the pre-arrival meal. The meal was served in stages making it more formal compared to the lighter one-tray serving from North American and European airlines on trans-Atlantic routes. First up was another salad though it was much simpler. It was still served with the same dressing.
Garden salad with baby mozzarella cheese and dried tomato served with Dijon mustard honey dressing
Next came the main course and this time I picked the Korean option of a beef galbijjim which is like a beef stew served with rice. A mini-tube of Korean hot sauce called gochujang was also offered to passengers who chose this main course. The beef was tender enough and the dish was of a good portion for a second meal. Though the dish was just average on the overall and I think tasted better because of the gochujang.
Beef Galbijjim with steamed rice
For the pre-arrival meal, a fruit plate was also served. This makes for a great 3 course meal which does make it substantial enough. Asian carriers are better in terms of catering for long-haul flights here in Business class.
Seasonal fresh fruit
After the meal, I chose to have more of the guava juice which was great. I must have consumed like 4-5 cans of this beverage throughout the flight! A cup of coffee was also great to perk me up for the connecting flight and last me through the evening.
Unfortunately, Korean Air does not serve specialty coffee drinks onboard and the basic cup of coffee was no better or worse than what you can get at Tim Hortons', McDonald's or Starbucks. Yes, I am indifferent to a cup of coffee served at all these 3 chains.
Cup of coffee
I continued to watch some TV series after the second meal as there was still about an hour before our arrival. These forward facing seats might not be great but when one does not get a seat mate, these seats are like First Class seats when on a reclined mode since there are lots of space around you.
Watching the inflight entertainment
The seat in reclined mode=
Due to the need to circumvent North Korean airspace, South Korean airlines typically add some time to their flight path when coming back from a Trans-Pacific routing.
Flight path to ICN
Our flight landed into Incheon on a somewhat foggy day. Even then, I still managed to spot several planes due to the long taxi into the terminal.
Landing at Seoul Incheon
Asiana Airlines hangar
Korean Air 747
After landing there was a bit of a wait for a gate to open up. Incheon is certainly very busy but the slow taxi and and wait meant I could enjoy more of the airplanes on the tarmac. Some of the curious ones include a Vietnam Air A350 and a Vietnam Air A321, and I am guessing one flies to Ho Chi Minh and another flies to Hanoi.
Airplanes on the tarmac
Vietnam Air A350
There are also numerous Asiana and Korean Air jets here, obviously.
Korean Air Airbus A330
Eventually, our plane parked beside a 737-900 and we were let off the plane in sequence with the stewardess ensuring the Business class passengers got off first. For my first flight on Korean Air, I was pleasantly surprised. Though this had to do with the low loads on Business Class allowing me to get 2 seats to myself.
Korean Air 737-900
Arrival at ICN
Plaza Premium Lounge Management Limited Plaza Premium Lounge (International Departures)
Vancouver - YVR
Seoul - ICN
If Business class was full, I might not have enjoyed the overall experience that much as I have come to expect aisle access even on Business class for all the seats. Honestly I believe the reverse herringbone layout to be the best for Business class, since they provide for more personal privacy and space which is the thing I look for when flying in the premium cabins. Otherwise the service and meal onboard Korean Air are superb and I found that on this flight, the crew was more well versed in English than my last flight onboard Asiana.
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