This trip was an evolving process. It started back in May when I saw OZ was having a fare sale to SE Asia and I snagged a round-trip to HKG for $415 over Thanksgiving weekend.
Part 1 – LAX-ICN [OZ 203, Airbus A380-800, Economy] Part 2 – ICN-HKG [OZ 721, Boeing B747-400(Combi), Economy] Part 3 – HKG-ICN [OZ 722, Boeing B747-400(Combi), Economy] Part 4 – ICN-LAX [OZ 204, Airbus A380-800, Economy]
In July, some plans changed when my friend that I planned on visiting in HK told me he was heading up to Korea that weekend. I did some searching and decided to buy a round-trip ticket on CI to KHH from HKG. CI was about $30 cheaper than KA on this route and provided the chance to try both CI and AE (2 new carriers for me).
Part 1 – LAX-ICN [OZ 203, Airbus A380-800, Economy] Part 2 – ICN-HKG [OZ 721, Boeing B747-400(Combi), Economy] Part 3 – HKG-KHH [CI 948, Airbus A330-300, Economy] Part 4 – KHH-HKG [AE 981, Embraer ERJ-190, Economy] Part 5 – HKG-ICN [OZ 722, Boeing B747-400(Combi), Economy] Part 6 – ICN-LAX [OZ 204, Airbus A380-800, Economy]
In October, I started planning my visit to Kaohsiung and noticed that 3-days was a little excessive to spend there (having already been to Tainan before). I was intrigued by Kinmen so decided to do a daytrip to KNH on a GE ticket (cue ominous music…).
Part 1 – LAX-ICN [OZ 203, Airbus A380-800, Economy] Part 2 – ICN-HKG [OZ 721, Boeing B747-400(Combi), Economy] Part 3 – HKG-KHH [CI 948, Airbus A330-300, Economy] Part 4 – KHH-KNH [GE 207, Aérospatiale/Alenia ATR 72-600, Economy] Part 5 – KNH-KHH [GE 2084, Aérospatiale/Alenia ATR 72-600, Economy] Part 6 – KHH-HKG [AE 981, Embraer ERJ-190, Economy] Part 7 – HKG-ICN [OZ 722, Boeing B747-400(Combi), Economy] Part 8 – ICN-LAX [OZ 204, Airbus A380-800, Economy]
Of course things never go as planned and I got an e-mail from GE the day before I left on this trip with the discomforting information that their operations were terminating with immediate effect and I’d be issued a refund for the ticket. I scrambled to put together a make-shift daytrip on short notice that resulted in a B7 flight from KHH-KNH, with the closest return being an AE flight from KNH-RMQ (no seats were available on flights to KHH). I wasn’t too thrilled with this proposition, but I just tried to piece together the best trip I could with no Mandarin knowledge (FYI, only AE has an English website). There were a bunch of aircraft swaps during this series and an op-up in Part 7, but as the dust cleared the final routing for this series will be:
Part 1 – LAX-ICN [OZ 203, Boeing B777-200ER, Economy] – You are here Part 2 – ICN-HKG [OZ 721, Airbus A330-300, Economy] – Here Part 3 – HKG-KHH [CI 948, Airbus A330-300, Economy] – Here Part 4 – KHH-KNH [B7 8915, Aérospatiale/Alenia ATR 72-600, Economy] – Here Part 5 – KNH-RMQ [AE 770, Embraer ERJ-190, Economy] – Here Part 6 – KHH-HKG [AE 981, Boeing B737-800, Economy] – Here Part 7 – HKG-ICN [OZ 722, Boeing B747-400(Combi), Business] – Here Part 8 – ICN-LAX [OZ 204, Airbus A380-800, Economy] – Here
Doing online check-in, I noticed 2 things. First, the only seat available on the flight was the middle seat in my row, so I kept a glimmer of hope throughout the day that it would stay free (it wasn’t, but a small Korean grandma was an acceptable consolation prize since she slept the entire flight and didn’t hog the armrest). Second, this was not an A380 seating configuration and it looked set in stone that it would be a B772 tonight (confirmed by the departure of OZ 204 operating the inbound flight).
OZ has been heavily advertising the fact that they send 2 A380s daily to LAX, but the “subject to change without prior notice” is still freely used as they see fit with B772s making appearances about half the time.
Driving to LAX after dinner in Santa Monica with Ms. NGO85, I see the OZ billboard as I’m stopped at the corner of La Tijera and Airport also advertising the twice daily A380 service at LAX.
I got to TBIT at 21:30 and went to the check-in counters to pick up paper boarding passes.
Heading into the priority line, I’m immediately helped by an OZ agent that was training 2 other employees so it took longer than normal since she was explaining things to them in Korean. She weighed my carry-on and tagged it as approved cabin luggage before sending me on my way with my 2 boarding passes.
Security wasn’t too bad and I made my way up to the *A Lounge. It was crowded as always at night so I went outside to enjoy the terrace by myself.
BR B77W down below.
F9 A321 in their new livery.
My boarding documents.
I went back inside to take a shower before taking a look at the buffet offerings.
My simple dessert offering.
At 23:30, I got up and did a loop of TBIT to do some spotting and stretch my legs.
Pair of QF B744s.
My OZ B772.
Asiana Airlines, OZ 203 Equipment: Boeing B777-200ER [HL7700, delivered May 2002] Departure: 00:30 (ATD: 1:00) Arrival: 6:50 (ATA: 6:39) Flight time: 12:39
At 23:55, the agents announced boarding would commence soon and started organizing the boarding groups while performing the passport checks. At 00:00 on the dot, boarding commenced.
I hand my boarding pass over, and the same trainee employee from check-in points at the “Economy” on my boarding pass and tells me I’m in the wrong line. I point at the Diamond/*G at the bottom of my boarding pass. She is visibly embarrassed and just hands me back the stub without an apology. Newspapers at the entrance of the plane with English and Korean selections.
The cabin manager and 2 FAs are there to check boarding passes entering the plane. I’m gestured through the galley and to the right. The main Y cabin turning in, which will feature the middle-generation Y cabin. Lots of families with babies filled the first several rows.
The view from my row.
Row 21 is not recommended if you want a window seat ;)
View down Row 21.
Seat pitch is 33-34” and there are fold-down legrests.
The middle-generation IFE screen.
Pre-placed on seats were pillow and blanket.
Headphones were pre-placed in the seatback pocket.
The seatback also features a coat hook, USB port, and a remote.
After boarding completed, the FAs came through and handed out slippers and immigration documents for Korea.
Safety video plays as we push back and head out to take-off.
We take-off at 1:00am on the nose. After leveling off, the FAs quickly get to work. 4 carts are deployed starting from the front and middle of the cabin and working backwards. Row 21 is right behind the split so I’m served quickly. The bi-folding tray table.
The meal options were Korean bibimbap (surprise!) or chicken. I went for the bibimbap. The bibimbap tray is the same as always: an omelet starter, a soup, and a Kit-Kat bar. A beer and water were my drink selections.
The bibimbap chinaware and metal cutlery.
Coffee and tea service is done after the meals are delivered.
The meal service finished as we left the Oregon coast and the lights were turned off for the remainder of the flight.
The IFE is decent in size and quality; the content however is quite poor. To make things worse, the TV series were the exact same as they had when I flew OZ to MNL in September…
I tried to watch a movie (Ghostbusters), but turned it off after 5 minutes when I decided sleep was a much better use of my time.
I woke halfway across the Pacific.
The lavatories were in okay condition mid-flight with plenty of amenities still present (mouthwash, tooth brushes, combs, and skin toner).
I slept again until we were about 3 hours from Seoul.
Water and orange juice were periodically handed out from trays during the flight. If you wanted anything else, you’d have to hit the call button.
Meal service started 2 hours before arrival, which is an improvement on the former practice of doing the 2nd meal service 2.5 hours before arrival. I’d still prefer 1.5 hours, but at least OZ has changed it a little bit.
The options were either kimchi pork or pancakes and sausage. I decided to go Korean again since I feared the state of those pancakes. The trays are identical with only the main differing. There is yogurt, a blueberry muffin, and a fruit bowl on the tray. The kimchi pork with rice was actually quite good tasting so I was happy with my choice.
Drink service again happens with meal service, but I stick with water and coffee.
We didn't do the normal approach into ICN. Instead of flying towards Tokyo and then heading due west, we took the long-way around, which led us all the way to Dalian before circling around into ICN. This detour probably added an hour to our flight time bringing the total up to 12 hours and 40 minutes.
The cabin as we prepare for arrival.
We landed on-time and taxied towards our gate. Deplaning was very quick and I was out heading towards transfer security. There was no one in the security line so I was quickly back into the terminal.
I’ll leave off this series here as I begin my layover in ICN.
***BONUS***: LAX Spotting.
Star Alliance Lounge Business Class Section
Los Angeles - LAX
Seoul - ICN
OZ is a strong option for routes into Asia. Not as glamorous as some, but still better than most. They often have good fare sales ex-LAX and I've been happy with their FFP program, so I'll continue to target them as my main option into Asia. Their crews are better at English than NH and as they offer some of the best combinations of cabin configurations and seat pitch in Y. Their IFE is not very good, but I usually opt to sleep on TPACs.
Cabin comfort: The B772s are the most comfortable seats in the OZ fleet, but the older B772s come with certain discomforts (old and creaky).
Crew: The OZ crews are consistently good and have excellent English ability compared to NH. They are very responsive and generally appear professional, just not very outgoing (you need to use your call button to get stuff done, which the quickly attend to with a smile).
Meal and catering: The meal quantity/quality was good on this flight, but the lack of mid-flight snack like they offer on routes to Europe is a disappointment. This flight is nearly 13 hours, some sort of mid-flight snack should be offered even if we never seen daylight on this flight.
Entertainment: Newspaper available on the jetbridge, magazine rack on the bulkheads, and the standard seatback literature. OZ’s IFE has a mediocre selection (worsened by repetitive content from previous months). IFE is probably the smallest factor when picking carriers so it doesn't bother me that it is not very good.
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