Hello, Flight-Report community, and thanks for reading the first flight report that I write here on Flight-Report.com. Please kindly give constructive comments and suggestions below so that I can improve my writing in the future :)
Introduction: In early November, 2017, me and my family decided to go to Seoul for a short holiday in early January. There was a bunch of airlines that operate between HKG and ICN, ranging from full service carrier such as Cathay Pacific, Asiana, Korean Air or even Ethiopian and Air India, to low cost carrier such as Jeju Air, Hong Kong Express, Jin Air etc. For aviation geeks, this means that you got more than ten airlines to select and review! Air Seoul, a newly established airline, became the final choice since I was excited to try out some new airlines
Before talking about the actual flight, I would like to introduce some background information of Air Seoul since it is a really new airline, and many may be unfamiliar with it. It is a LCC (some may argue it is a hybrid carrier, which I shall explain later) and a subsidiary of Asiana Airlines (OZ) which has a 100% stake in Air Seoul. It commenced international operation in October 2016 and now serves 16 destinations from its hub at Seoul Incheon Airport. Destinations are mainly second-tier cities in Japan ( e.g. Shizuoka, Kumamoto, Hiroshima) and tourist and leisure cities in South-East Asia ( e.g. Hong Kong, Siem Reap, Kota Kinabalu). Most of those destinations were previously operated by OZ. I guess the establishment of Air Seoul is to reduce the operational cost for Asiana Group on routes that are not so profitable or with low yield. The second reason is to regain market share and revenues in the intensifying LCC market, which has been a weakness of Asiana group, and to compete with other Korean LCCs such as Jin Air (a subsidary of Korean Air), Jeju Air and Easter Jet.
Anyway, sorry for the large amount of information. I hope my following flight report can provide a more in-depth review of Air Seoul's real-life operation. So let's get back to flight RS532, and stay tuned for my return flight RS531!
Flight Purchasing: 1. Air Seoul could be seen as a hybrid carrier but not a geniune LCC because at the time of purchasing my ticket ( Discounted Fair: around HKD$1,900/ USD$240), Air Seoul generously included one piece of 15kg checked baggage plus one piece of 10kg carry-on allowance in all fare types.
However, Air Seoul have added a new Promotional Fare recently, and unlike the Discounted and Regular Fare, checked baggage is not include in the Promotional Fare. Below is an example.
2. Also, passengers could pay KRW$15,000/ USD$15 each flight for their preferable seats, though seat selection was free when online check-in is available. Again, Air Seoul have changed their pre-paid seat policy recently, seats are divided into four categories with different prices.
Check-in and Boarding: 3. We arrived Hong Kong International Airport at around 11:00 p.m. for my 1:00 a.m. flight. Air Seoul has been operating this 'red-eye' RS532 flight on a daily basis since 31 October, 2017.
Although online check-in was available on its website 48 hours prior to the stated departure time, passengers were still required to proceed to aisle D in Terminal 1 for the issue of a physical boarding pass and baggage drop off.
4. Within five minutes, the friendly staff had already issued the boarding pass and checked the baggages in. Unlike any boring, black-and-white boarding pass, the boarding pass is rather colourful and is dominated by Air Seoul's brand colour.
5. The flight was departing from Gate 32. But upon arrival, announcements from the ground staff and the airport's PA system were made, informing passengers that the gate had changed to Gate 44. There wasn't many passengers waiting at Gate 44 and indeed it turned out to be a quite flight. Based on estimation, the passenger load for today's flight was only 30% to 40%.
6. The plane that operated flight RS532 on 3/1/2018: HL7212, the newest aircraft among the six A321s which Air Seoul operate (delivered on 18/12/2017).
Flight Information: Date: 3/1/2018 Flight: Air Seoul RS532 Route: HKG - ICN Aircraft Type: A321-231(WL) Aircraft Reg: HL7212 (Y 220), delivered on 18/12/2017 Seat: 8D Scheduled Time of Departure: 01:00 Actual Time of Departure: 00:57 Scheduled Time of Arrival: 05:30 Actual Time of Arrival: 05:49 Passenger Load: 30-40%
Aircraft and Cabin: 7. Once entered the cabin, I could immediately tell this was indeed an extremely new plane. The new cabin looked very neat, polished and modern, yet the cabin felt a bit plain due to its monochromatic interior and seat upholstery. Fortunately, the overall cabin could still maintain the feeling of open, refresh and relax because of the three brand colours that Air Seoul used: grey, white and particularly mint green (Air Seoul called the colour as Air Seoul MINT), which I quite like it.
8. HL7212 also had a different cabin and seat configuration compared to the other five planes that were handed over from parent company Asiana Airlines. Air Seoul had opted for a tighter configuration on HL7212, with 220 seats compared to 195 seats on the other five planes. So there was also less space between each rows (29-30" vs 32").
9. Seat map for A321 with 220 seats (HL7212) vs. 195 seats (except HL7212)
Seat: 10. I had assigned my seat 8D. The seat was slim and was manufactured by Recaro, which was the common type of seat that you could find on many other LCCs and intra-European flights. Although the seat was slim, I thought the padding was sufficient for a 4-6 hours flight.
11. Unlike the other five planes in Air Seoul fleet which had 32" seat pitch, HL7212 only had 29-30" seat pitch to compromise the additional rows (Th width of each seat maintained in 18"). The seat pocket was moved upward so that passenger comfort experience could be enhanced with slightly more legroom. Still, it could be tight for tall person.
[b12. There was only a tray table and a seat pocket at the back of the seat, without any PTV or power outlets which other five planes in Air Seoul fleet had.
13. Based on information on the web, the other five planes were equipped with a 6.5" touch-screened PTV and power outlets behind each seat because they were previously flown by Asiana Airlines. But the PTV were only for playing safety video, flight path and some short videos. Below is a photo that shows the difference.
14. Due to light load, the boarding was completed ahead of schedule. The Korean captain made his welcome abroad announcement and informed us of our flight of 3.5 hours, and anticipated for a smooth flight. At 0:57 a.m. we began taxi, and the crew also performed manual safety demonstration. At 1:14 a.m. we were cleared for takeoff.
Entertainment: 15. As we climbed out, I took the safety card, inflight menu (Cafe Mint), duty free and inflight magazine (Your Seoul) out. These were the only 'entertainment' provided on the flight.
16. The destination map of Air Seoul. Currently, Macau has been terminated since March 2018, and Kalibo is temporally suspended. Air Seoul have planned to serve Da Nang and Sapporo (seasonal) starting from May and July 2018.
17. The inflight magazine of Air Seoul was known as 'Your Seoul'. It mainly introduces some tourist attractions in Seoul.
Meal: 18. As mentioned, Air Seoul could be seen as a hybrid carrier because it also offered free drink such as water and orange juice. The crew distributed the free drinks and with napkins before they dimmed the cabin light to let passengers to have rest.
19. Apart from free drinks, Air Seoul also offered two types of meal/drink selection. One was to buy snacks and drinks from the inflight menu 'Cafe Mint'. Below is the menu.
20. The second type of meal section was to pre-order meals before the flight. It could be purchased while booking the tickets, and could be purchased up to 48 hours prior to the date of departure. We did not pre-order any meals on the outbound RS532 flight as it was a midnight flight. But please stay tuned for my review on the return RS531 flight as we had pre-ordered meals.
Cabin Crew and Service: 21. As it was a mid-night flight, most of the flight was uneventful. The service started 15 minutes after take off when the seat belt sign was switched off. The flow of service started from the duty free, then took snacks/drinks orders from passengers. Afterwards, they distributed the immigration and custom form of South Korea. Lastly, they provided free water or orange juice to passengers before dimming the cabin light to let passengers to optimize their resting time. All the crews were very young, friendly and attentive.
22. Besides snacks and drinks, the inflight menu ' Cafe Mint' also listed some Air Seoul branded products and Korean cultural souvenirs that you could purchase onboard.
23. I was particularly intrigued by the Mint Cushion Blanket with a price of KRW$20,000/ USD$20.
24. I asked one of the crew to purchase it. She politely confirmed my request and went to the galley to check the inventory. She then came back to my seat with a bag that contained the pretty cushion blanket. After I paid, she returned to the galley and gave me a receipt as well as several Air Seoul branded pens - an extremely nice gesture and surprise for aviation geeks!
25. I opened the cushion blanket after I got back home. To me, the cushion blanket looks chic and stylish, with very soft texture.
26. The captain announced that the flight would be delayed for a bit due to traffic. We were in a holding pattern for about 15 minutes. At 5:40 a.m., we touched down smoothly at Seoul Inchon airport. At 5:49 a.m., the plane was parked at gate and passengers could deplane. The first thing that greeted us was Seoul's chilly winter weather, with -8°C!
Hong Kong - HKG
Seoul - ICN
To conclude, I would say that my first ever experience on an Air Seoul's flight was very pleasant. The extremely new and neat condition of the aircraft and cabin deeply impressed me. All the crews were extremely polite and friendly, and I think they had delivered the service in a very efficient yet professional manners. Although this was only a 3.5 hours flight on a LCC, Air Seoul exceeded my expectation. Entertainment unfortunately was lacking. Particularly on the aircraft HL7212, which is not equipped with PTV. So, be aware of which aircraft is operating the flight since there is some variations between them. Still, I will not hesitate to recommend flying Air Seoul if you are looking for flying in and out of Seoul on LCCs that come with low fares, friendly service and new aircraft. I hope everyone enjoyed reading my first flight report, and please stay tuned for my return flight RS531 back to Hong Kong that I will post soon!
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