This was a business trip to France from Taipei, and after AMS, HKG and SIN, this was my first transit in ICN. There is a direct flight TPE-CDG, not daily, less fun… and 50% more expensive. I could not change much anyway, according to my ticket conditions:
TPE-ICN (China Airlines, 333) You are here, but you can read it in French too ICN-CDG (Korean Air, 773ER) in French here, in English there CDG-ICN (Korean Air, 773ER) in French here, in English there ICN – TPE (Korean Air, 738) in French, to be posted in English later
The flights between TPE and ICN are codeshared: operated by CI on the way in, by KE on the way back.
My readers know that I have a strong tendency to skirting typhoons each time I have a long haul flight to and from Taipei. Typhoon Tembin, after drowning Taitung just before my return from DPS made a sudden U-turn south of Taiwan to head north and landfall in Korea the day after I connected in ICN.
I was more or less sure to be able to land in ICN, but I could not expect to see much landscape on the way. The day before the flight, the probabilities of rain on the TPE-ICN seemed very humid.
That was on top of Typhoon Bolaven, which created also a lot of damage in Korea on August 28th – near all domestic flights in CJU, GMP and ICN were cancelled that day.
Departure from home before dawn, after a very short night due to a FR meeting in TPE. I had hardly reached the avenue that a taxi driver made an acrobatic U-turn to beat a colleague arriving from the other side.
He seemed to try to beat a speed record, driving like a madman in the empty avenues of Taipei.
In record time, I was in front of the CI/KE gate at TPE Terminal 1, where he wrote me a receipt.
Look again at the picture above. Did you notice the small device with a screen on the right of the rear mirror? No, this is not a GPS navigator (although there may be a GPS receiver inside). It has a mini-camera on the front side, and the image is simply what is being recorded continuously in loop. Why? In case of an accident, the driver has the entire film of what happened from his perspective, which helps reduce arguments. Some drivers who witness serious offences also call the police and give them the recording. In 2011, such a recording has been a serious charge against a drunken Japanese hoodlum who beat up and critically wounded a taxi driver before fleeing. The camera of another taxi arriving at the scene from the other direction had recorded it.
Let's go back to TPE Terminal 1, where there has been change again: in early August, gate CI/KE and several others were closed for renovation.
The renovation is over: I enter directly and reach CI and KE's check-in counters.
I guess that the area was closed off by temporary partitions in order to install these new escalators that the area the month before.
An employee rushed to ask me my flight and show me the relevant counters as soon as I had stopped in front of the departing flights display.
No, it had nothing to do with the fact that I am obviously a foreigner: he does that for anybody slows down in front of the display.
Of course, I tried to choose my seat on KE's website, only that with KE, you can only choose your seat in advance if you bought your seat from KE, or if a Skypass (KE's FF program) number had been provided when the ticked was bought. And that is only if the flight is operated by KE.
I am completely out of these tight constraints: the ticket was bought by a travel agency and recorded with a FB number. What is the purpose of Skyteam if the alliance's FF passengers are excluded?
Even arriving early in TPE, I was not sure to have a window seat, especially on the first flight, but good surprise, I have a window for both flights, and what is more on the correct side, looking away from the sun.
On the other hand, the bad luck is that KE serves CDG with A380s, but not that day: it will be a much more ordinary 777. See below the scale for checked in luggage: there is no conveyor belt to bring the luggage to the main conveyor belt: an employee is there for that: unqualified labor is still cheap in Taiwan.
This shop just in front of the airside zone sells works of art of exquisite beauty. At least that is what the sign claims.
In front, it is the line for the security check: it seems very long, but it moves fast. An employee repeats continuously in Mandarin (with a very Taiwanese accent): Prepare your passports and your boarding passes. This is another curious use of manpower, whereas countless shops in Taipei place in front of their window loudspeakers repeating a short pre-recorded message. I actually find it a rather annoying sound pollution, and so do my Taiwanese colleagues, but meibanfa (we can't do anything about it, a very common expression in Taiwan).
The security check was fast, and immigration equally fast and friendly too. No smile from the policewoman, because she wore a face mask because of a probable cold, to avoid contamination. But she was careful to lift a leftover stapled form in my passport to fit her exit stamp without using a blank page. That was equivalent to a smile for me.
Direction B wing through these famously useless escalators
This is the beginning of one hour of plane spotting, because the lounges are either blind or only give a view on service areas, and I do not need to eat. The weather is very overcast and it is very early, so the quality of the pictures is limited. Let us start with this Far Eastern Air Transport MD-83:
Close up on the cockpit windows which gave vertical visibility for stars navigation of yore.
Two Transasia Airlines A321
I can't remember, but I think I already saw this logo
Garuda Airlines 738
This is part of the summer catalogue of my favorite open air clothing supplier. This picture memorizes an unexpected gag: note that water flows from the tap on the left.
This automatic taps have at their base an infrared LED, whose rays reflect on the hands when they are ten centimeters away. A high visibility jacket is designed for reflecting light, no matter if it is visible or not. Consequently, even though I am over a meter away, the sensor detects the light and lets the water flow.
Passing successively in front of the urinals and the sinks triggers them one after the other – a rather stupid but funny game.
For older children, I mention this bookstore
.. which displays four rather expensive models (1,900 TWD = 50 EUR)
… and challenge my ideas about the configuration of the landing gear of the A330 and B747.
JAA (Japan Air Asia) was a wholly owned subsidiary of JAL created at the time when China forbade serving both Mainland China and Taiwan.
The crew of a CI widebody passes by.
I know this e-library, less for its e-book reading offering on self serve tablets, and more for its good remotely parked planes-spotting potential. Not the locks for securing a suitcase to avoid carrying it upstairs.
This is where I have had the best view of that Air Macau A320.
And that CX 744
Back to the boarding rooms level for that Hong Kong Airlines A330. Whereas the C wing is entirely on a single level, plane spotting from B wing is good for your health, because the boarding rooms are downstairs, which means going down the stairs each time just to know if it was worth anything. There are lifts of course, but they are slow.
Does this picture of the limit between the B wing and C wing strike you? It should: in early August that year, it was sealed by a temporary partition (again the Terminal 1 renovation work), which made impossible to circumnavigate the airside quadrangle of TPE.
So this time I can enter B wing, which is part of Terminal 2, and start with this Malaysian Airlines 738.
A United Airlines 772
The orchid exhibit has been renewed, and is as pleasant as before.
I could not help but stop at Gate C3.
My readers know that TPE Gate C3 is dedicated to Eva Air's Hello Kitty jets. This one will leave to Fukuoka. The association of Hello Kitty and Fukuoka's IATA code (FUK) is somewhat unexpected!
There is of course a children playground to Hello Kitty's design:
Note that all the kids took their shoes off.
I'll spare you the coverage of the adjoining Hello Kitty store this time. On the other hand, there comes the quiz of the day: what is the subtype of the Eva Air aircraft in the center?
It's a tough one, so I zoomed in to provide a hint.
This one is easier: it is a 744 because the preceding and following types never land in TPE (at time of reporting, of course).
An ANA 767-300
It is about time to remember about the corporate screenshot, for instance at this self serve computer which overlooks the people mover that I never used.
It is also time to think about childcare facilities, which are a signature of a Marathon FR. This one is of course indicated by the pink sign, in Chinese, English, and Chinese again, because there are traditional ideograms (used in Taiwan and Hong-Kong) on the left, and simplified ones (used in Mainland China and Singapore) on the right. Much like you must wear a sarong before entering a Balinese temple, you appear to have to wear a skirt to enter a Taiwanese kid care area, according to that pictogram.
It is very kawaii inside, that means total look Hello Kitty
You can admit it: you all wondered what a nursing room is like. Well, it is not very sexy (but very Hello Kitty).
It is time to leave Terminal 2, below:
And to reach Gate B7, passing by a toy store whose decorator curiously cut out the entry porches. Anybody has an explanation for that design?
Arrival pier side of my 333
The list of plane types patronizing that gate
The essential registration number
Gate B7 is decorated with a work of art to the glory of the Taiwanese electronics industry:
There is already a long and orderly (because Taiwanese) line on the Economy side, and a single passenger going through the Business / Elite access. When she saw me approach at a leisurely pace, the face of the ground staff at that access obviously meant No kidding, who does this waiguoren (foreigner) thinks he is, short cutting the Economy line? I am going to put him politely where he belongs like all others, while her colleague tries hard to refrain her giggling at the sight of my high visibility jacket of a typical basic ground crew
Fail for judging on clothing: after checking my BP, and taking longer than for the previous passenger, they had to admit that you can travel business class AND wear a construction site garment, especially when it is all the more shiny that is clean.
On the other hand, the FAs pass the test when they welcome me aboard as I start taking pictures in all directions.
This will be my living space for the next two hours and a half…
… after choosing from one of these drinks. Water, a low quality orange juice and an unidentified but presumable alcoholic drink.
Of course, it is less pretty when there are neither bubbles nor sun.
The same, with the set of crackers
The only minor error is that the luggage racks above my seat are full of blankets, and I have to put my hand luggage one and half row further up front. Big deal…
The seat pitch is gigantic for such a short flight
The multistandard 110V 60 Hz power socket
A general view in front of my seat: there are two boxes for putting personal items under the IFE.
For a change, I mix the menu and the safety card
With this grand description of the resume of CI's chef who is a woman
On the other hand, I am somewhat puzzled by this description:
Pushback is delayed – excuses of the captain, claiming air traffic control – and one of the FAs comes to me. She is obviously both very anxious and ill at ease:
- Excuse me, to you work for an airline? - Haha, I guess why you ask me that!
I explain that I do not work for CI or a competitor, and explain about Flight Report.
-Ah, now I understand; I saw you take so many pictures… and your unusual clothes… - - My high visibility jacket is a test: a FA should not behave differently according to the clothes of a passenger. You and your colleagues passed the test successfully, but not the ground staff at the boarding gate.
After takeoff, she came back with a smile and told me: This is a gift for you: a set of envelopes and writing paper, a postcard of Sun Moon Lake (one of the Taiwanese' favorite tourist spots) and a CI deck of playing cards.
Whether I was a Flight Reporter (a rather rare species in the Taiwanese air space), or a mystery passenger paid by CI or an independent firm, one thing was obvious for her, after a possible discrete discussion in the galley): better be on friendly terms with this passenger who was scrutinizing and taking photographic notes of all the details of the cabin and the service.
The FAs take the orders for the breakfast. She uses my name (with the help of the PIL, and some commendable pronunciation effort).
The jet bridge moves away
Some pre-pushback plan spotting: we were parked next to a FAT MD-83 already seen earlier in this FR.
And a Zest Air A320 Zest Air, a Filipino airline that I had never heard of.
It is simpler here: a CX 773
Pushback at last: this is the farewell of the ground staff, in front of the giant Taiwanese flag. Zaijian, Taibei ! (See you again, Taipei !)
A few aircraft seen during taxiing: Transasia Airways A321
Air Macau A319
There is a traffic jam for both cars and planes
Takeoff from 23L or 23R ?
This is not a traffic jam toward 23R. These planes were parked remotely during the night and are heading to their respective jetbridges.
For 23L, there are only two planes in front of us.
We taxi by CI's freight and maintenance areas
A long stop alongside the 747s undergoing maintenance. The line of the aircraft towards their gates did not move much.
I had ample time to look at that 747:
Several pictures for engines geeks
Ready to go version
Onion peel version
I have this one for APU addicts
Take off at last from the plain of Taoyuan
On the left, the Taiwan Air Force base which is parallel to TPE
They appear to have made progress on the viaducts of the future subway line which will serve TPE (and the high speed rail station too)
Some of the many artificial ponds of the Taoyuan plain
It did not use the IFE, which displayed a welcome message in Chinese, Japanese and English, in succession.
Now, the test of the 110V power supply: there is multistandard Type A/B/E-F/G, but will it power my voracious laptop?
Passed ! (many airlines fail it)
There comes coffee (I could have had tea). With my pro-Taiwanese prejudice, I find it initial rather poor. The second sip brings me back to reality: it is awful, Taiwanly awful.
This coffee to CI+AE standards creates a real problem. How can I rate such an awful coffee together with a breakfast which smells so good?
The FA proposed to place the tray of the meal on the tablet of the next seat, seeing me busy typing my FR (and possibly worried that her management finds a negative comment in it). Good initiative: I prefer a poorly placed breakfast tray to a poorly placed laptop.
Let us forget about the curious layout: not only did it smell good, but it was good. In the foreground, and below cut in two, the egg + ham + vegetables were perfect.
I am slightly too much in front to have a complete view of the reactor.
On the other hand, the winglet shot is easy. I find its combination of blue colors pleasing, like that of Garuda.
A short visit to the toilets – note the bottles on the left (perfume, moisturizer, liquid soap and whatever else).
They are next to the access door to the cockpit, on the left behind the two jumpseats.
The decoration in front of the front left door, i.e. what a J passenger sees when entering the plane. It is supposed to be a view of Amsterdam.
There was no explanation of this decoration in the rear of my cabin.
The magazines available at the rear end of the cabin (and identically on the right beyond the picture limits)
Yazhou Zhoukan (Asia Hebdo), a Taiwanese magazine, focuses its front page and a whole series of articles on the Chinese-Taiwanese conflict on the sovereignty on the Diaoyu islands, inhabited but strategic islands north of Ishigaki (ISG). Pure coincidence, The Economists devotes a full page on the Chinese-Japanese sovereignty conflict on the same islands (called Senkaku by Japan), while hardly mentioning Taiwan at all, because they are claimed by all three countries. (The Chinese would not mind Taiwanese sovereignty on these islands, as long as their own sovereignty on Taiwan is made a fact, but the Taiwanese take a different view on this issue).
A FA empties the magazine display before landing, obviously to avoid passengers helping themselves before leaving the aircraft.
Strong turbulences at the beginning of the descent: Crew, be seated, in English as appears to be the rule in all airlines that I know of, and three FA on Economy class duty rush to empty J seats. Why not? they were closer and more comfortable. It would be a nuisance to the 13 passengers spread around the 30 J seats, whereas it is quite full in Y
The descent to ICN is entirely in the clouds: only one minute before gears down did I see the muddy area beyond ICN's runway.
Taipei - TPE
Seoul - ICN
The flight was on time upon arrival, which was what mattered to me. The FAs were flawless. Of course, they knew that they were being scrutinized, I met some in the past whose personal best was bad. On the other hand, the ground staff loses a point on the high visibility jacket test. About the meal… I considered rating it 10.5 and withdraw half a point for the coffee, but some would find me partial. It is therefore nearly perfect.
With regards to comfort, I wonder what else could be asked on a short J flight in day time, with the bonus of an empty seat next to me. The plane was spot clean. On this flight, CI was saved the demerit of its lounge which I know to be disappointed (I reported on it elsewhere).
(ICN : 10/8/8/10)
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