Review of Korean Air flight Seoul Paris in Business

Airline Korean Air
Flight KE901
Class Business
Seat 9J
Aircraft Boeing 777-300ER
Flight time 12:00
Take-off 30 Aug 12, 13:20
Arrival at 30 Aug 12, 18:20
KE   #36 out of 121 Airlines A minimum of 10 flight-reports within the past two years is required to appear in the rankings. 123 reviews
marathon
By GOLD 8208
Published on 20th October 2013
This is the second leg of a TPE-CDG round trip via ICN

TPE-ICN (China Airlines, 333) in French here here, in English there
ICN-CDG (Korean Air, 773ER) in French there, but you are here
CDG-ICN (Korean Air, 773ER) in French here, in English there
ICN – TPE (Korean Air, 738) in French here, to be posted in English later

I would not have spontaneously thought about a TPE-ICN-CDG routing, but contrary to what maps usually show, the distance is actually the same as the usual connection in HKG, and is actually shorter, because the HKG-CDG flights must detour around the Himalaya ranges (thanks to gcmap.com).

photo tpe-cdg-gcmap

The previous flight (TPE-ICN) landed on time in ICN, where the cloud ceiling was feet above the runway, with rain.

Another way to state it is that the weather was definitely plan spotting unfriendly during taxiing, because the window became a mess of rain drops within seconds. I tried, though:

A PC Air aircraft parked in the distance. This Thai charter airline created a buzz in December 2011 when it hired transsexual FA.

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The aircrafts parked at the terminal:

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Shandong Airlines, which true to its name is based in Jinan, capital of the Shandong province south of Beijing.

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737 Eastar Jet, a Korean low cost airline

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777 United Airlines

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… it is ETOPS qualified, which may be useful to make it back to the US.

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A last look at the CI 333 which brought me there

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And a first look at the local birds

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The operation of ICN is quite simple: in this map, the main terminal on the left is for Korean airlines only (i.e. KE + OZ), and the foreign airlines are sent to the satellite on the right, which can be reached with a people mover.

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I was fascinated in the people mover by the elegance of an LH crew. You all know their uniform which is really like that of countless airlines, but their gestures and way of talking (in German and in English) was extremely refined. A proof that it is not a matter of age – some of them were not that young – or of civilization.

Half of the departing flights

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This is my last sight of a Taiwan: the flag of that group leader is that of Lion Travel, the largest Taiwanese travel agency.

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Arrival in the main terminal; like in other modern airports that I patronized recently, the immigration controls are directly in the airside mall and the safety check can be seen from an escalator (I could have a taken a better picture). So much for the usual prohibition of taking pictures in these areas.

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I do not detect any reaction of any staff to the high visibility vest that I was wearing purposefully, which could be unnoticed without my standard carry-on luggage of a passenger. Some passengers do express some surprise though.

I come across a group of Koreans whose clothes are even more showy than mine, and stop obligingly for pictures: they seem to be part of a standard cultural animation of the airport, in traditional clothes.

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The toilets are equipped for children, very young ones since the seat is no more than forty centimeters high.

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In theory, ICN is an ideally plane spotter friendly airport, with its oversized windows which are protected from the rain by their obliqueness, and tinted only in the top part, where it does not hamper picture taking.

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The problem is that at the main terminal, the traffic is overwhelmingly that of KE, with a minority of OZ aircraft, and I saw a single aircraft of a regional Korean airline. This terminal is close to being a KE terminal, and plane spotting becomes quickly repetitive, and even sterile.

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On the way back, I'll also have over two hours of overlay between two KE flights in ICN and I'll spend them in KE's lounge. It could have been different had the return ICN-TPE flight been operated by CI, providing a much diversified plane spotting.

This was not my return trip yet; this is a brief overlook of the planes which could be seen from the main terminal that day:



I saw three strictly identical children playgrounds. They are like planes: once you are used to them, you quickly see all of them, due to their total lack of originality.

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There are electric plugs (type E+F and Schuko) spread around everywhere, at floor level, for all to use. I find them useful – I know a number of airports where passengers are not supposed to have discovered the magic of portable electronic devices. There is a systematic warning about the power being 220V: the main partners of South Korea (Japan, Taiwan, Canada and the US) use 110-120V. China uses 220V, but its weight was next to negligible when ICN was built.

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These are the few non-KE aircraft that I saw from the main terminal despite the poor weather:

Asiana 772

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And 744

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United airlines 777

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Air China A321

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Japan Airlines B767 and Aeroflot A330

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Two China Eastern A320s

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A Business Air 767

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China Southern A321

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Jeju Air 738

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After two quite frustrating hours of walking, despite the wide window frames which did not have a single raindrop, I joined my boarding gate.

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Boarding. My BP beeps, and I have a brief hope of an upgrade, but it was only a barcode reading error: the boarding staff types a reference on her keyboard and the matter is solved. Anyway, and unlike what happened in TPE, nobody flinched at the view of my high visibility jacket. A good point for the Koreans.

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The first J cabin, from the bottom end

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And the second J cabin during the beginning of boarding. The load ratio will be around 70%. I gave only a brief look at the Y cabin which looked very full.

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This will be my vital space for twelve hours: I am privileged not to have a neighbor, which will make moving around easy. I left my high visibility vest on that other seat while I was sorting the stuff that I would need during the flight. A FA passed around with coat hangers for the passengers' clothes, without stopping. Long story made short, only when I carefully folded my vest to put it in my hand luggage did she realize that that vest had not been forgotten by some ground staff. I won't blame her outright: maybe she had not seen me boarding, and wearing it.

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The deployed IFE; a good size even though other airlines provide larger ones

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Two USB sockets per seat, qui deliver enough power to recharge my camera.

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What about the AC power socket? Yes, it will power my laptop, and even recharge its slightly depleted battery.

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The seat next to mine in fully reclined position. It is full flat, even though I had the impression that it was slightly inclined, but that would not impact the comfort anyway. I neglected to hide my stuff when I took this picture.

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The safety information card

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The contents of the amenity kit is commonplace, but the bag is poorly designed: the opening is too narrow for my hand, even though it is rather small

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In the toilets, shavers (presumably for men) and a baby care table (ostensibly for women, according to the pictogram). I wonder if a man locking himself in here with a baby could be charged with pedophilia, since he is not supposed to change his diapers.

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The welcome drink – there was also an oshibori that I often forget to mention in my FRs.

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Water or fruit juice – I took orange juice which was of poor quality. There was also champagne or whatever look alike Asian copy.

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You have guessed from the Taiwanese counterfeit of a Leadership signature picture that plane spotting during pushback and taxiing will be a tricky exercise.

Asiana A321 and the tail of a Jeju Air aircraft (possibly a 737)

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Arrival of an Air China 737

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With such a bad weather, as soon as the aircraft is pushed back and exposed to the wind, the window is immediately transformed into an artistic filter. I defy you to identify these aircraft (Korean Air is not enough).

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Except these: a 738 on the left and a 388 on the right (or maybe the reverse?). It was really difficult to fit this whale between the raindrops.

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The IFEs on the partition show the front camera's image, but it does not provide much in that weather.

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A KE 744 takes off before us

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And then a CZ A321

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Now is our turn. A GE90 (and even two of them) is mightily powerful, and the window is immediately cleaned.

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A brief aerial view of ICN

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I only used the IFE for the geovision. The initial westward course to avoid the other Korea is no surprise.

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The GE90 above the clouds.

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Upon the unanimous request of an administrator, this is the menu, with several pictures to improve readability, but the English version of this website was such a far away dream when I took this flight that I only have the French version – there was of course an English and a Korean version.

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On the other hand, I neglected to take a picture of the wine list. You will have to wait for the return's flight FR to judge the Korean expertise, or manage with the French version now on line. Once again, KE's protocol is to recover the menus when the passenger has made his choice. It may be ecologically correct recycling, but that forces passengers to take pictures immediately in order to know what you are eating (and possibly how to eat it!).

Much like SQ's Singapore girls, KE's FAs kneel to be at the level of the passengers when they make their selection. I like that.

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Focus on the rigid knot in the hair with the same KE corporate blue.

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An outlook of the male and female FAs' uniforms

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This is the starter, together with tomato juice

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Wine is proposed in a wicker basket and served from the bottle.

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I chose bibimbap, a traditional albeit not especially refined Korean specialty. The menu contains the directions to prepare it yourself, for passengers unused to the dish. You have better memorize it, because the FAs take the menu back once you gave your choice, and there go the directions.

This may be the first time I have chopsticks in a plane, disposable or not. These ones are evidently Korean, and therefore metallic.

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This is the bibimbap, as served. The soup is very cold; I do not know if that was on purpose, but I liked it.

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Having cheese in your meal is already being somewhat in France. That cheese is served individually, not prepared in advance in standard portions like in company restaurants and AF planes.

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Only that this is the Korean version of the art of eating cheese (very good cheese, by the way). The
Häagen-Dasz ice cream provided no surprise.

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The wrapping of these crackers tell me that my daily food intake is supposed to be 35 kcal /2% = 1750 kcal, which I found well below standards, even though I should use much of that food to feed me.

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What about coffee? Let us say that it is OK, no more.

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The bottle of water which was distributed after the meal, and a glass of fruit juice a long time afterwards.

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Air to air pictures have become fashionable on Flight –Report, and I saw three of them in the Chinese air space. For this one, from the shape of the wing's intrados, I bet on an A321, with reservations. On the other hand I did not identify the airline from that dark tail.

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I managed to identify Air China's logo on both of these, but not the aircraft type.

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The aircraft follows a route which is not much different from that of PEK-CDG, but I failed to spot the Great Wall. It was not easy, because it can best be seen during the descent towards PEK, when the plane is both lower and slower. The plane quickly reaches the arid plains of Mongolia (Inner, and then Outer)

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Irrigation circles

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And another small Chinese, with a factory outside

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Mongolia for above is not fascinating

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Focus on a lake whose water may not be drinkable

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The FAs have the window shades down. I keep one open because I do not want to sleep, and because the lighting is insufficient to use my laptop comfortably. Sometime later, an FA comes and requests me very insistently to lower my window shade. I explain that working in the dark is visually very tiring, that I do not understand why KE really wants me to be tired, to no avail. She is exquisitely polite, but that seems as non-negotiable as straightening my seat for landing. I am furious, make no mystery about it – she understood that very well and I never heard that many sorry nor saw that many apologetic smiles.

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I work on my Fr in the dark for an hour and a half, and then the FAs start distributing oshiboris. Dinner will soon be served, all the passengers are awaken, and I consider that I am authorized to raise both of my window shades. After dinner, another FA comes up:

- I'll lower your shades, OK?
- No, it is not OK!


My immediate answer with steel eyes and a stern tone unsettles her, and I have no intention to give in this time. In order to show some goodwill, I lower one of the shades, and clear state that there is no way that the other one will be lowered. Another FA comes up and whispers a few words to her colleague who withdraws. I'll be able to continue my FR in tolerably uncomfortable conditions.

Above Siberia,

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The many meanders and dead branches of a Siberian river

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18:15: distribution of fruit juice (tomato juice for me this time), and various snacks.

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The triangle is an onigiri, a typical Japanese food only that no Japanese would create a kimch'i flavored onigiri (and tuna is also becoming politically incorrect due to overfishing). It is rice wrapped with dried seaweeds.



There is not much choice left on this tray of glasses of fruit juice

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The various kinds of bread for dinner

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I was not convinced by the onion bread.

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But it was compensated by an excellent seafood hot dish

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The coffee and dessert, already pushed aside on the neighboring table to leave space to my laptop and let me type the FR of my previous flight, which had a priority on food.

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A curious urban layout.

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A general overall aerial view of Saint Petersburg

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And some details

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The city center

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The Peter and Paul fortress

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An aircraft flying much lower which could be for instance an Antonov 148 (to be confirmed by the experts)

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The Leningrad LEAS nuclear plant, on the Finland gulf, next to the Russia-Estonia border

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An Estonian airbase next to the small town of Tapa

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Hohn airport (ETNH), in the north of Germany

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No runway here, this is Erfde and the Eider River which served as the original Kiel Canal, which allowed Prussia to avoid partially the Danish waters (thanks to Saraoutou for the history and geography lesson).

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Buesum harbor, a twin city of Camaret.

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Fliegerhorst Jever air force base (ETNJ).

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Wittmundhafen airport (ETNT)

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Another drinks service, again non-alcoholic ones

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A shiny river through a break in the clouds.

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Start of the descent: the GE90 on a backdrop of clouds


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Laon Chambry airport (LFAF), 17 from touch down

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The French countryside during descent – the leading edge slats are extended

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A word of thanks to saraoutou who identified for me most of these towns in the French version of this report. For the future reference, I give the time to landing on runway 27R.

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H – 9'

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H – 8' : Crouy sur Ourcq

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H – 6' : Douy la ramée

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H – 4': Lagny le sec

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H – 3' : St Mard

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H – 2': Dammartin en Goelle

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Reasonably soft landing, and deployment of the thrust invertors

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An AF maintenance area, with a whale…

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… no, two whales

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Some touring around CDG…

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… while taxiing in front of CDG1 which is best for its plane spotting diversity, but not its plane spotter friendliness

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LOT E175 in special Euro 2012 livery

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Lufthansa A319

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ANA Star Alliance 777 identified by the blue parallelogram in the front – in front of Kuwait Airways and Air China aircraft

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Travel Service 738, a Czech airline.

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Two governmental A340s – they are typically used to fly troops for overseas operations

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TAM A330

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KL 737

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Arrival of flight MU569 from PVG, operated with an A330, and of an AF A320

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A TK A330

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A Regional E170 lands

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A collection of miscellaneous tails (JAL, AF, and Aeromexico)

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An AZ A321 lands

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Arrival pierside at 19:10, i.e. 50 minutes late. This is the first class cabin.

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Luggage delivery is expected to start at 19:26; it starts at 19:24 and my luggage is tenth to appear at 19:26:00. This is unusual, but CDG's luggage handlers did not make me wait for ages even though I went through the automated passport check gates without wasting any time, even though they are poorly signaled.

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I remember complaining about the absence of an ATM in CDGs luggage delivery room, but there is one here on the right.

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What could be my tourist bonus when landing in Paris? Maybe this truck carrying a container owned by Evergreen, the Taiwanese leader of international freight transport. You can never completely leave Taiwan…

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See more

Verdict

Korean Air

7.5/10
Cabin3.5
Cabin crew10.0
Entertainment/wifi8.0
Meal/catering8.5

Seoul - ICN

9.0/10
Efficiency10.0
Access8.0
Services8.0
Cleanliness10.0

Paris - CDG

9.0/10
Efficiency9.0
Access9.0
Services9.0
Cleanliness9.0

Conclusion

Punctuality: some of the plane's delay in ICN has been recovered by CDG's luggage handlers (it was the reverse the previous time I arrived in CDG).
Comfort: from an average 8 grade, I withdraw 1 demerit point for not being able to choose my seat on the internet if you are a non-KE FF flyer and did not buy the ticket directly from KE, and not on the codeshared TPE-ICN flight, resulting in stress at the idea of not having a window seat. 1.5 demerit point for being forced to work in the dark, 0.5 demerit for angering me (resulting in loss of psychological comfort), 1 demerit for not supplying any explanation for that demand. I do not give a bonus for the lie-flat seat (no, KE, I do not sleep during day flights!) but do give 0.5 point for the power socket which did provide power to my laptop.
A last demerit point because I never found on KE's website a page for issuing a complaint about it, which is another way of not caring for their passengers' comfort.

FAs: they have been flawless, smiling, kneeling to be at passenger level, and deserve 1 bonus point for that. The way they managed the window incident could have been a training video and shoots them up to the top grade (yes, that incident results in a very bad comfort rating and a top FA rating for KE).
Meal: 0.5 bonus point for providing chopsticks (I am not sure many FReporters would follow me on that).

For my first FR on a long haul flight with them, KE's comfort rate gets a beating even though it is supposed to be one of their strong points, but I never take into account the reputation of an airline: my experience on that flight is my only basis for evaluation.

Information on the route Seoul (ICN) Paris (CDG)

The contributors of Flight-Report published 25 reviews of 3 airlines on the route Seoul (ICN) → Paris (CDG).


Useful

The airline with the best average rating is Korean Air with 8.0/10.

The average flight time is 12 hours and 10 minutes.

  More information

7 Comments

  • Comment 90533 by
    jetsetpanda 2294 Comments

    Thanks for the nice report and pictures. The welcome drinks tray with peanuts caught my eyes. Are they serious? Peanuts in a premium cabin? at least serve almonds. I see that you already try some fusion onigiri and enjoyed your bibimpap. It's always nice to try some local food that represents the country of the airline you are flying, especially out of a hub.

  • Comment 90623 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 5306 Comments

    Hmmm...I get that you're not happy with the whole window incident, but 3.5 for a full-flat seat and no neighbor is a really harsh grade and, IMO, not representative of the actual hard-product, which is really what is being graded here. It is especially confusing when you then give the crew a perfect grade when they are the ones who put you in that situation in the first place (though, yes, they did handle it very well). I also hate closing windows on day flights, so I am with you, but you have 2 lights in business class to work with, which should be sufficient, theoretically. Anyway, thanks for this great report even if I don't agree with your grading system :-)

    • Comment 282916 by
      marathon GOLD AUTHOR 9566 Comments

      Yes, KE's hard product is indeed much better than average, but how it is used matters. Full-flat is 100% useless when you do not need to sleep, and insufficient lighting is very painful to my eyes (the 2 lights are not enough, and I often find hotel rooms too dark for comfort). I stand by my approval of the crew' behavior even though I disapprove their protocol. Let's agree to disagree.
      It was a completely different matter on the return (night) flight, to be translated.

    • Comment 282955 by
      KévinDC TEAM SILVER 5306 Comments

      To each their own :-)
      P.S. KE read your FR after I shared it on the Flight-Report Twitter page

  • Comment 150266 by
    junior_boji 6 Comments

    is it spotter friendly there? if it is, where is the location to spot in the terminal?

    • Comment 328342 by
      marathon GOLD AUTHOR 9566 Comments

      ICN is very spotter friendly if you are in the main terminal, i.e. flying on a Korean carrier. There are two long symmetrical jetties : you only need to go all the way to the end of one of them to find plenty of windows providing unblocked views on the tarmac. (If you look at ICN's floor plan, you'll understand what I mean)
      I do not know about the satellite terminal used by the foreign airlines, since I never had a chance to board from there.
      Thanks for stopping by!

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