Asiana Airlines 753, ICN – SIN

OZ 753

ICN – SIN

Airbus A330-300

Economy Class, Seat 40K

 

Prologue

South Korea’s Asiana Airlines is no stranger to air travellers around the world. Consistently voted as one of the world’s best airlines, its sam-taeguk colours are synonymous with Korean hospitality and service quality that has garnered it the coveted five-star airline rating from Skytrax since 2007. We had an opportunity to fly with the airline recently and review its regional service in economy class from Seoul (Incheon) to Singapore.

 

Check-In

   

We arrived at the award-winning Incheon International Airport three hours before departure for check-in. Our flight was assigned aisles L and M at the far end of the terminal, necessitating a walk across the modern steel-and-glass building which felt bright and spacious despite it being peak hours with multiple flights being processed.

 

With the exception of status holders and premium cabin travellers, Asiana Airlines has instituted self check-in procedures for travel. Located near the terminal entrances and well-signposted, the kiosks were simple to use and we were able to obtain our boarding passes within minutes before heading to one of the many bag drop counters. The lines were reasonably short and we were soon served by a ground agent who tagged our bags to Singapore.

 

While the entire check-in process was very efficient and took less than fifteen minutes, we could not help but wonder if this efficiency came at the price of the warmth and personable service that Incheon Airport had been known for.

 

Boarding & Departure

   

This evening’s flight would be operated by Asiana Airlines’ Airbus A330-300 jet, its mid-haul workhorse. We reported to gate 50 at the main terminal building forty minutes before the scheduled departure time to find a packed waiting area shared with the adjacent gates, which were also boarding flights to other destinations.

 

Completing their pre-flight preparations, the gate agents bowed in unison to begin boarding. Despite announcements outlining the boarding sequence (families with young children, Star Alliance Gold and status holders, business class passengers followed by general boarding by row number), the open layout of the gate area made it difficult to enforce priorities. With the exception of a separate line for business class and status holders, it was largely a free-for-all situation when the doors were opened.

 

We were one of the first to board and were welcomed by the crew at the door. Dressed in their smart brown uniforms, the crew were proactive in greeting passengers and helping to stow carry-on bags in the overhead compartments. A light load ensured boarding was completed on-time as the flight attendants checked on the comfort of the passengers whilst conducting final preparations for departure.

 

Seat

   

Asiana Airlines operates two different onboard products for its Airbus A330 fleet, with our flight flown using an aircraft featuring the newer, enhanced slimline seating and larger 10.5-inch personal screens. The light brown fabric and pink antimacassars made for an aesthetically-pleasing cabin, which was clean and bright under the aircraft lights.

 

Offering a 33-inch pitch, the seat provided good legroom and knee comfort, further enhanced by the lack of the inflight entertainment control box beneath the window seats (a marked improvement over the airline’s older aircraft) taking up precious legroom. A generous recline with the seat bottom also sliding forward and winged headrests ensured a comfortable lounging position as we settled in for the 6-hour flight.

   

   

The tray table is of a fairly basic one-piece design, folding down from the seat back. Unlike other airlines with separate cup holders, there is a circular cutout for drinks. While a cheaper and weight-saving innovation, we found this be less convenient as compared to a proper cup holder or bi-fold tray table, given that the entire tray table has to be folded down during drinks service.

 

Also found on the seat back is a coat hook, while the inflight entertainment remote is stowed within the armrest and a power port found under the seat.

 

Crew

The operating crew this evening were comprised of a team of Korean ladies led by a male cabin manager and conducted themselves with professionalism and grace throughout the flight. Conversing easily in Korean and English, they were friendly, helpful and attentive to passengers’ needs and we were particularly impressed by their proactiveness to answer calls with a tray of drinks in-hand, which not only saved a trip back to the galley but also showed an understanding of passenger comfort.

 

Meal

   

Meal service commenced approximately one hour after takeoff, with the crew serving dinner to passengers. On the menu tonight was a choice of chicken with rice or pork with rice, served with a packaged bun, green salad and cake for dessert together with a choice of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages. We opted for the latter with a can of Cass beer and found the meal to be rather forgettable, the vegetables being clearly overcooked and drenched in a minced pork gravy. In a bizarre twist, the refreshment service of a reheated pizza slice later in the flight was much tastier and appetising.

   

It was disappointing that there wasn’t a Korean option offered on our flight, considering Asiana Airlines prides itself on its local catering and cuisine. The bibimbap we had on the inbound flight was excellent in presentation, taste and portion. Mixing the rice with the assorted vegetables and gochujang pepper sauce, accompanied by kimchi as well as the pollack soup (albeit of the rehydrated kind), it made for a healthy, very enjoyable and unique inflight meal that showcases the Korean heritage.

 

Entertainment

   

A copy of the Asiana inflight magazine was provided at every seat. Featuring lifestyle and travel articles content in English, Mandarin and Korean languages, the March issue heralded the arrival of Spring and a celebration of the season in the context of Jeju island. Also found in the literature pocket was a copy of the extensive duty free catalogue, covering items from cosmetics to traditional Korean liquors.

   

   

We opted for the loaded content of the on-demand Asiana Entertainment. Although the system had a decent selection of movies, short features, pre-recorded news programming, music and games, we felt the choices within each category could be expanded further and settled for a Korean movie on the 10.5-inch touchscreen for the first half of the flight before switching later to the moving map and the latest K-pop tunes for the remaining flying duration. As the flight drew closer to arrival, the crew played an exercise instructional video to help passengers refresh themselves and it was rather amusing to see many passengers partake in the exercises.

 

Arrival & Deboarding

Descending over the east coast of peninsular Malaysia, the crew worked to prepare the cabin for landing. Overflying the airport, we were vectored for a quick approach and landing, followed by a short taxi to our gate at terminal 3. Deboarding was quick with the relatively light passenger load and the crew bade goodbye to passengers to conclude a pleasant flight with Asiana Airlines.

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