This is the first in a series reviewing the flights between Manila and Seoul.
I chose to fly Korean Airlines the last time I went to Seoul because I’ve never been on it before.
I know that the airline was a victim of sasaeng (obsessive) K-pop fan culture last year. These fans booked first class tickets to stalk the boy group Wanna One. They then disembarked before the flight, forcing all the passengers to disembark as well and go through the security screening again. The sasaeng fans even had the gall to ask for a refund. The incident forced the airline to increase its no-show penalty.
Korean Air is the flag carrier of South Korea. It flies directly to Seoul (Incheon Airport) from Manila with IATA code KE. I boarded it in Terminal 1 of Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Our flight from Manila was on Boeing 747-400. We were on Boeing 777-300 on our flight back home.
As a disclaimer, my economy seat was booked through a travel agency and paid for by a host. I had two other airline options but surprisingly, Korean Air had the cheapest offer among the three.
Their website is straightforward and easy to navigate. A week before my flight I checked the website to see where my seat was. I could transfer to another seat at no extra cost had I chosen to do so.
Entertainment for hours
I did not receive any e-mails reminding me that I could check-in online but I constantly checked if web check-in was available. If coming from Manila, this process is a must if you want to cut the queue time in half. Their bag drop-off system is very efficient.
Newspapers were available before boarding. There were Korean titles and most importantly, they had copies of the Inquirer.
A pillow, blanket and headphones were waiting for me when I got to my seat. I stand 5’3” and I had spacious legroom and my seat was wide enough for me. I did not find any USB port for charging in the 747 but there was one in the 777.
Toiletries were available in the bathroom. There were toothbrush sets which never ran out the entire flight. I saw flight attendants checking on the bathrooms constantly.
I also noticed how good-
looking their flight attendants are. The male flight attendant can pass off as an idol trainee.
The in-flight entertainment system was available as soon as I got seated. It stopped during announcements. They had a decent list of Western movies and shows; some were fairly new releases. This month, for example, they have “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.” When I discovered that even the Korean shows came with English subtitles (something that other carriers take for granted), I settled for Jo In-sung’s and Nam Joo-hyuk’s “The Great Battle.”
To Bibimbap or not
Korean Air still serves its hot meals with proper utensils. On the flight to Seoul, they offered chicken and pork afritada or bibimbap. I chose the latter. Bibimbap came with soybean paste soup, a side dish and vegetables.
Flight attendants asked those who ordered bibimbap if they knew how to eat it. Whenever passengers answered “no,” they were handed a manual in English. Basically, the instructions will tell you that you have to mix the vegetables, rice, beef, gochujang and sesame oil well together.
I found Korean Air’s bibimbap bland compared to its rival Asiana Airlines. The latter has crunchier veggies and the sweeter gochujang. Its saving grace was the delicious hot soup. They served Big Scoop Vanilla ice cream for dessert.
I requested for snacks after the meal. I was handed prawn crackers (think Oishi) and salted crackers. Drinks including wine and beer were available throughout the flight for free.
Perks at the terminal
Majority of flights that come from the Philippines use Terminal 1 of the Incheon International Airport. Korean Air uses the smaller, less crowded Terminal 2.
Immigration is a three-minute walk or less from the aircraft. You can be done with everything and head to the world’s biggest Shake Shack airport branch in B1 level in less than 30 minutes.
Before checking in on my flight home, I visited the Skypass booth to retroactively remit miles to my newly registered account. A sticker of my Skypass number was placed at the back of my passport that meant I do not have to worry about losing another miles card.
I found Korean Air a comfortable option when going to Korea. I like that they provide for passengers’ needs. K-drama fans would especially enjoy the movie selections for their four-hour flight to Seoul.