From Mountains to Beaches – Asiana Domestic Flight GMP-CJU

OZ8939 Seoul GMP – Jeju CJU
Wednesday 5 Dec 2012
STD-STA: 15:25-16:30
Actual: 16:42-17:36
Airbus A321-100 HL7594
Seat 5A

Heavy snow in Seoul nearly made me miss this flight as there was difficulty for the hotel bellman in searching a taxi for me. However this experience showed me how the service in Korea truly stood out. The team at Sheraton D-Cube was really amazing in trying to help me find a taxi by going out of the hotel to the streets. On reaching the airport, I was also fortunate in that the flight to Jeju is also delayed with many cancellations taking place due to the heavy snowfall. The check-in lady even apologized, even though I was nearly late, arriving just 20 minutes before departure. And I thought only the Japanese acted this way.

Asiana Check-in Desk
Flight Information Display

After the check-in I figured I still had some time to spare due to the delay and sat down at one of the canteen to get some lunch. I ordered Galbi-tang, or short ribs in soup, which was great for the cold snowy day. The meal came with rice and there was a generous serving of ribs as well to make me full.

Galbitang

For the domestic journey, security was easy, bottled water is even allowed and there was no queue, a whole world of difference to the security in the States. Security was quick, probably only taking 5 minutes, and I then entered a clean though somewhat spartan terminal. There were some shops selling duty free souvenirs and foodstuff. An all economy flight and no status at all with Star Alliance meant no lounge access for me in Gimpo. I doubt there is any good lounges here anyway in the relatively spartan terminal compared to Incheon.

Asiana Airline A321 in the Snow

There was ample seating in the waiting area, and as usual there was pre-boarding for families and elderly, along with Star Gold and other elites. Common boarding was very orderly though and there was ample staff to even barricade the area as there was an arriving flight next gate to direct passengers to the right direction upon arrival.

Legroom on Asiana Economy

I managed to get a window seat with the middle seat left empty since I picked seats on the front. So for the price of Economy I essentially got Euro-style Business class on the Asiana flight to Jeju. The back seats seems to be occupied with tour groups so it can be somewhat more packed, which means should travellers book these tickets via Asiana’s website, do choose a seat upfront. Boarding was completed quite fast and there was that bow in unison from the crew members which has become somewhat of a signature amongst Korean and Japanese carriers.

Jin Air on the Tarmac
Safety Video onboard Asiana

I think this is my first flight departing on snowy conditions or when the Tarmac is full of snow. I don’t remember recalling any de-icing for the plane though. Living in snow-less Vancouver, and mainly visiting areas that doesn’t snow, this was a new experience, but take off was just like any other and there wasn’t that long of a queue for clearance. So I surmised that maybe the crew was also late or some preparation was required on the runway which delayed flights a bit. There was no longer any snow when we boarded and the lack of queues that afternoon meant that very soon after pullback we were up above the clouds.

Inflight Entertainment and Beverage

This flight counts amongst one of my shortest flights, and there was just time for a beverage service by the crew. There was a choice of water or the tangerine juice (a specialty of Jeju). No snacks or anything else, neither was there airplane models that I wanted to buy on the domestic flight. The iPad kept me entertained for a short while, and I probably had enough time for a short TV show episode before descent started and passengers had to switch off all electronic devices.

Sunset along the Flight to Jeju

Dusk has fallen by the time we descended into Jeju, and lights have filled the streets of downtown Jeju. It was a short but nice flight in Asiana economy. For the 54 minutes ride, the service was flawless and having a middle seat empty is akin to having a business class seating in Europe flights, so it was a nice enjoyable flight.

Descent into Jeju Island

The plane landed on a remote spot though and we had to take the bus, but as I was seated upfront, I got a spot on the first bus. I guess the delay from Gimpo meant some crowding in Jeju as many airlines offer the GMP-CJU flights. Return flights was relatively cheap in winter and the savings from the cheaper hotel rates in CJU could have just paid for the flights itself!

OZ8914 Jeju CJU – Seoul GMP
Friday 7 Dec 2012
STD-STA: 12:10-13:15
Actual: 12:45-13:40
Airbus A321-200 HL7703
Seat 7F

For the return flight, I nearly missed my flight as a result of the bellboy, but luckily enough I did spare enough time for the trip and still made it to the airport in time. I was suprised to see that Jeju’s airport departure hall was pretty brightly lit up and offers travellers lots of space. There was no queue at the Asiana check-in counter, and I got my boarding pass in no time.

Asiana Check-in Counters at Jeju

With boarding pass in hand, I checked out the international terminal adjacent to Asiana’s check-in counter and it was empty, but it seems like a new annex to the main terminal. Perhaps it was built to accomodate tourists in the peak season. Past security check there is a large atrium and my departure gates are at the lower floors. The signage in the airport is pretty bad and so the queues at some departure gates overflowed to the stairs, blocking the escalators. Unlike the check-in areas, the waiting area was relatively crowded, though there are some pretty good views from the second floor past security.

In the lower floors there are also some duty free shops selling Jeju souvenirs. Due to some delay in the flight, I had the time to browse around the shops and take a look at some of the airlines that serve Jeju.

Jeju Air Boeing 737

Turns out we are boarding the plane from a remote stand again today, but luckily the weather cleared for the better and the sun came out when boarding was called. This gave me the chance to take a couple of nice shots of the Asiana A321 that we will be taking to Seoul.

Boarding Asiana Airbus A321 in Jeju

Similar to my flight to Jeju, I was able to get the middle seat empty as I took the window seat on row 9. The aircraft I was in was a slightly larger one though it was a pretty full flight, with loads similar to that of my incoming flight. The empty middle seat allowed both me and my seat-mate in the aisle to have space for out winter jackets as the plane was quite warm.

Asiana Domestic Economy Cabin on the A321

Boarding was completed in no time and the plane started its taxi towards the runway as we took off in relatively clear weather, though the rapid take off and gain in altitude meant that we were soon above the clouds and cruising towards Seoul. The flight crew started the beverage service onboard and I chose the tangerine juice again. It was also easy to get refills from the crew for the beverages, and this made for a nice relaxing flight.

Economy class seat pitch

With just such a short flight, the delay meant we still arrived in Seoul later than scheduled. Thankfully there was no wait for the landing and we were soon safely docked in Gimpo. The relatively low price and pretty generous baggage allowance with the wonderful service from both the ground and onboard crew certainly puts Asiana as one of the airlines I would pick for flights in North Asia.

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