Megan and I took a two-week tour of Southeast Asia during our honeymoon in August/September of this year. Here’s the Trip Report Index:
- Booking the Honeymoon
- Asiana Airlines Business Class (SEA-ICN, HKG-ICN, and ICN-SEA)
- Seoul-Incheon Airport and Singapore Airlines Business Class (ICN-SIN)
- Singapore Zoo
- Singapore Airlines Business Class (SIN-DPS)
- St. Regis Bali – Part 1
- St. Regis Bali – Part 2
- Day Trip to Ubud
- Thai Airways Business Class (DPS-BKK and BKK-HKT)
- St. Regis Bangkok
- Westin Siray Bay Phuket
- Day Trip to Phi Phi Islands
- Thai Airways Business Class (HKT-HKG)
- Conrad Hong Kong
We had a long layover in Seoul of about six hours, spanning roughly 12 AM to 6 AM Pacific Time …and I still hadn’t slept. So this post largely covers the airport itself and not the shorter flight from Seoul to Singapore. I’ve flown this route before on Singapore Airlines in their first class cabin. Given the similarities in their wide, lie-flat beds on the Boeing 777-300ER, and the fact I still hadn’t had any sleep, I think you can read my previous trip report and get the idea. Catering is a notch above in first class for those who can stay awake. I did my best to stay unconscious on this flight and didn’t take pictures of anything except my delicious breakfast upon arrival.
So back to Incheon. Although it’s not a bad airport, there are several aspects that could be improved. It’s awfully warm in the main terminal, for one, and that’s where our flight arrived from Seattle. Last time we flew through was on Singapore Airlines, and we both arrived and departed in the remote gates, which was much cooler and requires connecting on an underground train. I don’t understand why so many Asian airports and airplanes are hot even indoors, where climate control is an option.
But that wasn’t the real excitement. No, that was when we tried to pass through security without a boarding pass for our connecting flight. There was some kind of system failure in Seattle so they didn’t print boarding passes for the rest of our journey (thankfully, they did ticket our luggage all the way to Bali). And because we had still been packing that morning I didn’t bother to print a copy of our itinerary.
Remember to always bring your itinerary with you on an international flight to prove you will (eventually) leave the country. It helps sort out all kinds of issues, including when I was surrounded by five armed guards in Bahrain as I tried to explain a mileage run or when I was detained in London and had to convince the border agent that no, I was not secretly trying to take advantage of their socialized medicine. Fortunately the language barrier usually favors me when I visit Asia. They were able to look up our flight information on their computer, but everyone was very confused.
Onward. The business class lounge among the international gates is much nicer than than in the domestic terminal. The former has lower ceilings and is generally quieter. The latter is open air, too warm, and almost as busy as the public terminal. We’ve also visited the adjacent first class lounge in the past and enjoyed it very much — if you’re lucky enough you may even have it all to yourself. Readers later told me I should have emptied out a water bottle and refilled it with the self-serve Johnny Walker Blue. But in both lounges food choices are quite limited. I didn’t find anything in the business lounge worth eating. The first class lounge at least has Haagen-Dazs.
So after getting bored we wandered some more and noticed the how many couples wore matching outfits. Very strange. Our luck improved when we stumbled across a new Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer lounge! It’s actually on the opposite side of center shopping concourse, and I’m sure that most Star Alliance passengers would plan to go to the Asiana lounge because, well, this is Asiana’s hub airport. But all Star Alliance Gold members should also have access to the KrisFlyer Lounge here, not just Singapore’s own passengers. The decor was better despite being open air. The food was better and included a few dim sum options and some tasty chocolate tarts. Even the beverages were better, with the addition of Campari and a bottle of Champagne.
You’re probably wondering by now why I have so few pictures. I uploaded them from my phone to my computer shortly before departure, and the hard drive failed en route to Singapore. Megan was thrilled. Two weeks during which her new husband couldn’t use his computer! One Mile at a Time passed through shortly after I did and posted his own review of the KrisFlyer lounge. I agree with Lucky that first class passengers should use the Asiana lounge, but I do think this is an improvement over the Asiana business lounge.
If you don’t want to spend six hours in an airport, especially one where you don’t speak the language, Seoul has activities for transit passengers. There are even bus tours to Seoul, and they come in several durations and destinations so you can see different parts of the city depending on how much time you have. On this trip we chose not to take advantage of them since we landed at 6 PM and, as I said, it felt like midnight to us. But I hope to eventually have the chance to visit Seoul for more than day. Until then, I don’t mind passing through.