The first part of my journey from the US to Hong Kong was a flight from San Francisco to Seoul on United Airlines in Global First. I landed in Seoul, completely exhausted, after having spent 12 hours on the flight from San Fran. There are only two Asiana flights a day from Seoul Incheon International Airport (ICN) to Hong Kong. I wish I had researched that a little better before booking the flight….you’ll see why shortly.
I landed in Seoul and headed to the transfer desk. It was quite a long walk , and a tram ride, from where we landed to where the Asiana flights depart from. After checking in there, I went straight through security – no lines, no fuss – you can leave your shoes on, liquid stays in your bags. Then I went to the Business Lounge for Asiana. Even though I had flown first class on United, Asiana only operates a two-cabin plan from Seoul to Hong Kong, so I was in business class for this part of the trip.
The lounge was very large and very crowded. There was an area with food and drinks – cold sandwiches that didn’t look so great, cup-o-noodles, some other appetizers that were only labeled in Korean and didn’t look so great. There was plenty of seating, though it wasn’t very comfortable. I ended up sitting at a table w/a bench seat for a while. There’s free wifi, so that was very nice. There are 4 shower rooms and I used one to freshen up.
My layover was supposed to be 2.5 hours, but after about an hour in the lounge I went to check on the flight status and discovered a delay! Due to an equipment problem, the flight time had shifted to a 5pm departure time. So I went and wondered around the airport a little. There is a nice Korean cultural center and there was a show going on while I was there. There are also some nice duty free shops to browse. After a little window shopping, I went to the food court. There are some interesting options – Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Caribou Coffee, a burger place, a hot dog place, and several Asian fast food choices. I didn’t eat because I figured I’d eat on the flight.
I made a horrible rookie mistake in South Korea – one that I’ve never made before and will never make again – I drank cold pressed iced coffee. The water was not filtered. Without going into detail, I’ll just say I was sick for the next 48 hours! Never drink unfiltered water and be careful when drinking ice! From what I have since learned (from the hotel doctor here in Hong Kong) is that Korean water is not contaminated like in China, Hong Kong, Thailand, etc…but rather has very high levels of minerals and other sediment that can make people not used to drinking them very sick.
Unfortunately for me, my flight was further delayed and I ended up spending 8 hours at ICN before heading to Hong Kong. The plane was an Airbus A330-300 with 30 seats in Business Class and 260 seats in Coach. The boarding process was very organized and the customer service agents were meticulous about ensuring that only business class customer boarded first followed by premier members. The flight crew was extremely helpful and accommodating. When I told one of the young flight attendants that I didn’t feel well, they offered me seltzer water and kept coming by to check on me the whole fight!
The seats were older style business class seats that did not lie flat. And it wasn’t really necessary for the 4 hour flight. The crew served a meal – a choice of a Korean style meal or American style meal. I passed on the meal because by this time I was already feeling sick and on top of that, the flight was extremely bumpy the entire time. Twenty-nine of the 30 seats in business were full.
When we finally landed – extremely late – in Hong Kong, I was relieved to be on the ground. The wait in Immigration was only about 5-10 minutes and I watched each of the 5 people directly in front of me get questioned thoroughly. I expected the same when I approached the counter, but was very pleasantly surprised when the officer took my passport, said “Oh, American,” stamped my passport and said have a good stay. That was easy! By the time I walked to the baggage carousel it was already moving and my bag was the second one out. One thing I did not was how pushy people are around the baggage carousels. It was not a pleasant experience.
With bag in hand, I headed out the exit and met the hotel representative. He informed me that the ride would be about 30 minutes and asked if I needed to stop at the restroom. I took him up on his offer and he watched my bags. That was nice. As he escorted me to the hotel car he gave me some great tips about Hong Kong and ironically, warned me not to drink the tap water. I wish I had run into him about 8 hours earlier!
I would absolutely fly Asiana again on another route and would love to try their new business class or first class product. I’m not sure I would connect through ICN to Hong Kong again though. With only two flights a day to Hong Kong, the wait is long if a flight is cancelled or seriously delayed!