Friday, November 30, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 - United Airlines 480/1405 First Class (LAX-SFO)

***This post is the conclusion to a full trip report. The index can be found here***

Originally, I wasn't going to include this flight in my trip report, given how short and mundane it was. I did, however, want to give a shout-out to the good folks at United, who have gotten plenty of flak this past year. They really went out of their way to accommodate me, and I wanted to make sure I thanked them for it.

Upon arriving at Tom Bradley International Terminal, I breezed through customs (surprisingly) with hardly anybody in line. My checked duffel, still in the Asiana plastic wrap, was one of the first to come out of the carousel, and I quickly made my way over to Terminal 7.

After dropping off my baggage at the check-in counter, I asked the agent about the possibility of catching an earlier flight up to SFO, since I was looking at an almost three-hour layover with UA480 departing at 2:55 pm. I wasn't expecting much, given that I have no status with United and this was also an award ticket. My entire itinerary, however, was in first class, and I made sure to tell her that I didn't mind being bumped into economy if it meant I could get on an earlier flight.

She clicked away for a minute on the computer, and said unfortunately, it didn't look possible. She then suggested that I ask the gate agent to see if they could do anything for me. After a painless security check, I decided to visit the United Club, which granted me access since I arrived on a Star Alliance international first class flight.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 - Asiana Airlines 202 First Class (ICN-LAX)

***This post is part 18 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

This was hands down the best flight I've ever experienced. Granted, perhaps I haven't had the opportunity to enjoy as many international first class flights compared to other bloggers... but I honestly can't imagine the service or food on any other airline getting much better than this. I kid you not, the attentiveness, consideration, and diligence shown by every single flight attendant working the cabin was bordering on the level of absurdity. And that's a very good thing.

I walked to the gate fairly early since the Asiana Airlines First Class Lounge was starting to freak me out a little bit. The waiting area was still empty when I arrived, but after about half an hour, it started to fill out and lines began to form. As per Asiana tradition, all of the agents took a deep bow prior to the start of boarding.

One of the agents called out for first class passengers, and a few of us gathered around her to the right of the doors. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there were only one or two other people waiting with me. An empty first class cabin almost always means friendlier, less-stressed, flight attendants, which typically translates to better service. Once boarding began, we were personally escorted down the jet bridge and into the nose of the 747-400.

Asiana Airlines 202
Boeing 747-400
Seoul (ICN) - Los Angeles (LAX)
Sunday April 8, 2012
Departure: 4:30 PM (scheduled) / 4:35 PM (actual)
Arrival: 11:30 AM (scheduled) / 11:22 AM (actual)
Duration: 11h 00m (scheduled) / 10h 47m (actual)
Seat: 2K (First) 

I'd seen many pictures of Asiana's first class cabin prior to this flight, and despite this being the older configuration (Asiana has since introduced fully-enclosed suites), everything still looked modern and clean. The large seats were spacious, but lacked the higher walls of suites or even semi-suites such as those found in Cathay Pacific's first class cabin. The cushion was maybe a bit on the stiffer side, though that's really a matter of personal preference. Despite these minor shortcomings, I felt like I was afforded plenty of privacy and comfort.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

And I'm Off To Easter Island!

Just about one year ago, I took advantage of British Airways' final days of offering the ridiculously good redemption rate of 40,000 miles for round-trip travel in economy to anywhere in South America, including Easter Island (which technically should be classified as the South Pacific). On November 16, 2011, British Airways completely overhauled their award chart and scrapped their region-based method of calculating miles needed for redemption. In its place came their new currency, Avios, as well as a distance-based award system.

Hence, the routing below (SFO-LIM-IPC-SCL-LIM-SFO), which I redeemed for 40,000 miles round-trip in economy one year ago, would now cost a whopping 85,000 Avios. This is definitely one of those trips where, if it weren't for miles, I would never be able to justify in terms of actual cost. I don't think it has really sunken in yet that I'm headed to Easter Island tomorrow morning, but I'm sure it will once I come face to face with my first Moai. In addition to four days on Easter Island, I will also have a three-day stopover in Santiago, Chile. But for now, it's back to packing!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 - Asiana Airlines First Class Lounge ICN

***This post is part 17 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

Airport Bus 6008 dropped us off directly outside of the main terminal at Incheon International Airport. Once inside, I made my way over to the Asiana Airlines aisle and walked up to the first class check-in counter, which was completely empty. While there was not an exclusive first class check-in area like Thai Airways at Suvarnabhumi Airport, I found the agent helping me to be incredibly personable, constantly smiling and very friendly.

A male assistant came over and took my large checked duffel and wrapped it with a sealed plastic bag before placing it on the conveyer. I thought that was a nice touch - keeping first class luggage clean and safe (despite how dirty and nasty my duffel was already). After my boarding pass and lounge invitation were both printed out, I was asked to follow another female assistant, and she would take me through security.

Security was a two-minute affair at most, and afterwards, I waited in line to clear customs. At this point, I expected the assistant to disappear, and I would find my own way to the lounge once I was airside. But then I noticed she was still waiting for me just past customs. This was definitely a full-service operation by Asiana! I felt kind of bad that she had to walk all that way in her heels, but slowly, we made our way down the concourse, up an elevator, and finally, into the Asiana Airlines First Class Lounge.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cambodia April 2012 - Courtyard Seoul Times Square

***This post is part 16 of a full trip report. The index can be found here***

Incheon International Airport is approximately 30 miles west of Seoul, but with traffic, it can take more than an hour to get into downtown by bus or taxi. The relatively new AREX airport railroad connecting Incheon International Airport and Seoul Station is a quick and affordable way to get into the heart of Seoul in less than 45 minutes. Fares for the express service is set at 13,800 KRW, which translates to approximately $13 USD.

Following the signs inside the airport, I headed down to the AREX station and bought my express ticket. Everything was fairly simple and straightforward. Incheon International Airport, by the way, has some really cool architecture. I kept stopping every five minutes to take pictures of strange building features. The train ride into the city also offers some spectacular views of the rural and suburban landscape outside of Seoul.

AREX station

On the way to Seoul