Farewell Miles – A Mileage Burning Party with All Nippon Airlines, Thai Airways and Asiana Airlines in Business Class (with a BMI Leg)
Featuring the ANA International 787-8.
Well we’re approaching the end of this trip, but there is room for one more business class segment. But before we get to fly, breakfast is a darn good thing…
The final day of the trip was going to be special as I had been contacted before I set off by stargold who kindly invited me to breakfast or drinks in the evening. And since i was in town, it would had been rude of me if I refused (I can do niceness sometimes).
In the end, we chose Breakfast on the grounds that my sleep pattern was shot to hell by this point in the trip (getting up at 5am on Holiday and being out like a light at 10pm isn’t cricket for me), so on the final day of the trip, we met at Seoul Station (after a minor mess-up by yours truly telling poor stargold I was staying at the wrong Ramada. Oops.).
And it was a great breakfast, chatting about redemption’s, ideas for the futures, how bad some North American carriers are and general chit-chat. A darn good morning. That and the food at the Westin was excellent. A highly recommended buffet breakfast.
After breakfast with stargold, my time was running low. It was back dash back to the Ramada, a quick pick up of the trash, and then back to Seoul Station in a fast cab. 4,100Won later, I was outside and running with the heavy rucksacks, exchanged my train voucher, raced downstairs and the train to Incheon Airport was waiting to go.
Airport Express Seoul Station to Seoul Incheon Airport
Price Paid W9,800 (List is about W13,800)
Little hint: At the time of writing, if you pop down to the Korea Tourist Information Office, they’re is a travel agency there that sell you tickets for the train there at a discount. Alternatively, if you’ve got time on your hands, the local stopping service costs W3700 or so.
When I went through Seoul last time, this line wasn’t complete (it was running up to Gimpo Airport at that point). Now that line is built, I’d thought it would be worth a review to see how it compares to the Limousine Bus.
Now it is entirely possible to check in, drop your luggage of and get immigration clearance here – if you’ve allow enough time to do it all (with a 3 hour deadline before flight). I didn’t sadly make the 3 hour deadline, so it would be the conventional means of checking in at the airport for me.
The ticket had a seat number and assignment so I duly found my way to Car 5, and dumped my luggage on the seat next to me – normally, I’d dump it near the luggage bin except there were only a few people aboard (if it was loaded, yes – the bag would had been in the luggage area.
Once the train pulled out, it was a 43 minute journey to Incheon Airport – just showing how far away it is from the centre of Seoul. Thankfully this was also a non stop service, so it was on dedicated tracks and lines. Sometimes I think countries like to build these airports in the middle of nowhere and think of the infrastructure later just for the hell of it. The service wasn’t exactly fast per say (not TGV fast, but it pootled along at its own speed). With 0ver 60% of the route underground, there is sadly not much of a chance to see the Korean countryside before approaching Incheon Airport. Still the train did its job, and pulled into the airport station on time.
On the way to Incheon
After getting of the train, it was straight up the escalators and through the barriers.
Overall: It’s a great improvement for those who travel between Seoul Station and Seoul Incheon Airport. And it’s a great way to get from A to B. However, I maintain if you’re in a big City like Seoul, and don’t know your way round, stick to the Limousine Buses on the way to your hotel, and on the way back, get the train if it is convenient to your journey.
With the rucksacks heavy as heck, I took advantage of the free shuttle truck that sped along the Transportation Centre to the main Terminal, where I wandered up to Check In, and over to Asiana business check in.
I was greeted politely, and presented my passport. I confirmed that London was my final destination. At that point, my bags were tagged, told what gate the plane would be going from today and invited to the lounge. I noticed that my seat had been changed again, and was told the seat next to me was empty (and a hope it would remain empty for the flight home).
All good. I picked up the little day rucksack, and headed to security. Security was split into two – those heading for the USA and those who were not. An interesting split, but nothing too odd.
I was through security in a few minutes, with no questions asked, and just the usual formalities of laptop out, empty pockets, shoes on.
As I packed up my trash to head away, to immigration, one of the security guards came up to me… and handed over my memory cards that I accidentally dropped. How polite and nice!
Soon enough, I was at the Emigration barrier, and after a passport stamp on an empty page (grr), I was free to proceed.
Now, I’ve got to admit, mostly every Korean person I’ve ran into in this trips have been wonderful and polite. It seems they saved the pushy sales people for the Airport and the Duty Free concessions, where I felt I had to run the risk to get what I needed from Duty Free. Two attempts to shop – and I gave up getting anything else.
Instead, I headed to the lounge to kick back for a tiny bit before the flight.
Lounge Stop: Asiana Airlines Business Lounge
I was welcomed to the lounge, and settled down near the food (it’s tradition – plus the view is very acceptable)… plus the lounge was very busy so it was one of the few window seats.
And there’s nothing inherently wrong with the Asiana lounge – far from it. It’s a lovely large space, and plenty of seats. I just happen to like being near a window and watching the world going by.
Eventually, the time in the lounge came to an end, and I headed off, checking that boarding had yet to begin.
Heading down the spine corridors of Incheon Airport, it was fairly busy – people heading to destinations far and wide, and the duty free shops doing a roaring trade.
Making it to Gate 40, my plane was waiting, and boarding was a few minutes away yet.
Waiting to load...
OZ521 Seoul Inchon International Airport to London Heathrow Airport T1
Asiana Airlines Inc, Boeing 777-200ER
Seat 3A > 4K > 2A, Business Class
I was welcomed aboard with a poilte bow, and headed to 2A – my home for this flight. I placed everything I didn’t need in the overhead bin, and the useful things such as the laptop and camera in the seat next to me.
As I looked around, I saw I had lucked out on the old equipment rather than the new lie-flat seats. Oh well – not the end of the world for me for what is in effect – a day flight. And on top of that, old IFE.
Old OZ Seat in Normal mode with seatrest extended(taken later in flight)
In "Relax" Mode
In bed mode (taken later in flight)
A welcome drink was offered, and I took a glass of bubbles.
Eventually the jetbridges were pulled away and 2B was free. However, there was distinct pause. That pause turned into a delay at Incheon due to traffic. Whilst this would had been inconvenient to others aboard, for once this played into my hands my next connection was in London at 7:15pm local. An extra 15 minute delay wasn’t that bad and was useful to me.
Eventually, safety video played, and the pushback tug began its work. This time, it was the basic safety video, and none of the “beautiful manners” videos played.
After pushback and positioning was complete, the tug crew waved the plane off – a lovely touch.
Bye Bye Korea!
A quick taxi, and the 777-200ER lined up on the runway keys, and we were off into the blue
As climbout continued, the flight settled down, and food options were requested. I went for the Korean option. Of course as most of you know who have been aboard Asiana, and stick to the Korean cuisine it’s BiBimBap on the way into Korea, Ssambap on the way out. Yes, there were other options, but come on, lets keep the food here nice at least.
That, BiBimBap and Ssambap are very safe options in my humble opinion. Anyhoo. Onto the service itself (and for once – I liberated a menu out of Asiana Airlines. Yes, I’m in shock too)
So lets go through the menu (Korean option)
Starter - Starter Hashed Beef with Baby Leaf and Potato chip
This had lovely delicate flavors within it, with the potato chips lovely and soft too – not harsh in the mouth. Wonderful tastes inside it. And yes, that is a glass full of bubbles with me
Now the Chlorella roll was something different – And I still can’t put my finger on it even with the power of Wikipedia (Seaweed seems about right). Still, this was a lovely vegetarian taste, with different flavors throughout. Very different – and very Korean.
Chestnut and Date Porridge
I’m going to be honest and admit, this wasn’t to my taste at all really. I did try, but the texture and taste didn’t appeal to me sadly.
Then it was onto the Ssamabap. For those who don’t know Ssambap is the wrapping of rice, beef and leaves into edible portions using the leaf as a wrapper
So here’s the full tray:
The main meal tray
So you have your beef and rice..
Beef and Rice
Also, there’s a soup..
Soup (note the bean paste in the top left)
And once again, the beef didn’t taste overcooked as it is easy to do (and the beef was slightly delayed out of the oven too it seems as the Western dishes were served quickly), and the flavours of the leaves, the bean paste and the soup all combined into a lovely Korean meal. Apart from the short delay before it arrived – nothing to fault at all.
This was consumed and cleared down, and a fresh fruit plate took it’s place.
Fruit and Ice Wine
The fruits were fresh, although the apple was starting to discolour. No biggie – it was edible still – and the fruits did indeed taste fresh. Desert wine was offered, and the flight attendant offered a nice Ice Wine. Who am I to say no to Ice Wine (after enjoying it in Canada). The Ice Wine was syrupy with some lovely notes in it. Put it like this: There are worse things to do in the air.
Finally to conculde the serve, was the Kkultarae
Kkultarae (served with Coffee)
This is a sweet with the white strands made of honey, and a sweet nut filling inside. Whilst they look small, they packed one hell of a taste and flavor. Whilst there were “only” two on the plate, after the dinner that had been served, it was enough.
After this had been consumed and a small amount of time had passed, the cabin was cleared down, and blinds were drawn downwards.
At this point, I put the seat into bed position and settled down for a bit. And I think I got a grand total of two hours snooze. The bottom line is simple: I wasn’t in the mood to sleep. Therefore, I popped the seat into the upright position and checked out the IFE.
Whilst the IFE screen was nice and big… the content was… awful. Only about 12 movies and programmes loaded on the system, and on a loop. I defaulted back to the map application and left that running during the flight. For my own IFE, it was time to pull out the laptop, rig it to the mains system and watch.. well.
Do you even need to guess the show?
Midflight comes and goes, and it’s time for a midflight service. Again, I stuck with the noodle option – the options being “Mildly Spicy or Very Spicy”.
Regular readers should guess that answer
... with Kimichi
Again, it’s the toppings that made these noodles (I think it was squid). The noodles did taste like packet noodles (the higher end sort as opposed to the super cheap ones), but they tasted nice, and filled a corner whilst I tried to get some rest again.
So I put the seat into relax position.. .and watched Top Gear instead.
Heading into the minus two hour part of the flight, the lights came up a bit as the flight attendants took orders for the arrival snack. Again, there were choices, but here is what I went for:
Meatball with Cherry Tomato and Bocconcini
Ok, I’m not a fan of tomatoes, and never a fan of cheese, but this was a nice starter offset with the balsamic dressing on-top. Not bad at all. This was accompanied with a fancy bread:
Moving onto the main course
Duck Confit, Roasted Celeriac, Honey Glazed Apples with Red Wine Sauce
The duck was non fatty and had a rich taste to it. The Roasted Celeriac made a great replacement for potatoes, and added an extra edge to the dish. However, there was a little downside to this and it can be shown with the image below:
It seems the curse of the plastic knives have now reached Asiana. A shame (probably down to some ludicrous safety reason). The Duck wasn’t tough by any stretch of the imagination – but a metal knife would had been a useful thing in this case.
The service was concuded with a fruit tart and coffee.
Whilst the tart was small, it was quite flavorsome. A nice ending to a reasonable meal.
And at this point, most of the blinds went up in the cabin as the evening sunlight begun to fill it. And once again, I begun reflecting on the end of another adventure coming to an end – this time without loosing my keys in Korea (Which is what happened last time – I swear they’re somewhere near the DMZ…).
Soon enough, the plane began to cross the channel, counting the miles down to London. The cabin lights were brought up, and the cabin was cleared down.
Eventually, the plane crossed over British waters and over Kent, and settled into stacking for a few laps – a couple of laps outside London, and then… a few laps as the plane begun a river approach to Heathrow.
London 2012 Stratford Site
Over Canary Wharf and The Millennium Dome/The O2
With a river approach and Twickenham to the Left on arrival, soon enough, the 777-200ER descended into a lovely sunset at Heathrow Airport.
Sunset at Heathrow
The plane doubled back and tracked past the T3 complex, past the T1 Irish Tunnel, until reaching the Europier and parking up. The bongs went to release the passenger via Door 2L (Dear Heathrow. Invest in LOTS of dual Air-Bridges please), and it was time to complete this trip and head for the barn.
... and I hope to see you again Asiana!
Overall: Asiana have maintained their service in the past 2 years – and that is an amazing thing in the airline industry. The service is still friendly and top notch, and whilst there are little cuts here and there – Asiana Business is still one of the best ways to go from Seoul to London.
Arriving back at Heathrow, it was a case of hiking from the Europier end of T1, all the way down to the UK border, where I was greeted with IRIS roped off.
Now after a long flight, that was… annoying.
With the UK/EU Passport Queue filling up fast, I decided to risk the E-Passport Gate. And whilst IRIS is lovely and fast, E-Passport took the best part of 2 minutes to match my biometric details.
And this is a forward step… how?
Anyway, I was cleared through the e-Passport gate, passed the rest of the desks into the old and deserted passport hall, and down to the luggage belt, where , and headed down to luggage claim where my Rucksacks were working their way around the belts.
Now that was excellent timing.
I loaded up the bags onto a trolly, and cleared UK Customs… and then re-entered the “real world”. With the premium experience over, it was time to head back to reality – and take the train to London, a Cab, and train to Birmingham.
Sounds simple enough? Well I needed to be at Moor Street for 7:15PM as I wanted to avoid a lot of the rush hour (and also use cheap tickets). First stop was down to the Heathrow Express platforms, where I brought a Heathrow Connect ticket.
Heathrow Express pulling out. Maybe I should had paid out the extra in the end...
Considering HEX is one of the most expensive train services in the UK (bar none per mile), I feel slightly less conned when using Heathrow Connect. This was not the greatest decision, this time as the service suffered a 30 minute delay into Paddington. By this point, catching the 7:15PM to Birmingham was turning into a vague hope as opposed a reasonable idea.
However, the beauty of taking the HEC is it drops you off at Platform 12 – which is where the new taxi pickup point is. Which is very useful. Thankfully, it being nearing the end of peak time, there were plenty of taxi’s do pick-up. I was directed to a waiting queue, and in typical London style, I stated my destination (and the meter started too) and I bundled into the taxi, dealing with the peak time London traffic to Marylebone station.
The cabbie dropped me outside Marylebone station with 10 minutes to spare. Another £25 in the machine and I had tickets for the train service, where a platform had already been declared for the service.
London Marylebone to Birmingham Moor Street
Chiltern Railways Class 168, Standard Class.
£25 Super Off Peak Return.
Of course, this being just outside peak hour, it was full of North Oxfordshire commuters heading home, relegating me to the floor for 50 minutes until Bicester North.
Still, I was exhausted, so I sat with my luggage on the floor and snoozed until Bicester where I got a seat. After lashing the backpack to a railing, it was then a matter of getting to Moor Street Station. This being a fast service, there was only 5 stops to Birmingham, taking a grand total of 1 hours and 40 minutes from London, which this train service manged to do without any problems at all.
Nearing 8:35pm, the train approached Moor Street station where I loaded up the bags on my shoulders one more time for this trip and got off the train.
The ticket barriers at this point were switched off for the evening, so it was a simple matter of getting to the taxi rank. I could had walked a bit to grab a cheaper taxi, but you know what – stuff it – I want to enjoy the final part of my holiday. Thankfully, the driver knew where he was going (a rarity for a Birmingham Taxi Driver some days), and I was deposited outside the gates to the block of flats where I live.
Opening the gates, I moved each rucksack through, and lugged the lot bit by bit to my block of flats, and finally to my front door, taking a photo to conclude the trip with.
After that, I went in, collapsed on the sofa, and let the world suffer to itself for a few days.
Coming up. The wrap-up. Well, everything must come to an end….