Tag Archives: Traveler

Kyoto – I’m Back!

21 Mar

Airline Reviews: Korean Air

17 Feb

Date:

2012, 2013

Airline: 

Korean Air–International & Domestic (8 flights).  

Plane(s):

Airbus A330-200, Airbus A332 (no longer used?), Boeing 737Boeing 777-200.

Pre-flight Interactions:

I prefer ordering Korean Air tickets via Orbitz or other online systems because their website is fairly complicated.  One nice element is that it comes in a multitude of languages–English, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, etc.  It isn’t always so difficult to look up flights, but it can be difficult to compare them via their home site.  There isn’t a lot of explanation as to what exactly their “Skypass” does for you, although I’ve signed up since the beginning. As far as I can tell, it just gets me through the check-in a little easier because I can have everything easily accessible online.  They say that you can pre-check in via the web and just use their machine at the airport, but it has always failed for me.  I might be using it wrong or not qualifying, but the instructions are confusing.   It helps if you have ticket in hand, along with your itinerary, and your passport. That is enough for them to get started.

However, the personnel are amazing at their jobs. I can’t say that I have ever had a single complaint with them. Their English is superb, they get me through the lines quickly and efficiently, they have people standing around waiting to answer questions, and they are charming at it. They seem to have an unending line of patience because I can honestly say I’ve never seen the less than lovely.  For all that I stumbled through on my first couple flights, they were fabulous. They always verified that I knew what I was doing and where to go, they actively came around the counter and led me to where I needed to go next, and they even worked with me the day I was late for the flight check-in.  I can’t speak highly enough of their service.

Baggage Allowance:

The deal is that if you are flying internationally (and I often am), all airlines must honor the baggage requirements/allowance of the airline with the longest flight (if tickets are all bought together–not separately). I always try to get Korean Air’s baggage allowance if traveling.  

First/Business Class always get 3 free checked bags, but it differs for Prestige and Economy depending on the destination.  You can find all the rules here under At the Airport–>Baggage.  Generally, Prestige gets 2 bags, while Economy gets 2 bags for to/from America and 1 for anywhere else.  You also get a personal item (I always make it a backpack because it counts as a purse but is bigger) and a carry-on.   Small tip, if you are stopping in other countries during our trip, buy all the tickets at the same time as you purchase your flight back/from the US. It gets you the 2 bags instead of 1.

Boarding:

Amazing. There are always 2-3 people at the gate waiting to answer questions and handle problems.  They are extremely efficient at the process, working with children and the elderly first, then everyone else. Everyone is divided into groups and you just wait your turn, making the lines more manageable. The flight attendants greet you at the door, check your ticket, and direct you to your seat. If you need help (have kids, strollers, elderly, etc.) one of them will come with you to help you settle in.  They never complain about weirdly shaped baggage or oversized items; they simply gather them all up to be dealt with quietly.  Your seat already has the amenities there including a blanket, pillow, slippers, and water bottle.  They are eternally polite in getting everyone situated, it’s a smooth process that eases both adults and children.  

In Flight:

The best part about Korean Air is their customer service and amenities. Domestic is a little rougher because you don’t get the televisions or as many amenities, but I really appreciate having the water bottle already in hand.  They arrive quickly when the button is pressed, and return promptly with your requested items.  I once watched a flight attendants rock and walk a screaming baby for nearly an hour while the parents tried to sooth their other kids, and she acted like it was no big deal.  They serve drinks and food to First Class first of course, but they move quickly and you don’t have to wait too long. The food is generally amazing (cakes, puddings, salads, curry, baked chicken, etc.), and it is actually a full meal.  They offer soda, wine, water, juice, milk, etc. free generally, and usually come buy with snacks a couple of times. The seats are pretty well spaced with lots of leg room so I never feel crunched up (Domestic less so, but still better than AA), and they are comfy too.

By far the best part is the tv screens each chair has for international flights. They offer music (International, Korean, American, Country, radio, etc.), Television shows (European, American, Kdramas, comedies), Movies (dozens of films are always there including tons of kids films), tourism information, flight information, maps, even Video Games.  Kids are entertained for hours, and I rarely see any making a big fuss on these flights.  They can even compete together in the video games since the tvs connect for them.  Some have plug-ins for USB cables too, which is nice if you have an I-pod or laptop.

Then there is of course the flying. I have run into some very late flights with Korean Air, but we were avoid a big storm hitting Korea and China so it couldn’t be helped. They are very careful about safety measure, demonstrating the procedures in case of emergency. They always alert you when the seat belt lights come on and explain the issue. Generally there is also an apology.  They have been turbulent but not scary. It’s nice that the pilot comes out and thanks you as you walk off the plane too.

Luggage Retrieval:  

This usually goes pretty well. I had one flight where my luggage wasn’t where they told me, but I’m not sure whose fault that was. My suitcases ended up in first class, so I had to hunt to find them, and then they changed the location of retrieval which confused things. But my suitcases always made it back, and I’ve never had anything break.  

Overall Conclusions

I attempt to always get Korean Air if possible. To be honest, customer service is one of the most important things to me when choosing an airline; flying is stressful enough without having to deal with grouchy workers.  So, I particularly appreciate their customer service and amenities.  It helps that they sent me up to Business Class once after they had an opening and I slept at their feet the whole night before.  I was also touched by the flight attendants relating to me personally.  I once lost my boarding pass and the woman rushed all over helping me look and figuring out the process of what to do.  I spent several minutes talking to one flight attendant as we waited buckled in for take-off (storm delays)  with him describing everything I should see, talking about where I was from, etc.  He then caught back up and wished me a good trip when we were leaving.  That’s just how kind they are.  Flying Domestic is less fun because the planes are more cramped, older, and offer less entertainment, but it is still as nice as I’ve found elsewhere. 

The only negatives I see with Korean Air–They are almost always more expensive and I don’t understand enough about the Skypass for it to be doing me any good.  Also, my miles are going to expire before I reach the upgrade, and I’m within reach if I could just afford one more international flight 😦

Airline Reviews: American Airlines

16 Feb

I should have done this ages ago, but I kept finding other cool things to talk about.  So this is a tad late, but better late than never!  (And I’ll update it next time I have to fly with them).

Date:

2012

Airline: 

American Airlines (AA)–Domestic (2 flights).  

Plane:

Boeing 737

Pre-flight Interactions:

I ordered the tickets via Orbitz, so the process was fairly simple. My flight almost immediately appeared on the AA website as registered and confirmed.  The website is easy enough to use; I actually went ahead and registered a membership with the airline, which simplified things.  You have to keep either the “Record Number” or your AA number on hand if you want to look anything up though.  I did have to call them with questions, and I was less than pleased.   Although the questions were fairly simple (arrival times, baggage capacity), they redirected the calls several times and put me on hold repeatedly.  When I finally got someone, they were abrupt and short. Hung up  on me before I finished all my questions.  

Baggage Allowance:

The deal is that if you are flying internationally (and I was), all airlines must honor the baggage requirements/allowance of the airline with the longest flight (if tickets are all bought together–not separately). I flew AA across country and took Korean Air to Asia, allowing me to abide by Korean Air’s baggage allowance.  Still, the difference wouldn’t have been that significant.  

First/Business Class customers get 3 free checked bags all the time, but it differs for economy depending on your destination. You can find all the rules here, but generally you get a personal item (I always make it a backpack because it counts as a purse but is bigger), a carry-on, and 1-2 checked bags (flights to/from Brazil and Asia are 2; rest are generally 1).  This is pretty nice compared to other US airlines. 

Boarding:

Once again the flight attendants and staff were gruff and short with the customers.  They offered far too many sighs and rolling eyes.  They stalk the aisles snarling at people trying  to put stuff in the overhead, and pushing the customers out of their way.  You can’t ask questions or they act like it’s a huge burden. The first flight, they actually yelled at some people whose stuff wouldn’t fit.  I wasn’t much impressed either time.  No sense of customer service–it’s obviously a job they dislike.  

In Flight:

Still not terribly impressed with the service–it sucked both times.  The food was awful, the snacks were nuts and water.  The first time I had to ask for a water half-way through and was huffily/snottily told “We’re working on it, you’ll just have to wait!” It took nearly half-an-hour before I got anything. Kind of a problem when I was trying to take my medications.  Second flight a baby next to me started crying and the attendant ignored the mom when she asked for a blanket.  The baby had been asleep for forever before it actually showed up.  It was annoying because in the interim, we could see the flight attendants standing around drinking coffee and chatting.  The amenities on the plane aren’t very good either; I had to stick with my ipod. 

The flight itself sucked big time.  The plane was cramped, and we were all smashed against one another.  Plus, I understand that flights aren’t always smooth sailing, but both of these were heart-stoppingly scary. Once, the plane’s humming stopped and the plane actually fell quite a ways. Not like moving downwards deliberately, we literally came up out of our seats (with the belts on) and hit hard when it stopped.  Then pilot missed the landing twice and we had to circle around. Even when we made it, the landing was extremely bumpy. The guy next to me said he’s taken that flight dozens of times and it had never been that bad.  I could maybe have understood that, but they never reassured us or said anything about turbulence. A couple times the seat belt lights (which stayed on most of both trips) came on without warning or comment.  It was especially a problem after the whole plane dropping from the sky thing. I would have appreciated someone telling us that nothing was wrong with the plane.  I was late arriving both times.

Luggage Retrieval:  

This actually went pretty well. My luggage was where they said it was, and it was easy to grab and move.  Nothing was broken, and the cases came out of it okay. I have big suitcases that often end up on bottom, so it’s always a good thing when they survive the journey.

Overall Conclusions

This is definitely not my favorite airline to fly with.  The website/baggage allowance/other mechanics of the system were fine, but everything else was awful.  The flight attendants were rude at best, unkind and problematic at worst.  Their concept of customer service was non-existent, and it was obvious. The flights were too bumpy and nauseating–I’ve flown the same trip with other airlines and made it fine.  Overall, I was sick and unhappy when it was over and I would avoid them in the future.

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