Thursday, November 22, 2012

New Zealand 2012 - Part 2: Asiana ICN to SYD

Part 2:  Asiana Airlines Business Class – Seoul to Sydney
Part 3:  Air New Zealand EconomyClass – Sydney to Auckland to Christchurch
Part 4:  Winetasting in Waipara
Part 5:  Exploring Christchurch
Part 6:  Air New Zealand EconomyClass – Christchurch to Queenstown
Part 7:  Winetasting in Otago
Part 8:  Exploring Queenstown
Part 9:  Hilton Queenstown
Part 10:  Overnight in Sydney
Part 11:  Singapore AirlinesFirst Class – Sydney to Singapore
Part 12:  Singapore Airlines First Class – Singapore to San Francisco

After a brief stint in the Asiana Lounge I headed downstairs and over to my gate.  Walking through Incheon airport reminded me of O’Hare, but much nicer!  The corridors were wide and even thought there were large crowds in the airport, it didn’t feel cramped.  I also like the metal and wood gate “entrances” along the main walkway.  They not only served to identify gates but gave a distinct entrance and queuing area that was used by everyone. 


I was worried about my arrival and connection into Sydney as I waited for the flight.  As the tickets to NZ were through a separate award, I was not checked in along with my current flights.  If we landed on schedule I would have just over 90 minutes to go through transit security, check-in at the transfer desk, and then board the plane.  Historically, the flight to Sydney is 15-20 minutes late which was getting close to the time Air New Zealand would close their flight meaning I wouldn’t make it to NZ in a timely manner.  Unfortunately, the gate attendant announced that boarding would be delayed by 10 minutes pushing out time back a bit. 

I was one of the first to board and was subjected to extra security screening (along with everyone else) with my bags opened and checked before stepping onto the plane.  My seat this time was in the business class cabin, no first class on this plane, in the last row seat 4A.  Again, the flight attendants came by and introduced themselves, passed out menus, and chatted briefly about where I was headed.  They were a little surprised with my itinerary from LAX through Korea and Australia to reach New Zealand.  Amenity kits, slippers, and headphones were already at the seat and I changed into the pajamas from my previous flight before we finished boarding.  I was lucky not to have anyone next to me in the 2-3-2 configuration and only 18 of the 28 seats were taken. 


The plane pushed back and we took a very long time taxing across the airport.  It felt like we took the scenic route to get to the runway making me even more anxious about missing my connection.  Once airborne the flight attendants went into action and the IFE was turned on.  I was surprised that they didn’t have on-demand media but just 10 or so different channels running at the same time and then would repeat after 2.5 hours.  Terrible for a business class product!   Men in Black 3 was available and I had yet to see the movie and started to watch it as hot towels were passed out.  It was a predictable but still sad ending.


Service was excellent on the flight with similar attention to detail in plate setting and conversations.  I started off with some white wine again, the Villa Huegsan Riesling.  I took it easy with alcohol on this flight as my ears and sinuses were starting to act up again.  I passed on the first course of grilled king prawn and couscous and went straight for the cream of mushroom soup which was very good. 


I was debating between the beef and duck breast for the main course and eventually decided on the beef.  I really should have been adventurous and tried the Korean option, Ssambap, because the Tuscan-style beef cutlet was not good.  It was coated in breadcrumbs and fried onions and the texture was more akin to meatloaf than what I expected.  Also, the meat was not very flavorful.  The sliced of potato were limp and bland with the bits of bacon being the highlight of the dish.  It was a little depressing to have come from such great food on the previous flight to this (#firstworldproblems). 


The dessert was an apple tart that wasn’t very appetizing either.  It had a slightly off taste that I can’t fully describe and I only finished half of the dish.  I did enjoy a glass of the Sawmill Creek ice wine though. 


After finishing up the meal service we received more hot towels and some small chocolates.  The cabin lights were turned off and I reclined my seat into the slanted lie-flat position.  These seats did not fully go flat at 180 degrees but were slanted at an angle of 165 or so.  I’ve been in similar seats on Lufthansa and Swiss and have not been able to sleep well as I will slide down during the night.  I guess I am a little too belly heavy…  This time though, I was able to get about 5 hours of sleep and actually woke up feeling better than the previous flights sleep.  I am thinking that the upright angle actually helped drain my sinuses.  Now I will have to go out and by one of those adjustable beds on the TV. 

About two hours before landing the cabin lights came on and the breakfast service started.  Over the course of the night we had progressively been losing time on our arrival with a projected landing only 70 minutes before my next flight.  Hot towels were refreshing and the glass of fresh orange juice was also a good wake-up.  Why is it that non-American carriers are so stingy with the orange juice?  Only that initial glass was ever offered with more focus on coffee and tea.  The flight attendants came around the cabin to take orders and by the time I was reached they were already out of the mushroom omelet, the only breakfast option appealing to me – the seafood omelet or octopus porridge wouldn’t work for me.  I insisted I would be fine with the yogurt and fruit but they brought up an economy cheese omelet meal for me instead. 


The fruit and yogurt plate was small and the grapes had seeds, but it was a good start.  Plus the roll and croissant were warm. 


When they brought my main breakfast dish they apologized because it was so small.  Given how much I had eaten so far while flying, the smaller portion was welcome.  The economy omelet was probably better than the mushroom one they served in business class, but the eggs were still a bit rubbery.  Once you’ve had freshly cooked scrambled eggs on a plane, you can’t go back.  The sausage was pretty good, but the potato slices were limp again. 

 As we were on our approach into Sydney we flew over some wildfires and then completed a full circle in order to delay our landing a bit due to heavy traffic adding a little more onto the delay anxiety.  Once we hit the ground we reached the gate quickly only to wait even longer for the jet bridge to reach the plane.  These things always seem to take longer when you are in a hurry.  I eventually got off the plane and moved quickly towards the transfer point.  I had to proceed through security again and was stuck behind a slow moving family and then once through I was selected for pat-downs and additional screening.  It seemed like one hurdle led to another and yes, there was one more as the line at the transfer desk was barely moving.  50 minutes before my flights departure I was finally at the counter trying to get my boarding pass when I realized a mistake I made.  I did not print out the full itineraries from the airlines for all my tickets.  Since I was flying one-way tickets in and out of NZ, they couldn’t pull up a record of my flight leaving the country which they didn’t like.  I was able to get my boarding pass and print out the itinerary from the Air New Zealand lounge before my flight, but it was a hectic time and not the best to be dealing with on vacation.  

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