When I had first booked this trip, the routing had been BKK-NRT-SFO-JFK-ICN-NRT-BKK. Once I actually formulated a plan for my time in Japan, I decided that I wanted to spend the first bit of the trip between Osaka, Hiroshima, Kobe and Kyoto before stopping in Tokyo for a long weekend on my way back to Bangkok. Unfortunately, by the time this occurred to me, every ICN-KIX flight was zeroed out for award availability, and I couldn’t find any ICN-TYO-KIX connections that would work either. I had resigned myself to flying ICN-NRT then taking the airport express in to Tokyo in order to catch a Shinkansen train to Osaka. It wouldn’t be pretty, but it was the only way…until a near typhoon intervened in my favor.
I got to ICN a little more than two hours before my scheduled departure for NRT. Since I had arrived less than 24 hours earlier in OZ F, I asked if it might be possible to access the Asiana F lounge. Technically it should only be for same day F arrivals or departures, but I smiled and asked nicely if they couldn’t construe that to mean “within 24 hours.” The nice woman at the desk said it wouldn’t be a problem and directed me towards the lounge. She also mentioned that due to very strong winds over Japan, my flight was already delayed.
I had previously been to the OZ J lounge on an earlier trip through Korea, and I can’t say that I was impressed by the OZ F lounge. There were very few passengers, which is nice. WiFi was free, there were televisions as well as adequate food and drink offerings, but it was nothing to write home about, and honestly not much different than the J lounge.
Asiana First Class Lounge ICN:
After about an hour in the F lounge, one of the OZ attendants came over to me and informed me that due to the strong winds around Japan, my flight to Tokyo had been canceled. I asked if I would be put on a later flight, and she said due to the weather, it was unlikely that ANY flights would be going out from ICN to TYO, but that I could go to the gate to talk to someone.
I walked down the long finger to the subterranean gate and found absolutely no answers. None of the passengers standing around had even been notified our flight was scrubbed and the gate agent told me to go speak with the transit desk. I told her the transit desk had sent me to her at the gate, and she said to try them again.
I went back to the lounge, then to the transit desk and they told me there would be no flights to Japan today, and tried to get me to exit the airside portion of the airport and go to an airport hotel to await a flight the next day. I was not interested in wasting a day stranded in Incheon, so I went back to the lounge and fired up my computer. I compiled a list of Asiana flights that were as of that moment still scheduled to go from ICN to somewhere in Japan, be it Tokyo, Osaka, Fukuoka…didn’t matter. I’d rather get to Japan and onto a train than be set back a day. I also wrote of a list of KE, NH and JL flights. Armed with this info, I went back to the desk and explained that I wanted a seat on an OZ flight to somewhere in Japan, or in the alternative, they could rebook me on another airline’s metal, but I needed to get to Japan TODAY.
The first agent I had spoken with obviously hoped saying “nothing, sorry” would get me to shut up and come back tomorrow, but when faced with all this information, the second agent started to search. I indicated I had no checked luggage and would pay my own taxi fare to Gimpo if the only flight out was leaving from there. First she told me there was nothing but an all-Economy class flight to Fukuoka. As I was on an overall F-class itinerary and held a J class OZ ticket to TYO, I wasn’t nuts about the idea of flying coach for 2+ hours to Fukuoka, landing close to 10pm and then looking for a Shinkansen for the lengthy train ride to Osaka. I told her I would be right back and did some more digging on the internet.
I found an Asiana flight from ICN to KIX (my ideal final destination anyway) that was still scheduled to fly, and as of yet was not oversold. This third agent was finally able to book me into one of the available business class seats (into a window even!) and spit out my new boarding card. I was assured that since my ICN-NRT flight had been changed to this ICN-KIX flight due to IRROPS, there would be no adverse impact of the remainder of my UA award flight NRT-BKK at the end of my time in Japan.
Being as this weather issue had granted me a direct flight into KIX and spared me the trouble of flying into Narita then taking two trains, I was thrilled about how it had all worked out, and not even bummed about the fact that all in all I spent probably seven hours at ICN before it was finally time to board.
I had serious lounge fatigue, so I went to the gate a bit early. The signage for our flight seemed to indicate that after the stop in KIX, it would continue on to Saipan. I had no idea that Asiana flew to Saipan, so this in itself was interesting. Our bird was done up in Star Alliance livery, and shortly after the expected hour, we commenced boarding.
The Asiana 767-300ER that was to take me from ICN to KIX had three rows of business class seats laid out in a 2-1-2 configuration, much the way the Continental’s old BusinessFirst on their 767-200/400’s was arrayed. I was in Seat 1G, and a Japanese man who looked to be on his way back home from a business trip took the seat next to me.
This was a relatively short (under 3hr) flight, so the meal service started shortly after takeoff. I am almost certain the man seated to my left was a flyertalk poster as well, because I caught him taking snaps of his food with his iPhone. Perhaps he is writing an article about this flight as well. The meal service was excellent for such a short flight:
Since almost every flight from Korea to all points in Japan had been cancelled due to the high winds of this “near typhoon,” I was expecting a very rough approach into KIX. I was shocked when there was nary a bump the entire way down.
This was my first trip in or out of KIX, so I didn’t know what to expect. I understand that the airport was probably experiencing odd traffic patterns due to the IRROPS of the day and that normally there wouldn’t be a need for a ton of staff after 10pm. That being said, airports need to adapt to situations. When we got off the plane, I was expecting to be quickly through immigration, on to a train and headed for central Osaka.
When I got to the immigration hall it was a zoo. There were almost no immigration agents working on the “all passports” lines. Even when the Japanese passport lines were totally empty, the agents wouldn’t call over people from the other lines. Of course, there was no priority lane for business class. It took almost as long to get through the border and back into Japan as it did to fly there from Korea. I was pissed off by the time I finally got through the border, as I had limited time in Osaka, and this hold up would effectively waste an entire night. I tried to get a taxi, but due to the mass of humanity jammed into KIX late at night, there were none. I instead went to the train station, took a ticket for what I hoped was the right train and got on board.
As another added benefit of the earlier bad weather, the trains were also delayed, so we stopped for 5-7 minutes at every station. Finally I made it to my stop, got off and was soon at my hotel. I walked in after midnight around the same time as a Singapore (I think) Airlines crew . I was handed a voucher and room key before I explained that I was not with the airline and was just looking for the main check-in desk. Shortly thereafter I was in my room. It has been a pretty lousy day of travel, but at least I didn’t have to go through Tokyo.
Additional Cabin Photos: