Today’s reader review is from Mike Mumford.
I found the outbound Asiana experience pretty good but was somewhat trepidatious about the return leg as we would have to overnight in Seoul. What follows is a review of what happened. The return journey from Sydney to London would involve two flights broken by a 17-hour layover in Seoul. This is explained by the travel agent, and the cost of the hotel is included in the ticket price under an arrangement called STPC (Stop Over Paid by Carrier).
In this post:
There was the previously discussed frustration with the website and boarding passes were not issued online. They had to be picked up at the airport. The first leg from Seoul to Sydney leaves Sydney at 1020 and arrives in Seoul at 1900. The bag drop is in area K of the international departures terminal at SYD. We chose to check the bags through to London, ensuring that the cabin baggage had the requisite overnight clothing changes (with increasing warmth given the drop in temperatures we were to experience!). Boarding passes were issued for both sectors and, after clearing a quiet security check headed for the Air New Zealand lounge. Asiana also has access to the Singapore Airlines lounge, which we did not visit. The lounge was reasonably busy, with a good selection of fresh breakfast options. There is even a chef to make omelettes to order.
The lounge is very close to the Asiana gate, and even with the now predictable queuing, boarding was on time. It was apparent that there were quite a few Brits taking advantage of the same cheap fare arrangement as ourselves. We chatted to a few and we were all wondering about the hotel in Korea. At the bag drop we had all been given a piece of paper with instructions of what to do at ICN to get to our hotel.
An Airbus 380 was again the equipment used, and we looked forward to the excellent food and service experienced on the outward journey. I don’t know what the issue was, but it appeared that the cabin crew were stressed as the service was a bit sporadic. The food was excellent and beautifully presented, but it felt rushed, particularly for a daylight flight. I was only offered one drink, and courses arrived and departed very quickly. Soon after the meal service, we were told to close the blinds, and the cabin was kept in darkness for the majority of the 10-hour flight. The snack before landing was again rushed into service.
Stop over hotel
The flight arrived on time, and as we had no bags to claim, we cleared the arrival formalities quickly. We were required to complete an arrival card (given to us on the plane) to hand to immigration. The instructions stress it is important you complete full details of where you are staying. Tricky if you don’t know which hotel you are staying at, so we put ‘Seoul Hotel’ and hoped for the best. No problems at immigration for us, and we breezed past the bag reclaim, clutching the piece of paper with the instructions issued at Sydney. It said the desk is between carousels eight and none.
It is not, we were redirected to another desk between carousels four and five. There were Asiana signs, so I was encouraged. Apparently, it is the wrong desk, and we were directed to go through the landslide and turn right. Hmmmm, I wonder…. We followed these further instructions (not detailed at all in our Sydney crib sheet), and as we turned right, a chap with a clipboard spotted us, apologised for the difference in all the instructions we had been given, handed us a voucher and asked we sit with others waiting for the hotel shuttle.
Twenty minutes later we were gathered together and led to the bus that would take us to our hotel. We had been allocated the IBIS Styles near the airport. Others had the Johnson/Days Inn. Another 20 minutes and we were deposited at the hotel, a clean, if rather characterless, modern-looking building on an airport approach road. There was literally nothing else around, so no opportunity to walk and sample some local area.
For us, the hassle of transferring to the hotel and the wrong instructions was not really an issue. We found it quite funny and a bit of an adventure. For some of the older passengers, some of whom had mobility issues, I think they found it a bit tiresome. But money talks, and the saving we were making on the ticket meant they did not complain. My mother is in her 80s and travels to Australia most years. I would not suggest that she take this route.
The following morning, we awoke early (the curse of westbound jet lag) and went to look at the buffet breakfast (also included). It was very Korean, with some western options for the less cosmopolitan! The bus pick-up was at 9 am. It is the public hotel shuttle, so I guess you could get an earlier or later one, but I think they are only every hour, so maybe best not to risk a later version. There was an element of good old British spirit as two buses arrived, one for each terminal, and no one could remember which terminal we had come from! It was terminal one, and all those who opted to T2 were quickly rounded up to the correct bus.
We already had boarding passes for the next sector, so proceeded straight through an efficient security and passport check. This meant we now had just under three hours until the flight departed. Plenty of shops to buy Christmas stocking fillers, and then to the Asiana lounge, which is at the eastern end of the terminal close to gate 20. The lounge was very disappointing. It wasn’t very busy, but the selection of food, both Korean and Western, was poor and not very appetising. Don’t rely on this for a breakfast option if you pass on the free hotel option (which wasn’t great either, in my opinion). Never mind, we were looking forward to the meal on the flight.
Seoul ICN to Heathrow LHR
Boarding for the flight started as advertised (yep more queues). An Airbus A350 meant there were only seven rows of four in business. In order to get maximum privacy, we booked 6A and 6K, both window seats with a bit more privacy. In order to allow a passenger to sit closer to their teenage child, my wife offered to swap so she would sit behind me in 7K. She was happy to forgo the small additional privacy. Boarding completed on time, and we were then delayed for around 30 minutes due to airport operations ultimately departing around an hour late. The crew advised that the expected flight time would be 14 hours 50 minutes, rather longer than the FlightRadar history suggests due to headwinds.
After take off the cabin crew came around for lunch orders. If you were in row seven, then the western menu options were all gone. The majority of business class passengers were Western, leading to the shortage. There was some heated discussion, and a compromise was reached. Food was very well presented as usual and tasted very nice. My beef tenderloin lived up to the billing. There was not the previous sector rush to close the window blinds but my wife did experience an issue trying to move the seat to lie flat. The cabin crew quickly appeared and managed to sort it out. She was beginning to regret being the Good Samaritan as the person she swapped seats with enjoyed his first choice of meal and was fast asleep in his bed!
The second snack (only three courses) was inexplicably served around six hours after the main meal. This meant that after this service, there were still around seven hours of flying time remaining.
Arrival at LHT T2 was around an hour late, and we had a quick passage through the UK Border checks and with our checked bags being one of the first onto the carousel meant we were in the car leaving the airport around 30 minutes after landing. Pretty efficient in my book; well done, T2.
For me, Asiana is still a strong option for travel to Australia if the price is right. A quick look on return to the UK shows they are around 10% cheaper for travel in October 2025. It may be that travel agents will be offered special deals. If there is no price difference, then the added flying time plus hotel stay on the return journey may be considered too much of a hassle.
The hotel process works well and we found it less tiring on return to the UK. You need to have some confidence and be prepared to adapt to local conditions and a possible delay in getting to your room.
On the outward journey review, I rated the service as excellent. It was still very good and probably only a few notches below on the return journey, but still better that BA and the US carriers that I have used.
Currently, Asiana only flies to Sydney in Australia, but they have announced a twice-weekly rotation to Melbourne starting on 26th December.