Delta’s Messy Codeshare: Korean Air KE612 Hong Kong to Incheon, Business Class

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We have reviewed Korean Air’s business class from Incheon to Hong Kong. Here we review the route from Hong Kong to Incheon.

Booking

This was a paid business class ticket, as a Delta codeshare as the first leg of a longer Delta itinerary. This turned out to matter when it came to mileage accrual.

At the Airport

My airport experience on this occasion left me feeling very annoyed at Korean Air. I had a lot of baggage to check in and this led to a very long argument with the gate staff. The gate agents were decently helpful but their supervisor was hostile and basically accused me of lying about taking that much and type of luggage onboard previously (in both cases, paying the excess charge). I found her attitude very dismissive and inappropriate. I was highly annoyed by the disrespectful tone and content of the discussion, not least as this was an expensive business class ticket. This argument ended up taking several hours while they came up with a bunch of excuses about taking the luggage and “calling Korea” for an answer (whence came there none of use). In the end they let me pay and board so it felt like a massive waste of everyone’s time and my goodwill towards Korean Air.

A further frustration checking in was adding my frequent flyer number to the booking. I wanted to add a Virgin Atlantic Flying Club number as it would earn at 200% for the journey and the onward journey to North America. The staff said they could not add it because Virgin Atlantic is not a Skyteam member. This, I suspect, is wrong, as the ticket was a Delta codeshare so they should have been able to add it. In any case I had no choice but to add my Korean Air Skypass number, earning only 125% of miles. At Incheon, Delta would not let me change to the Virgin number for the subsequent sector on the basis that they do not change the number once the first sector of an itinerary is flown. I have not had this from other airlines but had previously heard it from Delta, in the U.S. (again losing out on Virgin Miles). So, due to the inability or unwillingness of the Korean Air ground agents to add the Virgin number, I ended up getting six or seven thousand miles less for the journey than I otherwise would have. Either way I think Delta needs to sort this out. Since axing their direct Hong Kong service they have been touting their seamless codeshare from Hong Kong with Korean Air – the frequent flyer number situation suggests that they are not delivering on that.

That left me with little time to relax in the Skyteam lounge, which was basically empty. In any case the staff came to tell me it was closing and so I headed to the boarding gate (24) but the flight was not yet open – a poor coordination between Korean Air and its lounge. The flight was slightly delayed and happened just a few minutes before the scheduled departure time.

Equipment

Korean Air operates quite a few different aircraft types on this route, with widely differing interior fittings. On arrival at the gate I was dismayed to see that this would be operated by a Boeing 737-900 (registration number HL8272). The interior felt very fresh, but cramped. The business class cabin had several rows of four seats with only a narrow recline. As my row (7) was the front row, the television screen was stowed under the chair. There was a powerpoint. The tray table was very narrow – so much that the food tray, which was not unusually large, was hanging over the edge and there was nowhere on the table to put a drink, shown further below.

There were slippers at the seat on boarding, along with a pillow and thick blanket.

Re aircraft type, Korean Air operates multiple services daily and there is one shortly around an hour before this (KE608) which at the moment typically uses a 787 or A330; I would rather take this service than the 737 service, all other things being equal.

Flight

The business class cabin was less than half full. Despite boarding late we pushed back on time and had an uneventful flight, landing in Incheon a little ahead of schedule.

Service

Upon boarding the cabin crew offered a welcome drink. They then brought around a hot towel and the menu for the flight.

The flight attendant asked whether I wanted to eat – as the flight leaves at two in the morning, many passengers just sleep. I was wide awake from my long argument at the airport so did indeed care to eat. She said that they would serve the meal quickly as soon as the seatbelt lights went out, which is what they did. Before landing the cabin crew again offered wet towels and a cold drink.

This crew was a bit sloppy by Korean standards, especially given that the cabin was more than half empty. The flight attendant put the tablecloth on my table upside down without noticing it, took away my menu before I had finished it and generally did not have the level of service polish I would expect.

Food and Drink

The menu was as follows. The wine list is a bit underwhelming in my opinion.

I asked whether I could have the western soup as well as the bibimbap, which was fine. The soup was simple but tasty and the bibimbap was good as always.

The Korean meal tottering off the edge of the fully extended tray table.

Conclusion

I found this experience subpar for Korean Air. The cabin crew was not up to scratch, but not in a way which made the flight meaningfully worse. However, the equipment was uncomfortable and the ground service pitted me in an argument against people I was paying a lot of money to travel with. Delta also needs to sort out its codeshare partners’ ability to input Virgin Atlantic frequent flyer numbers for Delta itineraries.

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