FLIGHT REVIEW: Korean Airlines Economy Class [777-300] from Manila to Washington, D.C

IN SUMMARY
Korean Airlines economy product is one of the best ways to travel from Washington to Incheon. Pros: Larger seats and aisles to move through, friendly staff and assortment of entertainment. Cons: Pricey compared to other emerging airlines, long layover on the return, always full.

CHECKING IN

Manila International Airport (formerly known as Ninoy Aquino International Airport, NAIA) is the main international gateway for the Philippines and serves about 36 million travelers annually. Manila International is divided into 4 different terminals: Terminals 1 & 3 – International Airlines; Terminal 2 – Domestic flights & Philippine Airlines; Terminal 4 – Local Carriers like AirAsia, TigerAir and Skyjet Airlines. Terminal 1 has 16 gates and serves Emirates Airlines, Etihad Airlines, Korean and Asiana Airlines.

If you do not know, checking in Manila is not an easy task and I would recommend that all passengers make sure to arrive at least 3 hours prior to departure. Terminal 1 is the oldest of the 4 terminals and has gone through a well needed renovation to enhance operations.

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When checking in, expect long wait times before obtaining your ticket and proceeding to immigration. Note: Immigration is also a bit slow and the average wait time is about 20 minutes. Make sure to have all your paperwork ready when you step up to the Immigration Officer.

Once you pass the final security check point, you can proceed to your gate.


AT THE GATE

Unlike most international terminals, Terminal 1 in Manila does not offer travelers many options for food and shopping. I found the public areas very dull and not as welcoming and would like to see more in the future. If you want to grab something to eat before your flight, make sure to buy something before you enter the Terminal, as I found two options for food but both were limited to small pastries and snacks.

When you arrive at the gate, there was an airline staff member which will check each passenger as an additional security measure. Although you are free to leave the gate area, you will always need to carry your ticket and passport to re-enter.

 

THE CABIN

When you board your aircraft, you will be greeted by the friendliest flight attendants who always seem to have a calming smile. The flight staff are very friendly and even offer to assist you with your carry-on luggage.  From Manila, Korean Airlines uses the Boeing 777-300 aircraft which has 6 flat bed seats in First Class, 35 lie flat Business/ Prestige Class, and 297 standard economy class seats for a total of 338 total passengers.

 

As you head towards the Economy Class cabin, you will immediately notice the large aisles that allow passengers to move freely through the airplane.

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Passengers with disabilities or the elderly will also truly appreciate the ample space between the rows. Even standing a whopping 5’10, I was able to stretch out my legs and not have to worry about having my knees touch the back of the seat in front of me. Definitely a plus! Korean Airlines also boats some of the widest seats in Economy Class with 18 inches across and a seat pitch of 33-34 degrees (recline).

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As you can see, Korean Airlines has 10 inch screens to keep you entertained while on your flight. There is also a convenient USB charging outlet for easy access for your personal electronics and tablets.

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Each passenger also receives a Korean Blanket, headphones and slippers. The Korean Airline blankets are the BEST. You are not suppose to take them and is strictly prohibited, however they are very comfy and warm (I have three).

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THE FOOD

I absolutely love Korean food however I was not impressed with the food. During each meal service, passengers can choose from a traditional Korean dish or an American style meal. I tried the Bibimbap which was very tasty and filling and also came with kimchi and fruits. Each meal also comes with red plum wine.

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This is the American dish, which was also good – Beef Bourguignon.

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THE SERVICE

There is a major difference between U.S. based airlines and its competitors in Asia when it comes to service. Flight attendants are some of the most polite and friendliest people I have ever met and are always willing to help when asked upon. The staff onboard are very attentive and even anticipate your needs when they see you are even a little bit uncomfortable. I was even surprised at the immediate response time when I pressed the call button (20 seconds).

Every staff member speaks English well and are very helpful in accommodating your needs. I do have to mention that the service is wonderful however can seem very robotic at times, but nonetheless enjoyable.

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OVERALL EXPERIENCE

I am a big fan of Korean Airlines and hope they continue to maintain the of level of standard that most people expect when traveling with them. From the beginning at check-in to the in-flight service, you definitely feel that each staff member loves their job is genuinely pleasant and sincere. The food was good and tasty, however would have loved more snacks to fight off the hunger during the long haul between Incheon and Washington, D.C. Korean Airlines will need to continue to innovate in competition to the Gulf carriers and Chinese carriers which have consistently expanded their operations in Manila.

 

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7 Ways to Avoid Paying a Change Fee

It’s true that the world of travel is shrouded with uncertainty. No matter how well you plan and prepare, sometimes things change and it can be very frustrating dealing with change fees. On domestic carriers like Delta and American airlines, passengers can pay changes fees at around $200 per ticket and for international flights, it can reach up to $450.

Without knowing the fare rules, you can be at the mercy of the airlines and I would suggest you speak to your travel agent to find out your options. Here are some tips when trying to avoid those fees and saving some serious money.

  1. Free Cancellations – Depending on where you purchase your tickets, you may be able to cancel your ticket out right with no reason at all. Most tickets come with a free cancellation policy in which you cancel with a penalty with 4-24 hours from the time you purchased the ticket. If you are working with a travel agent, they can often times waive cancellation fees to accommodate your requests and rebook your ticket.
  2. Buy travel insurance – A wide range of insurance is now available to purchase which you can even cancel for any reason at all (75% trip cancellation), however insurance can now cover change fees to give more value to their plans. Travel Insured and Roamright both have great plans that offer reimbursement for covered reasons when you make changes to your flight.
  3. Making Changes the Day of – If you want to fly out early or later that day ad you are on a domestic itinerary, you can go to the airport and request to see if there is space available. U.S. carriers usually charge around $50-$75 per person to make those type of moves. Be weary, because it all depends on availability. TIP: About 15% of travelers cancel or change their flights which can leave open spaces on flights. To maximize space and minimize waste, airlines will commonly overbook flights. If your flight is overbooked, you can volunteer and receive compensation including the full value of your ticket and rebook for a later date.
  4. One way tickets – Looking for promotional fares can be a great way to save as long as you are flexible. Travelers can avoid paying change fees by purchasing one way fares and booking their flight as needed. Remember when purchasing one way tickets, you run the risk of paying two change fees. If the cost of the ticket is less than the penalty doubled in price, you always purchase a round trip ticket. It will save you money in the end.
  5. Buy refundable tickets – If you know for a fact that you will need the flexibility when you travel, you can opt to purchase a refundable ticket which allows you free changes. Keep in mind that these fares are usually double the price of nonrefundable tickets and are primarily bought by corporate travelers.
  6. Check for Changes to your Flight – Even the airlines can make changes to the flight details which can help you avoid change fees. Wait until the end and watch out for any delays, cancellations, extra layover, or even weather related issues can cause the airlines to waive their fees. You never know what issue they may have and with a little help, you can save your money for another day. If all fails, you might have to make a scene, but it never hurts to try.
  7. Go Southwest or Alaska Airlines – Southwest is the only domestic airline that does not charge cancellation or change fees. Alaska Airline also has a lenient policy allowing you to avoid fees if your flight is changed canceled within 60 days of your flight.