30 October 2008

Back in Seoul

I have just returned to Seoul, after one horrendous week in Los Angeles.

I want to discuss some afterthoughts from my return home in a separate post. But for now, the story of my return to Seoul.

I had a good flight. The aircraft used today was HL7428, the newer of Asiana's two all-passenger 747s, and the very plane which occasionally flies South Korea's President (it flew 2MB to Moscow a month ago). It had been retrofitted with video-on-demand and cutting-edge Rockwell air show, so I really enjoyed my experience, added by my particular seat which had plenty of legroom. I spent time watching the New York Philharmonic visit to Pyongyang all over again, as well as Celine Dion's A New Day, wrapping up with a few short subjects and hours and hours of music.

There was a mechanical delay of over an hour, however, and it was a frustrating wait. At least I had no connections; dozens of Southeast Asia-bound passengers ended up missing their connections.

The routing of the flight was quite unusual. When I cross the Pacific, usually I stay over water from San Francisco until hitting some part of Honshu, Japan; the only "land" I see, if ever, is southwestern Alaska. But today, I stayed much farther north, flying right over Anchorage and Nome, entering Russia over the Diomedes, then flying well north of Kamchatka and along the north shore of Sea of Okhotsk before cutting across Sakhalin to enter South Korea near Dokdo. My guess also is that the Japanese air traffic control never had my flight in its area today; all my flying today was done over US and Russian sectors (maybe except the Pacific coast of British Columbia), and over Sea of Japan, I was closer to North Korea and probably under North Korean air traffic control. (Yes, South Korean aircraft are allowed in North Korean control areas - while US aircraft are not.)

Here are a few photos from my journey today.

Very unusual sight. At Los Angeles, United uses its own terminal for international arrivals, not the common Tom Bradley international terminal that foreign airlines use. But somehow, this United 747, from Sydney, came into Bradley. Not only that, most of its containers are Qantas - and the two airlines are fierce competitors on the route, not alliance partners.

Next to it stands my Asiana flight. It sports Asiana's new corporate identity and paint job, alongside UNICEF and "Korea Sparkling" decals. Due to Asiana's alliance with United, and the resulting interline connecting passengers, a few United ground crewmembers were helping prepare this flight for departure, as evidenced by a United truck in front.

Tail detail of the Asiana plane, showing the color details as well as the registration number.

My first-ever look at an Airbus A380. It didn't look all that big, but that's because it's tall rather than long. It's only as long as a 747, but it has a full upper deck.

I will say this again: I had never imagined saying I'd rather be in Seoul than in Los Angeles, but that's how I feel tonight. More on this in the next post.