Mother-Daughter Trip to Vietnam series:
How Much Did It Cost?
SGN (Saigon) –>ORD in Korean Air Business Class
– 80,000 Delta miles
– Annual Fee for American Express Delta Card: $0
– Taxes and fees: $66.66
– Retail value $3,226
How Did I Do It?
1. Amex Gold Delta Skymiles card: current offer is 60,000 miles and $50 statement credit after spending $3,000 in 3 months. When we applied last year, it was a targeted offer of 75,000 miles after spending $3,000 in 3 months so the current offer is the highest public offer yet. AF $0 first year then $95.
Again, Amex allows you to get the bonus once in a lifetime so you should only apply when the bonus is the highest, which is now, since it’s difficult to know who would get the random targeted 75,000 miles offer.
I initially booked an economy seat for Mom from SGN on Cathay because there wasn’t any availability in the premium cabin. Based on my research, Cathay tends to open up seats a few days prior to departure. I called AA the day before and surprise, a business seat opened up. I was able to upgrade her without paying more fees, except it went from 37,500 to 70,000 AA miles. Of note, Alaska only charges 50,000 miles for the same business seat and 70,000 miles for first class on Cathay, and 52,500 miles on Korean Air. Unfortunately, I had just started accumulating Alaska miles so didn’t have enough. This is why Alaska miles are so awesome. Its redemption rates for Asia are amazing.
Anyway, make sure you write down the confirmation code for both AA and Cathay. When I helped my mom check in at the airport, the ticket agent told me she was in economy. The confirmation code that I provided was for AA only. After 30 min of escalating to a supervisor, she was able to check into her business seat. Luckily, I was there or else my mom would’ve missed out on her first premium experience.
My mom flew a few hours before me so I had time to enjoy the Lotus lounge. Prior to going our separate ways, I wrote down instructions on how to find the Cathay lounge in Hong Kong so Mom could enjoy the lounge experience. Like our previous trip to Europe, I felt like our roles were reversed because I was worried about her traveling alone.
The Lotus lounge was actually decent sized with good food. Once again, it amazed me that I was a minority in my former country. Most of the patrons were older white people.
Since I knew there was plenty of food waiting for me on the plane, I only grabbed a few items. Fifteen minutes prior to boarding, I left the lounge to find the gate.
I boarded the newly fitted Boeing 777-300ER that featured their new business class. I thought the short leg from SGN to ICN would have the old business product so was quite ecstatic to be on the new planes for both legs. It is configured in 2-2-2 and every seat has direct aisle access.
Only a handful of seats were taken so I moved around quite a bit before settling in an aisle seat.
It was strange that they served “breakfast” just an hour or two after takeoff. It was only about 1 to 2 am in Saigon. Apparently, Korean Air is notorious for serving meals at inconvenient times.
I chose the Korean style rice porridge. Fortunately, it came with side dishes as it was so bland. There was no taste of all.
After landing in ICN, I made the long trek to KAL Prestige Lounge. Incheon Airport is consistently ranked as one of the best airports in the world. Maybe because the airport was crowded and I arrived too early at 6am but I was not impressed.
I took a train to another concourse then followed the signage towards the lounge.
The lounge is huge with multiple seating areas that were mostly taken.
It has lockers, which I did use to store my bags.
I was sleep deprived so was more focused on finding a spot to relax than eating. Therefore, I didn’t take more photos of the lounge.
After a couple of hours, it was finally time to board. Economy was full but business and first classes were quite empty.
Again, for quick access to the bathroom, I chose an aisle seat.
Unlike the first short leg, there was an amentity bag waiting for me.
Compared to Singapore’s business class, there is limited storage space on Korean Air. The space under the armrest is mainly to stow headphones and small electronics. There’s also one under the ottoman but the cabin crew asked us to not stow anything under the footrest during takeoff and landing. The seat is also narrower.
Prior to departure, honey roasted peanuts and a selection of beverages was served. Unlike other airlines, peanuts were not served in a dish/bowl/plate. It reminded me of an incident where the daughter of the chairman of Korean Airlines threw a tantrum because the nuts weren’t served in a dish. She actually made the pilot turn the plane around to kick off the head steward.
For dinner, I chose the popular Korean specialty, bibimbap. Korean Air is famous for this…but I wasn’t a fan.
I barely finished my meal. I decided to just watch a couple of movies before going to bed.
As you can see, there was no comforter or bedding like Singapore’s. Regardless, I was able to sleep for a couple of hours.
A few hours prior to landing, it was time for another meal. This time, I had chicken over rice. Once again, I couldn’t finish the meal but did enjoy the different types of bread.
Overall, it was a meh flight for me. The attendants weren’t warm like Singapore’s or Cathay’s. The food was too bland. I’d rather save my miles for Singapore or Cathay, especially now that the former is also a partner of Alaska Airlines.