Monday, January 16, 2012

Incheon Airport Review

Having travelled for a little bit, I've been at numerous airports around the world and it is truly refreshing when you come across an airport like Incheon, one of the most pleasant airports I've had the pleasure of visiting. Most airports are quite functional, serving as an area where you need to go through security and customs before milling around in the gate seating area before getting herded onto the plane. To be fair, some airports have gone the extra mile to make the wait a bit more pleasant but I'll leave those for another time.

Incheon's approach is multi-pronged (I should point out this review was based on my trip back at Christmas 2010 although not too much has changed since I visited a few months ago in the fall of 2011). Upon arrival at the gate, a number of interesting pieces of furniture including some medicine chests and cupboards line the corridor welcoming visitors and people in transit alike with some cultural artefacts.

Some Christmas decorations are set up near the easily visible information desk where borrowing international power adapters are complimentary for people who need to charge up their electronics.

Food was not hard to find as they have numerous food stalls on the main and second levels. I was pretty much starving after getting off the long trans-Pacific flight, so I ordered the bibimbap which came with a few delicious side dishes.

I had arrived around 5am that morning local time and my flight to TPE was not until around 1 or 2 pm. It was unfortunate that that was the first time I transited at Incheon as I was worried I wouldn't have enough time to head out to Seoul and get back to the airport for my connecting flight. In fact, 8 hours was actually plenty of time for me to have headed out to Seoul to see some things before I headed back for my flight - oh well, missed opportunities. In any case, staying within the airport was far better than I had expected as they had built a number of Korean Cultural Centers throughout the airport exhibiting all sorts of things, from traditional korean dolls and bowls to traditional music performances complete with the traditional garments and atmosphere.

One thing I would've appreciated would be if they had some varied, newer and more modern takes of South Korea such as perhaps having Samsung/LG displays a la CES or booths exhibiting korean dramas/music. *Update: They actually now have this in the arrivals area while you're waiting to pick up friends from the airport!* Near lunchtime, I was feeling hungry again so I found another another place selling ramen to satisfy my growling stomach.

One other surprising thing I wanted to point out was that the typical airport information agents who typically walk around in uniforms in other airports were walking around in traditional Korean garb. Certainly made the whole airport experience very unique and fun.

On the right was another thing I greatly appreciated. As I'm not frequent enough a flyer to get into the FF airport lounges just yet, this stylish open public lounge complete with netbooks (I know, I know, these days we've all got smartphones and tablets) allows you to check email and facebook and whatnot without having to bring any electronics with you.

Overall, my experience at Incheon Airport was very welcoming and pleasant. The general atmosphere and lighting made the environment very comfortable, an important point for grouchy, sleepy passengers getting off from 14 hour flights. The airport itself provided a refuge of sorts for transiting passengers which is usually not the case in a lot of airports, particularly in the US.

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