When it comes to airlines based in South Korea, I’ve only flown with full-service carriers – namely, Asiana Airlines and Korean Air. That is, until a few days ago when I travelled with one of their LCC compatriots on the busy, competitive route between Manila and Seoul.
Welcome aboard Jeju Air flight 7C 2306.
Note: Schedule/route information, equipment type, pricing, and other details are accurate only for the specific flight reviewed here. This information might not necessarily apply to previous or future flights, even by the same airline under the same route and flight number.
This report covers the first half (7C 2306 / MNL-ICN) of a round-trip MNL-ICN-MNL itinerary. A separate review of the return leg (7C 2305 / ICN-MNL) will be published in due course.
For the sake of brevity, I’ve used the airline’s IATA code (7C) throughout this report, instead of the full name “Jeju Air”.
Note: All times are local. Please note that Seoul, South Korea (GMT+9) is one hour ahead of Manila, Philippines (GMT+8).
Airline and flight number : Jeju Air (7C) 2306
Route : Manila, Philippines (IATA code: MNL), to Seoul-Incheon, South Korea (IATA code: ICN)
Date : Friday, 22 March 2019
Scheduled departure time : 2315
Actual departure time : 2355
Scheduled arrival time : 0440+1
Actual arrival time : 0424+1
EQUIPMENT AND CABIN
Aircraft : Boeing 737-800
Manufacturer : Boeing
Registration number : HL8034
Passenger capacity : 189, all Economy Class
Cabin configuration (seat maps) : Official Site
Travel class flown : Economy
Here’s HL8034 sitting on the tarmac at MNL T1.
She’s fairly new at less than 8 years old. Ex-Skymark, with well-maintained interiors (more on those later) reconfigured from the previous lessor’s 177 seats to a tighter 189.
Incidentally, I’ve taken a liking to 7C’s awesome orange livery, which seems appropriately redolent of Jeju Island’s famous tangerines. The lively combination of a limited palette – orange on white with a splash of grey – and a simple, eye-catching layout reminds me of the equally refreshing colour scheme employed on Cebu Pacific’s newer aircraft.
7C offers three different fare classes: Saver, Special, and Regular. Each progressively higher tier costs more than the one below it, but is packaged with more benefits in terms of lower cancellation/rebooking fees and heftier baggage allowances. Add-on bundles are also available on initial selection for those who’d like to purchase in-flight extras – more baggage, seat selection, meals – at discounted rates.
I paid USD 197.60 for the round-trip MNL-ICN-MNL flight. Special Fare, with 15 kg of checked baggage. Note that this price does NOT include the PHP 1,620.00 “Travel Tax” that residents of the Philippines (with certain exceptions) must pay when flying out of the country. Although some airlines allow passengers to prepay the tax at the point of booking, this option isn’t currently available with 7C so I had to settle up prior to check-in at the TIEZA tax collection counter inside the airport terminal.
On international routes, a complimentary checked baggage allowance is built into the two higher fare classes on 7C’s pricing scale. Special Fare tickets come with 15 kg each, whilst Regular includes 20 kg. (The Saver Fare type won’t entitle you to any checked baggage.)
Cabin/carry-on baggage is limited to 10 kg.
For the fine print on allowed dimensions, weight limits, fees and other details, read the guidelines on 7C’s official website.
AT THE AIRPORT (BEFORE DEPARTURE)
7C’s base in Manila is Terminal 1 (MNL T1) of Ninoy Aquino International Airport (IATA code: MNL) – the smallest international terminal of the largest airport in the Philippines.
Further details about MNL T1 – including information on available facilities and an extensive gallery of pictures – are available in a separate report.
CHECK-IN AND BOARDING
Four counters were made available for general check-in, with two additional counters for special services/assistance. A separate lane (leading to one of the general check-in counters) was set up for high-level members of 7C’s “Refresh Point” frequent-flyer programme.
Our assigned boarding point was Gate 16, one of two located along T1’s mid-section. This particular gate was on a lower level and could only be accessed via stairs. No lift was available for general use, though there are probably special procedures in place for wheelchair-bound passengers (perhaps using restricted-access lifts).
There was a staffed counter at the foot of the stairs where passports and boarding passes were checked.
Note that there are no washrooms available in the holding area of Gate 16 – a limitation common to all of MNL T1’s lower-level boarding gates. Passengers with urgent needs have to surrender their boarding passes at the counter, dash up the stairs to do their business, work their way back down, and reclaim their boarding passes after presenting passports for inspection.
Seating is limited and inadequate. Some people had to stand along the edges of the room or perch themselves upon any available flat space (such as the windowsills). Two shelf-like charging stations are fitted in one part of the room, but unless you’re sitting right next to them – or willing to leave devices unattended and vulnerable to theft – you’ll have to stand in close proximity whilst drawing power.
Two lanes were set up at the gate. One was for priority passengers, including those with special needs and upper-tier rewards programme members. All other passengers were funnelled through the other lane, with rows being summoned for boarding in sequence (from the back of the plane moving towards the front).
A single aerobridge was used by all passengers – no surprise as the flight was all-economy and we were using a small plane.
CABIN INTERIOR AND SEATING
The cabin was in fairly good shape. Granted, the plane wasn’t particularly old, but I took it as a sign of good housekeeping standards.
Here’s an image of the interior, looking forward from my seat.
The aircraft was fitted with relatively large windows. As I was seated in 10F, slightly ahead of the wing, this allowed me to enjoy rather nice views to the outside…
…or at least it would have, if we weren’t flying a red-eye during a time when very little was visible. Here are a couple of shots to suggest what might be possible in better lighting conditions.
7C’s Boeing 737-800 aircraft are fitted with 186 or 189 seats. Here’s a shot of the forward bulkhead row – sold at a premium, as one might expect.
In comparison to those, the normal seats further aft are a bit of a tight squeeze. That said, I found both the width and legroom adequate for my needs. Unfortunately, I was seated next to a chap who had, shall we say, a less than civilised regard for the concept of personal space (elbows over the armrest, leaning closer to look out the window, etc.) so conditions seemed more constrained to me than they actually were.
Nothing on the seat back except the usual tray table and pocket. The tray table is of a reasonable size, and it’s possible to slide it forwards by a few inches to create more room in the rear.
Now for a shot of the overhead panel. Compact, modern design, unlike that on the older 737 we used for the return leg.
There’s a limited selection of food and beverage available for on-board purchase, and additional meal options are available for online pre-order. I chose not to purchase anything during the flight (sleep being my priority at this unholy hour), but the prices – allowing for the usual bit of sky-high LCC cost-padding – didn’t strike me as extortionate.
IN-FLIGHT SERVICE AND AMENITIES
I’m usually provided with a pillow and blanket when travelling on this route with full-service airlines (such as Asiana Airlines or Korean Air). Not today, though: 7C is a budget carrier and such complimentary creature comforts are far beyond scope.
Arrival cards, customs declaration forms and health questionnaires were distributed en route. The pictures below are of identical documents (not including the health card) handed out during one of my other Korea flights.
The cabin crew seemed thoroughly polite and professional. Then again, my interactions with them were almost nonexistent, but I saw or heard nothing that would give cause for serious concern. Interestingly enough, the person delivering the English cabin announcements seemed more proficient in the language than her counterparts on full-service airline Korean Air, though this is of course hit-and-miss and it would not be fair to generalise across all flights by either airline.
SEAT POCKET CONTENTS
Let’s reach into my seat pocket and sort through what’s inside.
Nothing out of the ordinary here: air sickness bag, buy-on-board menu, in-flight magazine, safety briefing card, and duty free catalogue.
As one might expect from an LCC, 7C’s aeroplanes aren’t fitted with personal TV monitors. That said, international flights departing from ICN – and presumably to ICN as well, from what I experienced – feature a simple on-board IFE system that broadcasts content directly to passengers’ devices. Detailed instructions are set out in the in-flight magazine, but in brief, a passenger simply needs to connect to the on-board WiFi network and load the dedicated IFE homepage to get started. (Note that the on-board WiFi doesn’t offer Internet access; it’s used only for the IFE system.) There’s no need to download/install a special app before take-off in order to stream content during the flight.
At the moment, this new system is fairly limited in terms of what’s available. In-house videos, clips from what appear to be Korean YouTube channels, games, etc. There’s a so-called “premium” channel on the menu, but it wasn’t in service during my flight. It’s possible that the available content varies by destination, and that this is all I can expect from the MNL-ICN-MNL route, but it’s also possible that more choices will be rolled out progressively as the system matures. We shall see.
In any event, there’s the in-flight magazine to keep you busy – though most of the pages are in Korean.
AT THE AIRPORT (AFTER ARRIVAL)
7C’s base in the greater Seoul area is Terminal 1 (ICN T1) of Incheon International Airport (IATA code: ICN).
ICN as a whole is particularly well regarded amongst the world’s major airports, and this accolade is (generally) deserved in my view. Most of the available facilities are geared towards departing passengers, but even the arrivals zone is a cut above – well, several cuts above – anything I can expect back home.
ICN T1 is, of course, older than the recently opened Terminal 2, but it only entered service in 2001 and has held up quite well since then.
One area where ICN falls a little short is inbound immigration. Long queues are the norm, at least on most of the occasions I’ve flown in through the airport. ICN T1 is fitted with a long row of counters and plenty of queuing space – though it did me little good on this occasion since most of the booths weren’t manned.
By the time the bureaucracy spat me out into the baggage reclaim area, my checked luggage was already waiting on the carousel. Well, I suppose that’s a benefit of sorts: no idle waiting next to the belt trying to guess when my bag will circle past.
For more information on facilities and transport links, please refer to the airport’s official website. I’ve also written a separate report on the new Terminal 2 if you’d like to learn more about that facility.
Jeju Air may be an LCC, but – without focussing on frills like meals and blankets – I felt as well taken care of as on my flights with full-service carriers on this route. Aircraft in good condition, reasonably comfortable seat, on-time arrival, even a basic form of IFE (not much for the moment but I see the potential). Minor hiccups aside, I’m glad they’ve performed so brilliantly on my first flight with them, and they’ve more than earned a place amongst the airlines I’ll browse through when planning future holidays to Korea.