In my previous flight report, I painted an image of Jeju Air (7C) as a reliable LCC alternative to the full-service airlines I usually fly with between the Philippines and Korea. Let’s see if we can complete the picture with the same positive strokes by looking at how they’ve performed on the home-bound leg.
Welcome aboard Jeju Air flight 7C 2305.
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 return leg (7C 2305 / ICN-MNL) of a round-trip MNL-ICN-MNL itinerary. Click here to read my review of the first leg (7C 2306 / MNL-ICN).
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) 2305
Route : Seoul-Incheon, South Korea (IATA code: ICN) to Manila, Philippines (IATA code: MNL)
Date : Monday, 25 March 2019
Scheduled departure time : 1805
Actual departure time : 1833
Scheduled arrival time : 2220
Actual arrival time : 2136
EQUIPMENT AND CABIN
Aircraft : Boeing 737-800
Manufacturer : Boeing
Registration number : HL8032
Passenger capacity : 189, all Economy Class
Cabin configuration (seat maps) : Official Site
Travel class flown : Economy
Here’s HL8032 sitting on the tarmac at ICN T1.
And here’s another shot of the aeroplane, taken after our arrival at MNL T1.
With her age having recently passed 9 years, HL8032 has been around for a while. She spent a few years in the SpiceJet fleet before sitting briefly in storage, and then subsequently entering service with 7C.
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 MNL T1.
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.
CHECK-IN AND BOARDING
In order to avoid some of ICN’s infamous queues, I made use of the City Airport Terminal (CAT) at Seoul Station. I’ve posted a separate, detailed report about this facility, so I’ll refrain from writing a lengthy description here. Briefly, the CAT allows passengers travelling with certain Korean airlines – 7C included – to check in for their flights, hand over their luggage, and undergo outbound immigration formalities even before they leave downtown Seoul.
The set-up is quite similar to that of a typical airport’s check-in lobby, with lane arrangements varying between airlines. In the case of 7C, there was just one queue (shared between two counters).
After completing all check-in procedures, I took the AREX express train to Terminal 1 (T1) of Incheon International Airport (IATA code: ICN)…
…where I sailed through the so-called “Designated Entrance” reserved for diplomats and flight crews – and passengers who have already checked in at one of the Greater Seoul area’s CATs.
After a hearty dinner, I parked myself near our assigned boarding gate. T1 may be the older of ICN’s massive passenger terminals, but its soaring architecture has held up rather well – even in the face of competition from its newer sibling, Terminal 2 – and there was no shortage of seats for me to choose from.
The massive plate-glass windows offered fantastic views of the tarmac, which allowed me to kill some of the time left till departure by engaging in a bit of planespotting.
Here’s our boarding point, Gate 37. It’s located near the tip of one of the two “fingers” projecting out of ICN T1. There’s a fair bit of distance to cover between the immigration/security zone and here, but not to worry – there are travelators to make the long walk easier.
Two lanes were set up at the gate. One was for priority passengers, including upper-tier rewards programme members. The remaining passengers were funnelled through the other lane.
A single aerobridge was used by all passengers. No surprise there: the flight was all-economy and we were using a small plane.
CABIN INTERIOR AND SEATING
The cabin was in fairly good shape, though not quite pristine, and perhaps a little less well maintained than the interiors of the newer plane we used for the Korea-bound leg. That said, there didn’t seem to be any major damage: a ding here, a scratch there, that sort of thing.
Here’s an image of the interior, looking forward from my seat.
7C’s Boeing 737-800 aircraft are fitted with 186 or 189 seats. In comparison to the premium bulkhead or exit row seats, the normal seats can be a bit of a tight squeeze.
That said, I found both the width and legroom more than adequate for my needs. Just bear in mind that I’m not a particularly tall or wide fellow. Passengers requiring more space should consider investing in a premium seat (fees vary depending on the route).
The overhead panel seemed a little old-fashioned in terms of the layout and iconography. Due to the lack of built-in PTVs for the IFE system, the attendant call buttons and reading lamp switches were all mounted on the panel (rather than on, say, the PTV remote control).
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, 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.
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.
SEAT POCKET CONTENTS
Let’s reach into my seat pocket and sort through what’s inside.
Nothing out of the ordinary here: buy-on-board menu, in-flight magazine, safety briefing card, and duty free catalogue. I didn’t find an air sickness bag, but there was one on the previous leg, so I assume the maintenance crew simply neglected to restock my seat pocket.
As one might expect from an LCC, 7C’s aeroplanes aren’t fitted with personal TV monitors. That said, international flights departing from ICN 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.
Here’s what the in-flight magazine has to say about 7C’s streaming entertainment service.
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 Manila area 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 the departures level MNL T1 – including information on available facilities and an extensive gallery of pictures – are available in a separate report.
Of course, as an arriving passenger, I didn’t use any of those facilities. Let’s have a peek at MNL T1’s arrivals zone instead.
As our plane was taking its position near the gate, a shiny new Airbus A320neo belonging to Royal Brunei Airlines was being pulled out of its berth nearby. This particular bird was V8-RBA, delivered in May 2018.
T1’s ageing all-metal aerobridges are being progressively replaced with brand new glass-and-steel tubes, like the one fitted to our gate.
No travelators, but the distances between different points in this relatively small terminal can be managed on foot. Wheelchair services are available by prior arrangement.
Ugh, long queues at immigration again. I eventually punched through by joining the slightly faster “e-gate” queues (currently available only for Philippine passport holders), but there was a bit of crowding even there.
I should point out that the poor signage and ill-conceived queueing arrangements led to a fair bit of confusion – especially amongst foreigners who mistakenly joined the locals-only e-gate lines – so this is something the airport authorities must look carefully into.
After collecting my checked luggage, I stepped out into the arrivals lobby. Unlike at MNL’s larger Terminal 3 – where arriving passengers would be welcomed by friends or family in this area – T1 has little room to spare for the general public so the crowds are kept at bay in a separate waiting area some distance away.
Right outside the arrivals lobby is a sheltered road where one might hire a taxi. Note that the yellow airport taxis cost quite a bit more than the white regular taxis, but are advertised as being safer and more reliable since these require special permits to operate from MNL’s terminals. That’s not to say that every white taxi driver will try to scam you or drive recklessly (far from it!) or that every yellow taxi driver does his duty by the book (some might, for example, still try to negotiate an expensive rate and keep the metre off), so using one or the other is really down to personal judgement.
If you’re being fetched by a private vehicle, you’ll need to cross the road and descend by way of a broad ramp to the hot, crowded, badly maintained public waiting area one level down. It can be a bit of a madhouse down there, so I was thankful to avoid it on this occasion by making use of a airport taxi.
The opinion I expressed in my report on the outbound leg still stands, so I’ll repeat it here with just a few tweaks.
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 (though not quite as nice as the one used for the outbound), reasonably comfortable seat, on-time arrival, even a basic form of IFE (not much for the moment but I see the potential). The excellent timing of their sole MNL-ICN-MNL round-trip route is also great for Manila-based holidaymakers seeking to maximise their time in Korea, with an early morning arrival at ICN paired to an evening departure from ICN. Minor hiccups aside, I’m glad they’ve performed so brilliantly on my first round-trip flight with them, and they’ve more than earned a place amongst the airlines I’ll browse through when planning future holidays to Korea.