Down With Aviation Agony!Passengers Look for the Little Things To Make Air Travel More Comfortable
The economy in Asia may be slowing down, but airline capabilities in Korea are constantly being upgraded, especially with the imminent opening of Incheon International Airport.
Many of the new lounges at the airport, which has dubbed itself the "Winged City," will reflect world travel trends, ones that see business and first class passengers prepping for or ending their travels with a shower, or fine-tuning business strategies while plugged into a workstation or nursing a scotch while relaxing in a leather chair.
The lounges indicate an increased sophistication in airline travel. World travelers are becoming more savvy with every trip they take. For the steep price tags on business or first class tickets, passengers expect to be pampered and to have access to the latest technology. Airlines are responding with additional services and by upgrading technology.
At the beginning of this year, Alaska Airlines rolled out a program that allows passengers to check in for their flights via a PalmPilot or wireless cell phone. Several airlines have reworked their Web sites to be viewable by wireless application protocol - enabled cell phones. Most airlines that do offer this program have limited its availability, and most do not offer the service for international flights. Plans are under way at several airlines to continue expanding technology and promote electronic ticketing.
Otherwise known as e-tickets, these virtual tickets allow passengers to board a flight without a physical ticket. Instead all the passenger needs to check in at the airport is valid identification.
The JoongAng Ilbo English Edition polled five airlines for an update on world travel. We asked questions concerning both form － lounges for business and first-class customers － and function － the role played by the Internet and other technologies in air travel.
Here's the latest on world-class lounges, facilities at Incheon, and other technology advances. And just in case reading about travel prompts thoughts of a warm-weather getaway, we also asked about top spring destinations departing from Korea.
Of its 18 Maple Leaf Lounges, the top two are in Vancouver International Airport and Heathrow Airport in London. The lounge is a place to relax away from hectic people traffic. To make the lounge comfortable, Air Canada offers Nintendo games in addition to the usual assortment of business facilities.
The lounges are available to Executive first-class passengers and Super Elite or Elite members. They are also shared by Canadian Airlines business class passengers and Plus Executive Platinum or Canadian Plus Gold members.
As a Star Alliance member, Air Canada will share lounge facilities in Incheon airport. Other member airlines are Singapore Airlines, United Air Lines, Lufthansa, Thai Airways and All Nippon Airways.
Electronic tickets are not available for Seoul departures but only within North America. To speed electronic ticket check-in, Air Canada has 93 Express Check-in counters in Canada. Plans are underway to make Express Check-in possible in Toronto's Pearson International Airport.
One first-class and two business-class lounges will be unveiled at Incheon. Passengers can spruce up in showers installed at the lounges.
Tickets can be issued over the Internet. Asiana's Web site gives customer some degree of control over their flight. Through three-dimensional graphics, Web site viewers can see where seats are located on the airplane and reserve accordingly.
The Wing, Hong Kong International Airport's lounge, was designed by the architect John Pawson. He envisioned a tranquil resting place offering equal measures of comfort and style.
A bar, library and reading room and smoking bar are available. Amenities include state-of-art business facilities, Internet access, shower facilities, the Noodle Bar and the Elemis Day Spa.
When the lounge in Incheon opens mid-April, travelers will be able to log on to the Internet via a wireless local area network (LAN).
Those on business will have access to nine wireless work stations, fax services and international calls. Or guests can relax at a bar or food court, or watch television.
Electronic ticketing is available in 29 cities around Cathay Pacific's network. Its online check-in service can be used up to 90 minutes before flight departure.
Passengers can confirm their seat number up to 48 hours before their departure.
Once Silver Kris, the lounge in Incheon, opens its doors, Star Alliance members will be able to rest in comfort before departing, or clean up in a shower after they land in Korea.
Lufthansa is one of six Star Alliance members. Partner airlines will share the facilities, which is within a convenient distance of the check-in counters. Another Star Alliance partner, Singapore Airlines, will manage the Silver Kris lounge.
The technology behind electronic ticketing now allows for Web site check-in to 70 destinations worldwide. Passengers with electronic tickets can get their boarding card at a Quick Check-in Terminal or Quick Check-in Desk before going through security control.
Customers with WAP cell phones can download departure, arrival and gate information for all Lufthansa domestic flights. WAP check-in is available only for electronic ticket holders.
Because it is based in the United States, it comes as no surprise that Northwest Airlines' premier flight lounges are in America. WorldClub lounges in Minneapolis and Memphis top the ranks for luxury. In addition to the expected creature comforts, such as fine wood and leather finishes and an inviting fireplace, WorldClub lounges provide a separate reception and check-in area, real-time stock quotes and power and data ports at every seat in the main lounge.
The airline is keeping details about its Incheon airport lounge under wraps. The lounge is still under construction and will open when the airport opens, according to Northwest officials.
Northwest Airlines has customized its Web site for hand-held computers and wireless browsers. Using WAP cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDA) such as PalmPilots and other wireless devices, users can view a condensed version of nwa.com.
Electronic ticketing and electronic booking is not available in Asia. Both systems will be available within the first half of this year, according to officials. The possibility of both has increased due to recent improvements in Web sites across the Asia/Pacific region.
by Joe Yong-hee