Sunday, January 1, 2012

Winter Holiday in Hokkaido in December 2011 - Section 1

Hello, everyone, and welcome to my very first blog report! This blog report focuses on my most recent winter holiday in Hokkaido, Japan, in December 2011. Due to the length of the report, I'll break it up into several sections. Although I have taken a total of 2,800 pictures and videos, I'll try and post as many as I can.

All the holiday videos can be found on my YouTube channel. However, for safety reasons, please note that adding comments is STRICTLY PROHIBITED for ALL videos I upload onto YouTube. As with commenting, advertisements are prohibited from my channel, since it's just for sharing. I'll also post some videos on this blog. However, if you are unable to play them on this blog, or if any of the videos are not available, you can go to my YouTube channel, which is shown on the above link.

In this first section of this very first blog report of mine, I shall share with you the inbound journey to Sapporo, the prefectural capital of Hokkaido, Japan, via a brief stopover in Seoul, the capital city of South Korea.


Part 1 ~ The Opening

After a few weeks of waiting, the day of our flight to Hokkaido finally arrived. I was very excited as I wanted to see snow again in Japan with my family. Although I wanted to go to Japan again in June for my birthday, we could not do so because of the effects of the March 11 Tohoku-Pacific Ocean Tsunami. I had just finished my Singapore-Cambridge GCE 'O' Level English Language and Mathematics examinations just a few months earlier.

On the afternoon of Wednesday (7 December), we spent the rest of the afternoon packing our baggage for the flight to Sapporo. At 10.15 p.m., our MaxiCab finally arrived at our home to ferry us to Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2. We finally left home at 10.25 p.m., arriving at the airport just before eleven o’ clock.

As soon as we arrived at the Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2, we grabbed a few trolleys to put our baggage. We would be flying with Korean Air that night to Sapporo, with a stopover in Seoul for about 1½ hours. This would mark our second time flying with Korean Air. After entering the departure hall, we proceeded to the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge to check in for our flight to Sapporo via Seoul.

Korean Air (Hangul: 대한항공; Hanja: 大韓航空) is the flag carrier and the largest airline of the Republic of Korea (South Korea). It is one of the founding members of SkyTeam, the world's third and final airline alliance founded in 2000. Korean Air, together with three other airlines, namely Aeromexico, Air France and Delta Air Lines banded together to create the airline alliance. Its frequent flyer program is known as SKYPASS.

Besides fellow SkyTeam members, Korean Air has codeshare agreements with some airlines which are not part of SkyTeam. Some of these airlines include Star Alliance partner Austrian Airlines, and Oneworld partners Japan Airlines and LAN Airlines.


Korean Air has a rival airline, Asiana Airlines, which is a member of Star Alliance. It is the main competitor for Korean Air. My family and I recently joined SKYPASS, Korean Air’s frequent flyer programme in November. I am now part of KrisFlyer, ANA Mileage Club, and SKYPASS. Both Asiana Airlines and Korean Air operated from Terminal 1 at Singapore Changi Airport. Since 2009, they have shifted their operations to Terminal 2.

The SATS Premier Check-In Lounge is a special check-in area at Singapore Changi Airport for travellers flying on certain foreign airlines in First and / or Business Class. They are available in all three terminals.

In Terminal 1, certain foreign airlines such as Air China, Japan Airlines, and Thai Airways use this special check-in lounge for their First and Business Class passengers. In Terminal 2, foreign airlines such as All Nippon Airways, Etihad Airways and Korean Air use this special check-in lounge for their First and Business Class guests.

At Singapore Changi Airport's Terminal 2, these are the following airlines that use the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge for their First and Business Class passengers. As of 1 December 2011, they are:


1) Air India


2) Air Macau


3) All Nippon Airways (Star Alliance carrier)


4) Asiana Airlines (Star Alliance carrier)*


5) Etihad Airways


6) Hainan Airlines


7) Korean Air (SkyTeam carrier)


8) Lao Airlines


9) Lufthansa (Star Alliance carrier)


10) Malaysia Airlines (future Oneworld carrier)


11) Philippine Airlines**


12) Royal Brunei Airlines


13) SilkAir


14) Singapore Airlines (Star Alliance carrier & Flag carrier of the Republic of Singapore)


15) TransAsia Airways

*Asiana Airlines will shift its operations at Singapore Changi Airport from Terminal 2 to Terminal 3 on Monday, 30 September 2013.

**Philippine Airlines will shift its operations at Singapore Changi Airport from Terminal 2 to Terminal 1 on Monday, 28 October 2013.

The curbside outside the departures and check-in area of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 shortly after we arrived

Several Angry Birds decorations for Christmas above the entrance to the departures and check-in area of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The departures and check-in area of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 during the late night hours

The entrance to the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

A beautifully decorated Christmas Tree sitting in the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge located in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The interior of the SATS Premier Check-in Lounge located in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

As soon as we reached the SATS Premier Check-In Lounge, two lounge porters came with baggage trolleys to assist us with our check-in baggage. The check-in staff managed to get seats for us for the sector between Singapore Seoul (Incheon) during the check-in process for Korean Air flights KE 642 and KE 765 bound for Seoul (Incheon) and Sapporo (Chitose).

However, the seats for the segment between Seoul (Incheon) and Sapporo (Chitose) were a little difficult to obtain, but they managed to get some seats for us. We were thankful for their continuous efforts to assist us. The check-in agents then reminded us that Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon) would depart at 1.30 a.m. from Gate No. E24, and that boarding would commence at one o' clock, approximately half an hour before the scheduled departure time.

After receiving our boarding passes, we headed to the passport control area and went to the SATS Premier Lounge to charge our electronic devices before the flight. According to the departure flight information screen in the airside, Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon) would depart from Gate No. E24 at 1.30 a.m., and boarding would commence at one o' clock, 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time.


After we had exchanged some Singapore dollars into Japanese yen at a nearby money exchange counter, we finally reached the SATS Premier Lounge at 11.15 p.m.. My family decided to have some light bites and drinks in the lounge before the flight to Seoul (Incheon). Feeling bored, I decided to browse through some shops and do some plane spotting. My parents allowed me to do so to pass the time.

With that, I left my belongings in the care of my parents and went to do my usual night plane-spotting activity. 
Surprisingly, I also caught sight of an Etihad Airways Airbus A330-200 aircraft. The aircraft had arrived from the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East as Etihad Airways flight EY 470 from Abu Dhabi earlier, and was resting briefly in Singapore before continuing its long overnight journey towards Brisbane, Queensland in Australia. Personally, I wish I could get a chance to fly with Etihad Airways someday.

At the same time, I spotted a Lufthansa Airbus A380 aircraft, which arrived from Frankfurt earlier that afternoon. I knew that it would soon be flying back home to the Federal Republic of Germany as Lufthansa flight LH 779 bound for Frankfurt. There was also a Lufthansa Airbus A340-300 aircraft, which would be heading back home to Germany as Lufthansa flight LH 791 bound for Munich later that night.

The airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 during the late night hours

My boarding pass for Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon) from Singapore

The departure flight information board in the airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

An Etihad Airways Airbus A330-243, registered A6-EYG, resting at Gate No. E3 after arriving from her long trans-Indian Ocean journey from the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East as Etihad Airways flight EY 470 from Abu Dhabi, before she continues on for her long overnight trip towards Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Several cafeterias by the observation area in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The airside view of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2, taken from the airline lounge level

After doing some plane spotting, I headed to a nearby hobby shop to purchase something. From the hobby shop, I purchased a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-212/ER Herpa Wings Scale 1:500 aircraft model. The model cost me approximately S$99.

After purchasing my aircraft model, I headed back to the SATS Premier Lounge to charge my electronic devices before the flight to Seoul (Incheon). Feeling a little peckish by the time I reached the lounge, I grabbed some sticks of satay and a cup of hot cocoa from the food and beverage cornerAs for the model I purchased, the details were as follows:

1) Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-212/ER Herpa Scale 1:500 (506380)

Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-212/ER Herpa Scale 1:500 (506380)

A large and beautifully decorated Christmas by the entrance to the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The list of airlines using the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The interior of the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 during the late night hours

The food and beverage corner in the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

A few pieces of satay for myself to enjoy

The satay platter at the food and beverage corner in the SATS Premier Lounge in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

A nice, warm cup of hot cocoa before the flight to Seoul (Incheon)

The interior view of the SATS Premier Lounge of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 from our seating area

My newly purchased Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-212/ER Herpa Wings Scale 1:500 aircraft model

Part 2 ~ The Flight To Seoul (Incheon)


Airline: Korean Air
Flight No.: KE 642
From: Singapore Changi Airport (SIN / WSSS), Singapore
To: Seoul, Incheon International Airport (ICN / RKSI), Seoul, South Korea
Aircraft: Boeing 777-3B5
Registration No.: HL7534
Class: Prestige Class (Business Class)
Seat No.: 8J
Date: Thursday, 8 December 2011

After relaxing and having some light bites in the SATS Premier Lounge for approximately 1 hour 15 minutes, the clock was finally showing 12.30 a.m.. Knowing that boarding for Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon) would commence in 30 minutes' timewe packed up all our carry-on baggage and left the SATS Premier Lounge at 12.35 a.m. for Gate No. E24.

Soon enough, we finally arrived at Gate No. E24 at 12.45 a.m., 15 minutes before boarding. The security check was relatively quick, and we were in the gate waiting room by 12.50 a.m.. Most of the passengers in the gate waiting room were either heading to Seoul for business or connecting flights there, of which we were some of the transiting passengers.


Tonight, Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon) would be operated using a Boeing 777-300, registered HL7534 and powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW4098 engines
Though the Boeing 777-300 is a smart aircraft, I personally prefer the Boeing 777-300/ER more than the normal Boeing 777-300, due to the modern technological improvements made.

Personally, I wish Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon) would be operated by a Boeing 777-300/ER instead of the normal Boeing 777-300. HL7534 was delivered new to Korean Air on 28 December 1999 as the second Boeing 777-300 and the sixth Boeing 777 for the airline. The delivery makes the aircraft approximately 12 years old today.

The lounge information board by the escalators towards the airline lounge level in the airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 as we proceed to Gate No. E24 for Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon)

The passageway towards Gates No. E20 to E28 in the airside of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2

The departure information board outside Gate No. E24, detailing the flight details for Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon)

Our aircraft for tonight, HL7534, being serviced at Gate No. E24 in preparation for her long overnight journey home towards the Republic of Korea (South Korea) as Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon)

The passenger waiting room in Gate No. E24 packed with waiting passengers to board Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon)

After spending approximately five minutes of anticipated waiting in the gate waiting room, the first boarding calls for Korean Air flight KE 642 bound for Seoul (Incheon) were finally made at one o' clock. The First and Prestige Class passengers, as well as the SKYPASS Club members and the passengers requiring special assistance were called to board the aircraft first.

With the first boarding calls being made, we grabbed our baggage and rolled up for the boarding process. As we walked along the jet bridge towards Door A, we were finally on board HL7534 at 1.05 a.m., which was just in good time for a 1.30 a.m. departure. The flight between Singapore and Seoul (Incheon)  would be expected to take 6 hours 05 minutes. When we stepped on board the aircraft, two flight stewardesses warmly welcomed us on board and showed us the direction to our seats in the Prestige Class cabin.


The Prestige Class seats we were using were the newer Prestige Sleeper Seats, which can recline up to 180º to allow a fully-flat rest. From 2009, these new Prestige Sleeper seats were fitted on most of Korean Air's wide-body aircraft following the delivery of the airline's new Boeing 777-300/ERs. We stowed all our carry-on baggage in the respective areas and settled in. I would be seated in Seat No. 8J with my brother, who was seated in Seat No. 8H, throughout the long overnight flight to Seoul (Incheon).


As of late 2011, Korean Air's new Prestige Sleeper Seats are fitted on the following aircraft:


1) Airbus A330-200


2) Airbus A330-300


3) Airbus A380


4) Boeing 777-200/ER* (certain aircraft only)


5) Boeing 777-300


6) Boeing 777-300/ER


*On Korean Air's fleet of Boeing 777-200/ERs, the new Prestige Sleeper Seats are only fitted on the aircraft that are fitted with the New First Class Kosmo Suites products.


During the boarding process, the flight attendants did their usual routines of distributing the pre-departure beverages, newspapers and food and beverage menus to the First Class and Prestige Class passengers. I had my usual pre-departure glasses of orange juice and water, with packets of honey-roasted peanuts distributed to us
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The Prestige Sleeper Seats on Korean Air's fleet of Boeing 777-300s

A view of my seat, 8D, during the boarding process in Singapore

The Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin during the boarding process in Singapore

The seat contents from the front seat pocket

Reviewing the food and beverage menu for the sector between Singapore and Seoul (Incheon)

A Hong Kong Airlines Airbus A330-223, registered B-LNG, resting at Gate No. E26 after arriving from her late night journey as Hong Kong Airlines flight HX 783 from Hong Kong

A pre-departure glass of water for myself

The safety information brochure for Korean Air's fleet of Boeing 777-300s

Having a closer look into the safety information brochure for Korean Air's fleet of Boeing 777-300s

The Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin view from my seat during the boarding process in Singapore

The entertainment screen showing the language options passengers can view their entertainment devices in

My usual pre-departure glass of orange juice and two packets of honey roasted peanuts

At exactly 1.30 a.m., all the aircraft doors were closed, and we finally started to push back from Gate No. E24, right on schedule. As the safety briefing demonstration was played on our video screens, we began our 15-minute taxi to the runway after the safety briefing demonstration video was finished. We taxied past several aircraft parked at Terminal 2, including a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-212/ER aircraft.

After a 15-minute taxi to our assigned runway, the two powerful Pratt & Whitney PW4098 engines spooled to life, and we finally lifted off from Singapore Changi Airport at 1.45 a.m.. We then climbed into the pitch black night sky for a long overnight flight time of 5 hours 50 minutes over the South China Sea towards the capital city of the Republic of Korea (South Korea). It was then that we left the Republic of Singapore far behind
.

The safety demonstration video being shown on my screen

Part of the safety demonstration video, which shows passengers about the dangers of on-board smoking

Taxiing past a Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-212/ER aircraft parked at Terminal 2 on the way to the runway

One last shot of Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 2 during taxi to our assigned runway

The Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin view from my seat during taxi to our assigned runway

One last look at Singapore Changi Airport during taxi to our assigned runway

Korean Air Flight 642 ~ Take-off from Singapore Changi Airport

The seatbelt sign was switched off at around two o' clock, just 10 minutes after take-off. I then paid a customary visit to the bathroom and took my usual cabin shots. At the same time, the flight attendants sprung into action to commence the in-flight late night snack service. Since this was an overnight flight, most of the passengers chose to sleep until the in-flight breakfast service commenced
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The rear view of the Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin shortly after take-off from Singapore

A posted placard in the lavatory that reminds passengers that smoking on board the aircraft and tampering with, disabling or destroying lavatory smoke detectors is forbidden under South Korean law and civil aviation regulations

The Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin view from my seat shortly before the in-flight snack service commenced

After all the passengers settled down for the flight, the in-flight late night snack service commenced at 2.15 a.m., approximately 30 minutes into the flight. As this was a night flight, we were served chicken satay. I am quite a big fan of satay. Unfortunately, my brother wasn't feeling too peckish, so he gave his portions of satay after I finished mine. Satay makes a perfect in-flight midnight snack on long night flights (e.g. Singapore to Seoul).

By the time I finished my chicken satay, the cabin lights were slowly dimmed to help the other passengers get some sleep. After finishing my chicken satay, I called a flight attendant and ordered a bowl of Korean instant noodle soup.

The stewardess promptly understood my order, and brought out my Korean instant noodle soup 15 minutes later. It took me a total of 15 minutes to consume this snack. The instant noodles were a little too spicy to my taste, but good as it helped me to settle in further into the red-eye flight to Seoul (Incheon).

As soon as I finished my Korean noodles, the stewardess collected my soup bowl. By this time, the whole Prestige Sleeper cabin was dimmed to allow the passengers to get some shut-eye. I then decided to get some sleep as I was feeling rather tired.

The Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin during the in-flight supper service

A nice, light plate of two sticks of chicken satay on my dining table

My usual glass of orange juice on my dining table

The Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin shortly before the cabin lights were dimmed to allow the passengers to get some sleep during the flight

My nice, warm bowl of Korean instant noodles on my dining table

The Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin shortly after the cabin lights were dimmed to allow the passengers to get some sleep during the flight

Part 3 ~ The Arrival Into Seoul (Incheon)


After getting approximately 2 hours 15 minutes of sleep and in accordance with the Japan & Korea Local Time, I woke up at around 6.45 a.m., only to be greeted by the first sights of the beautiful sunrise over the Taiwan Strait. Both Japan and South Korea are one hour ahead of Singapore, so it was 5.45 a.m., according to the Singapore Local Time Zone. As soon as I woke up, I took a picture of the lovely sunrise from the plane.


By seven o' clock, most of the passengers were slowly beginning to wake up as the cabin lights started to come on. The flight attendant came up to me and asked me what I wanted for breakfast. I ordered the mushroom and tomato fritatta served with grilled bacon and vegetables. Within minutes, she brought me my main course on a tray, complemented with glasses of orange juice and water. My mushroom and tomato fritatta tasted nice, and it was a filling breakfast.


As soon as I finished my main course, the flight attendant promptly collected my used breakfast tray. I then took a shot of the sun completely rising over the Taiwan Strait after visiting the lavatory and doing my own personal stuff
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The first sight of the beautiful sunrise over the Taiwan Strait

The rear view of the Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin shortly after most of the passengers woke up and before the in-flight breakfast service commenced

The flight route indication map indicating our cruising altitude over the Taiwan Strait

My main breakfast course: Mushroom and tomato fritatta served with grilled bacon and vegetables

The Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin view from my seat during the in-flight breakfast service

The morning sun shining brightly over the Taiwan Strait

Singapore Airlines Boeing 777-212/ER Herpa Scale 1:500 (506380)

Singapore Airlines Boeing 747-412 Herpa Scale 1:500 (500852) ~ Singapore Airlines In-flight Exclusive Version

Reviewing the in-flight duty-free magazine

The flight route indication map indicating our cruising altitude somewhere between the Taiwan Strait and South Korea

Flying somewhere between the Taiwan Strait and South Korea

The Korean Air Boeing 777-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin view from my seat shortly before the seatbelt sign was illuminated for landing in Incheon International Airport

In accordance with the Japan & Korea Local Time, the seatbelt sign was illuminated at 8.20 a.m., 10 minutes before landing in Incheon International Airport. Knowing that we were about to arrive in Seoul very soon, we packed up all our carry-on baggage and stowed them away in preparation for landing in Incheon International Airport. After a long overnight flight of 5 hours 50 minutes over the South China Sea from the Republic of Singapore, we finally touched down Incheon International Airport at 8.30 a.m., five minutes ahead of schedule.

Incheon International Airport is the main airport serving the Seoul metropolitan area. It is the busiest and largest airport in South Korea. It opened for business on March 29, 2001, to relieve overcrowding at the older Gimpo International Airport, which now serves domestic and limited international flights. The airport has now taken over the role of many international flights to and from the country. It also serves as the main hub for South Korea's two largest airlines, Asiana Airlines and Korean Air
.

Flying somewhere over the Korea Strait between Taiwan and South Korea

Cruising over a blanket of clouds as we begin our approach to Incheon International Airport

Flying somewhere over the strait between mainland South Korea and Incheon International Airport, with the Incheon Bridge in the background

Korean Air Flight 642 ~ Landing in Incheon International Airport

An Asiana Airlines Boeing 777-28E/ER, registered HL7775, about to be towed to the Main Terminal on the tarmac

The view of Terminal A as we make our way towards the Main Terminal

A Garuda Indonesia Airbus A330-243 and a Malaysia Airlines Airbus A330-322 resting at Terminal A

Parking beside a Korean Air Boeing 737-8B5 aircraft at the Main Terminal

A view of my seat, 8J, after the long overnight flight time of 5 hours 50 minutes from the Republic of Singapore

One more look at HL7534 resting at Gate No. 14 after arriving from her long overnight journey from the Republic of Singapore as Korean Air flight KE 642

After a short 10-minute taxi along the tarmac of Incheon International Airport, we finally docked on to our arrival gate, Gate No. 14, at 8.40 a.m.. Once the seatbelt signs were turned off, we took out all our carry-on baggage from the stowage areas and checked our seats to ensure that we did not leave anything behind on board.

As we exited the aircraft, the flight attendants bade us farewell, and wished us a pleasant connecting journey towards Hokkaido, Japan. We then headed out towards the transit security checkpoint for our connecting flight to Sapporo (Chitose).

After each flight sector, I will grade the airline. The scores are classified under separate sections, which are the seat, food, service, aircraft cleanliness, and legroom space. Each of these five sections are worth 20 points, totalling up to a total score of 100 points.


An airline would need to obtain at least a 'D' grade in order to be eligible for a passing grade, which means that 'D' would be the minimum pass grade. The grading system for each airline and sector are as follows:


A+: 85% or above (Airline has an excellent rating and performance)

A: 75% ~ 84% (Airline has a good rating and performance)
B: 60% ~ 74% (Airline has a good rating and performance)
C: 50% ~ 59% (Airline has an adequate rating and performance)
D: 40% ~ 49% (Airline has a fair rating and performance)
E: 20% ~ 39% (Airline has a poor rating and performance)
U: Below 20% (Airline has not met the requirement for the minimum grade)

Korean Air Flight 642 Score Report


Seat: 19 / 20

Food: 16 / 20
Service: 17 / 20
Aircraft cleanliness: 17 / 20
Legroom space: 18 / 20
Total: 87 / 100

In total, Korean Air scored 87% on this sector, which means they receive an 'A+' grade, the highest airline grade I can ever award. It was a nice flight with them between Singapore and Seoul (Incheon) and it was difficult to fault them on this sector.


Part 4 ~ The Flight to Sapporo (Chitose) and Arrival into Hokkaido


After disembarking from Korean Air flight KE 642 from Singapore, we walked along the passageway towards the arrivals and transit security area. We knew that we had exactly 1 hour 30 minutes before our next flight, which was Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose).


After having a brief restroom break in the passageway towards the arrivals and transit area, we went to the transit security checkpoint area. The transit security check was relatively quick, and we were on the airside concourse by nine o' clock in the morning. I managed to check which gate Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose) would depart from.


According to the departure information board in the airside, Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose) would depart at 10.10 a.m. from Gate No. 6. We had about an hour of layover at Incheon before our next flight to Sapporo (Chitose).

The passageways leading to the immigrations area and the transit security checkpoints in Incheon International Airport

The main transiting area in the Main Terminal of Incheon International Airport

The massive departure flight information board in the Main Terminal of Incheon International Airport

Passing by a lineup of duty-free shops in the Main Terminal of Incheon International Airport

The departure information screen indicating that Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose) would depart from Gate No. 6

The information screens for the international transiting flights in the Main Terminal of Incheon International Airport

Airline: Korean Air
Flight No.: KE 765
From: Seoul, Incheon International Airport (ICN / RKSI), Seoul, South Korea
To: Sapporo, New Chitose Airport (CTS / RJCC), Chitose, Hokkaido, Japan
Aircraft: Airbus A330-322
Registration No.: HL7524
Class: Prestige Class (Business Class)
Seat No.: 8H
Date: Thursday, 8 December 2011

After purchasing some duty-free items from a duty-free shop and fastfood items, the clock was finally showing 9.35 a.m.. Knowing that boarding for Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose) would commence in five minutes' time, we quickly finished our shopping and headed over to Gate No. 6 for our connecting flight.


Soon enough, we arrived at Gate No. 6 at 9.40 a.m., only to find that boarding for Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose) had already commenced. The First & Business Class passengers, as well as the SKYPASS members and the passengers requiring special assistance were called to board the aircraft first.


Today, Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose) would be operated using an Airbus A330-300, registered HL7524 and powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW4168 engines. HL7524 was delivered brand new to Korean Air on 19 June 1998 as the third Airbus A330, as well as the -300 series for the airline. The aircraft was originally registered HL7552 on delivery to Korean Air, but was re-registered to its current registration number on 24 January 1999. Overall, the delivery makes the aircraft approximately 13.5 years old today.


As soon as we had our boarding passes examined during the boarding process, we walked along the jet bridge and were finally on board HL7524 at 9.50 a.m., which was in good time for a 10.10 a.m. departure. At the door, two cheery flight attendants warmly welcomed us on board and showed us the direction to our seats. I was to be seated in Seat No. 8H for the regional journey time of 2 hours 30 minutes towards Sapporo (Chitose).


Again, the Prestige Class seats we were using were the new Prestige Sleeper Seats, which can recline to a full 180-degree position. From 2009, these new Prestige Sleeper seats were fitted on most of Korean Air's wide-body aircraft following the delivery of the airline's new Boeing 777-300/ERs.


As usual, the flight stewardess then distributed the food and beverage menus and served the pre-departure beverages. I ordered a couple of glasses of water for myself and my brother, whereas my parents ordered a Baileys Irish Cream liquor for me. A Boeing 777-2B5/ER aircraft, registered HL7752, was parked beside us at Gate No. 7. It was decorated in the special "New horizons of Korea" livery in celebration of the Pyeongchang 2018 Olympic Games
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Walking on the travelator towards Gate No. 6 for Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose)

The information screen at Gate No. 6 indicating that boarding for Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose) has already commenced

Our aircraft for today, HL7524, receiving its last minute servicing at Gate No. 6 for her regional journey over the Sea of Japan towards Hokkaido, Japan as Korean Air flight KE 765 bound for Sapporo (Chitose)

A Korean Air Boeing 777-2B5/ER, registered HL7752, parked at Gate No. 7 at the Main Terminal just adjacent to us

The cover page for the food and beverage menu for the sector between Seoul (Incheon) and Sapporo (Chitose)

The 'no smoking' and 'fasten seat belt' signs found on older generations of Airbus A320s, Airbus A330s and Airbus A340s

Reviewing the food and beverage menu for the sector between Seoul (Incheon) and Sapporo (Chitose)

The package containing the front seat contents on my tray table

My usual pre-departure glass of water on my centre armrest

The Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin during the boarding process in Seoul (Incheon)

A pair of Prestige Sleeper seats on Korean Air's fleet of Airbus A330-300s

The Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin shortly before the boarding process was completed

My front seat video screen shortly before the boarding process was completed

The tarmac view of Incheon International Airport shortly before the boarding process was completed

A nice glass of Baileys Irish Cream, specially ordered for me by my mum

At exactly 10.10 a.m., all the aircraft doors were closed and we finally pushed back from Gate No. 6, just as scheduled. As the safety demonstration video was shown on the video screens just, we began to make our taxi to our assigned runway for take-off. I also spotted a Korean Air Airbus A380 aircraft during the taxi to the runway.


After approximately 20 minutes of taxiing towards our assigned runway, the two Pratt & Whitney PW4168 engines spooled to life, and we finally lifted off from Incheon International Airport at 10.30 a.m.. 
We then climbed into the bright winter morning sky for a short regional flight time of just two hours over the Sea of Japan towards the urban city of Sapporo in Hokkaido, Japan.

The safety briefing demonstration video being shown as we commence our pushback from Gate No. 6

The Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin during taxi to the runway for take-off

A Korean Air Boeing 747-4B5(BCF) aircraft taxiing along the tarmac towards its assigned runway for take-off

A Korean Air Boeing 747-4B5 taxiing along the tarmac towards its assigned runway for take-off

The view of the Main Terminal at Incheon International Airport as we taxi towards our assigned runway for take-off

A Korean Air Boeing 777-3B5/ER standing on the tarmac ready for departure shortly after being pushed back from the Main Terminal

A Korean Air Airbus A380-861 standing on the tarmac ready for departure shortly after being pushed back from the Main Terminal

The safety information brochure for Korean Air's fleet of Airbus A330-300s

Approaching our assigned runway in preparation for take-off

Korean Air Flight 765 ~ Take-off from Incheon International Airport

The view of the Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin shortly after taking off from Incheon International Airport

The 'no smoking' and 'fasten seat belt' signs illuminated shortly after taking off from Incheon International Airport

The seatbelt sign was turned off at 10.40 a.m., just 10 minutes after lifting off from Incheon International Airport. I then walked around to take my usual cabin shots, and visited the lavatory, before doing anything else for the rest of the journey. After paying a visit to the lavatory, the in-flight brunch service commenced at around 10.45 a.m., 15 minutes into the flight. I ordered a glass of orange juice for myself. The flight attendant then asked me what I wanted to eat for breakfast. I ordered the chive omelet with tomato coulis served with roasted potato and vegetables.

Within 10 minutes, she arrived at my dining table with my main course on my meal tray. It was a rather filling brunch meal for such a short regional flight like this. Unfortunately, my brother was too full to eat his main course, so he gave it to me to finish it off. 
As soon as I finished my main course, the stewardess promptly collected my brunch tray, and I did my usual snapping of pictures. I also had a cup of black tea with milk and some seasonal fresh fruits. We were flying over the Sea of Japan by the time my cup of tea was served.

A view of my seat, 8H, during the flight between Seoul (Incheon) and Sapporo (Chitose)

The Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin shortly before the in-flight brunch service commenced

The name plate of HL7524 near the entrance to the cockpit

An indication plate in the lavatory that indicates that smoking is prohibited in the cabin at all times

My usual glass of orange juice resting on my centre armrest

My main brunch course: Chive omelet with tomato coulis served with roasted potatoes and vegetables

A cup of black tea with milk for myself resting on my dining table

The Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin shortly during the in-flight brunch service

A small plate of seasonal fresh fruits resting on my centre armrest

The flight route indication map indicating our cruising altitude over Aomori Prefecture

The Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Prestige Sleeper cabin dimmed to allow the passengers to have a little rest

Flying somewhere over the Sea of Japan between Niigata and Hokkaido

The flight route indication map showing our cruising altitude somewhere over the Tsugaru Strait

The seatbelt sign was turned on at 12.20 p.m., 10 minutes before landing in New Chitose Airport. Knowing that we were about to arrive in Sapporo very soon, we packed up all our carry-on baggage and fastened our seat belts in preparation for landing. After a short regional flight time of two hours over the Sea of Japan from the South Korean capital city of Seoul, we finally touched down in New Chitose Airport at 12.30 p.m., 10 minutes ahead of schedule. It was then we were welcomed by the landscapes covered in snow, which indicated our arrival in Hokkaido soil.

New Chitose Airport is an airport located in the city of Chitose, near Tomakomai, in Hokkaido, Japan, serving the Sapporo metropolitan area. It is the main airport serving Hokkaido, Japan. Many locals and foreigners arrive via this airport when visiting Hokkaido. It usually caters to domestic flights. However, it also serves limited international flights to and from Guam, Hong Kong, Mainland China, Russia, South Korea, and Taiwan.


On March 26, 2010, a new international flight terminal opened for service to help facilitate the airport's international flight traffic. Prior to this, there was a sterile area for international flights in the main terminal building.


The best time to visit Hokkaido would usually be between late November and mid-April (particularly December), during the winter season. This is because the winter season is popular in Hokkaido among both locals and foreigners. Sunshine during the winter season (especially in Japan) can also be quite brief. For example, in Japan, the sun rises at around seven o'clock in the morning, and sets at around four or five o' clock in the evening. This means that by either of these timings, it is already dark, which is nightfall.

Hokkaido is one of the islands located in northern Japan. It is the second-largest island in Japan, after Honshu. With a total area of 83,453.57 square kilometers, it is also the largest prefecture in Japan by land area. The prefectural capital of Hokkaido is Sapporo, which is also the only city designated by government ordinance in Hokkaido.

The 'no smoking' and fasten seatbelt' signs illuminated before landing in New Chitose Airport

Cruising over the Tsugaru Strait as we begin our descent into New Chitose Airport

The Korean Air Airbus A330-300 Prestige Class cabin during the descent into New Chitose Airport

A beautiful view of the Sea of Japan as the aircraft makes its descent into New Chitose Airport

Flying past the city of Muroran as we descend into New Chitose Airport

Korean Air Flight 765 ~ Landing in New Chitose Airport

Taxiing past an All Nippon Airways Boeing 747-481D aircraft resting on the tarmac. Notice the absence of the winglets, which makes the aircraft look more like a Boeing 747-300 aircraft. Sadly, this may be a sight no more for All Nippon Airways after the airline retires its remaining Boeing 747s by mid-2014

An All Nippon Airways Boeing 767-381 aircraft taxiing along the tarmac at New Chitose Airport

After taxiing along the relatively snowy tarmac of New Chitose Airport for approximately 10 minutes towards the International Terminal, we finally docked on to our arrival gate, Gate No. 65, at 12.40 p.m., right on schedule. As soon as the seatbelt signs were switched off, we immediately unbuckled and took all our carry-on baggage before disembarking the aircraft.

As we disembarked the aircraft, the flight attendants thanked us for choosing Korean Air, and wished us a pleasant, winter vacation in Hokkaido, Japan.


Korean Air Flight 765 Score Report

Seat: 19 / 20
Food: 15 / 20
Service: 17 / 20
Aircraft cleanliness: 17 / 20
Legroom space: 18 / 20
Total: 86 / 100

In total, Korean Air scored 86% on this sector, which also means another high quality 'A+' grade for them. It was another good flight with them between Seoul (Incheon) and Sapporo (Chitose), and it was again difficult to fault them on this sector.


Part 5 ~ The Driving Journey to the Grand Park Hotel Otaru


After we disembarked from Korean Air flight KE 765 from Seoul (Incheon) at Gate No. 65, we walked along the passageway that led to the immigrations and arrival area. The immigration process took approximately 10 minutes, which was quick, though there were lots of vacationers whom had come to Hokkaido mostly for their winter season holidays.


After clearing the immigrations area and claimed all of our check-in baggage, I managed to snap some pictures of the arrival lobby with my camera. On March 26, 2010, the new International Flight Terminal at New Chitose Airport opened for business to ease crowding in the main domestic terminal. Prior to this, there was a sterile area in the domestic terminal, which catered to limited international flights.

After clearing the immigration process and claiming our baggage, we purchased some beverages from a nearby convenience store in the international arrivals area. After that, we boarded a bus bound for the Toyota Rent-a-Car Area located near the airport. Upon arrival at the Toyota Rent-a-Car Station, we showed our international driving licence to the owner of the area.

She then showed us a smart, four-wheeled drive Toyota Car. Knowing that we were satisfied, we chose the car. After we rented the car, we drove to a nearby cafeteria near the airport to have tea. I forgot what the name of the cafeteria is, but it was a nice one. At the cafeteria, we ate several things like potato wedges, fried octopus, and I had a mini Butadon set with soba. By the time I finished, I was so full that I could hardly finish the soba. To tell the truth, I am not quite a big fan of soba myself. My brother likes to have the potato wedges spread with butter.

Walking along the passageway towards the immigrations area in the International Passenger Flight Terminal at New Chitose Airport shortly after disembarkation from Korean Air flight KE 765 from Seoul (Incheon)

One more look at HL7524 resting at Gate No. 65 after arriving from the Republic of Korea (South Korea) as Korean Air flight KE 765 from Seoul (Incheon). She will then head back home to South Korea as Korean Air flight KE 766 bound for Seoul (Incheon) after having a short rest at New Chitose Airport

The international arrivals area with a meeting point by the exit doors in New Chitose Airport

The overall view of the international passenger arrival area of New Chitose Airport

The information centre and rent-a-car area in the first floor of the International Terminal of New Chitose Airport

The curbside located outside the international arrivals area of New Chitose Airport

The interior of the free shuttle bus between New Chitose Airport and the Toyota Rent-a-Car Station Chitose

Finally departing the compound of New Chitose Airport

The exterior view of the International Passenger Flight Terminal at New Chitose Airport

Travelling along the roads of Chitose between New Chitose Airport and the Toyota Rent-a-Car Station

Our rented white Toyota car, which we will be using for our next two weeks of winter vacation in Hokkaido

The interior of the Toyota Rent-a-Car Station near New Chitose Airport

The logo of the Toyota Rent-a-Car Station near New Chitose Airport

A large heap of snow near the Toyota Rent-a-Car Station near New Chitose Airport

The car parking near the small cafeteria in the city of Chitose near New Chitose Airport

The exterior view of the small cafeteria in the city of Chitose near New Chitose Airport

My mum and younger brother posing for a picture in the small cafeteria in the city of Chitose near New Chitose Airport

The interior of the small cafeteria in the city of Chitose near New Chitose Airport

A platter of potato wedges served with butter

A small platter of fried octopus (Japanese: タコ唐揚げ)

My mini Butadon and soba soup set

A soba and rice set for my mum

A bowl of tempura soba for my younger brother

A large bowl of soba for my dad

The exterior view of the small cafeteria in the city of Chitose near New Chitose Airport just before we left for the Grand Park Hotel Otaru

After finishing our meals, we paid the bill and drove up all the way to the Grand Park Hotel Otaru. It took us about an hour during the drive between the city of Chitose and the Grand Park Hotel Otaru.

Otaru is a suburban port city located along the coast of the Sea of Japan in Hokkaido. It is about 25 kilometers from Sapporo, and thus it is a very important fishing port for Sapporo. The sun was starting to set by the time we were halfway between Chitose and Otaru
.

The sun starts to set along the way between Chitose and Otaru

The Grand Park Hotel Otaru as seen from Sapporo-Otaru highway. Please excuse me for the unclear photograph

As soon as we reached the Grand Park Hotel Otaru, a hotel staff came to assist us with our bulky baggage. We then headed to the hotel check-in counter to check into our rooms, while my dad went to park the car. Prior to January 1, 2009, the Grand Park Hotel Otaru was called the Hilton Hotel Otaru.


Having known this hotel since we first stayed here in June 2008, I can safely admit that the Grand Park Hotel Otaru is my most favourite hotel in Hokkaido, Japan to stay in. We always have rooms facing the Sea of Japan whenever we stay here, since the view of the Sea of Japan is very beautiful. Also, there is a large shopping mall called Wing Bay Otaru located just below the hotel.

After getting our room keys at the hotel reception counter, we were assigned to our room numbers 1301 and 1302 respectively, which were connecting rooms. It was a nice room as we could see the scenery of the Sea of Japan from it
.

The Christmas Tree in the hotel lobby

The marble staircase in the grand entrance hall of the Grand Park Hotel Otaru

A view of our room, Room No. 1302 on our first evening

A beautiful and scenic view of the Sea of Japan from our hotel room

After my parents went down to buy groceries, we had dinner in the hotel room. As soon as I finished dinner, I had a nice, hot shower and changed into my pyjamas. I went to bed as early as between nine and ten o' clock that night, since I was feeling exhausted from our long journey from home to Hokkaido via Seoul.


This officially brings the first section of my recent winter vacation in Hokkaido, Japan in December 2011. I will explain the rest of the parts in separate posts. Questions and / or comments will be more than welcome. Thank you very much for your attention! There shall be much more interesting things you will see in the upcoming sections.

4 comments:

  1. Great blog! its a good habit to record your trips down, I wish I had the patience to sit down and journal out all my photos and experiences!

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  2. May I know when u reached Hokkaido , any snow?
    I'm GG this yr mid dec - hope it starts snowing already.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, it was relatively snowy by the time I landed in New Chitose Airport. Ah! Since you're going there at the end of the year, that's the best time to travel to Hokkaido - between late November and mid-March.

      Snow should start to fall around late November to early December. From my mum, I heard that there is a snow festival in Hokkaido in either January or February.

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