Seoul: Day 1 Arrival on Korean Air

Travel Period :  30 May – 5 June 2017

7 DAYS 6 NIGHTS IN SEOUL/JEJU ISLAND

PRE-FLIGHT – Safety for Toddler

I had wanted to place Ling on myself like what we did for our 8 hours bus journey to Malaysia Kuala Lumpur last year. However, I became paranoid about safety for toddlers. It’s a red-eye flight for 7 hours! What if I let go of her when I fall asleep? Am I going to baby carry her in my Tula Carrier for so long? There were also thoughts about how uncomfortable we were for both the bus journey and the flight to Phuket, when she sat on our laps and constantly fidget about. I couldn’t have a proper meal in peace because there were no space.

Thus, we quickly called the customer service about safety belts and the costs of booking an extra seat. We found out that they do not provide seat belt extensions for the infant to attach to the mother, unlike our first flight experience with Silk Air. I became even more worried. This way, I would have to hold her very tight during turbulence. I was also concerned that I would have difficulty sleeping with her constantly weighing on me (9.6kg, not so babyish anymore). It is also not very safe to baby carry her as I could crush her with my weight when there’s a huge force.

What were we to do?

We tried asking whether they had car seats for infants? The person took some time to understand what we wanted. Is it unusual for parents to purchase an additional seat for babies below 2 years old, and put them in a car seat? To check this, she asked for Ling’s height and weight as there’s a minimum requirement.

Finally, we got the answer that they do provide car seats and she could help us reserve and hold until we decide to purchase the extra seat on both going and return flight. We were elated! That way, we do not need to lug around another huge piece of luggage and could enjoy more of our South Korea trip. The customer service also helped us change her original ticket which was attached to mine, to a proper seat by herself.

Though we forked out more due to the late payment for the new ticket, we were more assured of the safety of our toddler. One mistake on saving money could very well be a fatal one and I’m not going to scrimp on it!

BEGINNING OUR JOURNEY

Check-in

With excitement, we reached Changi Airport 2 hours before time to board our Korean Air flight (1.10am) to South Korea. There were almost no people at the check-in counters but we stood in front of the “group check-in” for a long time.

Even though they had changed it for us, the staff still had problems connecting Ling’s seat to all of us and my parents’ seats to us. It was because of us buying the tickets at separate times (My parents decided to join in one week later). She was totally confused on our 8-year-old child having a seat by himself and an infant having a seat by herself too.

The lead staff even blocked out the seats behind Ling’s as he felt that the attachment of the seat would hinder the person from watching the entertainment. I do not know how true is that, because they were not blocked out on our return flight on a bigger Korean Air plane and we didn’t hear any complaints from the person behind her.

We managed to eat some supper at the family area before heading to board. I didn’t want to go up too early in case she fussed but maybe I should have, because…

Boarding

We reached our seats with the window seat already installed with the baby car seat. Dar would sit with my parents in front of us. 

I placed Ling on the seat apprehensively, wondering if she would whine. She was alright. When I tried to put on the car seat buckle for her, I realised I didn’t know how to. Thus, I switched with Vin to let him try. He took a while to figure so a flight attendant came over. He decided to let her try buckling Ling since he was not too sure. I immediately voiced a protest saying she might not like strangers but too late. When she finished, that’s when the wailing began! (Ling sometimes have a phobia of unfamiliar people and places)

Ling refused to stay put in her seat and kept crying loudly to be carried. I was frustrated because the plane is about to take off and my reasons as stated above for purchasing an extra seat, was for her to be safe during take-off and landing (usually the most dangerous times).

I wanted her to get used to it a little more and thus, refused to carry her out. However, the flight attendants kept coming to me and saying, “It’s okay, just hold her during the take-off.” I was quite annoyed as it’s definitely not “okay”. Why couldn’t they be more patient to wait a little while longer for her to get use to it? The plane was still circling the very long runway…

I grew increasingly upset and told Vin, “We are all buckled up and prevented from moving during take-off, why is it OK for a baby not to be attached to anything, except in my arms?!!” (They didn’t even have a safety extension belt as I mentioned earlier).

However, seeing that no amount of pacifying her would stop her wails, I had no choice but to carry her out of the seat into my Tula Carrier. I certainly do not want other passengers to give us death stares for a crying toddler in a night flight. We agreed that with her attached to me this way, it is better than her flying off from my arms if anything happens. 

Well, she stopped the moment she came out of the seat and very soon, she fell asleep. The plane took a long time to go around the runway and when it took off violently, I was quite apprehensive. Of course, we were all safe and sound (Or I wouldn’t be writing here) but you may never know…

On the Baby Seat

After a long while of carrying her (about 50 mins) and she seemed to be in a deep sleep, Vin suggested to put her back into the seat. I was worried she would start again but really need to get the heavy load off me. Thus, tentatively and slowly, I placed her onto the seat, so afraid she would wake up. 

This time, I did the buckling myself and found it easy. Why didn’t I just try it just now? Sigh..Anyway, all was good! As they had the lights on to serve refreshments, I placed a nursing cover over the car seat to block out some light. 

I was glad for the “safety” of the car seat as we experienced a few strong turbulences while flying and it was quite shaky. Surprisingly, she didn’t wake up during those times. Nearing morning, she stirred a few times in her sleep and cried a little, so I was woken up by her. I then placed my hand on her to reassure her I’m still around. 

Frankly, the seat wasn’t too comfortable for her as it couldn’t be inclined. They also needed to place a small pillow on the back of the seat, taking up more space or she would feel uncomfortable with the exposed belts tied to the plane seat. There was no such thing for the car seat on our return flight and she had more comfy room for her legs. She had to sleep upright like that with neck craned to one side. I guess I couldn’t complain since it was provided for free. 

Due to this arrangement, I had a few hours of peace, sleeping, enjoying my meals or watching entertainment. She woke up only after our breakfast and sat in it, watching “Moana” while I fed her. We were really glad to have paid for an extra seat for her, even though she was fussy and whiny in the beginning (infants could sit on parent’s lap before 2 years old – She’s 19months old).

SLEEPING on FLIGHT

This flight has made me sworn off red-eye flight for the rest of my life! It was not the first time we took one. We had taken two red-eye flights on on Scoot to Taiwan and Sydney. I thought we could all sleep well like last time. Warm blankets, pillow, an eye mask and ear plugs were provided but still…

The cabin noise was so loud and I’m a light sleeper, easily disturbed by noises. There were also constant beeping announcements throughout the flight (a few informing us of turbulences). I tried putting on ear plugs but it didn’t help much. It was hard to sleep upright as there were barely any space on the small seat to turn ourselves. I noticed my parents and Dar in front of us fidgeting constantly too. Mum complained that they kept announcing things just when she was about to fall asleep. ^_^  Vin couldn’t get a good position for his neck no matter that we brought along comfy neck pillows specially for the trip, so he barely slept too. 

All of us ended up so tired after arrival that it affected our sight-seeing for the rest of the days…tiredness accumulation.

SERVICE

The flight attendants were prompt in their service but I wished they could be more understanding of a crying toddler. Could they let us have a few moments of settling a crying toddler first, before asking about our special food requirements which wouldn’t happen until 5 hours later? They tried to help with suggestions but their appearance caused me more frustrations because Ling really do not want to see them, after she got afraid of one of them. 

FOOD ON KOREAN AIR

We specially requested for special meals online before our flight. 

I was happy they provided gluten-free meal – Main: Egg White, Mushroom and Tomato. Rice Cakes with butter to spread. Fruits such as Watermelon, Honeydew and Papaya. Plain Yogurt. It was not filling though as a breakfast.

My special Gluten-Free Meal

Ling had a baby food meal – Heinz Pureed Foods (Vanilla Custard and a Pear Puree), Fruit Juice, Water

Dar had a kid’s meal – Main: Hot Dog Bun, Muffin, Orange Juice, Fruits

These special meals were always served before the others. This was great because if she was awake, Vin could take care of her while I eat and I could attend to her after eating, so there was no rush to finish our meals before they start clearing.

After seeing how the baby meal was, I regretted that we should have ordered a child’s meal for her. She’s no longer eating soft pureed foods at her age, so pasta and bread would do better to feed her. Fortunately, she didn’t mind me feeding her vanilla custard and some pear puree when she woke up after we all had our breakfast. However, on the return trip, she was fussy again and didn’t like the baby meal at all.

As for Vin, he had a choice of Western, Porridge or Korean Beef. He tried Western but the portions were quite small and not filling enough.

FLIGHT SOUVENIR

A reason why we chose to take Korean Air was because we wanted to experience another airline. Dar loves to collect plane models of every airline he took. This time, he was eager to buy one die-cast model but unfortunately, they do not sell it! What they sold was a constructible plane model kit which I thought looked pretty cute. As there were lots of small parts, we didn’t allow him to take them out to build. Still, he took them out one night in Seoul, wanting to assemble but I discouraged him again. On reaching home, he started building it but discovered there was really an essential button for the wheels missing. Oh well…

The free souvenirs given to both children was a doodle kit. They just had to colour the pages with a water-filled pen. I had yet to tried it out though.

ARRIVAL IN SEOUL

We arrived at around 7.42 am and was excited to start our sight-seeing trip in South Korea! Fortunately, it didn’t take long for us to get through the customs (15-20mins) to meet our taxi driver sent by Roinhome – our stay in Seoul.

But first, Vin asked the driver to wait while he went to purchase our T-money cards at a convenience store in the airport. We would be moving around a lot by public transport for our three days in Seoul.

For more tips on Travelling in Seoul, we had written an entire post on it. Please read “South Korea Seoul: Tips and Experience“.

GOING TO OUR GUESTHOUSE (at Mapo-gu)

We didn’t think too much of luggages when we booked taxis but fortunately, they were all able to fit into the Jumbo taxi we took to the airport in Singapore and the Korean taxi we took to Roinhome. Probably because our parents’ luggages were smaller. We were glad for the comfortable cushioned Jumbo Taxi as the ride took 50 minutes.

The amount of luggage we had for our 7 days 6 nights trip that fit into the 7-seater Jumbo Taxi: a 27″, a 24″. My parents brought along a 22″ and a 20″. Also,a packed Pockit stroller that fits into a backpack and a bag with travel pillow and jackets.

{ Next: Our Welcome Stay at Roinhome Guesthouse