Yesterday was quite a day. I had a great tour of the DMZ--which is a story in itself and will be the subject of a couple upcoming posts--but was faced with a quandary: the tour ended at 17:30 and I had a 18:10 flight on Air China to Beijing.
Asiana and Air China run multiple flights per day from Seoul to Beijng, but none after 18:10 from either Incheon or Gimpo. There was a 19:00 flight on Korean Air, but it was nearly $500 and that would have cut it close as well. I was also at the mercy of available award space, though I bought a full-fare ticket on Asiana to get me from Incheon to Seoul this morning had I missed the Air China flight the previous evening.
I looked into taking a taxi from the DMZ to Incheon--I was warned by my tour company that we would not leave the DMZ area until 16:30 and it would take an hour to get to the airport (and cost about 100,000KRW or ~$100). The check-in cut-off was at 17:10, so that would be too late unless I could check-in early.
Not possible, I'm afraid.
I stopped by the Air China ticketing office the night before and pleaded for my boarding pass. No way to issue it, I was told. With my tour bus leaving central Seoul at 08:00, I even chanced the whole reason for my visit to Seoul by hanging out at Incheon until 06:45 to try to collect my boarding pass when Air China check-in opened. But even that did not work--the agent and her supervisor stated that check-in for my flight did not begin until 15:50 and there was no possible way they could issue my boarding pass early.
Dejected, I took my bags on the tour anyway, but figured I would have to pay the high-price for the full-fare one-way the following morning. Air China offers online check-in in certain countries, but not South Korea.
Turns out the Dora Observatory was closed, so the DMZ tour concluded around 15:40. Suddenly, it looked like I had a chance to make the flight. Rather than riding on the bus back into Seoul, the tour guide arranged a taxi for me at the DMZ to take me to Incheon. To put icing on the cake, there were another two passengers--a father and son flying to Dallas--who also had to get to Incheon and when they heard I was going, offered to split the cab ride.
The ride took about 50 minutes, there was no traffic, and we pulled into Incehon Airport at 16:30. I even had time for a visit to the Korean Air lounge! The fare came out to be 74,000KRW, but in my haste to get out (even though I knew I had plenty of time), I overpaid by more than 20,000KRW. Oh well...
So I made flight, and it was a good flight--my first flight on Air China and the subject of an upcoming segment of my trip report.
The moral of the story: don't take online or early check-in for granted. I could not believe how hard it was to check in for my trip and nearly missed my flight. I'm in Beijing now in Air China's First Class lounge getting ready to board Lufthansa's A380 for Frankfurt--Germany awaits!