Marketman’s Note: Below is an account of my daughter’s recent experience (the third one on the same carrier) on Korean Airlines. She was intent on getting to Washington in order to attend a thesis presentation the following day on her topic in Physics. Hence having to get to Washington within a day of the original arrival date. She writes with restraint, and hasn’t fallen far from the tree, but what she really wants to get across is that Korean Airlines Manila based staff clearly lied about their ability to make a connecting flight AND lied about their ability to transfer them to alternative flights through Incheon or Hong Kong or Taiwan. And ultimately, lied to make life easier for Korean Air, and less easy for the passengers. If you read this and have had a similar experience, please tag or forward this post to other Philippine based travelers who might use Korean Airlines to the United States and elsewhere. The only passenger option is to refrain from using their services. If I was in a nasty mood, I would have the two representatives in Manila who assured our daughter that she WOULD make the connection and they WOULD HOLD the Dulles flight identified and a case filed against them, along with the airline, if only to hold them directly accountable for what they said. Many years ago, I recall a passenger case against an American airline (for a passenger that was offloaded in favor of a caucasian) out of Manila where the judge agreed to allow the foreclosure and holding of a 747 until the award in the case was paid. Sheriffs served the garnishment while the plane was loading passengers and the airline was faced with the temporary loss of a $200+ million aircraft. Needless to say, the airline managed to pay the damages to the Filipino passenger with 24 hours. Funny how leverage is well, LEVERAGE. The problem with horrible airline service stems from the fact that most have quasi-monopolies on routes and there is no REAL competition, rather less convenient options and you just have to put up with shitty service, or so they think.
The account below was sent to Korean Airlines after post-flight talks resulted in NO ACTION on Korean Airlines part to make up for the inconvenience, additional time, change to different airline that was necessary to get our daughter back to Washington 11 hours after schedule and a day before most other passengers on the same original flight ever made it back home.
On January 8, 2018, Korean Airlines flight KE624 was set to depart from Manila at 11:45 PM. However, due to weather and airport runway closures, the departure time was delayed until 5:30AM the following day. I had a connecting flight out of Incheon to Dulles the following morning, January 9, 2018 at 10:15 AM, local Korean time.
Once I had learned the flight from Manila would be delayed, I explicitly asked the Korean Airlines check-in agent whether or not I would be able to make my flight. He confidently said “yes, you will have one hour and 15 minutes to make your connection.”
While waiting at the airport, I looked up the new arrival times and found that instead of the “one hour and 15 minutes” the agent insisted I had to make my connection, I in fact had 15 minutes to make my next flight. I was going to miss my connection.
I went to the boarding gate, and asked the NAIA representatives if someone from Korean Airlines would be arriving soon (Korean had a flight arriving within a couple of hours at the same gate). The NAIA representatives said someone from Korean Airlines would be there for the arrival of their next flight, but were not able to give a definitive time for their arrival at the gate. I again requested for a representative to meet me to discuss my connection situation. The NAIA representatives made a phone call and told me someone was on their way.
I waited at the gate for half an hour before following up with the representative I had originally spoken to, and he said someone will probably come to the gate when the flight would arrive (at this point, the flight was not set to arrive for around another hour). I insisted this could not wait, as there was a flight on a different carrier leaving for Incheon soon, and if I needed to switch my flights, I might have time to do that. The gate representatives made a follow up call, and said someone would be coming shortly. I waited another 20 minutes before following up on the location of the representative. Finally, the Korean Airlines representative arrived at the gate another 10 minutes later—an hour after I had made my initial request.
I spoke to the representative about my connecting flight, and again, she insisted I would be able to make it. I was not the only one with this same connection in Incheon, at least 20 other people would be on the same flight from Incheon to Dulles. I asked about Korean Airlines’ contingency plan if we were to miss our connection. She said that Korean Airlines offered to hold the airplane to Dulles for us, and we would be escorted to make our connection. However, she said they could only hold the plane for 15 minutes—theoretically giving us half an hour to make it to the gate. This was all resting on the assumption that we left Manila at 5:30AM at the latest. With my experience flying out of Manila, I knew this would be unlikely. I then asked if there was a way she could rebook me onto a different flight to ensure I would make it back to DC on the original day I intended to arrive.
Her response was that it was impossible for her to accommodate any such requests, and any further issues would be dealt with in Korea.
As our departure time grew nearer, more people on the same flight were concerned that we wouldn’t make it, again we were told any issues that came up would be fixed in Incheon. We asked if the plane would leave on time, but were then told the crew was running late from their hotel. This would be understandable if the crew had arrived on the flight that came in at 12:30AM that morning, but when I asked the gate agent this question, I was told the crew had been in Manila since the day before. The crew finally arrived at 5AM, and we departed at 6AM.
Once we arrived in Korea, we were grouped together as we exited the plane, but not told whether or not out flight had been held, or what the plan was moving forward. We were then walked, without explanation or communication, directly to the transfers desk. Only once we were lined up at the desk, and after several groups had asked what was going on, were we told that the flight had left and we would need to be rebooked.
Korean Airlines then told everyone that the earliest they could rebook people for would be the same flight on the next day—meaning everyone had to spend a night in Korea. They made no offers to reroute passengers for the same day, saying it was impossible. After around 6 people had agreed to go on the same flight on the next day, everyone else was told they would be booked on a different flight or a later flight, as the plane was full. This means people were being told they would be rerouted, leaving later, and not guaranteed when they would arrive in the US.
Once I had gotten up to the counter, I was told the same thing—that I would need to be booked on a different flight the following day. It was only after I had given the woman at the counter other options that I had found online, that they agreed to book me on flights that left Korea later that afternoon, as far as I know, they did not offer these options to anyone before or after me.
I want to make it clear that I do not blame Korean Airlines for the delay, nor am I complaining about the delay itself. I want to make people aware of how Korean Airlines dealt with the situation, as well as how they treated their customers. After speaking with others who were in line to be rebooked, or waiting at the airport, I found we all were frustrated with the lack of communication offered by Korean Airlines, as well as the way we were treated by representatives of Korean Airlines. All of the information we learned from Korean Airlines regarding the reason for the day, the possible courses of action, and finally the options for rebooking were prompted by passengers—no information or communication was offered freely, as would be expected from an airline experiencing severe delays, with passengers’ connections on the line.
I hope that by sharing this story more people will have an idea of what to expect when flying Korean Airlines. I certainly hope Korean Airlines improves upon these missteps and gaps in communication with its customers in the future. If they do improve, please let me know, because I personally won’t be flying Korean Airlines again.