Flight number: JQ49
Aircraft Type: Boeing 787-8
Route: Gold Coast to Seoul
Class: Business Class
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Fantastic service and a smooth and easy journey is what I received on the inaugural Gold Coast–Seoul flight on 8 December 2019.
In 2007 Jetstar introduced Australians to Japan, offering a budget-friendly service to Osaka and Tokyo and arguably putting the destination on our maps.
This year Jetstar's trailblazing continues with the launch of the first low-cost flights to connect Australia to South Korea.
It's a key move for the airline, which is not only expanding its international network, but introducing Australia to Seoul and its rich culture and cuisine.
I was lucky enough to be invited by the airline to experience the inaugural flight on 8 December 2019.
After much fanfare including speeches, a K-Pop performance and a celebratory cake, I hopped onto the sold-out flight for a journey of 9 hours and 40 minutes in my seat at the pointy end of the plane.
Here's how it went down.
Flight number: JQ49
Aircraft Type: Boeing 787-8
Route: Gold Coast to Seoul
Class: Business Class
Flights along the Gold Coast–Seoul route depart three times weekly on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. And at 10 hours long you really can make a short trip of it if you prefer.
On Sundays flights depart at 11:35am to arrive in Seoul by 8:15pm the same day. You can then take to the city for three days (Monday to Wednesday) before returning home on the 10:15pm Wednesday flight, which is what I did.
The beauty of the return flight is that it is overnight, getting you back to the Gold Coast by 8:30am. If you're brave you can return back to work that very day.
Alternatively you can make a weekend of it to experience Seoul's nightlife at its best by flying out on Wednesday at 11:35am and spending Thursday to Sunday in Seoul, then flying back on Sunday night.
This is also preferable for sightseers as many attractions close on Monday so it's best to avoid being in the city that day.
Connecting flights run regularly from the Gold Coast to Adelaide, Darwin, Hobart, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and more.
As a guest of Jetstar I didn't personally experience the booking process. However, on our day of travel we were advised that our flight was completely booked out and that 80% of seats for December had already been sold.
This lends me to believe that you should secure your seat a good few months in advance. Perhaps even more so as this route is only bound to become more popular as the warmer months roll in.
If you're eyeing those business class seats, there are 21 in total. Bear in mind that 2 of these are reserved for cabin crew so really there are only 19 per flight to snatch up. At least there were for my flights there and back.
For an idea of cost, economy seats start from $179 each way and business class seats start from $779 each way.
As the Gold Coast isn't a large airport its international terminal is housed in the same building as its domestic terminal. This makes transfers a breeze with minimal walking required.
However, you will have to go through security twice. Once through the main terminal and again into the international section. These follow each other almost immediately.
Returning from Seoul isn't quite as simple. This international hub welcomes thousands of flights daily and therefore the line through security is long and tiresome.
Once through you have to take an airport train to your terminal. It's not complicated but does add around 15 minutes to get to your gate.
Sunday in the day is one of the busiest times at Gold Coast Airport with numerous international flights departing the medium-sized airport. After we checked in we were warned that the club could get packed quite quickly and that proved to be true.
Within minutes of arriving it felt like everyone had lumbered in leaving very little room to yourself.
The lounge itself isn't large - but it does offer a number of seating options including relaxed sofa chairs, a communal bar table and a quiet meeting room.
The service met with demand well and the food was as you'd expect from a Qantas Lounge. It included coffee, a pancake station, toast and some cold pasta dishes.
Something to keep in mind is that the Qantas Club is right outside security and before the international gate entrance. It's discreetly placed and tripped some passengers up who continued on to the international terminal which meant they couldn't experience the Club.
As Qantas doesn't operate services from Seoul there is no lounge on your return trip.
Being the first Seoul flight and a sold-out one at that, boarding was a bit of a mission.
With three overseas flights departing roughly around the same time the international terminal found itself pushed to the brink with passengers. Many, including me, were left standing waiting for the flight to board.
When we did board it was friendly and efficient. As a celebratory bonus all travellers received a Jetstar goodie bag, which included a travel adaptor, a model aeroplane, a beanie to brace ourselves for the cold weather ahead and a Jetstar bag tag.
Boarding for the Seoul–Gold Coast leg was a similar experience. The lines ran long at security and I was afraid I'd be one of the last to board at the gate. This wasn't the case. Instead our flight was delayed an hour.
On the upside there was ample seating available at the gate.
From the moment I stepped onto the plane the cabin crew were there to assist in a friendly manner.
Welcome drinks were served almost immediately and this was followed by the taking of food orders and hot towels to start your flight off right.
The staff's attentiveness is unparalleled and you can specifically see this in the food service which is prompt in delivery and in packing up so you'll never have to be that person waiting to stow their tray table away.
Jetstar is a low-cost airline so its business class isn't in the same league as say Qantas or Qatar Airways, where each passenger enjoys a cocooned space complete with lie-flat bed.
Instead, it's more akin to a premium economy offering. Seats are designed in a 2-3-2 configuration and each faces forward.
Pink mood lighting filled the space during boarding while the windows were tinted blue. These transitioned to dark during the evening to allow the cabin to rest.
As the windows were automatic there was no need to adjust them throughout the flight.
I was in seat 2A which was the middle row window and a very comfortable space indeed. The leather seats were a roomy 48cm wide while seat pitch was 96cm and recline was 23cm. It's definitely a step up from economy and eased me into sleep on the way there and back.
However, the buttons were quite sticky and required a decent amount of force to recline and return the seat forward which was a marked inconvenience.
All seats come with a standard in-built entertainment unit which you can operate either via touchscreen or with a remote attached to the arm of your chair. The buttons here too were a little gummy so using the touchscreen was preferable.
The entertainment on board was fairly standard with a handful of new releases to catch up on. It's not the most comprehensive library but for a 10-hour flight there's enough to keep you entertained from start to finish.
All tables were stowed in the armrest which I personally liked as it meant I could maintain my seat recline during meal service.
If you're able to choose your seat, opt for row 1 at the bulkboard as it offers more generous legroom. Try and avoid seat E as this is a middle seat.
As part of your business class perks you'll receive a blanket, pillow and a comfort pack. Housed in a reusable washbag, this features a comprehensive suite of necessities including a neck pillow, eye mask, socks, toothbrush, toothpaste, pen, lip balm, hand cream, earplugs and wipes.
It's a nice little kit and one that comes in handy long after you've landed.
On your outbound journey, you'll be served a main (comprised of appetiser, main course and dessert) and a light meal. While on your return you'll be served a main and a light meal only.
The main offers a choice of three dishes which are very well rounded to suit a variety of tastes and include one Asian-inspired dish, one Western meal and a vegetarian option.
On both flights I opted for the Asian-inspired dish. For the departing flight I ordered the steamed barramundi with soy and chicken glaze. It was a personal recommendation by our air hostess and was cooked well and very flavoursome.
Appetisers were an aged and sliced prosciutto. Vegetarians can change the prosciutto for a cabbage slaw alternative if needed.
For dessert I opted for the raspberry tart which was absolutely divine.
I chose the chicken croquette as my light meal. This was quite heavy and enough to sustain me though nothing exceptional in terms of taste. However, the dessert was incredible. A rich chocolate and raspberry brownie. Rich being the operative word. It was more mudcake than brownie and I did my utmost to do it justice.
I ordered the beef bulgogi as my main for the return legs. Sadly my impressions of a bulgogi bowl don't translate to an airline meal as all elements were separated horizontally as opposed to being piled on top of one another. Never mind though as the taste was just right and there were ample greens to make me feel that I was doing right by my body.
It came accompanied with a trio of petit fours. Sadly they were disappointing. The sweetcorn rice cake was tough and the macaron hard and cold.
For my light meal I chose the banana pancakes. This was a poor choice. The pancakes were cold and not sizeable, being more like pikelets than pancakes. They were drastically underbalanced by the oversized serving of maple syrup and whipped cream.
Drinks were also in need of some love. I decided to order a cocktail on my return and opted for a standard gin and tonic. The serving size was very underwhelming and was too strong to be enjoyable, requiring me to water it down as I made my way through it.
The on-board menu for Gold Coast to Seoul can be found here.
Jetstar's paving the way for Seoul tourism offering a smooth and well-curated journey at an extremely competitive price.
Its well-timed flights allow travellers to explore and experience Seoul in as little as three days on a flight time of 9 hours and 40 minutes, which is perfect for a good night's rest before hitting the town.
The flight offers both economy and business class seating.
Although its business class reads more like premium economy, the seats are extremely roomy and comfortable, the service is impeccable and the dining, while a little inconsistent, is still a big step up from economy's offerings.
At a starting price of $799 each way, which includes the ability to earn Qantas Frequent Flyer points as well as status credits, it's not too large a price to pay to discover Seoul on a direct flight from Aussie shores.
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EXPIRED: Get more bang for your full-service buck from 1 March 2021.
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