This article is part of my continuing series highlighting our experiences booking flights and flying on Low Cost Carriers (LCCs) around the world. LCCs are known as such because they target travelers who are especially price-conscious by offering a “no-frills” flying experience that is all about getting from point A to point B. By breaking apart many of the costs included in a traditional airline fare and charging for them a-la-cart, LCCs are able to offer extremely low fares. Their everyday fares are usually less than half the standard airlines, and if you manage to snag one of their promotional fares, sometimes all you will pay is taxes and fees. However, they tend to charge you extra for pretty much everything, so if you are the type that wants to bring three bags, wine and dine while flying and the such, then you’ll find that the “low fare” turn into an expensive flight very quickly.
Eastar Jet (Not Eaststar Jet) is a small LCC based in Seoul that offers cheap tickets on 10-15 different routes, mainly from South Korea to Japan, Taiwan and other popular SE Asian destinations. We discovered Eastar Jet while we were in Seoul, trying to find a cheap flight to get to our next destination, Taipei. Seoul has traditionally been dominated by Korean Air and Asiana, whose fares are on the more expensive end, but over the past few years multiple LCCs have started flying from Seoul to destinations around NE and SE Asia.
One unusual note is that we never actually flew on an Eastar Jet operated flight. The flight we booked (see below for review) ended up being operated by T’way Airlines. The two airlines have a codeshare agreement on their Gimpo-Songshan route, allowing their customers to fly every day, rather than every other day. At the time, T’way didn’t have an English version of their website, while Eaststar was simple enough to navigate in English, so we booked the flight on Eastar. However note that when I recently looked at the prices of the two airlines for the Gimpo-Songshan route, T’way had better prices. So look at both options.
Eastar Jet booking and flight review: Seoul Gimpo to Taipei Songshan (Operated by T’way Airlines)
We had initially set up a flight on Scoot Airways (based in Singapore) which left at 11:30pm. Unfortunately, Scoot moved the flight back a couple of hours to 1:30am, so we would have been up all night by the time we arrived in Taipei around 3am and got to our friends house. Thus we decided to bite the bullet pay Scoot their change fees to refund our ticket, and look for a better option.
Unfortunately, there were no cheap options from the main Seoul airport (Incheon, ICN) to Taipei’s main airport. However, while searching for cheap flights I did notice that both cities have secondary airports (Gimpo in Seoul and Songshan in Taipei). These used to be the cities’ main airports before their new, bigger ones were built, and they happen to be much closer to downtown in each case, so they are actually ideal.
Gimpo in Seoul does a lot of domestic flights and short international flights, and is preferred by the Korean LCCs. As it happened, Eastar Jet had a perfect flight for us leaving Seoul at 11am. Their regular price seems to be about 250,000 Won/person (~$250), but they have lower specials and we were lucky enough to find a day that worked for about $75/person. As with most LCCs, taxes and fees are not shown until you click-through and almost double the cost, so in total we paid $140/each for the three-hour flight.
The Eastar Jet website was not terribly complicated to navigate. Finding English was simple and their route map and booking engine were easy to find. There were different tabs for domestic and international itineraries. When I selected “one-way” for my ticket, a scary looking message popped up with the following notice:
It turns out that you probably don’t need to be very concerned. After selecting OK, they allow you to continue the booking process. I believe they show the message because people with certain passports need to prove that they will be leaving certain destinations such as Taiwan or Japan within their visa period. I was concerned about this, so we actually booked our next ticket out of Taiwan to Hong Kong before going to the airport in case the agents asked for proof, but our check in agent didn’t ask about it at all. My guess is that if you have a US or European Union passport, you are probably fine. Still, I would suggest having a flight out of Taipei if possible, just to be safe.
One nice aspect about Eastar is that unlike a lot of LCCs, they do give you up to 15kg (33lb) of checked luggage for free! If you are carrying more, there are additional charges.
After booking the flight, a confirmation page popped up for printing right away, but it did take almost a day to receive a confirmation email, and it was all in Korean. However, none of this was needed at the airport. We simple gave the desk agent our passports and she pulled up the tickets. One slightly confusing thing when we arrived at the terminal is that there were almost no signs for Eastar Jet. It turned out that the flight was a codeshare with T’way Air, another LCC. The ticket was issued by them and nothing on it indicated Eastar.
Getting to either airport from downtown Seoul was very simple. There are two trains that leave from Seoul Station downtown in the direction of Seoul Incheon Airport. One is an express train that takes you directly from Seoul Station to Incheon with no stops. The other is the local train, which stops in Gimpo, with a couple other stops in-between. The journey to Gimpo takes about 20 minutes, and only costs about $1.50! Once you arrive to Gimpo, be prepared to walk about 300-500m underground in order to get to the international terminal.
As noted earlier, once in the terminal we had to figure out that our flight was actually operated by T’way and check in at their desk. The whole process was extremely simple, as was going through security. The flight itself was comfortable as well, with a reasonable amount of leg room. We were even given a little snack to enjoy on the 3 hour flight, which is extremely unusual on LCCs.
Overall, we enjoyed our experience on this flight. The flight time was much more convenient than Scoot’s, the cost was comparable, and since we flew from and to the older airports in Seoul and Taipei, our travel time to and from the airport to our destination was also shorter.
I’m very curious to hear more about experiences any of you have had on Eastar Jet or T’way Airlines, so please leave your comments below.