Executive Traveller exclusive
South Korea’s Seoul Incheon International Airport now has a fresh place for travellers on Qantas, Cathay Pacific, American Airways and other Oneworld airlines to rest before their flight.
Welcome to the new Oneworld Seoul Lounge: the first in a long-promised network of Oneworld-branded lounges operated by the alliance.
A second is due to follow in the back half of this year, with more to come after that, as Oneworld levels up to the extensive ‘branded lounge’ network of rivals Star Alliance and SkyTeam.
And Seoul is as good a place as any to start: seven Oneworld airlines fly to Incheon, but to date have relied on a mixed bag of second-rate partner lounges. On that score alone, the Oneworld lounge represents a solid step up.
Oneworld Seoul Lounge: Location
The Oneworld Lounge at Seoul Incheon is located in Terminal 1, which at the time of writing hosts flights by seven Oneworld member airlines.
Near Gate 28, with an entry corridor shared with a Korean Airlines lounge, the most reliable landmarks are the Montblanc store and Starbucks cafe located either side of the entrance.
If you use the central immigration zone at T1 you’ll walk out from the automated passport gates and find the entrance to the lounge almost opposite, just off to the right.
Oneworld Seoul Lounge: Opening hours
Opening hours for the Oneworld Seoul lounge match the departure schedule of its member airlines flying out of T1, and at the time of writing those hours are as follows:
- Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday: 7:30am to 11:45pm
- Monday and Saturday: 4:30am to 11:45pm
Oneworld Seoul Lounge: Access
The Oneworld lounge at Seoul Incheon welcomes the following travellers departing on any flight by a Oneworld member airline:
- first class passengers (and one guest, who must also be also travelling on a Oneworld flight)
- business class passengers
- frequent flyers with Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire status (and one guest, who must also be also travelling on a Oneworld flight)
For quick reference, Oneworld Emerald equates to the Platinum tier of most Oneworld airlines – including Finnair, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways and SriLankan Airlines – along with the likes of BA Gold and Cathay Diamond.
Meanwhile, Oneworld Sapphire status includes the Gold tier of Cathay Pacific, Finnair, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Qatar Airways and SriLankan Airlines, plus BA Silver and others.
Cathay Pacific has confirmed to Executive Traveller that Cathay Silver members (whose status is equivalent to Oneworld Ruby) will also be able to visit the lounge, as will Cathay members using their “mid-tier benefits” of lounge passes.
In addition, Qantas tells Executive Traveller that Qantas Club members “will be eligible for the Oneworld lounge if they are travelling on a Jetstar or Qantas operated flight.”
Oneworld Seoul Lounge: First impressions
Framed by a series of styled archways, the entrance to the Oneworld Lounge at Seoul picks up the pastels of the alliance’s Travel Bright branding; these tones provide pops and highlights elsewhere in the lounge, but thankfully without turning it into a candy-coloured Barbie wonderland.
Passing a grid of luggage lockers to the left, travellers first encounter a U-shaped bar – and that’s far from the worst introduction to any lounge, let alone the start of any trip.
The Oneworld Seoul Lounge itself is quite compact: a thoughtful approach to design by Amsterdam’s D/DOCK studio creates intuitivly different ‘zones’ without using walls, resulting in an open relaxed space with an easy sense of flow.
As such, you can scope out the lounge in a single relaxed loop to take in its key features and find your own place depending on your mood and needs.
The buffet and a small dining room are at one side of the lounge, with toilets and two showers at the far end.
Embracing the social aspect of travel are two semi-circular fixtures: one adjacent to the dining area is fancifully dubbed the ‘tea pavilion’...
... the other is a pair of curved couches facing the raked floor-to-ceiling widows with a view over the aircraft gates.
Add a snaking raised bench near the bar, a wide lounge-within-a-lounge just past the entrance and a series of individual chairs dotted all over, and you end up with a variety of seating for 148 travellers.
Although that’s relatively modest compared to most major airport lounges, the Oneworld Seoul Lounge should have no difficulty accomodating passengers due to the flights of Oneworld member airlines from Seoul being evenly spread across the day and night.
That should also give you time to appreciate some of the lounge’s subtle nods to South Korean culture, such as lantern-shaped lights above the semi-circular seating area and an inverted ‘Gat’ hat suspended over the bar.
Note also that this is a silent lounge in which no boarding calls are made, so keep your eyes on the flight screens or better yet your airline’s app.
Oneworld Seoul Lounge: Food and drink
While there’s no special ‘dish of the day’, Oneworld has taken an innovative approach to dining at its Seoul lounge.
Beyond the expected combo of Asian and Western dishes, the buffet will see five rotations throughout the day and evening, with dishes to cater for member airlines flying out across those key times.
Prior to Cathay Pacific flights, for example, there’s a DIY noodle bar – not only a nod to the iconic Noodle Bar of Cathay’s own lounges, but a welcome step up from the seemingly ubiquitous instant noodles of other lounges – while later evenings can see an Arabian influence ahead of the midnight Qatar Airways flight.
During my afternoon visit the buffet included Korean bulgogi, chicken satay sticks (sadly bereft of peanut sauce for the dolloping), roast beef, linguine pesto and spicy mafo tofu, along with smaller sides of sandwiches and salmon tarts.
That said, I’d liked to have seen substantial salads and ‘healthy bowls’ to balance out the meats.
The bar is staffed from 3:30pm with a bartender happy to whip up pretty much any cocktail (including a decent espresso martini) beyond the eight listed on the menu.
But if bubbles are your bag, you’ll have to settle for Spanish sparkling Prospero Brut rather than real Champagne.
The wide range of spirits is headlined by a smooth Hwayo 25º soju, and there’s a small self-pour selection next to the buffet if you want a tipple before the bar opens; otherwise, dive in to the fridge full of soft drinks, juices and beers.
Although Oneworld promises ‘speciality coffee’, this comes from a push-button coffee machine rather than a barista – and while the coffee itself is okay, for a real treat I’d suggest hitting the hot chocolate button.
Oneworld Seoul Lounge: Work & connectivity
Power outlets for charging your travel tech are spread throughout the lounge, all using South Korea’s Euro-style two-pin AC socket (so don’t forget to pack your adaptor) plus a mixture of USB-A and USB-C ports.
As you’d expect from oh-so-switched-on South Korea, speeds on the lounge’s password-protected WiFi network are blisteringly fast: we clocked an average 300Mbps down and 100Mpbs up.
The WiFi network also provides complimentary downloads of thousands of newspapers and magazines from around the world on the PressReader app, so you can stock up on reading for the flight and indeed days and weeks beyond (there’s no limit to how much content you can download, and it’ll stay in your app library until you delete it).
The Oneworld Seoul Lounge makes plenty of allowances for passengers who need to focus on tackling some work before their flight.
The very far end of the lounge has two workstation-style nooks (shown above) and three padded armchairs recessed into the wall (seen below, although you may feel a bit hemmed in).
Closer to the bar are two private ‘Zoom booths’ where you can enjoy privacy behind glass doors...
.. and, tucked away just around the corner, a fully private meeting room for up to five people, which can be booked at the front desk.
Oneworld Seoul Lounge: Summary
This isn’t a fancy, first class flagship lounge, and nor was it ever meant to be.
But with its relaxed, almost playful layout and vibe, the Oneworld Seoul Lounge makes the most of a modest footprint.
Park your bags, grab something to eat and drink, then venture back in to the terminal for some duty-free shopping, return for a pre-flight tipple – on that basis, the Oneworld Seoul Lounge has just about all you could ask for.
The author travelled to Seoul as a guest of Oneworld