Inside the ex-Aeroflot jet connecting Croatia with Korea

Plane Talk: Other airlines have passengers – T’Way has T’Wayers

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 29 May 2024 07:01 BST
Sanctions stop Aeroflot flying anywhere outside Russia except Belarus

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


“The most reasonable price and the most sophisticated service.” By hour 10 of my experience aboard the latest flight to link Europe and Asia, I had concluded that the two were mutually exclusive. I was aboard a 15-year-old ex-Aeroflot Airbus A330, operated by Korean carrier T’Way. This new route is, I believe, the world’s longest budget airline flight, at 11 hours from departure gate in Zagreb to arrivals gate in Seoul.

Yet the 5,200-mile overnight flight between the Croatian and South Korean capitals was undoubtedly the most reasonable price. A British person buying a flight from Croatia to Korea on a French-built, formerly Russian-owned aircraft? I was surprised to be charged in Singapore dollars. But who cares about the precise currency, when it translates as just £234 for the one-way trip?

I imagine that fare will increase: any new route tends to operate at a loss initially, before building the market and raising average prices.

The flight was far from full, which was a blessed relief after a fairly gruelling day getting into position for the intercontinental journey. My day had begun at Birmingham airport at 6.30am, and had included Beauvais along the way. I even had time to visit central Zagreb before the long-haul flight. After that, all I wanted to do was lie down.

So to find an empty row of four seats – the thrifty traveller’s dream trip – guaranteed I would enjoy the flight, by dint of being asleep for at least half of it. Were I to make the same journey on a packed plane, my review would be rather different. Please read it in that context.

First, that unusual name. The airline says: “The ‘t’ in T’way stands for together, today and tomorrow.” Togetherness was demonstrated in the way that we travellers were addressed by the cabin crew.

You’re not a passenger – you’re a “T’Wayer”. Channelling Keir Starmer, the airline asserts: “Change begins with T’Way.”

The philosophy is expanded enigmatically by chief executive Jeong Hong-geun: “T’way Air will be the airline that is loved by our customers without being obsessed with the best and the best airline through the most reasonable price and the most sophisticated service.

“We will grow into a global airline representing Korea, not just an aeroplane company that deceives customers with such products and false promises.”

T’Way had promised me nothing beyond safe transportation and two meals. The delivery of those meals was interesting. Imagine a meal tray from a “normal” airline. Normally a foil-wrapped main course is placed in the middle of an elaborate setting with a starter, dessert, bread roll, and possibly some cheese and condiments...

On T’Way, you only get the foil-wrapped main course. Different, but digestible. And with the instruction: “Inflight meals are not allowed outside the aircraft.” In the absence of films, music and a moving flight map, mealtime was still the most exciting event of the long, dark night.

The one concession to entertainment: an inflight magazine that is all about retail. You could enhance your meal experience in many ways. Fancy a drink? €5 (£4.26) buys a Heineken. But for €15 you get two Heinekens and Peanut Butter Squid (no kowtowing to the no-nuts narrative on other airlines).

I declined the “sleep kit”, comprising neck rest, slippers, ear plugs and eye shades. Neither did I go for the remarkable duty-free offering: selenium and zinc capsules to keep you alive longer, and 200 Marlboro Gold (€21) to kill you off.

Apparently, the cabin crew trolley contained two different brands of 21-year-old whisky plus Ballantine’s 30-year-old Scotch for €340 – substantially more than I had paid for the flight.

I even turned down the wireless calf massager. As a target for ancillary revenue, I was rubbish. In the course of the journey I spoke to almost nobody. But as a novice T’Wayer, I was happy to reach, safely and inexpensively, one of Asia’s most enthralling cities.

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