I’ve been to Seoul Airport a total of eight times, this is likely more than the average person on earth. My arrivals are short and sweet almost always making my way through immigration peacefully on to the bus ticket counter, and then on to my final destination. This is the boring part of the airport, generally. However, on departure, it is a wholly different story – this airport is world-class and I have only ever had one better experience (and that marginally so) at Singapore Airport. 

Seoul Airport has an ice rink. Let’s stop right there. My home city didn’t have one, a city of a few million, and then this airport has one! When you add the fact that they have a film theatre, a driving range (a little way off), the typical restaurants, free-to-use massage chairs, and the all important, famous-to-Korea jim jil bang you realise it is a super duper airport. The jim jil bang is quite simply a glorified sauna and spa where you can soak to your heart’s content in jacuzzi type pools of varying temperature. Add in a shower, some other nice things, and you have the perfect recipe for prepping your body for a long haul flight – something I have really wanted over and over again. I’ve showered at Heathrow, at Dubai, and at Singapore Airport but I think the Seoul Airport shower (the free ones this time) were by far the best and that warm water dumping down over your body really soothes and relaxes you pre-flight. You kind of feel like Kolbe beef, actually.

Of course, if that is not enough you can move over to the massage chairs that are free to use (not that common in other airports!) and watch something on the big screen in front of you, one of many. I did this for about 2 minutes before I was bored and wanted to explore more – you only get about four hours maximum in any airport’s “waiting to board” area, and less on the day I almost got bumped up.

On my penultimate time flying out of Seoul Airport I had this gut-feel or God impressed notion I was going to be asked to relinquish my seat and potentially “miss” my flight so that the overbooked flight could depart with no-one upset – a situation that happens often will all the overbooking of flights, it’s a carefully planned statistical game the airlines all play – and so I arrived expecting this. Lo and behold, it happened! Emirates were asking for 6-7 people to stay an extra night in Seoul in exchange for giving up their seat, and flying 24 hours later. I was so, so happy! Worst case scenario: you get about $50 worth of free duty-free shopping and make the flight. Best case scenario: you stay a night in a hotel in Seoul, explore the city, eat tasty treats, bus in to the airport the next day far more refreshed, and then fly out the next day but this time with a free return flight with Emirates to use at any time in the next year! Super-best scenario: you also get bumped up to business-class the next day! Unlikely, but possible…

All this to say it didn’t materialise and so I bought a load of chocolate and cigars in Dubai Airport, but it was worth the risk, I’d say.