I’ve been particularly interested in slice-of-life dramas lately and On the Way to the Airport caught my eye recently. The characters are quite unique but relatable. The story and its relationships are quite complicated but we still have a lot of learn about the character’s backstories and their motives. I realize that the slow pace may not be everyone’s cup of tea but allow me to explain why I’m optimistic about this drama.
Choi Soo Ah (Kim Ha Neul) is a flight attendant who is great at her job. She’s warm and caring, especially towards her daughter, Park Hyo Eun (Kim Hwan Hee). Despite the fact that both Hyo Eun and Soo Ah want to be with each other in Korea, Hyo Eun’s father, Park Jin Seok (Shin Sung Rok) wants his daughter to be worldly as long as she doesn’t end up becoming a flight attendant. That means being educated at a boarding school far from home.
Park Jin Seok is a commercial airline pilot who works for the same company as Soo Ah. He comes from an Air Force background and has strict standards about how to run his family and his plane crew. Known as the Sydney Gentleman, because of his mannerisms and the fact that he flies the route to Sydney, he is looked upon favorably by many of his colleagues. He met Soo Ah when she first started at the company and fell in love with her at first sight. And yet, he’s a firm believer in maintaining his independence.
Though she initially hated the idea of going to boarding school in Kuala Lumpur, Hyo Eun begins to enjoy life there because of her roommate, Annie Seo (Park Seo Yeon). The two hit it off right away and though Soo Ah is sad that she has to live apart from her daughter, she’s happy that she’s found a reliable friend.
She also finds some comfort in the fact that Annie’s dad, Seo Do Woo (Lee Sang Yoon), feels the same way as her.
Seo Do Woo is an architect and married to Kim Hye Won (Jang Hee Jin), a master in traditional crafts. Like Soo Ah, Do Woo has a loving relationship with his daughter. He often shoots scenes of Korea so that Annie would feel less homesick. He also makes an attempt to visit her whenever he gets the chance.
One day, Annie decides that she’s going to fly back home. Hye Won warns her daughter not to come back and in tears, Annie runs off. On her way back home, Soo Ah bumps into Annie, not knowing who she is. Seconds later, the girl is hit by a car and dies.
After getting a call from Hyo Eun, Soo Ah makes an attempt to get the first flight to Malaysia. At the airport, she overhears Do Woo trying to get the same flight there. She doesn’t realize that the man in Annie’s dad. In attempt to not let her emotions get the best of her, Soo Ah decides that she’ll wait for more news and requests that the last seat on the plane be given to the man next to her.
As for Hye Won, upon hearing the news of her daughter’s death, she continues to live her life as if nothing has changed. She also tells Do Woo not to bring her daughter’s ashes or her things back to Korea as she cannot bear the guilt over her daughter’s death.
Later, Soo Ah changes her mind when she catches a glimpse of Annie’s dad crying alone in the room via video chat and takes the next flight there. Upon hearing the upsetting news about Annie, Soo Ah decides that the best thing would be to bring Hyo Eun back home with her despite her husband’s wishes. She then goes to Malaysia to pack all of Hyo Eun’s things and learns that Annie’s things have been left behind. She decides to pack all of Annie’s things as well. On the return flight home, she realizes that one of her passengers is Annie’s dad and the two finally meet in person. Despite his wife’s wishes, he decides to bring Annie’s ashes back home. Not wanting to get too personal in front of all the other passengers, Soo Ah asks if Do Woo could stay behind as she has something to give him.
After they get off the flight, she tells him that she packed some of Annie’s things as she figured he would want to have them. Together, they wait for the package as it has been delayed and coming in on the next flight. As they wait, the two share stories about the girls and they share a connection. Because of the rain, Do Woo offers to drive Soo Ah home as a gesture of gratitude. She notices that he’s placed the backpack, carrying Annie’s ashes on the floor. She picks it up and holds it close to her as if it were her own child. Do Woo is surprised when he arrives with his car but is warmed by it.
Since one of Annie’s favorite places was the Han River, he decides to spread some of her ashes there. It’s important to note that this is an incredibly personal moment. And yet, Do Woo feels more comfortable sharing it with a stranger rather than his own wife. There’s something to be said of the fact that Do Woo understands it enough to let Hye Won have her say.
Meanwhile, a young flight attendant seems to have taken an interest in Jin Seok. The two have spent the night talking and drinking with each other without taking it any further. It appears that the young flight attendant wants to take their relationship to the next level but Jin Seok doesn’t have any interest in doing that but rather looking for a person to talk to that night. Though Jin Seok comes across as a cold person, it does seem like he wasn’t looking for anything more than just a platonic relationship with a colleague. Despite the fact that there wasn’t an intent of having an illicit affair, the optics of the situation don’t make it look that way but we’ll just have to wait and see where this will lead as it doesn’t seem like the young flight attendant is willing to let this go.
On the other hand, the connection that Do Woo and Soo Ah shared seems to be different. The thing that brought these two together seem to be their daughters. However, whether their feelings are platonic or something more remains to be seen. What we do know is that they both feel that they need to hide something from their partners.
And yet, as Do Woo discovers more about this daughter, the person he wants to talk to is Soo Ah. He discovers that Annie had been hiding a secret when she was living in Korea. He thought he was dropping Annie off to see her biological dad but learns that she never met anyone there. Soo Ah tells Do Woo that she must have been waiting for someone just like her own daughter waits for her, hoping that one day the person she’s been waiting for will finally come.
I was quite surprised to learn that Do Woo was not Annie’s biological father. In fact, Hye Won was a single mom when she got married with Do Woo and the couple were the scrutiny of people’s gossip. However, Do Woo never cared about the gossip and treated Annie as if she were his own daughter. In fact, Do Woo’s family also treated Annie as their own as well. I think that’s what so baffling about Hye Won’s behavior. She prefers to tuck her daughter away and is incredibly cold to her, even after her death. Which makes me wonder about Annie’s biological dad and if there was some traumatic event that Hye Won experienced.
The drama is shot and edited quite beautifully with its use of color (or lack of color) to highlight the characters in certain shots. What’s interesting is that the drama doesn’t use these techniques for the moments that are shown in the present but rather when the scene in retrospect. The cinematography for the present day shots is realistic while the cinematography for the shots featuring memories is colored by the emotions of that scene, whether it’s cold or warm.
I’m also intrigued by how Do Woo and Soo Ah’s relationship will evolve and how their respective partners will react. They already feel like what they are doing is wrong but yet, they seem to have more in common than with their respective partners. While I would like to know what initially drew Hye Won and Jin Seok to their partners, I am also interested in how Do Woo and Soo Ah will continue to justify their relationship as their chemistry is palpable.