The following information was correct on January 6th, 2015.
Update July 2015: it seems that Asiana may not operate STPC on single journeys only. See the Comments below for discussion, with thanks to Jo.
Update December 2016: Please see comments below. STPC may no longer be offered by Asiana on some ticket types.
There seems to be much confusion as to whether it is possible to get a free stopover hotel in Incheon/Seoul, paid for by Asiana Airlines.
Under airline regulations, if you are forced to have an overnight stopover, and there are no earlier available flights, the airline is duty bound to provide accommodation. This is called Stopover Paid by Carrier (STPC). You must request this at the time of booking (you cannot just show up in Seoul).
Customers with Asiana on the LHR-SYD route have somewhat of a problem here. Asiana do not have a European booking service. All bookings must be made via a third party (we used Expedia), who are not necessarily aware of STPC with Asiana and do not, therefore, arrange STPC for you. Asiana's English-language website is pitiful and does not tell you how to arrange STPC either, but why would they? It costs them money.
Here's what we did.
After booking through Expedia, my wife rang every UK-based Asiana Airlines number she could find. The UK Sales Office is 0845 602 9900. This number is busy, understaffed and may take several attempts to get through to. Keep trying! The Sales Office told her that the booking party (Expedia) should have reserved STPC. Nonetheless, they allowed her to reserve our STPC places on that call. They also gave the following information:
- STPC may not be possible on certain dates (there are blackout periods in busy times). We were lucky in that Christmas and New Year is a blackout period, but we arrived 1 or 2 days after the service resumed.
- You will not know what hotel you are going to (indeed, Asiana don't either), until you get to the airport. You will either be somewhere in down-town Seoul or at Incheon airport.
It is important to reiterate that if an overnight stopover becomes necessary because you have opted to extend your stay and to take different flights that are not the first in and out of Incheon, STPC does not apply.
When checking in at your origin airport (in our case SYD; note Asiana do not have online check-in), you must remind the member of staff about STPC. They will confirm your hotel booking.
Proceed through security. Proceed past baggage collection. Once through and in the arrivals hall, turn right and follow the atrium all the way around to Door 14. It is quite literally the last exit of the building.
Next to Door 14 there is an Asiana customer services desk, which looks like this:
If all has been booked as above, all you'll have to do is hand over your boarding pass, and Asiana will take over. We were sent to the Royal Hotel in Myeongdong, Seoul, and really enjoyed our stay. Our general observation was that, while Asiana's technological systems (website/booking system/no online check-in) could be improved, their face-to-face customer service was excellent.