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United's 777 from San Francisco to Tokyo-Narita in Business Class was a fly-by-night thing. Literally. It was a flight on which we upgraded at the last minute, boarded at the last minute, and everyone onboard slept for the majority of the 11-hour, 15-minute flight.
Since we've already detailed the in-flight meals, we'll keep our impressions of the seats and service quick and dirty:
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"The 'Grilled Shrimp Brochette' looks nice, but then so does the 'Saté Spiced Chicken!'"
No, you are not in a restaurant. You are 38,000 feet above the Pacific Ocean, sitting in Business Class on a United 777, and you've got a printed menu open in your hands. Hard to believe? Hopefully not, because that was us recently after scoring a last-minute paid upgrade.
We've begun by telling you how we got it, now it's on to the experience of the flights themselves. Key to the fun of chilling in biz is enjoying the actual plated meals, instead of a plastic tray of "fish or meat" in economy.
Airplane News / New Routes / 787 / Boeing / Boeing 787 Dreamliner / ANA / Dreamliner / Boeing 787 / Japan Travel / Airplanes / Hong Kong Travel / Frankfurt Travel / HKG / NRT / FRA / PEK / Beijing Travel / → All Tags
DRUMROLL PLEASE! The first destination to get regular, scheduled service on the very first Boeing 787 Dreamliner will be...Okayama, Japan! Why Okayama? Well, the airline with the pleasure of introducing the 787 to the traveling public is Japanese airline ANA, and after a few fun flights to show off the shiny new plane, she'll be put into domestic service between Tokyo-Haneda and Okayama.
Okay so this is literally yesterday's news, but we got a little wrapped up in the East Coast Earthquake drama, so chillax.
Finally, some dates: the very first scheduled flight will happen on November 1, to be immediately followed by the start of Tokyo-Haneda to Hiroshima service on the 787. Want to go international? You've got to wait a tad bit longer, but Tokyo-Haneda to Beijing begins as soon as December, with Tokyo-Haneda to Frankfurt kicking off the long-haul routes in January, 2012.
Here's the official schedule, straight from ANA:
Dangerous Travel / Earthquakes / Tragedies / Japan Travel / NRT / HND / Travel News / Emergencies / Nuclear Energy / NGO / KIX / Airline News / Tsunamis / Lufthansa / → All Tags
In Japan over the last few days, there's been a massive earthquake, tragic tsunamis and even a volcanic explosion, but the news gripping the world is that of their ongoing emergencies at several nuclear plants. Note the word "ongoing," as the other three big events happened and are done with.
It was reported very early this morning that Lufthansa isn't taking the nuclear crisis and release of radioactivity into the atmosphere sitting down (or rather, flying high as normal). The German airline has begun scanning their planes out of Japan for radioactivity, and though nothing above a normal level has been found, Lufthansa is taking precautions by removing the Airbus A380 from Tokyo routes and putting most Lufthansa flight crew up in South Korea rather than Japan.
In addition, the two daily Tokyo-bound Lufthansa flights from Germany will be diverted to other Japanese airports through this upcoming Sunday. Specifically, Lufthansa Flight 714 from Munich will head to Nagoya and Lufthansa Flight 710 from Frankfurt will land at Osaka-Kansai.
Earthquakes / Tragedies / Japan Travel / NRT / HND / SDJ / Travel News / Emergencies / Airports / Airport News / Tsunamis / → All Tags
Last night, or after lunch if you were in Tokyo, a massive 8.9 earthquake hit off the western coast of Japan, causing a rolling of the earth felt though many cities, including Tokyo. The event also produced tsunami waves, which have caused immense destruction in Japan and are currently hitting Hawaii, though no damage has been reported there.
We've glued to our computer, watching tsunami videos as helicopters filmed it live. Watch them here and take a moment to reflect on the fragility of this Earth. We also bet you're on information overload, as are we, so here's what you need to know, straight from the news:
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15-ish hours. That's how long a flight it is on Delta direct from Tokyo-Narita International to New York-JFK, and trust us when we say that you'll feel every one of those hours passing by in the air. So it's all the more important to make the most of your time on the ground before take-off, by eating, finishing up your work, or just plain chillin'. All that is exactly what we recently did at the Delta SkyClub, taking advantage of a Groupon deal where we paid $25 instead of $50 for the Day Pass.
What'd we get for that $25? Well, a glass of green tea and a few finger sandwiches, and the feeling that comes with being part of those who are admitted to the Business Class lounge. And what a feeling that is. Sadly, since the Narita Express train took its damned time getting us to the airport, that feeling lasted a brief 30 minutes until we had to board the plane.
In the meantime, however, here's what we loved and hated about the Delta SkyClub at Tokyo-Narita:
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There is something so delicious about voicing the words, "I'm going to Tokyo." When you mention it to friends, family, co-workers, random people at a deli...Tokyo still holds such an exotic mystique that the idea that you will soon be on the other side of the world, in it, is a thought that generates curiosity from all corners. When this was me, holding the secret that my tickets were booked and I was Tokyo-bound, the days passed seemingly filled with sparkling sakura dancing above my head and yet my biggest (and sweetest) secret was how little I had paid for the roundtrip flights.
I'd lean in closer and lower my voice to tell people this secret, although that barely disguised my excitement.
"Guess how much I paid?" -- I'd ask, practically bursting with the thrill of what I knew would follow.
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Japan and the US have finally gotten around to signing an Open Skies agreement to facilitate air traffic between the two countries. Japan's airlines still have to ink sharing agreements with US alliances - promising another few weeks of highly entertaining back and forth between American/oneworld and Delta/SkyTeam over Japan Airlines - but other than that it looks like we're good to go:
While we realize that this isn't exactly the best week to bring up helicopter travel on account of "The Horror On The Hudson" this last weekend, still we can't deny the cool factor of this story out of Tokyo.
After l'Hélicoptère par Hermès, or the Hermes Helicopter, debuted in late 2007, we were wondering what billionaire's yacht would sport it first. Turns out it won't be the private playtoy of a person at all, since a Tokyo company has purchased the 'copter designed by the French fashion house, with intent to offer flights between the central district of Akasaka and Narita International Airport. Taking the Eurocopter EC 315 will cut the travel time by an hour, and eliminate dealing with any ground traffic.
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Your flight has landed, you've claimed your luggage and now you're trying to get the hell out of the airport. To erase confusion and get your on your way, all week long at Jaunted we will be detailing the various ways to get to and from major airports, and what those modes cost, from cheapest to the big blowout entrance. Got any tips or an airport suggestion? Let us know.
Tokyo's Narita is a tricky airport in terms of airport transportation; there is no one single uber-fast way, and yet the 38-mile commute to the airport can cost an arm and a leg if you don't know what you're doing. Our best advice? Avoid taxis and town cars at all costs; read below to see why.
· Keisei Railway: When in doubt as to the cheapest mode of airport transportation, just follow the locals, and chances are they'll be hopping aboard a Keisei Limited Express, which is a normal commuter train making stops along the route from Narita into town. For a bit of an upgrade and a chance at a reserved seat, the Keisei railway also runs the slightly more expensive Skyliner to Keisei Ueno station.
Total cost: 1000 on the Limited to 2000 on the Skyliner ($10 to $20) per person, each way
Total time: 75 minutes, 60 minutes
You don't have to have any geek cred to know about Japan's advances in technology. It's popularly believed that Japanese consumers get new tech three to five years before we do, making a trip to Tokyo to ogle cell phones feel like a preview of the 2012 Research in Motion CES booth -- only with killer fashions.
Narita International Airport probably doesn't have robots that will carry your luggage or mind-reading software in its cafes. But we think it's pretty forward that Terminal 2 has free wireless access. (Terminals 1 and 3 have Boingo access, which according to our metaphor means they are stuck here in the present with us.)
Hey, if you're reading this in the future, will you write to us and reassure us that more airports will follow Narita's lead?
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Big things are happening in the realm of Japanese air travel. Bloomberg reported just this morning that Tokyo's Haneda airport--which dropped most of its international air traffic after Narita opened in 1978--will have twice as many flights as originally planned after a fourth runway opens in 2010.
As many as 30,000 slots per year will serve Asian cities like Seoul and Hong Kong, while another 30,000 will be allotted primarily for red-eye flights to Europe and other world destinations. Even better? The government is planning a high-speed rail link between Narita and Haneda, also to be completed by 2010, making Tokyo a powerhouse international hub.
Meanwhile, Australian LCC Jetstar is switching up its long-haul flight to and from Osaka: Brisbane is out and the Gold Coast (OOL) is in. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Queensland's largest city just isn't doing it for Japanese tourists:
Strong trade industry support in Japan and Australia led to the change, Jetstar spokesman Simon Westaway said.
"The reason we've done this is very straightforward--it's market driven," he said. "Over 75% of the Japanese customers who fly on this route, their end destination is the Gold Coast."
[Photo of Haneda: kala-pattar]