Our chariot, EY-85748, on the ground at Minsk National Airport. - Photo : Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

Our chariot, EW-85748, on the ground at Minsk National Airport – Photo : Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter

From the [AR]vault: This story was originally published on June 8, 2015.

The Tupelov Tu-154 is a classic airliner that many AvGeeks admire, but unfortunately it will no longer be able to fly with-in continental Europe. I was lucky enough to snag a seat on the last flight, a Tu-154M on Belavia to Minsk (MSQ).

You see, many in Europe were getting upset with the rare Soloviev D-30 engine gracing their passenger airports. The noise and the environmental impact did not make many friends. It is too bad, because it’s not like the 737-800 is replacing the Tu-154M on a one-to-one basis with every airline operating them at a speed comparable to that of light anyway. Why even bother other than to make a point?

My friend, who happens to divide his time between Paris and Minsk, runs an aviation enthusiast tour company and asked if I wanted to join a group to give the Tu-154 a send-off from Europe. I packed my things and ended up in Geneva (GVA) on May 29th, 2015.

Hopefully live streaming content will be easier at 30,000 feet - Photo: AirlineReporter

Hopefully live streaming content will be easier at 30,000 feet – Photo: AirlineReporter

Imagine someone took your iPhone and disabled LTE. Annoying. Then they shut off 4G. Super annoying. Then they took your remaining 3G connection and split it up between you and 160 of your closest friends. Welcome to the complicated world in-flight WiFi.

In-flight WiFi quickly transitioned from a magical new technology that few people had any reason to use, to a near-ubiquitous amenity that passengers demand on every flight. A victim of its own success, in-flight WiFi is now often incredibly expensive and annoyingly slow. How did we get here, and what is being done about it?

Flying time in the Q400

Flying time in the Q400, which is operated by Horizon Air

“Take a trip for only $7!” Not today.

There are many stories out there that will tell you how to travel super cheap. That’s not this story. I am a middle class professional, without a lot of disposable income, so I need to make sure I spend it wisely. I haven’t flown in a while and started to get that itch. You probably know it. Where you feel that you need to be airborne again. I had no trips coming up for AirlineReporter and even if there were, my schedule was tight, so making something work was unlikely. I finally decided to try and set up a weekend trip on my own.

Oh Montana!

Oh Montana!

I was talking to a friend (let’s call her Brittany — turns out to be her name) about wanting to fly and she shared the sentiment. We decided to take a trip, with a few requirements: 1) Somewhere not too far away from Seattle (SEA), to have meaningful time on the ground; 2) Fly on a Bombardier Q400 (she had never flown on one); and 3) Some place where we could wear our cowboy boots (yea, I guess you can wear cowboy boots anywhere, but we wanted to go somewhere it made sense). We were up for the challenge and decided on a great location!

overnight-layover-01

A sunset landing is always a treat, but what about a night at the airport? – Photo: Manu Venkat | AirlineReporter

Even for the most enthusiastic air travel aficionados, the idea of an overnight layover probably sounds awful.

Airports, after all, are an awkward place to spend the night. Hotels by the terminal can be overpriced and uninspiring. Getting into the city isn’t always a realistic option. Transit lounges aren’t always open 24/7, and even if they are, there’s no guarantee that you’ll find a cozy spot to hunker down.

For these reasons and more, overnight layovers are anathema for the business traveler elite. But for flyers looking for dirt-cheap tickets, they are sometimes a necessary evil.

But hey, we AvGeeks are an adventurous bunch, right? I figured there must be at least a tolerable way to make it from sunset to sunrise without leaving the airport. And with summer travel plans that would place me overnight at Tokyo Haneda for not just one night, but three, I had the chance to put that guess to the test.

Could there be such a thing as a good overnight layover? Join me for my three nights at Haneda – each spent very differently – to find out.

Off we go!