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Trains, Subways, and a Monorail – A Day Exploring Tokyo by Transit

Daunting, isn't it? 40 million passengers a day use the Tokyo transit system. Image: Tokyo Metro

Daunting, isn’t it? 40 million passengers a day use the Tokyo transit system. Image: Tokyo Metro

This is a bit of a different post for us, about something other than just airplanes, airports & airlines. Enjoy!  

It was early Thursday morning on my last day in Tokyo. It had been a whirlwind trip. Sunday and Monday had been taken up on the inaugural All Nippon Airways (ANA) flight from Vancouver (YVR) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND). I spent Tuesday at ANA’s New Employee Ceremony, and then explored HND’s observation decks. On Wednesday morning I was treated to a somewhat manic half-day bus tour of Tokyo. After that, I explored a bit, and went back to my hotel at HND’s Terminal 2 to get some work done, and to recover!

My start and end point - HND's International Terminal.

My start and end point – HND’s International Terminal

But now, I had the whole day to explore the city before returning to Haneda Airport’s International Terminal for my 9:55 pm flight. I had a long list of suggestions of things to see from friends and colleagues. Everyone had said that the best way to explore Tokyo is by transit, and I had my maps ready to go.

The statistics are phenomenal; 40 million passengers use Tokyo’s transit system, every day.  Most commuters travel on Tokyo’s extensive urban railway system, and eight million use the Tokyo Metro (subway) daily. There are over 130 lines and 1,000 stations on the fully-integrated rail system. No surprise, then, that the world’s busiest train station is in Tokyo, at Shinjuku Station, with over three million passengers per day.  The entire system is clean, efficient, inexpensive, and operates exactly on time, all the time.

However, there are a few things that an explorer needs to master before venturing out. Continue reading Trains, Subways, and a Monorail – A Day Exploring Tokyo by Transit

Hello, Goodbye – The Last Boeing 747-400D

ANA - All Nippon AIrways' New Employee Celebration, with ANA's last 747-400D.

ANA – All Nippon Airways’ New Employee Celebration, with ANA’s last 747-400D

In Japan, April 1 is most certainly not April Fools’ Day.

April 1 is actually the start of the financial year for Japanese companies. And along with this fiscal reset, April 1 is the day that groups of recent graduates begin their careers with a new company, a loyal relationship that may very well be life-long. This unique recruitment culture is called Shinsotsu. Talented students are identified at various institutions. They go through testing, seminars, company visits, and other methods to make sure there’s a solid “fit” with a company’s culture and values. It makes sense. In a culture with a tradition of life-long employment, it’s critical for both the students and the companies to get it right.

The ANA – All Nippon Airways Group has well over 30,000 employees, and on April 1, I was honored to be part of a celebration to welcome over a thousand new graduates to ANA. It was Tuesday morning, and I was quite well jet-lagged after the departure events and inaugural flight on ANA’s new service from Vancouver (YVR) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND). Our hosts shuttled us over to ANA’s aircraft maintenance facility at HND. It’s huge, with seven hangar bays and the ability to service all of ANA’s jet fleet, right up to major “D” checks.

But we weren’t there to look at airplanes. Well, not quite. As we were escorted through the hangars, there was one plane looming in a semi-lit bay. It was ANA’s last Boeing 747-400D (Domestic), registered JA8961. It wasn’t there for maintenance, but to be part of ANA’s New Employee Celebration of Shinsotsu.

We walked to the back of the hangar to be seated behind a remarkably large and perfectly organized group of 1,089 new ANA employees-to-be. The 747 was the ideal backdrop for the event.

Continue reading Hello, Goodbye – The Last Boeing 747-400D

Flying All Nippon Airways’ Inaugural Flight from YVR to HND

Climbing out from Vancouver-YVR on ANA's inaugural flight to Tokyo-Haneda.

Climbing out from Vancouver-YVR on ANA’s inaugural flight to Tokyo-Haneda

In Part 1 of our story, you joined me for the arrival of ANA-All Nippon Airways‘ first flight to Vancouver International Airport (YVR), the celebrations at the gate, and Flight NH 115’s departure for Tokyo-Haneda (HND).

Soon after takeoff, our 767-300ER made a wide right turn, climbing across the Strait of Georgia before turning on course northwest-bound along the center of Vancouver Island. I didn’t notice exactly when it happened, but after the landing gear retracted, the forward-view camera rotated to look straight down. As I looked up at the monitors, we flew right over the challenging little Duncan Airport, where the winds can make it interesting to land even a Cessna 172.

I watched the view for a while, and unstowed my In-Flight Entertainment System (IFE) monitor as we drifted up to our initial cruising altitude.

Continue reading Flying All Nippon Airways’ Inaugural Flight from YVR to HND

All Nippon Airways Lands in Vancouver…and Takes Off for Haneda!

All Nippon Airways 767-300ER lands at YVR on Sunday afternoon. Photo: Leighton Matthews, Pacific Air Photo

All Nippon Airways Boeing 767-300ER lands at YVR on Sunday afternoon - Photo: Leighton Matthews | Pacific Air Photo

ANA – All Nippon Airways’ first scheduled flight to Canada landed at Vancouver International Airport (YVR) on Sunday afternoon. The arrival of the Boeing 767-300ER from Tokyo International Airport – Haneda (HND) ushered in the option of a new airline and new destination airport for Tokyo-bound passengers who originate or connect in YVR.

Located on Tokyo Bay, Haneda airport is a short 15-minute train or monorail ride for passengers to connect to Tokyo’s extensive transit system. Haneda was relegated to domestic flights in the late 1970’s, when Narita International Airport (NRT) opened to serve international traffic. Although a new express train now serves distant Narita, many consider traveling between downtown Tokyo and NRT to be a time-consuming and expensive ordeal.

Looking to return HND to its previous status as Tokyo’s convenient gateway, a new International Terminal was opened in 2010. Initially, international flights were limited, and slot-restricted to middle-of-the-night arrivals, which wasn’t particularly appealing to passengers or airlines. Fortunately, HND opened up daytime slots in 2014, most beginning this week. ANA’s YVR-HND route is just one of many new international flights serving the airport.

BONUS: Touring Haneda Airport’s New International Terminal

AirlineReporter was invited to join in the inbound flight’s arrival festivities at YVR, and to fly to Haneda on the inaugural. As AR.com’s Vancouver-based correspondent, I was given this “plum” assignment. But not without much jealousy coming from our staff in the Seattle area, including our illustrious Editor-in-Chief!

Continue reading All Nippon Airways Lands in Vancouver…and Takes Off for Haneda!

Airline Pajamas, No Longer Just for First Class

The writer sporting the ANA Business Class pyjamas which unfortunately you have to give back at the end of the flight.  They are super comfy! - Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter.com

Me sporting ANA Business Class pajamas, which unfortunately you have to give back at the end of the flight. They are super comfy! – Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter.com

Recently you’ve heard often from airlines that they are cutting first class products and services from their aircraft, but that still leaves many with a competitive business class cabin.  When people say that “business class is the new first class,” the statement is becoming more truthful each day.  Lie-flat seats, designer amenity kits, and multi-course meals are now as common in business class as they are (or were) in first.  But one small item is slowly making an emergence in business class, one that has always been thought of solely as a first class staple: airline pajamas.

Airline pajamas have, up until now, been given out to those flying first class on international airlines like Singapore, Lufthansa, Thai, or Emirates.  They’re provided to the passenger so that they can relax while onboard without having to wrinkle their own clothes, or to allow them to get that full night’s sleep more comfortably.

But times are changing; as airlines roll back those first class cabins, passengers who fly in business class expect the same level of service and amenities.  So airlines like Qatar Airways, Qantas, Virgin Atlantic, and All Nippon Airways (ANA) are now providing pajamas to passengers in the business class cabin.  But are these pajamas as good as the first class offerings out there?

Continue reading Airline Pajamas, No Longer Just for First Class