Around the World

Miles flown for stories
2014: 228,152
2013: 330,818

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Plane Spotting at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Japan

One of the benefits of world travel is plane spotting in different locations. Although spotting at Paine Field can be highly entertaining, it doesn’t compare to spotting at Tokyo’s Haneda airport which handles most of Tokyo’s domestic traffic. Sure, busy American airports like Atlanta sure see a lot of traffic, but it is mostly smaller aircraft like regional jets, MD-80′s and Boeing 767′s. At Haneda you are seeing much bigger aircraft like domestic Boeing 747-400′s with no winglets and plenty of 777s. Although Japan is only about the size of California, they fly very large aircraft on domestic routes due to demand and slots.

A few Boeing All Nippon Airways aircraft at Haneda Airport.

A few Boeing All Nippon Airways aircraft at Haneda Airport.

Haneda Airport had observation decks on all three terminals. During my recent trip to Haneda to check out the new International Terminal, I spent a good amount of my time enjoying the nice rainy outdoors (what a break from Seattle right?) and of course taking photos of aircraft I can’t always see in the US. I wanted to share some of my favorites and of course you can check out all 115 airline photos at Haneda via my Flickr page. I got onto the deck on Terminal 2 the very first thing in the morning at 6:30am local time when it opened. I had to wait for the guard to open the door and he looked at me oddly when I rushed out in the rain to check out the aircraft.  It was great to see all the large All Nippon Airways and Japan Air Line large aircraft waiting to be pulled to their gates (photo).

All Nippon Airways Boeing 747-400 (JA8956) in Pokemon Livery

All Nippon Airways Boeing 747-400 (JA8956) in Pokemon Livery

I knew that All Nippon Airways flies two Pokemon themed 747-400′s but seeing one in person is quite the scene. It was a little bit too much for me, but quite the interesting sight.

One of two observation decks at Terminal 2. Why can't the US have sweet decks like this?

One of two observation decks at Terminal 2. Why can't the US have sweet decks like this?

Haneda treats spotters with a lot of treats. Almost the entire roof on all three terminals have spotting decks. One side of Terminal 2 had comfortable seating and even a few restaurants. I wish more American airports treated airline spotters with such goodies.

ANA Boeing 747, 777, 737 and Q400 with ships in the background.

ANA Boeing 747, 777, 737 and Q400 with ships in the background.

Check out all the other fun photos.

My Review: Flying in All Nippon Airways Business Class

ANA Boeing 777-300ER (JA781A) at Narita after my 11hr flight from LAX.

ANA Boeing 777-300ER (JA781A) at Narita after my 11hr flight from LAX.

Flying in any airline’s Business Class is always a nice treat. There are some airlines with pretty decent domestic Business Classes out there, but to really have a top-notch experience, you need to take an international flight. Recently, when I flew from Los Angeles (LAX) to Narita Airport (NRT) in Japan, I was able to fly in All Nippon Airway’s (ANA) Business Class (disclaimer: ANA picked up the tab on my flight from LAX-NRT-LAX).

The benefits of flying in a premium seat starts at the airport. After arriving at LAX from Seattle I checked in for ANA and then it was time to hit security. Having a premium seat meant I was able to use the express TSA line. It wasn’t too much of a benefit for this flight since the express line only had two people in it, and the normal line had five — oh well.

After taking off my shoes and having my toothpaste scanned, I headed right to ANA’s Business Lounge. Unfortunately due to a bunch of construction going on at LAX, the view wasn’t the best, but I was able to watch a Qantas Airbus A380 get towed, so I was happy. There was plenty of space, free wi-fi and all the amenities you would expect to find in a Business Class lounge. This was good, since I had a nice 3.5hr layover in LAX.

Lots of room to work, sleep and play in ANA's Business Class. Click for larger.

Lots of room to work, sleep and play in ANA's Business Class. Click for larger.

From the lounge I could see when my ANA Boeing 777-300ER arrived and I headed down to the gate. This is where I had another bonus: being able to board first. The Boeing 777 I flew had First Class, quite a bit of Business Class, Premium Economy and then of course standard economy. Getting on the plane first to get settled for a 11hr flight is always nice.

Where most airlines have a rule that you can still use your electronic devices until they close the cabin door, ANA is much more strict. When I first walked into the plane I was told I had to shut off my phone. I then I tried to take some photos, but was politely told I couldn’t have my camera on either until we reached 10,000 feet. Eh, lame, but what can I do?

The seats were very spacious; there was 63″ of seat pitch and 21″ of width. There were only 7 seats across in a 2-3-2 configuration and of course I went for a window seat (photo). Unfortunately my original seat was 11A which had a dead space with only one window. Luckily, after the plane boarded, I was able to move back to 12A with all my windows. This was important since the flight was leaving at about 1pm and we would be racing the sun all the way to Japan — meaning it was going to stay light the whole flight.

One of three appitizers for one of my three course meals. Yes that is a whole fish you see (and I ate it).

One of three appitizers for one of my three course meals. Yes that is a whole fish you see (and I ate it).

After take off the flight attendants came around asking what we would like for our first meal. Boy did we have good choices: two Japanese meals and one Western-style. I didn’t know what half the food was, but I went for seared bass (photo) and whatever else came with the Japanese meal. There was a lot, a whole three courses worth of food. The food was fabulous and not like airline-food fabulous, but actual food in a nice restaurant fabulous.

While eating, it was time to start watching the in-flight entertainment. Each person has their own screen that folds out of the seat with a handy controller. There were quite a few pre-programmed movies and shows which are all free (even in economy), but I think the entertainment option was a weak spot for ANA. In the long run getting satellite internet and live TV would be great, but ANA did work with Boeing’s Connexion that provided satellite internet, but that didn’t work out. I am hoping in the future ANA and more international airlines will be adding internet and live TV. For the short term maybe a few more movie and television choices would have been nice. After flying 22hrs in total (there and back) I was quite done with my movie selections and I was NOT about to watch Sex and the City 1 and 2.

Flying, blogging, drinking and watching a movie. What else do I need? (anyone guess that movie?).

Flying, blogging, drinking and watching a movie. What else do I need? (anyone guess that movie?).

The seats were very comfortable and were quite adjustable (photo). They don’t lie totally flat, but they came pretty darn close. Talking to folks who are a bit shorter (I am 6’1″), some said they have had issues sliding down on the seat, but I did not. I was actually able to fit on the seat comfortably and got some real sleep on both flights.

Not only was the product very good, but the service was wonderful as well. They would constantly check up on me and always had a smile. The flight attendant’s faces must have hurt after smiling so bit, non-stop for the entire 11 hour flight.

Although ANA’s “old” Business Class product I tried out was quite good, they are introducing a newer and better pod-style Business Class on their new Boeing 777-300ER’s.

All this great product and service comes at a price. A Business Class Seat on ANA from LAX to NRT can cost $4000.00 plus. Of course many folks flying in Business Class either have a corporate credit card paying or are using their miles. If the Business Class isn’t enough for you, ANA’s also has First Class on many of their international flights which is a whole other experience. No matter what class I am in, I am always excited to take a flight halfway around the world.

MORE PHOTOS OF THE FLIGHT

Touring ANA’s Three Lounges at Haneda Airport in Tokyo

The sitting area of ANA's Business Class Lounge at Haneda International Terminal. Click for larger.

The sitting area of ANA's Business Class Lounge at Haneda International Terminal. Click for larger.

Having one airline lounge is pretty sweet. However why only have one when you can have three all located in one terminal? All Nippon Airways (ANA) has three different lounges in the new International Terminal at Haneda Airport (HND) and each one is a bit different.

The first lounge I explored was their Business Class Lounge located after security. The lounge was quite large, very clean and futuristic looking and great views of planes.

Next door to the Business Class Lounge you will find the First Class Lounge. While walking over I joked with the ANA folks that the Business Class Lounge would be hard to beat, but I think they did it. The first class lounge feels a bit darker with a lot of black being used, but makes up for it with having a lot of personal space. The lounge is quite a bit smaller, but has cooler seating. You have the ability to sit in some futuristic looking chairs or in your own little cubical-like space (photo).

ANA's First Class Lounge at the Haneda International Terminal is very impressive with their fancy seating.

ANA's First Class Lounge at the Haneda International Terminal is very impressive with their fancy seating.

The third lounge is the smallest and has the smallest “wow” factor. It is located outside of security and is the arrival lounge (photo). It is a good place to take a quick shower, check your email or even charge your phone with their nifty free phone charging machine (photo). Actually all three lounges have access to showers (photo), which can be very helpful if you had a long day of travel and you are heading right to your meeting.

Since international flights will only be allowed to arrive at HND between midnight and 5am, the arrival lounge is also handy if you won’t get access to your hotel until later in the day.

Unlike some other airline lounges you need a Business or First Class ticket to get access; you can’t buy a day pass. But you don’t need just an ANA ticket, any Star Alliance premium ticket can get you access.

If you don’t have a premium ticket, you still can get access to the international terminal’s public lounge which is not connected to any airline (photo). You are able to buy a pass for only about $12. It is not nearly as fancy as ANA’s lounges, but for $12, you can’t go wrong!

CHECK OUT ALL 35 PHOTOS OF ANA’S LOUNGE

Disclaimer: ANA gave me and other invited guests free access to all three lounges to check them out.

Touring Haneda Airport’s New International Terminal

A look down on the new international terminal at Haneda.

A look down on the new international terminal at Haneda. Click for larger.

Earlier I discussed the difference between Tokyo’s Haneda and Narita airports. The big change at Haneda (and the reason why I flew half way across the world) is the new international terminal.

A look down the Japanese themed shopping area

A look down the Japanese themed shopping area. Click for larger.

The new terminal is quite impressive. When you first walk in you notice the high, waving ceilings and impressive open space. There isn’t a heck a lot of color, but don’t worry, we will get there. After you go up to the first level, you are transported to a whole new world. It seems like you might be walking down an old-school Japanese street with plenty of shopping and food options.

After security, all passengers have the ability to access a lounge for about $12.

After security, all passengers have the ability to access a lounge for about $12.

Everything before security was crazy. There were thousands of people from around the area that decided to come to the new terminal to check it out. Lines came out of every restaurant (even coffee shops) and it took hours to get a table. Thank goodness that Japan always has plenty of vending machines (photo).

The new international terminal at Haneda has an amazing observation deck. The rain didn't stop visitors.

The new international terminal at Haneda has an amazing observation deck. The rain didn't stop visitors.

After going through security things got very quiet (photo). Since most flights won’t start until the 31st, there weren’t too many wandering around. Just because there weren’t many passengers yet didn’t mean there wasn’t much to do. There were plenty of duty-free shopping options and of course food. There is an ANA lounge for Star Alliance members (which I will blog about in the future) and a JAL lounge for One World. If you are unable to get access to either, no worries. The terminal has a pay-per-visit lounge for everyone else. For about $12 you get get access to the public lounge and for another $12 you are able to take a shower. Not a bad deal at all.

Thousands of locals showed up to check out the new international terminal.

Thousands of locals showed up to check out the new international terminal.

This is a lot to fit into a terminal that only has ten gates. Although there aren’t many gates, the terminal needs to handle a lot of passengers since there will be quite a few large aircraft flying from it. One of the gates is designed to be able to handle the largest airliner, the Airbus A380.

There was even live entertainment at the new terminal. I had no idea what he was saying, but he was still awesome.

There was even live entertainment at the new terminal. I had no idea what he was saying, but he was still awesome.

The new terminal is very exciting. Not only for providing international flights for Haneda Airport, but for also just being plain cool. I hope to be able to visit the new terminal again in the future.

CHECK OUT ALL 108 OF MY HANEDA INTERNATIONAL TERMINAL PHOTOS.

See more:
* Harriet Baskas posts some photos of the new terminal.
* Check out Cynthia Drescher’s post with Jaunted

Meet Tokyo’s Two Airports: Haneda and Narita

An All Nippon Airways Boeing 767 on the Taxiway at Haneda. The new international terminal is in the background.

An All Nippon Airways Boeing 767 on the Taxiway at Haneda. The new international terminal is in the background.

Let me introduce you to Tokyo’s two airports: Narita Airport and Haneda Airport.

Historically Haneda has handled domestic flights and Narita has handled international flights. Haneda is located just outside of downtown Tokyo, where Narita is about 50 miles east of Tokyo.

If passengers flew into Haneda to make a connection for an international flight, they would have had to take an hour long bus or train ride to Narita to get their connecting international flight.

But things are changing. On October 21st Haneda opened their new International Terminal and commenced their first scheduled international flights in 32 years. Some short-haul international flights have already started, and long-haul will start on October 31st.

All Nippon Airways (ANA) will start two flights from Haneda on the 31st: one from Los Angeles using a Boeing 777-200ER and the other to Honolulu using a Boeing 767-300ER.  ANA will also start code-share flights from Haneda with Air Canada, Air China, Asiana Airlines, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways International, all members of Star Alliance, as well as with Eva Airways and Malaysia Airlines.

Air Canada will fly a Haneda-Vancouver route and Malaysia Airlines will start a Haneda-Kota Kinabalu route. ANA will also start code-shares on four flights to Singapore with Singapore Airlines, two flights to Bangkok with Thai Airways International, two flights to Seoul (Gimpo) with Asiana Airlines, two flights to Beijing with Air China, and four flights to Taipei (Songshan) with Eva Airways.

So what does this mean for you? Convenience. If you are in the US and looking to visit Tokyo or fly into Tokyo to transfer to another domestic flight, it will now be much easier. Yes, tickets will cost a bit more to Haneda, but you will save the bus or train fare and of course time. Saving time can be worth the money if you are travelling on business or even on vacation.

During a press conference Thai Airways, Singapore Airlines and ANA were all asked if they have seen their booking to Narita decline due to the new competition from Haneda and all three stated at this point they have not.

Competition never seems to hurt passengers and hopefully this will be the case of Haneda initiating international flights. Currently the long haul flights won’t directly compete with the ones from Narita due to time restrictions at Haneda. Long-haul flights can only take off or land at Haneda from midnight to 5am, times which Narita is closed.

Not only does Haneda increase the diversity of passengers and aircraft, they also got a brand spanking new international terminal that is quite amazing. On my next blog I will take you on a little tour of that new terminal.