Maybe itâ€™s not to the extent of the regular contributors to this site, but Iâ€™m an #AvGeek.Â I love planes, airlines, and miles.Â But given my busy career, two toddlers, and a wife who thinks Iâ€™m crazy, I donâ€™t get to participate in nearly as many adventures as I would like.Â My wifeâ€™s come a long way in supporting my habit; I think it may have had something to do with flying her to Europe this spring in Lufthansa First Class on miles.Â Maybe that helped lead to the amazing adventure I had recently.
I live in Denver, and I fly United Airlines (UA).Â There has been lots of local media coverage about the introduction of UAâ€™s DEN-NRT flight, operated by the 787 Dreamliner, which started on June 10th (unfortunately that flight had an issue after having to divert back to Seattle).
This is a big deal for DEN, not so much because of the Dreamliner, but rather itâ€™s our first nonstop to Asia.Â A few weeks ago my wife casually opened a can of worms, stating, â€œI looked at booking you on that Dreamliner flight for Fatherâ€™s Day, but it was just too expensive.Â I know you really want to fly on a 787, and also need to re-qualify for your status-thingy.â€Â I, of course, sprung in to action trying to take advantage of this moment that was sure to be fleeting.
Long story short, I scored a ride on the (re)inaugural ANA 787 Dreamliner flight from San Jose (SJC) to Narita (NRT).Â To make the ticket cheaper (this logic fails me) I continued on to Singapore.Â Final routing was 19,000 miles; DEN-SJC-NRT-SIN-HKG-SFO-DEN, or about 39 hours in the air during a 77 hour period.Â Yes, Iâ€™m crazy, but it was worth it.
THE ANA 787 DREAMLINER RE-INAUGURAL AT SJC
Through some matchmaking by David Parker Brown (@ARdpb), I was paired up with Mal Muir (@bigmalx) and Jason Rabinowitz (@airlineflyer) as soon as I landed in SJC; they were there as guests of ANA to cover the flight.Â They promptly threw me to the wolves of local media, where I was asked to rationalize my decision to fly just for the purpose of flying; no such luck!
Mal and Jason took part in the media festivitiesÂ while I hung back and took it all in.Â Within moments, our bird was arriving to great fanfare at the gate.Â With the media events over for a few hours, I was guested in SJCâ€™s new lounge by Mal, where I got to meet some other participants.Â In no time, we were ready to board.
The Dreamliner, particularly the ANA flavor, blew away my high expectations.Â I was in an aisle seat on the side 2-seat pair.Â The flight was comfortable, quiet, and I arrived to NRT feeling fresh (the last time I would feel that way for about a week). Â
There are two fun features worth mentioning on ANAâ€™s Dreamliner.Â The first is the seat-to-seat text messaging, which Mal took advantage of it to taunt me share the details of his business class experience.Â The second were those fancy robot toilets; I felt like Mater in Japan (again, I have toddlersâ€¦).Â After a few glasses of wine, give it a try!
Once arriving at Narita, I was able to accompany the press group in to the ANA Lounge.Â The highlight of the lounge had to be the beer robot!Â After some tasty sushi, I bid farewell to Mal and Jason for my onward journey to Singapore.Â After a long walk to the gate, I boarded a pmCO 777.
I found my window seat in the exit row (great plane spotting at each airport!) and then attempted to sleep for a bit of the 7 hour flight, with little success.Â I just canâ€™t sleep on planesâ€¦well, at least not in economy.
I arrived at Singapore Changi Airport (SIN) at about midnight local time and caught a 30 minute cab ride to the Hilton on Orchard Road; the high-end shopping district with lots of western hotels.Â You could easily take the MRT (subway) from the airport, but it doesnâ€™t run between midnight and 5am.Â After a quick FaceTime date with the family (it was 11am at home), I took an 8-hour snooze and then headed out to see the city for the day.
This was my first time in Singapore (and Asia), so let me share some basic observations.Â Itâ€™s a great first destination for Asia, especially since English is the primary language.Â The variety of food and drink is fantastic â€“ I had both croissants and spring rolls.Â Itâ€™s hot and humidâ€¦really humid.Â Bring about 20 extra pairs of socks and underwear.Â Itâ€™s also impeccably clean; I would have eaten off the subway floor.Â Keep in mind this is due to the extremely strict laws â€“ the customs forms even say â€œImportation of Drugs to Singapore is a Capital Offense.â€Â Spitting, smoking, and jaywalking are also all punished.
I made my way to the Singapore Flyer, the largest ferris wheel in the world and the views were amazing!Â Â However, the best view had to be the 3 F-15â€™s that did a fly-by while I was at the top! (sorry, no picture).Â I spent the rest of the day wandering the city and eating and drinking locally before heading to an early bedtime.
At 3am, I was up again, headed back to Changi airport.Â If you havenâ€™t heard, the airport is just amazing!Â Changi has everything from a movie theater to a butterfly pavilion.Â Soon it was time to board my (half-empty) pmUA 777 for the 4-hour flight to HKG.Â In Hong Kong, I boarded a United 747-400 that was built when I was in the 5th grade.
It had the old UA livery (or what was left of it, given the peeling paint).Â United really needs to come up with a fleet replacement plan for these old birds; Iâ€™d love it to be the 748, but maybe launch customer on 777X?Â The capacity is obviously needed, as the load factor on this flight was 100%.
After the 12 hour flight and my arrival in SFO, I really began to hit the wall.Â I zombie-walked my way through immigration (the CBP Agent asked me if I had been in Japan, Singapore, and China for pleasure, to which I replied, â€œsort ofâ€ â€“ he didnâ€™t even blink).Â A quick UA 757 flight home to Denver, and I arrived back at DEN 77 hours after I had left.
In future years when I tell this story, I donâ€™t think Iâ€™ll remember how tired I was, but only the amazing experience that I had.Â My only regret was that all 6 legs hadnâ€™t been operated by a Dreamliner. (Well, that and the fact that I wasnâ€™t on the media trip, after reading all the tweets about spas, helicopter rides, and 5-course meals!).Â This wonâ€™t be the last time I do something like this.
|This story written by…Blaine Nickeson, Correspondent. |
Blaine is a Denver-based enthusiast of all things airplanes, airlines, and miles. Â When he’s not busy planning his next travel adventure, he spends his time working as a college administrator. Â If he can’t be on an airplane, he’d prefer to be on a bicycle.