Entering the ANA 777-300ER Inspiration of Japan first class cabin – Photo: David Delagarza | AirlineReporter
Airline: All Nippon Airways (NH)
Aircraft:Â Boeing 777-300ER
Departed:Â Houston Intercontinental (IAH)
Arrived: Tokyo Narita (NRT)
Class:Â First Class
Seats:Â 1D & 1G
Length:Â About 14Â hours
It seemed to happen every day for two weeks – Â I’d glance out my office window in Denver at about noon, just in timeÂ to see the contrail of a high-altitude wide-body fly by. Â Being the diligent AvGeek I am, IÂ wouldÂ check out my flight tracker phone app to find out what I just saw. Â The answer was the same every time: ANA FlightÂ 173 – from Houston to Tokyo. Â It felt like I was being teased — I had first class tickets booked on that veryÂ flight for our upcoming trip. Â Seeing thatÂ plane in the sky, day after day, was just rubbing it in — today’s not the day. Â But that day would soon come.
Flying this route was actually somewhat of a last-minute change to our itinerary, inÂ which Bangkok was our final destination. Â We had initially been booked trans-Pacific on United’s Global First service from Chicago to Beijing; however, a very short layover in Beijing combined with United’s poor on-time performance on the 747-400 was making me nervous. I had been keeping an eye on alternateÂ routing when I found first class award availability on ANA and Thai Airways via Houston and Tokyo about three weeks prior to the trip. Â Yes, please! Â The Houston-to-Tokyo route is a new addition to ANA’s North American offerings,Â having just kicked off service in June.
These will be the new Southwest ticket counters
William P. Hobby Airport (HOU) has been Houston’s secondary airport since 1969, when (now George Bush) Intercontinental Airport (IAH) became the city’s main facility. Although Hobby has a long history of different airlines operating there, in more recent times, Southwest has been the dominate carrier — by far.
Part oil rig. Part airplane. All airport art outside Hobby’s main entrance.
Currently Southwest has about 85-90% of the flights at HOU, with more than 150 departures per day.Â The airline has been instrumental with a new expansion at Hobby and hopes to increase theÂ number of flights, especially to international destinations.
During a recently trip through Houston, I was invited to take a behind the scenes look at the construction of a theÂ international concourse at the airport.
My home for almost 16 hours with Hello Kitty
I was recently down in Houston to welcome EVA Air’s firstÂ flight, a Boeing 777-300ER, with a new Hello Kitty livery. After all theÂ hoopla for the inaugural, I had a few hours before flying toÂ Taipei, in Royal Laurel (aka business class) and I was excited. The Hello Kitty theme runs much deeper than just the fancy livery, and wanted to see what the full flight experience would be like.
The Shining Star Hello Kitty 777 arrives in Houston – Photo: David Parker Brown | AirlineReporter
By the time I arrived back at the airport, at about 10:30 pm, I had last showered at about 6:00 am and was about to take a 15hr 40min flight. My goal was to shower before departure — not just for me, but for those who would be flying aroundÂ me.
Those in business class have access to the Executive Club in Terminal D, which was recently renovated, but it was lacking showers. However, since I had a business class ticket on a Star Alliance airline, I also had access to any of the United Club lounges. I looked online and saw that the United terminal E lounge was open until 11:30 pm and had showers — awesome!
Keep reading to learn how you can win a model of the EVA Air Boeing 777-300ER with Shining Star Hello Kitty livery…
Houston sees its first Hello Kitty EVA Air Boeing 777-300ER (reg: B-16722)
It is hard to be a part of modern society without at least having a basic idea that Hello Kitty exists. I really had my first true run-in with the girl (she is not a cat, apparently), when covering the new international terminal opening up at Haneda Airport in Tokyo. They have a Hello Kitty store there, and while I have seen some backpacks and other knick-knacks with her image previously, I had no idea of the scale, nor the culture that surrounds this global brand. I was a bit impressed.
Dancing with Hello Kitty — where else? In Texas!
When I was recently invited to cover EVA Air’s inaugural flight from Taipei (TPE) to Houston (IAH), with a Hello Kitty celebration, I still was skeptical of the power of the cat-looking icon from a country that is not even the airline’s own.
However, after not only experiencing the event, but also a 15-hour-40-minute flight on the Hello Kitty-themed plane, I have to say that I am starting to respect it, but maybe not for the reasons you might imagine.
Air New Zealand Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner ZK-NZF – Photo: Kris Hull
Air New Zealand on Thursday announced a North American expansion, adding Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport as their fourth U.S. destination. Air New Zealand currently serves Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Honolulu, in addition to Vancouver, Canada to the north.
BONUS:Â Flying Like a Boss in Air New Zealandâ€™s Business Premier Seat
Service to Auckland was long-sought by Houston; Continental Airlines (prior to their merger with United) had announced service in 2010, only to cancel the service in 2012 prior to introduction. Â That said, the route likely makes good sense for Air New Zealand, given their status as a member of the Star Alliance. Â United’s giant presence at their Houston hub will allow for significant feed to the Air New Zealand flight, along with smooth connections for inbound travelers to the U.S. east coast and Latin America.