Entering the ANA 777-300ER Inspiration of Japan first class cabin – Photo: David Delagarza | AirlineReporter
Airline: All Nippon Airways (NH)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Departed: Houston Intercontinental (IAH)
Arrived: Tokyo Narita (NRT)
Class: First Class
Seats: 1D & 1G
Length: About 14 hours
It seemed to happen every day for two weeks – I’d glance out my office window in Denver at about noon, just in time to see the contrail of a high-altitude wide-body fly by. Being the diligent AvGeek I am, I would check out my flight tracker phone app to find out what I just saw. The answer was the same every time: ANA Flight 173 – from Houston to Tokyo. It felt like I was being teased — I had first class tickets booked on that very flight for our upcoming trip. Seeing that plane in the sky, day after day, was just rubbing it in — today’s not the day. But that day would soon come.
Flying this route was actually somewhat of a last-minute change to our itinerary, in which Bangkok was our final destination. 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 alternate routing when I found first class award availability on ANA and Thai Airways via Houston and Tokyo about three weeks prior to the trip. Yes, please! The Houston-to-Tokyo route is a new addition to ANA’s North American offerings, having just kicked off service in June.
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.