Flight 4/15: Tokyo to Bangkok

This post is part of the Ultimate Flight Marathon multi-part series, where I review each of the 15 flights I take during 3.5 weeks of intense traveling.

Airline: ANA, which stands for All Nippon Airways

Date: May 13, 2016

Type of plane: Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner

Duration of the flight: 6 hours

Delays: Nope

General info: ANA is the largest Japanese air carrier. When you enter or exit any of their aircrafts, they play this soothing boarding music that aviation blogger Ben Schlappig calls “the second classiest thing in the world.” The tune is really catchy and peaceful at the same time. You can listen to it here, but start from 01:50 as that’s where the music seemed to start onboard. Our flight was from Tokyo’s Haneda to Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport (I know – that’s probably the most difficult airport name in the world!).

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The business class was the usual size – not gigantic as in our earlier flight from NYC to Tokyo.

What was special about this plane: It was a fairly new-seeming Boeing Dreamliner. This was my first time flying a Dreamliner, as far as I can remember. It was definitely a pleasant experience. Dreamliners apparently have all sorts of extra benefits, such as having more cabin humidity which helps you avoid getting dry eyes or headaches.

Highlight: I managed to sleep for almost the entire flight! We were pretty exhausted after sleeping for just a few hours at a capsule hotel in Tokyo. Not that there was anything wrong with Kiba Hotel – that place was great and it was nice and cool inside the capsule. Instead it was the darn jet lag that awoke us after just a few hours of shut-eye. Well, at least it meant that I could visit the hotel jacuzzi early in the morning. And sleeping through a flight is always nice as it makes the time pass quicker.

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What I would do differently next time: As with the earlier ANA flight, the TV shows offered on the personal screen were pretty basic. It would be good to bring alternative entertainment options like books or downloaded TV shows (though I was happy to sleep).

Food served: We were only served one meal during the flight, which was lunch. Again we got a menu from which to choose: The Asian option was simmered freshwater eel with eggs, served over steamed rice,IMG_7710 and the Western fare was roasted chicken with basil flavor. I chose the chicken, though I had a bite of my boyfriend’s eel meal and that was clearly the better choice.

Turbulence: Just a tad.

Price: This flight was part of a super cheap flight deal to Thailand that I scored a while back through Secret Flying (my favorite website!). We basically got roundtrips from New York to Bangkok for $375, with stops in Tokyo both ways and Chicago on the way back. Strangely, this “roundtrip” finishes in Montreal instead of New York, so it’s actually a multi-destination ticket. Either way, it works well for us since Montreal has direct flights back to Guadeloupe.

Miles earned: This second section of the trip, Tokyo to Bangkok, netted us 1,425 airline miles with Air Canada’s AeroPlan program. I chose to bank the points to Air Canada as our tickets were in booking class K, which earns no airline miles at all on Singapore Airlines (my usual Star Alliance program of choice). Also, it would earn very few miles on United because United gives airline miles based on the price you paid instead of the distance flown. These types of revenue-based programs are no good when you fly long distances on discounted tickets (thus I don’t credit my flights to the programs of Delta, United and soon American Airlines).

Overall experience: Solid great ANA quality.

 

 

 

 

 

Flight 2/15: San Juan, Puerto Rico to New York

This post is part of the Ultimate Flight Marathon multi-part series, where I review each of the 15 flights I take during 3.5 weeks of intense traveling.

Airline: American Airlines

Date: May 7, 2016

Type of plane: Boeing 737-823

Duration of the flight: 4 hours

Delays: None

General info: As everyone knows, American Airlines is one of the three major legacy carriers of the United States. From my experience, many of their planes tend to be on the older side so things like personal screens are a luxury you shouldn’t expect to get. This flight landed at New York’s JFK. Being a thrifty traveler, I usually get to the city by taking the B15 bus to New Lots Avenue and by hopping on the 3 train from there. This way the airport trip costs just $2.75! The savings from the AirTrain might be just $5 at a time, but given how many times I do this airport trip every year, it all adds up. Also, taking the bus directly to the 3 train often ends up being the fastest option for me anyway.

What was special about this plane: Nothing really. It’s the basic Boeing that is used on tons of American Airlines flights around the United States. However, what was special before this flight was that I was all alone while clearing US immigration in Puerto Rico as I was the first to exit my plane from Guadeloupe and I guess no other planes had landed the same time. It was amazing not to have to stand in line for an hour, as is usual when entering the US via bigger airports (here’s looking at you, Miami!). However, I did encounter a slight delay after the customs guy asked me if I had any checked bags. When I answered no, he said I had been selected for a “random inspection” and had to step aside for a thorough bag check-up and questioning. How random can it be when I was the only person around? Haha. But somehow it seems unfair that I constantly get singled out because of traveling with only hand luggage. 😦 So this inspection took another 5-10 minutes, but overall it was a very smooth airport transfer, and flight as well.

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It was such a pretty day to be flying over the Caribbean.

Highlight: It was a really beautiful day and the clouds were floating super high in the sky. This meant that we flew below them instead of above, and I had an unobstructed view of the flat-looking blue sea under us. It looked really pretty. It also made me feel a little weak in the knees to see how incredibly high we were. This is a sensation that I don’t get a lot, as I’m usually not afraid of heights.

What I would do differently next time: I would have earplugs handy. The TV screens in the middle of the plane started blasting at full volume at one point, and I was worried we would be subjected to this noise for the duration of the trip. Luckily the TV went back to silent after the annoying ads ended.

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There’s the communal TV, blasting as loud as ever during commercials.

Food served: We got a bag of the savory snack mix and a choice of a non-alcoholic beverage. Luckily I wasn’t hungry at all, as I had just visited the Global Lounge at the San Juan airport. I’m happy to report that Global Lounge’s food offerings have improved since my last visit in November! Instead of just cereal and crackers, this time they had actual ham and cheese sandwiches, veggies and dip, and even a yummy-looking fruit salad. Sadly looks can be deceiving: the fruits tasted old already, so I decided it was best not to finish the bowl I took.

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It looked good… but didn’t taste so fresh at all.

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The Global Lounge is one of my favorite lounges due to its simple but trendy decor.

 

Turbulence: At first the flight was super smooth, but then there was intense turbulence for 10 minutes. It made me think twice about undertaking this Ultimate Flight Project. :/ No matter how much I fly, I have yet to feel comfortable during turbulence.

Price: As I explained during my first flight review, this was the second flight of the two that made up my one-way ticket from Guadeloupe to NYC. The total price of this ticket was $220, which I covered by using Thank You points from Citibank.

Miles earned: 1,597 miles, deposited into the American Airlines AAdvantage program. These are the final days for me to utilize the American Airlines program though: I’m switching my miles-accruing over to the Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan soon. This is because in mid-June AA is changing their award program to be revenue-based (following in the footsteps of Delta and United). That doesn’t work well for people like myself who tend to fly long distances for fairly cheap fares. Under the new system I would only get 1,100 AA points for this trip that currently gives me 1,900 miles. On longer trips this difference in earned miles is even more striking. Boohoo!

Overall experience: It was OK.

Flight 1/15: Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe, to San Juan, Puerto Rico

As I promised, here starts my review series of the flights that make up the Ultimate Flight Marathon (i.e. my personal Amazing Race).

Airline: Seaborne Airlines

Date: May 7, 2016

Type of plane: Saab 340 TurboProp

Duration of the flight: 1.5 hours

Delays: We did leave about 10 minutes behind schedule, but it didn’t impact our arrival time. However, it was a bit nerve-wracking that boarding only started after we were supposed to have taken off already (as I knew I had a tight connection in San Juan).

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General info: Seaborne is a tiny Caribbean airline that partners with American Airlines and Jet Blue. Therefore your e-ticket may say American Airlines (as mine did) but rest assured – your aircraft will be much more exotic than “plane” ol’ American (pun intended). On the route from Guadeloupe to Puerto Rico, Seaborne operates a tiny 30-seater twin-engine propeller plane, Saab 340 TurboProp. It’s definitely not the most modern aircraft out there – Wikipedia tells me that the production of this plane type ended in 1998.

What was special about this plane: The overhead bins are so small that a regular carry-on suitcase won’t fit up there. Therefore the staff collected bigger carry-ons from people as they were stepping up to the aircraft, and stashed them in the plane’s luggage compartment. Folks got them back as soon as we landed in San Juan. Luckily my backpack was small enough to fit in the tiny space we were allotted. (Yay for packing light!)

Highlight: It was entertaining to watch the lone flight attendant, Julio, trying to play several roles simultaneously and to try not to hit his head onto the low roof.

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What I would do differently next time: The whole left side of the plane is made up of single seats, so everyone got a window seat – except for me! I managed to be assigned the only window seat onboard that didn’t have a window. Lame. So next time I’ll ask for a seat that is not 2A. I had to gawk over at my neighIMG_7446.jpgbor’s window to steal at least a small glimpse of the pretty islands of the Caribbean we flew over.

Food served: We got two bags of pretzels and a choice of mango/guava juice and water. Not shabby for such a short hop across the pond!

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Turbulence: In smaller planes you tend to feel every twist and turn. From that perspective the ride was exceptionally smooth. There was practically no shaking at all – just a tad at the landing time.

Price: This was the first flight of the two flights that made up my one-way ticket from Guadeloupe to NYC. The total price of this ticket would have been $220, but I paid it with the awesome Thank You points from Citibank. As long as you have the Citi Prestige credit card, these points offer great value if you are booking an American Airlines flight or a codeshare (which is what this one was). Yet another reason to love that card (getting access to airport lounges is another!). Of course I would have much rather taken one of the cheap and direct Norwegian Air flights from Gwada to NYC, but unfortunately those flights aren’t running again until November.

Miles earned: Not a whole lot – I earned just 331 miles, which I deposited into the American Airlines AAdvantage program.

Overall experience: Just OK.