British Airways, Club Class – A 319: Basel to Oxford via Heathrow T5

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Introduction

Him again! Yes, me. Perhaps I ought to warn you, I think you better brace yourself to have quite a few trip reports of mine coming your way over the next few weeks. Sometime towards the end of the last year I had the brilliant idea – a kind of preempted New Year’s Resolution if you will – to write a trip report of at least one flight of every trip I make in 2014. I’ve made a further resolution to travel less in 2014. So theoretically this is going to be a walk in the park. Or so I thought… but it’s still early days and who knows, things may calm down or I may simply give up trying to keep track of myself at some point.

And one more thing. As the camera I’m using the iPhone 5 because it’s s0 much more convenient.

So yes, three days after I return from Nicosia, I find myself heading for the airport again – this time, to catch a plane to London. I’m giving a course in Oxford.

Getting to the Airport

Well at least I’m flying from Basel airport. The journey time from the main station to the airport takes 16 minutes to complete with the bus line 50. A ticket to the airport should cost you around CHF 5. The bus is not really full.

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Two rows in front of me there’s a guy sitting with tattoos and piercings all over his face. I can’t help wonder what the metal detector at security will do when he tries to pass. He also reeks of stale cigarettes and alcohol. I certainly don’t envy the poor bastard who’s going to have to sit next to him. Luckily, it’s not me!

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Check-in

I checked in using the BA app on my iPhone yesterday evening. The app saves the boarding pass for you in the Passbook app. The reliability of Passbook has improved considerably recently, and so I wake up this morning to find my boarding pass already displayed on the lock screen. Ready for me to swipe.

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The Skyview Lounge

Somehow it seems strange to think that I was in this lounge on a KLM ticket only three weeks ago on my way to Japan. Twelve flights later and I’m back in the same place again.

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The selection of food and drinks really isn’t bad in this lounge. There are breads with cheese, butter and jams and there is also quite an interesting selection of hot items, such as scrambled eggs, baked beans and sausages.

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Wifi is free in the lounge. In addition, they’ve recently also added an al fresco smoking area on the balcony of the lounge. But somehow it’s just a bit too cold for that for me today.

Boarding

Boarding for our 11:30 departure starts at 10:50, which is rather early. I exit the lounge and head through passport control to gate 30, from where my flight will be leaving. Most passengers already appear to have boarded by the time I arrive.

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The Cabin

There are six rows of Business Class in a 2 + 2 configuration. The on right-hand side of the aircraft, the middle seat in the row of three is kept empty. On the left-hand side however, the row of two is created by pushing the middle seat together. So in actual fact there is slightly less space on the left rows.

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The Crew

I must say, yet again I am impressed by the British Airways cabin crew. What strikes me upon boarding the plane is how dapper they look in their pin strip uniforms. It’s quite a contrast from the frumpy Austrian Airlines crew and their god-awful red uniforms.

Announcements are made by Cabin Service Manager, whose English and French are flawless and accent free. Moreover, there are recorded announcements in German. Funnily enough, the voice used in the recordings has a very strong Swiss German accent, which is a nice local touch I find.

The CSM also points out that although it doesn’t say so in the safety video yet, British Airways has changed its policy and now allows you to leave your mobiles on during the flight as long as they’re in flight mode.

We take off from runway 16. We execute a gentle right turn to point us in the direction of London.

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Once the seatbelt sign is turned off, service begins with the distribution of scented hot towels.

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The Meal

There are two options on today’s flight. One is a plate of cold meats and salad, the other, which I choose, is a warm croissant with ham and cheese in it. There is also a small plate with fruit. A bred basket is also available. To drink I have a coffee, which is an abomination, and a glass of still water with ice and lemon.

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Arrival

We’re running 35 minutes ahead of schedule. We do one circuit in a holding before eventually turning onto the approach for runway 27Right.

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We come in straight over the West End. And even with partially cloudy skies, ground visibility is good and I manage to get a glimpse of St. Paul’s and Westminster.

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Getting to Oxford

There are direct buses from Heathrow’s T5 to Oxford by National Express. The journey takes approximately ninety minutes, with buses leaving every thirty minutes or so. A single ticket will cost you £24.

In Oxford I am staying at the Remont, which is in fact a B&B but offers a standard of comfort and service that is more like a hotel.

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I can highly recommend the Remont. It may perhaps be a bit far from the city centre, but there is a bus stop conveniently located about one minute away from the hotel. Take any line 2 bus and it will bring you to the centre in about ten minutes or so.

Austrian Airlines, Business Class – A 320: Vienna to Larnaca

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Transfer in Vienna

I’m standing in the new pier at Vienna airport, I have just arrived with Austrian Airlines from Zürich. The facility has two separate departure levels for Schengen and non-Schengen flights. The F gates are for Schengen flights, with non-Schengen traffic departing from the G gates one floor up.

Cyprus is a non-Schengen country. Strangely, on the outbound you will only have to go through Immigration and do not need to go through security again. On the inbound though, you need to go through immigration and security.

The Lounge

The non-Schengen lounge is located right behind immigration. It’s completely packed when I arrive, with only a few seats available here and there. The food selection is not bad though and includes a variety of pastries, bread, cheese and ham, as well as a small selection of hot items.

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I think I’ve been travelling a bit too much of late. I look up at the departure screen to check the gate and status of my flight – and draw a blank: I’ve actually completely forgotten where I’m supposed to be flying too! I truly haven’t got the faintest idea anymore. Fortunately I’m not on my own and my colleague, the valiant Martin, has everything under control so I just plod along behind him when the time comes to leave.

My chariot awaits.
My chariot awaits.

The Cabin

The flight is completely full today, which comes as a bit of a surprise to me, as I figured nobody would be flying to the Med this time of the year. Still more surprising is the fact that Business Class is full too, with all twenty seats occupied.

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As with the previous flight, there is more Strauss blaring away as I step on board.

Seating is in a three-three configuration, with the middle seat left empty. Apart from that though, I really must say these seats are a real agony on longer journeys. Ninety minutes into the flight I can no longer feel my buttocks. They’ve gone to sleep. I didn’t even know they could do that. The leg space is good though.

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The Crew

The crew on this flight are as nondescript as their colleagues on the previous flight from Zürich. They’re not rude, unfriendly or anything. They just seem rather bland.

The Meal

The service on this flight has been reduced to the absolute minimum. Despite a flying time of three hours and more than enough time for a leisurely service, there are no hot towels and no aperitifs. It’s really just the tray with the meal and that’s it. The service is also pretty rushed. Most people still haven’t finished their hot meal when the flight attendant comes through the cabin offering tea or coffee. What’s the hurry anyway?

On the other hand, Austrian Airlines must be one of the few airlines left that still provide menus on European flights, which are distributed before departure.

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First Course

Nicoise salad with chicken breast

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Main Course

Prawn curry with creamy spinach, green peas and steamed rice

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Dessert

traditional raspberry cream tart

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Admittedly, the food is rather good – with the exception of dessert perhaps. To drink I just have a Coke Zero.

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Our routing takes us over some lovely landscapes. Fortunately the weather is quite good for most of the journey, with good views to be had along the route.

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Arrival

Shortly after we leave the Turkish mainland, somewhere near Antalya, we begin our descent into Larnaca. It’s quite a steep descent. We come in over the eastern tip of the island and then fly along the coast before eventually touching down.

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In Cyprus I will be staying in Nicosia, which is about 60 kilometres away from the airport. I’m staying at the Hilton Cyprus, which may not be the newest hotel out there but is very well maintained and managed. If you’re interested, the hotel also has rather good gym facilities.

Conclusion

Austrian Airlines was a bit of a let down. On this trip I had the opportunity to sample both their Economy and Business Class products. They got me there and back safely, so thanks for that. But apart from that I really don’t think the flights were anything special. Admittedly the quality of the food was not bad, but apart from that the service was unnecessarily rushed and hurried and pretty uninspired. I also think they haven’t quite got their priorities straight. I mean, the menus really aren’t necessary. However, an additional drink run before the meal is. Dehydration on long flights is a proven fact. And indeed, the one thing that really struck me about this flight is that the passengers were constantly summoning the cabin crew to ask for drinks.

Epilogue

So what about Cyprus? Obviously, I didn’t really get to see that much of the islands. And save for a very long detour for a very short visit to the coast at Agia Napa on the way to the airport, I spent most of my time in Nicosia and the training centre. Nonetheless, I must say I really liked Cyprus. Moreover, I really liked the Cypriots. All the people we met were just so friendly, genuinely warm and welcoming. It’s also a great place to visit if you like good food in huge portions.

Austrian Airlines, Economy Class – A 320: Zürich to Vienna

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Getting to the Airport

Silence, as I cross the deserted square from my apartment to the main entrance of the railway station. And darkness. This is early. Four twenty five to be precise. I’m catching the four forty train to Zürich Airport. It is just a bit over a week since I returned from my Christmas vacation in Japan and I’m travelling again. This time it’s a business trip though. I’m giving a course in Cyprus.

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The journey time to Zürich Airport is one hour and sixteen minutes. The fare for a return ticket in second class starts at CHF37.50.

Recently they introduced new rolling stock on the line that runs from Basel’s main station to Zürich Airport. Essentially they’re new regional trains. But they’re comfortable enough. My only gripe is that there really is no space at all to stow luggage. But at this time of day the train will hardly be full.

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It’s quite amazing how difficult it is to reach Cyprus from Switzerland in the low season, particularly of you’re not travelling on a week’s package vacation and only need to visit the island for a few days. Only Cyprus Airways operates scheduled flights from Larnaca to Zürich, but that flight is not daily and only operates twice a week during the winter – as it happens on days which are of no use to me. The two best alternatives therefore, appear to be either with British Airways via London Heathrow or with Austrian Airlines via Vienna. Somehow I dislike the idea of flying all the way to London, only to catch a plane back in the opposite direction to get to Cyprus. So I’ve decided to take the Austrian Airlines option instead. But there’s just one snag. There is no same day connection from Basel to Larnaca. Which is why I find myself, at this ungodly hour, on a train bound for Zürich, feeling tired and bleary-eyed.

Check-in

I forgot to check-in on the Austrian website the evening before my flight. I figure it doesn’t matter seeing as I’ll be dropping off a bag anyway. But then on the train I decide I might as well give it a try. The Lufthansa App is showing my booking, but because the flight is originating in Switzerland, I am advised to check in with SWISS. So I try the SWISS App, which promptly issues my boarding pass for the flight to Vienna but not for the onward connection. Well, at least it’s a start.

I arrive at the airport with fifteen minutes to spare before meeting up with my colleague who will be joining me on this trip. Enough time to get my boarding passes sorted and have my bag checked through to Larnaca.

Check-in for Swiss flights at Zürich Airport is done either in Check-in 1, in what used to be Terminal A, or in Check-in 3, which is conveniently located one floor up from the railway tracks, so you really don’t have far to go.

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I like the ventilation fans they have…

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The Lounge

The Senator lounge in Zürich was recently closed for refurbishment. I’m not quite sure what I was expecting, but the end product is somewhat of an anti-climax. Essentially, all they’ve done is to remove the comfortable loungers there used to be and replaced them with smaller and less comfortable looking seats that take up less space, thus allowing them to put more seat in the lounge. Oh yes, and they changed the model aircraft in the lounge from the old A 340-300 to the A 330-300 in the new livery. Glad to see they got their priorities straight.

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The Cabin

When I arrive at the gate, boarding is already underway. Austrian Airlines have an interesting boarding concept. The first call is for Business Class passengers and Star Alliance Gold members. They may pass the gate in the traditional way, meaning the gate agent scans the boarding pass and wishes you a nice flight. After that the scrum for general boarding begins, with passengers required to use the automatic gates for boarding instead.

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I step on board to the sound of Strauss blaring away. I’m kind of in two minds about this one, if I’m perfectly honest. I guess it’s a nice touch, but it is also a bit tacky. The cabin is decked out in the same slim seats BMI used to have and which, if I’m not mistaken, Lufthansa also have. Very obviously the colour red dominates in the cabin. Today’s flight is rather full in the back but there are still a few seats left available in Business Class from what I can tell.

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The Crew

The cabin crew is a nondescript bunch. This is not meant in a negative way or anything. It’s just that there is really nothing much in the way they go about their job that might set them apart from the crews of other airlines.

Take-off is from runway 28. It’s a lovely day for flying and we’re treated to some excellent views of the Alps on our way to Vienna.

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The Meal

The meal consists of a round of hot and cold drinks. To eat there a Nuss Schnecke, which is a pastry with ground hazelnuts in it. I take one but eventually leave it untouched. My colleague, who later on eats both his and my Nuss Schnecke, assures me that it wasn’t as dry as it looked.

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Arrival

The quantity of the meal is perfectly adequate for a flight of only 80 minutes. The rubbish is removed and shortly after we begin our descent into Vienna.

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This is the first time I’m using the new pier in Vienna. Perhaps it’s just me but I find the whole design somewhat inconvenient and unpractical. I also think the facility looks rather cheap and drab; the signage is really bad. Next stop: Larnaca.

British Airways, Business Class – Airbus A 321: London to Amsterdam

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Introduction

My vacation is quickly drawing to an end, but at least it will be a gentle re-acclimatisation. Yesterday I arrived in London from Japan. So theoretically today I could simply fly home to Basel and that’s that. It would even give me enough time to go to the gym and work off some of the calories of that lovely Japanese food. Or I could return to Amsterdam first for a day of shopping.

Getting to the Airport

I spend the night at the Sofitel Heathrow adjacent to Terminal 5. It’s a five minutes walk – if you’re walking slowly – from the hotel lobby to the departure level of Terminal 5, which is on the fifth floor.

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Check-in

I checked in using the BA app yesterday evening in the hotel. So no need to use the check-in counters. In Terminal 5 there is a Fast Track for security.

I never would have thought I’d see Heathrow looking so empty. Security is a breeze. There is only one woman ahead of me and that’s only because she’s taking her time while she’s busy doing some heave duty flirting with the security guy.

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The British Airways Galleries Lounge

There are two Galleries Lounges in the main building of Terminal 5. I’ve never been to the North Lounge, so I decide to check that one out first today – new year, new habits.

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Eventually though, I decide not to stay at the lounge. Somehow it doesn’t feel quite as cosy and comfortable as the South Lounge. It’s very bright and looks a bit sterile. So the new habits go flying out the window and I head for the South Lounge instead, my usual haunt in Terminal 5. On the downside, half the toilets are out of order – half the toilets!

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But the food selection in the lounge is simply amazing.

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Incidentally, the lounge is equipped with electric sockets for all kinds of plugs.

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Boarding

The first boarding call is for status card holders and Business Class passengers. I’m surprised to see that today’s flight has been upgraded to an Airbus A 321. And from what the flight attendant tells me, it’s going to be a full flight.

It’s quite windy today, you can feel the aircraft lightly shaking while we’re still parked at the gate. We take off form runway 09R, and I figure I might take some interesting shots of the line up of exotic heavies gracing Terminal 4. But as soon as we get airborne the aircraft starts shaking violently with the wind and all the pictures I manage to take are seriously blurred and de facto useless.

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The Cabin

The seats on this bird look rather worn, but apart form that I’m assuming that this must be either one of the newer aircraft of the type in the British Airways fleet, or it’s something BA inherited from BMI.

The Business Class section takes up the entire space between the L1 and L2 doors, which means 7 rows of Business Class with a total of 28 seat, although I think two seats remain empty on this flight.

The Crew

I count five ladies working the cabin this morning. They’re all of them a very friendly bunch. The purser takes her time to welcome everybody aboard, and even finds time to give the many kids on this flight a special welcome.

Despite the full cabin and a very short flight time of only 40 minutes, the crew still manage to serve every passenger a hot breakfast in a very unrushed and unhurried manner.

Service begins on the ground with the distribution of scented hot towels.

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The Meal

The main event! Breakfast consists of a small plate with fruit, and a hot breakfast with button mushrooms, tomato, omelet, bacon and a sausage. I take a croissant and a warm bun from the bread basket.

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Arrival

Fortunately the weather in Amsterdam is slightly better than what we left behind in London. At least the sun is trying to break through the low cloud.

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We make our approach for runway 18R, the infamous Polderbaan. Ahead of us is a Saudia Boeing B 747-400 freighter.

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Getting into Town

The first thing I do once I arrive in Amsterdam is find a locker to put all my stuff in. I don’t much fancy carting all my junk around the city for a whole day. The lockers are located in the basement of the shopping plaza. Lockers are available in different sizes. A medium sized locker will cost you 18 Euros for 24 hours.

And then from there I head into town by train. The journey from the airport to the city takes 17 minutes by intercity train. There is a train departing for the central station every few minutes. A return ticket will cost 8 Euros. If you’re planning to stay in Amsterdam for a longer period, I would recommend that you get yourself a chip card, which works the same way as the London Oyster Card. The chip card can be used on all public transport in the Amsterdam area.

Train tickets can be obtained either at the ticket counter of the Dutch railways or from one of the many ticketing machines in the plaza. The machines take either cash or credit card, but not both. Also, it is worth pointing out that the machines only accept credit cards with a four digit PIN code.

Japan Airlines, Business Class – Boeing B 777-300ER: arriving in London

For the second meal I decide to go with the onion and chicken curry with rice. For dessert I have a plate of fresh fruit.

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I spend the rest of the flight looking out the window and admiring that lovely wing and engine. I think I’m in love…!

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Arrival

About 50 minutes out of London the captain comes on the blower to inform us that it’s quite windy in London and that we should expect quite some turbulence on the approach. He also says that we should be arriving in Heathrow at about 15h03. I’m a bit skeptical about this, mainly because by the time we make landfall somewhere over the Thames estuary, we’re still cruising at 25’000 feet. And indeed, eventually we end up doing three or four loops in a holding pattern over London City before we’re finally cleared for the approach.

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Whilst in the holding we even end up flying in formation with a British Airways A 321, a Germanwings A 319 and a PIA B 777-200. It’s quite impressive to watch really. Especially the British Airways A 321 seems so near.

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My first decent air to air picture…

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While we hold the cabin crew pass through the cabin offering cold green tea.

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When eventually we are cleared to land, we’re treated to a beautiful approach, right over the West End, with Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace clearly visible.

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Transfer in London Heathrow

JAL uses Terminal 3 in London Heathrow. Evidently British Airways have dramatically scaled back their operation over the Christmas and New Year period. My flight from Tokyo arrives in Heathrow at 15:30. Even so there are no more connections to Amsterdam today. So I shall be spending the night at the Heathrow Sofitel, which is connected to Terminal 5 via a footbridge. To access the footbridge walk to the north end of the terminal and take the last exit, where there is a lift taking you up to bridge level.

The most convenient way to transfer landside between terminals in Heathrow is to use the Heathrow Express, which is free for transferring passengers. The trains are sufficiently frequent and the journey between Heathrow Central and Heathrow Terminal 5 only takes about five minutes to complete.

You can also transfer airside between Terminals 3 and 5 by using the complimentary shuttle bus, even if you’re planning to exit in Terminal 5. This is the easier option because you won’t have to walk so far. The shuttle will drop you off at arrivals in Terminal 5. From there you can either head one floor up to security and departures beyond, or you can simply queue up for immigration on the arrivals level.

All this doesn’t work in the opposite direction though.

Japan Airlines, Business Class – Boeing B 777-300ER: leaving Tokyo…

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Getting to the Airport

In Tokyo I spend my last night in Japan at the Century Southern Tower Hotel in Shinjuku, which is in walking distance of the railway station and actually overlooks the railway tracks.

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Shinjuku is a convenient location because it is one of the few stations in central Tokyo with a direct Narita Express service to the airport (the other stations are Tokyo Station, Shibuya and Shinagawa). Trains from Shinjuku are, however, less frequent than they are from Tokyo Station. The journey from Shinjuku to Narita takes approximately one hour and 25 minutes and costs 3110 Yen, including a seat reservation. There are also standing tickets available for when the Narita Express is fully booked, which cost 510 Yen less. Note though, that even if the train leaves with empty seats after all, holders of a standing ticket may not avail themselves of the empty seats. And the staff actually enforce this policy.

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Check-in

The booking for this flight was made through the British Airways website, the flight was booked as a code-share service with a BA flight number. Subsequently I receive a notification on my BA app once check-in opens 23 hours prior to departure. All things considered though, this is rather pointless. Being only a BA code-share flight operated by JAL, I cannot check-in with my iPhone. Fortunately, I figured this might happen and made a quick phone call to BA once the ticket had been issued to select a seat.

JAL and their Oneworld partners call Narita’s Terminal 2 home. The check-in counters for JAL Business Class are on row K.

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Oneworld status card holders may also check-in at the JAL Global Club counters on row L. The queue there is shorter…

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There is a dedicated Fast Track for Business Class passengers.

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The Japan Airlines Sakura Lounge

The southern JAL Sakura lounge is situated near gate 61 and spreads over two floors. Access to the lounge is on the upper level. This is also where JAL has a ‘dining bar’ with restaurant style seating that serves hot and cold dishes. The lounging area is one floor down.

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The lower floor is spacious, with comfortable seats and some really excellent views of the ramp and traffic arriving on runway 34 Right.

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By the way, since my last visit to Tokyo in August the monorail connecting the main terminal with the satellite has been replaced with a covered moving walkway.

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As far as food and drinks are concerned though, all you get on the lower level are Japanese crackers, sweet biscuits and drinks.

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All in all it’s a nice lounge, but strangely it has the feel and vibe of a hotel lobby…

Boarding

Boarding is scheduled to start at 11:15 for the 11:45 departure. But there appears to be some hold up today while they finish preparing the cabin, so the gate agent makes an announcement to apologize for the ensuing delay.

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Eventually, at 11:18 – I check the time – boarding begins with a staggering, unforgivable delay of three minutes. As one of the gate agents makes his announcement that boarding has commenced, the others (yes, there is a total of four agents processing this flight) bow politely.

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We push back more or less on time. Once the tug has been disconnected and the gear pin removed, the three ground staff who pushed us back give us a nice send off – first the bow and then the wave. It’ just so sophisticated.

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There’s quite a queue for departure today, but it moves quickly and once the Thai Airbus A340-600 ahead of us has finally, miraculously managed to get off the ground, it’s our turn.

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The Cabin

The main Business Class cabin on the JAL Boeing B 777-300ER is located right behind the L2 door. There is a further, single row of Business Class located forward of the L2 door, right behind the First Class cabin. The total number of seats in Business Class is 49 on this bird, with seven seats in the forward cabin and 42 in the main cabin.

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The seat is very comfortable and spacious. JAL has obviously also put a lot of effort into making the seat as private as possible:

The partitions between seats are quite high. In fact, if you’re sitting by the window you are barely visible from the aisle.

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There is a divider between seats as well. Although to be honest I’m not quite sure about the etiquette and protocol regarding this matter. Do I just raise the divider? Should I ask the lady on the aisle seat first? Should I wait for her to make the first move? Fortunately, the lady on the aisle seat is Japanese, so I figure any affront committed on my part could easily be put down to a cultural misunderstanding. So I push the divider to raise the divider, to which the lady nods and says ‘origato’, thank you.

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The seats are also slightly staggered.

One thing worth noting is that there is slightly less storage space on the window seats. All the other seats have a small alcove in the side of the seat in which to place small items like a book or a Mac Book Air during the flight. However, this is not the case on the window seats. Personally though, this is just a minor issue. The seat’s strong selling points really are the privacy and direct access to the aisle for every passenger.

To navigate your way through the IFE, there is a remote control with a large touch screen, which also functions as a track pad to move the arrow around the big screen. Tapping once on the respective icon selects the medium of choice. Theoretically you can also use the remote control to order food throughout the flight, once the main meal service has been completed. On both the outbound and the inbound though, this feature was inoperative.

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The selection of films is somewhat limited and dated (The Devil Wears Prada, Charlie And The Chocolate Factory – need I say more?).

Amenities

JAL provides every passenger with a thin duvet style blanket and a Tempur pillow, which adjusts to the shape of the head to support the neck. It’s an extremely comfortable pillow. There is also a futon available for every passenger. Slippers are also provided.

JAL does not provide vanity kits in Business Class. But the crew pass through the cabin with a selection of eye shades, ear plugs, dental kits and facial masks during the flight.

A peculiarity of Japanese carriers is the provision of cardigans in Business Class, which are normally distributed before departure. JAL will even allow you to keep the cardigan, whereas ANA actually asks for it back at the end of the flight. In case you were wondering, last year I ‘accidentally’ forgot to give my ANA cardigan back at the end of the flight. Once I got home and realised the mistake, I figured I might as well keep it and give it a good wash before using it again. If you chance to end up with an ANA cardigan too, whatever you do, just don’t wash it! By the time I took it out of the washing machine I think it would probably have been a tight fit even for a four-year old kid with a tremendously slender build! I have yet to experimented with the behaviour of the JAL cardigan in warm water.

The Meal

No drinks are served while the aircraft is on the ground. The welcome drink – orange juice or champagne – is served after take-off. This strikes me a bit odd, as shortly after the welcome drinks service, the meal service begins with an amuse bouche and a further drinks service.

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I go for the plum wine.

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There is a choice between a Japanese meal and a Western menu with two choices for the main course. Perhaps just a word of warning at this point: the Japanese food we get on flights to Japan originating in Europe is not quite the same as the Japanese food loaded on flight from Japan back to Europe. The European variety of Japanese is a bit less hardcore, shall we say. Furthermore, Japan Airlines’ take on Western cuisine places the emphasis on using delicacies with a decidedly French flavour. So all things considered, you may end up – like me on today’s flight – in a bit of a quandary. The idea of steamed anglerfish liver, more cod roe or more sashimi – all of which are part of the Japanese meal – isn’t that appealing to me.

Similarly, I’ve never been very fond of foie gras or duck confit – which are on the Western menu – either. Fortunately, JAL has an extensive selection of other meals on offer that you can order throughout the flight, once the main meal service is over, so as not to cause too much of a disruption.

And this is what I do on today’s flight. I just want something simple, so I go for the pasta in tomato sauce and a selection of Japanese cheese with bread. Both dishes are very tasty and hit the spot nicely.

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For dessert I have a delectable creation which is advertised on the menu as ‘Espuma of Coffee & Jean-Paul Hévin’s Macaron Miel‘in. And this really is absolutely divine! Essentially it’s a coffee flan with a base of crunchy biscuit and nuts. Inside the flan are hollow balls of chocolate filled with liquid coffee. On top of the flan is the macaron, which is filled with honey that oozes all over the place the moment you take a bite. And on top of the macaron is a thin sheet of chocolate. Heaven!

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I leave it here for the time being. I’m posting this just under three hours out of London. I shall upload the rest and finish this report after we land.

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All Nippon Airways, Premium Class – B 767-300: Ishigaki to Tokyo Haneda

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I’ve decided to try a new format for my trip reports. Rather than waffling on about my own personal experience, I figured it might make more sense to provide some hands-on information instead. Let me know what you think!

And a happy new year, by the way.

Getting to the Airport

In Ishigaki I stayed at the ANA Intercontinental Resort. There are two options to get from the resort to the airport. A taxi will take approximately 20 minutes to make the journey and costs roughly 2’500 Japanese Yen.

Alternatively, there is also the bus line 10, which in fact stops right in front of the hotel on its way to the airport. The journey by bus will take roughly 20 to 30 minutes and costs 430 Japanese Yen.

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Check-in

Online check-in does not appear to be available on the ANA domestic website. There is, however, an iPhone app which would, theoretically, allow you to check-in. But it seems that bookings for domestic flights that were purchased abroad or not purchased directly with ANA are not eligible for any type of remote check-in. This also means there’s no advanced seat selection, unless of course you call ANA directly.

Ishigaki is a nice little airport.

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There are six ANA check-in counters at the airport, three of which are for passengers with checked bags. The other three are for passengers with cabin luggage only and also serve as ticketing counters. There is no dedicated Premium Class counter.

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What Ishigaki airport also has, is a very nice open air observation deck on the second floor.

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Airside

There are no lounges at Ishigaki airport. At least though there is a mini food court adjacent to the ANA check-in area where you can get some tasty Japanese food or a Starbucks coffee.

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Departures are also on the second floor.

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Boarding

Boarding for domestic flights is always very efficient, orderly and quick. A fully loaded Boeing B 767-300 is boarded in just under 15 minutes.

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The Cabin

ANA operates a variety of different cabin configurations and seats in its Premium Class cabins. It helps if you know what aircraft type you’re travelling on, although even then there appear to be differences within the same fleet type.

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Further information about the seats and configuration can be found here. Please note however, that there are no detailed seat maps on the ANA domestic website and seatguru provides no information about ANA’s domestic configuration.

The Boeing B 767-300 are kept in good shape, for sure. But their IFE is somewhat antiquated and consists of a limited number of audio channels and one video channel. Films are showed on a big screen mounted on the cabin bulkhead. On this particular flight they’re showing a documentary about the Boeing B 747-400SD in ANA service. The aircraft will be leaving the fleet with the start of the summer schedule on 29 March 2014.

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Amenities

ANA provides every passenger with a blanket and slippers (available on international flights too). Additionally, pillows, eye shades and ear plugs are available upon request.

The Meal

The ANA domestic website gives a lot of useful information about the kind of service and food on offer on flights that have a Premium Class service. Flights with departures between 13:01 and 16:59 are served a light meal, which has an afternoon tea theme and is branded as Premium SABO. The meal consists basically of a variety of sweets and savouries.

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Further information can be obtained here. There is also a menu in every seat pocket of the Premium Class cabin.

Arrival

ANA operates from Terminal 2 in Haneda.

Getting into Town

Haneda is the first, original Tokyo airport. Narita was built much later. To get into central Tokyo the most reliable option is to take the monorail from the basement of the airport to Hamamatsucho, which is the terminus station of the train.

At Hamamatsucho you can transfer to the JR Yamanote line, which draws a circle around Tokyo and connects most of the important locations. Shinjuku and Tokyo Station are both served by the JR Yamanote line and the Narita Express and are only a few stops away from Hamamatsucho. So having a hotel in close proximity to one of these two stations is very convenient. I normally stay in the Shinjuku area because it’s quite lively by day and by night. Tokyo proper is mostly a business district and once the offices close, it gets rather quiet and, well – a bit boring.

You can buy combined tickets for the monorail and JR lines at the ticket machines for the monorail in Haneda. If you’re not sure about the ticket price, simply get the cheapest ticket there is, which is 600 Yen. There are fare adjustment machines at every station for you to top up your ticket.

Epilogue

In the meantime the miles for the outbound leg to Ishigaki have been credited to my Senator account. Premium Class is treated as First Class and subsequently yields 3684 miles, which is quite substantial for Miles & More these days, especially given the cuts they’ve made in an attempt to cause maximum irritation at minimum advantage – even to themselves…