I’ve just arrived in Japan on the Lufthansa A 380 service from Frankfurt. I’m the first passenger to reach immigration and find the place completely deserted. As a result, I’m through passport control in no time. I head one floor down, go through customs and quickly find myself landside again. I am connecting to a domestic ANA flight in Narita and the process could hardly be easier!
From: Tokyo Narita
To: Sapporo Chitose
Airline: ANA All Nippon Airways
Cabin: Economy Class
Seat: 24A, window, left side
Date: 27. 12. 2012
Check-in for ANA domestic flights at Narita is on the same level as international arrivals, just a short distance from where passengers exit customs. There is a dedicated counter for ANA’s top tier and Star Alliance Gold members and the young lady working the counter is, as usual, polite and efficient.
A bit further on from the check-in counters is the ANA International Arrivals Lounge, which doubles as the domestic departure lounge. The lounge is functional more than anything else. It has wifi, shower facilities and a quiet zone with day rooms. Foodwise however, it’s a bit of a wasteland. There are close to no food options and all drinks, cold and warm, are only available from one of those instant machines.
The gates in the domestic part of the terminal have letters, rather than numbers. My flight is boarding from gate A, which appears to be one of the few domestic gates that gives you direct access to the aircraft.
The boarding process is a neat and orderly manner. Our flight is delayed by only 15 minutes and the ground crew cannot stop apologizing for the inconvenience.
The flight is nearly completely full, with only single empty seats here and there.
The cabin on this bird is Economy Class only. The aircraft looks very well kept and neat. More over, I am amazed by how clean the windows are. Do they actually clean these every day? Leg space is surprisingly good and the seat is comfortable enough for the 85 minutes hop to Hokkaido.
The cabin crew is made up of four female attendants. It’s fascinating to see how much more seriously this crew take their jobs compared to the flight attendants I’m used to in Europe. First of all, when they pass through the cabin doing the safety check, these ladies even make sure that every overhead locker is properly closed, checking each one individually. Later on during the flight it is interesting to see that the crew remain in the cabin even once the drinks service is over, chatting to passengers or playing with the many children on board today’s flight.
Departure is from the same runway on which I landed a few hours previously with the A 380. On our way to the runway I even spot my first ever ‘live’ B 787 and I am quite surprised by how small the bird is in real life.
Take-off is the complete opposite of what the A 380 treated me to the day before. Our little B 737 demonstrates some impressive acceleration as we go thundering down the runway.
Once we’re airborne we continue on more or less the same heading for about 15 minutes. Our routing and the clear sky provide some excellent views of mount Fuji, visible right behind our left aileron.
Strictly speaking, there is none. Catering on this flight consists of just a drink, with a small selection of tea, coffee and a few soft drinks. I have a cup of apple juice and then, for the rest of the flight I just sit back and watch the beautiful winter scenery down below.
Our arrival route into Chitose airport is a circuitous one, with many left and right turns before we are finally lined up with the runway.
As we taxi off the active runway I am surprised to find that the taxiways have only been partially cleared of snow and in fact we are rolling over large patches of ice. There is snow everywhere, and heaps of the stuff!
My flight arrives at 12h15. I still have about two hours to wait before my transfer picks me up to take me to the Niseko Ski Resort. Jetlag always makes me hungry, so I head up to the third floor where there is a large food court and treat myself to a large bowl of nice, warm and chewy Udon noodles and an Onigiri.
By the time I’m in the car on my way to Niseko I’m exhausted. The journey from the airport to Niseko is slightly more than two hours. I nod off to sleep as we leave the terminal and only wake up as we come to a halt outside my hotel, the Kimamaya.
ANA gave a solid performance on this flight today. Given the short duration of the flight, there was hardly any opportunity for the airline to excel really. Even so, the professionalism displayed by the crew leaves you with the feeling of a great experience and having been well taken care of. I like!