I’m really excited to share this report with the community because it represents a number of firsts for both the site and me. This time, it will be a short day-trip down to the city of Kumamoto (??) on the island of Ky'sh?.
There are three options for the Nagoya-Kumamoto route: NH, JH, and GK. NH and GK both operate out of Nagoya-Centrair, but JH operates out of Nagoya-Komaki. GK was immediately scrapped since Jetstar is not a product I have any interest in trying and their flight times were not compatible with a day-trip. NH and JH both operate three daily flights between the cities so they both worked with my schedule. Price was almost the same between the two carriers (JH was slightly cheaper). The deciding factor came down to my interest in switching to OW in the future so I wanted to test out an airline in the JL Group that I could use out of Nagoya.
Fuji Dream Airlines (JH) is a really interesting carrier since its major hubs are Shizuoka and Nagoya-Komaki. The airline started operations in 2009, so it is very young. All of its flights are code-shared with JL and mileage with OW can be earned. In fact, you can actually book JH tickets on the JL website, but prices seemed to be a little bit higher that way (JH’s website is in Japanese only, so if you can’t navigate Japanese webpages, the JL website is probably your best option). Out of Nagoya-Komaki, they provide service to 9 domestic destinations, which is a good compliment to JL (only operates daily service to CTS/NRT/HND/OKA) out of Nagoya-Centrair. J-Air used to operate out of Nagoya-Komaki, but discontinued all routes so FDA has really taken over this aspect of JL’s domestic service out of the Nagoya area.
JH operates a fleet of nine E-Jets (E-170/E-175) that are all painted in a different color with an average fleet age of about 1-year. It’s a full-service carrier, yet only based out of two airports so it has a “boutique” feel. I’ll talk about this in the report, but it felt like all the employs really enjoyed working for the carrier and were very passionate about their company. This made the carrier have a very different feel from NH or JL.
Nagoya-Komaki is the old airport and is located just north of downtown Nagoya in Komaki, versus Nagoya-Centrair which is located nearly 40km south of the city in Tokoname. The airport has a single runway and the only commercial airline that operates at the airport is JH. The airport is mainly used by the military and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (they are building the Mitsubishi Regional Jet there).
That’s your background on JH and NKM since they are both being premiered in this report. The routing will be very simple:
When I booked the ticket a couple of weeks before the trip, this flight was pretty full. There were only a couple of free seats left. I opted for 9K since it would be the least intruded by the wing for aerial photos and it had no seatmate.
Nagoya-Komaki is not on any of the city’s subway or train lines, so it’s not the easiest airport to get to if you don’t have a car. FDA realized this was a problem and established several airport limousine routes that connect the airport with Nagoya Station and other smaller railway stations in the Aichi area. I’ll pick up the airport limousine from Nagoya Station. The airport limo service matches FDA’s flight schedule so it is useful, but a little expensive (¥700) for the 20-minute bus ride up to the airport. The bus stop is located right in front of Midland Square (across the street from Nagoya’s JR Station and Meitetsu Station). It’s not well-marked, but there is a small sign indicating the bus stop. It’s right in front of the Cartier and Dior stores.
I showed up at 6:20 for the 6:35 bus. The bus pulls up at 6:25 and is well marked (albeit only in Japanese) stating it goes to Nagoya-Komaki and even has the FDA logo on the side. You pay entering the bus. If you have large luggage, you need to place it under the bus yourself (the driver will not do this for you). The bus is clean and has a good pitch; we depart promptly at 6:35. There were only 6 people on the bus so it wasn’t that crowded.
Brief Nagoya tourism bonus: Nagoya Castle as seen from the highway on the way to the airport. It’s famous gold shachihoko proudly coloring the sky. Although not very impressive today, it is historically a very important castle since it was the seat of the powerful Owari Branch of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
The airport limo makes one stop at the Mitsubishi plant located next to the airport before reaching the terminal. Nagoya-Komaki is an old airport that is not so easy on the eyes. Getting off the bus, we enter the Departures Hall.
As soon as you walk in, the FDA counters are right there. FDA is the only commercial airline at NKM so you can’t miss them. There are some self-service kiosks on the left, then seven staffed counters. I went to the self-service kiosks where an agent immediately approaches me and greets me. She takes my e-receipt and does the check-in on the kiosk for me. She shows me the seatmap and asks if I want to change seats, I’m happy with 9K so she prints the boarding pass and hands it to me telling me to please enter the security area by 7:55.
The left side of the Departures Hall has a café and the standard omiyage shops.
The right side of the Departures Hall has a small waiting area outside of security and the Arrivals Hall. If you look on the ground, you can see little airplane stickers leading a Hansel and Gretel trail, we are going to follow those!
Where do they lead? The observation deck, the highlight of every Japanese airport! There is an elevator up to the 3rd floor (the 2nd floor is all offices).
Reaching the 3rd floor, there is another waiting room that has a display on the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ). Here is the FR premier of the MRJ cabin (which probably looked a lot more modern in 2008 when they built this display…). As I mentioned in the background section of this report, the MRJ is being designed and built here in Nagoya and the first flight is scheduled for this year out of NKM. Ironically, FDA does not have any orders for it.
Bad glare on the FIDS. As you can see, only FDA flights here at NKM.
I step out onto the observation deck and am met with a glorious rainbow of FDA planes in the morning sun. This is 2/3 of the JH fleet, the other three planes are based out of FSZ.
NKM has a nice deck for spotting and the people here come prepared. At first, I was wondering why this guy didn’t check his suitcase in before going up to the observation deck, but then he opened up the suitcase and it was filled with camera equipment. The Japanese’s passion for plane spotting never ceases to amaze me.
Since NKM is the original airport in the city, it gets to proudly show off that it is “Nagoya Airport.”
In the background section of this report, I also mentioned that NKM is also primarily used by the military. In the distance you can see some a bunch of Lockheed C-130 Hercules lined up as well as some B767s that are configured for air-to-air refueling.
And here goes the first plane of the day! Orange (JA05FJ), an Embraer ERJ-175, is ready to go on its trip up to ?? (Aomori, AOJ). She spins around, taxis off to the runway, then takes off.
Red (JA01FJ) was then set to depart. Red is special in that it retains the primary color of the airline since it was the first of the Embraer ERJ-170s received by the airline when they started service back in 2009. Today, Red is heading up to ????? (Iwate Hanamaki, HNA).
The pilots are visible, and give the onlookers up at the observation deck a wave goodbye (you can see the hands in the cockpit windows) as the plane turns around and heads out to the runway.
It’s not very gentlemanly of me to take these photos of a pretty lady’s backside, but she gives some nice close-up views of the Embraer E-Jet tail pipe as she taxis off to the runway.
She aligns, bolts down the runway, and rises up into the crisp morning air.
The third plane to leave is Green (JA04FJ), an Embraer E-170. You can see in the first photo the retraction of the “jetbridge” before she makes a sharp turn to the right to head out to the runway.
This is when I noticed something I thought was hilarious and definitely unique. The ground crew used bicycles to ride around the tarmac. I’ve never seen someone riding a bicycle on the tarmac before.
Green is now lined up for her sprint down the tarmac in the distance while we look at Pink (JA03FJ) in the foreground. Green then winds up the turbines and begins her short run down the runway and lifts up enroute to ??? (Kitaky'sh?, KKJ).
The last plane to leave before I head to the gate is Yellow (JA07FJ), an Embraer E-175. She also does a little spin on the dance floor and heads off to the runway. She can be seen aligning before winding up the GE turbines and bolting down the runway and up into the sky as she heads off to ?? (Fukuoka, FUK).
There are now just two planes out on the tarmac, Tea Green and Pink. Here is a close up of my plane, Tea Green (JA08FJ), an Embraer E-175. It is 20-minutes to my departure time so I head downstairs to go through security. Who needs lounges to wait in when you have observation decks?
A quick pitstop in the bathroom, NKM bathrooms are clean, but not as fancy as the bathrooms at FCO that Cobra adores.
Back in the Departures Lobby, there is only one security line to enter the gate area. Despite this, security was extremely quick and I was airside within a minute.
Airside looks almost the same; there is just one large room with a seating area facing the tarmac and the one “boarding gate.” There are some vending machines, a smoking room, and bathrooms to the left of this photo.
Before boarding starts, let me quickly show off the boarding pass that FDA uses (definitely a keeper!) as well as the corporate shot. There is no WiFi available at NKM.
Boarding is actually called early at 7:50. First passengers needing special assistance are called to board, followed by general boarding. All boarding announcements were made in Japanese only.
One last picture of the FIDS before I head down the “jetbridge.” My flight is the one on top bound for ?? (Kumamoto) and we will be departing from Gate A.
So where is Gate A? Well, let’s look at this cool little map they have at the boarding gate. It’s color-coordinated. At Gate A, you can see the “Tea Green” plane; it also says “tea green” in katakana on the side as well as the destination: ??.
Heading down the “jetbridge” towards Gate A.
At the end of the “jetbridge” there is another boarding gate where the agent scans the boarding pass. Next to her kiosk there is this stack of FDA umbrellas, since you have to walk out onto the tarmac they are well prepared for the potential of rainy weather.
Stepping out onto the tarmac, we get a great view of our bird today basking in the morning light.
Close up of the nose and we can see that there are pilots in the cockpit, always a relief.
Close up of the little GE turbines that will be powering this E-Jet. They may be “cute” looking, but they had a lot of thrust when the pilots wound them up.
One last fuselage/wing shot before I head up the stairs. There were no ground crew standing around to usher me onto the plane, but I decided not to push the limits by walking around the wing.
I head up the stairs. Arriving at the threshold of the plane, a smiling FA gave me a bow and a big “good morning.” She didn’t hesitate at all to speak English to me, which caught me off guard because I was already halfway through an “?????????” by the time I realized she was speaking English. She laughs, responds “?????????” back, then gestures for me to enter the cabin.
Here is a picture of my seat for this short flight down to Kumamoto. You can notice the headrest covers are color-coordinated to the plane. As one can expect in Japan, the cabin is in pristine condition with all of the seat belts neatly folded and no trash is in sight (it also helps that this is a fairly young plane).
We are going to implement a new legroom test: the barf bag standard. I’m 182cm and can fit the barf bag between my knees and the seatback pocket in a “slouch” position. Pitch is very good for economy on a Japanese carrier.
After boarding finished (~95% full, I had no seatmate). The FAs made two passes through the cabin. The first was to distribute newspapers (Japanese only) and then to distribute blankets. I took a blanket, which was actually more of a fleece throw blanket. Typo on the blankets? It only says “airline” not “airlines.”
The front doors close and we are now doing the safety demonstration. The safety demonstration was done in both Japanese and English (narrated by the FA in the forward cabin).
We spin clockwise and head out towards the runway giving one last look back at NKM and Pink waiting to be boarded. Next to the commercial terminal is a small private terminal with some smaller recreational planes parked out on the tarmac.
The little GE engines almost gave me whiplash when the pilots gave them full thrust, I forgot how fast these E-Jets accelerate, haven’t flown one in a couple of years. We were soon wheels up soaring over the northern suburbs of the Nagoya metropolitan area before making a sharp turn left turn to begin the run south to Ky'sh? as we entered heavy cloud coverage.
I’ll take this time to introduce the seatback contents. There are two waterproof disposal bags. We then have the safety card for this E-175.
There is the FDA magazine, titled DREAM3776. The 3776 is a reference to the metric height of Mt. Fuji, the namesake of the airline. Inside we have the rather congested route map. If you look closely, they show the typical routes the airplanes take in between cities so you can predict what you will see out of the window. The route shown for NKM-KMJ was actually fairly accurate to the actual route flown. Finally, the magazine also contained a small shopping section for FDA paraphernalia. To keep up with NH, JH also lets you buy their FA aprons and scarfs.
Finally, there was small folder that contained airport information, such as the bus schedule for the airport limousine.
Here is a picture of the seat (and a Japanese foot) in more detail. The seats were comfortable enough for a short flight, but I wouldn’t want to sit on this seat for more than 2.5-hours. I’m kind of tall, so I find the E-Jet seats to be very short to the point I can’t rest my head on the headrest (which was not adjustable) unless I was slouched down. The seat control is your basic one-button for recline, which was standard. The gentleman in front of me never reclined so I can’t comment on how intrusive it is.
A picture of the cabin from my seat.
Before the service starts, I make a quick trip to the forward lavatory. It was clean and contained hand soap.
Then something really surprising happened. The pilot came on and started pointing out sights of interest outside of the window. He would make the announcement in Japanese and then in English. I was very impressed by his English ability. He did this a couple of times during the flight, which might bother some people who don’t like chatty pilots.
We passed through the Inland Sea of Japan, which separates Honsh? from Shikoku. Takamatsu (??) was on the left side of the plane, but I was only able to spot the small islands in the straight.
The first set of islands we cross is Shodoshima (???).
The next set of islands is Naoshima (??).
Here comes the FA with our in-flight service. One FA started from Row 1 and worked backwards and the other FA started from the rear of the cabin and worked forwards.
By the time she reaches my row, we are now back over Honsh? just past Onomichi (??)
The FA asks me in English what I would like to drink. I respond in Japanese asking for a cup of coffee. She seems a little startled by the Japanese so proposes sugar and creamer in English, but I decline. Service also consists of a towelette and a croissant. The croissant is not really a croissant, more like a piece of bread in the shape of croissant. Not the greatest taste, but it is edible and the actual existence of food on a Japanese domestic flight in Y is commendable. It comes from a local bakery Como that is located in Komaki.
The pilots come on again and announce that Hiroshima is now visible on the right side of the plane. This first pictures shows Akitsu (???) in the foreground (just above the engine) and Higashihiroshima (???) in the distance (top of the picture).
The Akinada Bridge is visible just above the engine, Kure (?) is the city that is just above the bridge. Itsukushima (??) [commonly called Miyajima (??)] is the island that is in the top left corner of this picture, home of the famous Itsukushima Shrine (????).
Hiroshima (??) is now visible on the right side of this picture; Kure (?) is located in the bottom left corner.
One last look over Kurahashi Island (???) and N'mi Island (???) as we leave Hiroshima as everyone in the cabin is peeled to the windows.
The FAs then come through and start collecting garbage and checking on passengers. The FA stops at my row when she collects my trash and asks me if I can speak Japanese. She leans over and chats for a minute asking me a couple of questions about my trip before continuing her trash collection.
We now reach Ky'sh? as we get a nice glimpse of Kunisaki (??); this area is very famous for it’s mountain shrines.
This photo is dedicated to Cobra (who will reporting this airport), here is an aerial shot of ?ita Airport.
Here are some more cabin shots. The couple across the aisle was now sleeping so I can give a side-shot of the seat pitch. Here is also a detailed shot of the overhead controls on the E-Jet.
We continue down the Ky'sh? coast, here is Kitsuki (??).
Flying past Beppu (??) [?ita (??) was directly underneath the plane, visible just next to the engine].
Flying past Mount Tsurumi (???) and Mount Yufu (???).
Then over the top of Mount Kuj? (??????), which sadly meant that Mount Aso (???) was on the other side of the plane.
We then dropped down into the greater Kumamoto area, before making a sharp U-turn giving a great view of the city.
The airport is pretty far from the city center, so we land over green farmland.
As we come crashing down, I can catch a JL B738 holding short of the runway.
We have a smooth landing ahead of schedule. We turn off the runway and see a GK A320 getting pushed back. We have to stop for 30 seconds for the GK A320 to clear from in front of us. A picture of the cabin as we wait for the plane to clear.
We then pull into our gate next to another bright green plane, a LQ B738.
I then see a J-Air CRJ-200 head off for the runway.
I wait in my seat while deplaning commences because I wanted to catch the GK A320 taking off. Here she goes!
As soon as I take the picture, the rear cabin FA comes up and gestures for me to deplane. I was the last passenger on the plane, so I apologized, grabbed my backpack and headed out. When I reach the galley, the forward cabin FA gives me a big smile, bows, and thanks me for flying. I give the FAs an “????” and head up the jetbridge.
In the terminal, I take a couple more shots of my plane before heading down to the baggage claim.
We have out first ???? (Kumamon) spotting in the baggage claim! This delightful mascot of Kumamoto Prefecture, one of the most famous mascots in Japan, is visible throughout the city and on all the omiyage.
I was really impressed with KMJ, it had these large murals and lots of wood accents that really seemed to embrace the natural surroundings of the area.
Outside, there are some kiosks where you can buy bus tickets to the city. The bus costs ¥730 to downtown Kumamoto, but I bought a ticket for ¥600 to get off at Suizen-ji J'ju-en to start my sightseeing.
The bus departs from Station 1.
The bus is old school and has quite the festive upholstery, it’s good to know the 80s are still alive and well in Kumamoto.
As the bus departs the terminal, something very interesting catches me eye, there is this NAMC YS-11 (JA8712) parked out in the field. I apologize for the blue color, the bus had tinted windows. This particular plane was retired in 2003, but used to be operated for sightseeing routes. Now it is a relic of Japanese aviation history since the YS-11 was one of the few successful commercial aviation aircraft built in Japan. NAMC went defunct in in the 1980s.
With that little piece of history, I’d like to thank you all for reading this report and please check out the upcoming return trip that will provide a tourism bonus of Kumamoto.
Fuji Dream Airlines
Nagoya - NKM
Kumamoto - KMJ
This was my first time aboard JH and I was very impressed with their product. I think it is the best Y product I have flown domestically in Japan. I was really taken back by how much enthusiasm the ground crews, FAs, and pilots all showed on this flight. On top of that, NKM is quicker and cheaper to get to than NGO. Obviously, this carrier has little utility for most people since it only operates out of Nagoya and Shizuoka, but for me it is the most attractive domestic carrier.
Cabin comfort: E-Jets are notorious for cabin comfort and this one is no different. Seat pitch was great for economy and the cabin was spotless. My only complaint is that the seats have non-adjustable headrests and are not the most comfortable in the world. These are problems often encountered on regional jets so I’m not going to deduct too much for that since for a 1-hour flight these are barely noticeable issues.
Crew: I have recently encountered a string of really good FAs on domestic flights. This crew was no different, I quickly developed a good rapport with them and they were very friendly and chatty back. Service was always done with a smile. FAs and pilots all spoke English, big plus in my book.
Meal and catering: This is a domestic flight in Japan, so the standard Y service is just drinks. JH serves a croissant at breakfast time so they deserve points for that.
Entertainment: Nothing. Just the in-flight magazine and the beautiful natural IFE out the window. It’s a 1-hour domestic flight, so who cares if this aspect is not good.
On-time performance: Left on time and landed slightly early.
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