This series will cover a weekend getaway down to Ishigaki (??), which is the southernmost resort in Japan. It is located east of Taiwan. This was a last-minute trip that I booked 14 days in advance. Knowing that December 19-20 would be a rare two-day weekend for me, I had a hankering to go someplace warm and it had to be a domestic trip.
On December 5, I called up EY to book an award ticket on NH. I had so-so experiences with EY’s call centers in the past, but when I called this time I only had to listen to 15 seconds of their jazzy Arabic music before I was greeted by a very nice Australian agent, who was very efficient and competent. I first tried to get a Premium class ticket into OKA, but there were no more award seats on any of the flights. I then tried to get a Premium class ticket into ISG, but that was also met with failure. Since I’ve been to OKA before, I decided to try ISG and asked if Economy was available. The agent confirmed availability and I jumped on it. 12,000 miles from my EY Guest account and ¥620 (~$5) in taxes later, I have a round-trip ticket to ISG on NH.
For all the crap that EY Guest gets, there are some really good redemption rates on their partner airlines if you know how to exploit the system and this is a perfect example. Just for some perspective, here are the prices that pop up on NH’s website for booking the exact same flights with them 14-days in advance:
I would happily spend 12,000 miles and ¥620 (~$5) in exchange for tickets that would cost me ~¥125,000 (~$1,100) face value. The only problem with booking the award ticket is that EY gives you an international reference code that NH doesn’t like. Trying to access the seat maps for domestic flights on NH’s website is a complete fail. Maybe this isn’t surprising after all the fun I had with JL and domestic seat reservations in one of my recent series.
A quick phone call to the NH reservation center and that problem was solved and I acquired confirmed window seats for both flights. So I greatly appreciate that NH could at least do this over the phone.
A night at the ANA InterContinental Ishigaki Resort was booked and I’m all set to go. Well, not really, since the next day Ms. NGO85 found out she didn’t have to work that weekend and wanted to go too. So I had to call EY and repeat the entire process to book her ticket for another 12,000 EY Guest miles and ¥620 (~$5) in taxes. So without further ado, we will begin this short series:
This report will cover the longest domestic flight operated out of NGO: the journey from Nagoya down to Ishigaki.
As always, I took the Meitetsu ?Sky to NGO, which costs ¥1310 and takes ~25 minutes. For those of you wondering, there is a bus from downtown, but it costs almost the same and takes over 1 hour, so there really is no cheap option to get to the airport.
Arriving at the airport, we head over to the NH domestic check-in counters. We’re helped by a NH agent, who is in training. I hand over my EY itinerary and she immediately looks flustered, which is not surprising since EY gives their reference code for the award ticket and an international NH reference code. The other NH agent quickly diffuses the situation by explaining how to search by name since there is no domestic record locator (again, why can’t NH and JL figure out how to connect their domestic and international booking systems?).
With boarding passes in hand, we head upstairs. While I head out to do some spotting, Ms. NGO85 perused the shops in NGO. The photos will be very misleading of the weather; it was a very brisk 3°C with 15-20 mph winds. The avid Japanese spotters are already camped out on the observation deck.
The domestic tail line-up stepping outside. Our plane will be leaving from Gate 6, which is where that NH B735 is sitting.
NH DHC8-400 spinning around for its trip up to Akita (??).
We can’t have a NGO report without an excessive amount of spotting :) Our first action today, is a KE B77W bound for ICN.
NH B737 heading off to HKG.
NH B735 taxing.
IBEX CRJ-600 arriving from Fukuoka (??).
PR A333 departing for MNL.
Air Do B735 with winglets arriving from Sapporo (??).
NH B735 departing for Kumamoto (??).
UA B738 with scimitar winglets arriving from GUM, this one was very popular with the Japanese spotters since they don’t get to see scimitar winglets in Asia.
JL B738 taxing by.
CX A333 lifting off for HKG.
DL B752 departing for GUM.
CI A333 lifting off for TPE.
After meeting up with Ms. NGO85, we head over to the domestic security line. There is no one in line and we are quickly through. The FIDS at the domestic security check area.
Just to appease some readers, a quick stop in the Centrair Airline Lounge (shared domestic lounge by NH and JL so not operated by NH, but still on the list of lounges supported by EY). Entering, the agent greets me and I hand over my EY Gold card. She looks really confused, she looks through her picture book of *A cards and tells me she has never seen this before. I show her the printout from EY’s website showing my benefits on NH. She doesn’t know what to do, so eventually calls NH and they send over two agents to the lounge. They also look confused, but after 10 minutes of an animated discussion, they eventually decide to photocopy my card and let me enter. Very frustrating since every time before, I’ve never had issues. I’ll be filing a complaint with EY and maybe I can recoup some of the miles I used to buy this ticket ;)
The hassles I go through to show you this wonderful lounge offering. The lounge is small, has no windows, and has no food offerings. It feels like a doctor’s office waiting room, but with draft beer. Shown here is the complete food/drink selection. There is an espresso machine, fountain drinks, one bottle of Suntory whiskey, and Suntory and Yebisu on tap (I guess it is novel in that they offer two types of beer). There are some packets of otsumami in the middle.
The all Japanese press offering.
The complete seating area viewed from the corner.
My offering: a coffee and a 10:00am Yebisu on draft for Numero_2.
A boarding announcement is made in the lounge for the flight to Ishigaki, the agent that checked us in comes into the seating area and informs us that our plane is boarding soon (I could tell she was feeling guilty, hence the personal notification). Packing up and heading out, she apologies again for the incident saying that she has never seen the new EY cards before.
Lady luck is on my side today, we’ll be getting the NH B738 in *A special livery (JA51AN).
All Nippon Airways, NH 579 Equipment: Boeing B737-800 [JA51AN, delivered May 2008] Departure: 10:50 (ATD: 11:14) Arrival: 13:55 (ATA: 13:57) Flight time: 2:43
Boarding is called about 10 minutes late at 10:45 (probably due to a late inbound aircraft since the plane wasn’t there at 10:15 when we went into the lounge). Heading down the jetbridge, there is a nice view of the IBEX CRJ-200 getting ready to leave for Sendai (??).
Reaching the threshold of the plane.
Boarding, the FA in the galley didn’t say a word to me. I said “konnichiwa” to her and then she replied. Reaching the first FA in the economy cabin, she also ignored me, but mumbled a very soft “good morning” as I walked by.
My window seat, 9K.
The load was very light on this flight (~30%). The entire row behind me was empty so Ms. NGO85 claimed the row behind me and turned it into an EconomyFirst flatbed seat to nap during the flight. There was a couple across the aisle that did the same thing since the guy immediately moved to the row behind. Here is a picture of the girl across the aisle taking advantage of her newly acquired EconomyFirst seat that I took later in the flight.
The seats on the older B738s are the same as what is on the international B737s, they don’t have the newest Recaro seats that are on the B738s that are currently being delivered. The seat pitch is of course acceptable and the seatbelts are neatly folded.
After sitting down, the FAs passes through the cabin offering blankets.
Cabin shot during boarding.
Given the light load, we were instantly done boarding and the front door was closed and push back began.
The overhead screens came down and the safety video played during the taxi to the runway.
Taxing out to the runway, we cross a foe and catch a glimpse of the SQ A333 lifting off for SIN.
We took off behind the TG B773 heading back to BKK (really blurry). I don’t know what the deal was with this plane, but the windows had some sort of film on them that made focusing very difficult. I wonder if this plane had come from Hokkaido and had been de-iced in the morning.
Aligning onto the runway.
We take off to the north about 20 minutes late. Rising up over Ise Bay, we quickly make a U-turn to head south giving a brief glimpse of Nagoya over the wing.
We continue our turn past Yokkaichi (???).
We then cross over Ise (??).
NH magazine and Sky Shop catalog.
Safety card for this B738.
The BOB menu, which was available on this flight.
Leaving Wakayama-ken (????), it will be all ocean from here on out.
Recline is controlled through the little grey lever in the armrest and audio jack/controls were located on the inside of the armrest.
Close-up of the antimacassar and the ceremonial 2” recline.
Drink service was conducted after the FAs were released. The curtain being closed to the Premium class cabin.
The IFE was also initiated and showed a 30-minute “Tastes of Japan” program before being switched to the moving map for the rest of the flight.
The drink cart reaches my row.
I ask for a coffee and water, which are both delivered.
After the drink service, the FAs came through the cabin with a tray offering items off the BOB menu. I didn’t get anything, but just took a nap waking up as we approached Okinawa (??). It was very cloudy today over the East China Sea.
I asked a FA that was passing though the cabin for a glass of water. She promptly retuned with a cup.
Air-to-air with a GA A330 in the distance; must be coming from ICN/PEK/PVG since it crossed over us near Naha with a SE trajectory.
As we approached Naha, the FAs started a second drink service returning through the cabin offering hot tea, cold tea, and coffee from pitchers (similar to mid-flight drink runs on international NH flights). I took a hot tea and a coffee during their passes.
Everyone huddled up to the windows to take pictures of Naha (??) as we passed over.
We flew at 34,000 feet and had some strong headwinds since we were going a pretty slow 440 mph. We eventually started our final approach around here.
We descended from the blue skies down through the clouds.
Under the clouds, we get our first glimpse of the northern tip of Ishigaki (???).
We fly along the island during our final descent.
Aerial view of ISG. We will be landing from the south, so we have to fly by and make a U-turn.
Reaching the southern tip of Ishigaki, we make our U-turn and get to take in the beautiful blue-green shallow waters surrounding the island.
The farmlands that makeup most of the island.
We touch down and slam on the brakes since the runway is so short. A sole NU B734 sits at the airport.
The ground crew awaits our arrival. They bow as we come to the gate and then scurry off to do their jobs.
Deplaning, the FAs in the galley thank passengers for flying. A quick look at the Y seats one last time.
The modern jetbridge with big glass windows.
Down the escalators to the baggage claim, which won’t be necessary today since we didn’t check bags.
We head straight outside to catch the bus to the hotel. There are two buses that run to the city center, only one of the two goes to the ANA InterContinental Resort. The bus costs ¥540 to the city center and ¥440 to the hotel (~20 minutes).
I will leave off this series here as we take the bus to the hotel to begin the 24-hours of relaxation in the fantastic 25°C weather.
Star Alliance Lounge Business Class Section
Nagoya - NGO
Ishigaki - ISG
A standard NH domestic flight, but my first time in Y on a non-shuttle route. No catering of course, but drink runs were plentiful and the cabin/crew was sufficient. Japan's domestic service is only slightly better than what you'd get in the US. I guess the perks are that you don't get nickeled and dimes for seat selection and baggage fees.
Cabin comfort: These seats are more comfortable than the newer Recaro seats, but not really great for a >2 hour flight. Nice to have a real light load to get a row of 3 seats to myself.
Crew: Very cold welcome on board, they didn't want to speak English. Once I addressed them in Japanese, they warmed up and were friendly to me. Always the dark side of flying NH. Gave Ms. NGO85 extra blankets to use as a pillow for sleeping.
Meal and catering: No catering, only drink services. The BOB menu is well-priced, but not really anything that looks worth buying for my tastes. I had at least 4-5 drinks on this flight so no complaints on the quantity of drink services.
Entertainment: Newspapers offered and standard seatback literature. Headphones and TV programs played, but we just napped. The moving map played after the travel programs.
On-time performance: We left late, but landed only 2 minutes late. Minor infraction since it didn't cause us to miss the bus we needed to catch.
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