Review of Air Do flight Chitose Sendai in Economy

Airline Air Do
Flight HD 104
Class Economy
Seat 11F
Aircraft Boeing 737-700
Flight time 01:10
Take-off 11 Jan 16, 11:10
Arrival at 11 Jan 16, 12:20
HD 3 reviews
NGO85
By 2838
Published on 5th February 2016
Background:

This series will cover a quick weekend trip on NH using UA miles. The goal of this series was to try several new products in the NH family while also going someplace new to me. This trip cost 10,000 UA miles (no tax/fees on NH award tickets) and I built a very non-direct routing to zig-zag my way to my final destination. I’ll reveal the segments as we go to add some suspense. So far we have…

Part 1 – NGO-HND [NH 86, Boeing B737-800, Economy] – http://flight-report.com/en/report-13010.html
Part 2 – HND-CTS [NH 59, Boeing B787-800, Economy] – http://flight-report.com/en/report-13033.html
Part 3 – CTS-KUH [NH 4873, Bombardier DHC-8-400, Economy] – http://flight-report.com/en/report-13079.html
Part 4 – KUH-CTS [NH 4872, Bombardier DHC-8-400, Economy] – http://flight-report.com/en/report-13148.html
Part 5 – CTS-SDJ [HD 104, Boeing B737-700, Economy] – You are here
Part 6 – SDJ-NGO [FW 48, Bombardier CRJ-700NG, Economy] – http://flight-report.com/en/report-13186.html

This report will cover the trip from CTS to SDJ aboard Air Do, which used to be called Hokkaido International Airlines before it was rebranded in 2012. Brief background: the name is really confusing to pronounce unless you have seen the name in katakana. In katakana, Air Do is written “エア・ドゥ” so the “Do” is pronounced like the English words “due” or “dew” and not like the “do” in Hokkaido. The carrier had financial problems in 2002 and that’s when NH became major shareholders and HD joined the NH Group operating flights for NH. Likewise, their fleet is primarily ex-NH planes and as their former name suggests they are a major operator of flights ex-Hokkaido since CTS is their hub. Although HD is part of the NH Group, it still retains its identity since it has its own crews, its own in-flight entertainment, and its own marketing image. This will be my first time on HD and my first time to SDJ.




Pre-flight:

After exiting the baggage claim, I head back upstairs to where the check-in areas are.

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It’s not too crowded at the security lines and I’m through within a couple of minutes.

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I head straight to the ANA Lounge.

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Entering the lounge, the agent was talking on the phone and furiously writing something on a piece of paper. I had my boarding pass and EY card in hand. She looks up and just waves me in without even looking at either of the items in my hand. As context, in the domestic lounges, you normally just walk in and scan your own boarding pass or credit card as you walk past the counter. It’s very informal and casual at the domestic lounges (the real ANA Lounges at NRT and HND are much more traditional).

Even though this is the second stop in the lounge on this trip, I took different photos to show more of the lounge. The bar seating area near the entrance.

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As before, 4 beers on draft: Asahi Super Dry, Sapporo, Suntory Premium Malts, and Kirin Ichiban.

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The other adult beverages on offer.

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This kelp machine was in all the ANA Lounges. I never tried it, kind of creeps me out visually even though it is probably very healthy.

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Tea and sakana packets.

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My first offering of Sapporo Classic and coffee.

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FIDS in the lounge. As you can see, quite a bit of HD activity at CTS.

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Second offering was nihonshu and a capuchino.

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Boarding pass for this segment. As a rule of thumb, subtract “4700” from the NH flight number to get the HD flight number.

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I pack up and leave for the gate 5 minutes before the scheduled departure time. On my way there, some spotting.

HD B763.

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NH B738.

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And my ride this morning, a HD B737.

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——————————-

Hokkaido International Airlines (Air Do), HD 104
Equipment: Boeing B737-700 [JA12AN (ex-NH), delivered June 2007]
Departure: 11:10 (ATD: 11:22)
Arrival: 12:20 (ATA: 12:16)
Flight time: 0:54


Boarding had started early, so they were already well into the boarding process when I got to the gate.

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Heading down the greenhouse jetbridge, before heading into the submarine jetbridge.

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NH B738 departing from the jetbridge windows.

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Fuselage shot. Can you spot the 3rd plane in this photo?

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Entering the plane. かわいいよ!

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A FA welcomes me on board in Japanese.

My seat for this flight. If it looks like a NH seat with a different antimacassar, it’s because it is.

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The seat pitch is better than the NH B735s and comparable to the older NH B738s.

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Advertisements on the antimacassars make it feel LCC even though HD is a full-service carrier.

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FAs distribute blankets. それもかわいいね!

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And the winglet as a LJ B772 taxis by. Everything is distinctly HD on this plane and 全然かわいい。

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As we prepare to push back, a JW A320 pulls in from NRT.

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As we push back, the safety video plays on the overhead monitors. They have their own safety video instead of playing the NH one. The safety video was themed with polar bears to match the HD marketing image.

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View of the cabin from my seat. Load was around 85% and the middle seat was empty so I got lucky.

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The ground crew wave us goodbye.

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NH Dash8 as we head out on our taxi.

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Our twin, another HD B737.

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A pair of NH B772s.

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JL B772 and some JL B738s behind it.

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Our cute winglet and the control tower at CTS.

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This is the second time I have spotted this plane. I saw it at NGO last month and now it’s here in CTS. This Dash8-300 belongs to the Japan Civil Aviation Bureau.

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Aligning onto the runway.

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We take off a little bit behind schedule. Can you spot the other plane in this photo?

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We lift up to the north before making an immediate U-turn to head south.

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This gives us fantastic aerial shots of CTS as we do a flyover.

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Mt. Taumae (樽前山), it’s too cloudy to see the bigger Mt. Eniwa (恵庭岳) behind it.

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Leaving Hokkaido.

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They came through offering items from the BOB menu. The FA uniform on HD is pretty plain. They wear black suits with white shirts and the blue/yellow neck scarf.

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Quite clever, they put the drink menu up on the overhead monitors.

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As I wait for the drink cart to arrive, let’s take a look at the seatback contents.

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HD has its own inflight magazine called Rapora.

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The HD route map in complex and simple forms. As you can see a lot of routes from CTS down to major cities in southern Honshu and a lot of routes from HND up to various cities in Hokkaido (including KUH^^).

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The HD fleet.

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The safety card for this B737.

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The service card with BOB menu and drinks menu.



I request a water and coffee. Everything on HD is polar bear themed and in typical Japanese “かわいい” fashion.

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Drink service ended when we were near Hanamaki (花巻).

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They use the NH moving map, but convert our plane into the classy all white B737.

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A trip up to the lavatory. It is clean and features Air Do hand soap. There also have a little bag with coffee ground hanging on the door to absorb smells.

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It was really cloudy the entire way so not much to see out the window.

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We eventually crossed into the Pacific Ocean for our final descent into SDJ.

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Sendai (仙台) in the distance as we coast into SDJ landing a little bit ahead of schedule.

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As we turn into the terminal, we can see an unexpected guest: OZ B763. This flight from ICN is operated 4x weekly. It must have just beaten us in because the train to the city was jam packed with Koreans heading on vacation.

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A sea of Ibex Airlines (FW) CRJs parked out on the tarmac and a big hint at the last flight in this series.

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We pull in next to a NH B735.

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View of the cabin deplaning.

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The FAs thank me for flying in Japanese. One last look at our plane from the jetbridge.

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Heading to the baggage claim.

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No bags to claim, so I head straight to the train station since I have a 4-hour layover. My plane landed at 12:16 and I comfortably caught the 12:32 train so you can get an idea of how efficient SDJ is.

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Up the escalator to the departures level where there is a walkway connecting the airport to the train station.

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The train to Sendai Station.

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I’ll leave off this series here as I begin my stay in Sendai. Tune into the final segment for a first look at SDJ, the ANA Lounge, and another new carrier for me.
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Verdict

Air Do

6.0/10
Cabin7.5
Cabin crew7.5
Entertainment/wifi4.0
Meal/catering5.0

Chitose - CTS

8.5/10
Efficiency8.5
Access8.0
Services7.5
Cleanliness10.0

Sendai - SDJ

9.0/10
Efficiency10.0
Access9.0
Services7.0
Cleanliness10.0

Conclusion

My first time aboard HD. I really like their marketing image and flying them feels different than NH. Crews and service standards were essentially the same as what you would get on NH metal. If you are flying to Hokkaido and want to try something different, it’s worth getting onto one of the HD operated flights.

Cabin comfort: An older B737, but still very clean with a comfortable enough seat pitch for a 1-hour flight. Middle seat remained empty.

Crew: They were pretty average for Japanese standards. I usually find the regional carriers to have very passionate crews, but these FAs were normal. Service with smiles, but not much else.

Meal and catering: One pass of the drink cart. Pretty standard for a <1-hour domestic flight in Japan.

Entertainment: No newspapers offered. Standard seatback literature. Nothing was playing on the overhead monitors, only the menu and then the moving map. No headphones were distributed so I wasn’t expecting any entertainment.

On-time performance: We left a little late, but arrived ahead of schedule.

Related

11 Comments

  • Comment 157145 by
    Numero_2 10003 Comments

    Thank you for sharing !

    And thanks again for this discover of Air Do.

    There's nothing much than an usual NH domestic flight : Fortunately you got a lounge access with your precious EY card. ;)

  • Comment 157150 by
    KL651 TEAM 4511 Comments

    Thanks for this FR on a really rare airline for westerners.
    Their livery is plain vanilla air's is actually better.

    They really aligned on the NH group basic service in Y.

    • Comment 334341 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      Merci pour vos comms!

      The HD livery isn't the most interesting (neither is NH's), but their use of polar bears is^^

      They really aligned on the NH group basic service in Y.
      - This is unfortunately the standard service in Japan. We don't get exquisite croissants for breakfast like on AF ;)

  • Comment 157166 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 5501 Comments

    Hah! Ok, I'm totally commenting backwards...so this is another FR of firsts. 1st flight to Sendai and 1st flight on Air Do. I should know since I had to add them :-P

    So did you get lounge access because HD is part of the NH group? You would think you wouldn't since it has separate branded operations.

    The cabin looks pretty basic, standard for a domestic flight. It's nice that there are at least overhead TVs with an airshow.
    Did you use some sort of instagrammy filter on your camera? All the colors look super vivid! Or is everything just flashy in Japan.
    OMG that winglet is so adorkable!

    Love love love the aerials. Beautimous!

    • Comment 334353 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      Thanks for stopping by Kevin!

      So did you get lounge access because HD is part of the NH group? You would think you wouldn't since it has separate branded operations.
      - The whole NH thing is kind of confusing, but also follows how the US carriers handle their regional operations. So the ticket was on a NH flight number and on paper is a NH flight (you could book the ticket directly from HD and then maybe I wouldn't get lounge access?). So even though HD is not *A, I still get *A miles since it is technically a NH flight. It's the same as in SDJ when I got lounge access even though I took a FW flight. NH considers them all equals. LCCs like Peach and Vanilla are also in the NH Group, but you can't book them on NH flight numbers so then you wouldn't be able to get lounge access.

      Did you use some sort of instagrammy filter on your camera? All the colors look super vivid! Or is everything just flashy in Japan.
      - Instagrammy? How dare you! No, but I do adjust the brightness of some of the photos to make them more vivid. Lighting also plays a big role in how my photos come out.

      OMG that winglet is so adorkable!
      - But why does he get chocolate and not me :(

  • Comment 157195 by
    jetsetpanda 2294 Comments

    Heading down the greenhouse jetbridge, before heading into the submarine jetbridge.
    - For a moment the second jetbridge reminded me of a laundry store.

    Entering the plane. かわいいよ!
    - It feels like entering the Twilight Zone.

    FAs distribute blankets. それもかわいいね!
    - That's a collector's item. :P

    And the winglet as a LJ B772 taxis by. Everything is distinctly HD on this plane and 全然かわいい。
    - Oh how cute! Did you hold hands with your neighbors and started singing kumbaya?

    The FA uniform on HD is pretty plain.
    - What a contrast to all the cuteness around. I would have expected something more kittie-esque.

    Everything on HD is polar bear themed and in typical Japanese “かわいい” fashion.
    - You can create an artistic display with all those cups.

    Excellent pictures as always. Thank you Michael for taking us along on this wacky and cutesy ride that can only be experienced in Japan.

    • Comment 334444 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      Thanks for all your comments Adan!

      For a moment the second jetbridge reminded me of a laundry store.
      - I can see that as well, a nice laundromaut feel. It felt like boarding a ship.

      That's a collector's item. :P
      - Are you suggesting that this blanket ended up in my backpack? Now while it would look great on my couch, I alas did not succumb to those levels. I will admit that I did buy HD souvenirs online when I got home because I did regret not getting something from their in-flight shopping catalog.

      Did you hold hands with your neighbors and started singing kumbaya?
      - The angry salary man on the aisle immediately put in his headphones and fell asleep.

      You can create an artistic display with all those cups.
      - I found the FW cups to be cuter. They had bambi^^

      this wacky and cutesy ride that can only be experienced in Japan.
      - I think this experience pales in comparison to a ride aboard to BR Hello Kitty planes...

  • Comment 157237 by
    jetsetpanda 2294 Comments

    Are you suggesting that this blanket ended up in my backpack?
    - God forbid! I am not capable of such slanderous thought, much less to such an esteemed and respected contributor. :O

    I found the FW cups to be cuter. They had bambi^^
    - Perhaps you should put them side by side to compare. Polar bear vs bambi - no contest.

    I think this experience pales in comparison to a ride aboard to BR Hello Kitty planes...
    - One of these days.. ;)

  • Comment 157655 by
    aussenrist 225 Comments

    Thanks for sharing the first Air DO report for the site! Very nice spotting of CTS in snow! (sorry for late comment because of CNY holiday :P)
    Can you spot the 3rd plane in this photo? --> I also spot the 3rd van on the tarmac :P
    The airport looks stylish with its ceiling and jet bridges! The ANA lounge is in domestic standard but has nice alcohol selection.
    IMO it looks like a standard NH domestic flight in HD design (hard product is identical to NH). But HD's image i.e. livery, blanket etc., makes the flight experience different from NH. The white bear is so cute and it should make friends with Mr. Kumamon :D

    • Comment 334808 by
      NGO85 AUTHOR 1622 Comments

      Happy New Year! I had many friends return to China for the holidays so I know it is a busy time.

      Very nice spotting of CTS in snow!
      - It is still very cold there, I'm heading back this weekend on the ugly sister (JL) and it is still heavy snow and 0C during the day.

      I also spot the 3rd van on the tarmac :P
      - No extra points are given for vans ;)

      IMO it looks like a standard NH domestic flight in HD design (hard product is identical to NH). But HD's image i.e. livery, blanket etc., makes the flight experience different from NH.
      - That was exactly my feeling too, it is just a normal NH flight with different crew/livery. It's like flying AmericanEagle on the different regional operators. But since this is still a NH flight, it has to have the same service standards

      The white bear is so cute and it should make friends with Mr. Kumamon :D
      - Kumamon is on a different level of cute :) Even being non-Japanese, I think くまモン is adorable.

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