This trip journal is taken during the winter when I had to settle some business in Shanghai and then I will fly to Japan to meet up with my friends for skiing in deep powder snow that Hokkaido is renowned for. It will consist of the following flights: 1) MU544 SIN-PVG -> Read it here 2) FM815 SHA-HND -> Read it here 3) MU540 HND-PVG -> Current Report 4) MU543 PVG-SIN -> Read it here
After a week of fun times skiing in deep powder at Hokkaido along with eating large amount of fresh seafood, it was time to head back home. Here are some highlights of my skiing trip in Kiroro, Rusutsu and Niseko.
Night skiing at Kiroro
Sashimi at Kiroro Snow World
Otaru Canal in Winter
Uni and Ikura Chirashi
Sunset at Annupuri Valley
View from the summit at Rusutsu
With my flight departing on a Sunday, the road to the airport was very quiet and naturally the bus ran on time. I arrived at Tokyo Haneda with plenty of time to spare as I proceed to the China Eastern check-in counters. With plenty of open counters for Sky Priority guests, it meant there was no queue and I obtained my boarding pass in no time.
Departure hall of Tokyo Haneda International Airport
Tokyo's Haneda Airport is a pleasant space to walk around before security and I spent some time taking photos of its beautiful lighting in the departure concourse.
Lights in the terminal
After spending some time snapping some photos, I went through security which was another pleasant experience in Japan. As a frequent traveller, I now mark how civilized a nation is by how well travellers are treated in the security check. Japan scores highly in this regard. Passport control was again very fast with little queues, reminding me of the scene in Singapore's Changi Airport.
Walkway in the departure terminal
Once I pass through into the terminal, I made some more purchase of souvenirs at the duty free shops which are very nice to spend time in. Tokyo has certainly made Haneda a nicer airport to depart and arrive in as opposed to Narita. While China Eastern is part of the Sky Team alliance, there are no Sky Team lounges in Haneda and nearly all the Sky Team airlines uses the JAL Sakura Lounge which also features a First Class section.
Entrance to the JAL Sakura Lounge on the second floor
Foyer of the JAL Sakura Lounge
The lounge is located opposite gate 112 in the international terminal, with escalators bringing guests to the second floor where a bright reception area awaits. A cursory check of my boarding pass and I was let into the lounge by the staff.
Reception desk upon entry
Since I had some shopping bags and a carry-on luggage, it was nice to store them in the lockers that had keys. This is another feature that I have seen in Japanese airport lounges and why I rate them highly.
Japan Airlines Sakura Lounge in Haneda International Airport comprises of 2 storeys. The upper floor houses most of the lounge space while the main floor has the dining area. And to cater to guests that are lazy to climb the stairs, they have a partitioned area for lounging on the main floor across from the lockers. The design of the lounge has a minimalist feel but still maintains its warmth due to the use of wood all around.
Wooden partition in the lounge
Since I did not have lunch, I was feeling a bit hungry and head straight to the buffet counter to grab some food.
There was quite a bit of people when I arrived but it was a spacious buffet counter with a wide selection ranging from a nice salad bar to pastries, pastas, dumplings and rice. I started with the corn soup and had a second serving of pasta and rice that did make me adequately full before dinner later.
Corn soup and sandwich
[ Pasta and rice
It was certainly a nice lounge with good quality food and drinks. Guests could also have packed wet towels to clean their hands before eating. All these details makes me enjoy visiting Japanese airport lounges. While there was a crowd, there was plenty of seating and the place never got too noisy.
Dining tables in the lounge
After my meal in the lounge, I went up to explore the rest of the space. There was a neat lounging area that was very empty with circular loungers that provides a private space for guests.
There is also a long table with plenty of bar stools overlooking the tarmac that would be a nice place to hang out with a couple of magazines from the shelves. Japan Airlines have certainly invested in adding English language publications but majority of the stuff still caters to business passengers who can read Japanese.
While the second floor is dedicated mainly for lounging, there was a bar area with espresso machines and a fridge for guests to get some drinks. There are also snacks like packed rice crackers and chocolates near the bar area. For some reason, the lounge was really quiet when I visited and it feels empty. Most of the guests just seem to work and eat in the main floor dining space. Thus there are certainly added benefits to spreading the lounge over 2 floors as it creates a very nice relaxing space to lounge as opposed to dining.
Lounge and bar area
Japan Airlines certainly has a very nice Business Class lounge in Haneda. Sky Team passengers departing from this airport certainly have it good with the nice quality of furnishings and I actually enjoyed the quality of the food in the lounge though a wider selection would certainly have been better. This was definitely a lounge that would be comfortable to spend time in and made my journey back home that much better!
From the Japan Airlines Sakura Lounge, it was still a bit of a trek to get to the departure gate for my flight, as it was located at the end of the terminal. I always think that the lesser carriers are placed away from the main terminal, though it is just a hypothesis based on some flights I took.
Airbus A330 operated by China Eastern
MU540 Tokyo Haneda HND - Shanghai Pudong PVG STD-STA: 1810-2010 Actual: 1830-2040 Airbus A330-200 B-6128 Gate 145 Seat 8A
Boarding was already underway when I arrived at the gate and there was very few people left trying to board the plane. As I sat on the seat, the crew started to bring out a tray of beverage for passengers to choose from. I had a glass of water having drank at the lounge prior. A hot towel placed on a ceramic plate was also placed by the side for me.
Business class seats on China Eastern regional A330
Welcome beverage and towel
On every seat there was a comfortable white linen pillow and a thick blanket. The presentation was definitely inferior to that of Shanghai Airlines whose pillows and blankets have a detailed embroidery. Other than that, the seats were similar to my outbound flight from Shanghai Hongqiao to Tokyo. There was also the usual slippers with a shoe bag placed on the seatback pockets.
Legroom on the Business Class seat
While we were still on the ground, the flight attendants distributed the menu for tonight's flight. If you have been following this trip journal, you would have noticed the colour coded menu that includes meal choices for various odd and even months. But this time the menu was specifically for today's flights. That does make it a bit inconsistent, and I should note that orders for the meal was taken shortly before pullback.
Menu for the flight
Business class cabin was lightly occupied during this flight and it was a large cabin all fitted with angled-flat seats that would be more than adequate for this 3 hour flight. With no seat mate beside me, I had a window and an aisle seat, and certainly made this flight better.
Business class cabin during boarding
There was a slight delay on our scheduled departure but nothing too late that I was not worried about making my connection at all. The clear weather provided a bird's eye view of the city lights at night as we took off from Haneda. The views over Tokyo is another reason to fly into and depart from Haneda as opposed to Narita.
Tokyo from the air at night
During the ascent, I made myself comfortable and settled into the seat to start watching some movies. While the selection was not the greatest, it was adequate. But China Eastern could have provided a nicer headphones for Business Class. Those flimsy headphones found on the seat-back pockets seems to be no better than the ones found in Economy Class.
Headphones on China Eastern
Once the flight attained cruising altitude, the flight attendants re-entered the cabin and provided a round of beverage service. I asked for a cup of Chinese tea and it came with another hot towel that is nicely rolled up.
Hot tea and towel service
The tray tables were also set up with a table cloth and dinner service began not long after with all the dishes placed in a single tray. Somehow, there was a packet of mixed nuts included in the tray as well. Probably that would save the need to distribute them somewhere during the flight.
I had asked for the grilled eel kabayaki main course and it came with a generous portion of side dishes like sushi and soba (buckwheat noodle). Flights from Japan certainly has some tasty dishes and it made for a very satisfying dinner.
Grilled eel kabayaki and rice
Even after my meal at the lounge, I found myself still feeling hungry and perhaps that was why I took a bite of the eel before taking the photo! To end the meal, the crew distributed individually packed dessert that seems to be made from chestnut. It was again tasty meaning I finished it as well.
Japanese dessert at the end of the meal
After the fantastic dinner, I took the time to refresh myself in the lavatory and discovered it was kept clean by the crew. There was also air fresheners placed inside. A nice job by the crew to maintain the cleanliness of the lavatory during the flight.
Air fresheners in the lavatory
Returning to my seat, I enjoyed another cup of tea as I was offered a refill of the tea in-between the meal service. Like many modern airliners, there is a foldable tray table on the seat. Though with no seat mate, the wide armrest makes it easy to just place the cup of hot tea leaving me with less obstruction on my seat.
Foldable tray table
During the meal service and after, there was a bit of turbulence on the flight. It was not a huge deal but it just meant the service was a bit slower. As I reclined my seat to the angled lie flat position, I just took a rest for the remainder of the flight.
As far as I am concerned, the angled lie flat position was perfectly comfortable for a short regional flight. Though for a red-eye flight, I might re-consider. I was even able to take a short nap during the flight until we made the descent into Shanghai Pudong Airport.
Angled lie-flat seat
In the end, we did arrive about half an hour behind scheduled as we docked beside a Shanghai Airlines A330. Disembarking the plane was done in an orderly manner, marking this flight to be another ordinary regional flight.
Shanghai Airlines A330
Transiting at the older Terminal 1 of Shanghai Pudong Airport is definitely unlike in Hong Kong or Singapore. There was no clear signs for transit passengers and had I not been there before, I might be at a loss on where to proceed. Thankfully, the transfer counter was not that busy and being on a Business Class ticket, I was able to get the authorization quickly to re-enter the departure area for my connecting flight.
Disembarkation from the flight
JAL Sakura Lounge - International
Tokyo - HND
Shanghai - PVG
For this flight, the steward and cabin crew was very professional throughout and I found them to be much friendlier than my other China Eastern flights. The nice dinner also made this flight that much better, making it probably one of the better flights I had with the airline. However my rating of China Eastern still stands as there was a lack of premium amenities since they do not even have socks for passengers. Even the inflight reading materials like magazines and newspapers are lacking in international varieties. Unless the air fare on China Eastern is cheaper, it is unlikely it would be my first choice of carrier for flights within Asia. Do note that this flight was right for me since I had to make the transit in Shanghai which is a hub for China Eastern.
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