In honor of my 100th FR, I needed to do a report that was true to the identity of NGO85 and had some sentiment to me. So here we go on a series that takes me from NGO up to CTS. I went with JL instead of NH, namely because I really want to fly JL, but they only offer service to CTS/OKA/NRT/HND from NGO so it really isn't a useful carrier. NH is the largest domestic operator from NGO and therefore was my go to airline.
Knowing that I was leaving Japan at the end of February, I decided to maximize my time and booked trips every weekend in January and February. For my last travel weekend, I decided to go back to Hokkaido to visit Sapporo (札幌) and Otaru (小樽) since I had never been there before (only transited in CTS). I elected to use some AA miles to book a JL award ticket. At that time, domestic flights in Japan only cost 7,500 miles for a one-way ticket using AA miles. That sounds cheap, but UA offered 5,000 mile one-way tickets in Japan, which was a much better deal. Nevertheless, I wanted to try the JL domestic product so checked JL award space on BA’s website and then called up AA to book the ticket. AA’s agents can be hit or miss, and this one was closer to a miss. Fortunately, I had everything carefully recorded in front of me and could walk her through all the airport codes to get the flights I needed. Since award tickets in Japan aren’t subject to any fees or surcharges, I was charged 15,000 miles from my AAdvantage account and that was it. The result is:
I love the old school JAL logo that AA uses for JL. The flights I selected were based on being able to spend an afternoon in Otaru on arrival and a full day in Sapporo before departure after dinner. The early morning flight from NGO had no award space so I had to take the lunchtime departure. Returning, I took the early night flight. There was a flight that left later at night, but I figured this one was the best option to ensure I got back to Nagoya at a reasonable hour since I had to work the next morning. Thus, the routing is:
Part 1 – NGO-CTS [JL 3105, Boeing B737-800, Economy] – You are here Part 2 – CTS-NGO [JL 3118, Boeing B737-800, Economy] – Here
This report will cover the flight from NGO to CTS including a stop at Centrair Global Lounge. There will be a Sapporo tourist bonus at the end.
After a breakfast at home, I took the Meitetsu train to Centrair and arrived around 9:30am. The airport was pretty quiet on this cold and rainy Saturday morning. I went over to the JL check-in counters at the domestic side of the airport. I couldn’t get seat reservations online or over the phone, so I stopped by the priority counter to get a window seat. The agent quickly handed me my boarding pass and sent me on my way.
With boarding pass in hand, I went upstairs to the shopping area to buy some onigiri for the plane to serve as my lunch.
After buying some onigiri, I went out to the observation deck and tried to brave the weather. It was cold (~5C) and raining. The domestic side was quite light. My plane was sandwiched between the NH B763 to OKA and NH B735 to KMJ.
The international side of the airport was busy as usual as all the 9-10am departures were getting ready to leave.
TG B788 and DL B752.
JL B788 to BKK.
The only other people out on the observation deck where these two girls that stayed about 1 minute.
KE B77W lifting off for ICN.
CX A333 leaving for HKG.
DL B752 lifting off for GUM.
UA B738 arriving from GUM.
NH B737 taxing out as a ZV A321 arrives from TPE (R.I.P. ZV who just ceased operations after less than 2 years).
JL B738 leaving for NRT.
NH B737 lifting off for HKG.
IT A320 lifting off for TPE.
CI A333 lifting off for TPE.
After 45 minutes of the brutal weather outside, I went back inside and headed towards the domestic security checkpoint. There was no line when I went through, but the lines can be long depending on how many flights are about to depart.
With my OW Sapphire status, I went to use the Centrair Global Lounge, which is the shared domestic lounge for NH and JL. I scan my boarding pass as I enter and the agent greets me by name since she knows me well from my frequent visits.
The lounge is a windowless room with a drinks stand on one end. Only Japanese newspapers and magazines are offered.
A 10am pint of Yebisu in honor of Numero_2^^ Followed by a cup of coffee to warm up.
At 5 minutes to boarding, I get up and head to my gate.
As I walk, I catch the TG B788 leaving to head home to BKK.
Our plane is leaving from Gate 4.
My boarding pass for this flight.
My JL B738 waiting below.
Japan Airlines, JL 3105 Equipment: Boeing B737-800 [JA310J, delivered February 2008] Departure: 11:20 (ATD: 11:26) Arrival: 13:00 (ATA: 12:58) Flight time: 1:32
Right on time, they call for boarding 15 minutes prior to the departure time. Special assistance is followed by JL/OW elites. I scan my boarding pass and head down towards the jetbridge.
FW CRJ700 with a JL B738 arriving from HND in the background.
Entering the cabin, 2 FAs greet me in Japanese and offer me a candy from a bowl and a blanket. The new JL cabin.
My seat back in Row 17, which is actually the 7th row of the plane since Y starts in Row 15. There are 4 rows of J-Class in 2-3 seating configuration serving as the their “premium” domestic product.
A look down the row and details of these new seats.
Seat pitch is quite good, much better than on NH.
If you don’t believe me, here is the seat pitch of the guy in the aisle seat taken mid-flight.
The candy offered while boarding the plane.
The JL domestic blanket.
Right armrest containing the headphone jack and the audio controls.
The burgundy seatbelt.
Safety card for this B738.
In-flight entertainment guide.
Route map and the mileage table. NGO-CTS is 988km (~615miles).
The FA stood in my aisle greeting passengers mid-cabin during boarding. Provides a glimpse of the JL FA uniforms. I prefer the new NH uniforms with greys. The dark blue doesn’t really fit with any of JL’s cabins.
GK A320 next door.
Boarding was quickly complete and we prepare to push back.
The safety video plays on the overhead monitors during the push back.
Taxing by the international terminal, only the Koreans are there at lunch time. A surprising visit from an OZ A330 and a KE B737 in the distance.
The original B787 rotting away in the corner of NGO.
No wait for us and we quickly launch down the runway to the north.
Our beautiful CFM turbines as we launch up and over Ise Bay.
We disappear into the clouds on this rainy morning.
The monitors drop down and play the moving map and news.
SkyMall has nothing on the ridiculous offerings in JAL Shop^^
The FAs came down the aisle and handed out ハピリカ, which had a bunch of information on transportation in downtown Sapporo and a listing of restaurants.
Blue skies above the cloudy mainland.
The non-movable tray table. It’s just a solid piece of plastic that folds down.
My onigiri that I bought at NGO.
The FAs start drink service.
A cup of coffee for me.
A video played talking about JAL policies. This slide was addressing alcohol consumption and how passengers should not interfere with the FAs.
明日の空へ, 日本の翼: “To tomorrow’s sky, Japan’s wings”
When the FA was cleaning up the trash, she asked if I wanted anything else to drink. I requested another cup of coffee so she returned with a second cup.
The snowy landscape of Hokkaido is now below our CFM turbines.
Looping into CTS over rural Hokkaido.
自衛隊陸上自衛隊東千歳駐屯地 (JGSDF Camp Higashi-Chitose).
Crossing the 36 as we land from the north.
We touch down right on time.
Taxing back to the terminal.
We pull in next to this cute little J-Air CRJ-200.
The view of J-Class as I deplane. The FAs are in the galley to thank passengers as we deplane.
Follow the signs down to the baggage claim.
I didn't check any bags so went straight out and followed the signs to the JR station attached to the airport.
The train from CTS to JR-Sapporo Station costs JPY 1070 (~$10) and takes ~40 minutes.
And with that, I leave of this series as I begin my short stay in Sapporo and Otaru.
Downtown Sapporo from my hotel.
Maruyama Park (円山公園).
Minor shine at Hokkaido-jingu (北海道神宮).
Statue at Hokkaido-jingu.
Fushimi Inari Shrine (伏見稲荷神社).
View of downtown Sapporo from Fushimi Inari Shrine.
Trams in Sapporo (they also have a subway system).
Sapporo City Museum (札幌市資料館).
I'm a little jealous no one pulled me around town in a sled…
Former Hokkaido Government Office (北海道庁旧本庁舎).
Ducks swimming in the frozen pond.
Pigeons picking through the snow looking for food.
Sapporo Clock Tower (札幌市時計台).
Sapporo TV Tower (さっぽろテレビ塔).
Sapporo Brewery (サッポロビール).
JR Sapporo Station (札幌駅).
Soup curry for dinner.
Centrair Global Lounge
Nagoya - NGO
Chitose - CTS
JL offers a good performance on this flight. The plane was comfortable, the flight was on time, and the crews were friendly. You aren't going to find great in-flight catering/amenities, but for a 90 minute flight, it's good enough. Not too much differentiates JL and NH on domestic flights, it's merely a personal preference of which carrier offers the routes you need. At NGO, NH is king since JL only flies limited routes.
Cabin comfort: Pretty good seat comfort on this B738. Plenty of seat pitch and with an empty middle seat, there was plenty of room to spread out. The JL cabins are clean and well maintained as one expects in Japan.
Crew: Solid JL crew. Mainline JL seems to have more senior crew members and that leads to a very professional performance. They are smiling and friendly throughout the flight, but lack English ability.
Meal and catering: Candy handed out during boarding and a simple drink service of coffee/tea/water/juices after take-off. Bare bones and what can be expected by any Japan domestic carrier.
Entertainment: No newspaper offered. standard seatback literature. The overhead monitors played the moving map and news headlines, same as what NH does (unless they show variety programming or infomercials...).
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