Hello, this series covers a total of 34 flights that I took during my graduation trip from May to July 2016. You are strongly recommended to read the full introduction in Parts 1 or 3.
In this part, I begin to embark on my first ever journey across the Pacific, heading to USA for the very first time in my life. I was really fortunate to be travelling on Japan Airlines (IATA: JL) for this Transpac itinerary that covers 6 flights to and fro. After my previous flight from Taiwan to Japan, my mom and I continue on JL786 from Tokyo to Honolulu.
On a side note, I am happy to back at FlightReport after almost a year of hiatus! It was a busy first year at work and I just couldn’t find time to complete the series. In a blink of an eye, a year passed just like this.
A look again at the map and flights included in this series:
Japan Airlines JL786 Aircraft Registration: JA607J Origin: Narita International Airport, Tokyo, Japan (NRT) Destination: Honolulu International Airport, Hawaii, USA (HNL) Date: Thursday, 19 May 2016 STD/STA: 1950h (UTC+09:00) to 0810h (UTC-10:00) ATD/ATA: 1949h (UTC+09:00) to 0757h (UTC-10:00) Estimated Duration: 07 hours 20 minutes Actual Duration: 07 hours 08 minutes Flight Distance: About 3,819 miles / 6,146 km
Welcome to Part 16 of this series! After a long break from writing flight reports, I shall now continue with the series and share my experience of flying to the US for the first time in my life.
My final destination in this routing was Los Angeles, and this was how I flew there:
After a quick walk around Narita, we headed back to the airport.
It was only relatively crowded in the late afternoon. Since we already had our onward boarding passes on hand, we could just head through security and straight to the JL Sakura Lounge for a quick rest.
A good mix of transpacific and regional flights departing NRT that evening.
NRT has priority security lanes for oneworld Emerald & Sapphire members, how nice! I was able to brisk through it using my QF Gold membership.
Another look at the FIDS after passing through immigration; as you can probably see, NRT has a curfew so the last few flights of a day depart between 10pm to 11pm, after which the curfew kicks in and lasts till 6am the next morning.
The JL lounges are relatively near immigration counters, so it took us just a walk less than 5-minutes.
In case anyone is unsure of who can use which lounge, JL has a simple information board just outside the lounge. It would be the Sakura Lounge for us this evening, i.e. JL Business Class Lounge.
I am not the best person at doing lounge reviews, as I always don’t know where to start my introduction of lounges. So please just bear with me and look at some random pictures, whose sequence make not make sense.
Sakura Lounge has huge windows, providing nice views of the tarmac.
Most of the time you see JL planes, but of course there’s also a good variety of other airlines here at Tokyo.
Japan Airlines / JA608J / JL745 NRT-MNL
There are nice seats facing the tarmac, and I think this would probably be really suitable for solo travellers who just want some “alone time” before boarding their flights.
The platforms near the windows were also designed at an appropriate height such that people can just place their laptops, drinks or plates on it.
We were not very hungry after having lunch on the streets of Narita just less than 2 hours ago. So my mom got us some biscuits and snacks, along with a cup of tea each.
As for me, I went to walk around by myself to explore a little.
This is a really huge lounge and I can imagine how busy it can get during peak hours.
Within the lounge premises, there’s a flight of stairs leading up to Level 2 – the dining area. I will take a look at that area in a later part of this series, we decided against climbing upstairs that evening as my mom had a bulky cabin baggage with her.
Near the stairs (and also the entrance of the lounge) was the information counter.
We stayed in the lounge for only about 50+ minutes, and then it was time to head to our gate.
When we left the lounge, the list of departing flights was even shorter.
It was quite a long walk to Gate 65. And along the way, I realized that Narita Airport is actually pretty boring once you get to the gate areas.
Taking a first glance at the aircraft that will bring me to America for the first time in my life!
This is JA607J, a 13-years-old B767-300ER that will be flying as JL786 that evening.
And finally we are at Gate 65. This flight codeshares with American Airlines and Cathay Pacific too.
The gate holding lounge was already crowded with excited Japanese tourists heading to Honolulu. If you do not already know, Hawaii is an extremely popular and well-liked destination among the Japanese. Apparently, Japanese is the second largest ethnic group in Hawaii! A really interesting fact that kinda surprised me.
Just look at this photo and you’ll know that Japan is really a very safe place; people leave their phones to charge at the table with charging ports and simply go back to their seats, and most importantly, nobody will take anything that doesn’t belong to them.
Boarding began at 7.24pm.
Needless to say, the flight was full. Really full.
This was my boarding pass for this sector.
Walking down the jet bridge.
A quick look at JL’s business class products on this short transpacific flight; certainly not the best in the market but I really loved the design.
I do hope to be able to fly in one of these seats eventually.
Now, back in Economy where we belong that evening.
Walking past a “window” seat with a missing window, you would not want to select or be assigned this seat. I think this should be at Row 18 if I am not wrong.
We were seated much further behind, and being able to be one of the first to board, I seized the opportunity to take more photos of JL’s cabin.
Our seat at Row 59, which is already pretty near the rear of this plane.
Everyone else followed quickly and within the next few minutes, the entire cabin was bustling with activity.
A lovely (and convenient) way to identify the registration number of my aircraft.
Seats on this version of JL’s B763 have decent seat pitch, at least as compared to the previous B763 we flown in earlier that day. This one was considered the international configuration while the previous one was configured for flights on regional routes.
The boarding process continues, and I observed that Japanese are really thoughtful and considerate. In some countries, the process of boarding a plane can potentially be really stressful and frustrating. Not in Japan.
Looking around, we see the overhead panels with the seatbelt sign, no smoking indicator, and the crew call light. There were no individual air vents, however.
Pillows, headsets, and blankets were already preset on each seat.
This B763 can carry almost 200 passengers, and boarding was definitely considered efficient that evening for such a full flight. The same could not be said on my ERJ175 American Eagle flight a week later…
We were ready for departure by 7.43pm and the aircraft was pushed back at 7.49pm, 1 minute ahead of our scheduled departure time.
Our aircraft began to taxi to the runway at 7.54pm. As we taxi to the runway, let me bring through the IFE system quickly.
There were 5 languages available.
The main categories were as follows: Movie, News, Music, Game, Map, Info.
There was a long list of movie but that was also partly because many films were repeated in two or more different languages, with each language having a “choice” of its own – making it seems as though the list of movie is very long.
For news, there were the NHK and BBC news channel available.
For choices of music, they were also broken down to various categories and preset playlists.
I found it quite hard to figure out what was in each playlist and the interface made everything look a little boring.
For games, there were several available and it seemed like you could even participate in a multi-player game with another passenger onboard. Not sure how will that work because I didn’t try it out.
Lastly, there was also the information page containing info such as: Arrival Cards Guide, Destination Info, Onboard Etiquette, Onboard Exercises, Personal USB & Special Features.
I took a quick look at the guide containing arrival cards information of several countries.
Take US for example, the arrival card that all tourists need to complete was neatly broken down in this screen so even if there are passengers who may have difficulties reading English, this guide alone will probably be able to assist in the process of completing the arrival cards. Indeed a very smart way to provide useful information.
The “Special Features” section contained information for the JAL owned hotel in Hawaii and also details of the campaign launched in early 2016 to support Japan’s very own tennis athlete, Kei Nishikori.
And finally, it’s the flight map with many different kinds of display settings!
Back to the flight, soon after we began to taxi, the safety video was shown and on top of that flight attendants also did a manual demonstration.
You should really take a look at the Japan Airlines safety video. It really has that old school feeling.
Anyway, the US arrival card / customs declaration form was distributed soon after the safety information video finished playing.
And cabin lights were dimmed for take off.
Our taxi from the gate to the runway took slightly over 10 minutes, after which, we took off from Runway 34L.
Do also take a look at the take off video below, which consists of the final safety announcement just prior to take off. I really like the professionalism displayed in how the Japanese cabin crews make their announcements.
We took off from Tokyo-Narita at 8.08pm and the seatbelt signs went off at 8.22pm. It will be a 6.5h trek before we arrive early in the morning at the sunny islands of Hawaii.
This was our departure route as captured on FlightRadar24.
We reached our initial cruising altitude of 36,000ft at about 8.31pm, 20+ minutes after take off.
Service started off with a hot towel. Very few airlines provide this in Economy Class now.
I got up briefly to use the washroom and also to snap a few more pictures of the cabin.
Just outside the lavatories was a thermometer to display the temperature in the cabin. I can’t seem to read it off this photograph, though. Not sure if it was working properly.
Being a Japanese airline, it was no surprise that the toilets were kept clean and spotless throughout the flight.
Toothbrush and toothpaste were provided in the lavatories after the meal service.
Another look at the signs found within JL’s lavatories.
From the 3 photos below, you'd be able to see clearly that this was a full, full flight.
The next round of service began at 8.54pm with snacks and drinks provided.
Snack consisted of rice crackers that were free of peanuts, it tasted really nice.
While snacking on the rice crackers, I also took some time to check out the onboard Wi-Fi pricing. I didn’t have a need to stay connected, hence I did not purchase the Wi-Fi plans and therefore cannot comment on the speed of the connection.
However, just looking at the price chart, you can see that the pricing is pretty reasonable. Passengers can even get a discount if they are using JAL credit cards.
Even if I did not connect to the Internet, there was still basic information available within the Wi-Fi login page. Some example was the maps of Japan Airlines’ destination airports.
The map of Honolulu Airport, for example.
Meal service soon began. In this photo is the very nice FA from Thailand who served our aisle. She spoke Japanese & English fluently; amazing language abilities.
Both food and drinks were served together from the same cart.
As far as I can remember, there were no choices available, but the meal was served on a very lively looking tray.
There was also a colourful menu provided on every tray - definitely a unique feature for Honolulu bound flights.
Here's what the menu said:
Main Dish White fish steamed in vin blanc, served with nouilles White fish enveloped in a cream sauce of vin blanc, tomatoes and mushrooms. Ore recommends: Mix the sauce with the nouilles and enjoy!
Appetizer Ore-no-appetizer. Pork rolled in a bevy of colourful vegetables Pâté of pork featuring a bounty of colourful vegetables. Served with egg salad
Salad Ore-no Salad with Truffle-flavoured dressing Salad gently scented with luxurious truffle
Dessert JAL original yoghurt flavour ice ~PINEAPPLE SAUCE~
Anyway you might also be wondering what's "Ore-no" - according to the introduction in the menu: "Ore-no Italian and Ore-no French are well-known casual restaurants created by talented chefs, who previously worked at awarded restaurants in Tokyo."
Anyway, the menu has given very detailed descriptions of the foods you are going to see. Let's just take a quick look at different parts of the meal tray.
The appetiser, which tasted interesting and surprisingly tasty.
The salad, which was so-so. But the veggies were fresh.
Bread. Nothing much about it.
The main. Cream pasta, basically.
The JAL branded dessert, which did not taste as sweet as it looked.
And also the metal utensils along with all the foods on the meal tray.
About 20 minutes after dinner was served, cabin crews came around to distribute the "second" meal in a very adorable-looking bag. This was breakfast.
And its contents were: Bread + Water.
While a little stingy in terms of quantity of food, I found the bread really tasty when I ate it just before our descent later on.
After the meal service was concluded, cabin crews came around the cabin again to clean up our tray tables.
Everything was done very efficiently and every crew member was professional and polite throughout services - as you'd expect on a Japanese carrier.
The same level of politeness however could not be matched up with by our Japanese "neighbours" seated right behind us - they were talking loudly and kicking our seats throughout the journey, at least when the cabin was awake. I did try to turn back and indicate our displeasure but the couple simply ignored me. I was also unsure of why we were able to tolerate this throughout the flight - but neither my mom nor myself did or say anything else about the situation.
The cabin crews were also exceptionally polite and cheerful with the same pair of couples seated behind us, so I'd guess they would be JAL's high-tier loyal customers. So even if we did feedback about them to the crew, I am not quite sure if anything would be done (?)
Either way, lights in the cabin were darkened soon after meal service to prepare for the night time crossing across the Pacific.
Well, we were actually halfway through by now.
I decided to explore the IFE a little bit more, but did not find any movies I was interested in. I did find out, however, a cool feature that allows you to minimise the flight map into the top right corner of your screen while watching your movies.
This is such a cool feature!
I am sure we will all agree that more airlines should have such a feature in their IFE systems.
I eventually pulled out the flight map on my screen and decided I am better off catching up with my sleep.
There was slightly more than 4h of flight time left at this point in time.
We climbed further to FL380 at 1.57am (UTC+09:00, Tokyo time) / 4.56am (UTC-10:00, Honolulu time).
I woke up about 2h 50mins later. We were already pretty near Honolulu.
And the sun was already up high in the sky by then.
The cabin was awake too.
Our pilot and FAs made pre-landing announcements, as recorded below.
Time check, 7.12am (UTC-10:00, Honolulu time). 40 mins to touch down.
Awesome weather outside, as we began our descent into HNL!
7.22am as we flew over Kauai.
7.36am, seatbelt signs turned on again.
We descended just past 20,000ft at this point.
Cabin already prepared for landing, with the seatbelt signs turned on.
As we come to the end of this flight report, it's timely for me to share yet another video of our landing into HNL.
I was seated on the "right" side of the aircraft and therefore could see the beautiful blue ocean during our final approach.
We touched down at 7.52am local time on Runway 8L of Honolulu International Airport.
And we pulled into our gate at 7.57.am, beside a Delta aircraft.
Seatbelt signs were turned off soon after.
Ground staff got to work immediately.
We were also advised to assist with shutting the window shades so as to keep the cabin temperature cooler.
As usual, many people were already standing and eager to disembark.
After a while, however, the cabin manager made an announcement that it will still take a little while before aircraft doors would be opened. So she asked everyone to sit down and wait comfortably, and that she would let everyone know when the jet bridge was ready.
True enough, the process took another 10 minutes or so.
We finally disembarked at 8.07am, still before the scheduled arrival time.
And… I am in USA!
I was prepared for long queues at immigration and the process took a total of almost an hour, before we collected our checked baggage and re-checked them immediately for our connecting AA flight to LAX.
Frankly speaking, I was preparing for a much longer queue at immigration so the wait of less than an hour was pretty alright!
I will end off with the (almost?) full flight map retrieved from FlightRadar24.
See you in the next report where I will board my very first American Airlines flight (and also my very first flight on an American carrier). Till then!
(To be continued)
This report was completed in Singapore, on 16 Jul 2017, 1.31pm (UTC+08:00).
JAL Sakura Lounge
Tokyo - NRT
Honolulu - HNL
Japan Airlines: JAL performed as expected – Need I say more?
JAL Sakura Lounge: Definitely a comfortable lounge. Meal wise, I did not eat much but the choices of finger food, snacks and drinks were really decent. Lounge staff members were all polite, and there was also a good selection of reading materials available in lounge as far as I can remember.
NRT: Efficiency of the airport was Japanese standard! With the direct train access, the airport was definitely very well connected to anywhere in Metropolitan Tokyo – I think? Maybe it’s really a little far as compared to HND, but that’s not really the airport’s fault, so I won’t fault them.
HNL: As said, immigration efficiency performed above expectation. I did not leave the airport so I am leaving the score for “access” at default. Otherwise, HNL seemed like an okay-but-super-out-dated international airport. We did not use the check in facilities during transit but from what I remember, the check in hall looked chaotic. Nonetheless, still not at all a terrible place because everything else was functional.
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