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Japan Fall 2011 Trip report III: Dreamliner Boeing 787 Inaugural

Japan Fall 2011 Trip report III: Dreamliner Boeing 787 Inaugural

Old Nov 7, 11, 2:42 pm
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Japan Fall 2011 Trip report III: Dreamliner Boeing 787 Inaugural

Part III – Dream in the Making




Flying the Dreamliner is perhaps every aviation enthusiast’s dream and being the first to fly 787 is an opportunity too good to pass by. I have struggled a bit because the cost was rather high especially the Yen has been extraordinarily strong but at the end I manage to pull it through and use award tickets for most of the long haul flights, and I think I did a pretty good job in making the best out of it. Of course, it would be nice if I flew the Oct 26 charter to Hong Kong, but that was not possible. Plan B was to fly one of the four flights on November 1, and of course the Okayama flight was my first option. Here comes the rant, ANA really has made it difficult for non-Japanese to book these flights, and the worst was that it gave no indication on their exact plans. At the end the Okayama flights were completely blocked because they were sold as a package through ANA holidays and only for Japanese residents. ANA should have made it clear from day one, and I should have gone straight to the Hiroshima flight and maybe I could get a RT, instead of just one way flight from Haneda to Hiroshima. However this is life, and I am actually not surprised on this Japanese orientation, but for an airline, which wants to inspire travel and creates an important global image, this 787 inaugural is indeed doing quite the opposite and leaves a bitter taste. ANA definitely scores the worst out of this whole inaugural experience.

November 1, 2011
NH 683 Tokyo Haneda to Hiroshima International Lv1615 Arr1745 Boeing 787-8 JA801A “Rainbow”
http://share.shutterfly.com/action/w...8QbNHDNy5bqT2Q

The morning here was filled with excitement and the observation deck was crowded around 11:30am, the scheduled arrival time of the Okayama flight. ANA does a good job promoting the 787 and plane spotting is a serious sport here, and you can see all kinds of camera equipment and my tiny compact digital camera is a bit out of place. The best thing about staying at the Excel Haneda is being able to access the deck all day long. Prior to entering the deck, I double-checked the status board and the plane was running thirty minutes behind. I guess fate has been made this way, and I remembered checking the status of my own flight in the morning, and it said gate 64 or 65, so I just walked over there because I spotted the Boeing 747-400D. ANA is the only airline, which uses the Boeing 747-400D designed for frequent short haul flights of the Japanese markets, as JAL retires their 747D fleet.

Observation Deck:





Some pictures of ANA Boeing 747-400D – possibly Okinawa bound (and I better catch some domestic flights soon before they are gone soon)




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Old Nov 7, 11, 2:43 pm
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Then I spotted unusual activities at gate 64 and a number of spotters there! I was pretty sure that it was coming this way.




JA801A unfortunately used R/W34L for landing so no landing shot, but soon it was heading to stand 64.


Here comes the beauty!




JA801A, first 787 in commercial service, was doing well for all the charter and inaugural flights, and no need to pull out JA802A at all.

Lovely at Gate 64


Rainbow design


Tail shot



Curvy wing
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Old Nov 7, 11, 2:45 pm
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Engine


Old and new



The excitement was unbelievable in the air and it was actually quite a sight. Folks should really come experience it. Everyone, men and women, and boys and girls, were so happy to see Boeing 787 and it was definitely an event for locals. Lots of cell phones out too!

Another highlight of the day – Pokemon Peace Jet – ANA 773 – a kid’s favorite




Then I went to get a nice sushi lunch and then headed back to my room and downloaded all these pictures and getting ready for the flight, the third scheduled 787 flight and the inaugural scheduled 787 flight to Hiroshima.

Almost forgot – ANA has set up a booth in the end of the terminal, and it is a 787 booth featuring the videos (which can be seen online), but you got to experience the Business cradle seat in person! It is a very nice seat and for regional flights, they are excellent. It is not full flat but good cradle seat.

The main poster



The complete exhibition – not sure what it is, but sure you can find it in the website



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Old Nov 7, 11, 2:47 pm
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Publicizing various aspects of the cabin



Overhead bin display



Business Cradle set of course



Full-reclined position



Seat recline function


Side storage

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Old Nov 7, 11, 2:48 pm
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A brief overview of the check-in area of ANA at Terminal Two Haneda


Lots of self-check in machines



Premium Check-in (Star Alliance Gold)



Flight information display system – full flight



Not much was happening in the check-in side, so I headed over to the lounge and gate area.

Gate 64 before the festivity – very calm and JA801A was sitting here getting ready for the afternoon flight


Boeing 787 sitting at gate



Boarding pass scanners – very efficient and good design – you can get the barcodes in various ways – cell phones, ANA IC cards and traditional boarding pass
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Old Nov 7, 11, 2:49 pm
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ANA Lounge at Haneda Airport – very nice lounge






Lots of seating areas






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Old Nov 7, 11, 2:51 pm
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Solo block stations
Lots of solo travelers



Beverage and snack station






Fast forward to an hour later
Gate 64 was in a full festival mode.


Departure screen


Flight information in Japanese


Flight information in English


Boarding pass machine updated with the flight information
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Old Nov 7, 11, 2:53 pm
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Only in Japan – the pilot of this 787 was a super star! Lining up for his autograph and a photo op with him, and he even had an assistant passing out stickers (and I got them from her - using body language and I sensed the hesitation but I could not care less)



Here are the stickers



Flash and camera everywhere – TSA will have a panic attack if this is in the US
The only eye candy though is the Boeing 787

Inaugural gifts – Hiroshima lemons and magazines – I want the 787 souvenirs… LOL



Boarding started at 3:53pm and you can sense the excitement and everyone can’t wait to get on board. Families board first and these boys got attention from the captain. Premium class boarding was enforced, but not the priority boarding. Everyone was so enthusiastic about it and you could sense it in the air. I had never felt this kind of excitement before even on all the past inaugural flights in the US and even the Boeing 737-900 rollout in Boeing field. Everyone just got their huge camera out and shot away. Words just couldn’t explain the extraordinary occasion here. The rush to the plane was unheard and unseen of… Here is the close-up of the plane!




What a beautiful sight!


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Old Nov 7, 11, 2:55 pm
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Jetway



Now I will let the pictures do the talking… but I have to admit my initial batch of pictures were just bad because ANA set the aircraft to a mood lighting with the rainbow mode and I did not turn on the flash till later. The sun was already setting – early here, and the lack of sunlight just made most pictures blurry, so most cabin pictures will come towards the end, as I had ample time to take pictures on the way out.

New door design


Door 1R


Bar area in front of door 2


Headrest – fixed shell seats


Exit row 23 – third section


My seat 24K


Tight seat pitch – really awful and I hope long haul flights are not getting this tight seat pitch


Back of the seat – new personal TV – touchscreen


Tray table


Second cup holder
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Old Nov 7, 11, 2:56 pm
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Ipod charger and USB drive


Remote control


Individual vents and lights – adjustable


Inaugural gifts – Lemon and magazine – what a major letdown


Mid-galley (door 3)


Various cabin shots




Note the rainbow mode was on


Huge window


Shade control


Wingtip
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Old Nov 7, 11, 2:57 pm
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Shortly after takeoff – sunset over Tokyo bay


Goodbye Haneda


One of the cool features on ANA – automatic toilet like the one you found in most Japanese restaurants, hotels and residents


Really huge in size too – two bathrooms in front of door 3 – one on each side – both handicapped and equipped with baby changing tables


Windows in the bathroom too – in Y


Automatic flush – just wand your hand – the toilet cover will automatically come down and then flush itself – really cool


Bidet system


Automatic water faucet system of course


Baby changing table



New door opening mechanism – current toilets in airplanes are either a straightforward push out or a folding system, but on 787 the door opened inward so it won’t potentially harm passerby. I can’t explain it in words so you have to experience it. I am pretty sure it is not ANA specific.


My seats – 24H and K – my neighbor left the seat as soon as the seat belt sign was off, and came back when the sign was on again. He was actually a person of size and this seat is just uncomfortable for him. He has no legroom to stretch, and the seat belt barely worked. He was crammed in and I did not blame him on leaving the seat when he can. The seat pitch is 30 to 31 inches here, and when you recline the seat, my knee hits the seat in front of me and it is not even comfortable. I will demonstrate it later on the picture, but it is difficult to see the slight recline on these seats.
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Old Nov 7, 11, 2:58 pm
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Close-up of headrest – first to fly 787 of course


Demonstrating of the window shade system


Five settings – and you can see it clearly on these five pictures – normal to completely blocked. You can still see outside.






It is hard to show the contrast through the pictures, as the flash of the camera wants to compensate for the tint.

Contrast – one with the tint and one without the tint


Close-up of wingtip


Flight route

Last edited by Carfield; Nov 9, 11 at 9:48 pm
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Old Nov 7, 11, 3:00 pm
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Seat in recline mode – you can barely see it – anyway for these domestic flights


You will notice that there is no in-flight food or beverage service pictures, which is always a signature part of my trip report. The reason is that none is offered on this flight or I am not aware of the “on demand” feature on today’s flight. Everything is apparently on demand and I guess it is good in some ways because it allows the enthusiasts to roam around the plane. Of course, as a non-Japanese speaker, I was clueless as the service P/A was only conducted in Japanese. To add insult to it, the pilots also made only Japanese announcements. It was not till later that I realized it was on demand only for this inaugural flight. ANA really disappoints me in this aspect. For a full fare economy ticket and inaugural flight, I really expect at least a small cake with 787 on it and a run of water or juice. That was why I was quite grumpy during the flight. A major let-down and I hope ANA is reading it because I am seriously putting you last on my list when I chose future Japanese domestic flights, except that one more 747D flight. ANA has this “My Choice” menu now, and the only free items were Japanese tea, apple juice or water, and the rest were for sold, including special juices, wines and beers. The complimentary selection is smaller than Air Do. Fortunately, I flew another ANA domestic flight the next morning and the F/As did a beverage run on regular flights, just not on this inaugural flight! However, I really don’t mind buy on board, but if you are a full service airline, you should differentiate yourself from the LCC and your own start-up, Peach, next year. If I want to pay for stuffs, I can fly Skymark Airlines or the future Peach or Air Asia Japan. ANA just makes a poor show.

A word about the entertainment system – they are all on demand and touch-screen, but there is a remote headset too. It is very cool and easy to use, unlike previous ANA and JAL entertainment systems. However, they no longer have belly camera, which I was surprised. I hope ANA will add it back in the future. Boeing 787 should make it a unique feature too, as most passengers enjoy those belly and tail cameras, so they can enjoy the landscape during flight.

We cruised at 36,000feet throughout the flight, and descent soon began at 5:15pm, and we landed on R/W10 at 5:37pm. We slowly taxied towards the main terminal and parked at spot 5 at 5:41pm. This was another unusual part of the trip – people were usually in a hurry to leave the plane, but not on this flight! Most enthusiasts stayed till the last and I was among the last to leave the plane, as I finally got a chance to take pictures of the cabin using flash. Here is the massive collection of pictures!

More pair of sets


Middle seats


Yes double armrest



From the behind


New overhead bins – from the sides


Middle overhead bins


Economy section right behind first class and nice mini section here



Best seat in the house – bulkhead row in the mini section


Premium Class section featuring regional style ANA Cradle seat
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Old Nov 7, 11, 3:01 pm
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Very comfortable and nice looking



Front galley


Door One again


The F/As were at the door saying goodbye and giving us two first to fly 787 certificates, which were nice. Not sure why two though - one was possibly from the cockpit crew and one from the F/As! Best inaugural gift ever!






As we deplaned, there was an orchestra (students from local schools) playing songs and two little kids dressed like pilots were passing out souvenirs. It basically had a few promotional materials – one was a celebration of ANA 50 years of service in Hiroshima (I guess that is why Hiroshima is selected as one of the first domestic 787 cities, and a paper airplane, as well as small notepad.


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Old Nov 7, 11, 3:03 pm
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Of course I immediately went up to the observation deck and took a few pictures of the 787 at night – it came out better than expected. The plane looked marvelous at night!



For the return flight to Tokyo, I took the 7:55pm Japan Airlines flight, and check-in was easy. Then I went into the gate earlier just to catch the celebratory party for the return ANA 787 flight. Hiroshima seemed to put more effort in getting a party going – maybe I should selected this flight in the first place. Their gift bag looked nicer. There was a podium setting up and a speech made in Japanese. The cute little boy pilot is still here and handing out bags to passengers. Anyway here were a few pictures of the Hiroshima’s inaugural parties.





In conclusion, I think I am happy to be part of this special day of celebration and, it is truly a special occasion to remember and it is good to feel the celebratory tone of the enthusiast reception of the 787s here in Japan. Civil aviation definitely matters here. Boeing 787 is definitely a special aircraft. However, I can’t help to feel a bit of a let down by both the promises of the aircraft and ANA.

Regarding ANA, it is clear that it wants to limit the inaugural activities to Japanese only, and I don’t want to repeat too much. There is a purposeful lack of communication to non-Japanese speaking passengers, and therefore, it is hard for us to even get a single seat on the first day of operation. Second, the domestic BOB program is fine only if you still maintain the basic level of complimentary service, which is really not much from the beginning. When I feel that Air Do, LCC, has more free beverage choices than you, ANA has a serious identity issue, as the next batch of LCCs arriving in the scene. Third, how can there not be any serious English public announcement on the inaugural flight is beyond me? Air Do has no English P/A, which I am not surprised, but ANA on a special day like this, it is just wrong. There should also be a bit more festivity for the Hiroshima launch too. I know trolley service may be difficult but at least make a few beverage rounds using trays, or walking around the cabin with the “My Choice” catalogues. Finally ANA really cramped too many seat into this domestic version, and the fixed shell seats work only if you haves some seat pitch for passengers to slide forwards. There is just none except you are in the first mini cabin and the exit rows.

The plane itself is definitely technologically advance but passenger comfort is fairly limited to these features – large windows with five shade setting, which is the definitely one aspect of the plane that I like very much. I am worried about the maintenances of these controls and fellow passengers, please be aware that it is easier to move from bright to dark, but not the other way. It takes some times for the tint to be removed. Be patient! The new overhead bins are huge and should resolve some of the carryon issues here in the US. I like the new design of the bathroom door, and how the door can avoid people banging into someone when they opened the door outward. The Japanese bathroom flush and bidet system is ANA only, but is a nice optional feature. The flight is too short to find out what the effect of air being less dry is. The plane is also pressurized at a 6,000feet level, which means air that is less dry, but the flight is too short to display its intent effect of feeling less tired on arrival. The cabin also does not look as tall as the advertisement suggests, or dramatically different from Boeing 777s.

I personally think that this plane is built not mainly to enhance passengers’ comfort per se, but to improve the cost effectiveness of airlines’ operation, and despite all the fancy mockups and demonstrations, these planes are meant to make lots of $$$ for airlines by enabling them to cramp many seats in. The comfort of the plane is fundamentally determined by the airline, but I have to say that I don’t feel the “wow” factor. Maybe the advertisement sets the expectation up too high, and at the end, ANA really puts many seats in the domestic operation, and seat comfort just does not exist. Nonetheless, the plane definitely performs very well during takeoff and landing. I am not a technical person, but the flap looked very different from other Boeing wide-bodied planes. The noise level is lower than Boeing 777 for sure, but I think they should have gone further like Airbus A380. There were complaints about A380s being too quiet, but I personally prefer human’s snoring signs to humming sounds from a plane engine. The plane also performs smoothly during takeoff and landing and it flies very smooth at 36,000feet. The plane performs excellently from a technological perspective, and it maneuvers very well turning left or right. In terms of turbulence, the one-hour flight and perfect flying weather make it a very smooth flight. Moreover, I really believe that Boeing 787 is more designed to accommodate eight abreast seating in Y, instead of nine. If it is a charter airline, it will be acceptable to have a 3-3-3 seating, but for a full service, that is unthinkable especially how the width of the seat will be compromised and the aisles will be so narrow. I hope the few major airlines, which are considering a nine abreast arrangements, will change their minds because the plane isn’t that wide, and the triple sevens is more spacious. However if it aims to replace 767-300, 787 does a brilliant job. I have no doubt that this plane is a product of the twenty-first century, and features lots of special characteristics, which are not possible before. Technology is amazing on this plane, but from a passenger perspective, it is a bit limited in terms of comfort and passenger cabin innovation. I sort of expect a high ceiling and more headroom, but do not really get it. I sincerely hope that ANA will install more seat pitch in its economy class for the long haul and regional flights. They are really uncomfortable.

I want to reiterate that I am not saying that 787 is awful, but just feel short of my expectations. I simply feel, as a passenger, comfort does not seem to be Boeing’s main priority, and of course, I know it really depends on how individual airlines are willing to configure the plane, but I just feel something better can be done. Big windows are nice and I like the shade setting, as well as the larger overhead bins. Other than that, the plane seems to be a slightly larger version of 767 with an updated interior. That is again from a passenger’s perspective.

My main disappointment is ANA, which bears some responsibilities for making these inaugural activities to be Japanese specific, rather than addressing a global audience that the “inspiration of Japan” advertisement scheme seems to suggest. I feel that it should have disclosed more information prior to flight so people can make plans accordingly.

Anyway, I look forward flying another 787 operator soon, and I hope to hear from fellow 787flyers regarding their impression and feelings about the aircraft, especially the interior and comfort level.

Thanks for reading and the final part will cover Lufthansa’s new first class service from Kansai to Frankfurt. LH has just introduced Boeing 747-400 on the Kansai flight a few days ago – October 30 to be exact, and KIX is one of the routes featuring the new First Class in the winter schedule, which is actually surprising.

Carfield
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