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Squares, a Big Bird, Hello Kitty and a Real Bed on a plane? (NH, LH, OZ, SQ, TG F)

Squares, a Big Bird, Hello Kitty and a Real Bed on a plane? (NH, LH, OZ, SQ, TG F)

Old Jan 16, 14, 7:38 am
  #1  
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Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: YYZ
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Squares, a Big Bird, Hello Kitty and a Real Bed on a plane? (NH, LH, OZ, SQ, TG F)

This is my first-ever trip report, so go easy! I've read dozens of trip reports and could only dream of ever being as good of a TR writer as SFO777, but it was these reports that inspired this absolutely epic, yet insane winter break trip. I feel that after having gotten so much help from the FT community, that the least I could do is contribute my own trip report. As it was my absolute first time ever sitting up front, I was trying to be as discreet as possible when it came to picture taking (that meant I didn't break out the SLR, and happily used my iPhone 5S.)

Background:
I have been a casual reader of FlyerTalk for the last few years. I have flown coach for most of my life, but have been lucky enough to fly CX J on 2 YYZ-HKG roundtrips with the help of some generous relatives.

I've amassed more than 500,000 Aeroplan miles sitting in my account through numerous credit card offers and my previous line of work, and was always hoping to use them on business or first class travel. For a good while, I was always frustrated how the search engine was giving me nothing but mixed business/coach awards that only had the short-haul segment in business. I gave up, and kept happily travelling coach.

While backpacking in the Middle East in July before I commenced my MBA, I turned to FlyerTalk again and to my delight, I saw the kinds of crazy things people were doing with their Aeroplan miles and booking these so called "Mini-RTWs." I figured the first semester would be a hectic scramble, so what better way than to spoil myself with a sunny vacation and comfortable travel? Plus, Aeroplan miles were going to be peso'd come January 1, 2014.

I'd always wanted to go to Bangkok and Bali, and settled on these two destinations. I plugged in those two destinations and got a very good looking itinerary on AC, BR, SQ and TG J. I booked it, and I was happily on my merry way.

It's not over:
I would develop a FlyerTalk addiction as I kept on reading the Trip Reports section. I was in awe that airlines were actually serving Dom and caviar on their flights, and I wanted a piece of that too. After countless hours of research and distraction from school work, I would eventually change to a First Class award.

As the months went by, my ticket kept getting crazier and crazier. I started my ticket from JFK just so I could have the new ANA First Square product, whereas routing through ORD in the old First would have let me start directly from Toronto due to the mileage rules. I also did a zig-zag routing from Japan to Korea and back just so I could get OZ F, OZ J and the TG A380 F all on one ticket. The even crazier thing I did (and wouldn't do again) is make CGK my final destination even though I was actually going to DPS (Bali) just so I could say I've flown Singapore Airlines in First Class and get to use the Private Room. That meant having to buy a LCC flight AND layover in CGK both ways, which I would regret later on.

I was also so fixated on trying out the Lufthansa seat and bed on the 747 and the First Class Terminal that I accepted almost 24 hours of straight travel, as opposed to flying NRT-ICN-JFK on Asiana in their new Suites which would have cut my travel time by 10 hours.

In the end, I changed my ticket a staggering 6 times (and paid dearly to do so) as seats opened up and I kept finding better routings (as in getting to experience more F/J products.) Eventually, I spent $1,500 more than I was planning to just on the tax/change fee component of the trip alone.

I take comfort in the fact that I booked at a minimum, more than $25,000 worth of flights.

The itinerary:
With Aeroplan mini-RTWs, the blessing (or maybe curse in retrospect) is you can book as many connections less than 24 hours as you wish in between segments. I had Bangkok, Jakarta and Hong Kong as my actual stopovers, with very long layovers in Tokyo, Seoul, Osaka, Taipei and Singapore.

Flights:

JFK-NRT (ANA First Square on the 777-300)
NRT-ICN (Asiana First on the 747)
ICN-KIX (Asiana Quadra Smartium Business on the 777-200)
KIX-BKK (Thai First on the A380)
BKK-SIN (Singapore Business recliners on the 777-200)
SIN-CGK (Singapore First recliners on the 777-200)
CGK-SIN (Singapore First retrofitted on the 777-300)
SIN-HKG (Singapore Business retrofitted long-haul on the 777-200)
HKG-TPE (EVA Business recliners on the A320)
TSA-HND (EVA Business angle-flat Hello Kitty theme on the A330)
NRT-FRA (Lufthansa First seat and bed combo on the 747-400)
FRA-JFK (Lufthansa First seat and bed combo on the 747-400)

I also added the following positioning flights using Avios points:

YYZ-JFK (American Airlines CR7 Economy)
LGA-YYZ (American Airlines CR7 Economy)

As well as the following LCC flights within Asia:

DMK-CNX (Nok Air A320)
CNX-DMK (Air Asia Thailand A320)
CGK-DPS (Mandala Tigerair A320)
DPS-BDO (Air Asia Indonesia A320)

That makes for 18 flight segments in 32 days, 28,323 miles and some 69 hours (a whopping 10% of my entire trip) travelled in the air. As one of my buddies remarked: "Enjoy your airport tour."



Completed Sections:

A sleep-deprived start in Toronto and New York (AA3517 YYZ-JFK AA Y)

"Did you just say I can have a seat AND a bed?" (NH1009 JFK-NRT ANA First Square)

Being a night owl in Tokyo and a failed trip to Tsukiji

Loungehopping at NRT (ANA Suite Lounge and United GlobalFirst)

"Asiana's Kaiseki is better than ANA? Impossible!" (OZ101 NRT-ICN 744 First Class)

A one-night stand in Seoul and the ICN Asiana Business Lounge

"Sir, why are you entering Japan again?" (OZ112 ICN-KIX Quadra Smartium Business)

"You speak very good English!" (A one-day walk around Osaka)

"Bigger is better!" (TG623 KIX-BKK A380 First Class and the KIX Royal Orchid Lounge)

"Sorry, but the Grand Palace is closed": Shenanigans in Bangkok

R&R in Chiang Mai (LCC flights on Nok Air and Air Asia)

Loungehopping at BKK (Thai Royal Silk C/D and SQ SilverKris Lounges)

"Singapore Slings taste like cough syrup!" (SQ966 BKK-SIN Business Class)

Christmas Eve in Singapore and a fake snow party on Orchard Road

First Christmas dinner away from home in The Private Room

"Singapore Girl: Shhh, don't mention these are old seats" (SQ966 SIN-CGK First Class)

Boxing Day and New Year's Hangover in Bali and the Gilis (Tigerair and Air Asia)

"This seat has too much space!" (SQ957 CGK-SIN First Class)

"This seat is also too wide!" (SQ890 SIN-HKG Business Class)

Sections to come:

A family visit and indulgent time in Hong Kong (Lunch at 2* Tin Lung Heen @ the Ritz Carlton and 3* L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon @ The Landmark)

"Why does this seat not recline?" (BR828 HKG-TPE Business Class and the Virgin Clubhouse Lounge)

"Hello Kitty!" (BR192 TSA-HND EVA Premium Laurel Class and the VIP Lounge)

Konnichiwa Tokyo! (Dinner at 3* Sushi Yoshitake)

"Du kannst sehr gut Deutsch, Herr tng11" (LH711 NRT-FRA First Class)

"Can I get a rubber ducky? I'm lonely!" (Lufthansa First Class Terminal)

"I'm too tired to drink, sorry" (LH404 FRA-JFK First Class)

Mmmm... pastrami and bagels (New York stopover, with lunch at both Katz's and Russ and Daughters)

"Aww, I have to fly coach?" (AA3683 LGA-YYZ Economy)

Summary and Final Thoughts

Last edited by tng11; Mar 10, 14 at 2:50 pm
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Old Jan 16, 14, 8:15 am
  #2  
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I think you'r off to a great start tng11. Looking forward to it!
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Old Jan 16, 14, 8:25 am
  #3  
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Jakarta as an intentional stopover? Nice...I'm curious

I have to ask now- did you take the train from Bandung to Gambir, or did you take a private shuttle?
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Old Jan 16, 14, 9:02 am
  #4  
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A sleep-deprived start in Toronto and New York (YYZ-JFK AA Y)

As one of my professors remarked, the idea of the MBA program is "to make your life difficult" by intentionally having your due dates and exam dates closely overlap with each other.

Boy, they weren't kidding. I was scheduled to write 3 3-hour examinations in the span of 24 hours. My last examination was scheduled for 7-10pm on December 10th, when I had a departure 6:20am the next morning from YYZ.

Needless to say, I hadn't gotten much sleep the few nights before, and I hadn't even packed by that night! I went home in a dash and hastily packed a few things in my 45L backpack, figuring that I could just buy anything I need cheaply enough when I hit Thailand and Indonesia.

AA3517 YYZ-JFK
Canadair Regional Jet CRJ-700
December 11, 2013
Scheduled: 06:20 - 08:05
Actual: 07:36-08:43
Seat 8A


(Nothing remarkable, so excuse the lack of pictures)

I arrived at Pearson Terminal 3 at just slightly past 4:00am. I totally didn't expect the departures hall to be completely packed, but it made sense later as I realized there were a number of 6am departures to the United States. As I had checked in online earlier (and pleasantly surprised to see I got Priority Access with an Avios redemption,) I proceeded to the US preclearance which took just about 2 minutes with Global Entry. Another 5 minutes later, I went through security with no wait by virtue of my NEXUS membership.



One thing I didn't realize is that at 4:00am, essentially nothing is open on the airside at Terminal 3! Even Starbucks wasn't open yet, and I decided to camp outside right for opening if I was going to survive my quick walk around New York before my NH flight that afternoon.

Coffee in hand, I proceeded to the gate and caught up with some e-mails on my iPad. Another horrible thing about flying small aircraft out of YYZ is that they park at gates that located in a basement, and it was freezing cold in that area. In my daze, I completely forgot that my Marco Polo Gold membership should have entitled me to some form of lounge access, and I continued to tough it out at the gate.

Come 6:00am, nothing was happening which seemed odd. The gate would become a mess of passengers worrying they would miss their connecting flights, while I was getting a little annoyed that I might miss breakfast with an old friend at 9am in Rockerfeller Center.

Meanwhile, I was enjoying watching the GAs goof up repeatedly. There was a flight also departing to LGA (that had a load of 2) that was apparently going mechanical. They would rebook the 2 pax on new flights, then got the word the flight was okay to go and rebooked them on the original LGA flight. About 5 minutes later, after the pax had boarded, they decided the flight was going to go mechanical again. The GAs made the call that they would have the pax just stay on board until another aircraft came in (I would be pissed if I was stuck on a freezing cold CR7 for 2 hours.)

Eventually, it was about 7am or so that everyone was told the flight was delayed because the crew was late. The captain would later explain that because the flight had arrived late last night, that they had to fulfill the minimum rest time, and it wasn't because somebody's alarm that failed to go off (or they partied too hard) that they were late.

I was first on the aircraft, which was a good thing as there was almost no space for carry-ons on the CR7. We got going at just past 7:30 or so.

Flight was mostly uneventful, aside from the dude in front of me asking me for a seat change with his girlfriend (they would be doing some serious making out about 2 minutes later.) I was pleasantly surprised that they actually offered a free hot beverage on board, and I struck up a conversation with my seatmate, who I would find out was on his way to India with Emirates. (First thought - I would not want to be stuck on JFK-DXB in 10-abrest coach.)

We arrived at JFK just past 8:30 and I already resigned myself to the fact I wasn't going to make my coffee appointment. After quite a long walk through Terminal 8 and passing some Christmas decorations, I made it to the SkyTrain, where I could see NH10 just arrive from NRT, turning around in about 2 hours to become NH9.





I had about 6 hours to kill in NYC - one of my favourite cities. I'd never been in NYC during Christmas, so I hopped around Rockefeller Centre and enjoyed a hot chocolate and croissant at Bouchon while watching the hordes of tourists crowd around the Today Show studio.



After walking over to Magnolia and grabbing a wonderfully decadent red velvet cupcake, I took a brisk walk over to Times Square.




Meh, not much different than when I was last here. I am still somewhat sad the Nissin Cup Noodles sign isn't around.



Off to Macy's and their cheesy Christmas displays.





Then Grand Central



At this point I was getting both exhausted and hungry. So much so that my calves cramped and I fell down in pain at the corner of 5th Avenue and 43rd Street. But I was going to keep trucking, as I knew there was a feast waiting for me onboard NH1009.

Then I did a quick walk through the Time Warner Centre, the Christmas market outside Central Park and through the park. It was a beautiful and sunny day, so I enjoyed it.






Once I left Central Park around 1PM, my body couldn't take the exhaustion anymore. NH1009 leaves at 4:55pm, and I knew the BA Terraces lounge at JFK was nothing special and was trying to maximize my time in Manhattan, but I really could handle no more. I limped over to the 53rd Street MTA station, changing to the SkyTrain again. An hour or so later, I was at JFK Terminal 7.



Last edited by tng11; Jan 19, 14 at 8:05 pm
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Old Jan 16, 14, 10:42 am
  #5  
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Posts: 1,655
"Did you just say I can have a seat AND a bed?" (NH1009 JFK-NRT ANA First Square)

NH1009 JFK-NRT
Boeing 777-300ER
December 11, 2013
Scheduled: 16:55-21:05+1
Actual: 17:15-20:48+1
Seat 1A


Initially, I had reserved 2K, which seems to be the favourite of many FTers from my research. As the cabin continued to fill up, I noticed that the entire G/K aisles were full. At T-24, I saw 1A was made available and I made the decision to move over for the greater privacy and off-chance I might have 1D all to myself as well.





A walk over to the check in counters, it was deserted. The check in agent promptly handed over my boarding pass and lounge invitation. She also wrapped my backpack in plastic, which I thought was a nice touch, with the appropriate First Class priority tag all the way to Seoul. Seeing the boarding pass in hand, it was finally sinking in that I was flying international First Class on such a venerable airline.



The security check was one of the worst experiences I've had in recent memory. I haven't flown out of the US recently, and this was the first time I've had to deal with the TSA in a long time. All I can say is yikes. I decided to opt out of the full body scanner, and was left standing for just about 20 minutes while I waited for a pat-down. I was advised repeatedly by a few TSA agents just standing around that the machine is harmless, but I was sticking to my guns.



A quick left turn, then it was the BA lounge. The ANA gate dragon didn't smile, but swapped my boarding pass since the gate had changed from 5 to 9 which I really thought showed the emphasis that ANA places on attention to detail and service.

Now, my lounge experience has been only limited to visiting the Wing at HKG, but man - the BA First lounge at JFK is pathetic. Dark, ugly furniture, crappy food selection and cramped feeling. First impression was I'd rather hang out in the terminal among the gate lice (I could see how FT was really making me fuss about all these #firstworldproblems.)

I asked to move over to the Business Class side, which was far more open and modern looking than the First section. After a long day, I decided to ask to take a shower, and my request was promptly met.




The food selection was again, limited, but I enjoyed nibbling on some celery sticks while doing some work. Closer to 4, the lounge was getting very crowded and becoming very noisy from a group of screaming kids running around without their parents controlling them.

At 4:15, I decided to proceed to the boarding gate and be the first to board so I could get some pictures without being disruptive. Boarding was called for all First Class passengers, and the ground staff apologized profusely for making me stand for an extra 5 minutes.





First one on board - straight to my seat 1A. First impressions are WOW - look at all that space. I know some people on FT say the seat feels claustrophobic or clinical - but I disagree. I love the light beige colour of the "suites" with the contrasting deep blue seats. I had a massive grin on my face the entire time (and would for most of the flight.)







Immediately, the chief purser with a giant smile greets me by name, and offers to take my jacket. While she saw I was grabbing a few pictures of the cabin, she offered to take my picture for me while sitting. She asked if this was my first time flying ANA, and I said of course! I also told her it was my first time ever flying first class. She smiled, and told me that she will make sure I will have a great time and they will make it extra special. Soon after, the other 2 attendants serving the F cabin came to introduce themselves to me. Hot towels were offered, and would be done repeatedly through the flight (I would later discover I don't really like hot towels as they dry out my hands.)

As I settled down, I played with the features of the seat. The screen was big and sharp (in relative terms.) I also liked how there were numerous storage compartments for different things, I thought it was very practical. Only problem I could see is that it's easy to leave something behind! I found the seat very plush and comfortable for sitting (which I would later learn is not the case for some J/F seats.) In my view, I also thought the seats were very private. Just sitting down/reclining, I found that I wouldn't be able to see what my neighbour is doing.

If I did have to find one thing to complain about, is that there is only one window and I had to crane my neck to look out. It was dark when we were taxiing from the gate and for the rest of the flight, so it really was just a minor quibble.



A round of pre-departure drinks was offered, and I took the champagne. It tasted like the Krug to me, but to be honest, I wasn't 100% sure. The cabin slowly filled up, and the final load was 5/8. I certainly felt out of place as the other 4 passengers appeared to be middle-aged/elderly Japanese businessmen. There was no one sitting in 1D and 2D, and with the divider between the seats closed, it felt very much like I was the only passenger on this flight.



Thankfully, the Rimowa kit was distributed on this flight. There were a few practical items inside - among them socks and a toothbrush. I found the Ginza toiletries nice, but completely useless for myself. I would later use this kit to store all kinds of small items during my trip. (See what FT does to you - before I didn't care about nor did I know what Rimowa was, then I was panicking about whether I would actually get the Rimowa kit on board.)



The doors closed right on time, and we were departing on time. Shame that it was dark out on the runway, but our taxi and wait to takeoff was pretty good, considering the traffic at JFK around 5pm can be quite heavy.

A smooth takeoff after, the first order of business was to close the curtain between us and Business Class. Menus were distributed, and I chose the Kaiseki, while having the Caviar and Lobster appetizer first. Meanwhile, there was a fountain of Krug that had to be attended to. The crew made sure my glass was never empty until I switched to the Sake when the Kaiseki started.Meanwhile, I checked out the IFE, which had a decent selection. I settled for "Jobs", as an Apple fanboy.

To begin - the amuse bouche. Some proscuitto and melon, a seared tuna and a cheese canapé. They were all great.



For dinner, I switched over to Despicable Me 2. I never dreamed of watching a movie while downing caviar and good champagne on a plane!



Table cloths were set out. Notice the plastic caviar spoon, which I thought was a nice touch (hear that, Lufthansa?)



Next, the caviar washed down with more Krug. It was quite tasty - but not the same as the Wild Iranian Beluga and Osetra I had the privilege of trying a few years back.






The lobster appetizer, with a light vinaigrette. The lobster was tasted fresh, no complaints.



The kaiseki began with a beautiful lacquer tray. I asked the purser to recommend me a sake accompaniment, and she happily obliged. The Japanese menu was as follows:



Appetizer. Most of it was truly delicious, but if I had to complain, the chicken morsel was a bit try, and the Salmon Roe too salty.







Clear broth with fish cake. The broth and fishcake were delicious.



Sashimi course. There was seared salmon, quick-poached squid and surf clam. It was good, but nothing really special. It felt like what you could get from a cheap Japanese takeout place in Toronto.



The main course with miso trout. It was a little dry. I was already feeling full by this time, and asked for a tiny portion of rice. I ate about half of the fish and the other appetizers, before starting to doze off.













At this point, I asked for dessert to be served later, and I would have the fruit platter for now. I thought that a lemon on a dessert plate was odd?



All in all, I thought the meal was good. It was beautifully presented, but it was an average meal compared to what I could get on the ground. That said, it sure blew any airplane food I've had out of the water. I am still in awe at having had a multi-course meal in the air. If anything, I want to fly ANA again out of NRT/HND just to see how much better the meal is catered out of Tokyo!

For people flying ANA in the future and reading this report, you should be at least somewhat familiar with traditional Japanese cuisine before going for the Kaiseki. I can see how sometimes, the textures and flavours can be unappealing to western palates.

As the chief purser brought the fruit platter, she told me that I could have 1D made into a bed, and keep 1A for dining and entertainment. At this point, my eyes widened and I basically went "REALLY?" while shedding a tear of joy.

I merely poked at the fruit plate and dozed off in the lounging position. When I woke up from my nap, 1D had already been made into a bed, and the chief purser advised to change into my pyjamas.

The bed itself was super comfortable. Great pillows (I had 2 to myself) and great sheets and mattress pad. The bed didn't feel the least bit claustrophobic. I dozed off for an hour or two, and mostly tossed and turned for a few hours. It wasn't the bed's fault - I simply have a problem with sleeping on planes. I was stuffed and slightly wasted from all the Krug and sake. I was also quite impressed that my constantly empty water bottle was replaced a few times without my knowledge!




Later, I asked for green tea, and the purser brought some rice crackers to snack on.

The purser later walked by and said I hadn't had my dessert yet. I took her up on her offer and had the Matcha cheesecake, washed down with a black coffee. It was fantastic.



I kept tossing and turning, falling in and out of sleep for the flight. I caught up on some work as best as I could.

About 2 hours from Tokyo, I asked for the sablefish from the Japanese menu, as well as a second try at the fruit platter, washed down with some Darjeeling tea. The fish was fantastic. Moist and full of flavour, miraculous considering 12 hours had already passed.



I also had a second stab at the fruit plate, after falling asleep while eating the last one:



Knowing I hadn't slept much, I ordered another coffee. I was going to have a long night ahead of me, as I had planned a bar hop with a few friends and an early morning meal at Tsukiji. I would end up having 3 cups before landing.



I changed out of my pajamas, which were placed into a bag and given to me to take home. Seat 1D was turned back into a seat in anticipation for landing.



The chief purser would return with another gift bag, containing some playing cards, socks and eye masks for me to take home. There was even a tiny little ANA model in the bag. She also presented me a copy of the menu, with a little sticker beside my meal and drink choices. To top it all off, there was a postcard signed by the crew wishing me a good stay at Tokyo. I was touched by this, considering that I was clearly the youngest (and probably the most unpolished pax) in the cabin, yet the crew really seemed to genuinely care during the entire flight, doing an awesome job of anticipating my needs. One consequence was I would have a lot to carry around with me during my night out in Tokyo, as my bag was checked through overnight to ICN.

Landing was smooth and uneventful. A 10 minute taxi later, we were at the gate. The first door was opened, and business class pax were held back until everyone in F had deplaned.

A quick run to immigration and customs, I was out in the hall just 10 minutes later.

Verdict: the flight was better than I had imagined and had prepared for based off of FlyerTalk TRs. The seat was fantastic and super comfortable for lounging and sleeping. The crew was extremely attentive and personable, yet professional. It would be hard, in my mind, to top this level of service. With a load of 5/8, I still felt like I was the only passenger in the entire cabin. I was disappointed I didn't get to try anything on the mid-flight snack menu, considering it would be the best selection I would see on my entire itinerary.

Last edited by tng11; Jan 19, 14 at 8:02 pm
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Old Jan 16, 14, 11:01 am
  #6  
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Being a night owl in Tokyo and a failed trip to Tsukiji

I caught the Keisei Skyliner to Nippori station to meet my friends there. Unfortunately, someone had just jumped the tracks at Ueno, and my friends were close to 30 minutes late meeting me there, causing me to run around the station in a mad scramble as I didn't have Wi-Fi access.

We caught the Yamanote line to Tokyo station, and went to a bar/tapas place to catch up over a few pitchers of Sangria. I didn't eat anything and was clearly ready to fall asleep.

At about 3am, we walked together to Tsukiji, which would keep me awake, to catch the tuna auction. Unfortunately it wasn't meant to be. The tuna auction is closed this time of the year. We wandered around for a bit, grabbed a rice bowl topped with some delicious sashimi.



At about 5, my friends bid me farewell and headed off to work. Meanwhile I roamed over to Ginza and took the Metro to Shibuya. At 6am, Shibuya crossing was absolutely deserted, a scene I never imagined I would see after my 3 trips to Tokyo before.



Knowing nothing was open, I bought a ticket to Tokyo station and rode the Yamanote line for the entire loop to watch the sunrise over the city and people watch.

At 8am, I decided it was time to head back to Narita and possibly catch a nap in the lounge before my flight to ICN.

The Narita Access bus was surprisingly efficient. It took just about 45 minutes to reach NRT, for only 1,000 yen. Just past 8:45, I was back at NRT.

The bus had took a lot shorter than I had anticipated, considering that I knew the Narita Express from Tokyo station takes almost an hour and a half. At almost triple the price with a longer travel time, I wonder how the heck JR still does business!
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Old Jan 16, 14, 11:42 am
  #7  
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Location: YYZ
Posts: 1,655
Loungehopping at NRT (ANA Suite Lounge and United GlobalFirst)

The consequence of being so early at NRT was that the Asiana check-in counters had not even opened yet for my flight at 12:30. In the meantime, I decided to head to the observation deck and caught a glimpse of the many ANA aircraft parked at the terminal. Notably there was a TG and SQ A380 parked at the far end of Terminal 1. Then, I decided to take a walk around the Sky Mall.





At 9:30 sharp, I went back to the check in counter and got my boarding pass. The check in agent made sure that my bag would be loaded, and promised that it would be replaced with a Asiana First Class priority tag, and re wrapped in their luggage bags. I also checked in a plastic bag containing all the swag from my NH flight.



The security line was lengthy, but moved quickly. I was a little disappointed there was no priority security line, but it was efficient enough compared to the horrid security at JFK. A few minutes later, I was stamped out of Japan, and headed to the ANA Suite Lounge by the 50s.





The lounge was nice and airy, but seriously crowded. I assume it was because there was a massive bottleneck of longhaul departures to North America and Europe at the 11-12 time window. I grabbed a seat in the dining area, and an attendant came to offer me a drink and a hot towel.



I sampled a few cold appetizers, then I was starting to feel a bit dingy. With that, I asked one of the attendants for a shower, and was led to the hallway where the showers were located. The shower was very nice, much nicer than the one in the BA lounge at JFK. The Shiseido toiletries kit offered to F passengers was a nice little gift that would come in handy later - considering that it was soap/shampoo I forgot to pack!



After my shower, I decided to sample a few more dishes and the desserts while watching from the window. I then realized at 11:45 or so, I was literally the only person left in the entire lounge. (Notice the Thai A380 still standing around - there was quite a lengthy delay it seemed.)







At about T-45, I decided to pack up and check out the UA GlobalFirst lounge.



The lounge looks quite nice, and it was completely empty when I was there. The best thing about the UAGF lounge is that it has awesome views of the tarmac, and I caught the SQ A380 taking off, as well as the Swiss A340 and numerous other ANA aircraft.



The food selection was pathetic compared to the ANA lounge, which is no prize pig herself!



At 12 sharp, I decided it was time to walk over to gate 37, where OZ101 would be leaving.

Verdict: As many around here have said, the ANA Suite Lounge is merely adequate. It is not nearly as luxurious, comfortable or extravagant as lounges such as the SQ TPR or LH FCT, but it's still a decent place to grab a bite to eat, take a shower and sit around before a flight. It would be nice to see ANA up their game on the ground though considering their excellent in-flight product. The UA GlobalFirst lounge at NRT isn't half bad either, and I would return purely for the views of the tarmac, but only after having eaten in the ANA Suite Lounge.

Last edited by tng11; Jan 17, 14 at 2:18 am
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Old Jan 16, 14, 12:16 pm
  #8  
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"Asiana's Kaiseki is better than ANA? Impossible!" (OZ101 NRT-ICN 744 First Class)

OZ101 NRT-ICN
Boeing 747-400
December 13, 2013
Scheduled: 12:30-15:00
Actual: 12:48-15:04
Seat 1K


Ever since I started flying when I was a child, I've always had a fascination with big airplanes, especially the Boeing 747. To some extent, I still view it as the legendary queen of the skies, but I'll admit the Airbus A380 has overtaken its place in my heart. That said, I've never flown the 747 in the nose, and this flight was special to me because of that.



Thankfully, I was flying First today and didn't have to wait in that line-up. If I had one thing to nitpick about, was that First passengers were mixed in with Business passengers.



Within seconds of taking Seat 1K, the purser came over to introduce herself. She presented me with the drink menu, and I chose the Pol Roger 1999 Sir Winston Churchill champagne.

There's no question that the First Class product on the 747 is starting to look a bit tatty in places. The seat isn't the widest, nor the most private, and the screen is quite pixelated. Something feels odd about the cabin, as if the space hasn't been well utilized. Nonetheless, this still blows out of the water any domestic F or J product offered by the likes of AC, UA or AA. It was more than adequate for a 2.5 hour hop to Seoul.







Almost immediately, she returned with the bottle and a glass and poured the champagne beside my seat. She also plated some warm nuts right at my seat and wished me a pleasant journey. I had a feeling this was going to be an awesome flight.



The ISM and assistant purser also came around to introduce themselves, and to wish me a pleasant flight. Boarding was complete, and the load was 3/10, with the others seated in 1A and 3A.

Until we started moving from the gate, the purser made sure my glass was never empty. I had about 5 glasses of the Pol Roger before we had even departed.

The captain advised that our flight time would be just over 2 hours, and that there was some heavy traffic to liftoff, apologizing for the delay.

This was my first time sitting right in the nose of the 747, and the takeoff was definitely a very special experience. (I took some video, and will upload it here soon.) Shortly after the takeoff, the senior purser came around to each passenger individually and pointed out Mount Fuji on the left side as we were continuing our ascent.





Soon after, menus were distributed. I chose the Kyo-Kaiseki, and was offered more of the Pol Roger, which I declined. I felt awful that it was going to go to waste, considering that no one else was having champagne in the cabin. On another note, I was very impressed that they offered a multi-course Western menu on such a short flight.



The table was made, and the first course was promptly brought out. It was an abalone appetizer, which was plated on a beautiful dish, with amazing garnishes. It was very fresh and tender.



Next, some warm sake was brought out as an accompaniment to the meal. The main tray was then brought out seconds later, with the hot course brought to my seat separately.



Despite being served all on one tray, all I can say is WOW! Everything was absolutely delicious, and the eye appeal factor was definitely higher than the ANA Kaiseki I had the day before.

The tuna and squid sashimi was very fresh. The salmon roe again, was too salty and not the same as what I had at Tsukiji earlier that morning.



The sea bream in some kind of sauce was also great.



This was the only dish I didn't really like. It was some form of stewed pumpkin in a thick sauce served cold.



The main dish was absolutely sensational. There was a prawn, conger eel and a portion of black cod, all of which were very fresh and cooked very well. The rice was fantastic and fresh, though I merely picked at it.



The dessert consisted of a green tea mousse,with another dumpling like morsel. It was great, but I was so full that I couldn't finish.



The tray was promptly taken away, and I turned the seat into a bed to catch a quick nap with about 1:20 to go. The seat was comfortable, but it didn't seem to go fully flat (the seat back was at a small incline.) it was perfect for a quick nap though.

With about 20 minutes to go, I woke up to our descent into ICN. I was pleasantly surprised someone had brought a blanket to cover me up during my nap.

The crew came around again and asked me how the flight was, and if I wouldn't mind filling out a comments card, which I happily obliged.

The descent and landing into ICN was spectacular from the nose of the 747.





At ICN, there was quite the delay in taxiing to the gate, and we arrived at the gate just about 20 minutes late.

We then deplaned with the business class passengers. If I had to nitpick they only opened the second door, so there was quite a bit of traffic before we were let off.

A quick walk to immigration, there was a very short queue and I was at the baggage claim in 10 minutes. Almost immediately, my bags appeared. YYZ could use a lesson in efficient baggage handling and what Priority tags actually mean!

In the main terminal, I struggled a bit to get the bags off my backpack. Afterwards, I caught the AREX train to Hongik University, where I would be staying with a friend.



Verdict: Asiana's First Class product absolutely exceeded my expectations. The service was of a level one would expect on a long haul flight, and the crew was extremely polite and attentive, yet not robotic. The food was absolutely excellent, and I'm tempted to give the Kaiseki the edge over the one I had on ANA, which probably is because it was catered out of NRT and not JFK.

I was so impressed, that I thought about giving up on trying to look for LH F on my return, as I was at the time, routed on OZ F from NRT-ICN-JFK. If the product on the short haul was so good, I can only imagine what it will be like long haul in the new Suite product. Only thing is I have another Suite flight in early May, while I want to hedge my bets and try out LH F in the 744 as well as the FCT before it goes away, or is blocked off to *A partners.

(I wrote this section back in mid-December, and I did end up taking LH F in the end)
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Old Jan 16, 14, 2:07 pm
  #9  
 
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Amazing report, looking forward to more!
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Old Jan 16, 14, 2:59 pm
  #10  
 
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You took these photos with a 5s? Incredible! What an amazing journey as well. I would love to recreate this trip and sample all these products. The chirashi at Tsukiji looks delicious. I'm tempted to grab sushi for dinner tonight now!
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Old Jan 16, 14, 3:42 pm
  #11  
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A one-night stand in Seoul and the ICN Asiana Business Lounge

Get your minds out of the gutter everyone, I'm well aware FlyerTalk is supposed to be PG-rated.

It was already quite late by the time I dropped my bags off at my friend's place, and I was dead tired.

Nonetheless, we decided to walk around the city. I've been to Seoul before, so I just wanted to grab some street food and maybe check out parts of the city I've never seen before. I ended up in Dongdaemun, where there were lots of kitschy Christmas displays. I was quite disappointed it seemed the sidewalks were ridden with ice and very slippery.








We then caught the Metro to Myeongdong, and did some shopping for cute little trinkets to bring home.





I wasn't too hungry, but couldn't resist having some rice cake in spicy sauce from a street vendor.





Then we went to check out the Lotte department store. It was packed to the gills with people. The food hall was quite nice, but alas, I didn't have the appetite to eat anymore. The Christmas decorations outside were very extravagant as well.





It was just shortly past 8 where I really hit a wall. Keep in mind I hadn't really slept for the few nights before I started the trip on the 11th, and aside from the naps I had on the NH and OZ flights, I barely had any sleep since then.

Much to the dismay of my friend, she lent me the key back to her place, where I promptly knocked out on the couch until 6am or so (precisely when she came back from a fun night out.)

Again, a quick ride on the AREX, I was back at ICN just past 7pm. I was disappointed I wasn't able to do much the night in Seoul - a consequence of these short layovers. Never mind, I was going to be back in January (if I kept my OZ flights), or May again.

Seoul Incheon Airport and the Asiana Business Lounge:

Incheon is one of my favourite airports out there. As someone who flew through there before as a coach passenger without lounge access, there were seemingly endless things to do and great shopping/food options to kill a few hours.

As expected, it was decorated quite nicely for the holidays.







However, ICN was an absolute gong show at 7 in the morning. The departure hall was jam packed, but thankfully, the Business Class check in had no lineup. I'd hate to be checking in for a Y flight at this time of he morning.







The wait for security was an absolute disaster. It took more than 30 minutes to reach the front - and it was disappointing that there was no priority security line. Once past immigration, I decided to make a beeline for the lounge to take a shower, as I knew there would be quite the wait.







I was advised there were 9 people in front of me, and I decided to have some breakfast and catch up on some emails in the meantime.

The lounge was absolutely crowded. There were only a few free seats when I arrived. I did like the dark wood scheme of the lounge though, I found it very tasteful.





The food selection was pretty mediocre. There was only some bread, croissants and dry sandwiches available. I opted for some abalone porridge and spicy cup ramen, which I enjoyed.



I then went to one of the semi private seats in the back and took another quick nap while I waited for my shower. About 30 minutes before boarding time, my buzzer rang - the wait in total was 2 hours. I wouldn't rely on taking a shower here again!



The shower was also quite nice - but notably, there weren't any individual amenities like the ANA one had. Nonetheless, it did the job and by the time was done, it was time to head to the boarding gate.



The walk to the boarding gate:

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Old Jan 16, 14, 4:37 pm
  #12  
 
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Great report thus far. ^
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Old Jan 16, 14, 4:49 pm
  #13  
 
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Really enjoying this report!! ^
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Old Jan 16, 14, 4:51 pm
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This is an amazing TR -- awesome pictures of your meal near Tsukiji (Sushi Dai?) and the Washlets!
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Old Jan 16, 14, 7:27 pm
  #15  
 
Join Date: May 2012
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Outstanding TR. I've just booked OZ F NRT-ICN (that exact flight that leaves at I think 12:30?) so very pleased to see you enjoyed it so much!
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