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palmanfr Jul 2, 17 6:35 am

Week-end in Japan ! - AMS-DOH-HND/NRT-DOH-AMS (QR J 773/772/787) + HND-CTS (JL F 772)
 
Hi !

For my first time flying on Qatar Airways, and also since this is my first mileage run/TP run on BAEC, I thought I would write a trip report over this experience. Being an aviation enthusiast, it certainly helps…
Back last January, when QR decided to start their bi-yearly travel festival, I managed to find a hidden gem in the middle of all the offers, and that, thanks to my Google flight alerts for different destinations in the system. Living currently in the south of the Netherlands, my 2 airports of choice were AMS and BRU and I therefore booked a 5 day trip between Amsterdam and Japan, via Doha for an unbeatable price of… 625 Euros, taxes included, in business class... Unfortunately, no options were available anymore from BRU (BRU-DOH is operated by their new 787, while the AMS-DOH leg is operated on a 777-300).

This trip report will include the following :

- QR business class AMS-DOH, operated on a 777-300
- A fast transit in DOH (no lounge visit this time)
- QR business class DOH-HND, operated on a 787-800
- Overnight stay at the Tokyo Haneda Excel Tokyu hotel
- JL Domestic J class HND-CTS, operated on a 777-300, with the visit of the JL domestic F lounge in HND
- Couple days in Sapporo, with an overnight stay at the Holiday Inn Susukino
- JL Domestic J class CTS-HND, operated on a 777-300, with the visit of the new JL F lounge in CTS
- Overnight stay in Tokyo Bay Hilton hotel.
- QR business class NRT-DOH, operated on a 777-200, with a short lounge visit (JL F NRT).
- Long layover in Doha, quick tour of the city and visit of the Al-Mourjan DOH lounge
- QR business class DOH-AMS, operated on a 777-300

Hope you will enjoy reading about my first experience on a ME3 carrier, and enjoy the pictures of Japan during the Sakura season !

PS : All pictures are also available on the flyertalk gallery : http://gallery.flyertalk.com/gallery/album445
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palmanfr Jul 2, 17 6:38 am

Chapter 1 : Will I make it to Tokyo ?
 
The flight I booked (QR276) started to operate only a couple weeks before my travel date, 3 times a week only. Since I never transited in DOH, and had a relatively short connection (1 hour 10 min), I started to study a couple days before travelling the ontime performance of this flight. I know that historical data will not predict future delays, but… It appeared that most of the flights arrived in DOH with slight delays, but sometimes with delays close to 1 hour. So I was getting prepared to ask the ground staff in DOH to reroute me via HKG or KUL (only options with seats still available before departure) to make sure I would make it to Japan that particular day. Inbound flight QR275 to AMS was ontime. A first good sign.

Once I arrived at the airport, I headed straight to the check in row 26 from where QR operates. The check in process was smooth and took 2 minutes at the business class counter and since I was travelling only with a carry on luggage, the latter was tagged as such by the agent. I then headed upstairs to security where another million people was waiting.
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Fortunately, since I was in business class (not sure OneWorld Emerald status would have gave me this privilege) I could make good use of the fast track where only a few other passengers were in line. AMS now uses the body scanner technology to clear passengers and this, somehow created a delay in some security lanes. The passport control after security was fairly smooth, with less than 3 min waiting time. All together, the security and passport clearance took 20 minutes (My toiletries bag had to go to secondary screening).
The lounge QR uses in AMS is the Aspire lounge 42, just next to the BA lounge. Ultimately, one could also use the BA lounge, as both QR and BA are Oneworld members, but since I arrived at the closing time of the BA lounge (21:00), I used the crowded and mediocre Aspire lounge, where I surprisingly managed to find a seat next to a window, overlooking the piers D and E of AMS.

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There was litterally nothing very exciting about this lounge that evening. There were no glasses anymore, the beverage selection was very poor, the Heineken tap was empty, the liquor bottles were empty, the buffet consisted into a burned « tabouleh » salad and some undetermined mini-feuilletés. A few cold cuts were also available (vegetables and gouda cheese). There are some toilets within the lounge (even if there was a important queue that evening), a shower and smoking facilities. Most of the passengers were actually flying on the Eva Air or Emirates flight so 20 minutes after I arrived, the lounge started to get less crowded.
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I personally think that AMS lacks of an interesting lounge.

Considering this is a business class lounge, I would rate it as following :
Aspire lounge Amsterdam Schiphol (non-Schengen area)
Buffet area / F&B selection : D
Seating available : C
« Clean and comfy » : D
Extra amenities : C
Overall ranking : C-.
This was one of the worse lounges I visited in the past year, and clearly not in par with the expectations one may have when flying QR.

I did not really stay long in this aspire lounge, and decided to head straight to that evening departure gate, F6, located about 10 min away.

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The gate area was already quite crowded with some passengers waiting in line for boarding.

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But the boarding eventually started 15 min later, when one of the gate attendants came to me personally, to tell me to board (she must have recognized the burgundy colored carry on tag, suggesting I was travelling in C). It was 21.53. 2 jet bridges were connected to the aircraft and business class passengers were invited to use the first one.

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palmanfr Jul 2, 17 3:38 pm

Qatar Airways – QR276 – April 6th 2017
Amsterdam Schiphol AMS – 22.35
Doha Hamad Intl DOH – 05.50 (+1)
Boeing 777-300 – A7-BAS – Business class, seat 02F, center section, aisle.

Since I was the first boarding the aircraft, the purser saw me taking pictures of the cabin and we discussed for a couple minutes. The business class cabin is arranged in an old fashioned 2-2-2 configuration.
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My FA for this evening flight then came to me to offer me a welcome drink of my choice (champagne and a glass of water) and an oshibori. She also presented me the beverage and meals menus, and greeted me by name. The glass of water arrived a couple minutes later and the glass of Billecart-Salmon 15 min later.
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It gave me enough time to familiarize with my seat, which was clearly not from the last generation. The Bric’s amenity kits were already on the seat, such as the pillow and the blanket. The amenity kit contained the usual stuff : Earplugs in a small plastic case, a hood, a pair of socks, lip balm, a hand and face moisturizer. Tooth brushes, toothpaste, razors and cream were available in the lavatories.
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Most of the storage compartments of the seat are available at the feet. Only a small pocket next to seat allow you to store a mobile phone and the provided noise-cancelling head set. A USB port and the jack socket are available in this area. The real power plug is available at the front of the seat. I personally liked the fact a small storage area for a water bottle was available in the armrest, in front of the remote control for the IFE. The seat controls are located on the other arm rest and features the usual positions for takeoff, lounge, and bed, and also has a powerful massage function.
Boarding was completed around 22:20, and the purser went to different passengers throughout the cabin to introduce his self and inform about the flight time.
The safety demonstration, featuring the FC Barcelona players was showed and suddently stopped in the middle. At this point, the purser made an announcement to start the manual safety demonstration. The Panasonic IFE took 15 min to restart.
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We took off around 23:00 and the FA came afterwards to take my drinks and food order, both for the dinner and for the breakfast. I opted for a glass of Piper Rosé with the Quinoa and lentil salad, with Feta and Chicken for dinner and the pancakes for breakfast. I asked the FA to wake me up an hour before landing for breakfast.

10 min later, my glass of Piper Rosé arrived with some warm nuts and about 30 min later, my table was dressed and dinner served.
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The salad was overall quite good and a selection of 3 breads, with butter, salt and pepper was provided. Service was done without trolley, and proactive Champagne top-up was offered but I declined. I personally liked the way the table was dressed, this is done only in First class on most of the airlines I used.
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Concerning the IFE, while there is a large selection of programs available, I was a bit disappointed by the responsiveness of the system. The few shows I watched were sometime lagging. This was a general issue across the cabin. It is worth noting that the screens don’t have anti side vision coating. Which means that you can see what the other passengers are watching and it generates quite some light during night flights. The noise cancelling headphones provided are of good quality. Note that there was no WiFi available onboard this aircraft.
But since this was a night flight, I did not mind and it was time to me to get a few hours of sleep.

And I actually did not sleep much, and did not sleep well… First I found the head rest very improperly positionned (I am 1m88 tall). Secondly, the pillow and the blanket were not comfortable at all. I did find the pillow useless and the blanket way too short and too thin by my standards… (Ah if only all the airlines could use the same duvet and pillow as LATAM in business class…) Thirdly, there was always some noise coming from the aisle, I guess the crew was walking quite loudly. I almost prefer the BA club world seat…

90 minutes before landing, the FA woke me up for breakfast and to dress the table. The pancake was fine, as good as you can expect when being served on an aircraft after just barely 2 hours of sleep. I also ordered Sencha green tea, orange juice and their signature cucumber, mint and apple energizer drink, the latter being a good surprise. The breakfast was served with a croissant, some bread and a muffin, of average taste.
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Shortly before landing the connecting flight information was displayed on the screen
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To conclude, I would rate this flight as following :
Cabin Crew : B
Seat : C+ (Maybe that’s the seat I choose – It was initially 3K but switched to 2F. WE also experienced quite some issues with the IFE)
On time performance : B
Meal and beverages : B+ (Food was good, table set up was elegant)
Overall experience : B

palmanfr Jul 2, 17 3:40 pm

We landed at 6 O’clock and taxied for about 10 minutes. It took another 8 minutes to have the 2 jet bridges connected, so we disembarked at 6.18 at gate E2. There were a few QR ground staff waiting for some passengers with signs, but nothing for me, despite the 40 min connection to HND. Escalator up was not operational and I had to walk/run for a good 10 minutes until security, were I waited about 3 minutes to clear security at the business class lane. The screens after security were displaying that it was the final call for QR812 to HND... Gate E24 ! (For the ones who are not familiar with DOH, this is the opposite of where the transfer security check occurs, and literally next to the aircraft where I was on from AMS…).
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I used the automatic train to reach the E gates and was physically at the gate E24 (a bus gate) at 06.38 suffocating from my ride… Just to be informed by the gate agent : « Sir we haven’t boarded yet… » Indeed… passengers were still seated in the terminal. Which brings me the following question : Why on earth do you indicate this is a final call if you still did not start the boarding process ? Boarding eventually started 10 min later with priority for business class passengers who accessed a different bus. After a 1 minute and half bus ride we boarded the aircraft. It was 6.55…
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palmanfr Jul 2, 17 4:02 pm

Qatar Airways – QR812 – April 7th 2017
Doha Hamad Intl DOH – 07.00
Tokyo Haneda Intl HND – 22.40
Boeing 787-800 – A7-BCV – Business class, seat 02K, window, independant seat.

As soon as I entered the aircraft I got greeted by the purser and the female FA in charge of this section showed me my seat and offered to take my jacket, she also introduced herself.
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The impression upon entering the dreamliner cabin is much better than on the 773. The pillow and blanket were already on the seat and the FA immediately offered the amenity kit, a pyjama and a welcome drink of my choice with a hot or cold towel.
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She also brought me few minutes later the beverage and food menu for today.
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Boarding slowly continued and doors got closed around 7.30.
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We were airborned 10 minutes later and made a 180 degree turn towards Dubai and the east.

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Shorty after takeoff, the FA came to take my breakfast order. And this is what I like with QR : As I was not hungry at that time, I just mentioned what I wanted as a first meal and she reserved it for me until I was hungry enough, which eventually happened a couple hours later. I selected this time the traditional arabic breakfast with some fresh fruit and the mint/apple/cucumber energizer drink. It came with a nice presentation and the table set experienced on my previous flight to Doha.
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The fruits were ok and the arabic breakfast good. The usual bread basket was present on the table with some butter, salt, white pepper and jam.
Another thing I liked a lot about the QR meal service is that you can order whatever you want on the list at anytime you want. You are just not bound to respect some schedules like on other airlines. As long as the item is still available, the crew prepares it for you and brings it to your seat, with all the proper table set… Good - and strong point - for QR !

The purser also came shorty after take off to provide the immigration documentation for Japan and also introduce hisself and chat a bit about travels etc… It appears he was from Sri Lanka and we talked a bit about his country.

The seat is perfectly suited for individual travellers as me. It contains some storage to place your laptop or ipad, the usual USB and 110V plugs and 2 small tables to put your glass and your amenity kit for instance during the flight. An individual reading light is available on the seat and a specific storage for the water bottle and headphones is present inside the arm rest. The remote control features a touch screen and controls a responsive IFE. Note that as on the previous flight, everybody can see what is displayed on your individual screen and that the screen cannot be moved, unlike on CX for instance. The seat controls were working fine and are easy to operate, and as all Boeing 787, the windows can be dimmed electrically, which I find quite cool !
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Another thing to note, and which I appreciated also on the previous flight is the fact that an air nozzle is available above your seat in business class. This is not the case for every airline on wide body aircrafts.

I managed to get a good 2 hours of sleep with the seat in full recline mode. Qatar airways : Give us a proper pillow and a duvet blanket and this would be the perfect seat ! I would have slept half of the flight with that seat and the LATAM duvet ! I am not even asking for a pillow top mattress…

On the dreamliner, 2 lavatories are available at the rear of the cabin next to the 2R and 2L doors. The both have, as on the previous flight, toothbrush and razor sets available. I however have to comment about the condition of the lavatory during the flight as every single time I went in there (and this includes also the previous flight), the toilet was never flushed… I would be good to post a sign indicating people to respect the basic rules of courtesy towards others…
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Connectivity wise, it is worth mentioning that WiFi is available on the dreamliner, but the system becomes automatically unavailable when entering into airspaces which do not allow such technology to operate on board, such as in my particular case, India. The good news is that the first 15 min (or first 10MB) whatever comes first are free of charge, provided you have a valid email address. If you have multiple devices, you can get one session for free everytime. The connection quality was very reasonable considering the complex, satellite based technology, and is suited for emails, what’s app, basic websites and uploading a few pics on facebook… Do not expect to do video streaming with this ! Also, you have the possibility to send SMS but I did not try this feature. The seat table is large enough to put an ipad and a macbook and still be very comfortable to work.
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As we were reaching the Chinese south border, I decided to order a mocktail (the list of cocktails and mocktails they can prepare is quite nice) and stretch my legs in the galley.
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Being a BA frequent flyer, I like the possibility to interact with the crew during a long flight, spend half an hour discussing and then going back to my seat. On BA, and most of the European airlines, this is fine and some of the crews are very nice and accessible to interact with (let’s say BA Mixed fleet as an example). On most of the American carriers, they will just send you back to your seat as they consider that you are a safety hazard for the flight if you stay in the galley. On QR, I just have the feeling they feel unconfortable having your in the galley. They propose to you to bring your order directly to your seat, but they also accept having you staying in the galley. But do not expect additional interaction… So I went back to my seat and got my pineapple punch with some warm nuts… Soon after I ordered some sushi with a glass of chardonnay and I received my order 10 min later. Sushis were all right, such as the miso soup. Nothing exceptional in comparison with what I will perhaps be eating in Japan… I finished my dinner over China with a lemon tartelette served with a glass of Sauternes (sweet wine). This was pretty good.
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As we were above Osaka, the crew started to prepare the cabin for landing.
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We landed an hour late and taxied for ever (20 minutes) to the gate.

To conclude, I would rate this flight as following :
Cabin Crew : A
Seat : A (As a solo traveller, I would indeed recommend a window seat. However, the central seats are fine too as a quite high separation is installed. I would avoid seats in row 6 was you will be between 2 lavatories, with the first economy row being behind you).
On time performance :
Meal and beverages : A- (Food was good for a business class, table set up was elegant, and I really like the option to eat whatever you want on the menu at any time !)
Overall experience : A-. Bring me a comfy duvet and pillow and you get A+ !

palmanfr Jul 2, 17 4:18 pm

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Immigration was quite slow and crowded. It actually took me 40 minutes to clear immigration and customs.
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Since I did not have any checked in luggage I did not have to wait for it, but I was just in time to get the last bus for the Terminal 2 airport hotel : Excel Tokyu hotel.

This hotel is located within the domestic terminal 2, from where mostly ANA operates.
The hotel did the job for the price paid (120 Euros booked via hotels.com) and wifi was auite fast. The room in itself was quite small with 2 single beds. Since I was travelling alone with just carry on luggage it was fine, but if you travel with some additional luggage as a couple, it might be too small.
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palmanfr Jul 3, 17 10:57 am

My flight to Sapporo CTS was operated by JL from the other domestic terminal, A free shuttle bus between terminal is available, but I decided to have a morning walk to « visit » the terminals. It took about 10-15 minutes to get there.

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If you fly on Japan Airlines and carry One World Emerald status (or travel in First class), you can use the dedicated First class check in lounge with dedicated security.

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I was travelling in J class that day (Which would be the equivalent of a premium economy seat in that case), but my BA Gold status allowed me to get in.
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A couple of very welcoming check in agents were working that day. My boarding pass was swiftly issued and I decided to check my carry on luggage in (I know it is a big bigger than the allowed size for carry on and I also know that Japan is the only country in the world where priority tagged luggage really arrives first on the belt !). I also asked the agent if some first class upgrades were available, and decided to do so for 7000 JPY (around 55 Euros) just to test, and also for the 20 addiitonal TP. She asked me if I was fine with a window seat and issued my new BP. I was greeted by the two female agents (once again) and headed to the security check five meters behind me. The checkpoint was totally empty of passengers and the 4 security staff greeted me. Security was cleared within seconds, and I then went to the First class lounge upstairs. There is direct access to it after the security check point.
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I have to say that JL did an excellent job with this dedicated First class check in facility. Airlines in Europe and the US should learn from this.

Here below are a few pictures from the F lounge :

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It was my second time in this (domestic) first class lounge. While I really like the look and design of all renovated JL lounges, I find the food offering a bit weak, with only crackers, a couple soups, some cheese or chocolate bread and 2 rice balls. I had a quick breakfast and took opportunity to check some emails using the complimentary wifi. Plenty of seating was available with some nice tarmac views. I took this opportunity to some plane spotting, despite the grey weather…

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Considering this is a first class lounge in the main hub, I would rate it as following :
Japan Airlines Diamond First class lounge, Tokyo Haneda Domestic terminal.
Buffet area / F&B selection : C
Seating available : A
« Clean and comfy » : A
Extra amenities : B
Overall ranking : B
Again, JL did an excellent job in offering a first class experience from the airport to the gate. I personally love the design theme used of wood and brown leather. The lounge F&B offerings are a bit weak IMO, especially compared to the excellent F lounge on the international terminal i personally visited last november.

palmanfr Jul 3, 17 11:03 am

Chapter 2 : Heading north...
 
30 minutes before scheduled departure, I decided to leave the lounge and proceed to the gate 17, about 5 minutes away. Looks like I will be flying to Sapporo on 777-200 Oneworld livery aircraft…
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Priority boarding at 10 :12 after the entire gate staff greeted passengers waiting. 2 jet bridges were positioned to facilitate the boarding process. Front bridge was directly connected to door 1L and to be used by F and J passengers.
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Japan Airlines – JL511 – April 8th 2017
Tokyo Haneda Intl HND – 10.30
Sapporo New Chitose CTS – 12.05
Boeing 777-200 – JA771J – First class seat 2A, seat 2C remained empty during the flight.

As soon as I entered the cabin (I was the first one to board via that door), the purser greeted me by name, wished me welcome on board and showed me my seat. She took my jacket and presented me today’s menu. Shortly afterwards, another female FA came to me to offer a Tempur pillow and started to talk for a couple minutes with me about my visit in Japan.
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Sleepers were available in the seat pocket, such as a power bank as the seat is quite old and does not have any power plugs at all. Seat controls were mechanic. I did find the seats quite confortable and certainly much better than what European airlines use for short and medium-haul flights.

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The purser came to me to ask if I wanted to have lunch and what would be my drink preference. I ordered a glass of their sky time kiwi cocktail and a glass of champagne.
Boarding was completed ontime (15 minutes to board and have 250+ passengers seated – Call that Japanese efficiency !) and we pushed back. Time to taxi towards the runway and we took off at 10.50.

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Oshiboris were distributed and the meal service began, with trays being brought at the table from the galley directly by the FA, who explained me each of the dishes. The meal was quite tasty and I finished it with a coffee and a some perrier sparkling water.

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The purser and the FA regularly came to me to know if everything was fine and to ask where I was from and if I enjoyed my time in Japan. Considering the F cabin was only half full that day, and that 3 FA were assigned to this cabin, I guess this facilitated the discussion. I was called by my last name at every interaction with the crew.

Note that Wifi was available on board, free of charge (there is a promotion until the end of August to promote this new service) and provided by GoGo. The speed was enough to upload a few pictures and get emails. It appeared that the power bank located on my seat did not work (USB port wad broken), so I used the one located on the seat 2C, but it was almost empty. Would have been nice to have « real » USB ports located on the seat.
I started to see snowy Hokkaido through the window and we landed ontime, with only a few minutes of taxi time to the gate.

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The crew thanked all of us individually for flying JL and wished us a pleasant day.

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The luggage took about 10 minutes to arrive on the belt, and as usual in Japan, the First class luggage arrived first, followed by the J class, followed by the other luggage.

To conclude, I would rate this flight as following :
Cabin Crew : A
Seat : B (considering this is a 1 hour 20 minute flight, a different rating would have applied for a transcontinental service)
On time performance : A
Meal and beverages : A- (Food was good, and nicely presented).
Overall experience : A-

palmanfr Jul 3, 17 11:44 am

Chapter 3 : Welcome in Hokkaido !
 
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One of the most convenient and affordable way to travel from and to Japanese airports is to use Limousine bus services, which is what I did to reach my hotel in the Susukino district of Sapporo. It took about an hour and 10 minutes to reach my destination as there was a bit of traffic for the price of 1030 JPY (approx 8 Euros).

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The hotel I choose in Sapporo was the Holiday Inn Susukino, located in the heart of the entertainement district of Sapporo. It is located walking distance from most of the popular downtown tourist attractions as well as to a metro station. Besides the location, the reason I choose to stay at this property was because I was missing one hotel night to complete the « accelerate » promotion I had on my IHG rewards club account. Therefore, besides being a mileage run, this trip was also somehow a « mattress run ».
I arrived a bit before 2 pm and check in was smooth, a room located at the 9th and last floor was given to me. The room was very small (maybe smaller than the night before) but functional. Wifi worked just fine and complimentaty bottle of water was provided.
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Besides the downtown and Susukino area, the few touristic hotspots I would recommend to visit were the Sapporo beer museum, the mount Moiwa and to get some lunch at the fish market, Hokkaido being famous for their seafood, such as crab, scallops and salmon. Here below are some pictures, please feel free to comment if you want more details !

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stijnec Jul 4, 17 1:16 am

great report! Thanks for your effort to share your amazing journey with us!

palmanfr Jul 4, 17 10:47 am


Originally Posted by stijnec (Post 28517430)
great report! Thanks for your effort to share your amazing journey with us!

Thanks stijnec !

palmanfr Jul 4, 17 11:12 am

Chapter 4 : Heading to Tokyo !
 
The night was fine but woke up a quite early due to sunlight hitting my room (and also maybe the jet lag kicking in…). As I wanted to take the bus back to the airport around 3pm, I asked for a late check-out and was given the opportunity to keep the room until 2pm, as IHG platinum member. Note that I purchased my bus ticket to the airport at the hotel reception.

The bus ride back to the airport was less smooth than I hoped and it took a good hour an half to reach CTS due to heavy traffic. I arrived at the airport around 16.40 and my flight was scheduled to depart at 18.00. The airport lobby was very crowded, with lots of tourists enjoying their last minutes in Hokkaido at the airport food court and shops. You could even purchase some fresh seafood to go !

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Japan Airlines has a new dedicated facility for First class and Emerald passengers very similar to the one in HND, with direct access to security check point and the lounge.

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Check in was very smooth and asked if some first class upgrades were available. The agent got initially a bit confused by my question, but her colleague assisted her and I got the last seat of the F cabin for that flight for 7000 JPY.
Security was a breeze and I then headed to the newly redesigned first class lounge upstairs.

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The design theme used for this lounge is similar to the one in HND. The lounge has two entrances, one for the J class and Sapphire passengers (Sakura lounge), and one for the First class and Emerald passengers (Diamond First lounge). I only visited the latter.

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The lounge features the 3 usual sections (buffet area, lounge area and work area) and has great open views on the outside. Some nice artwork is present throughout the lounge. Besides the traditional beverage selection, the buffet consisted into a couple soups (I took some potato and scallop soup, which was good), a couple of rice snacks, some curry pastries with muffins. Restrooms are located within the lounge and were very well maintained.
Again, the food offering is not exceptional, but I found it better than in HND.

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Power plugs are locarted everywhere across the lounge and the wifi was working well.
Large windows across the lounge allow you to do some nice plane spotting !

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It was soon time to board the aircraft for HND, so I stayed only 20 minutes or so in the lounge.

Considering this is a domestic first class lounge, I would rate it as following :
Japan Airlines Diamond First class lounge, Sapporo Domestic terminal.
Buffet area / F&B selection : C+
Seating available : A
« Clean and comfy » : A
Extra amenities : B
Overall ranking : B

The boarding gate for my flight to HND was located just at the lounge exit, and began 20 minutes before departure time. Priority boarding was enforced and 2 jet bridges were in place to make the boarding process faster.

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palmanfr Jul 4, 17 11:19 am

Japan Airlines – JL522 – April 9th 2017
Sapporo New Chitose CTS – 18.00
Tokyo Haneda Intl HND – 19.40
Boeing 777-200 – JA8977 – First class seat 2D, aisle, center section.

This Sunday evening flight seemed to be full, at least in the front section of the J cabin and in the F cabin, where I was seated. The senior cabin attendant and the 2 female FA’s working in the F cabin greeted every passenger and provided the menus for tonight’s flight, as well as some tempur pillows if needed. We pushed back strictly on time despite the full flight and took off about 5 minutes later. As on the previous flight, sleepers and a blanket was provided at every seat and the crew provided a very professional and polite service. As the pilot announced some possible turbulence approaching Tokyo, the service went quite fast, but nonetheless was very attentive. The food was very good and I added to it a glass of champagne and the usual glass of kiwi « skytime » (as a dessert ☺).

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Free wifi was available throughout the flight, just like on the previous flight.

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During the meal service, I noticed that my seat mate was asking the crew for some sort of stickers and was taking pictures of those and the meal tray. The flight attendant noticed that I was puzzled by those stickers and came to me 15 minutes later with some and explained to me that those were representing the different provinces of Japan, and that some were collecting those (that’s the way I understood). I found it funny and exchanged some with my seat mate… If someone knows more about those, I would be interested to know more…

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Being the only « western » looking guy in the cabin, the same flight attendant asked me if I was enjoying my time in Japan and where I was coming from, we talked for a few minutes before she had to go back to the galley…
As the pilot predicted, turbulence started 20 minutes before landing in HND and the crew had to remained seated for the rest of the flight, giving us back our coats before that.

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We arrived in Haneda on time and the crew thanked us again for choosing JL.
Overall it was a nice flight, with a very efficient and courteous crew. I wish I could have got a window seat.

To conclude, I would rate this flight just like the previous one:
Cabin Crew : A
Seat : B (considering this is a 1 hour 20 minute flight, a different rating would have applied for a transcontinental service)
On time performance : A
Meal and beverages : A- (Food was good, and nicely presented).
Overall experience : A-

Haneda is a nice airport , with a good shopping area, especially for plane memorabilia ☺

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palmanfr Jul 4, 17 11:37 am

The hotel I choose this time in Tokyo was located at Tokyo bay (Hilton) and considering the late time, I had to use the monorail and JR line to reach it, until the Maihama station (During the day, some limousine bus services run between HND airport and Tokyo bay). I figured out later that Tokyo bay was basically another name for… Disneyland Tokyo, and that my hotel was in the middle of it ! A shuttle bus, full of kids dressed as mickey mouse, runs every 15-20 minutes between the JR Maihama station and the hotel.

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Some day views…
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The hotel was quite crowded that evening, and I went straight to the priority check in desk to complete the formalities. A free beverage and premium wifi coupons were provided.

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Since the hotel manager contacted me a couple days before arrival to ask if I had special requests and I mentioned I would appreciate a late check-out, I was given a late check-out until 6pm for free (I am HH Diamond). The room I got was a park view king bed room at the last floor. It was quite big.

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Near the hotel is a baywalk, where I took some night pictures of Tokyo (as far as I could see with the DSLR though…)

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Nothing else special to mention about this hotel, besides the fact it did have an executive lounge (not mentioned on the Hilton website) with evening canapés and breakfast in the morning. Talking about breakfast, one of the benefit of being Hilton Honors Diamond is to have free breakfast, in the lounge or at the restaurant. I opted for the buffet at the restaurant. It was quite crowded in the morning but was promptly given a table thanks to the priority lane for status card holders, also at the restaurant.
Here below are some pictures of the lounge, note that the hilton app does not mention that this hotel has a lounge…

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The hotel also seels airport limousine bus tickets and got one for 2300 JPY to get to NRT on the monday evening. I would recommend future travellers to take a look to the bus schedules before as there are only several departures to NRT and HND a day.
At the end it was a nice hotel, reasonably priced for Tokyo standards (I paid around 15000 JPY), but maybe a bit remote from the center of Tokyo (about 30-45 minutes with the JR line)

palmanfr Jul 4, 17 11:59 am

Chapter 5 : Tokyo, show me the cherry blossoms !
 
April is the world famous sakura season in Japan (cherry blossoms season) and a LOT of tourists visit the country at that time of the year. Here below are some pictures. I started my day in Ueno park and continued in the chiyoda district before finishing near Shinjuku and Nakano as I wanted to buy some camera lenses.

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