I wanted to post this for correction. My trip report on this trip wasn't coherent, the pictures needed some work, and the videos weren't included in the trip report. I wanted to add some info and it was just an off report, so here we go: (Mods, feel free to delete the old report).
I decided that I would take a trip to Bangkok to visit some relatives over the new year. I have always wanted to hit up that fabulous city, but unfortunately, haven't had the chance to until now. I sort of bought my ticket on whim and was able to score a Business class ticket on United for only $3500 round trip, which I thought was quite nice.
I have a few other trip reports that have pictures of the Oklahoma City Airport, so I decided to leave the OKC-ORD and ORD-OKC flights out, since it's basically the same routing, aircraft, and spotting to be done at OKC that was in my last trip report.
+++++THE TRIP REPORT++++++
Total Flying time not including stops and at a constant speed of Mach .84 :
**Though I doubt this is correct as your speed varies, and does not include taxi times either**
Total Miles: 19,712 miles. (And I got bonus miles for the trip, which I ended up with a total of approximately 29,000 miles for this trip!
I arrived at ORD around 835AM from OKC and headed over to the international business class lounge to wait for my noon departure to NRT. The business class lounge at ORD is quite nice, and a peaceful retreat for those wishing to get away from the hustle and bustle that is the United Terminal C at ORD.
I noticed that gate C17 was completely full of Asian passengers waiting on their flight to Shanghai. They had a newly painted 747-400, and I found that the aircraft I would be taking to NRT was still in the old United Color scheme. I was sort of sad not to have the new colors, but the trip would still be a great deal of fun.
The Flight to Shanghai:
The supposed flight to NRT:
It wasn't until about 20 min later, I looked at the screen monitors in the lounge to see that the Shanghai flight had switched to gate C18, where the Tokyo bound aircraft was located. You could tell by comparing wingtips of both aircraft, which one had been filled with fuel already.
Comparison Shot of the Wingtips of both 747-422's, apparently when filled with fuel, the wingspan of the 747 increases a few feet.
I looked at the original Shanghai aircraft and noted that Engine #1 cowling was open, so I figured the aircraft went tech. They announced the gate change as well as a delay for the NRT 881 flight to 2:35 PM. My flight to BKK was to leave at 6:35PM NRT time, so I was concerned about my connection.
I went to the customer service counter in the Business class lounge and inquired about it. She said at this point, it was still a legal connection, but she was going to see if she could get me on the oversold HKG flight which would connect with Emirates and continue to BKK. I sort of wanted that to work out as a flight on Emirates would be pretty cool. Unfortunately, all classes were sold out and no one gave up their seats, plus my departure still gave me enough time to connect.
Around 2:00PM, I went to the lounge where they were already boarding and walked ahead of hundreds of economy passengers straight onto the plane, up the stairs, and sat in the window.
Getting Ready to Climb the stairs up to the legendary (for me at least) upper deck of the 744:
It was my first time on the upper deck of a 747 and it really is nice and cozy. I do believe if feels a little larger than a Boeing Narrowbody, but maybe that is just me. The problem though, is the windows are positioned in a strange way so that you have to lean over to see out of them, but it was a very nice ride up there and very quiet.
We pushed back right at 2:35PM and were headed out to the runway, with a nice wave goodbye and a Siranara from Tower:
I love how the wings flex and flap about, no other plane really flexes as much as the 747-400. It was also interesting to note that the wings look much smaller from an upper-deck prospective. But you still know you are on a mighty 747!
Climbing out of Chicago, you can see downtown before we make a northerly turn. Also note how the flaps come out again after they had already cleaned up the wing during the turn: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hD7xj7lj_SI
Our flight path took us directly north for a while into Canadian Airspace:
Of course in business class, drinks were handed out in the usual style of mimosas and champagne at the gate, and we were offered drinks about 20 min after departure on the way up to initial cruising altitude of 31,000 ft. After about 1.5 hours or so, dinner was being served. Unfortunately, I ate my dinner before I decided to take a picture, so you see my left overs, but we were given several choices of American dishes, however, I chose the Asian dish, keeping with the tradition. It was very good and consisted of Sushi, Sashimi, and various vegetables and rice. The presentation was sort of lacking, and i know they were going for an Asian theme, but could have been better. I was hoping for the new international business class, but was disappointed on all 4 of my 747 flights. The dinner consisted of warm nuts, and I chose the Asian dinner, which was a combination of Sushi, selected meats, Miso Soup, and had Cheese and Fruit for dessert with Baileys and coffee.
And I obviously spilled some of my coffee after dinner:
We made our way westward over the Middle of Alaska. I do believe we flew right to the South of Mt. McKinley on the way. Channel 9 was on during the entire flight, but as usual, went dead off of Alaskan airspace.
Some pictures over Canada as the winter sun started to disappear very quickly. In fact, it was a complete sunset all the way to NRT, to almost dark, up until we hit the coast of Japan.
I had never flown transpacific during the middle of winter, and it really does get quite dark even though it is a daytime flight. Unfortunately, as we approached Japan, the sun was already behind the horizon, so pictures and landing video conditions were not good enough for my cheap point and shoot digital camera. It was however interesting to hear all of the traffic as we neared the coast of Japan. Huge amounts of US bound traffic and incoming US traffic, though seemed to be very little Asian traffic other than the odd Korean Air, or Asiana. I swear to God that during the entire 12 hour flight, there was not ONE bump of turbulence, it was quite smooth.
Tthe upper deck seemed to have more of a party atmosphere to it. It was really only half full up there, and nobody had a seat mate, which was great because I could watch the Airshow as well as the movies. Mamma Mia was one of them:
Landing in NRT was very smooth. I don't think you can EVER make a terribly hard landing in a 747. It was dark when we landed, so I didn't get to see much of anything as I was in a rush to get to UA890 NRT-BKK. At NRT, connecting passengers must go through a second security check where they check your passport and your ticket. The line was very short and I walked directly upstairs to gate 37 and boarded the flight to BKK which was almost already boarded.
The flight to BKK was a continuation from the flight from LAX. This flight was full upstairs and people were partying! Remember, it was Jan 31st now, and we would most likely be on the flight as we entered 2009. Champagne was flowing and people were laughing and talking and taking pictures. Mostly Americans, but with Asian flight attendants based at NRT.
Our flight attendants for the upper deck on the flight to BKK were an older couple, who had previously worked for Pan Am when they had a base at NRT. They've been married for 30 years and met through the airline industry. The woman, can't remember he name, was a stubby little Thai lady with a really fun and LOUD personality! She was hilarious. She greeted everyone with a big "HAPPY NEW YEAR!" as we entered the upper deck and came along with champagne saying, "Have some champagne! It's on US! REALLY CHEAP TOO!" Everyone was dying laughing.
I sat next to a guy from San Francisco who was headed to BKK for partying, which I guess is what a lot people do. We talked quite a bit about BKK and where we were staying, etc. He was a nice guy, though I think he was headed to Bangkok for "notorious Bangkok fun."
The Bangkok flight was longer than I expected. I don't know why I was thinking it would be shorter, but it wasn't and considering we had a 195-200MPH head wind until we hit the South China Sea, it was sort of obvious it would be taking us a while to get to BKK. The flight was very rough most of the way. It was night and day from my North Pacific Crossing. We flew over the Pacific, toward Naha, Taipei, through Vietnam, and into Thai Airspace. Channel 9 was not on, and I wasn't really in the mood to ask for it. I was TIRED!! The flight was about as long as JFK-LHR!
We started our descent somewhere over Thailand, and on our descent into BKK, the captain came on and wished us a happy new year as it was now Jan 1st, 2009. People, clapped as they sipped champagne and we were well into the BKK area. The lights were beautiful and we kept trying to look out the window to make out the airport. We flew south, toward the ocean and turned back and landed.
As we landed, the pilot braked, and threw on the reversers. That's when I hear glass shattering and something banging it's way down the aisle like a bowling ball. The flight attendants had forgotten to stow one of the trollies properly and it flew all the way down the aisle and smashed into the cockpit door. The pilot pulled the aircraft off of the runway and stopped and one of the officers came out to check that everything was okay. The old couple flight attendants were laughing about it and were picking up all the dishes and broken glass already. (They must be really seasoned vets, and well respected because other NRT based flights attendants know them).
We taxied for a while at Suvarnabhumi. BTW, it's pronounced, "Swa-na-poom." It was sort of dead at this time of night, though I did see an Austrian 777-200ER readying itself for take off, presumably to Vienna. We parked at D4, which is a central widebody gate at BKK, next to a Thai A345. Was interesting to see that aircraft.
Suvarnabhumi is BEAUTIFUL at night. They do a great job with lighting and the architecture is just outstanding. Probably one of the most beautiful airports in the world. Even the jetways are a class act with etchings of Siamese scenes on the glass.
It was a fairly long walk to immigration where I made it through very quickly. Thai immigration takes your picture and then gives you a 30 day visa, then sends to to collect your baggage. Customs was closed, I had nothing I was bringing in anyway. I went out into the arrivals hall and met my Cousin and His Thai wife for the first time and they took me to my hotel, The Shangri-La on the Chao Phraya.
The Shangri-La hotel is a 5 star hotel right down the river from the Mandarin Oriental and across the river from the Peninsula Hotel. I believe it is more popular with Europeans than Americans as well as Australians because I think I was the only American Accent. It was elegantly decorated and wonderfully staffed with very attentive professionals who are at your beck and call for anything you need during your stay. It had a lovely HUGE terrace on the river for outdoor dining with a bar, pool, and lounge. They also have an upscale bar suit and tie only place on the lobby level. Marble and fresh flowers everywhere. The rooms were wonderful as well decorated with traditional Thai furniture and ammenities.
Some pictures of the Shangri-La hotel and the Chao Praya river. Sort of a nasty looking river, ah, but such is Bangkok...
The Shangri-La is directly next to the Mandarin Oriental, also another 5-star hotel:
The Peninsula as seen from my Hotel Room:
Other Shangri-La Pics and Chao Praya:
View from the Terrace of the Shangr-La
Eating Breakfast on the Terrace:
Inside the Shangri-La, they still had their X-mas decorations up, but were taking them down before I left:
I spent most of my time in Bangkok going to random restaurants with my cousins, eating food that went right through my stomach, and sight seeing, as well as doing some shopping, VERY CHEAP! The Thai people are wonderful, welcoming, and very interested in foreigners.
Pictures of Thai Temples and Artifacts:
My cousin Terry:
Eating at a Thai Restaurant on the Street with Terry. Was SOO good:
My Thai Cousin, Chalinee:
Flight time: 5h5min
UA 890 (Continuing to LAX)
I woke up around 4AM and scheduled a hotel car to take me to the airport. It's about a 20 min drive from the hotel to Suvarnabhumi (Sorry, it's just fun to spell). I got to ride in a tricked out 745Li BMW with flat screen TV's in the rear. Was a great way to get to the airport by chauffeur.
It was about 5AM when I arrived at BKK and went right up to the United Check in Counter. I requested a window seat as I didn't have a seat assignment, but all the seats were sold out for this flight, unfortunately.
Check In Counters before Passport Control:
Passport Control Station before entering the Main terminal:
After passing through passport control, you are greeted by this huge statue, which is a nice welcome to the airport!
Immediately after passing through security, the security agent pointed me towards the Thai Royal Silk lounge which was not open until 5:55AM, so I browsed the not yet open shopping throughout the concourse. They have SO many shops at BKK!
Finally I made it to the Thai Royal Silk lounge and it was like entering a swanky night club. The furnishings, food, drinks, everything was amazing with flat screen TVs and monitors EVERYWHERE! The staff were great as well. They had delicious pastries and cakes as well as espresso and fruit stocked for breakfast. It wasn't very crowded, then again, the lounge was HUGE. They have a great internet office area, as well as private areas where you can sleep, lounge, and watch TV. The bathrooms were beautiful marble and I believe had showers as well.
Pictures from the Royal Silk Lounge:
When I noted that my flight was ready for boarding, I headed down to gate D2. At BKK, you walk down a huge ramp and are greeted by another team of security just for that specific flight and asked questions as they search your carry-ons, again, very friendly though and service with a smile. Boarding for UA890 was at gate D2, part of the large part of the terminal.
I was the first person to board when they called Business and First Class, and was greeted with a smile and hello on the plane. The jetways at BKK are beautiful with glass etchings on the doors of the jetways of classical Thai scenes.
I was on the lower deck for the flight to NRT, and we had a wonderful young and attentive NRT based flight crew. I got to chat with them during the downtimes between services during the flight and one was from Guam, one from Kentucky, one from Tokyo, and one who was originally from Bangkok. I told them about the couple flight attendants on my flight into BKK and they knew their names and laughed about them being such a funny couple and told me about their history with Pan Am. The NRT flight crews must be very tight and have a great comraderie.
We took off as the sun began to rise and Channel 9 was turned on. It was interesting to note that the flight crew had a hard time communicating with the BKK control Tower. Lots of misunderstandings in English, and at one point Tower didn't even acknowledge us for a while. You could hear the flight officer repeatedly saying: "BKK Tower, United 890 heavy." He repeated himself several times until they finally acknowledged.
We were served a breakfast with fresh tropical fruit, some sort of egg omlette, and mimosas, though I wasn't really up for alcohol that early in the morning.
The flight was rather boring, but we crossed over Vietnam, into the South China Sea, Over Taipei, and into NRT.
It was interesting being in the middle seat and seeing out both sides pretty clearly. You get an idea of how large the 744 is!
Some images from doors 4L, 4R, and 5R while passing over Vietnam:
And of course, economy class from the rear of the aircraft:
We landed at Narita and I was so glad it was daytime as I thought this would be a great chance to get some heavies on film. Most of the time in Asia, the flights were during the night, so this was a great opportunity!
During our taxi, we passed quite a few Asian carriers and TONS of NW aircraft as well as UA. It looked like a US airport at NRT!
I made my way through the passport check which was really heavy in traffic. I suppose everyone was arriving from their intra-asian flights to depart to the US. Business travelers were getting priority in this line, until the economy passengers decided it was also an economy line, so it took forever!
After clearing that area, I went to the Business Class lounge and hung out, chatted with a few a.netters on the computers available and had a few drinks. The lounge there wasn't as nice as the BKK Thai Royal Silk lounge, but it was definitely better than sitting in the departure lounge.
I got to chat with a few people that were on my BKK flight at the Business class lounge at NRT and made some friends, exchanged email addresses, and found several people who actually live, or had lived in Oklahoma! Such a small world, especially when they know people you do!
I left the lounge to take some pictures. I'm not sure, or remember where all the flights were headed, but I'm sure you might be able to get an idea. And also! I saw the first DL 747-400 there! So here are my spotting pics from NRT!
Finally, I went to the gate as my flight was ready to board. It was a newly painted UA 747-400. I was on the upper deck this time, 2nd row from the front, window seat. Which made it difficult to see the the wings, but here is my aircraft to ORD before I boarded being prepared for the longhaul flight back to ORD:
Boarding was easy as again, being in business, we were one of the first ones to board. I think because of the few drinks I had in the business class lounge at NRT and the champagne I got as I took my seat on the upper deck, I had enough courage to ask if I could take a photo of the cockpit. I got a chance to visit the cockpit and talk with the flight officers and got a chance to take a snapshot of the cockpit. I asked them if they knew of A.net, and one of them said, OH YES! I love that website! So if you are out there, HEY! and thanks for the shot! They did something, flipped a switch, so that all the lights would come on and it was also neat to see the view out of the upper deck cockpit. You can see the passengers still waiting to board our flight out the window. Was kind of a cool shot I thought!
Flight Time: Approx 11hrs.
We had the usual long taxi as we headed out of NRT. Due to the fact that so many flights were leaving back to the US. Around 5-7PM NRT is really the London Heathrow of the far east around noon their time:
Japan airlines 777-200 taking off before us:
After a long take off roll, we were headed out of NRT. It sure doesn't take long to reach the ocean and then it is complete darkness, but I managed to take two shots of us climbing out from the airport, though they are rather dark:
You can just sort of see the winglet lighted up by the lights on the aircraft in this picture:
Again, it's more of a party cozy atmosphere up in the upper deck, and I prefer it over the lower deck. It seems lighter and more airy, despite being smaller.
To be honest, I slept most of this flight. There wasn't much to see as it was in complete darkness. We flew over the ocean most of the flight until hitting the West Coast of Canada and down into the US. We pulled up to the international Terminal at ORD and it was a mess. Boy you knew you were back in the US. Rude TSA's, Customs, etc., yelling at people who didn't even speak english. Flight 882 was coupled with a Lufthansa flight from Dusseldorf on the baggage carousel which really was annoying. So many people and flights from all over the world were arriving about that time too. I cleared customs, was welcomed back to the US.
The thing I hate about O'Hare is that you actually have to go outside the International terminal and take the long train ride to the United Domestic terminal. It was below freezing at ORD at the time and I froze my butt off (was in shorts and flip flops since it was almost 90 in BKK and very humid!).
The OKC flight was your typical ExecPlus Regional Jet flight on a CRJ-700. Nothing special, but was glad to be home.
Overall, UA business class is not anywhere NEAR up to par with other airlines, and until they get the lie-flat seats, it's not worth it, unless you get a $3500 fare like I did all the way to BKK. Food service is poor, presentation was okay. But I gotta hand it to the NRT flight crew and Asian airports and service in general. It's fantastic!
Go see AMAZING Thailand if you can! There's something there for everyone, and it's CHEAP!
UAL747 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 2, posted (7 years 1 month 5 days 2 hours ago) and read 18909 times:
Quoting LHR380 (Reply 1): How was the flight back turbulence wise, Im a little scared of doing a trans-pacific as I hear its a very turbulent route.
It really depends on the weather patterns. Honestly, my recent trip this past week to BRU over the North Atlantic was REALLY rough for about an hour. The flaperons or inboard ailerons were going crazy on the 777.
I've flown over the Pacific and Atlantic about 10 or so times, well 20 if you count the return flights, and it always varies. The worst turbulence I've ever experienced was just off the coast of Japan from HKG to LAX. It only lasted for about 30 seconds, but there were two HUGE drops and the whole plane seemed to go "WHOA" and the pilot asked the flight crew to sit down immediately.
You never can tell honestly, but severe turbulence is rather rare. I've never been on a flight (knock on wood) where dishes went flying and people hit their heads. It happens, but is very rare.
Turbulence at night sort of does scare me, but seeing as I'm over 21, I have a couple of drinks and it doesn't bother me much, though I do tend to look out the windows quite often when things get pretty rough.
I don't think there are any planes that have gone down due to turbulence, well, maybe one or two, but nothing that I can remember.
I don't like it either, but I don't let it stop me from travelling.
TimePilot From Switzerland, joined Sep 2005, 296 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (7 years 1 month 4 days 21 hours ago) and read 18229 times:
I agree, NRT isn't that much fun. I live in Japan though, and always have to fly through it Without access to a lounge it's even worse. Last summer I had some time to kill so I parked myself in a massage chair and slept for a while. No one said a word
I'm always on JAL, and their 747 upper decks are no where near as nice as the one in your photos. Granted JAL's are economy, so the seats are all bunched up together. The windows ARE placed weird, so you have to bend down to look out them.
I've flown NRT <-> ORD many, many times and have had turbulence on every flight. It's been scary a few times, but I'm nervous to begin with. Of the 10 years I've been doing that route however, we've never had big dips, or injuries or things flying around the cabin.
AFKL From Netherlands, joined Feb 2008, 219 posts, RR: 0
Reply 5, posted (7 years 1 month 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 17249 times:
Great TR! The Shangri-la hotel still looks very similar to when I was there during the X-mas period back in 2004 (judging from the pictures). In fact, I have a similar picture of my brother and me sitting in those same seats near the large Christmas tree in the lobby area.
Jfazzer From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2001, 161 posts, RR: 6
Reply 6, posted (7 years 1 month 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 17153 times:
Hi, Great trip report.
But I have to agree with you, UA's business class product looks poor. Especially when compaired to carriers like EK and SQ. Everything just looks tired and old.
No wonder they are loosing so much money. I wouldn't even consider booking premium travel with them unless I had no option.
UAL747 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (7 years 1 month 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 15257 times:
Quoting Directorguy (Reply 9): UA's catering seems okay in C, their PTVs however, are shocking. I'd be shocked if I saw them in Econ.
The business class PTV's are bad indeed. In fact, they are the same as domestic first on widebodies and about the same size as AA's 777's in Economy class. There are only 9 movie channels, and about 12 music stations. No AVOD.
They are refubishing them though, and the new ones look pretty good, but it's long overdue.
Quoting Directorguy (Reply 9): I never knew the wingspan increased post-fuelling up. I'll watch out for it next time-is this true for other aircraft types?
I don't know if you can actually see it, but if you look at an arriving plane next to one which is about to depart on an ultra long haul route, you can tell that the tips of the wings are a bit lower, therefore, the winglets will tip further outward, effectively increasing the wingspan.
I would assume that any aircraft with a dihedral configuration, when weighted down with fuel, would increase the wingspan by some measure, because you would be slightly altering the angle of the dihedral, thus extending the wingspan. On shorter, more rigid wings, it's barely noticeable if at all, but the wings of the 747 are fairly flexible. I would assume the A380 might be the same.