This is my first trip report, so go easy on me!
I wrote this trip report ages ago, but never got around to signing up for A.net, so it sat around on my hard drive for a long time. Considering the "demise" of NW, and the cancellation of the KIX-DTW route, I thought it would be nice to have this report in the archives, and it gives me a good excuse to finally become an A.net member. I have to apologize for having so few pictures; I tend to get preoccupied with other stuff and forget about my camera. I'll be sure to take more pics in the future. But anyway, on to the report!
KIX - DTW in World Business Class
I've lived in Japan for about a decade now, but I always make sure to head back to the US twice a year to maintain my sanity. As I prefer DTW over ORD, and I've had nothing but bad experiences with UA, NW has been my airline of "choice" for the duration of that time, since NW and UA both offered KIX-DTW/ORD-MHT routes. This time, I had a bunch of miles sitting in the bank so I decided to burn them up and fly WBC. Being 6'7", I was really looking forward to being able to stretch out for a change!
There's an express train that goes from a nearby station directly to KIX, so I took that and was at the terminal in about 45 minutes. Check-in was smooth and fast, and I was handed a lounge invitation. I'd never seen the lounges at KIX so I decided to check it out -- what a disappointment! It's basically one big room with a bunch of beaten-up chairs and worn carpeting, with a few PC booths (sans PCs) on the side. Food and beverages were scanty, but they had some Bailey's sitting around, so I helped myself to a couple and did some work while I was waiting for the boarding call.
The lounge at KIX.
Unfortunately I got a bit too engrossed in work (and in the Bailey's) and by the time I reached the gate, the Y pax were boarding as well. I was on the 744 soon enough, though, and heading up the stairs for the first time to the upper deck cabin! I was definitely excited about checking out the upper deck, as I had never seen it before. It was quite nice, and definitely felt a lot more personal than the 2-3-2 layout on the main deck. I also like the storage compartments on the window side -- I travel light and managed to fit everything into the box.
My ride to DTW:
I settled in (seat 79K) and accepted some pre-departure champagne, and that combined with the Baileys had me in a pretty jovial mood. Weather was supposed to be pretty bad in DTW, though, so I was a bit worried about the possibility of a diversion. As it was out of my hands, though, I sat back and relaxed. The upper deck cabin was at 100% load but it still didn't feel cramped. Soon we were pushing back from the gate, taxing down to the runway, and lifting off from the Kansai region.
Before long dinner orders were taken. I went with the beef option for some reason -- I usually avoid red meat but figured what the heck. The appetizer was a sort of bizarre chicken/seafood/veggie mishmash which I couldn't make heads nor tails of. It didn't taste bad per se, but it looked like what you'd get if you scrounged around a sushi bar for leftovers and tossed it into a bowl. Wine helped wash it down and soon I was onto the beef. Decidedly mediocre, which is pretty much what I was expecting, but it was edible, which was a good sign. By this time I was on my fourth glass of wine so the food wasn't really an issue anymore, haha. The dessert was disappointing -- NW's idea of "fresh fruit" is a miserly serving of strawberries in a plastic bag. It was such a depressing sight that I didn't even want to eat it after it had been served, but there's no sense in letting food go to waste, so...
The odd appetizer.
After everything was cleared away I decided to try to get some work done. Being somewhat tipsy by then all I accomplished was faffing about on Solitaire for a bit, but one thing I noticed was that the windowside storage bins make the perfect mouse pad. If you are going to be using a computer a lot in WBC and detest the built-in trackpads as much as I do, grab a window seat!
The Japan Alps...
...and Mt. Fuji, of course.
The rest of the flight was uneventful. There was a nice tailwind and very little turbulence, and soon all was quiet on the upper deck. Still being in an enhanced mood I decided to explore my seat a little bit. The IFE is fine, although from the looks of other reports on here it is of a lower quality than the economy offers of many foreign airlines. (I'm flying JL this summer so I'll have the chance to compare the WBC offering with JL's Magic system.) I watched a couple of movies -- forgot which ones -- and have no real complaints. The seat itself, though, is an odd one. Full upright position feels like what I'd imagine the electric chair to feel like sans the voltage -- rigid and bolt upright. Sitting in such a position, I felt like I was about to be interrogated by the flight crew or something. Recline it just a bit, however, and the angles are just wonderful. Full-flat position is tilted, though, so if you sleep on your side like I do, you're probably going to slide down to the point where your head is level with your seatmate's belt buckle several times over the course of your Zs. On the plus side, even at 6'7", I found myself able to stretch out pretty much all the way, which I definitely feel is commendable.
Things winding down in the cabin.
After the booze had worn off and I had gotten about as much kip as I was going to get, I wandered back to the galley to chat with the FA. A friendly woman, she had just had to deal with an unruly passenger on the upper deck -- not sure what his problem was, but whatever happened, his seatmate had been relocated to the lower deck, and things had quieted down. She kindly called the cockpit to check on conditions in DTW and everything seemed to be fine -- a dusting of snow but nothing serious. I grabbed a fistful of snacks from the basket and climbed back into my seat for the rest of the flight.
Breakfast made its welcome appearance about an hour and a half or so out of DTW. It more closely resembled diner food than premium fare, but considering all the wine I had put away on the way up, the greasy hash browns and ham really hit the spot on the way down. Ahh, comfort food!
DTW was indeed on the snowy side but landing was on time and without a hitch. I deplaned, went through immigration and customs, and then made my way to the Worldclubs lounge for whatever snacks I could scrounge before the flight to MHT.
DTW - MHT: Embraer ERJ175 in First
This was my first flight on an Embraer aircraft and I was surprised at how new it was when I boarded -- it even had that new car smell to it. I had seat 2A, which is one of the seats in the single row. As I settled in I'm pretty sure I overheard the FA mention that it had flown its first revenue flight the day before. Wow. Anyway, the First seat was comfortable enough but I found the pitch to be a bit on the skimpy side (obviously not an objective review, considering my height). Since it's a regional jet and a short flight, though, I couldn't really complain.
The FA came around and took our drink orders (just tonic water for me, after overdoing it a bit on the last flight), and then started the announcements and safety demos. The snow had picked up and he said that things were going to be pretty bumpy as we climbed out of DTW, which I was of course thrilled to hear. :/ De-icing delayed us a bit, but before long we took off for the winter wonderland of New Hampshire.
The flight actually wasn't nearly as bumpy as I was fearing. Of course it got a bumpy on the approach to MHT -- based on my experience I'd say it was the equivalent of light-moderate turbulence. I've definitely had worse, once when landing in BOS in heavy crosswinds and again when coasting through a thunderstorm while flying into UKB (which I later found out was classified as heavy turbulence -- I never want to experience that again). What amazed me was how low we were when we broke through the low clouds -- you pilots amaze me! I hate driving in snow enough as it is; if I had to fly in the stuff, well, forget about it.
It was a short taxi to the gate and soon we were deplaning. My dad was waiting for me at the baggage claim and soon we were headed north to the wintery wonderland of Vermont!
Return: MHT - DTW on a DC-9
I don't have any pics for the return leg, so I'll make it brief!
I spent the night at hotel near MHT so I would make it on time for the early morning flight. MHT was pretty much empty, although with only one agent staffing the ticket counters, I was glad I arrived a bit early. Once I was checked-in and patted down, made my way down toward the gate, and soon we were boarding.
After flying on the brand-new Embraer jet on the way over, the interior of the DC-9 was a pitiable sight, with its boxy seats, dark and worn-out interior, and generally dilapidated look. Not to take anything away from such a workhorse, as such wear and tear is a given after so many years of service, but it reminded me of how far aircraft have come in terms of design and comfort.
Anyway, the flight was uneventful and quiet, with little turbulence to speak of. We ended up in a holding pattern over DTW but it wasn't long enough to make that much of a difference in terms of missed flights. After touching down and taxiing to the gate, I deplaned and headed off to the Worldclubs for a round of e-mails and a pre-long haul beer. Before I knew it, my 747 back to KIX was boarding so I headed down to catch my ride!
DTW - KIX on the same 744
I had seat 73K for the return, and was unfortunately stuck next to an extremely fidgety Taiwanese lady of some 70 summers who could not seem to get comfortable for the entire flight. Not entirely her fault, as evidenced by the above descriptions of the WBC seat, but I have to admit the constant shifting around started to wear thin after three or so hours. Ah well. This time around, there was a strong headwind and light turbulence throughout pretty much the entire flight, which, combined with my active seatmate, made it very difficult to get any sort of shuteye. Drowning my sorrows in wine during dinner did not help matters either -- I just ended up with an unsettled stomach.
Speaking of dinner, the food this time around was much better. The appetizer was some pate-type spreads and various nibblings to spread them on, which went very well with the wines and was far preferable to the seafood/fowl explosion I'd been served on the way out. I opted for the fish main course, and while it was a bit on the heavy side, it was actually quite good. I can't remember what I had for dessert but it was most definitely not the aforementioned fruit baggie.
Anyway, after that it was pretty much 8 hours of switching between unsuccessful attempts at sleep and diddling around with the IFE. One thing I was surprised at was how filthy the toilets became. I suppose I expected that the bathrooms in WBC would be kept in better shape than in Y, but by the time the flight was nearing its end, they were pretty much unusable -- even with 2 toilets for only 24 people! One would think the cabin crew would at least attempt to keep things sanitary, but perhaps not.
Landing in KIX was pretty much normal, as far as I remember, as was immigration and customs, save for the new fingerprinting scheme Japan had recently started at that time. It chews my bum a bit that treatment normally reserved for criminals is applied to me simply because I'm not a citizen, but I'll get off the political soapbox for now. Customs was a joke as usual -- the guys ask "do you have anything illegal?" "Why yes, actually, let me just open up my suitcase and unload the three kilos of cocaine and marijuana I just brought in..." Haha. Don't get me wrong -- I appreciate not being subjected to invasive searches -- but I really don't understand the point sometimes.
I've never flown on another airline's business class, so I can't really compare the products, but all in all NW's WBC seems to be mediocre at best. The FAs manage to be courteous but smiles were few and far between (except for the Japanese FA -- she was very sweet). The food is so-so, the IFE suited me fine, and the seat is incredibly spacious and yet somehow still manages to be uncomfortable in most positions. Go figure. I guess that's really all there is to say -- WBC is nice but nothing special, and could use some improvement in several areas (beyond the impossibles, such as the seat).
Anyway, there's my report. Hope you enjoyed it. Any and all comments and questions welcome!