allrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 1667 posts, RR: 4 Posted (1 year 1 month 4 days 18 hours ago) and read 14637 times:
With the coming of daylight saving time the last of the flights overhead is the Qantas 747 to Japan. I will often be outside, taking the dog out to do his final ablutions for the night, when I hear the soft roar of a four distant jet engines cruising north into the dark night sky, lights blinking, distinguishing it from the stars. And I wish that I was up there with them, looking down upon the city lights. I know that flight, just as I know its destination.
Nine years ago we caught QF21, then a 747-300 on the first of eleven trips (so far) to Japan. Since then other flights have taken us there. I recall arriving so early that first time, utterly exhausted from a sleepless night in the air, unable to check into the hotel. Far better, is it not, to land in the evening, with time for dinner and rest?
Yet... Three years ago I had a love-hate relationship with flying. I enjoyed the views from above, loved the travel, but was terrified of turbulence. It wasn't until three Qantas 747 flights in a row, from Singapore to London, then back to Sydney via Hong Kong, that I rediscovered just how much I loved flying and largely conquered my fears.
There is something about the 747 which just feels right, makes it more special to me than its more recent cousins and rivals. And despite flying since on other airlines' jumbos there is something special about Qantas too. So it is with fear that I see Qantas retiring so many of these less efficient four engined birds. They still ply a number of routes, though one wonders what will happen post the beginning of the partnership with Emirates.
Soon after the announcement I knew I wanted to fly on one. The obvious, and near cheapest, choice was to Tokyo. I cannot seem to tire of Japan. It is an easy country, safe (barring natural disasters), with an incredible density of sights, both natural and man made. More importantly, there are train lines everywhere. I was born to love trains, it is in my genetic heritage. But just as Qantas faces increasing competitive pressures, so does Japan. It is a declining country, both economically and demographically. Many of those train lines that I love, many of the towns they serve, must disappear. I feel a need to experience and document what I can before they go.
I book return flights to Tokyo, just for myself. I will do some of the things that I cannot in the company of my wife and son. Then I shorten my stay to three days, because I will miss them so. Despite the short time, there is still much I can do, though there is so much more I want to see, far beyond what even the original time would permit.
Tuesday evening arrives. I take Alex back from childcare and meet my wife at Town Hall. There I say goodbye to both of them and catch a train to the International Terminal. I have plenty of time to waste. The flight is at 10.30pm and it is only 5.30pm. I have checked in online and only have a medium sized backpack, small enough to be carried on board.
I climb the stairs up to Observation Deck, with its views of the city, the northern end of the main runway and the domestic terminals. Above is an early evening sky of wispy clouds, the kind of sky to make one dream of flights away.
There is surprisingly little action happening on the tarmac, until a silver and orange Jetstar A330 backs out from its gate and begins a long taxi to the south. So often now have I flown on such an aircraft to Japan, the last time being only a few months ago. Pleasant memories as I watch it lift into the skies past the city.
I return inside of the terminal, change some currency, walking past the queues of passengers checking in, feeling some of their excitement and apprehension at their upcoming journeys. Then I step through immigration and security behind a group of Second World War North Africa Campaign veterans dressed in sandy beige.
The perfumes, alcohol and tobacco that immediately confront the airside passenger as the walk away from the x-ray machines and are inserted straight into duty free sales hold no allure for me, but I stop by the electronics section. The selection of goods is disappearing before my eyes as stock is packed away for the night. As much as I need a new camera, laptop, speakers, the prices are not particularly cheap and now is not the time to spend the money. Even if it was, I am off to Japan, home of the manufacturers.
I have a fantasy of turning up to the airport with only my passport, wallet and phone and buying everything else I need on the spot, making do with whatever limited choices are available. Imagine a new bag full of green, gold and Aboriginal themed t-shirts! Though I am travelling light, I have packed all I need for my limited trip. So I wander around places like the Lonely Planet store, dreaming.
Another fantasy was hanging around the airport watching it slowly shutdown for the night. I had researched the food options airside, somewhat improved from the past, imagined sitting at a cafe viewing passengers rush for their flights while shopkeepers and waiters prepared for the ebbing of life within the terminal. However, prior to arrival at the airport I had also debated whether to use my sole remaining Qantas lounge entry card, a limited perk of a silver frequent flyer member, here in Sydney or wait until the return flight from Tokyo. At stake are a shower, free meal and somewhere to sit. I had tried both and there is no doubt that the Sydney lounge is larger and better equipped.
Faced with a longer stay in Sydney Airport I chose the lounge here. I'm sure my hygiene obsessed fellow train passengers in Japan would prefer it if I wash away the sweat of the workday first (more the sweat of travelling to and from work). So I go upstairs and enter the door past the honeycombed first class lounge.
Nothing seems changed from my breakfast visit back in 2010. Conservative, but modern, brown decor with distinctive string balls covering the hanging lights. Part of the lounge is closed off for the nights, but service is still being provided to the remainder. Dinner choices are limited to roast chicken, chips and a wonderfully sophisticated warm pumpkin and balsamic dish, along with a variety of salads. Fruits and subtly delicious cheesecake and passionfruit slices complete the meal.
I call home and almost change my mind altogether about the trip when I hear Alex crying that he misses his Daddy. Then I realise that I am already airside and it's all too complex now.
Outside the sky is dark, the airport tarmac harshly and unnaturally illuminated in amber. A Scoot tail is unexpectedly visible out of the window; a flight that should have left at the middle of the day. I should know as my last flight was with them. It roars into the sky very late and I wonder what effect that will have on the rest of their schedules, limited as they are with aircraft.
The lounge showers have raindrop heads that are more like a waterfall. Unlike the free showers prior to immigration, everything here is provided and I feel refreshed when I emerge.
When the call for our flight is made I join the small crowd of lounge users as we make our way downstairs and to the gate. The shops are now shuttered with only cleaners and security staff still prowling the airport.
Boarding has already started when I reach the gate and it proceeds smoothly. I am taken aside and my passport checked due to my self-printed boarding pass. Then I walk down the gangway and into the aircraft, past red premium economy seats. Will it or won't it be a refurbished 747?
It isn't. In fact the seat covers are still the original blue, despite a many aircraft being updated to a red cover by 2009. Truth is, I'm not terribly fussed, though I would have appreciated the in-seat power to keep my mp3 player/phone charged during the flight.
I settle into my window seat of 50A and immediately think "Aren't I comfortable!". What a contrast to my last flights, with Scoot, with its rock hard seat, poorly placed seat supports blocking leg room and lack of head support. I am really feeling good sitting in this Qantas seat.
Even better was the fact that nobody sat next to me. I had all three seats in the row to myself!
The 4:3 seatback screens were a bit small, but still better quality than those of the Malaysia Airlines 747 I had flown last November. The system was already available, so I quickly check through the music options, hoping for something decent to play during take-off. Yes! Finally a real soundtrack in the system, if only one, and TRON: Legacy is good flying music. Otherwise I can make do with some of the modern classical and electronica options.
We are handed earphones, simple amenities packs containing eyeshades, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and a printed menu detailing both the meals and when to expect service.
Then it is time for us to leave the gate and begin our taxi out to the runway. The safety presentation is quite new and features Australian Olympic and Paralympic athletes. I noticed when flying Scoot that they seemed to use Qantas' "Your safety is our priority" in their own video, but now Qantas has moved on with "Your safety is our first priority".
We roar across Botany Bay, then cross the Kurnell Peninsula, where the brightly lit refinery faces a conversion into a simple fuel import terminal. Then we turn across the Royal National Park until we face north and I guess there we are, somewhere high above my house, that aircraft I was dreaming about.
Only, I can't see my suburb. When I next see lights below it looks like coastal suburbs, narrow sparkling jewelscapes hemmed in by murky blackness on either side. Then we ascend into clouds and all is hidden.
I would like to sleep. It is my bedtime and those empty seats beckon. But I am also curious about the meal, so I wait. On this moonless night there will be little to see outside, so I go to find a movie to watch while eating. Only, the screens suddenly go black and stay that way for the next half hour while the crew attempt a full reset.
When the meal is offered I select the Steamed Fish with Lemon Caper Sauce and Sweet Potato Puree rather than the Sukiyaki Chicken with Koshihikari Rice. Though the fish seems a tad overcooked, the dish is rather nice, the accompanying simple leafy salad refreshing. The star is definitely the Cookies'n'Cream Mousse. It might look very commercially prepackaged but it is smooth and delicious.
I lie flat along the row of three seats, listening to music, yet sleep does not come. There is nothing to see outside but the odd reflection of the aircraft’s lights against high cloud. Fortunately, any turbulence is minimal and the seatbelt lights are never activated.
Though I do not sleep, at least I rest. The entertainment system returns to life, I listen to music, keep an occasional eye on the flight map. As we pass over Guam I see the lights of civilisation below, before they are replaced by cloud and ocean once more.
I amuse myself watching “Men in Black 3″, Josh Brolin a very convincing young Tommy Lee Jones. Later it’s some episodes of the Walliams and Lucas comedy “Come Fly With Me”, which I have previously watched in its entirety. Last Qantas 747 flight I took it was "Little Britain USA".
Before I know it both sunrise and breakfast are upon us. The Japanese breakfast of fish in ponzu sauce with rice runs out early and it is a choice of fried or scrambled egg for the rest of us. I choose the former, enjoy the banana muffin and fruit salad most of all. I ask the attendant if I can have a hot chocolate and she returns with one once the trolley service is over. She tells me that they normally don't do hot chocolate runs out of Sydney, which is a bit of a pity as I really enjoyed the Cadbury hot chocolate and marshmallows on the London flights back in 2009.
I love the orange glow of the sunrise as it streams through the windows on the opposite side of the cabin, reflecting off my wall. So too the carpet of cloud below, so serene in the morning light. This is why I fly.
We are soon turning to make our final approach into Narita airport. The pilot warns us to buckle up for expected turbulence, but it never eventuates. Golden light reflects of the long, kinked 747 wing as we turn and descend. No other still-flying large commercial aircraft has a wing so swept, designed for speed. It is an object of beauty.
We approach the cloud layer through a sky of salmon and pastel blue and orange, penetrating it, crossing over beaches and paddy fields separated by forested hillocks. A smooth landing under the golden rays of the following Sun.
Airports are at their best in the morning light and here there are a variety of aircraft on the tarmac, including the all too familiar Jetstar A320s. It's not that long ago that the airline launched local service here. Though it's barely past 6 am the airport is waking for yet another busy day.
It's been a wonderful flight, truly enjoyable, but as soon as we reach the gate I am off. No time to waste appreciating the airport, for I have a long way to go today. There is already a fair sized queue at immigration, where we are photographed and fingerprinted. But there is no need for me to wait for a bag as my possessions are already on my back. This seems to confuse the customs person, but I am let out without any hassle.
allrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 1667 posts, RR: 4 Reply 1, posted (1 year 1 month 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 14503 times:
Once out of immigration I go straight down the escalators to the JR East office. There I purchase a five day JR East pass, allowing me travel on trains in the Kanto and Tohoku regions. Unlike a full JR Pass, these can be bought in Japan.
There were so many options on the trip, so many railway lines to catch. I have settled on an itinerary that will take me all the way up to Hirosaki in the far north of Honshu. But not on the Shinkansen to Shin-Aomori and then a local train to Hirosaki. No, I already did that in June. Instead I’ll be going up the middle of the island, on the Yamagata Shinkansen, then local and private lines up to Hirosaki. The following day I plan to go all the way down the Western coastline back down to Hirosaki. My objective is eventually to do the entire Western coast of Honshu.
I reserve seats on the Narita Express and Yamagata Shinkansen portions of my trip, then have an hour or so to waste. Like so many arrival areas, which people tend to leave quickly, Narita’s appears quite shoddy. I clean myself in the bathroom, have a shave, change to long pants. There are shower rooms for Y1000 (~A$12), but I figure last night’s lounge was sufficient.
Looking at the sim card and portable wifi router prices at the airport desks I regret having preordered mine through the excellent eConnect. That way I could already have access to one rather than having to wait until reaching my hotel in Hirosaki.
It’s time to descend to the platform to catch the Narita Express. Nine years ago the N’EX was my introduction to Japan, and what a fine one it is. Now a more modern train with combination lock luggage racks, information screens, wifi for Japanese service subscribers and power to the seat, great for recharging my phone, it is smooth, spacious and comfortable. Just what is needed after a nine hour flight.
As soon as the train exits the airport tunnel you realise that the airport really isn’t in Tokyo. Instead there is rural scenery, rice fields interspersed with jungle and bamboo clad hills, a tropical landscape. In the distance is Narita’s Shinshoji pagoda, the first sign that you are really in Japan.
In my original five-day itinerary I had planned to spend the morning in Narita, walking the old shop-lined Omotesando up to Naritasan and exploring the temple grounds, later continuing on to Tokyo to relax in my favourite Shinjuku Prince Hotel. A slow day to recover from the long flight.
Now I have a twelve hour journey ahead of me. I figure that I can relax and sleep on the NEX and the initial Shinkansen ride, having at least seen the sights before.
My journey, which you can read about further at the trip blog involved catching a Shinkansen up to Shinjo, in central Honshu, then a local train to Omari, Shinkansen one stop to Kakunodate. A brief exploration of Kakunodate, then the private Akita Nairiku Jukan line to Takanosu. From Takanosu, another train up to Hirosaki.
Shinkansens to Shinjo and Akita: they split at Fukushima
Mount Azuma, near Fukushima
Scenery towards Yamagata
On the local train to Akita
Samurai area of Kakunodate
Bikes, toys and things for boys (and girls)
On the Akita Nairiku Jukan line
Arrival at Takanosu station
Limited Express Tsugaru to Hirosaki
Then next day it was the wonderfully scenic Gono line from Hirosaki to Akita, a wander around that city, then watching the sunset across the Sea of Japan on the Inaho train down to Niigata, from which a I caught a double decker Shinkansen to Takasaki.
Apple farms near Hirosaki, Mt Iwaki in the background
Onboard entertainment: Shamisens on the Resort Shirakami Buna, Gono line
Coastal scenery along Gono line
View out of the rear of the Resort Shirakami
Pines and vines
Lotus pod, Akita
Castle gate at Senshu park, Akita
Sunset across the Sea of Japan, between Akita and Niigata
On the final day in Japan I caught a local train up to Yokokawa, where I explored the Poppo Town railway museum, then back to Takasaki and an Asama Shinkansen to Tokyo for a quick shop for toys at Akihabara.
allrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 1667 posts, RR: 4 Reply 2, posted (1 year 1 month 4 days 17 hours ago) and read 14493 times:
Once I'm on the NEX I can relax, pull down the tray table and eat some of the snacks as we smoothly say goodbye to Tokyo. I note the new very tall Skytree tower, standing proudly in the clear air.
As we race along I listen to music and reflect on this trip, short as it may be. Was it worth it? Oh yes! I have seen such beauty on my long rides through the countryside and discovered new places worthy of return visits. Three days is not long enough, but I feel like I have made it count.
Unfortunately, this run of the NEX doesn't stop at Narita city, only the airport. Two railway companies serve Narita, the private operator Keisei and JR East. My pass only covers the latter, but services are not frequent enough that I feel entirely comfortable returning to Narita city before checking in.
The Qantas check in desks won't be open for another 45 minutes, so I use that time to explore the landside shopping and food area. Boxes of strawberry cheesecake and wasabi Kit Kats tempt at the Japanese sweet shop, but as it is cash only I go for the more exotic wasabi (wrong choice now I taste it). Nothing else really takes my fancy.
From a glassed in area near the Japanese restaurant quarter I can spot my Qantas 747 parked in the distance, Jetstar and AirAsia A320s parked on the tarmac.
I head out to the southern observation deck and watch a couple of JAL and ANA flights land, the automated yellow shuttles taking passengers to the satellite gates. It's not particularly exciting or scenic.
When I return inside I can hear some lounge singing at the "Skyrium" down on the check in floor. I join the short queue at the check in desks as they open for service and quickly pick up my boarding pass. Then I say goodbye to my rented wifi router as I drop it into a parcel and place it in the letterbox.
Looking outside I see that it is now getting dark, a thin Moon rising by the control tower. I check the timetables but it doesn't feel like a visit to Narita will work out now.
Despite the cool fresh air outside it feels too warm and stuffy inside the terminal and I am have my familiar upset stomach. Knowing that the food airside is more limited I return to the mezzanine level to search out a restaurant. Expensive salty noodles and fried tonkatsu is not what I hunger for right now, nor is raw seafood. I could eat Western, but this trip is too short for that! I eventually relent and have an unmemorable tempura udon and melon soda.
No sense waiting any longer, I pass quickly through security and immigration. They don't even want me to remove my transparent toiletries bag from my backpack, only the laptop.
The stuffy air has left me feeling sweaty. I know that I'll have a full day ahead of me when I return to Sydney, so I pay Y1000 to use the shower facility for a half hour. Day rooms are also available at Y1500 for an hour, but that's now getting too expensive.
Inside the bathroom is a change area, automated bum washing toilet and shower and bath combination. Towels and toiletries are provided. The shower feels great, and I even have a short bath, seeking to be as relaxed as possible for my flight. A wall mounted fan helps in the drying process and my half hour allotment is almost up when I depart.
I wander the duty free electronic shop "Akihabara" for a while, then use the free NTT internet cafe for a while. A weather map shows that typhoon is still tracking somewhere off the coast and I hope that I won't experience any consequences on the flight.
The automated train takes me across to the satellite gates. I can see my Qantas 747 parked at the gate besides a Jetstar A330. I've caught them both; it is all so familiar. Once across I browse the duty free once more, for no good reason as I am very unlikely to buy anything, though a USB humping animal is tempting. Just what I need in addition to a USB missle launcher and fridge at my work.
As I queue up at the gate I joke with a sales manager from Cochlear about pointless celebrities on the television screen. We both work and live in similar areas and shared daily commute experiences.
Boarding was done in blocks, with economy passengers in rearwards seats entering first. I was in the later group. When I finally boarded I found people incorrectly in my seat - yet again! But what a nice surprise about the seat. A refurbished 747 equipped with my favoured A380 seat! Prior to stuffing my backpack in the full overhead locker I removed my USB charger and other things I might need for the flight.
For the first time I was in the "red seat" section. Yes, even the refurbished 747s have different coloured seats now, with a green section behind me, familiar from four flights on the Qantas A380. Their shells are sexy carbon fibre and without a bag at my feet I was free to try out the netted footrest. Not that great for me, but as a whole the seat itself was very comfortable.
This time I had two passengers in the seats next to me and the load was very full, so no "lie flat" experience on this flight.
The overhead storage bins had also been changed from the boxy versions on the old 747 to wavy curves. While it appears more spacious, to tell you the truth I think I prefer the old version's solidity and hint of a different era of travel, which you could still see in some of the lighting.
Now to play with the entertainment system. The widescreen is better than on the previous 747. I notice that, unlike on my A380 flights, there was no combination handset/telephone and that we just relied on the touchscreen functionality. I actually used the handset once to send an SMS/email to my wife. The lack of a keypad controller also impacts greatly on the types of games that can be played on the system. The last thing you want is someone trying to play an arcade game with a touchscreen on your headrest! Finally, it means that there is no keyboard to edit documents, despite the USB entry in the IFE saying something about the ability to use productivity applications.
For this flight none of those factors was of concern. I just wanted to select some music! There was a bigger and different range of choices than on the previous flight, but again most of the soundtracks were pop tracks or musicals! There was Ennio Morricone's The Mission, but that's not really "flying music". Yes, there was John Williams, but it was his adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof, not original music. Very disappointing.
At least the classical section had some interesting choices. My standard Bolero taxi and take-off music, Carmina Burana should be interesting, along with some Phillip Glass, not a normal composer for me.
Printed menus are handed out, we disembark from the gate for a long taxi ride past the rainbow of lights and the safety demonstration is performed, the same as on the way up. None of the flight attendants look particularly young, but they all have that air of competency with a hint of good humour about them.
I listen to Ravel's Bolero as we power into the black sky. Outside my window are the lights of Narita and the Japanese coast. Streets are rivers of light, colourful pachinko parlours islands of flashing colours. But soon all disappear as we leave the land behind.
The pilot says it should be a smooth flight all the way, great news that assuages my typhoon fears. Then the crew begin serving supper. I choose the Chicken Teriyaki with Rice in preference to mushroom containing Beef Stroganoff.
I prefer this airline meal to the earlier serving of noodles. The accompanying sushi is refreshing, but best of all is again the dessert, a cherry compote and vanilla mousse.
The cabin manager announces that they will be handing out surveys to randomly selected passengers and I am happy to be included amongst them.
After the tray is collected I must have fallen asleep for a little while and missed the handing out of amenities packs, as I see both my fellow passengers have one. Not that I needed one anyway. But that's the only sleep I get. I am a poor sleeper at the best of times.
Knowing that I'll want to use my phone the next day I want to recharge it, but in the dark and cramped environment of reclined chairs I can't seem to guide the charger into the power socket I suspect to be between the seats. Instead I plug it into the USB socket on the armrest. Here I discover that, while power can be provided, my phone's MTP interface cannot be discovered by the IFE system. It's no issue for me, but others may wish to note this if they want to, say, listen to their own music. Using a FAT formatted USB stick should work much better.
These long solo flights are a rare quiet time for me, a chance to focus on something uninterrupted. With a cubicle workspace, a long commute and a young child, finding time for myself to just sit down and relax is a rarity. So is watching a movie. There is nothing to see outside on this moonless night, so I'm going to enjoy catching up on some entertainment.
The recent selections are the same as on the flight up, but there are also Oscar winner, back to 1970's Patton. I choose Prometheus, a movie I was recently reminded about due to its imminent release on video. It's entertaining enough, but the concept of humans as an alien species just doesn't ring scientifically true, along with all sorts of other Erich von Daniken inspired nonsense.
Next I try watching The Avengers, but I've never been a great fan of superhero comics, nor have I seen the preceding individual hero films and just gave up after a short while. I couldn't find anything I desperately wanted to watch, but gave the critically disclaimed The Dictator a go. The nice thing about being trapped in an oxygen starved aluminium can is that a bad movie can be okay.
The crew do water runs, but trapped by the window with snoozing passengers all around I am loathe to try too hard to attract attention. I never see the hot chocolate and peppermint tea "relaxation" run, but perhaps I was too focussed on the movie, so I order one separately. I do snag a banana when they are quietly distributed. I like the fact you can get fresh fruit on Qantas.
And so the night seems to just disappear. A brief glimpse of lights over Guam, then nothing until the first glimmerings of dawn outside of my window. The cabin lights come on and the crew come through with breakfast. The Japanese choice is Soba with White Fish and Wasabi and Egg Rice Porridge with Chicken Soboro. The Western choice is the standard Omelette with Seared Bacon, Sautéed Mushrooms and Tomato, fruit compote and coconut muffin. Much as I am tempted to try the Japanese breakfast, the fruit salad wins me over.
My high altitude desensitised tastebuds find the hot component too bland, but I could have added salt. The warm muffin and fruit salad are very pleasant.
Now I have a view out of the window to entertain me I switch the IFE over to map mode. My music selection plays in the background, a feature I really enjoy on Qantas. Outside, we are serenely cruising over a hazy peach cloudscape.
We have been making great time on a very smooth flight, but then I get my first reminder that I am approaching Sydney, the dysfunctional and congested city, as we are placed in a holding pattern over the Hunter Region west of Newcastle. We fly a couple of loops over mountains, coal mines and dams before we are finally allowed to resume our now late approach to the airport.
I later discover from a leaked and highly critical memo that too many air traffic controllers have called in sick for the Saturday.
We continue past the Hawkesbury River, past Brooklyn, and over smoky bushland undergoing preventative burnoffs. There are views of the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House out of my window as we fly west of the CBD, then of the airport below, for our approach into the airport will be from the south.
I think of all the times we have parked our car at Sutherland station, ready to catch the train to work, and watched the aircraft drifting overhead on the same approach.
The morning light shimmers off Botany Bay as we head south beyond Cronulla and begin our turn over the bush and the big coastal cliffs of the Royal National Park. Then I take out my camera and video the final descent into Sydney Airport, touching down under clear blue skies like the ones I had left in Tokyo.
There is a delay as we wait for a malfunctioning gate. Dysfunctional.
I hurry out of the aircraft, move quickly through immigration. Customs waive me through when I describe my minor declared items. I buy my train ticket, use the airport station facilities, shave and make my way down to the platform.
Have I missed my train? No, it's just so delayed that the next train will be earlier! Dysfunctional. I am in a hurry to get back, to see my son and accompany him to swimming lessons. But as I sit in the train I think back on the flight.
What a fantastic flight it was! Two excellent flights in a row on the Qantas 747. Comfortable seats, great entertainment, decent food, fine crew and smooth. So much better than my flights on Scoot or Malaysia Airlines, better even than the pseudo business class of Jetstar. As I have said before, my flights just seem to go faster with Qantas and these were no exception. If only I could fly like this every time!
Sadly, it looks like the next family flights will be back on a variety of low cost Asian carriers as we attempt to hop around Asia, starting with Scoot to Singapore again, suffering the terribly uncomfortable seats for such a low fare, though there is almost no way we will be booking with them for the night flight back. That is the problem of trying to fly with three passengers: it gets expensive, especially when you have the option for flying more legs for half the price of a family return ticket. Still, I will do my best to fly with Qantas again, especially on their 747, because they make flying fun.
I've had a wonderful, if all too brief, adventure in Japan. Now it is time to go home and be with family again. And plan the next trip!
SYDSpotter From Australia, joined Oct 2012, 141 posts, RR: 0 Reply 3, posted (1 year 1 month 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 13415 times:
Thanks for the trip report allrite, Tokyo/Japan is right up there in my all time favourite destinations so brings back lots of good memories. Was last there in 2010, so would be interested to see the difference post the unfortunate tsunami/nuclear accident.
Quoting allrite (Thread starter): The lounge showers have raindrop heads that are more like a waterfall. Unlike the free showers prior to immigration, everything here is provided and I feel refreshed when I emerge.
There are free shower facilities at SYD? I've never noticed them (probably because I've needed them anyway), but not sure I'd be using them.
I last travelled on a QF 747 back in 2007, if i recall correctly, the blue seated 747's have the non-AVOD IFE? Not a bad system back in the day, but a little dated now compared with CX, SQ and EK's offerings. Haven't used the new IFE system, but it looks pretty good.
allrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 1667 posts, RR: 4 Reply 4, posted (1 year 1 month 4 days 8 hours ago) and read 13194 times:
Quoting SYDSpotter (Reply 3): Was last there in 2010, so would be interested to see the difference post the unfortunate tsunami/nuclear accident.
To the average tourist not directly visiting the affected areas the differences are probably minimal. I saw some seawall development on the north east coast between Aomori and Hakodate earlier in the air.
Free showers can be found in the bathroom facilities near the exit to the observation deck. No towels or toiletries provided!
Quoting SYDSpotter (Reply 3): if i recall correctly, the blue seated 747's have the non-AVOD IFE? Not a bad system back in the day, but a little dated now compared with CX, SQ and EK's offerings. Haven't used the new IFE system, but it looks pretty good.
No, I think all remaining 747s are AVOD. Both the blue seated 744s I've flown on in 2009 and now had AVOD. In 2009 the system was identical with the (new) A380, except that it lacked the widescreens and the Oscar winning films. This time the IFE in the new A380 style interior seemed to be an improvement over that original A380 IFE. I preferred the range of entertainment and moving map on Qantas circa 2010 to Cathay in 2010, except for screen quality, but with software upgrades this can change. All I can say is that I was generally happy with the Qantas' offering, even in the older aircraft, especially when compared with the MH 747 and TG A346 and A330s.
themit9 From Australia, joined Apr 2012, 90 posts, RR: 0 Reply 5, posted (1 year 1 month 4 days 7 hours ago) and read 13186 times:
Thanks for your interesting report, it looks like Qantas puts on a solid performance in long haul economy with lots of features surviving aggressive cost-cutting as seen on other airlines. I haven't flown Qantas international since 2000 on the 747 frrom LHR-MEL (pretty good trip from memory) as the Asian airlines seem to offer more value for money, however I hope to fly with them again at some stage.
Time on your flight seemed to go quickly from your reporting style, like you I try and avoid overnight flights as much as possible and go to great lengths (no layover is too long for all-day flights) to travel during daylight and evening hours. Much easier to sit back, relax and enjoy the full experience without worrying about disturbing people around and feeling exhausted at flight's end.
The meals looked of a great standard for Y as well, much better than what is seen on other Y products (MH comes to mind).
thegivenone From Austria, joined Jan 2008, 165 posts, RR: 0 Reply 6, posted (1 year 1 month 3 days 23 hours ago) and read 13166 times:
Fantastic report! I was glad to see some scenes from QF's 747-400ERs with the Mark Newson interiors and 777-style cabin fittings. All-in-all it definitely looks like these aircraft provide an equivalent experience to the airline's A380s.
allrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 1667 posts, RR: 4 Reply 7, posted (1 year 1 month 3 days 20 hours ago) and read 13166 times:
Quoting themit9 (Reply 5): I try and avoid overnight flights as much as possible and go to great lengths (no layover is too long for all-day flights) to travel during daylight and evening hours.
I don't mind so much returning from Japan overnight as it squeezes another day in Japan, the scenery out the window isn't the greatest and there should be no issues checking into your own house early to recover! But on the way up... Back in 2003 I got so confused after the overnight flight to NRT that I lost track of the days and arrived a day late to Kyoto, much to the annoyance of the ryokan owners there.
Quoting themit9 (Reply 5): The meals looked of a great standard for Y as well, much better than what is seen on other Y products (MH comes to mind).
I must guiltily admit that I sometimes hunger for the kind of meals I've been served on Qantas and Jetstar. I agree that MH was mostly a disappointment, especially considering the excellence of Malaysian food.
Quoting thegivenone (Reply 6): it definitely looks like these aircraft provide an equivalent experience to the airline's A380s.
I'd say better, because I prefer the 747's windows!
signol From United Kingdom, joined Oct 2007, 2962 posts, RR: 8 Reply 8, posted (1 year 1 month 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 13166 times:
nice report, thanks! I wondered if we would be treated to another report with your growing up son, or a sole effort.
Nice to see Qantas again, it's been far too long since my last flight with them (2002). It may well have been on board your older example here - it was before I started noting flown regos.
As the 744s are being withdrawn, what will replace them on Japanese routes? A330s or Jetstar?
As always, Japan itself looks spectacular and well deserving of a place on my bucket list!
allrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 1667 posts, RR: 4 Reply 9, posted (1 year 1 month 2 days 20 hours ago) and read 13164 times:
Quoting signol (Reply 8): Nice to see Qantas again, it's been far too long since my last flight with them (2002). It may well have been on board your older example here - it was before I started noting flown regos.
As the 744s are being withdrawn, what will replace them on Japanese routes? A330s or Jetstar?
As always, Japan itself looks spectacular and well deserving of a place on my bucket list!
Waiting for your next instalment too! For the record, the SYD-NRT flight was on VH-OJC. Not sure if I can enhance the original images to find out what the return flight rego was.
According to Alan Joyce's (Qantas CEO) media releases around the time of the Emirates announcement SYD-NRT will remain a 747, a number of which are being retained in the fleet (hence the continuing upgrades to the A380 interior). In times past it has been downgraded to an A330. Jetstar already flies CNS-NRT and OOL-NRT with connections from Sydney. So long as the premium market doesn't collapse entirely hopefully Qantas will continue to fly to Japan directly.
You really must go to Japan if you can. Some of the kids stuff is so nice there, along with the indoor playgrounds! Alex is continuously pestering me about returning there so he can play, see level crossings, catch elevators (they aren't "lifts" anymore) and have an onsen bath. Woke up this morning and immediately started discussing airports with me.
CXB77L From Australia, joined Feb 2009, 2426 posts, RR: 5 Reply 10, posted (1 year 1 month 1 day 5 hours ago) and read 13165 times:
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Thanks for an interesting trip report. Japan is one of the places I'd like to visit one day, although my lack of Japanese could pose a problem ...
From your photos in particular, it would appear as though Japan is a bit of a train spotter's paradise. Although not a train spotter myself, I should probably encourage a friend of mine to visit
Quoting allrite (Reply 2): The overhead storage bins had also been changed from the boxy versions on the old 747 to wavy curves
That's the Boeing Signature Interior, and it was standard on the 747-400ERs, which is what I believe you got. From your picture I can just about make out that it was a GE-engined aircraft, and 6 out of 7 QF GE-engined 747-400s are the ER variant which has the Boeing Signature Interior as standard. I don't believe the 744 refurbishment program includes putting in new Boeing Siganture Interiors, although I could be mistaken.
allrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 1667 posts, RR: 4 Reply 11, posted (1 year 1 month 15 hours ago) and read 13163 times:
Quoting CXB77L (Reply 10): Thanks for an interesting trip report. Japan is one of the places I'd like to visit one day, although my lack of Japanese could pose a problem ...
My Japanese isn't particularly fluent, (to put it mildly) but it really shouldn't be much of a problem, especially in the more developed areas. Many of the signs are in English in addition to Japanese and enough English speakers around to get by in most situations.
Quoting CXB77L (Reply 10): From your photos in particular, it would appear as though Japan is a bit of a train spotter's paradise.
They love their trains in Japan, evening showing HD videos of rail journeys on tv, and it isn't rare to see an enthusiast on a train. The best thing is catching trains to nowhere in particular, so hard to do in many other countries as they are so quickly closed for being uneconomic.
Quoting CXB77L (Reply 10): That's the Boeing Signature Interior, and it was standard on the 747-400ERs, which is what I believe you got. From your picture I can just about make out that it was a GE-engined aircraft, and 6 out of 7 QF GE-engined 747-400s are the ER variant which has the Boeing Signature Interior as standard.
Thanks for the clarification! I looked back through my photos of the various Qantas 744s that I have caught and whilst none of them had the Boeing Signature Interior it's quite possible that none of them (or none where I took any notice) were ERs until this last one. I'm guessing that the ERs usually do the US runs, whereas I have been mainly on 744s between Australia and Europe or on 743s.
airnewzealand From New Zealand, joined Oct 2000, 2538 posts, RR: 6 Reply 12, posted (1 year 1 month 2 hours ago) and read 13163 times:
In regards to hot chocolate, it is no longer offered on supper services...too many complaints re: lights staying on too long.
The crew member would of got you one from Business class.
I also agree, that cookies n cream mouse is really good! I always go down to get some left over if possible
Thanks once again, show the 'old' and 'new' well!
Quoting CXB77L (Reply 10): I don't believe the 744 refurbishment program includes putting in new Boeing Siganture Interiors, although I could be mistaken
To answer this question,
Yes the bins are all replaced on the newly reconfigured RR powered machines. -OJS has them onboard.
They are a smaller type to the actual boeing sky interior, however still feature the curved look.
In regards to hot chocolate, it is no longer offered on supper services...too many complaints re: lights staying on too long.
Thanks! The Cadbury hot chocolate and peppermint tea runs were one of the highlights of our Qantas flights in 2009 and they just didn't taste the same on these later flights. The menu from Tokyo still listed a "Relax and Unwind" service with both drinks.
Quoting MSS658 (Reply 13):
Great to see the contrast between the older and the newer 747's on QF, I did not realize the big difference between the 2.
All the remaining QF 747s are being reconfigured with the A380 style product, thus creating what I consider to be the perfect aircraft!
JAAlbert From United States of America, joined Jan 2006, 1386 posts, RR: 1 Reply 16, posted (1 year 3 weeks 12 hours ago) and read 13157 times:
Great trip report from a region of the world I don't often get to visit. Your writing style is marvelous - descriptive, lyrical and a touch melancholy - makes for a great read. Do you write for your profession?
allrite From Australia, joined Aug 2007, 1667 posts, RR: 4 Reply 17, posted (1 year 2 weeks 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 13157 times:
Quoting JAAlbert (Reply 16): Your writing style is marvelous - descriptive, lyrical and a touch melancholy - makes for a great read. Do you write for your profession?
Thank you so much for your kind words, but I prefer the writing of a number of others here (and some who have "retired") to my own. I write only for pleasure, though I have so far amassed an estimated 300,000 words of travel blogging within the last decade.
Thanks again for the compliments. I suggest that anyone who wants a well written look at Japan today should have a read of Spike Japan, in particular articles like Requiem for a railway.
Quoting byronicle6 (Reply 18): I also need to get back on a QF long haul flight. The product on the A380 and updated 747's looks to be of a very high standard. Last Longhaul with them was way back in 2000!
Yes, they have seatback IFE now, rather than the projection screens. And I need to try SQ and some decent Middle Eastern airline to compare them with Qantas and understand why others rave about them.
vhsmm From Australia, joined Jul 2008, 131 posts, RR: 0 Reply 21, posted (1 year 5 days 7 hours ago) and read 12140 times:
Thanks for a great trip report, the right balance of pics and words and my two favourite subjects planes and train. I find it hard to believe you went without B and Alex. Alex would have really enjoyed the trains.
sirloin From United States of America, joined Mar 2007, 54 posts, RR: 0 Reply 24, posted (9 months 3 weeks 6 days 15 hours ago) and read 7870 times:
I very much enjoyed reading this trip report, partly due to a long-held desire to fly on QF. That desire is hopefully going to be fulfilled starting this weekend, and wanting to avoid starting a new thread on the subject, does anyone know if the 747 operating QF005 on February 20th will have the A380-style interior?