This June I (against all odds) received my Regents Diploma from Rye High School and my father being the good man he is decided this deserved a trip. We had originally planned on Hong Kong but my mom worried too much about SARS and when we booked in June it was still around so we went with Tokyo.
THURSDAY AUGUST 7, 2003
American Airlines Flight 167
Sched Depart: 11:30 AM
Sched Board: 10:45 AM
I was quite excited about this trip as it was going to be my first to Asia and my dad is a fun guy to travel with, as he is quite interested in air travel as long as he doesn’t have to fly coach. We left our house at 8:15 and thanks to the lack of traffic on any road including the Van Wyck (someone upstairs must like me) we were parked in front of Terminal 8 by 9 AM. I was quite happy to see some Airtrains running, maybe it’ll actually be in service at some point and all JFK travelers can breath a little easier. We walked into the terminal past the deserted baggage claims and up into the Terminal 8 ticketing lobby where we took a left and entered the Admirals Club. Once there my dad checked us in and handed over two VIP03s which are system wide upgrades good for one class on any American flight. The woman was confused as we were booked in C class which is Business via a Mileage or VIP03 upgrade and I explained to her we were originally in V class and the full fare Business fare code was J. After that I had some coffee, OJ and bagels and watched the men work on the new terminal, god I can’t wait too much longer guys we have to have that thing up! At 10:30 we walked down to security and entered the premium line. The wait was a little here as the Globe Ground Security woman was checking every boarding pass as if looking for a forger but after two minutes we were at the X-ray machine. Once there a man had haphazardly thrown all his cash into a bin and it had broken the rubber band and twenties were lying everywhere, he was being secondarily screened and the box left unattended, a dishonest man could be rich. Terminal 8 for those of you who are lucky enough not to know is a dump, the wait at the end of the pier in a crowded, low ceiling, un-windowed room was not the best. My father and I bet if we’d be randomly searched, we boarded first and were not so I won a dollar.
Seat 10A, Business Class
Photo © Maxyuh
Actual Depart: 11:31 AM
Actual Board: 10:50 AM
Take Off: 21 Minutes After Leaving Gate
Flight Time: 13 Hours 19 Minutes at FL390
Once onboard we drank pre-departure orange juices in elegant albeit plastic looking cups. After the door closed a few minutes before 11:30 I counted heads in the cabin and came up with thirteen out of forty-two. I felt two ways about this, it was nice to have an empty cabin so we’d get more personal service and all but I’d rather see AA with more passengers. As we were taxing they made an announcement saying new TSA regulations say all passengers must remain in their designated cabins, so much for walking the plane. After take off the engine made a funny noise and one F/a looked out Row 9’s window and saw nothing so we continued over Upstate New York just under SYR on a route which took us over Ontario, the Canadian Rockies, Yellowknife, FAI, the Aleutian Islands and down into Narita. After becoming airborne we received Bose Noise Canceling Headsets, which are just phenomenal, I was seated right next to the engine and with them on I literally couldn’t hear it or my dad talking next to me, great stuff! Soon we received the Menus, which I will transcribe to you in all its shining glory minus the wines because I don’t drink that stuff.
An assortment of warm roasted Nuts to accompany your preferred Cocktail or Beverage.
Teriyaki Beef with Snow Peas, Red Peppers and Bean Sprouts.
Fresh seasonal Greens served with a Peppered Romano Cheese Dressing or an Individual bottle of Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Dressing.
Filet of Beef
A tender cut of Beef seasoned with fresh Sage, complimented by a Port Wine Demi-Glace, accompanied by Broccoli with Basil Butter and pan-roasted Potato wedges with Paprika
Grilled Shrimp and Scallops served with a roasted Tomato Risotto and a creamy Goat Cheese Sauce
Lemon Thyme Chicken
Breast of Chicken seasoned with Lemon and Thyme accompanied by Mashed Red Potatoes and roasted Asparagus.
There was also a Japanese menu, which didn’t appeal to me, and I will not transcribe it here to keep this TR not too long but if you are interested email me and I’ll give you the transcript. The warm nuts were a great way to start things off with the full can of Diet Coke, the can was Japanese with “Summer 2003, Shop No Reason!” written on the top rim. After that I had the teriyaki beef, which there wasn’t enough of, the bean sprouts with it were tasty as well but I don’t like peas or tomatoes so those were ignored. The salad was quite nice and had just lettuce and carrots, which was fine with me because it meant I didn’t have to pick anything out; I had the Peppered Romano Cheese dressing with it. After this I had the seafood dish, which was, the first time I’d ever ordered a seafood entrée on an airplane, I just don’t trust coach seafood. It came with two pieces of scallop and two un-peeled shrimp. The meal was quite tasty with the Risotto the food was served on being a new taste to me but one I quite enjoyed. My father had the chicken and called it “good”, great conversationalist that man. The meal was offered with rolls, either sour dough or one described as “cheese bits” to me, it tasted fine but nothing like cheese! After this we had the dessert choice of:
Seasonal Fresh Fruit Medley
Toffee Crunch Cheesecake
I had the cheesecake, which was the same as the one I had in First from St. Louis to LGA last month, it was still good! After the meal I put the seat back and pulled out my PTV and watched X2 (X Men 2), which was quite good followed by Die Another Day, the latest James Bond movie. The movie was typical late Bond, no plot, senseless action ad corny lines, just perfect for a long 777 trip! The noise canceling headsets worked great with both the movies and with my CD player later on. Between the two movies I went back to the galley for a bowl of steamed rice and they invited me to get some snacks from the Snack Attack (registered trademark ) cart. It had some Ruffles Chips, chocolate chip cookies, M&M’s and the standard Toblerones on it. I only have those triangular chocolates on airplanes. After a bit I had a little sleep and I decided it would be nice if the 777’s Business Class seats reclined just about five inches more, the 767-300 seats have the perfect recline this was just barely lacking. When I woke up they were serving the mid flight snack which my father who had been sleeping for over five hours woke up for.
Fresh Fruit, Cheese and Tea Snacks
Japanese Soba Noodles
The both of us had the noodles which came with a cup of soy sauce and my third Diet Coke. The noodles were good but I definitely preferred the white ones to the green ones. I spent the next few hours walking about the Business Class cabin which was mostly asleep and going through the American Way, a pitiful zero out of ten on the Mensa quiz and watching the Airmap on the PTV which is the best feature of it. I love the little towns it points out along the way. The seat was very easy to control and the tray table was moveable into a lot of positions with little effort. It was hard to reach the seat in front of me though but you won’t hear me complain about that. The flight crew were just excellent, in the cabin every ten minutes offering anything and always smiling, they had first called me Mr. Kunz but I asked them to call me Charles and they didn’t forget that request. When I went near the galley they’d get up and offer me something and seemed genuinely happy to be able to serve me. Soon they had another chance once we reached an hour out and they started the last service.
It says on the menu “Offered Prior to Arrival” well no shitake mushrooms (A Japanese Treat) that applies to all meals!
Pineapple Chicken with Asian Slaw
Chicken Breast in a Pineapple Soy Marinade, offered with julienned Asian Slaw, enhanced by a Rice Wine Vinaigrette.
Spinach Salad with Smoked Trout
Fresh Spinach and Frisee Salad with roasted Eggplant and Capers, served with Champagne Vinaigrette and a Filet of smoked Trout.
A light Sponge Cake topped with Whipped Cream.
The chicken was cold but still good for a last meal of the flight; I was unable to detect even a hint of pineapple though. The Asian slaw was another new taste to me but one I enjoyed as much as normal cole slaw. The sponge cake was lacking any whipped cream but it was still good, similar to one’s I’ve had on European airlines in coach. After my sixth Diet Coke of the flight I returned the headphones, it turns out you can’t pay $2 and keep these ones unfortunately as I would have loved to. Soon we broke through the clouds over rainy Japan and two golf courses later touched down in a place that I’d swear had more red tails then all the New York airports (HPN included) combined on any given day.
Land Time: 15 Minutes before Arrival
Sched Arrival: 2:40 PM
Act Arrival: 2:00 PM
August 8, Tokyo Japan:
We walked about a half mile to immigration where we waited on a line of over three hundred people which took forty-one minutes before we made it into the baggage area where we went through nothing to declare, my dad didn’t think my idea of going to the Goods to Declare line and saying “A Loser Father” was a good idea. We bought tickets on the bus to our hotel, which was supposed to be an hour and a half ride. Two and a half hours and two jammed Expressways later we got to the Imperial Hotel, which I highly recommend. The hotel has a staff of fifteen hundred all extremely helpful and polite. Dinner was at a Japanese place where you pointed at the raw food you wanted and it was cooked over an open flame before you while the staff shouted “HUI!” at regular intervals.
August 9, Tokyo Japan:
We had wanted to see the Fish Market but it was a rainy morning so at nine we traveled to the Meiji Shrine which if I ever am offered a shrine, it’s going to look like this thing. Its hard to believe that in a city of over 15 Million people there is still a large green area where there are buildings from eighty years ago offering a prayer to be made for you for 500 Yen. After a $330 sushi lunch we headed to the Tokyo Dome and watched the Giants beat the Swallows three to two. The game was bizarre as the Japanese feels its wrong to make another feel embarrassed and swing at every pitch to make the pitcher not feel ashamed for walking them.
August 10, Tokyo Japan:
Today was actually sunny and hot so we walked two miles to the Imperial Gardens and saw that. I assumed it would be like the Versailles Gardens of France but it was quite different with lots of trees and high walls of stone. After a quick lunch at the hotel we took the train to the airport, for slightly more then the bus ($33) we got a trip on a very comfortable train through interesting surroundings that took fifty-seven minutes.
SUNDAY AUGUST 10, 2003
American Airlines Flight 168
Sched Depart: 5:55 PM
Sched Board: 5:10 PM
Once at the airport we climbed five escalators to reach the check-in lobby where you have to have your bags x-rayed (including carry ons) to just get to the desks. After attaining our boarding passes we went through the checkpoint and even though I had nothing different in my pockets and remarkably similar clothes, I set off the metal detector. Instead of giving me a full service wand, they asked me to empty my pockets completely and take off my belt, I was then sent back through the machine and when it didn’t beep, they only searched my notebook and checked my belt instead of a wanding, I like their idea a lot more! After customs we entered the extremely well stocked Admirals Club. They were offering Oreos, pretzels, crackers, cheese and snickers bars and even frosted glasses for your beer. The club had no departure monitors though; they made announcements in lieu of the machines. After we had settled in and I watched a variety of Asian 777s and 747s come and go including my first JAL and NWA new paint schemes and the lone airbus belonging to a CX, I set off with our remaining 4300 YEN on a walk of Terminal 1. After careful study Narita airport is perfect if you have club access or very little time at the gate but if not it’s towards the bottom of the places to stay list. There aren’t too many shops and restaurants and the ones they have all sell the same thing for jacked up prices and are teaming with people. I bought a tie and some Internet access and changed the rest of the money back into Greenbacks. After seeing every inch of the terminal (minus the restrooms and UAL clubs) I collected my father and after a few pre-boards we set foot on:
Seat 10J, Business Class
Photo © Matthew Smith
Actual Depart: 5:47 PM
Actual Board: 5:15 PM
Take Off: 10 Minutes After Leaving Gate
Flight Time: 12 Hours 15 Minutes at FL390
Once onboard I felt quite alone as my father conked out after he had finished his pre-departure drink, the feeling was shattered as he began to snore rather loudly, thankfully none of the cabin’s other twenty passengers (22/42 load) noticed. Once airborne the headsets and menus were distributed, like last time I went straight for my CD player, put in an Aerosmith CD and let the headphones block out the rest. Then I went for the food.
An assortment of warm roasted Nuts to accompany your preferred Cocktail or Beverage.
A selection of sushi
Fresh seasonal Salad Greens served with a Tomato, Caper and Olive Oil Dressing or an Individual bottle of Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar Dressing.
Tenderloin of Beef complemented by a light Onion Demi-Glace, accompanied by oven-roasted Vegetables and Potato wedges with Thyme
Grilled Chicken accented by a Demi-Glace, presented with Chive Mashed Potatoes, a fresh Tomato and crispy Bacon.
Grilled Shrimp and Creole Couscous featured with sautéed Yellow and Red Bell Peppers, Zucchini and a Scallion and Apple Coulis.
The nuts were perfect with the Diet Coke, which had a Six Flags Over Texas add on it. The sushi turned out to be a piece of salmon, one of egg and two un-identified seaweed wrapped with brown in the middle. The salad wasn’t as good as the one on the last flight as I didn’t like the peppers or mushroom sprouts in it and the dressing, the Vinegar wasn’t my favorite either. The steak on the other hand was juicy and tender with even a little red in the middle. The potatoes were good too and the extra juice was well soaked up by my white bread roll. I was offered wine with dinner, I must look a lot older then my fragile age of seventeen but I’m against underage drinking and I don’t want to by hypocritical now so I asked for double water. After that was cleared away the linen was left on my table for the dessert, which was.
Seasonal Fresh Fruit Medley
Chocolate Raspberry Cake
I had the cake, which tasted great and actually came with whipped cream and a raspberry, good presentation makes for good food! After the meal I watched Anger Management, which even though I was told it was terrible, I had a good time watching it, Guliani was featured prominently in it which only added to its charm. I was quite tired after the four miles I had walked so I had my seat back and I listened to the in-flight radio’s 33 1/3 channel, which had some good classic rock. The only bad side of this flight was that the Airmap was broken so I contented myself by first watching the moon move across the sky and then the stars darken and the sky begin to turn from ebony to dark blue to a lighter blue when the next thing I knew it was two hours later and the next meal was being served, my sub-conscious is as hungry as I am!
Sliced Beast of Chicken and Celery Salad on buttered French Bread, served with Seasonal Fruit
Japanese Soba Noodles
Having previously had the noodles I optioned for what I thought was going to be a sizeable sandwich, it turned out to be the size of a decent sized cookie but it was quite tasty. The honeydew melon in the fruit medley was really tasty there were also these large purple grapes that were just bizarre and had large pits inside them. The flight passed a bit more slowly without the Airmap but I read Celebrated Living and checked to see which of the World’s top Hotels I’d be to (five) and then some of my book The Hunt For Osama, if you like books about war this is an excellent one as it focuses on the Special Forces in Afghanistan. My dad watched About Schmidt on his personal DVD player that he totes around with him when he travels and said it was excellent, from what I oversaw it looked good. I watched some CBS Eye on American and Sponge Bob on the Nickelodeon and was laughed at by my dad. Just give it a chance dad it’s a good show! I began to very slowly raise the window shade so the sun wouldn’t annoy other passengers or blind me and soon the flight attendants who were once again exemplary on this flight and called me Charles after I asked them to came around with breakfast at 3:45 PM Eastern Daylight Time, but its always a good time for breakfast!
Once again it’s offered prior to arrival, why not be a little more ambiguous American?
Canadian Bacon, Potato Wedges, Fresh Seasonal Fruit.
Fresh Seasonal Fruit.
Both options came with French Rolls, Croissants or Cinnamon Rolls. I had both a Croissant and a Cinnamon Roll, which were very tasty and hot and flaky. The only problem is the advertised preserves were just a package of Marmalade, which is bizarre, and not what I want on my rolls. The rest of the food was good as well and although I usually don’t like airplane breakfasts the only complaint I can make is that the kiwi is not desired in my fresh seasonal fruit platter! Soon we had filled out our landing card and people began to all awaken as we flew over Newark Airport, I could see where I parked my car last time when I got my friend Josh at the airport last month. After three left turns in a holding pattern just off Rockaway we landed right in front of a BA 744 and taxied around Terminals four, three, two and one (Blast Off!) in that order before reaching our gate and my trip was over.
Land Time: 20 Minutes before Arrival
Sched Arrival: 5:35 PM
Act Arrival: 5:38 PM
There was no line at immigration and we fast walked by all the passengers and were at our car at 5:55, now that was a great way to be welcomed home!
These flights were examples of how great I find the service to be at American and I hope others can experience such excellent people on such an excellent airplane and airline.
Tokyo is now my third favorite city in the world (behind New York and London) and I had an excellent time in Japan. Please comment, I like them!