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NWA: MSN-DTW-NRT-BKK And Many Past Experiences

Tue Aug 19, 2003 5:00 pm

July 11, 2003
NW 467 Madison, WI to Detroit, MI
Aircraft: DC-9-50
ETD 10:20
ETA 12:35

Please accept my apology for any errors due to the fact that English is my second language.

Well this is my returning trip back home for GOOD. I have been studying in the US for 8 years and I just graduated. I normally go back home twice a year (Christmas and Summer) so this time it will not be a vacation like before.

I left the apartment around 8:45. Before 9/11, I would had been 9:30, since MSN is such a small airport I normally arrive 30 mins prior to departure time. The check-in person always complain to me that "you only gives 30 mins for international flight?" Hello!!! I am going to DTW first and it's a domestic flight, why do I have to arrive 2 hours prior to departure and be so bored at airport like MSN?? It's not like I am in HKG where I cannot make up my mind whether this is an airport or shopping mall.

One of my Thai friend is dropping me off at the airport. It took us around 10-15 mins driving to reach the airport. There were 3 parties ahead of me when I arrived. I went to usual formalities, TSA agent swiped my bags with piece of cloth to check for explosive residues. With all the lifting, I bet you that all TSA agents will have MSD before they retire. Anyway I was given three boarding passes and my bags were check-through to BKK.

I have about 1 hour left before departure, the friend who dropped me off was very nice, she stayed and had a chat with me for 40 mins to kill my time. Then I said goodbye to my friend and went to security, took my shoes off since I knew that my shoes have metal inside. Then I had a "long walk" (~2 mins) to gate A8. Most of the pax were inside the plane and they called all row to be boarded. The aircraft was an old DC-9, I normally use MSP route to NRT and the aircraft was either A320 or A319. I guess DTW is DC-9s base? The lady next to me was a Taiwanese who also just graduated I had a brief chat with her and quickly dosed off after take-off. The moment the plane left the ground I had a strange feeling. I will not be coming back to Madison for longgg time. I still remember the time when I arrived in Madison and the place touched down in 1998. It has been 5 years, so fast! Back to the story, I did not sleep at all that night to better deal with Jetlag when I get home so I slept for the entire flight (approx 1 hr).

We arrived at DTW around 12:20. I deplaned and checked the monitor for my flight to NRT.

NW 85 Detroit, MI to Tokyo, Japan
Aircraft: 747-400
ETD 14:25
ETA 16:20+1
Seat: 25H (not sure)

I had about 1.5 hrs to kill so instead of using the tram I walked to the gate. The gate was A50 (not sure), there were a number of people already waiting. DTW is pretty good looking airport with modern interior however noting compare to HKG with one exception that I will mention after this. I sit down at the waiting area and noticed that the seat at new DTW terminal is very comfortable and ergonomically designed. I also noticed that the they are Herman Miller, for those of you who do not know, Herman Miller executive chair costs more than $1,000. Very impressive for DTW.

I made some calls to my friends in Madison and my relative in California until they began boarding. The queue was not very long at all I was in my seat in 10 mins. The airplane is a usual 744 however this is the first time in all the 34 trips that this flight is so emptied. So emptied in NW trans-pacific flight definition means about 15-20 seats in Economy w/o pax. The middle seat between me and the Japanese lady who sit next to me was also emptied,  Smile/happy/getting dizzy.

The lady in the window seat could not speak much English so I did not have any chat with her. Anyway after brief taxi we took off and again I dosed-off due to lack of sleep. I was half sleep half awake when they served dinner which was either pineapple chicken and teriyaki beef. I must say that not only the portion is very small (you would starve), quality is also very low. From the past 8 yrs with NW, they always serve either beef or chicken on these routes in Economy. Even in WBC, your choices for Entrees would be either Japanese Bento (nice but small portion), or Tenderloin (tiny piece and often overcooked) or Fish (never tried but my friend told me to avoid), or something else. For me NW food in economy is inedible. The beef choice looks like what my dog eats at home. For the past 6 yrs with NW, I never eat their dinners when I fly Economy. One advise for whom that might fly NW in the future "BRING YOUR OWN FOOD!"

Opps..sorry for many complaints w/o any report. I slept for a good 5 hours, they viewed Maid In Manhattan and Bringing Down the House while I was sleeping. Then I woked up to see Treasure Planet which is okay for the purpose of time killing. There were only 2 water patrols compare to 4-5 they used to have. I do not know whether this is a cost cutting policy or they were lazy. The mid-flight snack was small ham sandwich which I denied. The rest of the flight I spent time reading, eating my own food, and occasional sleeping. Two hours before landing breakfast was served it was biscuit with eggs and sausage or Asian fried rice or noodle I am not sure. Again the portion is small, I must admit that the biscuit and sausage was indeed quite good (I was starving I guess my food was not enough). Due to small portion I asked for second one which they normally give me. However this American FA said "NO". The polite way would be to say I'll see if there is any left and I'll bring it to you. I was kind of stunned to her answer so I kept staring finally she said the polite way. Guess what! she never came back. What a service..there are many stories about how bad NW service is..but I guess I will have to spend 5 hrs typing...I guess all American carriers need to learn a new definition from Asian carriers.

The plane touched down around 10-20 mins before schedule. This is the first time that I use the new facility in NRT where for connecting flight you have to go up the escalator and go down again. There was also another NW flight arriving so I walked as quickly as possible to security. The security was not too crowded yet, thanks to my assigned seat in the front cabin and my quick walking. There was a separate line for WBC/Elite pax. Then I went to do my usual routine in NRT, first I went to the shower room, after almost 20 hrs of flying, a shower is a good way to fresh up. NRT shower room is small but very well equipped and cost only $3.

Then I went to the restaurant next to the shower room, some flights were delayed and pax were given coupon for free meal. So imagine the queue at the restaurant, finally I got a seat I had a Asian style BBQ pork on rice and small draft beer (very cold, the best beer you can have is in WBC lounge where they freeze the glass and you put in on automatic pouring machine)the BBQ pork is not very good compare to their Unaju (broiled eel on rice) or Katsu Curry Rice that I had on my previous trips. The price was expensive but hey after 12 hrs of starvation, how can resist? I mean there must be some conspiracies between NRT Airport and NW, they starved you on the plane so you will eat like pig on the ground. I needed a smoke but there was no ashtray so I shared the ashtray with three nice Koreans businessmen. They even gave me a lighter since my Zippo went busted.

July 12, 2003
NW 1 Tokyo, Japan to Bangkok, Thailand
Aircraft: 747-400
ETD 19:25
ETA 23:35
Seat: 23G then 4K

After that with one hour to kill, I went to the gate, there was a smoking room next to it so I decided to have another smoke. It was funny to see all the Nicotine craving people trying to inhale as much smoke as they can before flight. There was also a Thai monk smoking in that room. I heard a lot of announcement asking pax to identify themselves. I knew that the announcement was for lucky pax to get upgrade. Then I thought please call my name and one minute after that then they did call. I quickly went to see them and was upgraded to WBC. The person who gave me the mileage for the ticket is a Gold Elite member even though it was a different pax name the computer still recognize me as Elite member. Well I used to be a Silver and Gold elite but after too many free tickets across the pacific I am no longer an elite member :-( Don't think that getting a free ticket is easy especially transpacific. Even though the person who gave me the mileage has a connection with NW office in BKK we still need to make reservation one year ahead. NW is very stringy about giving free ticket.

After I got a new boarding pass, the announcement came and I boarded the plane. This 744 has new NWA lively. My seat is 4K in the front cabin not sure whether there are old first class seat but guess not since the seat on the upper deck of 747-200 on one of my trip has more recline. I was sitting with an American lady who was visiting Bangkok. I had my usual pre-boarded drink mimosa. The FA came and distributed menu, headset, and slippers. NW no longer give amenity kit that you can unfolded into a bag like before (another cost cutting policy). They brought you a tray with those stuff in it and you have to choose. I choose a lip balm. After took-off the FA came and asked for dinner selection. The choices were Champagne Supper (one course quick meal), Stir-Fried Chicken, and something I cannot remember. The Entree was so poor so I decided to have the quick meal which has smoked salmon, shrimp cocktails, cold roast beef, and salad. The meal was pretty good but I guess the FA knew that I was upgraded so I did not receive much attention compare to the lady sitting next to me.

After dinner I reclined the seat, NW seat is considered pretty good for business class. It's just like old First class seat in TG. I slept for the rest of the flight due to Jetlag. When the plane started to decent, I woke up and found a bottle of Evain next to me. Then I went to the lavatory and waited in a long line, there are I think 2 for the main deck which certainly is not enough. I returned to my seat and looked out the window. Thailand! I won't be leaving you so soon this time. We circled out to the gulf of Thailand before landing. The plane touched down on time we were docked at gate. After the completion of new pier in BKK, we no longer dock at bus gate like before.

I deplaned and walked quickly to immigration I was the first in line and walked down to baggage claim. If you travel in Economy, quick immigration won't help since you have to wait so long for your bags to show up. However to my surprise my bags were in the first economy container to come out. So I waited only 10 mins at baggage claim. I went though custom which they seem not to care or ask any question. I came out the arrival hall and met my parents who came to pick me up...

This is the end of my 8 years journey. Now I must be looking for job :-(

[Edited 2003-08-19 10:04:06]

[Edited 2003-08-19 10:08:36]

[Edited 2003-08-19 10:19:04]
Posts: 4127
Joined: Fri Mar 01, 2002 8:55 pm

RE: NWA: MSN-DTW-NRT-BKK And Many Past Experiences

Tue Aug 19, 2003 11:28 pm

I guess all American carriers need to learn a new definition from Asian carriers.

You and almost the entire globe seem to think so!

It was a detailed trip report. Very apt in your description of a typical trans-Pacific flight on Northwest. I agree that their portions are very small. I was on the DTW-NRT flight not too long ago as well... and I had the Indonesian beef curry with rice. It was delicious! And then they served "breakfast" (sausages and eggs) at 2pm in the afternoon prior to landing in NRT!!!! Never understood that logic.

Welcome to my starry one world alliance, a team in the sky!
Posts: 261
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RE: NWA: MSN-DTW-NRT-BKK And Many Past Experiences

Wed Aug 20, 2003 5:40 am

Does NW do elite upgrades in Asia or just mile upgrades?
-"...never have I been a blue calm sea, I have always been a storm"
Posts: 1309
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RE: NWA: MSN-DTW-NRT-BKK And Many Past Experiences

Wed Aug 20, 2003 5:43 am

As a Wisconsin native, thank's for choosing UW-Madison (you went there, right?) as your school of choice. I'm so glad that students come to WI from all over the world just for college. 2 of my cousins attended UW-Madison and absolutely loved it. I bet (or hope) you did as well.

Secondly, great trip report. I now have a sense of what NWA is like for trans-pac.

It's not just DTW thats a DC-9 hub. Every single one of NWA's hubs is just swarming with DC-9s.  Smile
Topic Author
Posts: 60
Joined: Tue Aug 19, 2003 1:52 pm

RE: NWA: MSN-DTW-NRT-BKK And Many Past Experiences

Wed Aug 20, 2003 1:25 pm

I guess the reason that they served breakfast prior to landing is to save money. My assumption is that dinner is more expensive and NW, being so cost concern, decided to serve breakfast instead. I think AA serve two dinners on their transpacific flight. I never enjoy NW meal like you did, lucky you.

There is no written policy for elite upgrade on all international flight. However sometime they may upgrade elite pax when WBC is emptied, it depends. Mileage upgrade cost only 50,000 miles (roundtrip) for Asia to N.America which I think is very worthwhile.

Yes, I went to UW-Madison. Pretty good school, I loved it too. We came all the way to dairyland for college because most of the people in Thailand beleive that getting a degree in US is better than at home and tuition at UW is not as bad as some universities with similar reputation.
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RE: NWA: MSN-DTW-NRT-BKK And Many Past Experiences

Wed Aug 20, 2003 4:07 pm

Aruj, is this you? Well if you are, then greetings from Madison! How's life in Thailand, got a job already? Nice to see you finally joining A.net.

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