This is my first trip report on A.net.... hope you like it.
I wanted to go on a trip in the summer of 2007 but I still couldnt make up my mind a couple months before my vacation started. Finally,I made the decision to go to Japan for 3 weeks: 10 days in Tokyo, 10 days in Kyoto and take lots of day trips from those cities with a 2 week JR Rail Pass that ran the 2nd and 3rd weeks of the trip.
Over-all I found the cost of food and lodging and transportion in Japan very low compared to other places in the wolrd especially with the JR Rail Pass: $370 USD for 2 weeks. Unlimited high speed travel is a great help reaching all the best spots in distant places all over a country.
Next time i go i may combine a rail pass with the Yokoso Japan Airpass (which lets you basically fly 5 flights anywhere in Japan for around $450 USD.), and fly on some domestic 777s and 747s.
For this trip I chose to fly Air Canada from BDL-YYZ-NRT because I knew they would have brand new 777-300ERs, plus I had also read good reviews about Air Canada's long haul srvice. The price was $1600 USD. Although the flight was well over 14,000 miles only 13,300 miles transfered through Star Alliance to my United Airlines Milage Plus Acoount.
I was very lucky to be on the newest aircraft they had in the fleet, probably only 3 weeks old. I think the very first AC 777-300ER was the now 4 month old Reg C-FITL, and i have a photo of that plane from my window, at its gate, as our 777 was heading to the runway.
I packed up the night before and didnt sleep much because i had to leave at 2:30 AM to get to BDL in Hartford,CT. by 4:30 AM to check in for my connecting flight for Toronto at 6:00 AM. The airport was completely empty at 4:30 AM but at 5:00 AM a breakfast/coffee/snackfood restaurant was opened. Some of the passengers in the large common gate area at BDL were eating and drink coffee At this point I was happy I chose to fly out of BDL instead of JFK which I'm guessing would have been slightly more hectic. The TSA security officers who checked my carry on and shoes were laid back and pleasant.
I brought the Canon G7 and the Creative Zen 60Gig W mp3/video player. With the 60G Zen, I could bring 40G worth of music and video and still store 20 G worth of pictures, so could leave the laptop at home and thats one big less thing to worry about. I'm quite pleased with the G7 camera. It takes excellent pics and video and its so small i can wear it all day around my neck without becoming heavy and bothersome. Much better than bringing the DSL with an expensive heavy lens and carrying it up and down mountains in 90% humidity, during on and off rain, while holding an umbrella. So much less to worry about with the G7 even though it gives up a bit in terms of picture quality compared to the DSL.
The fine Beechcraft 1900D operated by Air alliance for AC: a fiesty turboprop and as wikipedia states " the only 19-seat airliner with a a "stand-up cabin" ". This plane did not have a lavatory but a different 1900D I returned from Toronto on, 3 weeks later, did have a washroom, which nobody used.
Here is a front view from the ground. It looks fast, a little noisy and fun. The pilots were in a hurry to get going and didnt spare the throttle on the ground. Felt as if we taxied at over 100 mph to the end of the empty runway. Slowing down a bit the pilot turned the corner and commenced a rolling take-off. We were airborne in 10 seconds... who knows, maybe a little more.
There were only 2 people on this flight to Toronto. The other guy asked the pilots "Can you make money with just 2 passengers"? Of course they said no. I wore an iron on T-shirt I made with a picture of this twin beech on the front. The AC check in people laughed and said they they never saw that before. The pilots laughed too. Its strange of the 2 huge airports i went to that day i was the only one with a airplane t-shirt. The cabin door is sort of a heavy curtain, but it wasnt ever closed and I was able to watch them fly the plane the entire way. Sadly, the window was completely scratched and my take-off video is a soft green and blue blur.
On a plane this small the emergency instructions are basically "Run for your Lives!"
Even through a terribly scratched window there was a mellow sunrise over Lake Ontario. Some really wild turbulence over the water that morning, but only for about 15 minutes.
Sleepy Toronto at about 7:30AM, This flight takes an aggressive air path to YYZ including some very acrobatic banks and altitude changes. More fun than a roller coaster in this little airliner. I almost wished they missed the approach so they could go around and try again.
We parked at the furthest remote stand at YYZ, miles from the main runway. It didnt even seem like an airport, just a large parking lot with planes randomly parked. We only had to walk about 150 to a waiting bus that took us on a quick ride to the main terminal.
A few AC Jazz Dash-8s sit ready to go.
Pics of nice clean new terminal at YYZ. Lots of chairs, information screens, and many friendly AC staff to answer questions and help if needed. These AC staff really like answering questions and smile and are happy to help. Very relaxed atmosphere, people resting and enjoying themselves while they wait.
YYZ is a good choice too, they seem to have things running very smoothly in Toronto.
These pics are all i have of the departure gate. I thought i took more. The air side at YYZ is new and really convenient. There were heaps of places to sit and outlets to charge phones, mp3, laptops all over the place. Restrooms and shops that sell everything from food, snacks, reading material, etc. were only a few steps away from the gates. I found it a bit too warm when the sun shone into the shear 30 m glass walls, but i suppose for most of the year that sun would be warm comfort to snowy, frigid Toronto.
Finally it was time to board for our 1:55 PM departure. I noticed that 90% of our Pax were Japanese. I could see at the gate that this flight was also an ANA codeshare flight and it was listed with ANA flight numbers as well as AC numbers. I had already printed out both my boarding passes at home and confirmed my seats, and my bags were checked all the way thru to NRT, so no worries at all.
Here is a pic of the new executive first seats with some lucky pax already thinking about ordering their lunches.
Here is the last Economy section of this 777-300ER. I sat in seat 56K, which is the window seat on the left about 7 seats back. Many people get off the plane before me but its OK because its nice and quiet back here.
As our plane started to taxi, i could see AC's famous first 777-300ER C-FITL . I wonder where it was going? London maybe?
We had no one in front of us when we reached the end of the runway and the pilots spooled up the awesome GE90-115Bs and launched us into the air. I read much about the powerful takeoff of this plane, and the highest thrust engines and bla bla bla, but I still was pleasantly surprised by the power of this large twinjet. The take-off roll seemed very violent, as if this plane couldnt wait to get into the air.
Some minutes after take-off the Canadian scenery was mostly small green lakes trees and not much else. I would have liked to watch more of it float by but they made us shut our window shades quite early that day , ostensibly "so people could sleep", but it was only 4pm. Who goes to sleep that early?
I usually go with chicken over fish when flying and this was a good call here. It looks simple but it wasnt over salty or dried out like much of the airline food I eat. The chicken was moist and flavorful, I enjoyed the somewhat predictable rice pilaf mixture and the green beans were al dente and very good too. The shredded greated orange carrot raisin salad type thing was crunchy and tasty and i wished the portion was a bigger size. The blueberry cheesecake crumble could have been 4 times bigger too. As an American I am always somewhat disappointed about portion sizes during international travel. Maybe the special meal option should include an "American Portion Size" option.The sesame knot bread was kind of a tasteless doughy lump, but i noticed everyone finished every last crumb because when your looking at 12 more hours of longhaul hardtime, you never know what youre going to get later.
Hours later they rolled out this snack/meal. An amazing little ham and cheese on 9 grain bread with juicy crunchy apple slices and biscuit-y crackers with sweet OJ. Airlines should do more with fresh fruit like this. I think everybody enjoys it. Maybe the whole meal could be apples and cheese.
For Dessert they had Cup o Noddles. Almost everyone awake had this, if just to kill time.
The maps and many other features on the new IFE DIDNT work though, maybe AC will fix it soon. Kind of regrettable on such an otherwise great plane. The girl behind me called for the head FA and really complained loudly that her IFE was broke and black screened. She wanted to get moved to a new seat where she would have something to do for 14 hours. But the FA told her " You dont pay for the entertainment, you pay for the seat". Then he said, every single other seat was filled so there was no seat open. She then asked to moved to executive first. But that didnt happen either and she sat there for 14 hours with no IFE. Hopefullly they gave her some compensation.
The 3rd meal on the way to Narita, more chicken and rice and another sesame roll. I quickly packed this away and in 30 seconds finished the fresh cantaloupe, honey-do melon but at this point, after being crowed in a tube of toothpaste for 12 hours i would have eaten anything. soon after this meal, we started decent for a smooth landind at bright green, lush, rainy Narita.
Air Canada's crew on this flight were pleasant and helpful and generous and they smiled the entire time. They seemed excited to be working on this new aircraft. I was glad to have chosen AC instead of my normal U.S. carrier, and would think about taking AC again on longhaul if possible since my miles are all Star Alliance Mileage PLus miles anyway.
More planes at the gates. I was too tired to do any spotting at this point.
UA 747 and ANA 777
UA 777 and ANA 777
Immaculate Narita. 4:00PM We seemed to be the only ones getting off a plane. No crowds.
My first time here, and I already like this place. Efficient, and well labeled, in English and plenty of english speaking staff to answer a question like" Where am I going ?"
Baggage took about 15 minutes. Then it was off to customs which took 1 minute. Then to change money into Yen, and then just 30 feet to the Limosine-Bus counter to buy a 3000 Yen ticket (25 USD) for the ride into Tokyo. This airport actually makes sense and is layed out with alot of thought. I salute the designers of NRT.
After only 5 minutes waiting, the bus picked us up and tooks us down the rainy highway towards Tokyo. It was a great ride with lots of interesting sights and futuristic industrial urban landscapes.
Tokyo traffic. Didnt matter, just turned up the Mp3 player and relaxed.
Since my hotel wasnt a place where the bus actually stopped, the driver let me off near Roppongi Hills and i walked about a block to my Hotel.
I took this pic of the notorious Spider by Louise Bourgeois as I walked.
This is a photo of busy Roppongi-Dori street. Gorgeous urban landscape. Imagine what Richard Diebenkorn could do with this street. Look at the brilliant tail light reflections on the ceiling of the overpass! Stunning. If i had a patio umbrella i would have painted a picture right there.
My hotel was about 60 feet from this famous Roppongi-crossing, and only 40 feet from an entrance to 2 major subway lines ( Hibiya / Marunouchi ) so it was easy and fast to get anywhere in the city.This intersection is a madhouse at night. Really fun. Anything goes in Tokyo...... except litter !!! Look at that gleaming street. Japan is clean.
After i checked into my hotel , I went out for some dinner and some drinks down this lively street; a perfect way to chill after a long 30 hours of travel.
The second part of this is the return journey trip report from KIX in Osaka to YVR , then YYZ, and finally Hartford,CT. BDL.
Here is a Photo Album of Pics from my Japan Trip in case you're interested...
Hey very nice trip report ! And your pics are great ...I also took a peek in your pics of japan collection, very artistic and beautiful lookin photos.
What hotel did you stay at in Roppongi?
AC seems to have a good service with a great aircraft now...how was the seat pitch on their 773 ?
thanks again for the report.
Quoting Parisien (Reply 6): What hotel did you stay at in Roppongi?
AC seems to have a good service with a great aircraft now...how was the seat pitch on their 773 ?
I stayed at Hotel Arca Torre, about 30 meters from Roppongi intersection. Excellent place and with thick windows it was very quiet even in the middle of Tokyo. Roppongi is great, as is Shibuya, and Shinjuku because there are so many things to do at night and after the trains stop at 12:00 AM, you can walk home in 5 minutes. There are other luxury hotels, but I just wanted something basic because I spent very little of my time out in the hotel room.
Seat pitch on AC 777-3300ER seemed good at first, but 14 hours later I couldnt wait to get off that plane and stretch. The 767-300 from KIX-YVR was an easier ride at only 9 hours.
Meal's look pretty good, especially the first one, nice to see green beans with some green colour left in them
Re the IFE incident, the FA was correct about buying a seat, but if everyone else has IFE you expect to have some too, though it would not have bothered me as I tend to read, I would expect some kind of compensation.
Thanks for this excellent trip report! AC seems great - I have not flown them, for many years (not since 1979)! It is perhaps time for me to try them out again. Japan seems amazing and, as you said, very clean. Airline food is always a bit disappointing in terms of portion size but consider this, when one is flying a plane with say 300 passengers all the way from YYZ to NRT (and who are thus being fed 3 times overall) the weight in food and equipment required is considerable. If the portions were larger, one could see difficulties catering to that extent.
1630HR is very early to close the window blinds, I would agree. Perhaps this arrangement was arrived at in order to limit jet-lag among the passengers, some of whom are probably frequent travellers. As such, AC may have worked out that by artificially creating "night" at a time when it was night in Japan (well, at that time it would have been early morning) would have conditioned the passengers into the time pattern at NRT.
Thanks again ShortyBrown, well done and excellent pictures.
Quoting Sh0rtybr0wn (Thread starter): The maps and many other features on the new IFE DIDNT work though, maybe AC will fix it soon. Kind of regrettable on such an otherwise great plane
Its not a matter of the Maps and other features not working....they aren't installed yet. Currently the map feature is being installed on the CRJ705s to ensure no bugs then it will be uploaded to the entire fleet. The Thales IFE system is in a constant state of growth..there have been at least 3 major software updates since the system was launched with a few yet to go!
Quoting Krisyyz (Reply 13): Is that an AC A333 in the picture. I wasn't aware that AC is flying the A333 on pacific ops.
Don't think AC has been using the A333 regularly on any Pacific routes but that's definitely a 333 in one of the NRT photos. Can even see the Rolls-Royce decal on the engine. Probably an ad hoc substitution.
This happened to a friend of mine on a recent flight with NZ on the 772, it was a four hour flight and the system kept on crashing, they gave him $60NZ compensation to spend on-board...but then they had no duty free