AM Trip Report:
The New Year has begun, and first off, I want to wish everyone “Happy New Year” and definitely “safe flights/journey.” This report definitely came a bit late, but last month was rather hectic and I did not have a chance to write about a rather special flight I took back in December 2009! I believe it is one of the few Aeromexico transpacific business class flight trip reports anywhere. I finally found a reasonable fare on Aeromexico Premier Class from Narita to Mexico City via Tijuana around October. It was definitely an interesting experience and to be honest, my expectation was rather low after flying sampling its lack luster business class flight from MEX to JFK back in January 2009. Nevertheless, I need a little change from the usual Delta and Northwest flight. My day began from Taipei and after a typical stellar ANA flight from Taipei to Tokyo Narita, I headed towards Aeromexico transit desk located in the No 2 satellite (gate 20-24) at Terminal One.
December 5, 2009
AM 57 NRT-TIJ Lv1455 Arr0815+1 Boeing 777-200ER N774AM New Aeromexico livery
AM 57 TIJ-MEX Lv1000 Arr1515 Boeing 777-200ER N774AM New Aeromexico livery
Not sure what ground agent does Aeromexico hire, but the agent wore full Aeromexico uniforms, and there are Mexican natives staffing the gate. It is beyond just one station manager because the gate agent is also a Mexican native. Aeromexico is definitely treating this Tokyo route seriously. However the transit desk was a bit crazy. There were a significant number of transits from Taiwan and from Mainland China, but thankfully the elite line was wide open. The agent insisted on checking me first, although two Taiwanese ladies immediately yelled out that they were flying business class. The agent, I thought, handled it very well. She immediately checked their tickets and took their passports, baggage claim and bag checks. She still checked me in first, but then did not give me the boarding pass after checking these two women in. Nevertheless, the transit desk was definitely under-staffed and no wonder they thought of returning the Chinese flight. Sometimes I wonder why don’t they just do a PVG-NRT-MEX flight? Might be the traffic right?
Aeromexico, as expected, uses Northwest lounge, and nothing much to report except a pretty crazy scene up there, as there was a wave of transpacific flights departing. I used the wifi quickly and ate a bowl of soup.
Well our flight to Tijuana ran late, as there was just insufficient time for the aircraft to turnaround at Tokyo. Not sure why Aeromexico and Narita Airport authority think it is appropriate to schedule a gate with a 2pm departure and then another flight departing at 55 minutes later. The Korean Air’s A330 going to Pusan pushed back on time from gate 18, but it obviously took time for the Aeromexico plane to tow into the gate, and I am surprised that boarding was able to begin at 2:32pm. I assume the plane was catered and cleaned in the tow gate, but it still took some time for the plane to get check and refueling process to begin.
Business class was about 70% full from NRT to TIJ with few spare middle seats, but a bit lighter from TIJ to MEX. I got to move to a pair of seats later! Boarding took almost forty-five minutes and headsets were already pre-placed at the seat pockets. Newspapers were offered, as well as a choice of orange juice or water in real glasses (instead of plastic on US or domestic flights). We pushed back at 3:23pm and as usual, it was busy at Narita. We did not take off till 4pm, but our flying time was really short today. Only nine hours and five minutes! It was like your typical Narita to LAX flight. We first climbed to 32,000feet, and then 34,000feet, 35,000feet, 37,000feet, 38,000feet and 39,000feet before we were hitting the US west coast, city of San Luis Obispo. We began our descent over Malibu and the LA Basin, as we passed San Clemente and San Diego and then onto Tijuana.
Well the first impression of Aeromexico Boeing 777’s Business cabin is that the fabric of the seat reminds me of American Airlines’ domestic first class. All dark blue! I immediately noticed that a few broken seats in the bulkhead row with the “DO NOT USE” sign. Thankfully this flight was not full. The cabin was clean and spotless (you can always depend on the cleaning crew in Japan). The seats are the typical angled lie flat seats with an odd beverage tray table in front, which was in an odd position and you could not find another use of it. There were the tiny magazine slots. With both the tray table and PTV on the armrest console, the width was a bit weak. I managed to find an okay sleeping position later and slept alright. It was still better than American Airlines, but definitely could use some design help. I also notice that the cabin was not that well maintained beyond the cosmetic stuff. At one point during flight, the PTV felt off from the aisle seat at Row 2. It was comical to watch and I had to admit that I never saw something like that before. I did not realize that PTV could be fallen off the console. The guy was like laughing and F/A did not what to do!
There was nice menu in thick paper and wine list handed out, and the lead purser introduced her as well. However, a second later, I noted that the menu was not the correct one, and it was for the shorter Mexico City to Tijuana flight, not this flight. The passenger later noted the entrée choices were not the same and the purser just apologized – not sure if she knew about it. Anyway, the meals were actually pretty nice, and there was a Japanese option offered for both dinner and breakfast. The dinner started with a canapé and peanut course. A separate linen was used and I was impressed. The choice of canapés are Smoked salmon, Blue Cheese & Beef Pastrami canapés. Then the F/As came out with a larger linen in order to prepare the main meal service. There was an appetizer course, and since I chose the Japanese dinner option. You could see a nice plate of assorted delicacies. Later I got a Japanese beef entrée with steamed rice, soup and pickles. It was interested to note that they ran out of rice bowl, and started to use the Japanese teacup to put rice on. After main course, there was a full dessert tray featuring assorted cheeses – soft white, Cheddar, and blue cheese with crackers, brown bread and French bread, as well as a nice chocolate cake and assorted Haagen-Dazs ice cream. You should have as many desserts as you want. The F/A was very generous with the food. For mid-flight snack, there was a refreshment cart featuring Cup noodles, Onigiri, Otsumami, Open-face sandwiches (Smoked salmon and Crayfish salad with fish roe, or Beef Pastrami and sliced chicken) and Assorted Mexican sweets. About 6:30am TIJ local time (11:30pm NRT time), breakfast was served and I was surprised that it was a multiple course breakfast. First a fruit plate featuring pineapple, watermelon, grapes and melon was offered with choices of sweet and savory rolls. Then the F/As passed out yogurt cups – blueberry or strawberry, and then more breads. For entrée, it was a plain omelet with salsa, chicken sasuage and potatoes. It was actually very good.
However for the domestic segment, the meal was poor and only a cold meal was offered from TIJ to MEX. It also had a Japanese choice, which featured some cold beef salad, a plate of yellow colored instant noodles, some mushrooms and a flan as a dessert. I don’t think I expect another three-course meal, but a warm light meal will be great. A warm noodle dish or rice dish should be nice.
The flight attendants from NRT to Tijuana were definitely a much better batch. They at least tried very hard to give the service and did not disappear too much. They did not patrol the cabin like Asian airlines, but were somewhere in present. You could go to the mid-galley and got drinks and they did not just hide in the front galley like their TIJ-MEX crew, which motto was to get the meal service over and hide in the galley. Not even a pass of water prior to arrival in Mexico City.
However, the service was very disorganized and rough most of the time. The F/As were friendly from NRT to TIJ, but they obviously were not familiar with the service. The first hour of the flight was basically them passing out amenity kits, slippers and then fixing the entertainment system. There was constantly banging noises from the galley. It felt like someone was looking all over the place for something. The meal carts were pushed out and they kept on slamming on something. Utensils were dropped left and right. Not sure if they were really rushing the service because they knew they had a late start, but they were just not prepared well enough. Nevertheless I still thank the flight attendants from the first leg, especially Sylvia and her Japanese colleague, which was coordinating the nightmare scene at the immigration hall at Tijuana. For the second leg, there were just not up to the basic standard and the service was carried poorly. I am just so glad that Aeromexico will serve the Tokyo to Mexico City flight nonstop.
Amenity kit and Entertainment:
There was nice amenity kit featuring Ferragamo cosmetic items, and generic pairs of terry cloth slippers were also passed out. Entertainment system is acceptable with “On Demand”, but the selection was a bit weak. I expected that so no surprise!
Transit at Tijuana
After a quick descent, we landed at R/W27 at 8:05am and parked at gate 5 quickly. The whole transit experience was definitely not explained carefully and there were confusions. Everyone basically had to go through immigration and custom at Tijuana, but for some reasons, they need to separate the transit and arrival passengers. So arrival passengers were asked to deplane first, which took place relatively quickly, but then the transit passengers were greeted with a big surprise – a completely computer meltdown and they could not process anyone. Instead of just separating the local and the international passengers, they want to separate out the American passport holders, Latin and South American passport holders, as well as the European and other Asian passport holders. They ended up just copying everyone’s information. This whole transit experience was enough to deter me from flying this route again. Thankfully they decide to go nonstop soon. In some way, I think going through Tijuana will be more pleasant due to limited passengers and sometimes Mexico City can be unpleasant.
For the flight from Tijuana to Mexico City, nothing much to depart, except everything was pretty much on time and we made it even a few minutes earlier. We only need to go through customs at MEX.
This is definitely an interesting experience and I think I will give the NRT to MEX nonstop flight a try in the future, but after reading that the new Boeing 767-200s will get 2-2-2 configuration instead of 1-2-2 configuration, not sure though! Anyway, definitely an interesting experience!