In part 1
, my wife B, 18 month old son Alex and me flew Qantas business class on an A332 from Sydney to Shanghai. Part 2
detailed our flights in Cathay Pacific’s economy class on Boeing 744’s from Shanghai to Hong Kong and onwards to Kansai International Airport. Now comes the final installment, when we swap full service carriers on frequent flyer points for a fully paid for flight on the low cost carrier Jetstar back from Tokyo to Sydney via Cairns.
Anyone who knows me knows that I’m addicted to Japan. If you’ve read previous trip reports of mine you probably know it too. This was our eighth trip to the land of the rising sun and In the past three years we have flown three times to Japan with Jetstar, thanks to their fantastic fares. We also had a long haul flight with them to Kuala Lumpur back when they flew their A332’s direct to there from Sydney.
When flying back to Australia on Jetstar from Tokyo you have the option of routing via Cairns or the Gold Coast. Last trip was via the Gold Coast and while the descent was gorgeous the under-construction airport facilities were dreadful. I have a great fondness for Cairns’ international airport, so I selected that instead. Plus it was a little cheaper! I also figured that the longer stopover would give Alex time to run around off the aircraft.
As the trip got closer I got more and more nervous about the flight back home. For a poor sleeper like myself overnight flights have the potential to be very uncomfortable. I just felt like a bit of luxury on this trip, just for once (or twice in this case!) in my life. So I called up the Jetstar call centre to request an upgrade to StarClass.
“Are you in Singapore?”
“No sir, Malaysia.”
“Nice place! My wife is Malaysian. How much would it cost to upgrade my flight to StarClass?”
“I can’t tell you exactly in Australian dollars because it is charged in yen.”
“No problem, I have a converter open on my computer.”
I relayed my credit card details and the upgrade was done. So now I would get to experience a real business class with Qantas and StarClass with Jetstar for the first time in my life.
A month later and here we are sitting in a hotel room in Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, depressed about leaving Japan. Alex is standing on the armrest of the chair staring out of the window at the busy railway lines in and out of Shinjuku station, calling out “Woo woo!” whenever a train rolls past. So much like his daddy!
He has enjoyed his many train rides, running up and down the aisles greeting the other passengers, playing with tray tables and eating the odd ice cream from the carts that ply their way up and down the trains.
Then it was time to carry our luggage down and check out of the hotel. We walked to the station, reserved seats on the Narita Express, then spent the rest of the day wandering the shops of Shinjuku, eating a lunch made up of purchases from the amazing basement food court of Takashimaya.
Looking towards Takashimaya Times Square
As always in Tokyo we were cutting things a little fine when we finally emerged from the department stores and rushed back to the hotel. Now loaded down with our too-heavy luggage we struggled in a hurry back to Shinjuku station and the distant Narita Express platform. However, we made such good time that we had 15 minutes to spare, enough time to pose for photos in front of it.
This was the new Narita Express. Inside were luggage racks with combination locks, wifi (I think you need to have an existing Japanese service provider), power sockets and information screens. I have a great fondness for the old N’Ex and it was nice to see that this newer version retained much of the colour and atmosphere of the old.
Old Narita Express seen earlier in the day
The new N’EX
I know that most people decry Narita Airport as being too far from central Tokyo, but for me it’s one of the attractions. I love the relaxing pause that comes from sitting in the comfortable train and watching Japan roll past. The journey starts in the crazy urban cityscape of greater Tokyo before entering the serentiy of rural Japan, paddy fields glimmering in the evening light as farmers walk dogs along the quiet roads lined by bamboo forests.
Then its into the tunnel and out of the train at Narita’s Terminal 2.
Platform, Terminal 2
From the station to the departures area is up a series of inconvenient escalators that they scarily allow you to carry trolleys on. When our bags were weighed at the dedicated StarClass check-in counter we were glad of the extra allowance from the economy 20 kg to 30 kg. Understanding that the luggage rules for a LCC are different, we queried whether we could take the baby carrier backpack onboard, as we had done for the previous legs. The supervisor was consulted and he said that he thought that it should be okay, but to check at the gate, just in case there was no space.
Bags checked in, we ascended the escalator to the food and shopping level. Both B and Alex were hungry, but I, as is often the case before a night flight, felt a little queasy. I just don’t feel like eating anything too rich, oily or salty. Options of noodles, tonkatsu or sashimi just didn’t work for me and there was no way we were going to eat at a western restaurant.
The shopping was of little interest as it was quite familiar to us. One little disappointment was that the fruit shop seemed to be missing. A big Japanese apple would have done me nicely.
View from the observation area near the Japanese restaurants
I convinced B to try airside as we had been given vouchers for the Qantas business lounge as part of the StarClass check in. The queues at security were the shortest that I had ever seen, though my daypack of electronics caused the usual problems.
On the other side of security is the usual range of duty free stores selling luxury items and electronics. I really wanted a chance to relax in the lounge so I encouraged B to catch the automated shuttle train out to the satellite gates.
The Qantas business lounge was a smaller version of the Sydney lounge. With the Qantas flight departing soon it was starting to wind down for the night. B found herself and Alex some soup and a chicken, vegetable and rice dish for dinner, along with crackers and cheese. By the time it was my turn to eat the rice dish was finished, so I made do with some tiny, but tasty sushi and
little cakes. There wasn’t a huge amount of offer, but what was provided was of high quality. The range of non-alcoholic drinks was also good, which will probably interest few people here!
Space to relax
Self-serve food area
For petite stomachs
I must commend the Qantas lounge on their toilets. Not only did they have the usual bum washing and seat warming options, the seat lids automatically lifted on approach. I miss Japanese toilets.
I love Japanese toilets
I can’t remember whether it had the auto-lower seat option on for maximum marital satisfaction.
We were some of the last to leave the lounge, which closes at 9.30pm. It is fortunate that there was food there as all the little shops on the way to the gate had closed for the night.