This is my actual first trip report. While I travel a lot for business and pleasure, I always forget to take pictures at the airport or in flight. Not because I sleep on the flights but I just simply forget to write things in detail. And while I could always do a summary report with no pictures or a few, I just get lazy about it and don't feel like boring others. In this case, I did take some pictures but not as much as I've would've liked to. My wife was in charge of reminding me, but she failed at it by not reminding me once. NOTE: Most of the pictures were taken with my work provided iPhone 8, I'm too lazy to carry bigger cameras.
I was born in Costa Rica but grew up and did all my education in the US. After graduating from college I moved back to Costa Rica mainly because of how hard the recession hit our family business and to be closer to family. In 2015 I had the opportunity to move to the UK for work before returning back home in January '18 due to the arrival of our first baby, born in June of this year. Working 14 hour days 5 days a week and a position which I looked after over 600 employees and with no family in the UK to help, it would've been impossible to help out my wife as much as she deserved to and rightfully so.
Before moving back here we always talked about going to Asia, and we even booked a trip to Tokyo for 2 weeks from MAN on Finnair aboard their new A350 at the time, but we cancelled when we had to fly back home in January for an emergency.
I had obtained MileagePlus Gold through flying with work consistently between MAN-EWR and more than often bi weekly work trips to Europe most of the time with Brussels Airlines on full paying fares, so I used the opportunity to look for a mileage run/birthday vacation to my wife to achieve gold for another year.
Scrolling through another forum I found an open jaw multi stop fare for $390 with the following routing:
LAX-NRT on UA
NRT-HKG on ANA
PEK-NRT on ANA
NRT-GUM on UA
GUM-HNL on UA
HNL-LAX on UA
LAX-YYZ on AC.
In the end our entire flights looked like this across 15 segments and 24,321 PQM miles which pushed me to gold for another year and my wife into silver.
Copyright © 1996-2018 Karl L. Swartz
. All rights reserved.
There were two problems with the above fare. The first one was that I had to get from HKG to PEK by my own means, as it was not part of the fare and the second was that for me to get that price I had to end in YYZ. The idea was that I would drop at LAX and just cancel the last leg which in theory is fine, but my passport requieres a visa to enter Canada, which wasn't free. I also requiered a Chinese visa.
Getting my chinese visa was easy, except I had to ask for it twice since they put the wrong expiration date on it, which was a day before I was meant to get there. Although it was their error, they made me pay for it. All in took about two weeks.
For the canadian visa, I did it all online. I thought about buying a full fare refundable ticket from YYZ-EWR or something to show as proof of travel for my transit visa, but because of the way banks work here, I would've had to wait for a refund for 45 days. Instead, I opted for being honest and included a letter explaining my request for a transit visa, but was clear I wouldn't actually fly to Canada. After all I was paying for it anyway so it wouldn't be a loss of money for them. This request was granted without issues.
To get to LAX I booked on Copa from SJO-PTY-LAX . I had a couple of options to get to LAX such as a non stop with DL,AS, AV, Volaris and Copa. In the end I chose Copa because they're *A (So is AV) and their flight arrived first without a long layover anywhere. To get back from LAX I booked on AV with their LAX-GUA-SJO flight, with the GUA stop a 45 min technical stop for fuel. Operated by LACSA.
San Jose, Costa Rica to Panama City, Panama
Aircraft: B39M (Boeing 737 MAX 9)
Reg: HP-9901CMP (Copa's 1st MAX 9, First in Central/South America).
Flight - 1 hour
I had been upgraded to business the day before using their upgrade bid thing for $40 per passenger. I didn't think it would go through but it did. I didn't take any pictures at the airport, as it was a tiring 3AM and just wanted to get on the plane. I ran into the captain at security and he was glowing in MAX swag. Pen, Lanyard and labels.
Service on this flight consisted of breakfast which was fruit, a croissant with cheese and ham, yogurt, a fruit bar and a juice. Drinks were only given out once. I asked before take off if I could visit the cockpit on landing (you know MAX and all) and the guy seemed shy and said he didn't want to ask, but said I should go into the cockpit and ask myself? Thanks pal.
* My seat 1A
* Safety Card - Copa doesn't use the term MAX on their system, it lists it as a B739.
* Room in the seat up position
* Our screens
* Seat Controls
* Panama Canal and Skyline
* Our plane while taxing on another plane
Overall the flight was fine. The pursers were absent for most of the flight and hung out in the galley and no drinks were refilled. The captain made announcements in perfect English/Spanish/Portuguese and French on this flight which was pretty cool.
I didn't take any pictures on the PTY-LAX flight as I slept almost the entire way. But here's two from our approach.
* New LA Stadium (Raiders I think)
I also didn't document our LAX-HKG-PEK flights, these routes have been documented before and while I have some pictures, I was battling a cold en route so was on night quill most of the time dozing off.
We spent a couple of good days in Hong Kong and Beijing. We visited most of the touristy things like the wall, temples, Tianmen Square, Forbidden City. We used the metro in Beijing which was pretty great and easy to use. Expected it to be more difficult but had no issues.
ANA - All Nippon Airways
Beijing, China to Narita, Japan
Aircraft: A320N (NEO)
Flight Time - 3 Hours
I didn't take any pictures at the airport, mainly in fear of getting yelled at by the military in Chinese. We had some issues checking in. Because our full itinerary was a back to back PEK-NRT-GUM-HNL-LAX-YYZ the system kept crashing and the Air China agents looking after the ANA flight were freaking out. Eventually a person in ANA uniform came and took over, she told me the system was crashing because it was trying to print 18 boarding passes and they didn't know what to do. I told her to check me to NRT since I would exit the airport for a good 6 hours and I would check in with United there. She was thankful for the help. At the gate an ANA agent approached and apologized and bowed for the issue and asked to board with business for the issues.
I fell in love with ANA, they're flight attendants were so sweet and genuine on both of our flights that I wish I would've done LAX-NRT with them in the first place. There was a full meal of which I ate half of and we departed bang on time and arrived 20 minutes ahead.
Flying on this A320 NEO meant that I had also now been aboard every new type of medium-large aircraft out there except for the B748. As I had flown on the B789,B788,MAX9,NEO,78X,A380 and A350 by now.
* Our seat back
* Using the forward camera with our tug waiting
* In the haze out of PEK
* Forward camera while on approach
About 20 minutes before landing while doing the landing safety check, the lead purser came to our seats and sat down at the empty seat next to ours. She wanted to apologize for the issue at PEK. She told us she also knew we were travelling around the world and were doing many flights with many airlines (wut) and wanted to give us a gift. She gave me the card below which was very neat and a bag full of eye masks, lotion, chap-sticks, brushes, tooth paste and all sorts of goodies. Then 3 flight attendants lined up in the aisle in front of us and bowed. I couldn't believe it and didn't even know what to say, it was such a nice gesture. The couple in front of us started clapping as with others around, maybe they thought we had just gotten married?
Customs at Narita were super easy and everyone was very nice. We took the train to Narita-san and walked around for a bit. Unfortunately it was getting dark so some crappy pictures turned out
Next part and the Island hopper is next!