When i got the itinerary, and saw that the airline was NW, i had mixed feelings. I would have preferred ANA or JAL but i have had good experiences on some NW flights. I was hoping for one of the A330s, thru DTW, because i am a big fan of DTW and i know that the A330s have an on demand IFE system which is a great way to pass the time. But in an odd, and oddly satisfying twist, we would be flying thru MSP on a 744. Not exactly a super modern IFE system (projected videos) but it is always a treat to fly on the queen of the skies. Just before my trip, in the Aviation polls and prefs forum, AlexPorter suggested that it would be interesting to fly on somewhat of a legacy flight.
this is what he said
|Quoting AlexPorter (Reply 3):|
If anything, here's a sort of silver lining story for you. Back before deregulation, only a limited number of airlines could fly to other continents. They were Pan Am (all over the place), TWA (Transatlantic), Braniff (South America), and Northwest Orient (Asia). Of course, Pan Am and Braniff are gone, and the TWA brand is gone. Northwest is still there (albeit without the "Orient" name). So, in a sense, you are flying on the only remaining old intercontinental carrier on a classic transpacific flight in a pre-PTV configuration on an iconic plane. So it's classic but otherwise nothing special.
At first the prospect that THIS was my silver lining was a bit disappointing, but as the trip grew nearer i became more excited.
Without further ado, here are the details, thanks for reading this far! And i apologize for the dust spots in the photos...i have some serious work to do cleaning these up...it would have been simpler to just clean my dang lens!!!
Woke up at my usual wake-up time of 6:00am, and drove to my mothers house where i would be leaving my car. We picked up my brother, who was also going on the trip. We got stuck in a bit of traffic on the way up, but were still there in plenty of time. We had both checked in previously, and had no bags to check, so all we needed to do was scan our passports and head to the gate. Security lines were VERY long at the largest checkpoint, so we went off to the 3rd one, where the line looked long, but moved quickly. As we were in line, one of the screeners yelled at no one in particular "YOU NEED TO LEAVE GAPS BETWEEN THE BAGS OR I WILL HAVE TO SEND THEM THROUGH AGAIN!!" It is something i generally don't mind on the beginning of trips, because i haven't recently experienced the courtesy and professionalism of foreign screeners...not to trash on the TSA, they have a tough and thankless job, but attitudes about the whole thing seem to be better overseas....anyways, back to the flight.
We met up with our other travel companions at the gate, and waited for boarding. This is my favorite kind of boarding, as we would go down the steps to the tarmac, and walk up the CRJs stairs to board.
this is a view of the plane from the gate area
they let us down the stairs for boarding right on time.
a better view from right in front
a CO 737 behind us
after boarding, the crew announced there was some sort of maintenance issue and we would need to wait for a maintenance person to arrive. The didn't say what the problem was, but they said that it was something we could leave without, but would need to do the paperwork on before we left. She also added that the maintenance company was not the airline, so they would be at their mercy...which was an odd thing to add in my view.
after sitting there for about an hour, the pilot got on and apologized, and said we would be rolling soon. indeed that was true, and we finally got off the ground. it was an uneventful flight, and we soon descended into MSP.
We took the tram over to the other terminal for international departures, and stopped and grabbed a bite to eat beforehand. About an hour before departure we made our way to the crowded gate area to meet up with others in our group headed to japan.
this is the beautiful 744 in our gate.
the gate area at MSP
For some reason NW just calls for general boarding all at once after the business class people have boarded. i always found this odd. I usually wait for awhile before boarding, as i dont feel much need to rush to an assigned seat.
The night before i had picked out the seat i wanted. i was in 64-k. I know it is pretty far back, but the last few rows switch from 3's to 2s, and you get extra room on the side of your seat after takeoff, and you get some space for your legs (or at least your right leg)
we taxied quickly, and got off the ground quickly. it always amazes me the ways the tail of the plane feels that far back. sometimes you are moving sideways as the plane turns! also amazing is the amount of stretch that the wings have as they lift the massive 744 off the ground.
shortly after takeoff they came thru with the first meal. i chose the chicken over the beef. the pleasant surprise was the shrimp cocktail, and surprisingly, the shrimp were very tasty.
view over Canada
during the flight i watched most of the first season of 30 rock on my ipod, and i slept as much as i could. As we got closer to NRT they turned the lights back on, and started serving breakfast. i chose the fried rice, but was not very hungry.
i mostly ate the fruit and the muffin
The crew was not the most attentive in the world, sometimes there would be stretches where you wouldn't see ANYONE around, but i guess on such a long flight this is normal. the flight was about 12 hours, and fairly uneventful, other than midway through the flight they asked the cabin if there were any medical people on board, the row they said to go to was my brothers row farther up, but i asked an FA and she said that it was not 28A (my brothers seat).
After landing in NRT we passed thru customs and immigration. This was a little frustrating as the FAs never got back to my row with the forms. The international flights i had taken previously (to AMS, FRA, and ICN) had not required any forms on the plane, and those that i saw with forms on the plain appeared to be Japanese citizens. So i had to fill mine out quickly just before the line, it was a little embarrassing, because i consider myself a good traveller, and dont like to make these mistakes.
We caught the airport bus to our hotel in Tokyo and had a good three day tour of factories.
my brother (left) and me (right) in front of mount Fuji.
On friday it was time to return to the USA. It was a short trip, so i was not as ready to return as i had been on previous trips abroad. The machine tool company boarded us up on 2 buses and headed for NRT.
Once inside, one of our travelling companions said that he was an American Express platinum member, and this got him access the NW lounge, and he was allowed a guest, so i took him up on the offer and joined him. It was a nice lounge, and somewhat empty when we got there at about noon.
i got a beer, and a couple of pictures from the great views.
after about an hour, i left the lounge to do some shopping, and grab some supplies for the ride. I got some stuff and headed to the gate area, which was very crowded.
our return flight
This is the 744 waiting for us.
This flight was somewhat the legacy flight that was discussed earlier, as we would be flying the Great Circle Route.
We boarded promptly, and this time i was in the very last row 66K. the advantages of the 2 seats are minimized here as the plane curves in. there isnt much extra space, and the extra legroom is limited. the seats still had full recline, so it wasn't all bad. but not as good as just one row forward.
shortly after takeoff they served lunch. i chose the chicken, which was a bit spicy.
this flight was shorter, only 10 hours, and it really went well. i slept on and off between listening to music on the ipod and watching a few more episodes of 30 rock.
i snapped this shot over the pacific around sunrise.
Now the only interaction i had with the flight crew, was one of the FAs letting me borrow a pen to fill out my customs form, other than that i didn't require much. My travel companions however told a different tale. they said the FAs seemed disinterested, and quarreled with each other during the services. They said that it was like the passengers were inconveniences to them. Like i said, this is what my companions said, i didn't need much service, as i was in and out of sleep for the 10 hours.
close to MSP they served breakfast. There was only one choice (i dont know if it was what was left or what) and it was a bit odd. the noodles had an odd taste, and the fruit was of decent quality. the little danish was good tho.
Once we got off at MSP, went thru immigration and customs, we still had a few hours to kill before our flight back to CLE. My brother and i had cravings for McDonald's, so that is where we got some food. I went and did a little shopping at MSP, and they really have a nice area for it. I found this to be a bit odd though, an ipod vending machine.
I dont know who would do this though, because ipods dont come wiht music on them...i wonder how many people buy them and then realize that there is little they can do with one until they get to their computer!
as we walked around MSP we spotted some C-130s, so i snapped a quick picture.
This flight was very interesting after the great circle route, to get onto a DC-9 back to cleveland was also fun. Nice to be on a mainlight flight, and i dont expect you will be able to ride these DC-9s too much longer.
The flight was uneventful, and i got a row to myself, as the man sitting next to me moved up after the flight was not full. It was bad for him though, as he was seated next to a very chatty little boy travelling by himself who asked a great deal of questions. He handled it well though, and was very nice.
We got routed a bit strangely, to kill time as they said that there was some congestion at CLE. I though i had noticed some weird banks in the middle of the flight, and the tracker agreed with me...not to mention the detour over the lake.
Overall this was an enjoyable trip, and i thank you for reading. Extra credit for getting this far into it!