Book your flights on JAL here.
As part of my mini-RTW, I needed a return from Japan to the US. AAdvantage has a great deal in off-season flights from Northern Asia (Japan, South Korea and Mongolia) at just 20,000 25,000 miles in Economy class one-way.
So I booked myself from Okinawa (OKA) to San Francisco (SFO) via Tokyo Haneda (HND), all in one award for 20,000 miles and ~$130.
The flight from Okinawa to Tokyo was perfectly on-time and in a 777 – it's amazing how Japanese airlines run these big birds in a domestic market. I once flew on a 777 from the small Osaka Itami Airport to Tokyo – a quick one-hour flight.
To connect from a domestic JAL flight to an international flight, one has to change terminals in Tokyo. There is a free shuttle bus connecting both terminals. It took me a bit of trial and error and by asking people until I found the Bus Stop Number 8 that is served by a frequent bus.
The international terminal at Haneda Airport is brand new and squeaky clean. I spent a whole night there in 2013 and had a great time.
There is a second floor above departures with a lot of food options and shopping for those wonderful dessert options that you can only find in Japan.
Security was very quick and since I had no lounge access (no Priority Pass Lounge at HND) I used the super-fast public internet and plugged into an outlet. Yes, I had to spend $1 for a water, but my seat and entertainment options were better than most lounges that I visited in 2014.
The flight boarded on time and was completely full in business class and economy. Boarding was quick – as you would imagine in Japan.
The 777 seemed brand-new – the seats and seat backs were very clean and the LCD displays were shiny and crisp.
After take-off, we made our way into the strongest jet stream I have ever seen. With tail winds blowing at 245mph, we were on our way with >800mph. This wasn't a supersonic flight, but given the constant violent shaking it certainly felt that way.
After two hours of shaking, the flight attendants served drinks and a small sandwich (it was 2AM Japan time by then). I wasn't hungry but I still tried the sandwich which was actually pretty good.
After another hour of ups and downs, the winds calmed a little and I was ready to fall asleep. I woke up a couple of times but never saw any food carts come through. I'm not sure if they did. Our flight time was just under 8 hours – really short for the 5,160 miles distance that was flown.
Immigration and baggage retrieval were pretty quick in SFO, though the visitor line was longer than the immigration hall and people had to line up well into the main arrivals hall.
This was a great, quick flight with JAL. I still wonder what happened to breakfast but it might totally be my fault for missing it. From my 3 long-haul economy flights of this trip (I also flew with Air France Economy and KLM Economy), this was clearly the best flight of the bunch.
Book your flights on JAL here.
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About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]
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