In February went skiing with the family (2 kids aged 10 and 6, my wife & me) to Niseko in Japan http://travelupdate.boardingarea.com/fantastic-niseko We flew JapanAirlines, repeating our experience a year ago, but this time on Economy. The flights were good, but the food average, the transit worrisome http://travelupdate.boardingarea.com/tokyo-transit-trauma/& the website poor.
Other than booking tickets, the website didn’t work for me. If you face the same problem, call them to reserve your seats & book special meals
Booking on JapanAirlines
I always check on http://www.skyscanner.com and then book on the airlines website so I have direct access to them in case needed. I chose Japan Airlines as the cheapest regular airline flying direct to Japan from Singapore (ANA and Singapore Airlines being the others). Low cost airlines appear cheaper, but after adding extras for food, luggage & inflight entertainment, end up more expensive on a long haul.
It was strangely difficult to find the right English language JAL website, but I eventually did (http://www.sg.jal.com) and booked. We ended up getting great seats, despite my not being able to find that option to reserve them in advance online.
I had the miles credited to Qatar Airways Privilege Club http://www.qatarairways.com/PrivilegeClub/homepage-privilege-club.page. This is a great airline to fly beyond Asia & am trying to accumulate points there.
The flight from Singapore to Tokyo
We were on JAL 36, a Boeing 777-200 scheduled to depart at 10.35PM on a Saturday from Singapore and land at Tokyo Haneda at 6Am the next morning.
We left home in a maxicab at 8.30PM as we had a lot of luggage. Still being unsure how XLs work in Uber and Grab (the other Uber like app in Singapore), we booked it from the regular taxi company. We reached at 9PM after a smooth trip.
We had no priority status, but the economy checkin was very quick. Many planes like this have 9 seats in row, split 3-3-3. JAL had 10, split 3-4-3, and we got the 4 seats in the middle in the bassinet row. I had not been able to book seats in advance, so was glad we could all be together and with extra leg-room.
After a quick immigration, we ventured around Changi airport. As a frequent traveller, I normally spend my time in the lounge. This time I didn’t have access to it, we explored the airport. We bought chocolates, had something to eat, used the loo & bought some Japanese Yen for our trip.
Security was smooth, except having to take off our kids boots (our fault, we should have dressed them in regular shoes). After that, getting on board was quick and we settled in soon. When travelling with kids, the constant question is how much of their stuff do we keep down with us, vs up the in the overhead locker. There is never a perfect answer and we invariably end up taking things down we should have kept with us in the first place!
Another thing with kids is the inflight entertainment as it’s the first thing they check out. There was a great touch screen (most I use are not), and my kids headphone jacks fitted in, so even better. The international viewing choices however were not great, so they settled into using their iPads. There was wifi, but we did not try it.
The seats were comfortable & had USB ports and sockets to use plugs to charge (you may miss them, they are below the seats).
After take-off at around 11PM, we were got the beverage service with juice, sodas, wines, beer & whiskey. Dinner came around 11.30. My kids had eaten at the airport, else they would have been hungry. It’s probably better to serve dinner and beverages together. All economy meals I have come across have 2 choices, but there was none here. Neither what I got, nor my wife’s gluten free meal, was appetising.
When it came to sleeping, by raising the armrest, the kids could stretch out. My wife and I had one each on our laps. The 3 of them slept, while I watched some TV. After a comfortable night, we landed on time at 6am in Haneda airport, Tokyo.
We were scheduled to take JL503 from Haneda departing at 7.30AM to land at Sapporo’s CTS airport at 9AM. It was a Boeing 777-300.
As soon we disembarked, it was cold so put on our woollens, but took them off later as it was warmer inside in the terminal. This is a common problem that I hope airports solve soon.
We had a 90 minute transit, so had to be quick. In Singapore we had been given boarding passes for our flight to Sapporo, but had to collect our luggage, go through customs, and then deposit our luggage at the domestic connections queue. This was like another checkin and where I missed our priority status as the queue was long. I pointed out to the staff that I had kids, lots of luggage and a short connection, but the didn’t work. Finally, at 8.30 they called us to the priority queue.
We deposited our luggage & were given tickets for the monorail to the domestic terminal. The trains were close by & frequent (every 3-4 minutes). Getting on to the right one was a bit confusing, but eventually we got it and reached in few minutes.
We had to go through security again, and reached the gate with time to spare for a toilet break. I saw lounges on the way, but there would not have been time to enjoy them even if we had access.
We once again had the 4 middle seats, a few rows down the entrance, so not bad. There were no seat-back TV screens, OK given it was a 90 minute flight, but of course the kids complained. They used their iPads again during the flight. The beverage service include a warm, tasty soup of which I had 2 helpings. The kids has apple juice.
The plane landed on time at 9am and we got our luggage soon. There was no hurry now, as we had an hour wait for our bus to Niseko. This passed quickly with a meal, bathroom breaks and the ever failtful iPad for the kids!
On the return, the transit from Sapporo to Tokyo warrants a separate post http://travelupdate.boardingarea.com/tokyo-transit-trauma/so I will take up the story once we boarded in Tokyo back for Singapore.
We were on JL711 scheduled to depart Tokyo Narita at 6PM & arrive Singapore at 12.45 AM the next morning. The plane was a Boeing 767-300 with a 2-3-2 configuration in Economy.
We had 2 seats on the side in 2 rows behind each other, and that worked fine. We took off 45 minutes late at 6.45pm. Despite this, the service went through the motions of 1st drinks and then dinner, which only came at 8.30. My kids were starving so I asked for a meal for my son in advance that they served. My daughter also wanted a kids meal that I had not booked – fortunately they had an extra and gave it. I was starving as well, and had bits & pieces of my 2 kids meal as well as my own when it came later. From Singapore to Tokyo we had no meal choice, but this time we did. The burger I chose was good.
This time we tried the wifi (Gogo) and though it said no netflix we got access. <y kids enjoyed that.
During the flight, we made up some time & landed just 15 minutes late at 1AM. Immigration & luggage was quick as usual at Changi. This time, instead of an expensive Maxicab, we fitted into a hatchback taxi and were home soon by 2AM!
Overall, the flights were good. The website and transit could have been better.
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