Maps generated by theGreat Circle Mapper -copyright © Karl L. Swartz.
This is the third part of my Asia trip that took part back in September 2013. The previous two parts have seen me fly from London to Kuala Lumpur and onwards to Hong Kong on a pair of Malaysia Airlines A380’s, and then from Hong Kong to Tokyo on board a Cathay Pacific 747-400 in their great first class cabin. In case you missed the reports, you can catch up here:
This part will focus on my flight with JAL from Tokyo Narita, back to Kuala Lumpur on board one of the airlines’ 767’s.
After having one last look out of my window, I made my way down to the station. The view was better today than any of the previous days – typical!
Heading towards the station
My original plan was to catch the NRT express, but at the last minute I went for the Keisei Skyliner instead.
I’m not into trains, but I have to admit the ones in Japan look pretty cool compared to anywhere else.
Looks like BA’s latest WTP seats.
I arrived at NRT at around 7:30 and headed upstairs to check in.
I asked for a window seat towards the rear and was given 65K – the very last row, which was fine. I was also told that unfortunately BA don’t have a lounge here, but I would be more than welcome in either of JAL’s lounges. Again, the genuine friendliness of the Japanese people still coming as a welcome surprise.
After this, I headed up to the observation decks. Unfortunately the wind and the rain meant it wasn’t a pleasant experience and I didn’t spend too long on either.
Overview of T2
Too bad for all the child smokers…
Out on to the North deck.
One of many JAL 787’s
On to the South deck now.
More Jetstar twins
Still a few old liveried JAL’s around.
After a while, fed up with being battered by the wind and that awful sideways rain, I headed indoors.
I then went through security, which was pretty busy. My bag was singled out for a search, and everything had to be unpacked and then put through the X-ray once more. All this was done with a lot of pleases and thank you’s. As there were a few lounges that I was able to use here, I decided to head down to the AA Admirals Club
However upon checking in, I was told I wasn’t eligible – I showed my One World Sapphire card, and pointed to the logo on the door, but was told I’d have to use the JAL lounge instead as that was the airline I was flying with. My already fragile relationship with AA was now showing more cracks. So I made my way down to the first of the JAL lounges instead.
And true to the check in agents word, I was welcomed in.
A bit of a bite to eat on the upper level.
The views from here were pretty good too.
After a while, I decided to try my luck in the CX lounge – and was welcomed in with no questions asked. Although to be honest the F&B options were slightly lacking and there wasn’t a view to be had.
I only spent around fifteen minutes before heading across to the satellite on the tram.
Once there, instead of heading for the JL lounge, I headed for the QF lounge, as I hadn’t been in one of those. Again, I was welcomed in with no issues. This lounge was pretty good as it had good views across the Tarmac, comfortable seating and wasn’t too busy.
JL 737 very close by – no zoom used on this shot.
Always seems odd seeing something local so far from home.
Although much like the CX lounge the food offerings were almost non-existent.
With around twenty minutes before boarding, I decided to see what was happening at the gate. Not a lot it seemed. All I could really see was that I’d be on a jet in the old livery, which looked to be JA653J – one of the newer 767’s around being delivered to JAL less than three years previously in December 2010.
So I squeezed in one more lounge visit, the final one, which was the JAL satellite lounge. I was welcomed in and told that boarding for my flight would soon start. This lounge was better than the one in the main terminal as it was far less busy – and the food was on the same level as the rest of the lounge rather than having to go up three flights of stairs for it.
Again, there were good views to be had.
I left the lounge at around 11am, to find a queue at the gate. Boarding was done by seat row number and this was strictly enforced by crew members checking boarding passes of the people in the queue frequently. I was one of the first to board in the economy cabin due to the priority boarders being given a substantial head start.
Boein767-346ER / JA653J
Seat: 65K / Economy
Scheduled: 11:30 /18:30
Off Stand: 11:29
On Stand: 18:06
Wish more airlines had these
Better than expected legroom.
I did initially have a seatmate, however once we pushed back he spotted a spare seat up front and moved to that – perfect. No announcements came from the flight deck, but I could see from the sky map that we would have a flying time of 6:50.
We made our way over to the active, which just happened to be on the opposite side of the airfield to where we were. Things had certainly got busier compared to this morning, as there was a TG 777, AF A380, LH, AA all parked up at the stand, plus countless JL and NH machines. I also saw the VS 901 depart back to LHR.
We pushed in halfway along the queues and waited for a SQ 77W, NH 77W and a company 738 to depart before it was our turn, followed by a whole line – including an AA 772 in the new livery. Being used to seeing their 77W’s at LHR, I actually thought their 772 look a little dumpy now.
We made it into the air at 11:50, and due to the wind around, it seemed to be quite a struggle. The fact that the spoilers on my side were deployed as we lifted off showed just how gusty it was.
After fifteen minutes, the seatbelt sign was switched off and as I was in the last row, I decided put my seat into full recline. I was actually impressed at how far it went back, and the space on this jet in general. JAL are one of those airlines that I have always known about and been well aware of their existence, yet I’d never really researched their service much. Browsing the duty free mag, I saw something interesting for sale.
What with LH selling power tools, JL is now added to the list of unusual duty free items. I then decided to have a closer look at JAL’s latest Magic IFE system, during which hot towels were distributed by the ever smiling crew.
In all honesty, most IFE systems are pretty much the same these days – it’s just the skin the individual airline decides to put on it that provides any variation. I decided to put In Time on, pretty much the only film that took my fancy on the Magic V system.
It’s only once you sit behind the wing on one of the older generation jets do you truly appreciate the low noise level of the A380/787.
Once the drinks cart rolled around I went for the sky time shikuwâsâ citrus – JAL’s original drink. Very refreshing, along with some rice crackers.
Around an hour or so later, the meal service began. In true Japanese style, rather than a menu, there was an A3 sized card with pictures of the meals on it and a description in various languages and a large number 1 or 2 above each option. The choice was a chicken cutlet in tomato sauce or… Chicken and rice. And to go with that, a chicken salad. Luckily, I like chicken.
Metal cutlery – one up over MH.
A few moments later, dessert was served in the form of a tub of ice cream.
As the meal trays were being cleared away, water bottles were handed out. Very good service onboard JAL that’s for sure, especially as this is considered a regional flight – yet time wise you could cross the Atlantic in less time.
Handy that the reg was on the top of the wing.
Plenty of good looking clouds throughout.
Cabin views – spotless 777 style interior.
I was amazed at how clean JAL kept their seats considering the light colour.
My entertainment for the next hour or so was Arctic Monkey’s latest album. It’s slowly growing on me after a few listens. This was shortly followed by Vampire Weekends latest whilst gazing out of the window.
Whilst I was listening away, the lights were switched off and the cabin crew came around the cabin with a cattle prod type contraption lowering all the window blinds – why oh why do crews insist on doing this on day flights? The way I see it, if I sleep now, I won’t sleep later and I’ll end up with jet lag, despite only an hours time difference. I managed to get away with only lowering mine halfway however. As we passed the Philippines, there were some pretty good cloud formations – up came my window shades fully.
There was pretty much a white out after this for quite a while. Due to this there was quite a bit of turbulence, quite heavy at times. Although the seatbelt sign wasn’t switched on at all. Interesting how some flight crew turn it on for the odd bump, others for the duration of the flight, yet others leave it off despite encountering some quite heavy chop.
I mostly stuck to my own IFE rather than JAL’s
Around ninety minutes to arrival, cheese rolls and juice was distributed.
The final hour of the flight was spent playing angry birds and watching the wing bounce up and down from the constant turbulence we had encountered on this flight. Descent started as we crossed the Malaysian border and there were yet more of those great clouds you see in this region.
The captain finally came over the PA and thanked everybody for flying Japan Airlines, said that there’s a bit of congestion, so delays were likely and gave a weather update.
He was on again a few moments later saying we were now holding due to a ‘traffic jam’ and that maybe we could leave the hold in ten minutes. At least that’s what I could make out anyway. His English wasn’t brilliant, which was a little surprising considering I thought all ATC communications had to be in English – so being understandable was surely a must? Also, I was under the impression that KUL was never that busy? During descent I was sat filming, and when I turned around I noticed one of the cabin crew stood patiently watching – uh oh. She started speaking to me in very broken English. At first I thought she was offering to take my picture, but she was asking if I’d managed to get any good pictures during the flight and if she could have a look. I showed her, and it was met with quite a few enthusiastic ooohhs and ahhhhhhs. I wasn’t sure if she was playing the same game as the Flybe cabin crew I’d experienced previously (and being a million times more subtle) or was genuinely interested. Either way, she seemed happy enough to let me carry on.
The crew seemed a little easy going in reference to preparing for landing. I had my camera bag and iPad on the seat next to me, as they had been for pretty much the entire flight, fully expecting to be told to move them – however I wasn’t. I also noticed a couple of window shades still down a few rows in front as we touched down. In fact they pretty much disappeared after my chat. There was quite a bit of haze around so there wasn’t too much to see on descent. By the time I could see, we were low over the jungle.
We touched down a couple of minutes before 6 and made our way over to the satellite.
Upon arrival at the gate, everybody stayed seated patiently until the seatbelt sign was switched off. As the overhead lockers above my seat were being used for blankets and the crew’s bits and pieces I had to store my bag a few rows down. The guy who was sat there very kindly grabbed my bag and brought it back to me – thanks! As I stood up, I looked back and thanked the same crew member that spoke to me earlier. She came forward and once again started to chat. She asked if I like ‘plane or photes’ – I said both. She then asked where I was from and when I said near London she told me all about her trip there a few weeks ago, how she loved scones and jam and was really looking forward to going there on her next trip once she had returned to Tokyo. So I’m guessing this was a long haul crew rather than a short haul – if JAL works in a similar way to BA. Not that BA really have short and long haul any more – far too complicated to try and explain their set up… As I lifted my bag up, she spotted my BA Silver tag and made another enthusiastic ‘oooohhhh’. I thanked her for the great service and bid her farewell.
After saying our goodbyes, it was off to the shuttle to the main terminal, passing our jet a couple of times along the way.
Immigration was pretty quick – I was seen by an officer who probably couldn’t be any less interested if he tried – I said hello, only to be ignored, he stamped my passport without even looking at me and that was that.
After this, I made my way up to the viewing terrace, although there wasn’t an awful lot going on – so no idea why we had to hold.
My jet once again.
Endless MH regional flights
After a few minutes of seeing no movements whatsoever, I made my way downstairs to the KL express to KL sentral for the comfortable thirty minute or so ride to the city.
I arrived at around 19:30, and made my way to the monorail through a dingy area underneath the main station full of Indians attempting to sell tourists tat. Not the best first impression to say the least.
Once I arrived at the poorly signposted monorail station, I attempted to use a machine to buy a token, but it didn’t accept anything over RM5 – and the smallest note I had was an RM10. So it was off to see an agent. A pretty slow tram ride later and I was inadvertently off on the scenic route to my hotel, the Impiana at KLCC.
The hotel is conveniently attached by walkway to the shopping center at the base of the PETRONAS towers, so once I had checked in, it was it was off out again to grab a burger.
And of course, no meal is complete without dessert!
I like how Malaysia features MH 777’s on their RM10 notes!
Before long though I was feeling pretty tired so took the walk back to the hotel.
The following morning, I took a walk around the KLCC Park, the center of KL and the surrounding shopping center’s.
Lunch by the poolside… until it started raining. Pretty common theme on this trip unfortunately.
I took the train out to the Batu Caves. The train was excellent value – just 1MYR (about 20p) for a half hour or so journey.
Making a seemingly easy climb to the cave. Although in 30+ degree heat and high humidity, it was a little hard going.
Monkeys – everywhere.
Later that evening I ventured out to the Menara KL tower. This didn’t quite go to plan though as the area was cordoned off for some reason – but only once I’d climbed up a reasonable steep hill in the famous Asian heat.
Upon my return home, I discovered the KL Tower international Jump was taking place ( http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/30/travel/kuala-lumpur-base-jumping-festival/ ). So after watching a few jumps, I headed back to KLCC to watch the lightshow – although nowhere near as impressive as the one I saw in Hong Kong previously on this trip.
In the morning, I would head back to London with Malaysia Airlines, once more on one of their A380’s – but that will have to wait for part 4!