Thursday, October 29, 2009
Japan Trip: Blog 10
Right now I am sitting in seat 20B....19 rows back from my last seat of 1D. Is 20B First class? No. Surely 20B is Business class. Nope. Missed it by that much. Literally we missed Business by 2 seats. We were pushed down by other non-rev employees who were traveling thru Tokyo. The non-rev system is kinda complex. One big rule is if you are traveling thru you are placed higher on the list than those who are just starting out. I never thought there would be thru passengers in Tokyo.
The day started at 4:30AM. We left the hotel at 5:20AM. We didn't pay a dime for 4 nights in the hotel....all points.
There are many ways to get from Tokyo to the Narita airport (which is located more than 60 miles away!).
We paid $30 a piece to ride an “Airport Limo” , which was just a bus, to the hotel. The ride was quick and efficient. Problem getting back was that the bus company didn't have an office/desk in our hotel. We could have called and made a reservation, but decided against it.
Taxis in Tokyo are ridiculously expensive. Never even an option.
That left trains. There are several different train routes, prices and comfort levels to pick from for the ride to the airport.
I researched them all and picked a line operated by a private company that charges $19 per person. The trip to that station went past another company offering express service to the airport for $30 a person.
All seats on the train are reserved in advance. Online reviews stated trains fill up fast. I planned on arriving at the station in time to catch the first train out at 6:30AM. If we were lucky there was a “rapid service” train leaving at 6:10AM for only $10 a person.
We arrived at the first station at 5:25AM. We caught the 5:27AM train. After 6 stops we reached the first transfer point.
Tokyo subways are not wheelchair or luggage friendly. Sometimes there are stairs and escalators. Sometimes only stairs. Every now and then an elevator.
We lugged our bags up and down a few sets of stairs and escalators before reaching the next train. It left at 5:50AM and would arrive at our next transfer at 6:07AM. The website stated the trip between the two stations on foot was 2 minutes.
Since it was the but crack of Tokyo dawn the trains were very empty. We had seats to ourselves.
A word about Tokyo subways. For the most part they are all ridiculously clean and well kept. The seats are very comfortable and look brand new. Little signs of wear. Not a hint of smoke. The same can't be said for subways in New York, Washington D.C or Chicago.
Right on time the train stopped at 6:07 AM. Five minutes later we reached the final transfer (2 minutes by foot my ass...maybe if we were running!).
We bought our tickets and made our way to the platform. The tickets were in Japanese of course. I used the English guide to figure out what the symbols and numbers meant.
The train was nice. Vending machines and restrooms were on board. There was space to store luggage. After one stop we were on the way. It wasn't a bullet train, just a non-stop train.
For our non-rev flights we can't check in until 4 hours prior to departure. The flight left at 12:05PM. We pulled into the station at 7:26AM and were sitting in front of the check in kiosk shortly thereafter. Problem.....they don't open until 9AM.
We settled in next too two other ladies who I could tell were also non-reving. I looked into the reservation system and saw they were also listing for first class. With just 4 First Class seats open at the time it would be close but doable.
Just before 9AM they stood in line. I stood behind them. When the kiosk turned on I approached and checked us in. I beat them! As I sat down Kelli was smiling. We were at the top of the list. That was her last smile for a while.
Over the course of the next two hours we were pushed further down the list and the number of first and business class seats dwindled.
Prior to clearing security I finally enjoyed a Japanese hot dog. Again they are crazy for hot dogs here. I had a Mc Hot Dog from McDonalds. It was very tastey. Awesome bread.
After buying a hat for my dad I watched the bags while Kelli went to buy souveniers. We then cleared security.
No need to take off shoes here. We still had to put liquids in a separate bag although they didn't appear to really care as I had bottles of lotion and shampoo scattered between my suitcase, laptop bag and jacket. Done.
Once at the gate our fate was sealed. We missed business class. At least we had seats together and ourselves. Coach is a 2-5-2 arrangement. We have two seats together right behind business. Yeah that close.
We just finished our meal. The quality of food between classes is shocking. Not visually appealing at all. It tasted decent though. Now I get to figure out how to occupy myself for the next 9 hours. Oh and a baby is screaming to my right.....I can hear him over my music. Bose noise cancellation is no match for this kids lungs.