My Whirlwind November to Asia: Comparing OneWorld In-Flight Products

Well I’ve been a bit terrible about posting much lately but I’ve had quite the busy travel schedule lately. I traveled to Asia twice in 2 weeks this past month so I feel as if my body is just now back to normal sleep.

I traveled to Jakarta for work for 9 days, returning just before Thanksgiving and then after only 4 days at home, traveled to Tokyo for a short 6 day vacation in the Tokyo area. I actually passed through Tokyo Narita 4 times plus an extra fifth visit due to flight schedule changes.

In total traveling to Asia, I experience the following OneWorld long-haul products:

  • Japan Airlines Premium Economy
  • Japan Airlines Economy
  • American Airlines Business Class
  • American Airlines Economy

Aircraft Flown:

  • AA A321
  • AA MD-80
  • AA 777-200
  • JAL 767-300
  • JAL 777-300ER

JAL 777-300ER Parked at Narita Airport
JAL 777-300ER Parked at Narita Airport

 

Outbound Journey #1: DFW-LAX-NRT-CGK

I flew AA Economy (Main Cabin Extra) from my home at DFW to LAX, connected to JAL Premium Economy (Bulkhead) LAX to NRT, followed by JAL Economy (Bulkhead) NRT to CGK. Premium Economy was not offered on my final leg to Jakarta as it was operated on an older 767.

Return Journey #1: CGK-NRT-ORD-DFW

Returning from Jakarta I flew JAL Economy CGK to NRT, JAL Premium Economy (Bulkhead) NRT to ORD, and finally AA Economy (Main Cabin Extra) ORD to DFW. Premium Economy was offered on my leg from Jakarta to Tokyo, however, it was completely booked when I booked my trip.

Outbound Journey #2: DFW-NRT

This was a nonstop itinerary from DFW to NRT in AA Economy (Main Cabin Extra/Bulkhead) on an older 777-200.

Return Journey #2: NRT-DFW

While this itinerary was changed multiple times due to flight mechanical issues, ultimately, the itinerary was nonstop from NRT to DFW in AA Business Class.

Smile for Global Entry!
Narita Admiral Club – Very traditional but great service!

 

Smile for Global Entry!
Smile for Global Entry!

 

Comparing Products

Your gut reaction of course is to automatically assume that the JAL operated flights were exceptionally better than American Airlines. While in most areas this was true, there were a few ways that American Airlines came out ahead.

Overall on service, JAL was more welcoming but there tends to be a bit of a language barrier for English-speaking passengers. One notable exception was a super sweet flight attendant in Premium Economy on JAL NRT-ORD. The staff in AA Business Class was very chatty and inviting but in Economy, forget it! They would rather not speak to you unfortunately. JAL Economy far exceeds AA Economy for long-haul flights.

In terms of food, JAL was overall better but the AA Business Class breakfast NRT-DFW was a surprise favorite meal. The only thing that I ate truly horrendous was the mid-flight snack on AA in Economy DFW-NRT. It looked like wet cat food on bread!

And in terms of seating, there’s no fair comparison between Business and Economy. But I really loved the JAL Premium Economy Seats. They were an affordable compromise when paying cash for a seat. I sat next to a very large man NRT-ORD on JAL and the Premium Economy seat gave plenty of extra room that I didn’t notice at all. In a standard economy seat, we would have elbow wars the whole flight! I love the foot rest that extends out to be half as good as an angle lie-flat seat.

Here’s a few highlights in “airline gastronomy”:

 

JAL Premium Economy “Udon de Sky” Mid-Flight Snack

 

JAL Premium Economy Ice Cream

 

JAL Premium Economy Lunch LAX-NRT

 

AA’s Disappointing Mid-Flight Snack in Economy DFW-NRT. Or as I remember as the “wet cat food sandwich”

 

AA Business Class Pre-Arrival Breakfast NRT-DFW

 

JAL Premium Economy Pre-Arrival “Brunch” NRT-ORD

 

AA Business Class Starter NRT-DFW

 

AA Business Class Lunch NRT-DFW

 

AA Business Class Ice Cream Sundae NRT to DFW - A Classic!
AA Business Class Ice Cream Sundae NRT to DFW – A Classic!

I had a great couple of trips, even if they left me totally exhausted. I got to experience many different products in a very short time so it was pretty cool!

Share your thoughts in the comments below. Or on Twitter @BenjaminJ84 and @AvionAddiction.

 

Just How Bad is the Honolulu Airport?

As a travel addict, I’ve seen my fair share of airports around the world, including the good, they bad, and the ugly. I FINALLY got around to visiting Hawaii after all these years and I loved it all around. We visited both Kauai and Oahu and Kauai was by far the big winner. It was truly paradise! Oahu was nice but Honolulu is quite the urban contrast compared to even the North Shore of Oahu. Honolulu felt a lot like Miami Beach so after visiting the peaceful paradise of Kauai, it was a lot to take in.

Shipwrecks Beach, Kauai. So beautiful it doesn't even look real!
Shipwrecks Beach, Kauai. So beautiful it doesn’t even look real!

We flew United in Economy to Honolulu out Denver. We snagged incredibly cheap tickets about 3 months in advance so for the price, Economy was bearable. We connected onto Hawaiian Airlines on to Lihue. We also returned to Honolulu for a few days before returning back to LAX from Honolulu. So throughout the whole trip, we got 3 visits to HNL and a good perspective on how bad the airport is.

Rather than feeling like a major airport, HNL felt more like a small regional airport; quite dated and with limited amenities. While some of the mid-century fixtures were charming, a nice remodel could go a long way in the terminals. Taking advantage of the pleasant Hawaiian weather year-round, a large portion of the terminals is outdoors. The gates are confined into individual air-conditioned areas but they are small and the seating is limited. There are very limited food options, even in the overseas terminal, and the bathrooms were filthy. Imagine transiting from the mainland to Asia through Honolulu and wanting to freshen up, only to find very dirty, dated restrooms!

The layout is disconnected with the overseas terminal, international arrivals, and inter-island terminals completely separate. There is an inter-terminal shuttle but it is usually about a 15 minute wait. The walk is outdoors and takes about the same amount of time as you would wait for the shuttle. There is also no free WiFi and even the paid WiFi was down while we were there. I found this to be quite irritating. Also, don’t plan on finding a spot to charge your phone unless you want to sit on the floor. United clearly did not install power ports like they do at nearly every other major airport they serve.

Through the entire trip, we checked in with both United and Hawaiian Airlines. Hawaiian Airlines utilizes self check-in kiosks and the attendants were friendly. Everything was efficient for the inter-island flights. TSA PreCheck was extremely quick each time. United on the other hand, was a huge hassle. Don’t forget to stop at the USDA station before heading to check your bags. The Premier Access line was incredibly slow and the staff unfriendly. I’ve never had a negative experience with United’s Premier Access bag-check so this was a first.

So long, Honolulu!
So long, Honolulu!

Honolulu definitely gets forgotten by the airlines due to the fact of a low number of business travelers and tons of tourists. There seems to be a low incentive to make updates to HNL since the tourists keep on flowing and the inter-island flights so vital to Hawaii’s economy. While the terminal facilities are among the worst I have seen, the good service by Hawaiian Airlines and the quick TSA PreCheck are bright spots for HNL.