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.

 

The TSA PreCheck Rants are Abound!

Over the last couple of days, I’ve seen quite a bit of back and forth between a few prominent travel bloggers and the TSA on Twitter. While government bureaucracy isn’t sexy and the TSA probably isn’t America’s favorite federal agency, TSA PreCheck has been quite a time saver since I gained the benefit earlier this year. I gained the PreCheck benefits through my Global Entry membership for $100 for 5 years. Not a bad price when comes out to about 5 cents a day for a pretty cool benefit. I wrote a previous post about how my application experience went. 

Everyone has a different experience and it’s not for everyone but here are my personal observations:

1) I’ve had 100% success rate on all my flight bookings since joining. I hope that keeps up but I’, expecting a time where it won’t work at some point.

2) Most PreCheck travelers are fairly efficient and understand the process. However, some appear to have no idea of what PreCheck is and I’m not sure if they even recall signing up for it. And yes, I am aware that the TSA occasionally lets random passengers into the PreCheck lines. I’ve rarely seen that occur lately.

3) It’s just about essential when flying through major leisure airports like. I’m frequently in Orlando or Tampa where TSA PreCheck is totally worth it. There’s not many business travelers so the PreCheck lines are short. Plus leisure airports usually means lots of slow, infrequent travelers who can barely figure out how to take off their shoes. Honolulu was another place where I saved a ton of time.

4) If you’re flying through major business hubs like LAX or JFK, expect to be in line with a lot of others PreCheck travelers. Heavy business traffic. It may not save you time but it will save you the headache of removing shoes and belts.

The TSA is currently looking to expand the PreCheck program to more travelers which has many frequent travelers concerned. I think if the average traveler is educated on how TSA PreCheck works and is prepared to move through the process efficiently, I think it might work. However, forcing tons of infrequent travelers through the TSA PreCheck program who will make PreCheck vastly more inefficient is going to piss off quite a few travelers. I don’t expect TSA PreCheck to be an “elite” program but I think you’re going to be in it, there’s an expectation to be prepared for the process.

In the end, TSA is there to ensure the safety of air travel. As long as my experience with TSA PreCheck continues to go as it’s gone so far, I’ll continue to endorse it as one of the best travel perks out there.

Global Entry Approved….Finally!

I’d been contemplating registering for Global Entry on and off for a few months and finally decided it was worth the $100 bite for five years or enrollment. I travel internationally somewhat regularly but the added bonus of TSA Precheck was the perk that won me over. There’s a lot of info out there with folks sharing their various experiences with the Global Entry application process. But the average American probably doesn’t know what Global Entry is or how to sign up. Most frequent travelers love this since they despise the thought of too many folks getting in the TSA PreCheck lines. But who can blame them as the whole point of TSA PreCheck is to save time and longer lines will only defeat that.

Fortunately for myself, I’m not based out of LGA or another overcrowded airport with a half million other frequent travelers enrolled in a Trusted Traveler program. The security lines at my main airport, Dallas-Fort Worth, has very short security lines most of the time. I also use Dallas Love Field frequently which can have some heavy peak TSA lines but still nothing like LAX or LGA.

The process of applying for Global Entry does require a bit of patience. I’ve heard varying timelines of both the application and scheduling of the interview. Depending on where you live and how many Global Entry centers are nearby plays into how quickly you can get your interview. If you are applying for Global Entry, you will begin by registering in the Homeland Security GOES web portal and submitting an application for Global Entry. You can also apply for TSA PreCheck and Nexus through GOES. However, you must be near the Canadian border for your Nexus interview as Nexus centers are only in Canada and the Northern border states. If you do live near a Nexus center, it is a better value than Global Value at only $50 vs. $100 for five years.

Once you’ve submitted your application through the GOES system, the application will head off to Homeland Security for review. I’ve heard applications take as long as a couple weeks to as short as a couple days. Mine was the latter at just about 2 days to receive preliminary approval. As long as you don’t have a history of breaking the law or violating customs rules, I wouldn’t sweat being approved. The GOES system will notify you by email when there are changes to your application status. Once you receive you pre-approval electronically through the GOES system, you have 30 days to schedule your interview at a Global Entry center. DFW Airport is the only Global Entry center in the Dallas area. DFW currently has a very full schedule through the summer. I checked other airports around the country and airports like SFO, JFK, and DEN had availability for interviews much sooner. I got pre-approval in early April and the next available slot was at the end of June. After that, the next slot wasn’t until August. Not too efficient, eh?

All the travel blogs will tell you to check daily for cancellations and earlier slots to open up. I recommend this as well but it took a long time for an earlier slot to open up. A couple weeks ago, a slot opened up on June 7th. Of course, I took it. For all the waiting weeks or months for your interview, the actual interview only took me about 10 minutes of waiting in the lobby and 3 minutes for the interview. They take a quick picture and take your fingerprints. Other than long wait to schedule an interview, it’s very painless.

You’ll receive your Trusted Traveler ID number on your pre-approval letter but it won’t be any good until after your interview. Homeland Security tells you it takes 48 hours to receive the final approval email but I got mine about 2 hours later. Of course, as soon as I got home I entered my Trusted Traveler ID into all of my existing reservations and my frequent flyer profiles. I should receive my Global Entry card in about 2 weeks. I hope my picture looks nice!

Here’s to looking forward to lots of TSA PreCheck selection and painless, short U.S. re-entry!

Share your own experience with Global Entry in the comments below.