12 days ago I hopped on a plane bound for Tokyo, Japan
I’ve been lucky enough to have visited a lot of places around the world, but I’d say that Japan is easily my favorite. I traveled through Tokyo, Kyoto, Takayama, and Osaka about 10 years ago, and completely fell in love with the country. The culture (so uniquely awesome), the people (so damn friendly), the food (so much suuuushiiii), and so many other indescribable things.
Add to that the fact that they have (arguably) the best Disney parks in the world?! You win, Japan. You win.
Qantas First Class Lounge
Mark travels a lot for work (and for fun) so he has Exec Platinum status on American Airlines. Because of that, we were able to relax in the Qantas First Class Lounge after we got through security. A pretty neat perk for frequent flyers, but sadly it’s where our happiness with American Airlines began and ended that day. More on that later.
We were there pretty early, so we grabbed breakfast (mimosas included!) and hunkered down for some pre-flight relaxation in the quiet, zen space.
We flew out the morning after Election Day, so things were feeling very eery. Very apocalyptic. I tried not to let the results dampen my spirits, but it was near impossible, and I teetered off and on between anger and despair.
But, what’s done is done.
Look at ‘dem smiles. So cute, so naive, and so ignorant of the travel nightmare right around the corner…
We were booked on AA Flight 27, a 10:40am nonstop from LAX to HND (Haneda International Airport) about 20 minutes outside Tokyo. American Airlines flies the best of their fleet there, a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. I’d flown on one once before (from London Heathrow to LAX) and it was just as purrrrty the second time. Lay flat seats, privacy, big personal TV screens, and windows that get dark digitally, without the use of a plastic shade.
The trip that wasn’t (aka, American Airlines is the worst)
But, by the end of the day I can honestly say I’d be happy never setting foot on a Dreamliner again. Actually, let me correct that statement: I’d be happy never setting foot on an American Airlines flight again. Cause, damn. What a disaster it was.
It started when we first pulled away from the gate and began taxiing to the runway. We stalled, and the pilot came online to say something you never want to hear. “We’re having some trouble with the engines.” So, we taxiied back to the gate, and waited on the plane for two hours while they fixed whatever needed to be fixed. Easy, right?
Well, we start taxiing out the second time, and (SURPRISE!) stall again. This time the captain comes on and says, “We’re having trouble with the other engine, so we need to go back to the gate again.” Only, there was no gate available for us, so instead we drove to a remote plane parking lot and sat for 3 more hours. LA was having yet another one of their horrid heat waves that day, so it was 95°F and absolutely roasting on the plane. No food, no A/C, little to no updates from the flight crew, and no way out. It was the worst.
After over 5 hours of being unable to deplane, they finally put us on buses and drove us back to the terminal where they told us they had another plane waiting to take us to HND. It was nearly 5PM at this point and everyone was exhausted, but still somewhat optimistic. Cut to an hour and a half later and we were finally boarding that new plane. Time to go!!
Except, not. We sat on board (again) for over an hour, while the flight crew told us that they were just waiting for catering so they could “treat us to a wonderful flight experience.” Lies, lies, lies. Turns out they never had enough crew to fly us to Tokyo on the replacement plane, and after another hour of waiting on this plane they finally told us it was canceled. People were pissed, kids were crying. Instead of being honest and canceling the flight outright when they first had mechanical issues, they strung us along for over TEN HOURS. I’d never felt more disrespected and mistreated by an airline, ever.
To Tokyo we go, take two
After an anxiety ridden night of sleep, we made our way back to LAX the next morning. It was a crazy runaround trying to get rebooked on another flight, but after lots of back and forth we finally got seats on an 11:20AM flight into Tokyo’s Narita International Airport. It’s further from the city than Haneda, and the plane they put us on was wearing at the seams (literally built in the 60s — it had power ports for cigarette lighters!) but at this point we just wanted to get off the ground.
Plus, I asked nicely and they let me take a peak at the cockpit! It was pretty awesome and I felt like such a kid. Day, made.
The flight was 12 hours, so I hunkered down and got comfy. The food wasn’t half bad, and neither were the entertainment options. I watched Finding Dory, Star Trek Beyond, and Crazy Stupid Love (twice).
We left LAX at 11:20AM on Thursday, and landed at Tokyo’s rainy NRT just after 4PM on Friday. It was a bummer to have missed out on a full day of exploring due to AA’s incompetence, but we were so very excited to get started on our adventure!