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Introduction: Revisiting Tokyo…Twice

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Trip Report: Revisiting Tokyo...Twice

Before I start this trip report, I’m fully aware that I never managed to finish my Bangkok trip report. I’ll get back to that, but now that I’m back in somewhat of a trip report writing slump, I wanted to write about something that I like writing about – flying. (While there’s a flight report I’ve yet to write in the Bangkok series, I’d still like to document my time at the Siam Kempinski Bangkok – which takes a while.)

The inspiration for the trip began when I was looking at a short excursion abroad using expiring Asia Miles after my exams. I’m trying to make a switchover to American AAdvantage (which has been a complete PITA, though I’m finding a few workarounds as of late), so I’m trying to use Asia Miles to fly premium products that I otherwise wouldn’t have the chance to. One of the airlines I’ve really wanted to fly is Japan Airlines, so I found some award space between Hong Kong and Tokyo Haneda. I haven’t been to Tokyo since 2010, so it seemed like a good time to revisit a city I remember loving. (They also had award space on a morning flight to Tokyo Narita, which I would’ve otherwise preferred, though flying their reverse herringbone product seemed more exciting than flying their last-generation angled flat product.) This cost 30,000 Asia Miles per person.

a seat with a pillow and a pillow in the middle of a seat
Japan Airlines Boeing 777 Business Class

Another product I’ve always wanted to try was ScootBiz, which is low-cost airline Scoot’s premium cabin product. They used to fly 787s between Singapore and Hong Kong, though as of late 2017 switched to flying A320s, which don’t feature ScootBiz. Fortunately, Scoot still flies their 787 from Singapore to Taipei to Tokyo Narita and back, so I tagged along on a Tokyo to Taipei segment.

Here’s where I become an idiot (which happens 9 out of 10 times when I book flights, being the inexperienced person I am). I caught a sale fare of HK$1,200 one way on Scoot one night, though my mom was insistent on waiting it out, in case award space for a direct flight between Tokyo and Hong Kong opened up. Unsurprisingly, award space between Tokyo and Hong Kong didn’t open up until a week before departure, and Scoot raised their prices to HK$1,900 one way the next morning. So much for maximising cheap deals…

While not excellent, HK$1,900 for three and a half hours in what essentially is a premium economy product is still quite decent, so we secured two seats at that price the same week between Tokyo Narita and Taipei.

a row of seats in an airplane
Scoot Boeing 787 ScootBiz Cabin

Obviously from Taipei we had to get back to Hong Kong. Originally we booked ourselves on a longhaul A330 in business class using 16,000 Asia Miles per person (which isn’t cheap, though half of the miles were expiring anyway), though that plane got swapped to a regional 777 around two weeks after we booked.

When award space opened up a few days before departure, we were able to swap to a later flight, which was operated by an A350-1000. Perfect! We were more than happy to pay an extra 1,000 Asia Miles to not only get a better product, but also be sure that we’d make our flight with time to spare, given we originally only gave ourself two and a half hours to transfer in Taipei under separate PNRs with check-in baggage. (Sometimes I wonder who books our flights…wait, that’s me.)

inside an airplane with rows of seats and a television
Cathay Pacific Airbus A350-1000 Business Class Cabin

That’s a sound itinerary, right? Go figure the week after we confirmed our flights, I was invited to join my friends’ graduation trip, in…Tokyo.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m so lucky to have the chance to travel with friends, and this spun itself into one of the most fun trips I’ve ever had. But I wasn’t going to let my mother fly the return on her own (she can barely find her way to the gate, let alone transfer under separate PNRs and check-in baggage in the dump that is Taipei Taoyuan Airport), so I had to bear the shame of sheepishly telling people that I spent my hard-earned Asia Miles jetting back and forth between Tokyo and Hong Kong in a matter of two days.

I still had some Asia Miles left (they weren’t expiring, but…oh well), so I booked myself a simple roundtrip itinerary between Hong Kong and Tokyo Narita in Cathay Pacific economy class for 20,000 Asia Miles. It seemed like a better option than paying HK$4,000, since I wasn’t about to use 20,000 Asia Miles in the near future anyway (I didn’t have enough for a one-way to London, and award space during September is abysmal, so…)

I wanted to try something new, so booked myself onto Cathay Pacific’s A350-1000 on the outbound, and their new 10-abreast 777-300 economy class on the inbound. While the outbound was switched to an A330 (which puts Cathay Pacific’s A350-1000 economy class back on my need-to-fly list), I still got to try out Cathay Pacific’s narrower 777-300 economy class, despite our flight being hellishly delayed.

seats in an airplane with a few monitors
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300 Economy Class

I wasn’t planning to review Cathay Pacific’s A330 economy class, though realised that the last time I did was a while ago, so I might as well revisit the product, given it’s still one of my favourites.

a blue seats in an airplane
Cathay Pacific Airbus A330 Economy Class

The final itinerary was as follows:

04/06 Japan Airlines 26 Hong Kong to Tokyo Haneda dep 15:15 arr 20:25
08/06 Scoot 899 Tokyo Narita to Taipei dep 12:05 arr 14:50
08/06 Cathay Pacific 565 Taipei to Hong Kong dep 19:20 arr 21:15
10/06 Cathay Pacific 520 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita dep 10:35 arr 16:05
13/06 Cathay Pacific 505 Tokyo Narita to Hong Kong dep 18:30 arr 22:25

I didn’t mind the itinerary – I’m young, and you guys know how much I love flying! But obviously, June 8 alone was enough to get my mother exhausted, and go figure the last flight on Cathay Pacific’s 777 suffered a three-hour delay, which left me facing an all-nighter that knocked the flu into me.

It made for some awesome footage and some great reviews on the way, though, so stay tuned.

Booking The Hotels

Firstly, I booked an airbnb with my friends. I don’t have nearly enough photos to make any sort of review out of it, and there’s not much I can add to the photos taken of the place on booking.com (yes, it’s an aparthotel, which means it can be booked as an airbnb or as a hotel), so I won’t be reviewing it.

Meanwhile I will be reviewing the hotel I stayed at with my mother. Back when we used to frequent Tokyo as kids, we always stayed at the Hotel Century Southern Tower, located in Shinjuku. Shinjuku itself is kind of a big shopping district, though it’s pretty close to many parts of Tokyo that I like; so we didn’t hesitate to book the same hotel again, even if purely for the nostalgia factor. I learned many things about hotels from this place, so it’s an honour to have the chance to review it, despite the fact that it’s a little past its prime as of 2019.

two beds in a room
Hotel Century Southern Tower Tokyo Twin Room

I didn’t visit many new lounges – ScootBiz doesn’t allow lounge access, I don’t have oneworld status, and I’ve been to the Cathay Pacific lounge in Taipei before (it’s a great lounge, despite the fact that it has no showers). One new lounge I visited was Cathay Pacific’s The Deck, which opened last year – it’s the only oneworld business class lounge in Hong Kong I hadn’t been to prior to this trip, so I’ll be reviewing it.

a man sitting in a room with a lamp and a table
Cathay Pacific The Deck Lounge Hong Kong

Bottom Line

Since I won’t be talking about my time in Tokyo (mainly because I don’t consider myself a city expert), I’ll add here that I like visiting Tokyo as a tourist, though I don’t see myself living there in the future – unlike cities such as Singapore, I don’t feel like I fit in, even though I’ll probably be back soon. If I return to Tokyo or transit there in the near future, I’ll try my best to book a flight into Haneda Airport, as I hugely prefer it to Narita Airport, as it’s better designed, airier, less crowded, and features an observation deck that is pretty much an aviation rite of passage (I’m thinking of writing a separate post about how cool it is).

an airplane at an airport at night
Watching our aircraft from Haneda’s observation deck

Otherwise, the different airlines I flew gave me different impressions. Three of the above flights I flew really impressed me (which you’ll know if you read my first impressions posts here, here, here and here), so I look forward to telling you guys about them. At the end of the day, I’m happy I was able to start flying again and producing aviation content after such a long hiatus, and hope to be able to do so consistently throughout the summer – I have some exciting travel planned!

Stay tuned – this should be a fun report to write, and a good read!

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