Earlier this week I had some work to do in Osaka, so on Sunday morning I took a flight from Tokyo Haneda to Kansai airport since I would be working close to the airport and it was faster, cheaper, and easier than taking the train (though I would also like to take the train at some point if I go back, as the scenery looked impressive). Having flown quite frequently in the US and having heard about how Japanese airlines tend to have such high demand that they use 747’s as regional jets, I was expecting something worse than the usual mad stampede of a airport and flight experience. I ended up being quite pleasantly surprised to be treated like a paying customer on a flight for once. There was no cost to check normal luggage and my bag was at baggage claim about the time I got there, and the boarding process is so much more efficient when it is simply a case of people carrying normal sized laptop bags or similar and going to their seat than it is when 90% of the people are lugging aboard suitcases they can barely lift and the airplane was not designed to carry in overhead bins.
My flight was on Star Flyer, an airline I had never heard of but which apparently has a very good reputation – though I was wondering when we boarded via a bus gate and had a lengthy bus ride to an airplane sitting well away from the terminal. Their safety video was entertaining enough to want to watch, with cartoon ninja flight attendants rappelling down oxygen mask tubes and shooting a cigarette out of a smoker’s hand. Some of the passengers were interesting as well, one of them was a sumo wrestler fully decked out in traditional “travelling clothes” of a robe and wooden sandals. From my perspective their reputation was well earned – seats were comfortable and surprisingly spacious, the in-flight service was outstanding, and the captain apologized for landing 5 minutes late. They also have Tully’s coffee from Seattle, quite a surprising touch for an airline in an area where most of the coffee seems to come cold in cans from a vending machine.
The flight route went more or less in a straight line along the coast, providing a good view of Mt. Fuji to the north and the coastline to the south with bands of mountains and cities in between. If I find myself with a few days off I may well head over to somewhere between the two cities as the landscape looked great for hiking.