Japan’s All Nippon Airways – ANA – has been thrilling Star Wars fans with its series of Star War’s liveried planes and on March 27 the third and final aircraft in the specially-decorated series of planes will start flying international routes.
The aircraft will be unveiled in a ceremony on March 27 at Osaka’s Itami Airport, where the special livery was applied, and will then make a one-off domestic flight as ANA22 from Itami to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport.
At just past midnight on March 29, the plane will take off as ANA Flight 106 to Los Angeles and it will then fly various international routes between Tokyo’s Haneda and Narita and Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Washington D.C. and Houston.
The Star Wars theme isn’t just on the outside of the BB-8 plane. Inside passengers will find special BB-8 paper cups and headrest covers and find cabin attendants wearing BB-8 aprons.
Want to get on board?
ANA is having a contest to give away a pair of round-trip economy class tickets from Los Angeles to Tokyo for the first outbound flight. If you don’t win the first prize, you may win one of the 50 second prizes: a special BB-8™ ANA JET model plane.
Like everyone else, I’ve been holding my breath waiting for news – and hoping for bits of good news – about the aftermath of the earthquake in Japan.
I’ve also been watching – over and over – the incredible footage of the tsunami racing over the land. Especially the footage captured from Sendai Airport.
Some flights to and from Tokyo’s Narita and Haneda airports are resuming, but getting back to ‘normal’ is still a long way off. Narita’s website has a very brief update about the Influence of the Earthquake on the airport. Haneda’s website is showing some international flights departing and arriving, but no updates on the status of the airport facilities have been posted.
After Narita International Airport opened in 1978, Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (officially Tokyo International Airport) was used predominantly for domestic flights within Japan and for some charter flights within Asia.
But this past October, Haneda Airport christened a new runway and cut the ribbon on a swanky new International Terminal filled with shiny arrival and departures halls, gleaming gate areas and dozens of intriguing restaurants and shops.
A robust schedule of international flights to North America, Europe and Asia began rolling out in late October as well. Now travelers can fly to Haneda from Detroit, Honolulu, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London, Paris, Seoul, Singapore and a steadily increasing number of cities on a variety of major airlines. This week American Airlines, which already has regular service to and from Narita, is adding a daily flight to Haneda from New York’s JFK airport.
Flying to Tokyo is one thing. Getting from the airport to the city is another. A frustration of arriving at Narita has always been the hour (or more) it can take to get into town. Haneda Airport is much closer to Tokyo’s center and, with a sleek new monorail and train connections, passengers can now arrive downtown within 30 minutes.
But if there’s no need to rush, stick around. Haneda’s new International Terminal offers posh lounges and a wide variety of other amenities that make it a destination all its own.
Here are some highlights:
Shops and restaurants: honoring the old and the new
Beyond the ticket lobby, but still pre-security, travelers will find two distinct dining and shopping areas.
A shopping street lined with Japanese lanterns and antique-looking facades is designed to evoke a traditional Japanese Edo village. There are restaurants here serving traditional Japanese foods, conveyor belt-delivered sushi, pizza and French bistro dishes. A garden-like setting overlooks the entry hall and offers a quiet spot to enjoy green-tea soft swirl ice-cream from the newest branch of Kyo Hayashiya, a sweets vendor that has its roots in a teahouse established in 1753.
The Edo Marketplace shops stock everything from made-in-Japan clothing and elaborate floral arrangements to elegantly boxed gourmet and regional foods and organic cosmetics.
One level above the Edo Marketplace, in the brightly-lit Tokyo Pop Zone, it’s definitely the 21st century. Dining options here include a café with a built-in planetarium, and a branch of R Burger, a fast-food restaurant dishing up Japanese-sauce-topped burgers (pork, chicken, tofu, veggie, salmon, etc.) served on white steamed buns that boast wrinkle-reducing marine collagen among the ingredients.
Tokyo Pop Town also offers some entertaining and unusual shopping. There’s a toy store here with a giant slot car racetrack, a shop filled entirely with JAL Airlines-branded character souvenirs, a huge Hello Kitty marketplace and Design Japan Culture, a showcase for artist-made clothing and accessories that has a vending machine to dispense arty tote-bags and other treats.
“Convenient and agreeable services”
In addition to upscale airline lounges operated by JAL and ANA (All Nippon Airways), Haneda’s new International Terminal offers common-use airline lounges with shower rooms, massage chairs, Internet access, business facilities and places to nap.
An outdoor observation desk, free and open to the public, offers great views of airfield activity, including the arrival and departure of the occasional Pokémon character-adorned plane. Back inside the terminal, the amenities include smoking cubicles, a medical clinic and a brightly colored children’s play area where everyone is required to remove their shoes.
And in a country well-known for its high-tech toilets, the airport restrooms are a delight. “Ordinary toilets” have wider-than-normal doorways to accommodate both manual wheelchair users and travelers with suitcases. Folding doors on the cubicles include a sign indicating whether or not there’s a baby seat and a fold-down changing table inside. And inside each women’s restroom area there’s a urinal for use by small boys.
“Multipurpose toilets” are exactly that. To accommodate wheelchair users, passengers traveling with babies or toddlers, elderly people and anyone with a special need, there are restrooms equipped with just about every facility imaginable. In addition to diaper changing tables, beds and changing platforms, these restrooms have ostomate showers and sinks, layouts that allow for right or left hand transfers to the toilet seat from a wheelchair and an emergency button linked directly to the airport’s Disaster Control Center.
And, in what is certainly an airport first, there’s even a restroom designed specifically for use by service dogs.
But as of Thursday, October 21, 2010, Haneda Airport has a new runway and a brand new International Terminal that’s filled with shiny new arrival and departures halls, gleaming gate areas, and dozens of new restaurants and shops.
An increased schedule of international flights to North America, Europe and Asia begins on October 31st.
The big advantage of flying into Haneda Airport will be the time you’ll save getting to and from Tokyo. By express train, it’s an hour’s ride from Narita Airport to Tokyo.
From Haneda, you can get to town on a monoral or a train in about 20 minutes.
The other advantage: Haneda’s International Terminal is brand new.
I was on site for opening day inspecting the restaurants, the shops and the new amenities along with what seemed to be at least half the population of Japan.
Several hundred people lined up as early as 3 in the morning to be among the first to ride the new monorail connection to the airport. And throughout the day thousands of what the airlines certainly hope will be future passengers made their way out to the terminal just to take a look around.
They visited the outdoor observation deck. Even though it was raining and there wasn’t much you could see.
They cheered on the cars zipping around the airport’s slot car racetrack.
They bought Hello Kitty souvenirs in a Hello Kitty store that a father of two young Hello Kitty fans assured me was among the most-well stocked Hello Kitty stores he’s seen.
And they waited patiently to be among the first to have a meal in brand new airport eateries that range from a pizzeria with a brick oven to a French café and a restaurant where sushi is delivered via conveyor belt.
Around lunch time, I joined one of the longest lines at the airport. The one where people were waiting to order green-tea soft swirl from the newest branch of Kyo Hayashiya, a sweets vendor that has its roots in a teahouse established in 1753.
And like this woman who was buying ice cream for herself and a friend, I sat and ate the swirled, sweet treat while contemplating future adventures that might start at this sparkling new airport.
There’s lots more to share about the amenities at Haneda’s International Terminal – and the two domestic terminals, which are quite swanky.