AC 6 Flight Report
(Tokyo Haneda - Toronto)


I needed to go from Hong Kong to Toronto but knowing how long and full direct flights on this route get, I decided to break up the trip. Armed with my mileage accounts, I could stop in either Seoul or Tokyo to make the transpacific leg more manageable. Having been to Seoul a few months earlier, I chose Tokyo. An added plus was to depart from Haneda, which is much closer to the city than Narita. Air Canada actually doesn't fly from Narita to Toronto during the winter low season.

I chose to travel on the Keikyu Line for the short ride to Haneda. The trip from Shinagawa only takes about 20 minutes.

Keikyu Kamata is the major transfer station where local trains meet the express ones to Haneda. After getting off the local train, it was quite a long walk to find the escalator to go downstairs for the Haneda trains. Shy of rush hour past 4pm, I was surprised to find a huge crowd had gathered at the platform. The display showed a bunch of upcoming Haneda-bound trains but the departure time was empty for all of them. Below, a set of moving text showed what appears to be a delay. Could it be that the infamously punctual Japanese train system could break down?

A Haneda-bound train did pull up about 10 minutes later, and the entire trip took only about 30 minutes. Lucky I had budgeted lots of spare time to check in as I wanted to do some shopping at the terminal before leaving Japan.

Each section of check-in counters is denoted by an English letter sign, with the airline's logo dynamically projected just below it. I didn't realize this was an electronic gadget at first. Air Canada has its logo solely placed in one row when I arrived, only to be joined by Hawaiian when I dropped by later.

There were no lines at the check-in counter, and soon I found out why. At each check-in counter screen, there was a message noting a delay to 8:30pm from 6:50pm. I now had a lot of time to kill at the airport. No meal vouchers were offered even though it was dinner time, but the agent was friendly and apologized for the delay so I didn't let it get to me. Air Canada is one of those airlines that everyone loves to put down, so I didn't have much expectations anymore.

Haneda's international terminal isn't very big but its services are great. Start at the top with the observation deck that looks out towards the runway and domestic terminal. Tokyo's skyline was in the distance with Skytree clearly identifiable.

The screens throughout the terminal not only show departures, but also arrivals. The incoming flight from Toronto was delayed 2 hours, causing tonight's delay.

The terminal wasn't too brightly lit with what looked like to be mood lighting.

Many airlines' props were stored along the windows behind the last row of check-in counters.

Upstairs, they re-created a historic Tokyo street scene with a wooden bridge overlooking the check-in counters below. I found a few cheaper mass market dining options near here as well. But prices at the airport were in-line with the city actually.

Behind here is a display case of airlines that you can spot here.

There was quite a lot selection of gifts, pharmacy items, and snacks available at the mall upstairs. There was even a miniature race track for the kids to pass their time.

I settled for a lighter salad. I prefer not to be stuffed full before my flights.

At the revised arrival time of 7pm, I went back to the observation deck to spot the airplane arrive at a bus gate. So to make a delay worse, we need to board buses to get to the plane.

Expecting an earlier boarding to cater for the buses, I breezed through security and immigration, both of which had minimal queues. Air-side, there were lots of shops and restaurants and none of them were crowded. There was a large number of gates in the international section, and with not so many departures at this hour, I was surprised they couldn't find a proper gate for my flight. Meanwhile, there were persistent announcements for specific passengers throughout the terminal on our flight for some reason.

The rest of the terminal was quite empty and deserted.

Boarding was not timely and we were the only ones using the bus gate, so there were plenty of seats available. There were a lot of staff around but it didn't seem too clear where the zone queues were. One lady had a sign for zone 3 but passengers in general didn't know where to go. There were multiple buses ready to take passengers and the queue slowly moved. The buses were the humane kind with lots of seats so there were few standees. They didn't cram each bus to the brink and it was only a short ride to the plane.

At least I got some interesting captures from the tarmac ...

I settled towards the back and when the announcement came that we were done, I was surrounded by empty rows of seats. Some passengers rushed in right away to claim the entire row of 4 seats for the long transpacific journey. I had my next seat free and was satisfied. We pushed back 2 hours late for a long taxi to take-off.

We took off towards the north and did a few turns to exit the coast. The left window seat would have commanded lovely views of the city, so I was out of luck tonight. With such a light load, a Tokyo departure seems more preferable over the perpetually-full Hong Kong-Toronto flights. We had a bumpy ride just off the Japanese coast as the crew was serving a late dinner, which was completely uninspiring so I won't complain so much about Cathay's food anymore.

I recall a few years ago when I flew AC across the Atlantic that the IFE selection was mediocre. It didn't improve much on this flight, with a lot of shows that I have never even heard of and a general lack of internationally-acclaimed or popular programs. Nevertheless, as we all carry our devices these days, the USB and power ports were available at each seat. What did surprise me was a travel series from Fairchild TV, the Canadian Chinese channel.

I was happy to see the menu on the screen rather than printed on paper.

By the time the cart came, there was only 1 choice left.

After dinner, I took advantage of my empty neighbour and dozed off a bit. We had quite a bumpy entry into Alaska and cup noodles or sandwiches/cookies were served mid-flight. Normally, cup noodles would create quite a smell throughout the cabin but I was surprised there wasn't any.

I had hoped for a spectacular aurora show but the sun had began to rise. As we crossed northern Canada, the clouds went away and the skies calmed.

Good evening, Thunder Bay.

Overall, the crew wasn't particularly friendly although they got their jobs done. Being an overnight flight, I didn't expect them to chat much so we could rest more, and they did proactively walk around several times to provide water. The dinner included a small bottle, which was not enough for a 11.5 hour crossing, so this was a smart move.

Then came a 2nd meal. Japanese congee was gone already. They should use some common sense and start from the back for the other meal so the same passenger won't get burned twice.

I liked how they summarized the duty-free concessions by destination.

While on this international flight, the meals and drinks were free, passengers on shorter flights within the continent would not be as lucky. After all, this airline, like many others in North America, is a hybrid low-cost carrier as well.

The bathroom didn't have much amenities. No lotion, but there was hand wash. Being not so full tonight, there were no line-ups out back.

The final meal was served over Thunder Bay, about an hour and a half from landing. I dozed off again and awoke as lights from Toronto's suburbia appeared and it was quite evident it had snowed a lot recently.

We landed into a dark and snowy Toronto. Unlike past arrivals, the helpers at immigration seem to have smartened up to direct the crowds around, so it wasn't a long wait to be processed despite the queue snaking around several times deep. Bags came out after a short wait. My priority tags from Cathay were left on but I wasn't sure whether they got priority processing on arrival.

Seems Pearson has improved a lot and even the luggage carts are now free. I never understood why they required coins before considering international tourists won't likely have any Canadian change at this point.

Service Summary

AC will safely get you from point A to B. The HD 777 is a torture if you are stuck in the middle or at a window, but with a light loading, I had plenty of space to stretch and it was surprisingly pleasant. Food is not their forte but you can easily fill up with the portions.

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