A large group of us had planned to visit Okinawa for an important event. To secure award travel seats, I booked for a redemption as early as possible back in the summer of 2011 for a May 2012 departure. For 20,000 miles plus the fuel surcharge and taxes, I was all set to head to this southern Japanese outpost. This would be my third visit to Japan in 6 months.
As I headed to the airport, I checked the airport schedules on my mobile app to confirm the flight time. Even on the previous day, I did not receive any notification of delays. Unfortunately, the check revealed my flight would be delayed by an hour. Although that meant more time plane spotting, I had hoped to get into Naha early to sightsee as much as possible since the weather forecast called for clear skies.
Check-in was smooth at the Dragonair counters. A group of us were not able to secure Dragonair seats and had to book Hong Kong Airlines, which departed slightly earlier. They were lucky to fly on this A330. I would regret flying Dragonair later.
The plane spotting was quite decent that morning. I haven't seen a Virgin 747 for a long time.
After all these years flying out of HKG, I had never spotted Mongolian ever. They're a relative newcomer, but I was surprised to see them here at lunch time.
Hong Kong Airlines departed on-time as I watched in jealousy.
With still some time before my departure, I headed to the Travelers' Lounge for a break. I was amazed how nice it was, with more food selections than CX's Business Class lounge and half the crowd.
After a quick snack and a quick walk around the lounge and the TV area, I headed for the buses to the satellite terminal and did some more plane spotting. The satellite terminal consists of only 1 floor of gates, shared by departures and arrivals. Some areas were blocked off from window access for arrival corridors, so it took a bit of exploring to find the right spotting locations.
Today's flight would be operated by an A320, a far smaller plane than Hong Kong Airlines' A330. We eventually departed 58 minutes late at 12:58pm.
The captain came on the PA and apologized for the delay, which was due to air traffic delays in Shanghai causing the aircraft's late arrival. Having been on two roundtrips to Shanghai that same month, I could relate and believe that explanation.
We waited for a few aircraft in front of us to depart, and we were soon on our way, taking off towards the east.
Wonder what that golf course will become in the future?
It was a very cloudy day, but some breaks did emerge every now and then. Here is Ting Kau Bridge.
Macaroni doesn't tend to survive well if left long. While the beef and vegetables were delicious, the carbs were a bit disgusting.
We soon reached Taiwan's shores. They were having a sunny day, and the aerial views were very nice.
I was quite annoyed there was no onboard entertainment whatsoever, so I had no idea which part of Taiwan we've entered and whether we were passing by any of the major cities.
Taiwan was about half way between Hong Kong and Okinawa. The skies stayed clear as we left Taiwan and flew over the Pacific Ocean.
Notice Dragonair's new destinations have been added to the map, including Xian and Jeju but not Chiang Mai yet. I had also redeemed a flight to Xian the month before.
We passed by a number of small islands, an indication that landing was near. Some of these had lovely beaches and what looks like great diving opportunities. Given how north this place is, I was surprised at how tropical the sea looks!
I was lucky to have a left window seat, as the landing was from the north and I had a view of the city on approach. The weather was just like what the forecast had predicted - sunny and beautiful.
Okinawa is home to both American and Japanese air bases.
We parked on the tarmac next to a few other smaller jets. There would be no airbridge today. Our arrival time of 16:40 was 65 minutes later than scheduled.
The Japanese hosts were not intending to pack the bus before leaving for the arrivals area. With plenty of standing room left, the doors closed and we embarked on a short trip to the terminal.
"Beware the vehicle will brake sharply."
Immigration was orderly but the line got long rather quickly. The terminal wasn't particularly big and the luggage took a bit of time to come out. Luckily, I only packed carry-on luggage but I was held back at customs, where the officer asked many questions to each passenger. They weren't as bad as the Australians, who readily demanded to open the luggage to seek contraband, but the long chit-chats took its toll on my rush to sightsee. To make things worse, the monorail was at the domestic terminal next door, which added a 10-minute walk in the outdoors.