Brian’s Travel Spot: Returning from Tokyo Haneda

The nose of one British Airways Boeing 777-300 looks very like another. This one is taking me back from Tokyo Haneda to London Heathrow, seen here on the stand at Haneda.Last week I wrote about my flight from Manchester to Tokyo’s Haneda airport via Heathrow. This week it’s the turn of my flight back, on Friday, 27th July, two weeks to the day after I flew out. As I mentioned in the previous Travel Spot, Tokyo has two international airports, Haneda and Narita, with British Airways having one flight per day to each. It’s perfectly possible, by the way, to fly into one airport and out of the other, but, as with my flights over, price dictated that I flew both into and out of Haneda.

This left me on the 08:50 flight from Haneda, an entirely unreasonable time to be at an airport, let alone to be taking off from one. Since we were heading west, this was a daytime flight, scheduled to arrive at Heathrow at 13:10 local time on the same day, 12 hours and 20 minutes later. From there I had a connecting flight to Manchester at 16:00, touching down in at 17:05, a mere 16 hours after I set off.

However, before any of that could happen, I had to get to the airport from my hotel in Nishi Azabu.

You can see how that went after the gallery.

  • Time to say goodbye to my hotel, and to Tokyo, and head off for the airport.
  • This involved a short walk down to the Hiro-O station on the Hibiya Metro Line.
  • Here I am on the train, the first of three that will take me to the airport.
  • I've written before about the excellence of the information on the public transport.
  • Here's a map of the line, in English, with all the stations, plus where we are.
  • I'm only going one stop to Ebisu. As well as useful information, there are adverts...
  • Before we get to Ebisu, the display shows all the lines I will be able to transfer to...
  • ... and when I get there, it shows me the exits. I'm in car six and the exit is by car three.
  • Look! I'm driving the train! Well, not really. From the previous day, this is the Saikyo Line...
  • ... one of my options at Ebisu. I actually took the Yamanote line, seen here on the right...
  • ... although now we're about to pass under it.
  • The Saikyo Line runs non-stop between Ebisu and Osaki. The Yamanote Line also takes...
  • ... the same route, but stops at two stations along the way, Meguro and Gotanda.
  • More cool, bi-lingual displays. At Osaki, the Saikyo Line turns into the Rinkai Line...
  • ... which I could have used to connect with the monorail to the airport. Instead, I took...
  • ... the Yamanote Line to Shinagawa (next stop), changing to the Keikyu Line for Haneda.
  • The signs on the platform are very important: the line has at least four different trains...
  • ... which go to different destinations and stop at different stations. I found this out the...
  • ... hard way two days before when I got on an express only wanting to go one stop.
  • In fact, it went 10 stations before stopping, so I had to catch a local train back.
  • At least I got to drive the train this time around!
  • I never did work out what the different colours of the trains meant...
  • ... which might have been helpful in catching the correct train!
  • Oh well, my lesson was learnt. I made damn sure I was on the correct train for the airport.
  • As a slow train, we had to pull in to let...
  • ... the various express trains pass us, which was rather galling! A two-minute journey...
  • ... took over half an hour, which would have been disastrous on the way to the airport.
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Given how much I dislike early morning flights, I’m still slightly puzzled as to how I ended up starting my trip to Japan with a flight that left Manchester at 08:40 and returning on one that left at 08:50. This is annoyingly bad planning (well, budgeting) on my part!

As is typically the case for me, no matter how early I have to get up for a flight, I never seem able to get to bed at a reasonable hour the night before. In this instance, I was still up and packing well past midnight, only to be up again at 06:00 and out of the hotel by 06:15.

Although it’s generally quicker to get to Haneda from the centre of Tokyo than it is to get to Narita, it’s usually less straightforward. In my case, it took three trains, whichever route I went, unless I wanted to pay for a taxi or airport limousine (which I didn’t) or catch an airport shuttle bus from one of the major hotels. These are generally slower and much more expensive than taking trains, but usually mean fewer changes, going direct from the hotel to the airport.

Shuttles aside, I had at two main routes to the airport. The first was to effectively retrace my steps from the journey in two weeks before on the monorail. A variation on this was to hook up with the monorail at one of its intermediate stations, Tennozu Isle, which should, in theory, have been quicker. The second main route was to use the Keikyu Line, one of Tokyo’s many suburban rail lines, to get out to the airport, which is the one I ended up taking.

All of these options involved me getting the metro from Hiro-O, a station less than 10 minutes’ walk south of my hotel, and going one stop to Ebisu, where I transferred over from the metro to the train station and faced my first choice. I could catch the Saikyo Line to Osaki, where it continued to become the Rinkai Line, which would get me to Tennozu Isle and the monorail. In theory, this was the quickest route, except that the trains only run every 20 minutes and I’d just missed one.

Instead I jumped on the more frequent Yamanote Line, where I could carry on to Hamamatsucho and the start of the monorail, a total of six stops, or jump off at Shinagawa, which was four stops, and transfer to the Keikyu Line, where I’d get the Haneda Express, one of four different trains running on that line. As you will have seen from the gallery, I’d been on that line two days before and, being unaware of the various options, got on the wrong train. That time I’d wanted to go one stop on a local train and instead caught an express which didn’t stop until it reached Keikyu Kamata, ironically where the line to the airport branches off from the main line.

Google Maps told me that the Shinagawa/Keikyu Line was the best option, so that’s what I did, ensuring that I got on the correct train, the Haneda Express, which runs every few minutes. I caught the 06:55 train and 25 minutes later, rolled into the airport, slightly later than I wanted, but still 1½ hours before my flight was due to leave.

Even though it was early on Friday morning, the trains were still crowded. While the metro was relatively quiet (see the gallery), the Yamanote and Keikyu Lines were jam packed, with me and my (very large) rucksack literally squeezing on in both cases, which explains why there are no photos of the rest of my journey in the gallery!

I’ll leave you with a final note about cost. It’s hard to give an exact price because I paid with my Pasmo card, each leg of the journey was separately charged and I wasn’t keeping a close eye on my card balance. However, the total cost, of all three legs, was less than £5, which is pretty decent.

You can see how I got on at the airport after the gallery.

  • By 07:20 I was in the spacious departure halls of Haneda Airport.
  • There wasn't much of a queue at the British Airways check-in desk...
  • ... and five minutes after arriving at the airport, I was at security...
  • ... and ten minutes after that, I was in the even more spacious gate area.
  • I made the most of my business class ticket to pop into the lounge...
  • ... which is up these escalators (turn right at the top).
  • There's a spacious (that word is coming up a lot) lounge seating area off to the left...
  • ... with desk-style seating on the right...
  • ... where you'll also find the food.
  • I had a Japanese-style breakfast to see me off...
  • ... while sitting at one the computer-style desks. These have power and free WiFi...
  • ... and some pretty good views out over the planes standing at the gates.
  • The flight was meant to board at 08:10. By 08:15 it was 'boarding soon'. Remembering...
  • ... the long walk from the gate when I arrived, I thought I'd better set off. Spacious.
  • Lots of power (and, given my recent back problems, somewhere you can stand at).
  • It is a long way to the gate... Finally here after a five minute walk.
  • The gate is down one level. Not a great deal of seating down there. Not enough for a 777.
  • Talking of which, here's the first view of my plane, a Boeing 777-300.
  • A better view of the plane on the stand.
  • 08:25 and we're still not boarding. Good to see lots of power outlets at the gate though.
  • Five minutes later and we finally start boarding. See you on board.
By 07:20 I was in the spacious departure halls of Haneda Airport.1 There wasn't much of a queue at the British Airways check-in desk...2 ... and five minutes after arriving at the airport, I was at security...3 ... and ten minutes after that, I was in the even more spacious gate area.4 I made the most of my business class ticket to pop into the lounge...5 ... which is up these escalators (turn right at the top).6 There's a spacious (that word is coming up a lot) lounge seating area off to the left...7 ... with desk-style seating on the right...8 ... where you'll also find the food.9 I had a Japanese-style breakfast to see me off...10 ... while sitting at one the computer-style desks. These have power and free WiFi...11 ... and some pretty good views out over the planes standing at the gates.12 The flight was meant to board at 08:10. By 08:15 it was 'boarding soon'. Remembering...13 ... the long walk from the gate when I arrived, I thought I'd better set off. Spacious.14 Lots of power (and, given my recent back problems, somewhere you can stand at).15 It is a long way to the gate... Finally here after a five minute walk.16 The gate is down one level. Not a great deal of seating down there. Not enough for a 777.17 Talking of which, here's the first view of my plane, a Boeing 777-300.18 A better view of the plane on the stand.19 08:25 and we're still not boarding. Good to see lots of power outlets at the gate though.20 Five minutes later and we finally start boarding. See you on board.21
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I reached Haneda at 07:20. I wouldn’t describe it as a small airport, although the international departures area feels smaller than I remember Narita from the previous year. However, it is a very compact airport and easy to get around. From the train station, it’s a couple of minutes to the check-in desk (and the British Airways check-in desk was at the far end) where I found a very short queue (of one person). Five minutes later I was checked-in and ten minutes after that, at 07:35, I was through passport control and security.

By this point I hadn’t had breakfast, so I popped into the lounge, which, unlike Bangkok, was well-signposted, easy to find and on the way to my gate. A large, spacious affair, there was plenty of lounge seating off to the left, with the food area on the right, where there are also computer desks. I sat here with my breakfast, a Japanese-style one, enjoying some views out over the gates.

We were supposed to board at 08:10 and by 08:15, the departure board was saying “departing soon” so I thought I’d better head off for the gate, remembering the long walk from the gate when I arrived two weeks ago. I got to the gate at 08:20, wandering through the spacious departure halls. Although I didn’t have to spend any time here, it looked pretty good, with lots of space, scattered seating, and plenty of power outlets (which you can also stand up at, quite important to me given my recent back troubles).

The gate is down a level, with its own seating, and, pleasingly, plenty of power outlets, although there weren’t enough seats for a full 777. Not that this seems to matter, since so many people are determined queue. There was already a long queue for economy when I arrived and it just got longer as we waiting. We finally started boarding at 08:30 and after letting the initial surge of first/business class passengers queue up, I trotted on at 08:35.

You can see what I made of the plane after the gallery.

  • My ride back to London, a British Airways Boeing 777-300.
  • Inside, and the view from my seat, 10K, at the front on the right.
  • A panoramic view of my Club Word seat with the divider screen up. In a world of my own.
  • And my seat, which I'd booked because it was a window seat.
  • And indeed, there is a window. Nice view.
  • Except it's nowhere neat the seat. That blank patch of wall is where I need a window.
  • I did have another window, but it was behind my seat.
  • The view from outside. You can see my two windows above the B & R of British Airways.
  • I'll leave you with a shot of the confusing seat controls...
My ride back to London, a British Airways Boeing 777-300.1 Inside, and the view from my seat, 10K, at the front on the right.2 A panoramic view of my Club Word seat with the divider screen up. In a world of my own.3 And my seat, which I'd booked because it was a window seat.4 And indeed, there is a window. Nice view.5 Except it's nowhere neat the seat. That blank patch of wall is where I need a window.6 I did have another window, but it was behind my seat.7 The view from outside. You can see my two windows above the B & R of British Airways.8 I'll leave you with a shot of the confusing seat controls...9
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British Airway’s Boeing 777-300s have four cabins, with First Class at the front, with its own galley next to the cockpit. Next comes the Club World galley, followed by seven rows of eight seats. After that is an even smaller World Traveller cabin with just six rows, while the rest of the plane is given over to World Traveller, with 20 rows and just one galley (for 200+ passengers) right at the back. It really is a very different world up in the front of the plane and one I’m trying not to get too used to.

First Class had its own air bridge at Haneda, boarding directly into their little section at the front, while the rest of us boarded through the galley in front of the Club World cabin, a useful tactic in the envy stakes, since it means that everyone at the back files through Club World on their way to their seats.

On the flight out I’d got my favourite seat, by the window at the back of the cabin. However, both of these were taken so I booked 10K, another window seat, but this time right at the front of the cabin. In my defence, I didn’t have a lot of choice, but with hindsight, I should have paid more attention to the Seat Guru notes which describe it as having a “misaligned window”. This is Seat Guru speak for no window at all, since exactly where you’d expect a window to be, to the left of the seat, is a blank bit of bulkhead, the window having been inexplicably missed out.

No doubt this is for perfectly good structural/safety reasons, but it was extremely frustrating for me. Although the seat has two windows, the first is behind the seat and can’t be seen due to the seat’s hard plastic casing, which totally obscures the view of the window. If I wanted to see anything out of that window, I really had to crane my neck. The other window is set so well forward of the seat that from my normal position, I couldn’t see anything except an engine, having to lean right forward in my seat for any sort of view.

Once we were airborne, I did experiment with the seat position, but you can’t really move the seat backwards or forwards. Moving the seat “forwards” also drops the back of the seat down into a reclining position, so it didn’t help me see out of the window! I really wanted to move the whole seat forward without changing its shape, but that’s not one of the options. Even when I move the seat forwards, the casing, which blocks the view of the window behind me, is fixed, so no matter what I did with the seat, it always blocked the view.

I spent a long time playing with the seat controls and still can’t figure them out. There are, in all, 10 buttons. The first two slide the seat backwards and forwards. The next pair both seem to slide the seat forward, while the blue one puts it into the correct position for take-off and landing.  The next one (which has a picture of an upright seat) seems to slide it backwards, while, as far as I could tell, the last four do nothing at all. The whole panel could probably be replaced by three buttons, the first pair and the blue button. As you can probably tell, by this time I was very grumpy indeed.

On top of my complaints about the windows, this was a standard seat Club World seat, which meant that I had to climb over the person outside/behind me (11J) to get in and out of my seat. Given that I’d deliberately picked the seat so that I could have a view, I may as well had an aisle seat, where I could have at least got in/out without any trouble. And to add insult to injury, I had a wonky armrest which was, in my grumpy state, immensely annoying.

Sadly, the Club World cabin was completely full, otherwise I’d have considered moving. However, once we were underway, I decided to stop being such a grump. In my defence, I was really tired, having had less than five hours of sleep that night and six hours the night before. However, being grumpy was not getting me anywhere, so I decided to enjoy what I had.

I’ve written extensively about British Airways’ Club World seats, so I won’t repeat myself, but there’s just so much more room than there is in economy and much more privacy, especially in the window seats. When the divider between the seats is up, you really are in your own little world, so much more than if you had an aisle seat. So I settled down to enjoy the flight.

You can see how I got on after the gallery.

  • And we're off, taxiing away from the gate and past the main terminal building.
  • As we taxi, we get shown the safety video with comedian Chabuddy G...
  • ... and starring the likes of Ian McKellen and Warwick Davis.
  • We continue taxiing. It's a busy airport, although I think this ANA plane has landed...
  • ... rather than being on its way to take off.
  • More planes landing, taxiing and taking off.
  • Finally, after 15 minutes, it's our turn as we reach the end of the runway.
  • Here we go...
  • We build up speed...
  • ... the wing-tip flexes upwards...
  • ... and we're off the ground.
  • Almost immnediately we bank right over the harbour...
  • ... with views of the docks below.
  • That's the runway behind us.
  • Hello down there!
  • A good view of the airport, which is rapidly disappearing behind us...
  • The clouds start to approach. Well, technically, we approach them...
  • ... and then, less than two minutes after take off, we're into the clouds...
  • ... and then out the other side.
  • Maybe not having a convenient window isn't such a loss after all!
  • Our route after takeoff...
  • ... and the journey ahead of us. What a long way to go!
  • Flying across the central Japanese mountains and frankly...
  • ... there's not a lot to see...
  • ... although if I don't lean forward in my seat, this is the view I actually have.
  • Then, suddenly, the clouds disappear behind us and there are views galore!
  • We're flying over a landscape of forested mountains and twisting valleys, with both...
  • ... these photos taken holding the camera over my left shoulder, looking forwards.
  • Abruptly, the mountains come to an end and we are approaching the coast.
  • I can see the sea!
  • The view from the in-flight mapping system.
  • The land quickly rolls by beneath us...
  • ... as we rapidly approach the coast.
  • That's the city of Niigata down there.
  • What a dramatic sweep of coastline!
  • We head out over the Sea of Japan...
  • ... and I can confirm that there's nothing but water down below...
  • ... while this is the view looking back towards the coast.
  • At this point, I decided to stop being grumpy at my lack of window and order some coffee.
  • Lunch arrived shortly afterwards...
  • ... while we were still over the Sea of Japan...
  • ... although by the time my main course had arrived...
  • ... we were over Russia.
  • Not that you'd notice from looking out of the window.
  • Dessert, a cheesecake...
  • ... arrived, unsurprisingly, while we were still over Russia...
  • ... although, again, it was all clouds to me...
  • We still had a long way to go and it wasn't even dawn in London.
  • 7 hours, 25 minutes to go, in fact. Time for a nap.
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Boarding was complete by 8:45, which was impressive given the queues. However, we were already late, pushing back at 08:55, before playing the taxi game for 15 minutes. This gave us time to watch the safety video, which has the bonus of being quite funny, starring comedian Chabuddy G and featuring the likes of Rowan Atkinson, Gordon Ramsay, Gillian Anderson, Ian McKellen and Warwick Davis. Although I’ve seen it a few times over the last year, I still enjoy it. I also managed to see the new version (starring Joanna Lumley and Michael Caine) on the flight from Manchester to Heathrow on my way out two weeks before.

The cabin crew took their seats for take-off at 09:10, and we were in the air at 09:15. We got a good view of the airport as we turned over the harbour, but then went almost immediately into cloud, so maybe not having a window wasn’t such a bad thing. The seat-belt signs came off at 09:30 and five minutes later we left clouds behind, flying over some lovely mountains and then clearing the Japanese coast at Niigata. There were some great views, although most of the photographs in the gallery were taken by holding the camera over my left shoulder/around the side of the seat casing, or by leaning right forward in my seat.

The pilot gave us an estimated flying time of 11 hours, 10 minutes, which meant that we would be early into Heathrow, despite having left a little bit late. Aware that I was grumpy, I decided to have some coffee (my first of the day) to see if that would perk me up, which it did. This was another from Union Hand-roasted’s tie-up with British Airways and was actually a pretty decent cup, given the challenges of making coffee in the air. I then decided to watch a movie (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri) while I waited for (and then ate) my lunch.

My starter, a salad, arrived at 10:20, just over an hour after take-off, served somewhere over the Sea of Japan, with the usual accompaniment of warm bread. The main course, a rather nice pasta dish with a light sauce and roasted vegetables, turned up a little while after we’d crossed the Russian coast at 10:50, then dessert, a cheesecake, was served at 11:15. Naturally, we were still somewhere over Russia…

The meal had been cleared away by 11:30, with the blinds coming down at 11:40 and the cabin lights going down at 12:25. We had a couple of shorts spells of turbulence where the seat-belt signs came on, but they didn’t last long. I had a second cup of coffee, but it was nowhere near as good as the first, coming out a bit thin.

At 13:10, struggling to keep my eyes open, I decided to have a short nap, which was only really about 90 minutes but seemed to do the trick. By 14:45, I was up and about again and we were, no surprise, still flying over Russia.

You can see what happened during the remainder of the flight after the gallery.

  • I woke up, as I often seem to do, somewhere over Russia.
  • 25 minutes later and we are approaching the Gulf of Ob, which I remember...
  • ... from the flight out.
  • Not that there was much to see when I did look out of the window.
  • Instead I went to make some coffee, getting some hot water in the galley, then...
  • ... going to the toilet to grind my beans with my Aergrind.
  • Put the beans in my Travel Press, add the hot water, and then count to 240...
  • Meanwhile, I knew that those hooks on the backs of doors would come in handy.
  • My coffee, back at my seat. Flying Club World has its advantages: proper cups!
  • We were still flying along the northern coast of Russia...
  • ... much as we had done on the way out.
  • However, back then, I was still starting my journey. Now I was approaching the end.
  • We crossed the White Sea again, heading for Finland...
  • ... but this time were taking a more southerly route, passing close to Helsinki...
  • ... and crossing the southern Finnish coast, to go out over the Baltic...
  • ... where we swung to the right to avoid Estonia...
  • ... instead passing over southern Sweden...
  • ... which could be seen through the fluffy clouds below.
  • About this time, the lights turned on and the next meal was served.
  • We passed over southern Sweden and then went just noth of Copenhagen...
  • I'm guessing that the big estuary down there is Isefjord.
  • I was right! (acutally, I looked it up on Google Maps after the event).
  • The (virtual) view from the cockpit as we head for Amsterdam...
  • We fly across the southern tip of Denmark by the German border...
  • ... which is when the main course is served...
  • ... just as we cross over into Northern Germany.
  • It's not long before we're flying over the Netherlands, approaching the Dutch coast...
  • ... which is clearly visible from the window.
  • Out across the North Sea we go (I've never sure at which point it becomes the Channel).
  • 15 minutes out and we're over Essex...
  • ... which, I have to say, is looking very brown.
  • There are occasional patches of green...
  • ... but mostly it's brown.
  • It was around this time that the plane started leaking on me. Apparently this is normal!
  • Suddenly (brown) fields gave way to the urban landscape of east London.
  • Not that I recognised any of it...
  • ... until we reached Hyde Park, that is.
  • That's the Round Pond, looking very distinctive.
  • We did a large turn around Hyde Park, pretty much an S.
  • There's the Albert Hall...
  • ... and there are some of the musuems. From up here, I can't say which is which!
  • A last look at the Round Pond as we make our final approach to the Heathrow.
  • I'm pretty sure that's the M4 down there
  • ... while that is definitely Wembley Arch.
  • Did you know that I can also see the Arch from the hill behind my house in Guildford?
  • Almost there...
  • ... and we're on the ground at Heathrow!
  • Now all we have to do is taxi to the gate.
  • This was our route in, by the way. Neat circle, while the S was over Hyde Park.
  • The only problem with being early. Our gate's not ready, so we have to wait on the apron.
  • And then, when we did get onto the gate, we had to wait for an air bridge.
  • A Qatar Airlines A380 goes by.
  • Still no air bridge, but at least our bags are getting unloaded!
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Although it was mid-afternoon Tokyo time, I was trying to make the mental adjustment to UK time, which was 06:45, a little early to be getting up, but not ridiculously so. Hopefully this would leave me tired when I got home so I could go to bed at a sensible time (22:00 say) and get a good night’s sleep.

In the meantime, I decided to get on with some work. After an hour or so, at 16:00 (08:00), I made some coffee. They were a bit busy in the galley, so I took my hot water and went into the toilets to make my coffee, using the baby changing table as my stable surface. Had the lights been on in the main cabin, I’d have probably just gone back to my seat, but ever since I was told off (literally) for grinding my beans too loudly on a night flight from the US, I’ve tried to avoid grinding beans at my seat.

So I retreated to the toilet with my Aergrind and Travel Press, although annoying I forgot my phone so had to count to 240 (4 minutes) rather than time my coffee. I took my Travel Press back to my seat, along with a cup I’d picked up the galley, although I didn’t get any biscuits this time. In fairness to British Airways (and Union Hand-roasted), having criticised the second coffee I had, my coffee wasn’t very good either, certainly better than the second cup I had, but probably not as good as the first one that I’d had at the start of the flight. Me 1, Union/BA 1.

I had an inadvertent nap after my coffee, waking up at 18:00 (10:00), at which point we were crossing over Finland. The crew came out and turned the lights on at 18:55, not long after we had crossed the southern Finnish coast, taking a slightly more southerly route back than we had on my flight out.

Breakfast (dinner? lunch?) was served five minutes later, with a starter of fruit and feta cheese which arrived as we flew over southern Sweden. A hot course followed, another pasta dish, this time a penne in a tomato sauce. This was served at 19:25 was we crossed over from Denmark to Northern Germany.

Everything was cleared away by 19:50, as we approached the Dutch coast, 40 minutes out from Heathrow. We crossed the Essex coast with 20 minutes to go, at which point water started dripping on my head. It turns out that this was the air conditioning and, from the way the crew reacted (I was handed a towel), this was pretty routine. Another reason not to sit in seat 10K!

We did a couple of holding manoeuvres over central London, including an S-turn right over Hyde Park, which gave me some lovely views, but then it was straight into Heathrow, touching down at 20:40, Tokyo time, 12:40 local time, exactly half an hour early. Unfortunately this meant we had to wait on the apron for our gate, and, when we did get onto the gate at 13:00, we had to wait for the air bridge, although at least they were unloading the bags while we waited.

We finally got the air bridge at 13:15, so we could get off the plane, only five minutes late, which is fitting since we were five minutes last leaving Haneda…

You can see what I made of Heathrow after the gallery.

  • Back at Heathrow, back on the transit to the main block (photo from the flight out).
  • I had time to kill, so made a beeline for the north lounge (again, photo from the flight out).
  • I got myself my usual seat with a view of the gates...
  • ... and grabbed a Union coffee, a cappuccino this time.
  • Having watched planes land on the way out, I got to see them taking off this time.
  • As well as the British Airways Boeing 747, I saw an American Airlines 777-300 (I think).
  • My flight was delayed, so I went back for another coffee.
  • One good thing about sitting down here is that I could see my gate...
  • ... and I'm pretty sure that's the plane that's going to be taking me to Manchester.
  • Finally, it's time to go down to the gate. Not much seating around here...
  • ... and here's the usual queues. These are all waiting in economy.
Back at Heathrow, back on the transit to the main block (photo from the flight out).1 I had time to kill, so made a beeline for the north lounge (again, photo from the flight out).2 I got myself my usual seat with a view of the gates...3 ... and grabbed a Union coffee, a cappuccino this time.4 Having watched planes land on the way out, I got to see them taking off this time.5 As well as the British Airways Boeing 747, I saw an American Airlines 777-300 (I think).6 My flight was delayed, so I went back for another coffee.7 One good thing about sitting down here is that I could see my gate...8 ... and I'm pretty sure that's the plane that's going to be taking me to Manchester.9 Finally, it's time to go down to the gate. Not much seating around here...10 ... and here's the usual queues. These are all waiting in economy.11
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We’d landed at the C Gate block, so I caught the transit back to the main gates, and within 10 minutes of leaving the plane, I was at flight connections and then passport control, followed by the fast track for security (I suspect that all incoming flights from outside of the UK require you to go through security before boarding a connecting flight). In less than 15 minutes I was into the departure lounge with time to kill, so I head for the north lounge again, getting the same seat as I had when I flew out.

It was now 13:40 and my flight wasn’t due to leave until 16:00, so I got some coffee and settled in, this time trying a Union Hand-roasted cappuccino, followed by an espresso, which, I have to say, weren’t as impressive as the coffee I had in the lounge on the way out.

Having spent two weeks in Japan during its hottest ever heatwave, I arrived back in the UK at the tail end of its own heatwave, with temperatures around 30⁰C. However, it was definitely the end of the heatwave and thunderstorms were rolling in, which started to play havoc with the flights, with inbound flights from Europe being delayed by the weather, followed by the consequent knock-on effects on outbound flights.

In many ways, I got off lightly since my flight was only delayed by 35 minutes. Even better, the delay was up on the board before I left the lounge (it was also, for once, on the British Airways app) so I just stayed put, quite happy with my perch in the lounge. That said, some genius had decided that the best place for the children’s play area was right next to the business area, where people were trying to get on with some work or make conference calls. Meanwhile, in the next room, a group of small children were playing loudly, in the way that small children do. It wasn’t their fault (particularly not when I learnt from their father that they’d been in the lounge for nine hours) but I’d love to have a quiet word with the muppet who thought this was a good layout for the lounge.

Fortunately, as well as showing the delay, we were also shown the gate (A1) which I could see from my seat in the lounge, so I took some comfort from the fact that, at 16:00, I could see our plane, an Airbus A319, on the stand. We were still being shown as departing at 16:35, so I decided to wander down, arriving at 16:05, just in time to see the crew filing through, although the gate staff were talking about the flight boarding at 16:30. Not much chance of leave at 16:35, then…

I took a seat down, while the usual queue formed of people. To my surprise, boarding was called for Group 1 (insert smug face here) at 16:15 and I walked straight onto the plane. By now summer had disappeared and it was pouring with rain…

You can see what happened on the flight after the gallery.

  • Boarding flight to Manchester, an Airbus A319, from Gate A1 at Heathrow.
  • My seat, 4F, at the window near the back in Club Europe.
  • It's not exactly spacious, but it's better than economy.
  • My knees don't touch the seat in front...
  • ... and neither does my nose touch the back of the headrest.
  • There's even enough room (just) for my laptop, as long as the seat in front isn't reclined.
  • Having been dripped on flying into Heathrow, this one was smoking at me.
  • Probably all that humidity out there. Not that much in the way of views from my window.
  • After 35 minutes at the gate, we finally pushed back.
  • I'm not convinced he dressed for the weather, you know.
  • Although it had stopped raining, it was still pretty wet as we taxied past Terminal 5.
  • We were taking off to the west, so had to taxi to the far end of the airport...
  • ... passing all sorts of aircraft along the way.
  • I'm guessing that's Terminal 4 over there.
  • By now, we're approaching the end of the runway, joining everyone one else...
  • ... who wants to take off, including this Egyptair Boeing 777-300...
  • ... and this American Airlines Boeing 777-300. At least the rain drops on the window...
  • ... have evapourated, so the view is pretty good.
  • Here we are at the end of the runway...
  • ... and off we go! Except we don't, pulling off onto the apron. Noooooooo......
Boarding flight to Manchester, an Airbus A319, from Gate A1 at Heathrow.1 My seat, 4F, at the window near the back in Club Europe.2 It's not exactly spacious, but it's better than economy.3 My knees don't touch the seat in front...4 ... and neither does my nose touch the back of the headrest.5 There's even enough room (just) for my laptop, as long as the seat in front isn't reclined.6 Having been dripped on flying into Heathrow, this one was smoking at me.7 Probably all that humidity out there. Not that much in the way of views from my window.8 After 35 minutes at the gate, we finally pushed back.9 I'm not convinced he dressed for the weather, you know.10 Although it had stopped raining, it was still pretty wet as we taxied past Terminal 5.11 We were taking off to the west, so had to taxi to the far end of the airport...12 ... passing all sorts of aircraft along the way.13 I'm guessing that's Terminal 4 over there.14 By now, we're approaching the end of the runway, joining everyone one else...15 ... who wants to take off, including this Egyptair Boeing 777-300...16 ... and this American Airlines Boeing 777-300. At least the rain drops on the window... 17 ... have evapourated, so the view is pretty good.18 Here we are at the end of the runway...19 ... and off we go! Except we don't, pulling off onto the apron. Noooooooo......20
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As I had on the flight down from Manchester on the way out, I’d gone for a window seat, this time selecting 4F. This time the flight was almost full, with every seat in Club Europe (admittedly only 20 seats) taken, bar one, which was the one next to me, so that was handy.

Boarding was complete by 16:35, but then we sat at the gate for 25 minutes, so I got my laptop out and did some work. The Club Europe cabin is not blessed with a lot of room, but it was better than sitting in economy, since my legs weren’t actually touching the seat in front on me. Although the seats are still in rows of three, the middle seat is turned into a table in Club Europe by the addition of an insert between the armrests. If there had been someone sitting in the middle seat, leg room or no leg room, I’d have chosen an aisle seat.

This is partly to allay my mild claustrophobia, but mostly so that I can use my laptop. Even with the extra legroom, the seat in front is so close that I can’t fully open my laptop and I can’t get the keyboard very far away from me. Ii I want to type, I need lots of arm room to either side, impossible if I’ve got someone sitting right next to me, which is why I normally sit in aisle seats on short-haul flights.

At 17:00 the pilot told us that we weren’t going to start our engines until 17:30, at which point the lady in the seat in front of me decided to recline her seat. There wasn’t much room to start with, so that was that as far as the laptop was concerned,. Fortunately, I had the spare seat next to me, so I just shuffled over to the aisle seat and carried on working.

Having been told by the pilot that we weren’t going anywhere, everyone, pilot included, was surprised when, 10 minutes later, we pushed back. Our poor old Airbus A319 didn’t have any TVs (or if it did, they weren’t working), so we got a manual safety presentation. The safety brief was clearly read from a standard script, including “devices must be disconnected from power when not in use”. Not that there’s any at-seat power in an Airbus A319….

We trundled off, playing the usual taxi game, and reached the end of the runway queue at 17:25, finally getting onto runway at 17:35. We were just starting our take-off run when we swung off the runway and back onto the apron. No!!!!

The pilot came on to explain that there was severe weather to the north of the airport and all north-bound take offs were cancelled. We’d now been on the plane for almost an hour and a half and, ironically, Heathrow was bathed in sunshine…

You can see whether we actually took off after the gallery.

  • We spent a total of 20 minutes sitting on the apron.
  • Then we were off again. At least this time we were fairly close to the front of the queue.
  • Just this British Airways 777-200 in front of us.
  • Oh no! There's another one.
  • It's okay, they're lettings us go first. That's very decent of them!
  • You can wait too.
  • I recognise that view from the first time around.
  • Okay. Here we go. Second time lucky.
  • And we're off!
  • Thundering down the runway, there's no stopping us now!
  • And we're in the air.
  • The obligatory airport car park.
  • We climb quickly, turning over the M25...
  • ... and passing over the reservoirs west of the airport.
  • That'll be the M4 down there.
  • Nice house.
  • I'm guessing that's the Thames.
  • The countryside, while more wooded than Esssex, is still looking very brown.
  • Talking of nice houses, say hello to Cliveden.
  • We steadily climb, the patchwork of the British countryside down below...
  • ... slowly receding as we climb.
  • Mind you, there's still a lot of rain out there.
  • Rainbow!
  • It's pretty filthy out there!
  • Afternoon tea is served.
  • Clouds obscured the Midlands...
  • By now we had reach our cruising height.
  • Cruising height? Who am I kidding. All it means is that it's time to go down again.
  • Wind turbines.
  • It's getting hilly down there.
  • Looks like we did well to avoid the weather though.
  • These are the views I came for...
  • ... the hills east and south of Manchester...
  • ... with bare tops and wooded valleys...
  • ... and weather on the horizon.
  • I'm not 100% sure where we are, but we are getting pretty close to Manchester now...
  • Many years ago, I used to hike in the hills east of Manchester...
  • ... so there's a good chance I've walked along those paths.
  • I love the way that the shadows fall on the hills.
  • This quarry is just to the east of Glossop...
  • ... and those are the Torside and Woodhead Reservoirs.
  • Time for us to turn left and head into Manchester. That's Walkerwood Reservoir...
  • ... and those are some glorious views you have for us there, Manchester.
  • Down below is the Audenshaw Reservoir...
  • ... while up above, the sky is still putting on a show.
  • Manchester, you are too kind!
  • We're on the final approach, crossing over the M60...
  • Almost there now.
  • Another airport, another car park...
  • I've driven up and down that road a few times...
  • ... while that is the rental car village, where I've been a few times too.
  • Manchester Airport!
  • And we're on the ground!
  • It's such a quiet airport compared to Heathrow.
  • There's an Oman Airlines plane waiting to take off and that's in.
  • See, completely empty.
  • Unlike Heathrow, we head straight to the gate.
  • And here we are. A last look at my faithful stead. Until the next time, Manchester.
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By now, the passengers were starting to get really antsy, but I have to commend the cabin crew, who were firm but polite throughout. Once it was clear that we weren’t going anywhere, the pilot powered the plane down and switched off the seat-belt sign. People were then free to get up and move about, which calmed things down a bit. I was very glad that I was in Club Europe, because, unless I was in an exit row seat in economy, my claustrophobia would have been getting the better of me by then.

We got underway again at 17:55 after 20 minutes on the apron.  At least we were pretty much first in the queue, and we took off five minutes later. The flight to Manchester is always a short one and one of the reasons for getting a window seat is that we never get that high, so you get some pretty decent views, particularly of the hills east of Manchester. Even better, all the sunshine had dried off the windows, so the views were excellent.

Even though I’ve made this flight a few times now, I’m still impressed that the crew manage a full service. The food came out 10 minutes into the flight, but sitting in 4F (out of five rows) I was one of the last ones served. We started our descent at 18:17 and were on the ground at 18:28, making it to the gate at 18:33. In fact, it took almost as long to collect my bag and find my taxi, but by 19:00, I was on my way, getting to my Dad’s at 20:00, a mere 22 hours after waking up in Tokyo…

For more about this trip, including all the Coffee Spots I visited, please see the Travel Spot Page.


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6 thoughts on “Brian’s Travel Spot: Returning from Tokyo Haneda

  1. We took that flight from Haneda back to London last year (I resented the early morning start!) We bolted an extra night on in Tokyo after initially spending time in Tokyo, then venturing to Kyoto. We stayed at Wired Hotel in Asakusa for the last night (fairly new hotel / trendy / tight quarters but perfectly adequate for a short stay) and we ended up taking a coach to Haneda which left from the neighbouring hotel. There wasn’t much traffic at that time and it was quite relaxing (enabling us to catch a few zzs without having to worry about taking multiple trains/monorail!) On the way over we stayed in Ginza and took the underground from Haneda with our bags (in rush hour!) which we probably wouldn’t do again, although it was efficient 😉

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