Getting There (2016 version)

Summary: Singapore Airlines was great, as expected, but maybe we’ll try a different route and airline next time.

We’d had such a pleasant experience flying Singapore Airlines that I wanted to use them again, even though that would require a switch at dreaded LAX. But Singapore is really that good.

Even in economy class, the seats are pretty comfortable (and that goes for an over-6-footer such as myself). The free movies, free drinks, excellent food, generous baggage allowance, and incredibly polite flight attendants make the long haul over the Pacific more than just bearable.

And purchasing our tickets about 9 months prior to departure ensured a reasonable price. The early purchase came back to bite us a bit, though. A significant change in departure time required us to stay overnight in an LAX hotel, with an unexpectedly extra amount of time and money.

One traveler in our group who is getting older decided to order wheelchair service. That turned out to be a real boon to our entire party. The various airport attendants were courteous and able to take us directly to our gates. We didn’t have to spend any time figuring out where our gates were, where the elevator was, etc. Plus, we enjoyed the option of boarding early.

Since Singapore allows two checked bags for free, however, overhead bin storage was never an issue, so boarding early wasn’t an urgent necessity. Also, at the other end, we had to wait for all the other passengers to deplane before we could. That wasn’t a big issue, either, since the large planes used by Singapore Airlines have multiple gangways, so boarding and deplaning go remarkably quickly. We made sure to tip our wheelchair attendants well.

Despite the superb food, beverage, service, and comfort on Singapore Airlines, I may try a different airline and route next time.

My cousins opted to fly from Vancouver, BC to Haneda on ANA (All Nippon Airlines). They enjoyed several advantages. First, their airfare was eye-poppingly low. Whereas anything around $1,000 US (round trip per person) or less is a really good deal from my home city (direct flights from Portland to Tokyo usually run $1,200 to $1,600), my cousins’ direct flight from Vancouver, BC to Haneda was under $700 US (I suspect the strong US dollar vs. the Canadian dollar helps reduce the cost).

Secondly, they flew into Haneda instead of Narita. Haneda is much closer to Tokyo and easier to get to and from than Narita. And they flew from Vancouver, BC, rather than through LAX. ANA and other Asian carriers, many of which receive high customer satisfaction reviews, fly between Vancouver, BC, and Japan.

That route is definitely worth considering for my next trip to Japan. Of course, I have to factor in the cost of getting to Vancouver from Portland, but if prices are as competitive as they were for my cousins, we may still save money, enjoy good service, and avoid both LAX and Narita airports.

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