I am often critical of fictional movies about aviation because they are filled with so many inaccuracies. Take Soul Plane, a 2004 movie in which Kevin Hart has a horrible airline experience.
In this movie, Nashawn Wade (Hart) is travelling with his dog. The dog gets misclassified as checked baggage instead of a carry-on, he eats a horrible airline meal, rushes to the bathroom, and his butt becomes stuck in the toilet seat during turbulence. While trying to free himself, through a window in the bathroom he sees his dog get sucked through a jet engine after a stewardess accidentally opens the cargo door. Wade sues the airline, wins a $100,000,000, and starts his own airline, NWA (Nashawn Wade Airlines not Northwest Airlines). In this flick NWA could also stand for Niggas With Altitude. I can say it. I’m Black.
I found the movie to be funnier and more enjoyable than the critics even though as a pilot and aviation enthusiast there were so many aspects of the film that I thought were totally unrealistic. For example having a window in an airplane lavatory. I’ve flown nearly 4 million miles in every type of long-haul aircraft in the West and have never seen an aircraft toilet with a window — until this trip.
Delta Airlines Cancelled My FLight – Then Claimed Zero Flight Cancellations That Month
Upon arrival at Singapore after a wonderful experience on Singapore Airlines with the best business-class seat I’ve flown, I was greeted by what seemed like bad news.
My next flight, DL 166 departing SIN at 0645, was canceled. At NRT I was connecting to Detroit, MI on Delta’s new A350-900. It was going to be my first opportunity to try the new Delta One Suite. That experience was now in jeopardy. The flight information boards said to go to a transfer desk in Terminal 2.
At the transfer desk, Delta provided a snack and information about the cancellation.
Strangely, Delta later bragged that it had no flight cancellations in November 2017. Somehow this cancelled flight, due to technical issues with the aircraft, didn’t count. Go figure. Was this the only cancelled flight that month that Delta conveniently overlooked when it compiled its operational statistics?
Also at the transfer desk I learned that Delta had rebooked me in business class on an ANA flight to Tokyo NRT that was scheduled to depart 10 minutes earlier than the Delta flight. Hallelujah! That meant (1) not flying the Delta 767-300 with its worst business-class seat, (2) getting my first ANA flight in business class – on my favorite 787-9 no less, and (3) the connection to the flight with Delta One Suites was safe! Sometimes life is good.
NH (ANA) 802 Singapore to Tokyo, Japan
After spending a few hours in the Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer business-class lounge in Terminal 2 (to be reviewed), I went to Gate E5 where ANA flight 802 was boarding. At SIN, passengers go through security screening at the gate. I like this system because delays at security will not cause passengers to miss a flight.
As usual at most Asian airports, boarding was very orderly and began precisely as scheduled at 06:10 for the 06:35 departure.
Singapore (SIN) and Tokyo (NRT)are separated by 3,324 great-circle miles. At boarding the captain announced that the flight time to Tokyo was estimated to be six hours and 13 minutes.
ANA 787-9 Business-Class Cabin
The 787 is my favorite aircraft because of the high cabin humidity, cabin pressurization that is 20% closer to sea level than most other planes, and last but not least, the large electronically dimmable 787 windows.
ANA was the first airline to fly the 787-8 and the 787-9. This ANA 787-9 has 48 lie-flat business class seats in two cabins. The forward cabin has 26 seats and the aft cabin 22. The seats are arranged 1-2-1 with all having direct access to the aisle. All seats face forward.
ANA 787-9 Business-Class Seat
The seats have 62 inches of pitch and are 21 inches wide. My seat was 4C, a window seat on the port side. Window seats in even numbered rows have the console next to the window. Odd numbered rows have window seats with the console next to the aisle.
I find that business-class seats with the console next to the aisle provide separation from the aisle traffic and create a feeling of greater privacy. In this case, being rebooked at the last minute, it was great to get any window seat in business class.
Many of the features of the seat are clustered in an easy-to-reach, eye-level location on the console to the left of this seat.
Each business-class seat has a card explaining all of the seat features.
While I give an edge to business-class seats like the Super Diamond seat on American Airlines remodeled 787-9s and 777-200s, having flown Ethiad and Thai aircraft with similar seats, I knew that this seat would make the flight to NRT enjoyable.
On this relatively short 787 flight ANA provided noise cancelling headphones and slippers plus a blanket and pillow but no amenity kit or mattress pad.
Pushback was at 06:34. Nine minutes later we departed SIN on Runway 02 Center.
IFE (In-flight Entertainment)
Shortly after takeoff, I checked out the in-flight entertainment system. It is state of the art with a good selection of current and classic movies, games and live and recorded TV shows available for viewing on the fixed 18-inch monitor.
The flight following system gives passengers almost as much information about the flight as is available on the flight deck.
I appreciate knowing lat and long info to pinpoint the aircraft position relative to the poles, the equator, the prime meridian, etc.. Singapore lies only about 90 miles north of the equator, and in the photo above, the system shows our position as exactly 1 degree north latitude.
I had heard that ANA’s service was highly rated. The crew on this flight did nothing to tarnish that image.
The service began with the pre-departure beverages just after boarding. The FAs were offering orange juice, champagne or water. I asked if it would be possible to combine the champagne and OJ to make a mimosa and the FA cheerfully complied.
Twenty minutes after takeoff the in-flight service started with warm, moist towels. Ten minutes FAs distributed menus for food and beverages.
A variety of Japanese wines and liquors was also available.
This was an early morning flight so breakfast was served shortly after takeoff. I had the Japanese version.
After breakfast I requested to be awakened 90 minutes before arrival. The FA agreed without hesitation and made a note of it. I slept well for around three hours waking up on my own about 10 minutes before the FA had promised to rouse me. Indeed, she did stop by a few minutes later.
The Loo with a View
A trip to the lavatory on the port side between the two business class cabins was a shocker. There was a window next to the toilet. So the Soul Plane scenario was not quite as far fetched as I had thought.
The window has the same electronic light filter as the other windows plus an old fashioned pull down shade to alleviate any privacy concerns while on the ground. The bathroom was stocked with some supplies to compensate for the lack of amenity kits.
And, another first for me on a plane, the toilet had some of the high-tech features that are often found on toilets in business- and first-class lounges in Japan and Korea.
Before the descent, I requested the udon noodles with fried tofu. It came with a side dish of chicken bok choy and other vegetables.
The descent from Flight Level 390 began at 13:25. Visibility was good so air traffic control gave us vectors for a visual approach NRT’s main runway, 16R.
NH 802 touched down on NRT’s 16R at 13:58 after travelling 3,478 miles. We parked at Terminal 1 Gate 52 at 14:07. I arrived a few minutes earlier than the scheduled arrival of the cancelled Delta flight and in plenty of time to visit the Skyclub before the flight in the Delta One Suites.
It was a real treat to try ANA business class on my favorite plane the 787-9. The service of the attendants lived up to ANA’s high standards. What is impressive is that the attendants are always pleasant and responsive. Their attitude comes across as very natural, never forced or robotic. This flight was also noteworthy because it was the only airplane I’ve been on that had a window in the bathroom, and the only airborne bathroom with an automated bidet toilet.
I’ve never been so happy with a flight cancellation. Thanks Delta.