Introduction: San Diego to Hiroshima Japan on United and ANA

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01. Introduction: San Diego to Hiroshima Japan on United and ANA
02. American Airlines Admirals Club, San Diego
03. United Airlines economy class San Diego to San Francisco
04. United Airlines economy class San Francisco to Tokyo (Narita)
05. ANA/IBEX economy class Tokyo (Narita) to Hiroshima
06. ANA/IBEX economy class Hiroshima to Tokyo (Narita)
07. United Airlines economy class Tokyo (Narita) to Los Angeles
08. United Express economy class Los Angeles to San Diego

It’s that time of year again – time for our once-yearly visit to the motherland (my wife’s – not mine) to visit family and friends. We always try to time these trips to Japan for the fall, as summer is too hot and winter too cold. Springtime is nice as well, but we always seem to be too busy here at home that time of year in order to make it over there to see the cherry blossoms.

Being a resident of San Diego (and a huge airline nerd), it would seem like my obvious choice for these trips would be to utilize the daily Japan Airlines SAN-NRT service. And believe me – I really want to take advantage of that flight! The problem is that our final destination is Hiroshima, and the JL flight from SAN doesn’t arrive into NRT early enough to catch the last flight of the day to HIJ. Well, technically, it arrives 1 hour before that last flight – but there’s no way we would be able to clear passport control, retrieve our luggage, and then recheck our bags in time. There is a later flight to HIJ out of Tokyo’s other airport (Haneda), but that can be a real chore with Tokyo traffic being what it is. My wife and I have done it once before, and it’s not something we would prefer to do again. We also considered taking a high speed train (Shinkansen) from NRT to Hiroshima instead of flying, as well as overnighting in Tokyo and flying to HIJ the next morning – but all options seemed less than ideal for our particular situation.

So that left us one final option: United/ANA. These two Star Alliance partners are the only two carriers that can get us from San Diego to Hiroshima without long layovers and airport-to-airport shuffles. It’s been this way for years, and it really bums me out because I so desperately want to try JAL’s service out of SAN.

Based on the phenomenal business class service we experienced on ANA last year, I started the reservation process fully intent on booking the trans-Pacific segments with them. United isn’t even in the same league in terms of onboard service, and my wife (who couldn’t care less about airlines) knows very well that United is an airline she doesn’t like for international travel. I don’t blame her! Unfortunately, due to our late booking (only six weeks from the date of departure), the only aisle economy seats I could find were on UA – ANA was booked solid. Ugh.

The final kick in the head was that I voluntarily chose middle seats for myself. My wife prefers being on the aisle, so I made sure that she had those seats for every flight. Because hey – if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Right? I must love her quite a bit to choose to sit in United Airlines middle seat economy class for 20 hours… 😉

Once the booking was complete, here’s what we ended up with:

10/4/14 UA1481 San Diego to San Francisco (economy) – 737-900
10/4/14 UA837 San Francisco to Tokyo Narita (economy) – 747-400
10/5/14 NH3111 Tokyo Narita to Hiroshima (economy) – CRJ-200
10/10/14 NH3144 Hiroshima to Tokyo Narita (economy) – CRJ-700
10/10/14 UA33 Tokyo Narita to Los Angeles (economy) – 787-8
10/10/14 UA6342 Los Angeles to San Diego (economy) – EMB-120

Looks like a brutal itinerary. I will say that this is nothing that I haven’t done in the past – as a matter of fact, I’ve spent plenty of time in United Airlines long-haul economy class over the years, so I fully know what to expect going into it. But it’s just going to hurt really bad in comparison to my last international flight, where I was pampered quite well in business class on an Air China 777-300.

The good news is that the segment from NRT to LAX will be on a 787-8. This will be my first flight on the Dreamliner, and I’m very much looking forward to writing a review of that experience.

Ready to go? Let’s do this…

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