Saturday, July 10, 2010

Customer service at its finest! (高級のカスタマーサービスやで!)

Well, I did mention the possibility of breaking the theme I had set up for myself over the past week or so; it is a little foolish to restrict myself to a certain set of posting possibilities, when the potential for new ideas is simply endless.

And, you know, the fact that I do tend to get bored with things.

And since I have spent the last hour or so trying to figure out who to share my exciting new information with, I figured that I would, metaphorically, kill two birds with one stone: share the information with the entire internet, and come up with an exciting new blog topic in the process.

I never cease to amaze myself.

As many of you may already know, I am heading off to Japan to begin my new job in Mie come mid-August. As such, I of course needed to buy myself some flights; swimming over, after all, is only fun for the first hour or so. Therefore, after cruising through Expedia for some time, I narrowed it down to two choices: an expensive but reasonable set of ANA flights, with one layover in SFO and one in NRT, or a slightly more expensive Hawaiian/JAL combination with only one layover in Honolulu.

I admit that I was tempted by the cheapness and mileage possibilities of the first plan (I currently have miles with US Airways, who are partnered with ANA), but the more I thought about it... the more I really, really didn't want to have to make two stops. And really, it wasn't that much more money to purchase myself some peace of mind, and possibly one less trip through customs. So, in the end, I went for the shorter and easier route--which, as a bonus, is a 6 hour + 8 hour flight combo, as opposed to a 2 hour + 11 hour + 2 hour whopper that surely would have left me reeling.

(OK, so either will leave me reeling, but shhh.)

However, wooed as I was by shorter flying times and less stops, I was still not truly convinced that I had made the proper choice--I am nothing if not horribly horribly cheap, and new nothing about the two airlines I would be flying. I have made all my previous domestic Japanese flights with ANA, and have found them to be lovely--the only thing I know about JAL, however, is all that trouble with bankruptcy and that their flight attendants are top notch (thought that one may simply be hearsay from late-night Japanese television, especially considering I can find no articles backing me up). It was that first ugly "bankruptcy" bit that had me dubious; other than that, I truly had no idea what to think about JAL. I have heard that Hawaiian is one of the best airlines out there in terms of comfort and service--this remains to be seen; at present, they seem to be miserly, scrounging charlatans desperate to grasp every last penny from my threadbare pocket, and I am beginning to regret associating with them. I shall keep you updated as I continue my attempts to work things out. Nope, nope, it's official. They're charging me $55 minimum for the pleasure of checking my bags with them, simply because the international portion of my flight is with another airline. Do your best to steer clear of these guys, as they are punishing customers for disloyalty due to circumstance and flight patterns.

And now back to your regularly scheduled blog post.

But let me tell you now; if they can come anywhere close to delivering what they promise on their website, I will be one happy customer.

First of all, confirmation that yes, there will be personal television screens for each passenger. You might think this is a bit extravagant, but for anyone who's made on of those trans-Pacific jumps, you know how vital they can be in cutting the tedium--especially when you can't sleep in airplanes. The last flight I took from Japan to the US (with United, ugh) did not provide this luxury (nor indeed any flight attendants who spoke a lick of Japanese) and I certainly felt the strain; especially since I had the unfortunate of being seated by a bulkhead, and thus was relegated to craning my neck to stare up at a screen approximately nine inches wide ten feet above my head if I wanted any sort of airline-provided entertainment.

... Can you tell I'm still bitter about that flight? Maybe the KIX-SFO route is not the best to take.

Anyway, the TV screens on the back of my flight, come August? The JAL website allows me to peruse the entertainment offerings already (though admittedly the audio options won't be posted until around the 20th), and guess what. At a minimum, I have eleven bloody movies to choose from. Eleven, not to mention three non-movie video channels! Two of the films are in Japanese, and both look like something I'd be interested in! Eight hours? Pfah! I laugh at your eight hours!

And hey, remember how a number of US airlines are now making you pay for meals and beverages? (Never fly Allegiant, by the way--those are some cheap suckers right there, not to mention short-sighted.) Not JAL, my friends!

Admittedly, United did provide us with free meals on that KIX-SFO flight, but... really. It was only food in the loosest sense of the phrase. And true, JAL may provide similar fare, but it certainly looks pretty, doesn't it? Not to mention the promise of free tea. I love tea. Tea makes everything better.

And, of course, free bottled water. You think that's no big deal, but Allegiant was charging you two bucks a bottle. After charging us forty bucks per checked piece of luggage. Get with the program, America-land. Dehydrated passengers are not happy passengers, and happy passengers don't rebook with you any time soon.

(I am curious about that Sky Oasis snacky deal... although it specifically says not with Hawaiian routes. Darn. I hope they bend the rules for us, since we're flying through Chubu.)

Although I guess nothing beats British Airways, who gives you free booze on trans-Atlantic flights and can't understand why no one else does... Neither can I, come to think of it. If there's any time you need free booze, it's when you're crossing an ocean 30,000 feet up. Especially those of us who, as mentioned, can't sleep in airplanes.

But wait, there's more! Feeling a little frumpy? Have a pleasant night kit, complete with slippers! The only downside is you can't pick your color... wait, that's a downside? They're giving you free stuff, for crying out loud!

And look! They give you medicine, too! None of this silly American no-medication-for-fear-of-lawyers nonsense; if you have a headache on JAL, they will give you some asprin, gosh darnit! If your tummy hurts, they will whip out some Pepto (or the Japanese equivalent, I suppose) post-haste, no questions asked and no law-suits worried over! (You know, the American propensity to sue at the slightest provocation is legendary in Japan... it freaks them out a little. We are pretty ridiculous, you know.)

... I love these people already.

Nope, nope, I am thoroughly convinced that I made the right choice--so much so that I signed up with the JAL Mileage Bank program. (Really, though, that's just smart--US Airways is with Star Alliance, and JAL is with oneworld, so with the two accounts, I really have all my bases covered, no?)

I'll have to get back to you when I experience first-hand the wonders of a trans-Pacific JAL flight--I do hope it lives up to my expectations, after all this. Either way, I shall be sure to report my findings accurately for you, dear readers--let me be nothing if not helpful and informative!

(And yes, yes, I know none of it is truly free, and indeed it's owed to me considering how much that stinking one-way ticket cost, but... still. Let me have my little moment of happiness over here. And, of course, let me revel in the fact that it's so much better than stinkin' United.)

This is Edo, signing off still playing around on the JAL site, wondering what else they might give her....


Melon said...

Hawaiian Airlines is stupid. Have you asked Expedia why they create international flights that are not honored as international flights? Because that's pretty ridiculous. If there's nothing you can do I guess it just means that the deal you got on your flight is $55 more than you thought it was. :-/

I got all excited reading this because I remember that my flight has a JAL leg too, but then I realized it was only from Tokyo to Osaka. XD;; Oh well. American seems to offer similar inflight entertainment with video screens in the seat. I have never been on a plane with such things, I'm pretty excited about it. The potential of a power port at my disposal is pretty exciting, too. :3

Edo said...

I am tempted to take it up with them, but Expedia has that nice little thing with their reservations... "don't bitch to us about fees; it's not our problem." :/ I'm not sure it'll do any good. I think I might have had better luck if Hawaiian was partnered with JAL, but no, they're doing their own thing, and aren't with any of the airline alliance groups. What a bunch of jerks.

So, I am now paying $150 dollars (give or take) for one less layover. Let's see what it gets up to by August 11th.

Hey man, that's... two hours! Ish! I think they have free tea regardless, so that's good. :D And it's funny... there's a JAL "fragile" sticker on one of my suitcases, but I'll be damned if I can remember when I flew JAL. XDD It is totally fun, man; they're going to be good flights. We shall have to swap stories of being vastly entertained by our respective airlines. :3