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Wednesday
May092012

Things I love about Japan #1

Flying in Japan

   I love flying in Japan.

   Check-ins can be made less than twenty minutes before take off. The ground staff is courteous and knows how to do its job. The kiosks actually work. (Imagine that!) There are no outrageous gotchas, those extra fees for this and that which have become the bread-and-butter of airlines in the States. You can make changes to your reservations without being nickeled and dimed for every change. (Not always true.) Security is polite and, for the most part, hassle-free. It’s also remarkably smooth. You needn’t remove your shoes off or endure up-close and personal pat-downs. The aircraft are clean, almost immaculate, when you board: all the garbage has been picked up; the seatbelts are placed in the exact same neat manner; the magazines and pamphlets are arranged smartly in the pocket. And the cabinet crews are well-groomed, professional, and subdued, resembling the kuroko stage assistants of kabuki, rather than the overbearing sumo wrestlers American flight attendants can sometimes be. Flights take off and leave on time. (Again, imagine that!) Baggage, which is treated with the utmost respect and care, is rarely lost.

   All in all, it is a pleasant experience from check in to arrival. I wish I could say the same about flying in the U.S.

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Reader Comments (4)

... those extra fees for this and that which have become the bread-and-butter of airlines...
One time in the US, the guy at the United counter informed me that my luggage was under a half pound over the limit. That's less than 0.25 kg. For this, I'd have to pay a $70 surcharge. Rather than try to give some bullshit explanation about being within the probable margin of error, I just took the combination lock luggage strap off of the bag, and then it was the right weight.

May 9, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBill

When I was flying back from Honolulu two years ago I, too, was told that my bag was too heavy. I had to open the bag up, unpack several things, and then close it all up again before they would check it for me. Everything that came out of the bag became part of my carry-ons, meaning the weight of the checked bag had gone down, but the total weight of me plus all my belongings hadn't changed at all.

Are the weight limits imposed by the baggage handler's union, TSA regulations, or are the merely motivated by the desire to maximize profit? I do not know.

The way to get around this hassle, I've discovered, is to check two large bags of modest weight rather than a single heavy one. Of course, some airlines are starting to charge for that extra bag. I read today "that some airlines pay their counter staff bonuses based on the amount of extra charges they levy on their passengers." I don't know if that is true, but it wouldn't surprise if it were.

Do you ever listen to NPR's Planet Money podcast? There was an interesting episode about airlines and why they have such a hard time making a profit. A former CEO of a major carrier said that there needs to be an increase in regulations such that ticket prices go back up and airlines are able to compete on the quality of their service rather than how low they can undercut their competition. I'm all for it.

May 9, 2012 | Registered CommenterAonghas Crowe

"Are the weight limits imposed by the baggage handler's union, TSA regulations, or are the merely motivated by the desire to maximize profit? I do not know."

I believe that this is a baggage handler issue, wanting to keep bags to a manageable weight. I had to repack once at the desk as well on a trip flying between the U.S. and Japan. The woman at the counter was bitchy about it. I wrote a letter to United and got ticket credit for it. There was a time when it really mattered having a frequent flyer relationship with an airline, even if you didn't fly 100,000 miles a year.

"Do you ever listen to NPR's Planet Money podcast? There was an interesting episode about airlines and why they have such a hard time making a profit. A former CEO of a major carrier said that there needs to be an increase in regulations such that ticket prices go back up and airlines are able to compete on the quality of their service rather than how low they can undercut their competition. I'm all for it."

I am as well. Airlines, except for business and first class, neither of which I can afford, have all turned into flying Greyhound.

May 10, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJeffrey

If it is indeed for the safety of the baggage handlers (chuckers) then I might be willing to comply with the rules. But take a look at your average baggage handler in the U.S. and you have to admit that the weight of the bags is not as serious a health issue for them as the weight of the luggage they are carrying on their body in the form of adipose tissue.

The "bitchiness" of the counter staff in the States blows me away every time I travel there. Perhaps I've been coddled living in Japan this long, but, Christ, Americans have turned the "service" industry into the fuck-you industry.

Counter Staff: Next!
Me: Hi.
CS: Fuck you!
M: Um . . .
CS: Your last destination is Fukuoka?
M: Y-yes.
CS: Well we aren't going to send your bags all the fucking way there. You gotta be fucking crazy if you think we'll do that for you.
M: I, uh . . .
CS: You can pick your fucking bags up in fucking Narita if we get around to loading them on to the flight. Can't be expected to do every funking thing for you, can we?
M: I, um, er . . . no, I don't suppose . . .
CS: Fucking, no, we can't. Pick your bags up in Narita and recheck them with those fuckers at ANA.
M: Okay.
CS: That's "Yes, ma'am, buster!"
M: Yes, ma'am.
CS: Window?
M: Excuse me?
CS: Shit. Listen up, for fuck's sake.
M: Sorry.
CS: You want a window seat.
M: Yes . . .
CS: Yes?
M: Sorry. Yes ma'am.
CS: Too late. No window seats. I'll put you in the center seat between that fatso over there and the mother with the baby.
M: Er . . .
CS: Do you need a kosher meal?
M: Have you got Halal?
CS: You a fucking terrorist?
M: I'll have what you serve.
CS: Damn right you will! And you're going to fucking like it.
M: Yes, ma'am.
CS: Here's your ticket. Boarding starts at an hour before departure. If you're one minute late, we're giving your seat to someone else. Thank you for flying with us.

May 10, 2012 | Registered CommenterAonghas Crowe

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