The Road Home Part I: Bangkok to Tokyo

UA Boeing 777 BKK-NRT

If you have been reading my updates, I think by this point you realize that I like taking the scenic route. I was originally scheduled to return to Paris via a direct Bangkok to CDG flight on Thai Airways. The same 77W I had flown CDG-BKK, BKK-HND and NRT-BKK. I wasn’t ready for my adventure to be over yet. I wanted to squeeze the last bit of enjoyment out of my award ticket. I wanted to find a more ridiculous way home.

I drew up several routings involving Japan, Taipei, Shanghai or Beijing in various combinations, but none of them would fully synch up, or were a tad too absurd for an agent to approve. Finally, on probably my 9th call to United, I found agent who was willing to change my BKK-CDG direct flight to BKK-NRT (UA F) with a roughly 22 hour stop in Tokyo, connecting to NRT-ZRH (LX F) with a nearly 23 hour stop in Zurich, and then a final ZRH-CDG flight home. This new routing allowed me one more night in Tokyo, a night out in Zurich, and gave me a chance to try Swiss International Air Lines First Class for the first time. I considered the new routing a great victory.

The only problem was that one of my legs (BKK-NRT) was on United metal, and even worse, the flight left before 7am.

Time to go

As Songkran drew to a close, I had my bags packed and ready to go. I left the A-loft in the pre-dawn blackness, and my cab driver took us hurtling towards BKK in the blackness with techno music blaring. It seemed a fitting send-off to Thailand.

I checked in for my flight and was forced to use the regular security queue, as United of course has no special security and immigration setup, even for First Class passengers. Given the incredibly early departure time, the TG F lounge was not open (and I’m not sure UA F gets access to it anyway). I finally found a TG J lounge that was open and sat down and pulled out my laptop.

I was not accustomed to waking up before 5am, so my main goal was to keep myself awake until boarding.

UA F Cabin

While boarding for Thai flights is usually not on time and a bit disorganized, at least it isn’t a total hassle. United needed to security check everyone AT the gate again and rifle through all of our bags. I have really grown to hate United in the time since the merger.

The Global First Suite on the United Boeing 777’s is actually surprisingly nice. It is an excellent hard product, that could go toe to toe with the best offerings from other airlines. I say that it COULD compete with them if United’s soft product wasn’t such utter crap.

While Thai may have denied us PJ’s and Caviar on the 6+ hour BKK-Tokyo flight, they still served vintage Dom, distributed top of the industry amenity kits, slippers and served a multiple course meal.

See you in December Thailand

United served my pre-departure beverage in a plastic cup and didn’t even offer amenity kits. THIS is your service on a 6+ hour international flight in your flagship first class cabin? Is it any wonder no one chooses to fly on United or any other American carrier? In addition, there were no mattress pads for the bed, no turn down service and really no service of any kind from the flight crew who seemed more interested in talking to each other in the galley than doing their jobs.

I swapped my itinerary last minute, I had to accept a United leg in order to get the night in Tokyo and the Swiss flight, but in the future, I will never waste my miles or money on United. You feel like a sap because you know for the exact same price you could be getting a much better product on another airline.

First Meal Service:

Pre-departure water in a plastic cup…stay classy United.







Fruit Plate






United F’s take on the yellow noodles and chicken from TG J






Bed Time

After the meal service I pulled my blanket around me (the blankets are perhaps the only exemplary feature of United GlobalFirst) and slept most of the way to Tokyo. It was still very early in the morning, and I wanted to have some energy on arrival.

Shortly before we set down, there was a second “lunch service”



Second Meal Service:

Mixed Nuts


















After going through the border at NRT, I now had an entire passport page filled with new Japanese landing permission stickers. 1 from NRT, 1 from KIX and 1 from HND. In the future, I would always try to fly into HND, as it is such a hassle going to and from NRT. Also, very expensive. It’s a shame that most of the convenient flights are NRT based. Not wanting to spend $300 on a taxi, I took the train in from the airport to Tokyo. Mind you it’s still not cheap, but it’s a fraction of what a cab or a car & driver would cost.

Airport express train seats

Like all the trains I experienced in Japan, this airport express train was clean, comfortable and efficient. I quickly got to my station and engaged a taxi to take me the rest of the way to the Grand Hyatt in Roppongi Hills. It was going to be another short stop in Tokyo, but it would be memorable.







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2 responses to “The Road Home Part I: Bangkok to Tokyo

  1. rabuho

    Unlike most of Asia, most people entering/leaving Japan use trains/buses rather than taxis to get to/from the airport, as they tend to be cheaper and faster for most purposes. I thought you would have known this by now after having been to Japan so often…

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