By Asian American in Tokyo | June 4, 2006
I’m writing this entry aboard an ANA 747-400 on my way back to Tokyo from Sapporo (short overnight business trip). It’s been almost a year since I moved to Japan (albeit with a 5 month Seoul interruption) but I still can’t help but be impressed at some things native Japanese take for granted in daily routine life. At Sapporo’s Shin-Chitose Airport, they loaded this 747-400 from zero to full capacity in 4 minutes and 35 seconds (yes, i timed it). Granted, they used 2 jetways in parallel but the passengers behaved perfectly on their own and it was totally natural. 20 seconds after that, the jetways had been pulled back and the plane was backing out for departure, and the flight attendants didn’t need to tell people “sit down so we can push back from the gate” or run around closing the overhead bins bursting at the seams. If I didn’t know better, I’d say it was a fully rehearsed and perfected military operation. (What a difference from my recent experience in Europe, which was a nightmare with people entering the nose and tail and colliding in the aisles trying to get to their seats.) Before I knew it, we were speeding down the runway taking flight. Color me impressed.
Another cool thing is that Japanese airlines use a camera mounted on the plane’s nose to display exciting views of take-off and landing. When the plane is airborne, they switch to a belly-mounted camera facing down for dramatic landscape shots. A couple of years ago I mentioned this to a Boeing employee sitting next to me on a flight who said the Japanese airline companies are the only ones who ask for this feature – leave it to them to pay more for equipment just for “coolness factor”. Another thing I noticed recently is how clean the planes are – especially the exterior. Every time I’ve flown ANA, the plane’s metal body looks like a freshly washed and waxed automobile, unlike most airlines where you can see oil streaks and other signs of use. I think ANA’s workers must clean their entire fleet every night! Even the coffee is well-designed, with the sugar and cream packed in a hand-out kit, complete with coffee stir that clips on the inside of your cup so you don’t stab yourself when drinking. Some things in Japan are far too focused on the “how” rather than the “actual results”, but their airline industry certainly has their act together.
Note: A co-worker of mine just got back from China where he says boarding a plane is a mad elbow-jabbing stampede once the jetway gates swing open. He said the constrast with the orderly and efficient loading of Japanese planes was incredibly striking.
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