Ok, when we last left off I was stuck in Honolulu looking at flight options to get me back in time for my wedding. It was Wednesday morning in Honolulu and the wedding was Saturday in Stuttgart.
When you fly standby on United, you can check loads so that you have a generally strong indication of your chances for making a flight. It’s always speculative because of last-minute cancellations, delays, and misconnects, but when a flight is heavily oversold and there is a huge standby list already checked-in — forget it. Your chances are very slim, especially at out-stations like Honolulu.
San Francisco? Full.
Los Angeles? Full.
In looking at redemption costs, United had nothing remotely attractive. Delta had space from Honolulu to Frankfurt via Atlanta for 162,500 miles — horrible, but not deadly. Plus, all lie-flat seats. And yet I could not bring myself to waste those points — that would pay for a lot of travel for both Heidi and me.
Then I got creative.
United also has a daily flights in the other direction out of Honolulu…
Guam was out, either direct or via the island hopper — there just wasn’t time.
But the morning Tokyo Narita flight had space. A lot of it. And so did the Tokyo to Chicago flight…and so did Chicago to Frankfurt.
I could eat breakfast at the Kahala, catch my flight, and fly a 747-400 all the way from Honolulu to Frankfurt on United metal…via Tokyo and Chicago.
Leaving Wednesday, I would arrive into Frankfurt Friday morning and if anything went wrong I could always buy a Tokyo to Frankfurt non-stop ticket. So I booked it.
Immediately I checked myself in and not surprisingly, received the dreaded SSSS for my carefully-crafted routing:
Well, that would be annoying.
After enjoying a final Kahala breakfast, John drove me to the airport where I arrived 90-minutes prior to the flight.
I was hoping for first class (it was nearly empty just hours earlier), but several employees had joined the waitlist in the meantime and so it looked I would be flying in business class. Oh poor baby.
There’s something I love about the Diamond Head Concourse at HNL: so retro and yet always sort of in-style.
We took off and I had planned to work the entire flight, but the wi-fi was out so I went to sleep, sleeping through most of the flight. I awoke in-time for breakfast service prior to landing but was graciously offered a dinner leftover from the first meal service upon request. I like fish on United on United and the “Amazon Cod” catered out of Honolulu was perfectly satisfactory. The sundaes had melted, but I had fruit and yogurt from the breakfast menu for dessert.
The Hawaiian-based FAs on the HNL-NRT route are some of the best in the UA system.
I had about 90 minutes in Tokyo and was ecstatic to pick up a cell phone signal as we landed and catch up on e-mail. For the next hour I worked frantically in the gate area of the Chicago flight in case the next flight also had no internet. I had a stack of club passes, but the Untied Club in Narita has poor internet speeds and did not feel like walking down to the ANA lounge.
Perhaps you are wondering about Heidi and what she must have been thinking? Well, honesty is the best policy so I did not try to hide my whereabouts from her. On the contrary, I wanted to re-assure her that her fiancé was a “pro” and there was a method to my madness. And who can deny the logic in traveling the “long way” to Frankfurt not just due to full flights but so I could be well-rested and stay connected?
Yeah, she thought I was crazy.
Once again first class filled up on the Tokyo to Chicago flight but I scored a business class seats downstairs. On this flight, thankfully, the wi-fi worked and the flight was productive.
Just to try something different, I opted to order the Japanese meal on United. While beautifully presented, it just isn’t my thing:
At least the sundae was good.
Although I had rested for most of the Honolulu to Tokyo flight, I again fell asleep and woke up somewhere over Alberta for the pre-arrival meal. This time, I did order breakfast and enjoyed an omelet with fruit and yogurt. Forget the cinnamon rolls out of Narita, though.
We touched down on-time in Chicago and I had a couple hours before my connection to Frankfurt. Immigration went quickly, but the darn SSSS meant another prolonged security check.
The Chicago – Frankfurt flight also filled up in the front cabins at the last minute (are you sensing a pattern here?) and so I was relegated to economy class for the final segment, an exit row window.
Internet thankfully worked (same Star Alliance livery plane actually as the Narita flight), and as usual, I found myself much more productive in economy class than business. There’s something about a lie-flat seat that makes me veg out and lose much productivity.
Indian vegetarian dinners in United Economy are reasonably satisfying and once again I was able to doze off, waking up to find a warm croissant with melon sitting on my still-opened tray table.
After an on-time arrival in Frankfurt, I returned to my apartment to meet Heidi and we shortly thereafter left for the train station to head down to Stuttgart.
Hawaii to Frankfurt via Tokyo and Chicago, all on a United 747-400. Not bad for a day, well two day’s work…
And I did not miss my wedding!