Friday, January 15, 2010

NRT-MSP-ATL - January 14, 2010

Flew today from Tokyo Narita to Atlanta with a stop in Minneapolis. A few thoughts about the very long day, about 21 hours door-to-door.

America's Newest Export - Security Theater

Thanks to Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab or whatever his name is, flying from Japan to the US has become just that much more annoying. It used to be very relaxing in Narita - in the past few years, I've had nothing but good experiences - quick check ins, almost no lines at security or immigration and some time to eat before boarding the plane. Some of this is due to the fact I generally fly at non-peak periods, but Narita and its airlines had streamlined its processes as well, adding plenty of check-in kiosks, expanding security lanes, and renovating the restaurant areas.

Sadly, due to the TSA's latest dictum, we must be patted down and have our baggage hand searched AFTER we have had our boarding pass scanned, in other words, on the jetbridge to the plane itself. They had about 8 people doing full pat downs and another 8 doing visual checking of baggage. It makes the boarding area even more crowded and bothersome (not to mention unnecessary as neither the pat down or baggage check does anything more than what was done as the first security screening). I always enjoy boarding a plane for a flight, but this new rule, even though it only takes a couple of minutes, is so poorly considered that it left me shaking my head.

I don't want to go into all the problems with the TSA's approach; do a Google search for the term Security Theater or check out some of Patrick Smith's columns at Ask the Pilot, a great resource for frequent fliers. But as the TSA reacts to every threat by making new rules (no liquids, shoes off etc) that I wonder how much longer until a terrorist attempts to hide something in his butt just to see what happens here.

To be fair, I didn't think that Japan was on the list of countries that needed to increase their vigilance, so it's possible this is something that Narita airport is doing of its own accord. But whatever the case, it's simply a waste of everybody's time and energy.

Delta Airlines

The flight from Narita to Minneapolis was about 10 hours and a bit choppy at times, but otherwise pretty routine. The biggest problem was that during the breakfast service, they ran out of eggs by the time they reached my seat; I'm guessing I was lucky to have avoided them. I am looking forward to when Delta retires these old 747s that they inherited from Northwest as they lack in-seat entertainment and are really not that comfortable. Always better to use the A330s if you are flying from Japan, but those are limited to San Francisco and Seattle as far as I know.

However, I would like to praise Delta for their good service after I arrived in the States. They were helpful on the ground in MSP regarding a small problem in my booking, and the flight to Atlanta was highlighted by the GoGo WiFi service. I know that the service is not Delta specific, but it's good that they had these older planes equipped and that the service worked as advertised. I had never used internet in the air and was impressed with how quickly my iPhone loaded pages. I was even able to track my own flight on FlightAware. So cool. At $7.95, it might be a bit much for a short flight, but it was well worth it as a first experience. I even updated the previous post while in the air!

Below is a shot of the MD90 that took me from cold Minneapolis to chilly Atlanta (N915DN).

We arrived 15 minutes early in Atlanta, which gave me plenty of time to get to my downtown hotel and venture over to Philips Arena to watch the Sabres and Thrashers. More on that in the next post.



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