Saturday 6 June 2015

Japanese New Year Trip 2014 - Day 7 (Homeward bound, or not)

Well folks, I don’t even know how to describe what happened but I’ll try my best so here goes.
It was day 7, the day Kyle and I were set to fly back to the UK. By good fortune we had flights that were around midday which meant that we didn't have to get up too early to get to Narita. Because I was a last minute addition to the trip I was with a different airline to Ryan. This wasn't a problem, baggage drop off was open for both of us at more or less the same time (our flights were only an hour apart) so we dropped our bags off and headed through to the gates. Ryan was due to fly out first so I kept him company while we waited for his flight, I had some noodly goodness at a café after he boarded.
Ryan's flight - the (elderly) queen of the skies, 747-400
My flight - The A340-600 (Travelled on a few of these, over the last few years)

Next it was my turn to board the aircraft; things looked to be going smoothly. Less than an hour in to the flight we were informed by the caption that there was an indication problem in one of the engines. As a result, we’d have to dump some fuel and return to Narita so Virgin’s engineers could have a look at it before resuming our journey. I can think of a few people I know who would have completely freaked out after hearing an announcement like that. Veteran long haul flyer that I am, I was unperturbed. Anyway, the situation was inconvenient but on the plus side I had a window seat behind the wing so I could see the fuel dump in progress. That was rather interesting to see. Also, in a situation like that, safety is paramount so I completely understand the need to turn back.
Things went from inconvenient to frustrating when we were informed that the fuel dump was taking longer than expected. It was going to take another hour. I could already tell that this was not going to be a good day. Clearly, my plan to turn the aircraft in to a good luck shrine (through the many omamori in my suitcase) had not worked. I wonder if Kyle decided to load my luggage with expired omamori instead (they only work for a year, then need returning to the shrine they were bought from to be burned).
On the ground you’d think that we’d get some good news, right? Wrong! With the length of time things were taking, the crew would end up exceeding their maximum shift time (I'm not going to complain about that, I certainly wouldn't want an exhausted crew operating an aircraft) so the flight would be rescheduled for the morning. Consequently, the airline would be putting us up in a hotel near the airport for the night so my trip ended up being extended by another day.
As luck would have it, the hotel was nice enough and we received a voucher for dinner that night and breakfast the following morning so we didn't have to worry about starving (or finding money for food).
Making the best of a bad situation I chatted with a few of the other passengers while we queued at the check in desk to receive our reservations and details of how to get to the hotel (which shuttle buses to use). It certainly proved to be an interesting bonding experience. I compliment the other passengers on not getting mad at the staff while they were doing their best to make arrangements for us for the evening.

Give me a hotel room with a bed, a desk and an internet connection (plus a veding machine with beer) and I'll make the best of the situation
Being on the 9th floor, the view wasn't bad
The hotel room has a genkan (place to leave your shoes), I approve!
With internet provided in the room I was able to use skype out to make some frantic phone calls – I needed to let my family know that I would not be in Manchester that evening.
Once I’d done everything needed on my end I freshened up and went in search of food. There was a Chinese restaurant on the first floor (by the way, that’s first floor in UK parlance) that looked nice. As expected of my luck, there was a 1 hour wait for a table. I decided to try the buffet on the ground floor. Food was okay and at least there was a mix of things to try. While there I ran in to one of the passengers I was speaking to earlier, through this whole experience we had a tendency to run in to each other.
With food sorted out, it was time to make use of the hotel (beer) vending machine. I think I earned the beer on that day!

Until the next day…

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