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San Diego Commuter Air Terminal

I’m starting July with a post I started writing after our trip to the US last May but which I only finished recently. The info won’t likely become stale for quite some time so its still pretty much informative for those traveling from San Diego by plane. [Correction: The terminal closed in early June with flights transferred to the main terminal or replaced by larger aircraft. For more info, you can check out this link.]

We mistakenly went to San Diego Airport’s main terminal. It turned out that our flight to Los Angeles would be via the smaller commuter terminal. It’s a good thing that they had an airport shuttle for the convenience of passengers traveling from one terminal to another. The commuter terminal sort of reminded me of the old low cost carrier terminal at Singapore’s Changi Airport but San Diego’s I think is much better in terms of amenities and design.

IMG11192-20150508-0940The counter at our boarding gate

IMG11193-20150508-1004The cafe/restaurant at the commuter terminal had a relaxed and comfortably feel about it

IMG11194-20150508-1004There was also a bar for those wanting to grab a quick drink, alcoholic or not, prior to their flights

IMG11198-20150508-1033Passengers waiting for their flights relax by conversing with their company, having a drink, listening to music or reading or just plain sitting and looking around. 

IMG11199-20150508-1123There’s a news stand at the terminal for those who want to grab something to read for the short flight or for later.

IMG11200-20150508-1124The path to the plane was clearly marked. We were fortunate that the rains stopped prior to our boarding the aircraft.

IMG11201-20150508-1124Our SkyWest plane is the smallest jet aircraft I’ve ridden on. The last time I was on an airplane of this size, it was on a turboprop between Tacloban and Manila. The space above the seats was limited and could probably fit a briefcase sized bag so if you have one of those backpacks or thicker bags with your computer, you would have to place them under the seat in front of you. Of course, this can be uncomfortable to many considering the also constricted leg room in these small aircraft.

Transfer at Narita

Our trip to the US was via Japan Airlines (JAL), which meant we had a layover at Narita International Airport where we changed planes. The stop was over three hours and so I took my time walking from our arrival gate towards our boarding gate in the satellite terminal of the airport. This was so I could get a few, ok a lot, of photos. Of course, I wasn’t able to and didn’t take photos at sensitive areas of the airport (immigration, security checks) as these areas prohibit the use of camera and cellphones.

IMG10872-20150503-1523Passengers walk towards the terminal building upon deplaning

IMG10873-20150503-1524Signs show the way for transfer passengers (Green) and those staying in Japan (Yellow).

IMG10875-20150503-1533The long corridor connecting the main Terminal 2 to the satellite is quite spacious.

IMG10876-20150503-1533There are moving walkways along one side of the connector’s right corridor.

IMG10879-20150503-1535Information screens for Terminal 2 departures

IMG10881-20150503-1536Example of a cafe inside the Narita terminal

IMG10883-20150503-1537Play or lounge area for passengers along the wide bridge connecting Terminal 2 with its satellite

IMG10884-20150503-1537Clean and elegant architecture for Narita Airport’s Terminal 2 connection with its satellite

IMG10885-20150503-1537We really liked the “modern Asian” feel of the interior of Narita Airport

IMG10886-20150503-1538Doorway to the satellite with signs clearly showing the way to the boarding gates

IMG10887-20150503-1538Information screens for departing flights at Narita’s Terminal 2

IMG10889-20150503-1546Familiar green telephones and phone card dispensers

IMG10891-20150503-1552Our boarding gate for the Narita – San Diego leg of our trip

I will be writing a few more articles on airports in future posts.

On delayed flights in the Philippines

I participated in a conference held in Puerto Princesa, Palawan last November and both my flights to and from Puerto Princesa were delayed. The first one was delayed by 1 hour. We boarded on time and there were no announcements of delays. However, we sat inside the plane for about an hour including taxiing towards the runway and then waiting in queue before we were cleared for take-off. The pilot was constantly on the PA system though, informing passengers about the cause of the delay, which was airport congestion. This was a reference to the many take-offs and landings (departing and arriving aircraft) being handled by the airport at the time.  It seems air traffic control could not cope with the number of aircraft departing and arriving at NAIA even considering the airport had two runways that were operational (We took off using the secondary runway.).

Aircraft taxiing towards NAIA’s main runway in preparation for take-off

I won’t mention specific airlines as I think domestic flights by all airlines have been incurring significant delays and not just recently but among the main possible reasons for delays that can be charged to the airline are the following:

1. Airport congestion – This can refer to either the runway or the passenger terminal. However, for the latter case  you can have examples of very congested or crowded terminals of airports that have planes taking off and landing on time. Tagbilaran and Roxas Airports are like that, and Mactan (Cebu) and Bacolod-Silay have passenger terminals that are becoming if not already congested. Thus, airport congestion as a reason for delays must be due to runway operations. A single runway airport will handle fewer flights compared to those with multiple runways. Airport runway design and configuration are influenced by many factors but given any single runway in a major airport like NAIA it is already assumed that these factors are already considered in operation and on a typical day under normal or even favorable conditions, the only other significant factor for runway operations is air traffic control. Air traffic controllers would be responsible for guiding arriving flights and clearing planes for take-off. The number of take-offs and landings will also be significantly affected by how air traffic control “queues” planes in the air and on the ground.

2. Too many flights – Airlines tend to maximize the use of their aircraft and seem to be scheduling more flights that they can handle. This results in the very common “late arrival of turnaround aircraft” reason that airlines announce as the reason for delayed flights. Granted, in many cases this is ultimately due to reason #1, it seems that other airlines that have lesser flights also have less problems of this kind. In fact, I have observed that in many if not most instances, international carriers do not incur as much delays as local carriers and among local carriers there seem to be a unanimous observation on which “planes are always late” these days.

It seems at first that the main issue is not necessarily airlines overbooking their flights since air traffic control and the number of runways can be major factors influencing the number of aircraft that can take-off and land during a particular period. However, one particular airline has a knack for offering a lot of flights that they obviously cannot handle with all the delays and cancellations they have been incurring to the consternation of a lot of travelers. Though I myself use the airline often due to the convenience of their schedules and frequencies, I too have been victimized many times of these delays including one flight to Singapore a couple of years ago when, instead of arriving in time for dinner I ended up arriving home just after midnight.

Recently, there have been calls for the airline and others performing like it to be penalized in order for them to realize how much inconvenience they have brought on to their passengers. I think this is right in order to send a clear message to airlines that safety and service come first before profit. Too many flights, no matter how convenient to the passengers in terms of schedule, is not a substitute for good quality service. Being a budget airline also does not excuse it from what a lot of people have branded as crappy service. This mentality of airlines reminds me only of similar mentality among bus and jeepney operators (land transport) but that’s another story.

No PAGASA? No problem!

I interrupt the transport theme of this site with something about the weather, which actually affects transport and traffic. Rains have resulted in flooded streets and lead to severe traffic congestion. Meanwhile, typhoons have always disrupted travel with airlines forced to cancel flights and maritime operations put on hold. Those braving the weather risk frightening turbulence or rough seas, hopefully not leading to air crashes or capsizing vessels.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) website has been down the past two days at a time people are anxious on information about a typhoon affecting the country with potentially catastrophic outcomes. The Philippines’ weather bureau has put up an alternative site to provide information on the approaching typhoon. Ruby (International name: Hagupit) had developed into a super typhoon yesterday and its Category 5 attributes reminded people about how destructive such forces of nature can be barely more than a year after Yolanda (Haiyan) lay waste several provinces. It seemed that the international name of the typhoon itself was apt for its potential. “Hagupit” is Pilipino for “to lash,” and it would seem to be something like a scourge of God if the typhoon were to make landfall like Haiyan last year.
I have not been too dependent on the PAGASA site despite all the information it provides including real time information on the water levels of major rivers in Metro Manila. I take exception of DOST’s NOAH project, which to me is technically not PAGASA and very useful for their Doppler data and visualization. Two websites that I highly recommend to people for information on the weather are the following:
For those interested in modeling and the forecasting of typhoons from their formative stages the website by the National Oceanic an Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the US is a very interesting site.
Following are sample visuals from the three sites I mentioned, which can be good references for the weather. I highly recommend Wunderground, which also has an app for your smartphone, for daily or even hourly weather information.
JTWC’s latest information on Hagupit

Wunderground’s latest 5-day forecast for Hagupit

NOAA storm tracks showing current and potential weather systems in the Western Pacific

Narita Terminal 2 Arrival

On our most recent trip to Japan, we took Philippine Airlines instead of the usual Delta in our previous trips. For one, PAL offered full service at a competitive price (Delta and JAL were more expensive) and the new schedules meant we could fly to Narita in the morning and arrive there early afternoon, and return to Manila in the evening. This was practically Delta’s schedule. It also helped that PAL was using NAIA Terminal 2 so that meant a better terminal for us compared to the congested and dilapidated NAIA Terminal 1. Of course, there were other choices including ANA, which I would have preferred if only it wasn’t so expensive even compared to JAL. Low cost carriers were also not on our list as we had the budget for full service and we didn’t like the schedules.

We arrived at Narita after a smooth flight and our plane proceeded to Terminal 2, which most Asian airlines use. I have not used this terminal for quite some time now as I usually planed in via Delta or its predecessor Northwest. The last time I was in Terminal 2 was in 1999 when I was returning home to Manila after 3 years in Yokohama, Japan. That time, I used JAL as part of my benefits of being a Monbusho scholar.

2014-02-18 14.13.03Moving walkway or “walkalator” to the arrivals area for immigration processing.

2014-02-18 14.13.20A view of aircraft docked at the airport shows a couple of JAL planes and one of Cathay Pacific. I like JAL’s old logo compared to its new one. This retro look gives you a feeling of nostalgia.

2014-02-18 14.15.03A computer-generated, anime image of an airport staff member greeting arriving passengers to Japan.

2014-02-18 14.15.20Entry towards the immigration counters

2014-02-18 14.15.58Past immigration and proceeding towards the baggage claim area.

2014-02-18 14.21.00Descending to the baggage claim area, passengers are provided information on a huge board on which carousel their baggage will be coming out of. To be sure, ground staff hold a placard directing PAL passengers to the assigned carousel.

2014-02-18 14.21.26Narita’s expanse becomes more obvious at the baggage claim area.

2014-02-18 14.22.42Luggage coming out for passengers to pick up from the carousel.

2014-02-18 14.22.54Ground staff remind passengers to check whether they got the correct luggage from the carousel. Many bags are identical so people should have a distinctive feature on their luggage whether its a tag, sticker, strap or others.

2014-02-18 14.31.24Airport limousine bus counters – there are limousine buses bound for many destinations in the Kanto area. I usually took the limousine bus to get back to Yokohama when I was a student in Japan in the 1990s.

2014-02-18 14.31.51Keisei Skyliner train counter – the Skyliner is less expensive than the limousine buses and for those who travel light, it is a good option going to Tokyo. The last two stops are at Nippori and Ueno Stations where one can easily transfer to JR or subway lines. Other rail options are JR’s Narita Express (NEX) and JR Yokosuka-Sobu Line’s Airport Narita service. I usually take the latter from Yokohama Station.

2014-02-18 14.32.56Giant electronic boards at the arrival lobby provide information on flights arriving and departing Narita Terminal 2.

2014-02-18 14.44.13Our hosts gave instructions to take the limousine bus but part of our group were fetched by car. I was invited to join them because we were staying at the same hotel. The others stayed at another hotel. And so we walked to the upper level of the terminal to cross towards the parking building. The yellow line in the photo is a standard feature of many facilities in Japan that make them PWD-friendly. These are guides for blind people who can use their canes to “feel” the directions.

2014-02-18 14.45.26Another view of the information board from the upper level of the terminal.

2014-02-18 14.45.31Quite an unusual description of the parking building levels, which we thought were signature Japanese.

2014-02-18 14.46.02Floor information for Terminal 2

2014-02-18 14.48.05On the bridge from Terminal 2 to the parking building, we have a good view of the driveway and the slots for VIPs.

2014-02-18 14.49.26Paying for parking at one of the machines at the parking building.

2014-02-18 14.49.35We were curious about the sign that also mentioned a pet hotel. I guess travelers who didn’t have anyone to leave their pets with at home can now have the convenience of checking in their pets at the hotel to take care of the animals while they were away.

2014-02-18 14.50.35Waiting zone for vehicles – our host went to get our vehicle while we waited at the designated area.

I am already looking forward to a next trip to Japan. Perhaps I will take PAL again in a future flight? Actually, I was a bit disappointed that they used a smaller plane for our flight even if it was a new Airbus A321 Neo. I think I got used to the B747s that Delta and JAL used for their flights (I think JAL and ANA now uses the fuel efficient B777’s while Delta retained its B747s that eventually continue to the US). I think the smaller aircraft by PAL was the result of a combination of cost cutting (fuel-wise) and their increasing the frequency of flights. No matter, if you know that a nice airport like Narita is waiting on the other end of  trip, it is a flight worth looking forward to.

YCAT – Yokohama City Air Terminal

The Yokohama City Air Terminal (YCAT) is one of two city air terminals in the Kanto area, the other being the Tokyo City Air Terminal (TCAT). I have used both in the past including my first trip to Japan where I was instructed to proceed to TCAT where I met with a good friend of mine who took me to the university I was visiting. The second time I went to Japan, I proceeded to YCAT where eventual friends also fetched me to go to the university where I was to study for 3 years. On this sentimental journey of sorts, I made sure to take a few photos at the YCAT, which I chose over my usual Yokosuka-Sobu Airport Narita train between Yokohama and the airport.

2013-10-11 11.23.11The YCAT is located at the Sky Building, which used to be the tallest building in Yokohama. The building is connected to Yokohama Station (East Exit). Proceeding left takes one to the departure lounge where people can purchase limousine bus tickets. To the right is the arrival lounge where people can wait for passengers arriving from either Haneda or Narita via limousine bus.

2013-10-11 11.23.33Main entrance to the YCAT right next to a popular coffee shop. Here, one can purchase tickets for Haneda Airport or Narita Airport, exchange currencies and even make some last minute souvenir shopping.

2013-10-11 11.41.12There are also many vending machines for those who just want a quick hot or cold drink.

2013-10-11 11.41.19Airport limousine bus tickets can be purchased at these counters. The electronic boards provide information about bus schedules between YCAT and Haneda or Narita Airport. There is also a Travelex counter for currency exchange and a Western Union counter for sending or receiving money transfers.

2013-10-11 11.41.27One can make some last minute shopping at the YCAT shop.

2013-10-11 11.44.54Coin lockers for travelers who might just want to keep their luggage secure while spending a little more time in the area for a meal or some shopping. Note that YCAT is located at the Sky Building, which is connected to shopping malls and Yokohama Station.

2013-10-11 11.45.06Airport flight information for departures and arrivals.

2013-10-11 11.45.14Other information on travel and events at the YCAT include brochures and posters.

IMG07169-20131011-1155Airport Limousine Bus bound for Narita Airport arriving at the YCAT – luggage are tagged so limousine bus staff at the airport terminals can identify which bags are to be unloaded at which terminals.

IMG07170-20131011-1156Stop 1 is for Narita-bound buses while Stop 2 is for Haneda-bound buses.

Narita departure

I will be traveling to Japan again in the next few weeks and so I felt I had to finish a draft that I started last month about Narita Airport. Departing for Manila after a few days of meetings in Tokyo, I was able to take some photos around the airport’s Terminal 1. Narita was the first large international airport I have been to because my first foreign trip back in the 1990s was to Tokyo. I was impressed by what I saw as a huge terminal compared to what we had in Manila back then, the current NAIA Terminal 1. Following are photos taken during my recent trip to Japan. Note that there are no photos taken in the sensitive areas where the use of cameras are prohibited.

IMG06565-20130801-1421Airline check-in counters at Narita’s Terminal 1 North Wing

IMG06567-20130801-1421Artistic design of a column at the terminal helps lighten the environment inside the terminal

IMG06569-20130801-1422Passengers line up to check-in their luggage at the Delta counter

IMG06570-20130801-1428Passengers can check in at one of the many terminals or booths by using their passports and ticket information. If one has not yet selected a seat via online check-in, seats can be selected using the interface.

IMG06571-20130801-1431Airline and airport ground staff provide assistance to passengers.

IMG06572-20130801-1432Entrances/exits at the airport. Shown in the photo is a bus parked at the curbside just outside the terminal building.

IMG06575-20130801-1456The airport has a nice food court where passengers and well-wishers can have their meals prior to going through immigration control to the pre-departure area.

IMG06578-20130801-1559There are many shops at the terminal including those selling souvenirs.

IMG06579-20130801-1613Shops include those selling Japanese crafts and clothing. Traditional crafts like silkware, woodcrafts, papercraft, etc. are popular souvenir items.

IMG06581-20130801-1619Toys, especially those from anime characters, are very popular with the younger people and children. I myself bought a few souvenirs with characters from Miyazaki’s Totoro (Studio Ghibli) and, of course, Hello Kitty for my niece. There are also Disney and Nintendo themed toys and other items at these shops.

IMG06583-20130801-1655Information boards are strategically located around the terminal to guide passengers.

IMG06586-20130801-1707Counter at Gate 25 of Narita Terminal 1’s North Wing.

I have used only five airlines in my trips to Japan; four if one considers Delta’s acquisition of Northwest. These are Philippine Airlines, Northwest/Delta Airlines, Pakistan International Airlines (yes, it was a practical choice back in the 1990s when I was a student in Japan), and Japan Airlines. During a couple of trips within Japan, I took the domestic flights on All Nippon Airways (ANA). Perhaps I will try ANA in my next trip to Japan as the schedule for its flights are good (morning flight to Narita and evening flight to Manila) and the airline uses NAIA Terminal 3, which means its more convenient than the farther NAIA Terminals 1 or 2.