Flight Review: Amakusa Airlines DHC-8-100 Economy Class from Kumamoto to Osaka Itami

Amakusa Airlines DHC-8-100

(Flown on May 18, 2015)

Amakusa Airlines is a regional airline based on the island of Amakusa in Kumamoto Prefecture. Using its sole DHC-8-100 in a very memorable dolphin livery, it operates the following domestic routes: Amakusa – Kumamoto, Amakusa – Fukuoka and Kumamoto – Osaka Itami.

As part of its “fleet” renewal, Amakusa Airlines signed a lease deal for a single ATR-42. The ATR is due to be delivered in December 2015. However, Amakusa Airlines announced plans to halt all of its operations, except for the Amakusa – Fukuoka flight due to crew training for the new aircraft type.

As such, it was time to plan a trip on the “Dolphins” before their retirement.

Planning and Booking the Trip

With the Kumamoto – Osaka Itami flight being the cheapest and longest, selecting the route was easy. The date of the flight was set for May 18th. With the main flight of the trip booked, it was time to book flights to Kumamoto and from Osaka. After a bit of playing around with various airlines’ reservation systems, I have decided to take the first morning flight on May 17th from Tokyo Narita to Kumamoto on Jetstar, and last flight of the day on May 18th from Osaka Kansai to Tokyo Narita on Peach.

Final Routing
Final routing: Tokyo Narita – Kumamoto – Osaka Itami / Osaka Kansai – Tokyo Narita.
Choosing the Seat
Choosing the seat was easy on Amakusa’s website. Eventually, I ended up changing my seat.

Off to Kumamoto

5:00AM, and the alarm goes off… It was time to get out of the bed in order to catch my 8:30 flight from Tokyo Narita to Kumamoto.

After arriving at Narita Airport, I took the shuttle bus to Terminal 3 – the new terminal built for low cost carriers. As I printed my boarding pass at home and I only had hand luggage, I headed straight through security.

Boarding for my flight started about 5 minutes after I got to my gate. The flight was extremely uneventful – a typical low cost airline flight – and slightly less than two hours, we were landing at Kumamoto.

Onboard Jetstar
Approaching Kumamoto onboard Jetstar’s A320 with Sharklets.

As the weather was rather good, I stayed at the airport for an hour and a half to photograph departure of, among other planes, Amakusa Airlines to Osaka – the flight I would be taking the next day and Mandarin Airlines ERJ-190 in special colors operating a charter flight from Taipei.

Kumamoto Airport
Aso Kumamoto Airport’s observation deck.
AMX801 taxiing for departure from runway 07, bound for Osaka – Itami.
Mandarin Airlines Embraer ERJ-190 wearing special “Lake Moon” colors departing runway 07 bound for Taipei.

After the departure of Mandarin Airlines, there were no more interesting flights scheduled, and so I decided to head into the city.

Mini Tour of Kumamoto City

As it was still only about noon when I arrived in the city, I grabbed a lunch and then spent a couple of hours relaxing in a coffee shop before heading to my hotel to check-in.

Great “tsukemen” noodles in Kumamoto.

Then, I headed out again to visit two sights – Suizenji Garden and Kumamoto Castle.

Kumamon – the mascot of Kumamoto is popular all over Japan. Here he is “guarding” the entrance into Suizenji Garden.
Suizenji Garden
Suizenji Garden with a grassy replica of Mount Fuji.
Kumamoto Castle
Kumamoto Castle is one of the largest castles in Japan.

Later that night, before heading back to the hotel, I met for with two friends who would be joining me on the Amakusa Airlines flight the following day.

Flying the Amakusa Airlines Dolphins

After a night in a hotel in central Kumamoto, I woke up around 7AM to get ready, have a quick breakfast and head to Kumamoto airport where I would be meeting my friends again. As I arrived at the airport slightly earlier than my friends did, I wandered around the terminal for a little while before heading to the check-in area to meet them.

The Amakusa Airlines check-in is handled by Japan Airlines – their code share partner. After being handed our boarding passes and old school handwritten baggage tags, we proceeded through the security towards Gate 7 where our flight would be boarding.

The JAL ground staff is busy here checking-in my friend Yukihiro.

Our flight was scheduled to depart at 10:45, and at 10:34, priority boarding was announced; followed by regular boarding announcement right after at 10:35. We proceeded through the gate, down the stairs, and out onto the tarmac. At this point, while it was cloudy, at least the rain had stopped, and so we walked around the airplane a bit to take photos.

Boarding JA81AM
Time to board the aircraft, but not before taking a photo…

Once onboard, we were welcomed by the sole flight attendant. We started our engines, and at 10:46 we taxied out of our stand and headed towards runway 07. The flight attendant gave the safety demonstration during the taxi, and soon we stopped at T4 intersection of runway 07.

We waited at the intersection for a few minutes to let two Japan Ground Self Defence Forces Chinooks take off, and at 10:51 we started our take off roll in light rain. Eight minutes after take-off, the flight attendant announced that use of electronic devices was permitted, and another seven minutes later, the seatbelt sign went off.

As such, I switched my seat to a row in front of me to take some pictures out of the window, and as soon as I stood up, the flight attendant told me to sit down and fasten my seatbelt. I guess that’s how it works on short turboprop flights…

Flying Dolphin
Flying dolphin working hard to get us to Osaka.
Close-up of “Haru-chan” working hard to get us to Itami airport.

At 11:25, the service started – it consisted of two items – an ice cream filled desert and a juice box. It is worth noting that the desert was named “dolphin egg” and was made in Amakusa.

In-flight service
The simple, yet sufficient in-flight service.

Besides the typical safety card and bag, the seat pocket also contained a folder serving as in-flight magazine which included various interesting information including the names of Amakusa Airlines crew.

Among other things, the folder also contained names of the three Amakusa Airlines dolphins – Mizoka (fuselage), Haru-chan (left engine) and Kai-kun (right engine).

During the flight, as we were getting closer to Osaka Itami airport, we flew by Kansai Airport, as well as Yao Airport. Later as we entered the City of Osaka, we flew by the Osaka Castle.

Kansai Airport
Overflying Kansai Airport on our way to the other airport of Osaka – Itami.
Reached Osaka, only a few minutes left until the end of the flight.

About 30 minutes after it was turned off, the seat belt sign was back on at 11:39 followed by landing gear being put down two minutes later. Another two minutes later, we touched down on runway 32R, followed by hard breaking to reach gate 23 at 12:05.

Arrived in Osaka
View of our left engine and landing gear after arriving in Osaka.

After everyone got off the plane, it was time to take cabin shots before descending to the tarmac, taking some more pictures, and bidding a farewell to the three dolphins.

Cabin of our DHC-8-100 after everyone got off at Osaka.
Me with JA81AM
Me posing with our aircraft after arrival in Osaka.
Yukihiro posing with our aircraft after arrival in Osaka.
Yukihiro posing with our aircraft after arrival in Osaka.
…and finally, the aircraft by itself.

Heading Back Home

Once we got out of the secured area at Itami Airport, we met up with a friend who works at the airport for a lunch. Then, it was time for each of us to head our own way.
My friends headed to Kobe where they would take an ANA fligth back to Haneda. I, on the other hand, headed to Osaka downtown where I met up with another friend for a quick chat before taking a bus to Kansai Airport in order to make it for my Peach Aviation flight back to Narita.

Osaka Station
View of Osaka station during my short layover there.

The flight was uneventful, just like most of LCC flights are, and in no time I was landing back in Narita. The only thing worth noticing was that the lights were not turned off for take-off or landing even though it was dark outside – apparently it is a policy of ANA group airlines instilled after a harrassment incident on one of ANA flights.

Peach A320
Boarding the final flight of the trip – time to go back to Tokyo.

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