Date: June 28, 2017
Flight No.: D71
Route: Osaka Kansai to Honolulu Daniel K. Inouye
Airline: AirAsia X
Type: Airbus A330-300
Back in February, AirAsia X announced that it would be launching its first route to the United States. The route – Kuala Lumpur to Honolulu via Osaka Kansai and back – was to start operating four times a week starting on June 28, 2017.
Given that it was going to be the first low-cost carrier flight between Asia and the United States and the fact that they were offering some (more than) decent promo fares, I decided to book the inaugural. It also gave me a nice excuse to do some Hawaiian island hopping…
I booked my flight as soon as it opened for booking – on February 11, 2017 – allowing me to snatch one of the tickets offered at the promotional fare of 12,900 JPY (about 115 USD). At the time of booking, I also added the seat selection option for 1,800 JPY. And later on, I also added a checked in bag for 4,000 JPY.
The add-on fees increased the base fare by almost 50%, but even then it was a great deal. And so, all that was left was to wait for the day of departure…
Checking-in for Flight D7 1 from Osaka Kansai to Honolulu
When I got to the check-in area almost three hours before the flight, it was already crowded.
There were reporters interviewing some of the passengers. Other than that, however, there was – at that point – nothing that would indicate that it was the inaugural flight – no banners, etc.
Unfortunately, it took a while to process my check-in due to some issue with the system not recognizing my visa. While I have no issue with the technical issue, I was left waiting at the counter without any sort of updates for quite a few minutes – instead it was just three or four of the staff communicating among each other.
Instead of that, I would have appreciated if they proactively communicated the issue to me. Rather than me having to ask them what was going on. The communication certainly could have been better. Luckily, that was the only negative part of the process.
While waiting, I asked the check-in agent about the load and how many passengers were actually going all the way from Kuala Lumpur. Turns out the load was close to 100%, and only about 50 people were coming from Malaysia with the rest starting in Osaka.
I also noticed that they were offering upgrades into Premium Flatbed – AirAsia X’s business class – for 20,000 JPY. I decided to take the opportunity, and after confirming that a window seat was available, I was assigned seat 1K and taken to a neighboring counter to process the payment.
And then, finally, I was ready to go…
Inaugural Event at Kansai Airport Gate 22
With the boarding pass in my hand, I went through security and immigration – both of which were a breeze. At 9:40PM, I got on the automated train to “gates 26-29 and 38-41,” and within a couple of minutes I got to the flight’s departure gate – 38.
When I got to the gate, it was already busy there. A celebratory gate was set up, journalists were waiting for the event, and the airline and airport staff were doing a practice run of it and taking photos.
Then, around 10:20PM, the event started.
First, a tape cut ceremony was held. There were three VIPs cutting the tape. Namely, they were: Tan Sri Rafidah, Chairman of AirAsia X (middle) ; Benyamin Ismail, CEO of AirAsia X (left); and Gregory Jamet, CCO – Aero of Kansai Airport (right).
Then, a photo shoot with the three VIPs and two flight attendants holding signs commemorating the inaugural flight followed. Later on, they were joined by three guests – Anna Koshino, the vocalist of “anderlust” (a Japanese band); Niki, a cast member of the Japanese reality show “Terrace House: Aloha State;” and Una, a Japanese model.
Once the event finished, a small press conference with Benyamin and Gregory was held. Among other things, it was mentioned that it took more than a year to process all the necessary FAA approvals, and that if AirAsia X decides to expand in the US in the future, Osaka could become a mini-hub.
Boarding the First Ever AirAsia X 1 Flight
With all the journalists’ questions answered, it was time to start boarding.
During boarding, each passenger was given a gift bag containing a key holder, a luggage tag, and some promotional materials. The bags were handed to the passengers by the Chairman and the CEO.
I took some photos of boarding, and then joined the line to board myself. I received my gift bag, and headed down the jetway into 9M-XXA – the A330 that would take us to Honolulu.
Departing Osaka Kansai Onboard Air Asia X’s First Flight to the US
Onboard, I dropped my bag off at 1K, and then walked around the cabin a bit to take some cabin photos.
After I took the economy class cabin photo, Kana – the Japanese cabin crew member that happened to be walking down the aisle offered to pose for a photo. Of course, I could not reject that offer.
Soon after, boarding was finished and it turned out that 1H – the seat next to me – would be occupied by Benyamin, the CEO of AirAsia X.
With everyone onboard, business class passengers were handed a bottle of water. Simultaneously, and announcement was made that our flight time was expected to be 7 hours and 30 minutes and that we would be cruising at 41,000 feet.
Later, a selection of juices was offered as welcome drink. Well done – especially considering that an airline like JAL does not bother to serve them on flights of similar length.
We were pushed out of the gate at 11:28PM. By that time, all the journalists moved outside, and were doing a photo shoot on the apron.
Five minutes after starting push back, we got on our way to the active runway, and at 11:44PM, AirAsia X flight 1 took off bound for Hawaii for the first time ever.
Post-Take-Off Service in AirAsia X Business Class
The seatbelt signs were switched off just six minutes after take-off, and so the service could begin. While the cabin crew was getting ready, I chatted with Benyamin a bit. About the plans for expanding the Honolulu route to daily if all goes well as well as about some other routes.
First, in-flight entertainment devices were distributed. As AirAsia X Premium Flatbed seats are not equipped with IFE, the airline provides passengers with Huawei tablets loaded with about 35 movies, some TV shows and games, and so on instead. As a sidenote, passengers in economy can rent the same device for a bit more than 10 dollars.
Second, pineapple tarts and post cards were distributed to all passengers to commemorate the inaugural flight. It was a nice touch that AirAsia X offered passengers to send their post cards for them – all they had to do was fill out the address and message, and hand it over to the crew.
Finally, duvets were distributed to Premium Flatbed passengers. I was quite surprised by their quality. They were definitely better than the ones provided on my recent business class flights with JAL and Finnair. And, of course, they were in the signature AirAsia red color. (Pillows were on the seats when we boarded.)
Sleeping in the AirAsia X Premium Flatbed
Shortly after midnight, one of the cabin crew members came by to ask whether I wanted to eat the meal at that time or later. Given that it was already late, and I was tired, I opted to have it before landing, and instead decided to go to sleep.
Before I fall asleep, let’s take a closer look at the seat, though.
AirAsia X A330s are equipped with 12 angle-flat seats arranged in two rows of six (2-2-2). Each of the seats is equipped with a small storage area under the inner armrest and a seatocket.
The seat controls could be found on the outer armrest. There are also another set of seat controls – a simpler one with just two buttons for the bed and lounging presets – on the panel that can only be reached when the seat is reclined.
Each of the seats was equipped with a reading light and a power outlet as well. Finally, there was a small partition – that could be extended for more privacy – between each pair of seats.
As for the comfort of the seat, I had no idea falling asleep in it in the flat mode. However, once I fell asleep, I slid down from time to time. Overall, though, I was able to get about five hours of sleep.
AirAsia X’s First Moments in (or Above) Hawaii
The only reason I “only” got five hours of sleep was that at 5:30AM Japan time – 10:30AM Hawaii time, I was woken up by the crew and asked if I wanted to have breakfast. Of course, if for nothing else, then for the sake of this review, I accepted.
While I believe that passengers who are booked in business from the beginning can choose their meal online, I did not get to choose. Instead, I was presented with “gyudon” – a Japanese beef rice bowl. For drink, I went with mango juice.
While the presentation was “typically lowcost,” the meal itself was fairly good.
After the meal, I dozed off for a couple more minutes before waking up again and opening the windows.
About 30 minutes later, shortly before noon local time, we flew over the westernmost Hawaiian island – Niihau. A couple of minutes after flying by the island, at 11:56AM, the seatbelt signs were switched on.
From there, it was just a short ride to Honolulu.
At 12:20PM, we reached Oahu – the island on which Honolulu can be found – and flew by Kalaeloa airport.
Then, some more amazing views of the Oahu coastline followed.
Finally, the cockpit crew lowered the landing gear at 12:19PM, and we touched down on runway 8L just three minutes later – at 12:22PM.
Aloha-Style Welcome at Honolulu Daniel K. Inouye Airport
After landing, eight minutes of taxiing followed. Unfortunately, there was no water cannon salute to welcome us. However, it was nice to be back in the United States and see the local traffic while on the way to our gate.
The flight ended when we came to a full stop at gate 24 of Honolulu airport at 12:30PM. Our parking spot was next to a Japan Airlines 767 – one of the few Japanese aircraft on the ground at that time.
Once the seatbelt sign was switched off, I exchanged business cards with Ben, took a quick photo with him.
As soon as the door was opened, and the “Alohas” started to echo around the aircraft, I bade a farewell to the crew, and headed out into the terminal.
At the end of the jetway, Honolulu airport staff was hanging leis around the arriving passengers’ necks.
There was also a small hula dancing performance going on.
I watched it for a couple of minutes, and then continued through the immigration and customs. Once landside, I called my hotel’s shuttle, took a quick shower, and went out to do some spotting since the weather was excellent.
While I will post a separate spotting report later, I will post one photo here.
The first departure of AirAsia X out of Honolulu – as flight D72 to Osaka Kansai.