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After landing into Tokyo Narita International Airport, I had a 2-hour layover before my connecting flight to Sapporo (CTS).  I booked the domestic connection using 5,000 United miles, which is definitely a hidden gem on United's award chart that likely won't extend past November 15th when United moves to a dynamic award system.  Your next best option would then be British Airways' partner distanced-based award system, which would be 6k Avios for the Tokyo-CTS nonstop route on their OneWorld partner Japan Airlines.

Similar to the U.S., international arrivals with domestic connections at Japanese airports require you to go through customs and immigration during your point of entry and to re-check your bags.  Fortunately, Japanese customs and immigration are usually a quick and simple process, and I was able to get my bags checked onto my connecting flight within 20 minutes of landing.  After checking my bags for my onward flight to CTS, I headed to the ANA Arrival Lounge.


ANA Arrival Lounge at NRT

The ANA Arrival Lounge at NRT is located landside next to the domestic check-in counters, and actually serves as ANA's domestic lounge as well as an arrival lounge for premium class customers.  Access is granted for domestic Star Alliance Gold passengers and first class domestic passengers.  In order to access the lounge on arrival, you need to be arriving same-day on an ANA-operated flight ticketed in business or first class or otherwise have mid-tier elite status with the ANA Mileage Club program.



The lounge is relatively basic with small snacks and limited alcoholic drinks.  There was a long waitlist for the showers for obvious reasons as arriving passengers like to shower before heading onward.  Since the lounge is located landside, you do need to go through security screening when heading to your domestic flight, but the process usually only takes a couple of minutes, so I left the lounge about 25 minutes before my domestic flight's scheduled departure time.


ANA NRT-CTS economy class

Nearly all domestic flights out of NRT require you to board a bus to your narrow body plane, and this flight was no exception.  The aircraft type was a turbo-prop Bombardier Q400 (DH4) by ANA Wings doing business as ANA.  The configuration is 2-2 seating, which means that you'll never get a middle seat.




The Bombardier's overhead bins are tiny as my backpack barely fit inside.  Definitely need to watch your head when boarding as well since this turbo-prop gives narrow-body a new meaning.  Surprisingly, the seats had pretty good seat pitch close to economy plus cabins offered by U.S. airlines.



One of (many?) downsides of flying on turbo-prop jets is the excessive engine noise, which rings nonstop from gate to gate.  Sufficient noise-canceling headphones like the Bose QC 3 are a definite must if you'll be flying around on a Bombardier.  ANA offers free WiFi on most of their domestic flights, but the service is usually slow and sporadic.  After reaching cruising altitude, the flight attendants went around with apple juice and green tea offerings.


Bottom line

Flying domestically in Japan is almost like boarding a bus.  Security screening is quick and efficient with polite and professional screening agents.  Whereas ANA's domestic hard product and offerings are nothing special, it's great that you can arrive at the gate within 10 minutes of your flight and board the plane without trouble.  Try that in the U.S. and you'll be playing with fire.


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