Asia, Singapore

Our Challenge of Getting Home from Tokyo – Stuck in Airport and Lesson Learned!

The next day, we catch our morning flight to Tokyo thus the reason we stayed in the airport for convenience. There are many lounges in Singapore Changi and this time we tried Plaza Premium Lounge and the laksa (curry noodle soup). It was tasty and filling before our flight!

Not that we’ll be hungry flying with Japan Airlines….. those huge food trays 😀 I love their flavorful miso soup!

Urggg that was disgusting, please be considerate to other fellow flyers!

When we landed Narita Tokyo Airport at around 4 PM, it was raining and snowing and I couldn’t believe that we deplaned via bus during this weather.

We were back to Narita again and have a longer layover (3 hours) there to do our shopping. I love how they have a display “model” of each item so you know how it looks like inside the pretty packaging! We’ll be visiting Japan in May so we brought back home one of each that looked interesting to try so we can buy more in May 🙂 Those pretty looking displays totally tested my selective disorder >.<

Those glasses are very pretty but look at the price tag, yikes over $100 USD each! Snacks are much more affordable 😛

My end result to try this and that!

And then I saw this Chinese guy stacked with boxes of this kind of white chocolate covered biscuits, they must be good right? So I grabbed a box too and it turned out to be one of my favorites from the basket load of snacks!

Those are the ones that I brought home costing over $100 USD with the most expensive were the scallops over $30 USD for that bag, others are like in the $10 USD range.

After shopping, it was time to fill our tummy and everything looked so yummy!

I got a miso soup and I think the flavor was too much that it was a little bit salty for me.

Look at the perfectly boiled egg!

Jason got the steak and eel combo fish, the steak was yummy!

Narita Airport was fun to explore for a few hours…one interesting thing was the super high tech toilet….so many buttons and functions! It even plays music too? LOL!!!!

Once we done with shopping and our dinner, we walked back to our gate and waited; oh boy it was snowing outside instead of a wintery mix.

We waited and waited passed our boarding time and then an announcement from the barely we can understand gate agent that the flight is delayed for de-icing. Ok, understandable and we waited for another hour. The agent announced again that the flight is delayed until further notice urgggggg! We kept waiting for another hour again and the same announcement that delayed until further notice due to weather. It didn’t look that bad out compared to what we had seen in New England; the snow barely accumulating! Our flight was originally scheduled to depart at 7:40 PM and we waited for over 2 hours! Around 10 PM, the gate agent announced the flight is CANCELLED!!!! What the????? Everyone was scrambling to the gate agent and asked what should we do? We had a hard time understanding her and thank goodness that there was another staff who speaks English without the strong accent. She said the flight is canceled due to the airport is closed because of the snowstorm. Also, the airport is closing that we can’t stay inside the gate area; we must leave the gate area and go through immigration to officially enter Japan, OMG this was the 2nd time we had to enter Japan that we didn’t plan to! We asked if they can rebook us to the next flight out and the agent said she can’t do any rebooking, we need to call the reservation office. And by the way, the reservation office is closed at 7 PM so we have to wait till the next morning at 8 am when they reopen…..WTH!!!! Oh, she added that since the cancellation was due to weather, the airline is not responsible for the loss…..double WTH!!!!

Alright, my mind started to process our alternative to get home if Japan Airlines couldn’t get us out the next day. I know that the Chase Sapphire Reserve has great travel benefits since we booked our flight with the credit card so I looked through it and found the trip cancellation/interruption benefits. I scanned through the Benefits Guide on the trip cancellation/interruption benefits and it said it covered cancellation/interruption due to weather so I thought yay. The Benefits Guide didn’t say what is not covered and it requested “proof of expenses incurred due to a Trip Interruption”, so I thought that the expenses incurred during the trip interruption are covered. Next, we looked at the flights to get home; the nonstop Japan Airlines flight to Boston the next day was sold out in minutes! We looked for airport hotel while waiting at the immigration line where the room was filled with stranded passengers like us and every hotel was sold out OMG 🙁

It took another half an hour to get through immigration and we finally got out of the security area. No hotel was available nearby but there was some outside of the airport area. We walked out and there were a few taxis around so I asked a taxi driver how much it would cost to get to this hotel? He doesn’t speak English at all OMG! I used my body language to ask him to write it down, he wrote around 10,000 yen! I asked credit card? He said no! I walked back in to let the guys know the cost and I went to the ATM machine to get cash. When I hit the hotel booking confirmation button in the Expedia App, it came back with an error. Urg, I tried again the same thing! Then, I use Orbitz and the same thing, I guess everyone is making bookings at the same time that the inventory showing is not accurate. We talked through and made a decision to stay inside the airport instead. We found some seats right in front of one of the sliding doors.

We gave up on searching for hotel room and instead, we looking for flights to get home thinking the credit card trip insurance will cover the expenses. The cheapest flight we found was the American Airlines flight to Chicago and to Boston for like $800 while the rest were in the thousands range. We were so afraid that the flight will be sold out soon as thousands of passengers were stranded in Tokyo. Also, the airline is not responsible to rebook us due to weather and not their fault and we don’t know if they can get us a flight the next day….we might be stranded for more than a day! We need to get back to work so we decided to go ahead and book the flight! Once the flight confirmation got through, we were relieved that at least we will be able to get home tomorrow. An announcement came out that the airport will be providing sleeping bags, water, and crackers; we were really impressed on how quickly the airport acted in this situation. People were lined up to get the sleeping bags, water, and crackers:

Jason got one set for each of us, at least the sleeping bags made the sleep in the airport a little bit more comfortable. This was the 2nd time we slept inside the airport 🙁

It was getting very cold especially the sliding door kept opening every minute with people coming in and out so I said we should move to another warmer area. I walked around the airport, up to the 2nd floor and 3rd floor and every area were filled with people. Also, people were camping right in front of Japan Airlines counters already so it’ll be a huge line when the counter opens the next day. It was so crazy!!! At least we booked our flight out tomorrow so we don’t need to fight with those people. After scouting for an open area, I found a spot where people usually wait for arriving flights. I messaged Jason to walk over to check it out if we want to move. He came and think it was a better location so he went back to tell Brian and brought all our luggage over. We set up the area with our sleeping bags and use our luggage to create the unofficial wall. LOL, this was our territory:

I told the guys that I could stay up all night watching the luggage and they should get some sleep because they are that type of people who can’t sleep on the plane. Me, on the other hand, I could sleep on the plane as soon as it takes off! The guys were able to get a few hours of sleep here and there!

While they were sleeping, I did some research on where to go the next day since we will have the whole morning to kill until the late in the afternoon flight to Chicago. The one possibility was to Asakusa to see the temples. My phone was running out of battery so I found a wall outlet nearby that I could charge my phone while keeping an eye at our luggage. The airport was a zoo, I have never seen anything as crazy!

This guy was next to where I was charging my phone…..pretty creative to block the lights LOL!

I survived till around 5:30 AM where I was getting very sleepy and occasionally felt asleep for few minutes. Japan is such a safe country that I wasn’t too concerned on our belongings when I fell asleep for few minutes xD Then, Jason woke up at that point. We waited till 7 AM when the IASS Executive Lounge opens for better seating and grab some breakfast before heading out to explore Tokyo. We were wrong, the lounge was the worst lounge ever! The lounge was a small room filled with seats next to each other and just a drink machine for soda, juice, water, and tea. There is no breakfast, no other food item, nor comfortable to hang out for a long time. When around 8 AM, we went downstairs to store our luggage and to the train ticket office thinking to do a trip to check out Asakusa. The lady in the ticket office showed us a map on how to get to Asakusa and the timetable. We asked what time and train should we leave Asakusa so we can get back to the airport for our flight 6:15 PM? She gave us this shocking look! We were like urg?? She said due to the snowstorm, the train time can’t be confirmed and she looked like she doesn’t recommend us to take this trip. She said we can check with the other ticket office for more information on the return train. We went into that office and again the lady looked like she doesn’t recommend the trip due to the uncertainty on the train times. At that point, we gave up on the idea of taking a trip to Asakusa; it will be too much hassle!

We went back upstairs and tried to enter the other lounge in Narita Terminal 1 but it has a long waiting list. We went back to the IASS Executive Lounge and there has a waiting list. We put our names on the waiting list and browsed around. The airport was chaotic when the airline counters opened and filled with people lining up blocking the ways. We stayed mostly on the 3rd floor where the lounges are and some restaurants and shops to kill our time. There’s a Pokemon store there where you can get exclusive captain Pikachu!

We got some rice bun from a convenient store as breakfast and by that time, we were able to get in the lounge again.

Brian and I did some work and when it was lunch time, Brian wanted to stay in the lounge to continue to work. Jason and I went out for lunch and even restaurant started to sold out on items yikes! All my top choices were sold out, so sad!

Jason found a fusion restaurant so we went there for lunch. Jason got a seafood spaghetti, it was just okay.

I got a steak curry and the steak was perfectly cooked. Food inside the airport wasn’t too bad in Narita; with an entree around $15 USD.

After our lunch, people were still sleeping inside the airport…..crazy.

There is a sushi belt resturant next to the lounge and Jason wanted to try it out despite the fact that he just had lunch! The sushi was extremely affordable, the lowest priced dish of sushi was only 130 Yen ($1 USD)!!! The price of the sushi is according to the color of the plate 😉 Self-serve tea by mixing matcha (green tea powder) and hot water.

Jason had a great time trying out different kind of sushi!

He was super full after like 6 dishes hahahaha!

Time passed so slowly and it was tough but nevertheless, we surived our stay in Narita Airport. When our flight was finally boarding, what a relief that we are going home! The American Airlines flight to Chicago was surprisingly comfortable with good legrooms (not as great as Japan Airlines of course) and it has better choice of movies!!!

Additionally, the food was surprisingly good. I had the marindated pork and it was super tasty! It was the best American Airlines meals I ever had!

And for the salad dressing, they had roasted sesame dressing which was my favorite and that I have been looking for a long time!!! I will make sure that I’ll get more of this salad dressing when we return to Japan in May now that I know the brand!

Jason’s seafood noodle wasn’t bad either.

We were so glad that we made it home finally!!! I thought the nightmare was finally over until I have to deal with the travel insurance claim yikes! It was a 3rd party claim company “Card Benefit Services” that I have to deal with but at least I can submit everything online at: eclaimsline.com. Then within 7 business days, I got a response of requiring more documentation including a letter from the airline or booking company to state the amount of refund or any compensation that I received or will be receiving, proof of travel cancellation due to weather, and proof of our marriage since the credit card holder is Jason and the bookings are made with his card. I had to call Expedia to get our refund and it was another nightmare! Each time I was on a call with Expedia, they have to call Japan Airlines which each time took more than 2 hours of wait on the phone to just get someone over at Japan Airlines to answer!!! First time I called, the agent said he’ll need to send an email to Japan Airlines to get their confirmation of the refund and they will contact me. I waited for few days and heard nothing back so I called again. The same process, over 2 hours of wait and another agent said it’ll take Japan Airlines so time to figure out how much is our refund but will get back to us. Another few days and called again, the guy said there’ll be a refund but need written approval from Japan Airlines to disclose the amount and then Expedia can process the refund, it’ll take a day to get the response back. Another day went by, I called again and the supervisor lady said the refund is $0 because in international flight the return segment has no value. WTH!!! Each time the story is different and at that point after wasted 6 hours of my time waiting in total, I said please send me a letter attachment to state that so I can provide to my insurance company. I finally got the letter and uploaded to the claim online. After going through hoops….the Card Benefit Services got back to us with a confirmation of the refund – $284.77 for both of us and note that the expenses incurred during the trip interruption are not covered such as the purchase of another flight to get home OMG!!! Then what is trip cancellation/interruption insurance if it doesn’t cover it? The fine print does not explicitly stated what is covered and what is not covered and very misleading to ask for evidence of expenses incurred during the trip cancellation/interruption! What’s the point of asking those if you are not reimbursing those? I replied with those questions and complaints and never heard back from them -.- I got the check in the mail within a few days sighhhh lesson learned – verify what is covered and what is not covered and not assuming based on the words even reading the fine prints might not be 100% sure!

Despite the challenges and stresses of transportation (flight delay that we had to make the one hour journey from Narita to Haneda Airport to catch the flight) and coming back (flight canceled so had to stay overnight in Narita), the Southeast Asia trip was wonderful – we checked off many items on our bucket list:

  • The dream honeymoon paradise of Maldives and stayed in overwater bungalow again
  • Sunrise at Angkor Wat and the ancient temples of the Khmer Empire
  • The rock formations at Maya Bay – Phi Phi Islands on a longtail boat

The cultures, the architectures, and the foods of Southeast Asia were a great experience that we are heading back to that region of the world in May!

13 thoughts on “Our Challenge of Getting Home from Tokyo – Stuck in Airport and Lesson Learned!

  1. So sorry that ended your vacation in such a sour note. I too have Chase card which is suppose to have travel and purchase coverage. That’s awaful that only a small portion of your expense was covered. This makes me nervous. Have you thought about complaining to Chase or writing a review to warn other card member or future card members?

    On a positive note, thanks for taking us along your amazing vacation in Asia. I’m looking forward to more of your future vacation.

    1. Hi Maria, the travel insurance claim is handled by a 3rd party company, I sent them a complaint but never heard back since! That was why I posted here to share my experience so they can be aware that “travel interruption/cancellation insurance” is not what we think “insurance” is; it doesn’t cover an alternative means to get to your destination if your flight is canceled.

      Going back to Asia soon, can’t wait to share 😀

  2. Japan airlines has a great business class.Princess cruises messed up our flight so badly that they had to upgrade us.I was completely rested during the 17 day trip.Narita town is fun to walk around.

    China flights are always late,so i tried to use trains and night flights.2 of my day flights were delayed 4-6 hours.
    I get some good travel insurance from m y credit card.

  3. Just FYI on the Trip Delay for Chase Sapphire Reserve. I’ve used it twice and gotten the money back for hotel, meals, taxi. It just does not cover another ticket if you choose to re-book with another airline but will cover expenses caused by the delay like hotel and meals. I just had to get a letter from the airline stating I was on the flight and the cause of the delay and how long the delay was to submit to eclaims. The limit is $500 and the delay has to be more than 6 hours. As long as you can provide a receipt to show the expenses, it will be covered.

    Another word of caution – keep the detailed receipt for the meals because alcohol is not covered so keep the receipt to show what was ordered – not just the total credit card paper you sign with an amount.

    1. Thanks Lorraine, good to hear that it worked out for you! That’s true for Trip Delay but for my case it was Trip Cancellation so the hotel and meals were not covered 🙁 It stinks that it doesn’t cover to rebook a new ticket to get back home in the event of trip cancellation, they only cover the “loss” of the unused portion of the ticket. I always book when tickets are on sale so even if they refund me the unused portion of the sale ticket, it is not enough to cover my last minute one-way ticket to get home.

      1. In both my cases the flight was “cancelled” as well – both due to weather The airline just re-booked us a couple of days later so it was considered Trip Delay. I believe Chase defines Trip Cancellation if there is an emergency (like medical) and you have to cancel the trip altogether. I’ve never had to use that one before but a friend of mine did and Chase paid for cancellation fee and the ticket amount.

        Also, really enjoy reading your blog. I feel like you kind of mirror our travels. We were just in Uyuni during Easter holidays to see the Salt Flats and it was amazing. We are in our 40’s and like photography as well. When we travel, we carry two 5D Mark III – his and hers. Haha. We hit Antarctica, our last continent a couple of years ago and I am up to 92 countries. In a few weeks, we are heading to Europe to add 4 more countries. Will be visiting Provence and timed to see the Lavender fields so your post was helpful.

        Fortunately, we don’t have the vacation limit. Don’t want work to get in the way of travelling!

        1. OMG, I am super jealous, no vacation limit!!! You’ll enjoy Provence during the lavender season, literally, the air smells like lavender! We are only up to 37 countries, will hit 40 by the end of the year so a lot more to catch up with you 🙂 We really want to visit Antarctica but I am very prong to seasick 🙁 We used to carry two DSLRs but they are too heavy for my husband’s back so we only bring one now. We got the 5D Mark IV and it is much lighter! What’s your favorite country/destination out of your 92 countries?

          1. Sorry for posting twice on the Reply. 🙂

            We are so excited to be leaving for Europe in a few weeks to catch the Lavender and add 4 more countries! And yes, can’t wait to smell the air.

            Actually I get sea sick, car sick, high altitude sickness and shouldn’t be travelling at all but still manage to go everywhere. I was getting sick in La Paz, Uyuni and Cusco. Thank goodness for those local Sorojchi pills. The sea wasn’t too bad on our 3 week Antarctica trip. I think we got really lucky. We’ve been telling people that if you take 1 trip in your entire lifetime, it needs to be Antarctica. It was simply amazing.

            We are pretty happy with our 5D Mark III and was not really looking to trade up to the IV. Now that you said it is much lighter, maybe we will think more about it. Our camera bag usually weighs 20 pounds. LOL.

            I have so many favorite countries and experiences. It’s like trying to pick a favorite child! I really love Africa. Last year we went to Namibia and Uganda and Rwanda to go Gorilla trekking. That was amazing. Safari in Kenya and Tanzania was a unique experience. I love Cherry Blossoms in Kyoto. I too was looking at Madagascar this year and then the Plague broke out. You must visit Egypt and Jordan. We did those together. Petra is one of my all time favorites. I see Bhutan on your list. Yes, Tiger’s Nest is as impressive as the photos.

            Your Northern Light photos in Iceland has given us more inspiration to see the Northern Lights. We went to Iceland during the summer as well but those pictures you have for the winter are really nice!

          2. With more and more airlines, especially budget airlines, restricting carry on bags to 12 kg/26 lbs, it is tough to carry 2 5D Mark III and the lens with us so we consolidate to only 1 DSLR body and it has been working fine 🙂 Well, my husband said if we go on a Northern Lights or Safari trip then those are the only two scenarios where he’ll carry 2 DSLRs haha! You need to see the Northern Lights, it’s one of our most amazing experiences!!!

            How do you like Namibia in terms of the animals you saw, I know it can’t be compared to the Great Migration in Tanzania/Kenya? Egypt…we’ll wait for a few more years when it’ll (hopefully) more stable. Petra is up on my list to go, is it easy to go on your own or you’ll need to hire a local tour guide to get there?

          3. For Namibia, our highlight was Sossusvlei and Dead Vlei more so than safari. I don’t think you will find any other place in the world like Dead Vlei. It was the highlight of our trip. Although I did enjoy the other parts of Namibia as well for its unique landscape.

            For safari, my all time favorite is Kenya in Masai Mara. Our guide was able to drive off road and we saw lions and cheetahs at a very close distance. When we went to Tanzania in the Serengeti, there were certain parts you had to stay on specific paths which made for the viewing more difficult.

            When we went to Petra, we flew into Amman and then had a private driver/guide take us to Petra. I would recommend that. Although I booked all the accommodations, we still used a private car/driver. After Petra, we made our way to Wadi Rum (by way of vehicle) and then took a ferry to Nuweiba and did a sunrise hike on Mount Sinai in Egypt before making our way to Abu Simbel, Aswan and Luxor. We even did a hot air balloon ride over Valley of the Queens in Luxor which was really cool. So we combined Jordan and Egypt together. It was quite a memorable and action packed trip. And even though we had a private car/driver for Egypt and Jordan, the trip wasn’t very expensive.

            So many places, so little time! Every time we come back from a trip, I want to go somewhere again. 🙂

          4. You made my travel bug really biting me now!!! Same here, I just got back and now itching to plan for the next trip..although already booked 4 more trips this year! Thank you for your opinions 🙂

      2. My flights were also “cancelled” – due to weather and considered as Trip Delay because the airline just re-booked me 2 days later and I had Chase reimburse me for the hotel and food. I believe Chase defines Trip Cancellation as an emergency when you cancel the trip – i.e. medical emergency. I’ve never used that but my friend did and Chase paid for the cancellation fee and the price of the ticket.

        Also, I’ve enjoyed reading your blog. Your travels mirror our travels a lot. We were just in Uyuni to see the Salt Flats this year in April. We are in our 40’s and also like taking pictures. We carry two 5D Mark III when we travel – his and hers. Haha. Couple of years ago, we hit our last continent, Antarctica. I’m up to 92 countries. We are going to Europe in a few weeks to hit 4 more countries. We’ve timed our visit to Provence to see the Lavender fields so your post on that was very helpful.

        Luckily for us, we don’t have a limit on vacation days. Don’t want work to get in the way of travelling!

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