A Piece of Advice if You Ever Book an Inaugural Flight…..

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Last year the first bookable route for the United 787 Dreamliner was Denver to Narita (Tokyo) on March 31, 2013.  Many folks, myself included, immediately booked that flight when it went on sale.  We all knew the Dreamliner was at least going to fly domestically first, but it was cool to be on the inaugural flight for that route, and it would be in the much anticipated United Dreamliner.  I would say at least 20 – 30 people I am personally aware of from all over the country booked that flight because it was the inaugural.  It was pretty exciting!  I also really wanted to go to Japan for the first time, and the fare was very good, so it was a no-brainer.

Given all those factors, I pulled the trigger and booked the round trip from Denver to Narita on the 787 and have been looking forward to the trip on a great plane with great friends for months.  However, since the Dreamliners around the world are grounded, the inaugural flight from Denver to Narita is also put on hold.  They have tentatively moved it to mid-May, but it is reported to be a soft date pending the Dreamliner situation.  Even still, mid-May doesn’t work for me to go to Japan.

Over the weekend my reservation on United.com changed to show that I needed to call in about my reservation.  I still want to go to Japan, but obviously now need a new flight.  Here comes the piece of advice if you ever do something like this yourself….. When I booked my tickets on this flight, I originally just booked the flights via Denver.  I figured I could just add on my “positioning” flight from Houston later on.  I had since booked those flights, also on United, and all was fine until the 787 flight got canned.  United was very willing to work with me to find a different flight to Japan without changing the fare or anything, but since I had booked via Denver, I had to still go from Denver.  A non-stop from Denver no longer exists for my dates, so now I will have to fly from Houston to Denver and then take a flight from Denver to another city in the US (such as LA, Houston, Seattle, etc.) to get to Japan, and then do the reverse on the return.  I know some folks like to add in as many connections as possible, but I am not one of those folks.

I am betting that I had I booked my flight from Houston to Denver to Narita and back on the same ticket in the first place that they would have now re-accommodated me on the nonstop flight from Houston to Narita instead of hopping around the country before crossing the Pacific.  I hold no ill will at all toward United for this – they are still getting me to and from my originally booked origin and destination on that ticket….I just probably should have been smarter about how I booked the ticket in the first place.  That is a risk you take when you have different pieces of a trip booked on different tickets, even with the same carrier, but I should included in my own risk calculation that this was a new route and a new aircraft.

Lesson learned for me, and hopefully you can avoid a similar situation if you book a flight like this in the future.  I’m still super excited to visit Japan for the first time though!


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  1. There’s no special provision for rescheduling given the obvious “inaugural-ness” of the booking? I’m sure many booked for the journey, not the destination. You couldn’t have date change access to the “new inaugural”?

  2. @Colleen
    Per other reports, you can change the dates, you can change the routing, and you can get a refund for DEN-NRT and positioning flights. United has been handing all these 787 issues quite well imo.

  3. I’m flying Norwegian on May 30, inaugural flight NYC-Oslo, on a Dreamliner too!…..we hope….
    already got tix from Oslo to Budaest-Paris-Barcelona-Rome-Berlin, so I really hope we don’t have to move everything around!
    Any way of finding out if the dream boy will be flying Norwegian on May?

  4. I booked positioning flights separately as well. Had they been a part of my DEN-NRT itinerary it would not have priced out as a B fare.

    Anyway United let me leave a day earlier directly from EWR, and gave me full credit for my positioning flights.

    If I were you, I’d leave right from IAH and get a credit for the positioning flights

  5. I hope you enjoy your trip here. Are you just planning to visit Tokyo or are you going to travel around some.

    I hope the sequester doesn’t further impede your travels.

  6. That’s great! I am going to Tokyo for the first time too this year. Just a question (since there are no links to old posts where you booked your flight), how were you planning to go to Denver? You can’t drive to Dallas and use 4500 BA miles since Dallas to Denver is 651 miles!! 🙁

    You mention there is a direct flight NRT-HOU. On the way back, can’t you take the flight NRT-HOU-DEN and then just get off in HOU? You can even check luggage as you would have to pick it up when going through customs in Houston.

  7. Stargoldua, no way – got a good fare and want to earn the miles. 😉
    Sue, not sure what you mean, but I am excited to go!
    Colleen, yes, like I said United is being pretty accommodating. They do allow new dates, including on the new inaugural date if you want…that date just doesn’t work for me.
    Kris, yeah. It has varied from person to person what you can get changed. Some haven’t been that lucky, but I was able to change dates as long as I still left from Denver.
    Hugo, no way to tell right now. So far they are all still grounded and will be for at least a while longer.
    Jon, you got much luckier than me. That was a no-go – I tried. Sounds like different people are having different experiences just depending on the luck of the agent. I had actually called a day before just to discuss options and said don’t do anything to my ticket, but it got cancelled, so on the second call I was already sort of working from a deficit.
    Andrew, short trip. Just Tokyo this time. Looking forward to it though!
    The Miles Professor, booked a separate round trip flight from IAH-DEN. Can’t say I didn’t consider that option…it just didn’t feel right though.

  8. Ah, I see. Didn’t feel right from the point of view of something may go wrong? Like the flight from NRT gets canceled and they have to route you through ORD, for example? That’s a good point… I guess I’d just take the risk and then, worst case scenario, use miles to book ORD-HOU last minute. The chance of that is very low and, in my opinion, worth the risk to take a non-stop flight from NRT-HOU rather than have two stops – I would just be super tired 🙂

  9. On a related note, anticipating the unexpected with cancellations and changes is why I often build in a “domestic hub stopover” when using Avios on AA and traveling with small children. Since one has to book each leg separately, and since we aren’t that close to a hub airport, I often find the initial flights between the destination and hub. Then, I find short-haul flights between my home airport and the hub for the day before outbound and day after inbound using Avios. By the way, this opens up WAY more availability. The Hilton O’Hare Airport is a decent place to rest, and the kids actually probably benefit from only having one flight per day.

  10. I am also super excited to visit Japan for the first time ever this July with a stopover in Sweden along the way. I am also glad to be doing it in style all the way in business class and staying at a nice hotel.

  11. As a dad of a 2-year-old girl, I’ve been enjoying your blog from Japan. I’m glad you’re going to visit Japan. I hope you enjoy both your flight and stay.

    • akuroda, I’m very much looking forward to it! Will probably be a bit of sensory overload for me at first, but can’t wait!

  12. Which hotel are you going to stay?
    Some ideas and tips in Japan:
    – Try Japanese food as much as possible!
    – Buy underwares at UNIQLO. http://www.uniqlo.com/
    – Go to “depa-chika” (the basement floor of a department store). You will enjoy wide variety of foods and sweets.
    – Visit Tokyu Hands. It’s amazing place to buy souvenirs. http://www.tokyu-hands.co.jp/en/index.html
    – Beware of extremely crowded trains and subways before 9am in weekdays.
    – Don’t be afraid of lots of people with masks. They are just suffered from pollen allergy.

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