Home / General Nerdery / Up close and Personal with the R2-D2 DreamLiner Plane

Up close and Personal with the R2-D2 DreamLiner Plane

The R2D2 Plane

When I heard that real_jetstr was going to be on the inagural R2-D2 astromech ANA flight, I just had to get the scoop from him.  Luckily, he agreed to share his trip’s experience with Le Chic Geek.  And here it is in all it’s glory!

—————————-

There are many things I will do for the sake of flying and travel, and I do fly a decent amount, averaging around 230,000 miles a year for the past several years. But one thing that never really interested me was either inaugural or last flights. I’m not sure why that’s the case, but I never bothered to invest much time or energy into that part of the hobby.

That is, until I heard about the Star Wars R2-D2 plane.

Earlier this year, I learned that All Nippon Airways was partnering with Lucasfilm to create a series of Star Wars themed planes that would coincide with the December 2015 release of the seventh movie in the Star Wars series, “The Force Awakens.” This immediately triggered a Pavlovian response telling me that I had to fly on this specific aircraft as soon as possible.

Star Wars came out when I was a little boy, and it was one of the first movies (if not the first) that I remember that really captured my imagination and sense of wonder and adventure. My friends and I were obsessed with Luke, Leia (who I’m pretty sure was my first crush), Han and Chewbacca, and when playing, we argued over whose turn it was destroy the Death Star or wanting to be Darth Vader wielding a light saber. And of course, there were the droids, C-3PO and R2-D2.

In short, combining my love of Star Wars and my passion for all things aviation-related was like a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup: Two great tastes that taste great together, and I had to satisfy the craving and hunger for both, immediately. The fact that the R2-D2 jet was also a brand new 787-9 DreamLiner – one of my favorite types of aircraft – just made me want to take the flight even more.

When it was announced that the first commercial flight of the jet (tail registration number JA873A) would take place on October 18, 2015 as flight NH116 from Tokyo Haneda to Vancouver, I immediately checked to see if I could find award space for the return flight (the first passenger westbound flight) on NH115 back to Tokyo. Luckily enough, I was able to find saver award space using United MileagePlus miles, both in economy and in business class (there is no first class operated on this aircraft). I decided to book a business award because, hey, life is short, and why not?

Normally when I fly, my routine is to get to the airport early enough to be able to have a little bit of relaxation time in the lounge, but not so early enough that I have hours to kill. But this wasn’t a normal flight, and for this particular trip I arrived almost four hours before my departure, and I had no desire to go to the lounge. All I wanted to do was wait for the arrival of R2-D2. I did find it slightly odd that ANA didn’t have any special activities or ceremony planned at the gate, but then again, Vancouver is an outstation for ANA, so perhaps the logistics of having an event would have strained limited resources.

r2d2 airplane
The ANA R2-D2 787-9 DreamLiner arrives at the gate in Vancouver

It was clear that I was hardly the only one interested in the unique livery of the aircraft. People were crowding around the gate to take pictures; an excessive number of ramp agents were waiting for the plane to reach the gate after landing (and they were waiting for at least 30 minutes after landing, as the aircraft took a “victory lap” around the airport so that as many people as possible could see the plane); one traveler, who was already at the airport for presumably another flight, asked the gate agent if he could buy a one-way ticket to fly on the R2-D2 plane (unfortunately, he apparently asked too late, as it was within 5 minutes of boarding).

A passenger coming off of the inbound flight was dressed as a Jedi!
A passenger coming off of the inbound flight was dressed as a Jedi!

Even the pilots were into the Star Wars theme!

r2d2 airplane Should I be concerned that both pilots were carrying SITH light sabers…
Should I be concerned that both pilots were carrying SITH light sabers…

Another thing that I don’t normally do (and that I not-so-silently criticize when I see others do it) is line up at the gate before boarding is set to begin. I severely dislike “gate lice,” and I’ll be damned if I contribute to the problem. But again, this was a special flight, so I made sure that I was one of the first to line up (even though I was already in business class and would be the first group to board), because I wanted to make sure that I had enough time to take pictures before takeoff.

r2d2 airplane | Door 1L with some of the special R2-D2 livery paint scheme visible
Door 1L with some of the special R2-D2 livery paint scheme visible

Upon boarding, you knew this was a different type of flight: The boarding music was the Star Wars soundtrack! Very cool!

r2d2 airplane | My favorite seat on the DreamLiner, Seat 1A
My favorite seat on the DreamLiner, Seat 1A

After stowing my luggage and speaking briefly with some of the cabin crew – who were clearly as excited as I was about flying on the aircraft, I went to see what the rest of the plane looked like. Business Class is configured as 1-2-1 seating. What about the Premium Economy section, which is 2-3-2, or the Economy section, which is 3-3-3…would there be anything special in those cabins? Sadly, other than headrest covers in the R2-D2 motif, there wasn’t any special interior decoration or lighting to match the amazing external paint job. And unlike in business class where Yoda was there to watch the boarding process, in the back cabins, there wasn’t even a replica of Jar Jar Binks to greet passengers (well…maybe that’s a good thing, since Star Wars Episode 1 was a little on the sucktastic side)!   (Edit:  The editor of this blog does not hold the same position on Episode 1.  It wasn’t a little sucktastic.  It was downright terrible.)

r2d2 airplane | R2-D2 headrest covers for the non-business class seats
R2-D2 headrest covers for the non-business class seats
r2d2 airplane | I was hoping to see R2-D2 drink carts, but they were just plain old carts
I was hoping to see R2-D2 drink carts, but they were just plain old carts on the r2d2 airplane

I explored the business class lavatories, as I thought surely there must be Star Wars toothbrushes or little R2-D2 soaps. But again, sadly, nope.

The only thing that made the business class lavs feel Star Wars-ish was the blue light scheme on the ceiling
The only thing that made the business class lavs feel Star Wars-ish was the blue light scheme on the ceiling

 

When I returned to my seat, the flight attendants with whom I had spoken about my love for Star Wars allowed Yoda to take my beloved seat 1A.

r2d2 airplane | Sit in a different seat, you will
Sit in a different seat, you will
r2d2 airplane | Yoda was kind enough to let me sit with him
Yoda was kind enough to let me sit with him
Yoda decided that spending time with the attractive flight attendant was better than sitting with me
Yoda decided that spending time with the attractive flight attendant was better than sitting with me
Yoda and Anakin – er, Darth – watching over the business class cabin…
Yoda and Anakin – er, Darth – watching over the business class cabin…
…and kindly offering candy to passengers
…and kindly offering candy to passengers

To be honest, as much as I loved the paint scheme of the plane, the enthusiasm of the crew, and the integration of the overhead Star Wars theme music and R2-D2 chirps, I felt as if there were some serious missed golden opportunities to further reinforce the brand partnership of ANA and Star Wars.

This would have been a great opportunity for a Star Wars themed amenity kit, instead of the regular L’Occitane kit
This would have been a great opportunity for a Star Wars themed amenity kit, instead of the regular L’Occitane kit

The crew did put together a Star Wars gift bag for business class passengers, and distributed it at the end of the flight, though the items in the bags were not really high-quality souvenirs.

The gift bag included R2-D2 cocktail napkins…
The gift bag included R2-D2 cocktail napkins…
…and some postcards of the R2-D2 aircraft
…and some postcards of the R2-D2 aircraft
The thing I will likely keep is this credit card sized, hard plastic Certificate of Flight (front)
The thing I will likely keep is this credit card sized, hard plastic Certificate of Flight (front)
Certificate of Flight (back)
Certificate of Flight (back)

Another opportunity I feel was missed was the selling of R2-D2 model airplanes. Unlike many other non-U.S. airlines, ANA doesn’t normally sell model airplanes from its duty free catalog. However, if there were ever a time to consider selling such items, this would seem the appropriate flight on which to do it, as I’m sure many passengers would have jumped at the chance to acquire one or two…

This WASN’T included in the gift bag, but a flight attendant gave me a kit which transforms into a R2-D2 plastic airplane model on a stand
This WASN’T included in the gift bag, but a flight attendant gave me a kit which transforms into a R2-D2 plastic airplane model on a stand

ANA said that they will eventually have all six Star Wars movies available on the in-flight entertainment system, but at the moment, they weren’t yet loaded, which was a shame, as the movie library was fairly dated and limited, and while there was onboard internet, it was very spotty and slow.

Ironic that this was featured on a CNN report while onboard the R2-D2 plane
Ironic that this was featured on a CNN report while onboard the R2-D2 plane
 Internet service was painfully slow at times and would often drop inexplicably
Internet service was painfully slow at times and would often drop inexplicably

Other than the Star Wars themed aspects (or missed opportunities for such), the on-board service and food were generally what I expect of ANA. Which is to say, the attention and service from the crew was very personal and very good, and the menu items, though not necessarily the best of the Asian airlines, like Cathay or Singapore, was still quite tasty and delicious, especially the Japanese menu selection.

Roasted Almond & Beef Jerky, Shrimp Canape, Roasted Duck with Orange
Roasted Almond & Beef Jerky, Shrimp Canape, Roasted Duck with Orange
Aspic of yellow peach, dressed whelk & green onion with miso dressing, uncured ham sushi, deep fried prawn fishcake
Aspic of yellow peach, dressed whelk & green onion with miso dressing, uncured ham sushi, deep fried prawn fishcake
 Simmered taro, octopus, and pumpkin
Simmered taro, octopus, and pumpkin
Simmered duck
Simmered duck
Grilled salmon, served with Japanese pickles, rice, and miso soup
Grilled salmon, served with Japanese pickles, rice, and miso soup
Mango parfait and cheese plate
Mango parfait and cheese plate
Green tea and a milk chocolate square
Green tea and a milk chocolate square
Pre-landing meal – grilled chicken with rice and miso soup
Pre-landing meal – grilled chicken with rice and miso soup
 Vanilla ice cream
Vanilla ice cream

I tend to get some of my best (and some of my only) sleep on planes, but for this 10-hour flight, always flying into the sun until just before landing, I didn’t want to sleep, preferring to enjoy the onboard service, the atmosphere, and the views.

 

039 IMG_7310

All in all, I very much enjoyed the novelty of my first (semi-) inaugural flight, especially on this R2-D2 livery DreamLiner. Would I participate on an inaugural (or last) flight again? Perhaps, but only if it fit my schedule and budget, and only if I felt as strongly about the event in the way that the Star Wars partnership and theme moved me. Nonetheless, I feel very fortunate that I am in the position I am, and had the ability and means to take the flight at all, and especially in business class, which frankly, was the cherry on top.

Have you ever flown or had a desire to fly on an inaugural (or final scheduled) flight of an aircraft? Are you interested in flying any of the Star Wars livery planes? Do you consider yourself an aviation aficionado, a Star Wars geek, or a little of both?

About Jeanne Marie Hoffman

Former bartender, still a geek. One equal part each cookies, liberty, football, music, travel, libations. Stir vigorously. +Jeanne Marie Hoffman Jeanne on Twitter

Check Also

What Star Wars Can Teach Us About Economics

One of my favorite economics wrote a post dissecting the economics of Star Wars. A ...

5 comments

  1. Woohoo! Awesome review real_jetstr! (This is jetsetnom!) I’m so jealous you were on this flight! I agree, I feel ANA and Star Wars could have done a better job. There are endless opportunities and so many things they could have done! I think my favorite picture is the picture with the pilots holding the light sabers! I like the set up with Yoda giving out candy in the Darth Vader bucket!

    • Thanks, glad you enjoyed the review! It was cool that the pilots and cabin crew were just as excited about and passionate for getting into the whole Star Wars theme! The light sabers were a great touch, even if they were Sith light sabers 😉

  2. that is amazing, I am in such a love of this plane. Aww no SW themed food? That is disappointing. Now they need to bring this place to USA 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I like you!  
You've got moxie, kid.

I like you!  

You've got moxie, kid.

Use that moxie and join our list of email subscribers and become one of the thousands of others who visit this blog each day for tips, advice, reviews, deals & more!

You have Successfully Subscribed!