For a long time, I was intrigued by Fuji Dream Airlines – a relatively small Japanese airline operating an all-Embraer fleet on flights primarily from Nagoya Komaki and Shizuoka to airports around the country. While a couple of years ago I had a chance to interview their COO for an article about the airline that I was writing for Asian Aviation Magazine, it wasn’t until last month that I finally got to fly on the airline.
Continue reading to see what flying on Fuji Dream’s longest flight – from Shizuoka to Sapporo Okadama – was like. Where relevant, I will also mention the differences between this flight and the second flight with the airline I took later on the same trip – from Fukuoka to Shizuoka.
Booking the Flight
Since I had some JAL miles that I wanted to use and JAL partners with Fuji Dream Airlines, I was able to book the flight for 8,200 miles and 140 yen (approx. 1 USD) in taxes. In the past, Fuji Dream awards had to be booked via JAL’s call center. With JAL changing its booking system, however, online booking of such awards became possible for flights departing on April 12, 2023, or later.
With my flight departing a week after the switch, I was able to book the flight online which was convenient. I was also able to select my seat on JAL’s website after getting the ticket issued.
Getting to Shizuoka Airport on FDA’s Free Shuttle Bus
One of the things that makes flying with Fuji Dream Airlines out of Shizuoka unique is that it offers a free shuttle bus from Kakegawa Station on the Tokaido Line to the airport. The bus schedule is set in a way that each bus serves one or two flights and arrives 30 minutes or more before departure.
With my flight, JH171 departing at 9:30AM, I took the 7:50AM bus. The small bus arrived at a well-marked stop in front of Kakegawa Station’s South Exit a few minutes before departure and left bound for the airport exactly on time. Since the bus can only be used by passengers traveling on Fuji Dream Airlines, the bus driver checked my booking as I got on.
The ride to the airport took about 30 minutes and offered some great views of tea fields. Of the five passengers onboard, four including me were going to Sapporo and one was taking a 9AM flight to Fukuoka. After my second Fuji Dream Airlines, I was the only one onboard the bus back to Kakegawa.
Check-in, Lounge & Boarding at Mt. Fuji Shizuoka Airport
Since Fuji Dream Airlines doesn’t offer online check-in, I went to get my boarding pass first thing after arriving at the airport.
I tried using one of the self-check-in kiosks available in front of the airline’s counters but it turned out those could only be used by passengers who booked directly with Fuji Dream Airlines. Those – like me and many others – who booked their flight as a JAL flight had to go to the check-in counter. While Fuji Dream’s self-check-in kiosks at Fukuoka Airport had a sign on them saying so, for some reason, there was no such sign on the kiosks at Shizuoka Airport.
Since there were two flights departing around the same time and most of the passengers had to check in at the counters, there was a decent queue. However, with four counters open, the queue moved fast and I had a Fuji Dream Airlines boarding pass with an extra sticker indicating I booked the flight under its JAL flight number in my hands within five minutes.
It was nice to see models of the airline’s planes hanging above the counters. It was even nicer to see a departures board behind the counters that not only showed the typical information but also the exact aircraft (and thus the color of the aircraft) that would be operating each flight.
Once I had the boarding pass in my hand, I looked around the terminal a bit and went to Your Lounge – a card lounge located landside – for a bit. The lounge was small but nicely furnished and comparable with other card lounges at airports around Japan.
By the time I left the lounge, there was no one at the security check leading to the small domestic departures area. Both the lounge and the security check were on the second floor, one floor above the check-in area. Airside, there were two gates – 5 and 6, restrooms, and a Seven-Eleven convenience store. There was also enough seating for everyone.
Priority boarding for those needing assistance and those traveling with small children started at 9:13AM and a minute later, passengers seated in the rear part of the aircraft (rows 10 to 21) were called to board. Another minute later, the remaining passengers including me were invited to come on board.
Next to the door was a sticker promoting Chibi Maruko Chan Land (a small museum dedicated to a well-known Japanese animated character). Onboard, one of the two flight attendants welcomed passengers.
On my second flight with Fuji Dream Airlines, the flight attendant welcoming passengers was also handing out candies. While that did not happen on this flight, the candies were presumably available on request.
Fuji Dream Airlines E175 Cabin & Seat
The pink Fuji Dream Airlines E175 registered JA03FJ was, just like all of the airline’s other E175s, equipped with 84 seats in a 2-2 layout. For comparison, the airline’s three smaller E170s have two fewer rows and thus are equipped with 76 seats.
Each of the seats had a disposable headrest cover. On my second Fuji Dream Airlines flight which was operated by JA08FJ wearing a “Tea Green” livery, I realized the covers were actually matching the color of the plane.
The simple leather seats were comfortable and offered enough legroom (advertised at about 31 inches by the airline) for the short hop. There were no power outlets, USB charging ports, or IFE screens. That said, the overhead panels were equipped with individual air vents.
Interestingly, just like the headrests, stickers with Fuji Dream Airlines logo that could be found on the seat pockets matched the airplane color.
Fuji Dream Airlines Flight 171 Departure from Shizuoka Airport
Eight minutes before the scheduled departure time, the aircraft doors were closed. By that time, about 80% of the seats were taken.
Immediately afterward, one of the flight attendants made a welcome announcement. Among other things, she mentioned that we were expecting a flight time of one hour and 40 minutes, that it was 7 degrees Celsius and rainy in Sapporo, and she also introduced herself and the other flight attendant as well as the two pilots
We were pushed back at 9:24AM, six minutes ahead of schedule. While making our way to the runway, the cabin crew performed a manual safety demonstration and Mt. Fuji could be seen.
We took off from runway 30 at 9:33AM and as we climbed out of Mt. Fuji Shizuoka Airport, we got an amazing view of the tea fields that Shizuoka is well-known for, of the airport, and of Mt. Fuji.
Fuji Dream Airlines Onboard Service
The seatbelt signs were switched off five minutes after take-off just as we finished a 360-degree turn while climbing out of the airport. At that point, one of the flight attendants announced the drink menu – hot coffee, hot Shizuoka green tea, and apple juice.
A minute later, the cabin crew went around the cabin offering blankets and later (Japanese) newspapers. While I didn’t get either, the blanket featured the airline’s logo and looked warm.
While like most cabin crew in Japan, the cabin crew on this flight was still wearing masks, they had a badge with their face pinned to their uniforms. This is an initiative that Fuji Dream started to show passengers the smile behind the mask and I found it to be a nice touch.
It took about ten minutes for the drink service to reach me and so, in the meantime, I looked into the seat pocket and enjoyed views of snow-capped mountains.
The seat pocket included two waste bags, a purple safety card (unfortunately, these only appeared to come in one color rather than matching the color of the plane), a sheet with information about the aircraft including the seat map, and DREAM3776 – an in-flight magazine that included the height of Mt. Fuji (3,776 meters) in its creative name.
As for the drink, I had green tea – I was flying out of Shizuoka after all. In addition to a drink, a butter cake (Riemu by Chateraise) was served. Unlike other Japanese airlines, Fuji Dream Airlines continues to serve snacks on domestic flights. While on both of my flights, it was the butter cake, on some of its flights, the airline offers different snacks.
I enjoyed both the tea and the butter cake. While the former was quite thick, the latter had the right amount of moisture and was the perfect volume for the short late-morning flight. The cup in which the drink was served featured some nice Japanese motives in addition to the logo of Harada, the company producing the tea that Fuji Dream uses.
Less than ten minutes after the first round of drinks, the cabin crew went around the cabin once more offering refills. As such, I decided to have another cup of tea. Five minutes later, the trash was collected.
Cruising Onboard a Fuji Dream Airlines E175
At some point during the drink service, one of the pilots made an announcement saying that we were flying 33,000 feet over Gunma Prefecture and were expecting to arrive on time. He also mentioned that it was 8 degrees Celsius and cloudy in Sapporo – a slight improvement from the weather first announced by the flight attendant.
I spent the rest of the flight relaxing and working on a review of GL City Hotel Incheon Airport where I stayed during my recent trip to Korea. While there were some more nice views of mountain views to enjoy along the way, the closer to Sapporo we got, the cloudier it was.
Understandably, other than the in-flight magazine, there was no in-flight entertainment. There was no onboard wi-fi either.
At some point during the flight, I also paid a visit to the forward lavatory (there was one at the rear of the cabin too). As one would expect, it was small and there were no amenities other than handsoap. That said, it was clean which is all that really matters on a short flight anyways.
Arrival at Sapporo Okadama Airport
The seatbelt signs were switched back on at 10:56AM. Less then ten minutes later we entered into clouds. As we got under the clouds, we were flying over the sea west of Hokkaido, making a right turn to line up with runway 14.
As we got near Okadama Airport, we flew past a nice, wavy river and Sapporo’s suburbs.
We landed on runway 14 at 11:12AM and braked hard. After all, the runway at Okadama is only 1,500 meters (4,921 feet) long – about half the typical length of runways at major airports. In fact, before Fuji Dream Airlines started flying to Okadama, the airport was only served by smaller turboprop aircraft.
Two minutes after landing – one minute ahead of the scheduled arrival time of 11:15AM – we came to a full stop at a remote parking spot. During deboarding, the heating was turned on and the cabin became quite hot.
After taking some photos of the cabin, I got off the aircraft and walked to the terminal. On the way, I turned back a number of times to look at and take some photos of the aircraft that just brought me in.
Fuji Dream Airlines E175 Summary
As expected, Fuji Dream Airlines was a very nice airline to fly with. While the aircraft was not equipped with in-flight entertainment or in-flight wi-fi, that was not a big deal. Other than that, it offered really nice service, better than ANA and JAL do in some regards.
Not only were drinks served but snacks, blankets, and newspapers were also provided. The fact that each of the aircraft the airline operates wears a different livery is a nice touch, at least if you are an aviation enthusiast.