Airline club will make you wish for flight delay

Only minutes before I was set to board my flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles, I decided to take a shower. To me, there's nothing like a fresh start to a long day. Luckily, the facilities were right in the Admiral's Club where I was waiting.

So, on that spur of the moment, I scored a key from the lounge's front-desk concierge and then followed a stone walkway to a special shower suite American Airlines makes available in these accommodating Narita facilities. There, tucked away in a small wing of the giant lounge behind a locked door, I reveled in a hot shower under a giant disk of rejuvenating spray before donning fresh (and very comfortable clothes) for my ride.

The rest of the trip couldn't have been better -- but I'm getting ahead of myself.

I spent lots of time in the new American Airlines Admiral's Club at Narita Airport that day.

This was not because of a flight delay, but rather because I had planned an extra-early arrival at the airport just to take into account traffic snags, immigration delays and the last-minute urge to purchase a present for someone I forgot back home.

As it turned out, I did not become ensnarled by any of those excuses.

The hour-and-a-half trip from my Tokyo hotel to the airport went off without a hitch. Then, I flew through immigration with nary a question sent my way and Ididn't even stop to shop, though I can't say I wasn't tempted as I passed lots of goodies in name-brand boutiques.

Instead, I headed straight down a short escalator from these tempting boutiques to the American Airlines Admiral's Club.

My first stop: The self-serve bar and food area where I made a mighty good mocha grande, admittedly after some serious though silent instruction on the state-of-the-art coffee maker from a Japanese woman working there. Then I grabbed what looked like a seaweed sandwich wrapped in plastic and sat down to cool my heels.

To my delight, the sandwich had been filled with fresh salmon, a veritablemeal in itself, and the fancy java gave just enough of a jolt to push me and my conscience to get some work done.

Too lazy to drag out my laptop from the club's closet (although the whole place offers free Wireless access), I sauntered over to the business center where I was treated to a private office and complete computer setup. The software even included Microsoft Office, so I dashed off some thank-you notes to my Japanese hosts in a gracious font (Papyrus), printed them, filled out some envelopes from the hotel where I had stayed and then handed the missives over to the club concierge whopromised to post them pronto.

Feeling accomplished, I nearly stopped to watch a bit of TV on a super-clear, wall-sized flat screen but instead I wandered. This Admiral's Club is a serene place where old meets new. Although the seating is contemporary (some of the chairs reminded me of rocket ships), there are many touches of old Nippon, such as an ancient doll encased in glass and dressed in traditional regalia and beautiful framed watercolors depicting well-known journeys to ancient Japanese outposts.

During that excursion trolling the premises (reportedly comprising a whopping13,300 square feet), I heard the discreet call that my Los Angeles flight would start to board in 10 minutes.

And the rest is history, except to say something I have never heard from any other world-weary road warrior: Too bad my flight wasn't late. I could have spent a lot more time languishing in the new (and very auspicious) American Airlines Admiral's Clubin Tokyo's new (and very nifty) Narita International Airport.

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