The first leg of a round the world journey covering 32,000 miles was to commence with a first class experience on ANA, Chicago to Tokyo. Having flown ANA business class and taking a peak inside the first cabin, I was over the top anxious for this experience, to put it mildly.
A young very attractive woman named Kamatsuki introduced herself immediately upon my arrival. With good english skills she escorted me to what would be one of my two nests for the next 12 hours. Arriving at my sitting nest 2K, Kamatsuki immediately opened a pack of slippers and placed them at the entrance of my den. Welcome to our house where we will treat you as if you are one of us was the message.
For those who choose a quick overview of the ANA first experience I offer the positives and negatives, solely my opinion. And for those who wish a vicarious ride, full details follow.
First, what I liked with a photo as affirmation.
The Square as it’s known is a spacious, private, well appointed first class nest. While not fully enclosed, it might as well be as you don’t see other lucky travelers in the front cabin.
This flight had 3 of 8 suites occupied. Two flight attendants were on duty. Odds are against getting a better ratio.
Krug champagne upon departure. While I am not a huge indulger of champagne, I happily enjoyed this fine treat with a lovely amuse that accomplished its sole purpose.
A bevy of amenities were offered and accepted. Precisely positioned for arrival were noise cancelling headphones, a Samsonite case amenity kit, sleepsuit, sweater, socks, pillow, blanket as well as offerings by Kamatsuki from a basket of additional items. More socks, tissues, eye masks, ear plugs, refreshing face towels, refreshing leg towels and lip balm.
Having viewed the menu online days before the flight, my most important decisions had been solidified. Washoku, Kamatsuki approved.
Japanese cuisine has become a favorite of mine for so many reasons. This dish exemplifies why.
After the meal Kamatsuki began to explain about a special tea on board, but before she could finish I said that I would love some Matcha tea. Nodding approval she returned promptly with tea and sweets.
Knowing that arrival in Japan would be at 8PM I saw no reason to sleep away this wonderful experience. Kamatsuki made a bed for me in the empty suite next door just in-case. I relented for a quick 2 hour nap. (I've yet to get a good photo of a bed on an airplane.)
Now for the dislikes, mostly nothing to do with ANA
Understanding United is constructing the new Polaris lounge at ORD doesn’t excuse the mess travelers encounter for the next 4 months. I present to you the Global First Class lounge, concourse C, at United's Star Alliance main hub:
Of course if you weren't traveling first class....
The ANA first class seat. I felt is was too firm. It just wasn’t as comfortable as Lufthansa’s or Cathay Pacific’s first class seat. Picky aren't we?
My 32,000 mile round the world trip began with a hiccup. For ground transportation to O’Hare I had arranged for a car. Having used the service before I reserved it 2 weeks in advance just to make sure. The day prior to departure the reservation was confirmed. At pickup time no word. Usually they are early. I waited 5 minutes and called. No answer. Not a good sign. 5 minutes more another call. The owner answered and stated he was trying to get in touch with the driver and would call back. A 2nd bad sign. 5 minutes later no call back. I called. The response was he could not locate the driver. The words out of my mouth are not fit to print.
I called Uber, Todd arrived in 5 minutes. Had this incident been pre-Uber I might have missed the trip.
Date: August 2016
Flight #: NH113
Configuration: 4 class
On Time: Yes
Reward Flying Rating: 7.2 out of 10 ✈
For the outbound ticket the legs are:
ORD-NRT on ANA in first class
NRT-BKK on Thai in first class
(BKK-MEL on Thai's first A350. Oops, it’s still at the factory so change to:)
BKK-SIN on Singapore Airlines in business class
SIN-MEL on Singapore Airlines in business class
A bit of luck
ANA makes premium reward space available frequently. Even though I had made this reservation 4 months in advance, the earlier flight that day was available for redemption just a few days prior. Business class seats are more difficult to get than first.
Value for Reward per redemption point:
✔︎Sky High: >.08
This reward cost 130,000 UA points for the complete trip. Flying just to Narita from North America would require 110,000 points. A typical ANA first class fare from ORD to NRT is $12,800 making this an outstanding redemption value of 11.6 cents per point.
Reward Rating: 8 out of 10 ✈
Want to fly first class to Asia? It's difficult NOT to find reward space on ANA in first class and you can't beat the value, even at 110,000 UA points.
Because Singapore Airlines is part of the itinerary, this reservation was made over the phone. United’s agents have always been a pleasure to deal with.
Search for Rewards tickets
I used ANA's mobile app and would give it a fair rating. It doesn't hold the reservation unless you have booked through the ANA website and have your frequent flyer number assigned. However ANA's website is easy to to assign/change seats as well as get details about the menu and services on board.
ANA uses United’s terminal one for departures at O’Hare. I have nothing to comment on that suggested I was traveling first class, other than a photo stating so. I didn’t even get priority screening. Fortunately the airport was not busy on a Saturday afternoon.
✔︎Stay at Gate
One of the disappointments of having ORD as your home airport is the fact United, as well as any*A carrier, doesn't have a decent lounge, especially when traveling first class. On the Lufthansa flight last year the United International lounge was a joke, fortunately it has been put out of it's misery with the construction of the new United Polaris lounge. Time will tell.
A fairly nice spread was for the taking, but with Washoku at gate C10, I refrained.
Time to fly.
JA788A, one of ANA's newer 777-300ER aircraft. (I missed Star Wars BB-8 by one day!)
What were they thinking?
While yellow and blue seem like an odd combination, ANA makes it work.
Lavatories on this 777 were standard size, clean, well stocked and you have to try the Japanese bidet.
Just like home
Get me off this plane
Yes I did say the seat was a little firm for my tastes, but it's wide, and in ANA's world renowned first class cabin, I was not colored blue.
Nifty place to hang your clothes once the sleepsuit is adorned.
The Square has plenty of little compartments, just not sure what to do with them. And why is it necessary to cover the window?
Electronics are well covered.
The main course has an oversized landing area.
✔︎Like a Rock
If one decides against enjoying 12 hours of delicious food and entertainment, the mattress pad, duvet and pillow are outstanding. Preparing my bed in the adjacent suite was also a nice touch from Kamatsuki.
Cabin / Seat: 7 out of 10 ✈
The Samsonite amenity kit included the following items:
- Ginza Cosmetics
- Energizing Lotion
- Moisturizing emulsion
- Cleansing foam
- Facial cotton pads (4)
- Toothbrush, eye mask and ear plugs.
But you don't need to open your kit as everything is offered separately.
One of many oshibori
Pajamas are provided in first class. While comfortable for the flight, I'm not sure if I'll use them at home. They are warm for sure, but the material reminds you of burlap and is somewhat scratchy. But I lugged them around the world so I at least need to try them. For sure they aren't Lufthansa or Cathay pj's.
Full bar in cabin
✔︎Multiple coffee selections
✔︎Multiple tea selections
ANA's 13 page beverage menu included an extensive Sake offering as well as teas and coffees. Wine selection was a little narrow.
Krug Grande Cuvee Brut retails for about $100 per bottle and their Rose markets at $60.
Red wines were about $40 per bottle. I choose the Trefethen.
Food Menu Selections and food extras:
✔︎ Printed, multiple cuisines
Printed, single cuisine
Verbal by flight attendant
✔︎ Special meals
✔︎ Mid flight snacks
One of the joys traveling with a foreign carrier is sampling their native cuisine. I was not left wanting.
For the record, I don't understand the plain black tray. (Business class too.) It's not attractive. Maybe it's to highlight the dishes? But then why is the fuji bowl black?
The oversize table was necessary.
Compliments to the Chef
✔︎Fine dining with a miss or two
No rave reviews
Get me a meal from economy
The meals were fantastic. So why a miss or two? There was little distinction between this first class meal and my ANA business class flight to Singapore earlier this year.
Reliving the Amuse
Possibly my favorite
I complemented Kamatsuki on her salmon cooking skills as it was tender and delicious. She blushed stating she only reheats the food. I didn't mention the number of airplanes I've been on in my life.
I enjoyed a coffee with the cookies and went on to try the Matcha tea along with the little gelatin treats whose nature escapes me.
Not being on this aircraft to watch calories, soon afterwards it was time for a mid-flight snack. From the Light Dishes Anytime menu I chose Seared salt-fermented squid and IPPUDO rich-tasting miso DAICHI ramen.
The squid was not my favorite and not consumed.
And the ramen was VERY rich.
Precisely 90 minutes before NRT touchdown the cabin was prepared for the final service. Sticking wth Washoku for the second time around, I was not enamored with this meal.
Natto (Fermented soy beans) While difficult to eat I actually liked it!
Shusai - Grilled Spanish mackerel
Food/Drink: 7 out of 10 ✈ Simply because after the main meal it was downhill. Should have stopped over Alaska I guess.
IFE: 7 out of 10 ✈
Can I stay and watch some more?
✔︎Watched a favorite and went to sleep
400 cable channels and nothing to watch
Glad I brought my tablet
A nice sized monitor with a good selection of movies made for an enjoyable flight. Airshow wasn't very informative however.
Yes and Free
✔︎Yes and Purchase
I purchased the 30 minute plan to check it out. Was able to send texts and view websites however photos could not be sent via the Apple iMessage function.
Flight Attendants: 9 out of 10 ✈
✔︎Made the flight special
Did their job
Did they board?
From the moment I stepped on to the plane I was treated like a treasured guest. Kamatsuki absolutely made the flight special. I was never without a bottle of water. I never had to ring the call button. And the parting gifts were incredible thoughtful.
Aircraft: 6 out of 10 ✈
Didn’t realize was on a plane
Time for a trade-in
Arrival at NRT was on time around 8PM local. Surprisingly immigration was fairly busy. It took around 20 minutes to process through. Welcome to Narita where little did I know Typhoon Mindulle was bearing down and would cause travel havoc the following day.
Do you have any ANA experiences you'd like to share? Feel free to leave a comment.