Flight Review: ANA (787-8) Business Class from Brussels to Tokyo
This was the last leg in my "long way around" trip from Bogotá to Tokyo on Star Alliance carriers, which included a Bogotá to Barcelona trans-Atlantic leg in Avianca's business class. After about 16 hours of traveling I was ready to get to Japan. I had heard many positive things about the business class experience on ANA and had high expectations for this 11-hour flight from Brussels (BRU) to Tokyo Narita (NRT).
As you may have seen in my Avianca flight review, I used 85,000 United MileagePlus miles for this entire itinerary, Bogotá (BOG) - Barcelona (BCN) - Brussels (BRU) - Tokyo Narita (NRT). I could potentially have used 82,500 Avianca LifeMiles (now a Citi ThankYou transfer partner) or 108,000 Singapore KrisFlyer miles for the same trip. I paid the taxes and fees on my Citi Prestige card, earning 303 ThankYou points, a card I chose to use because of its awesome trip delay coverage.
After a pleasant connecting flight from BCN to BRU on Star Alliance partner Brussels Airlines, I headed to its “THE LOFT” lounge near gate A42, but found out I could not enter because it's in the terminal for Schengen-area flights, headed for European Union countries part of the Schengen agreement for unrestricted travel. Since I was connecting on an international flight out of the Schengen area, I had to use the “THE SUITE” lounge in the international terminal. This was really disappointing because from past experience I knew the "THE SUITE" was far inferior.
After trudging over to the B gates, I made my way upstairs and down a long corridor to the lounge.
This lounge is accessible to Star Alliance Gold members and Business/First passengers on Star Alliance carriers. Upon entering I requested a shower, and while this lounge had none, the agent called the “Diamond Lounge” down the hall and said I could use theirs. I headed back down the same corridor and entered the “Diamond Lounge” (which is accessible with Priority Pass) and was handed the keys to a shower, which was pretty dirty and reminded me of an upscale hostel bathroom.
I was still grateful to get a shower in before the long haul flight ahead. I decided to head back to the Brussels Airlines lounge immediately after the shower since What I had seen didn’t give me too much confidence about their food hygiene practices.
Back in “THE SUITE”, the lounge was divided into two main areas. From the check-in counter you could take a left to a seating area with plenty of couches and small tables.
On the other side was a larger lounge area with couches, tables, chairs and TVs playing the news.
Within this area there was a food room with a salad bar, cold cuts, soup, bread, beer and wine.
I grabbed some pumpkin soup, bread, hummus, tapenade and chocolate mousse. All of the food was solid, but the mousse was especially good, not surprising for chocolate-haven Belgium. The bread was soft, crusty and tasted like it was freshly out of the oven. ANA flight 232 was scheduled to board at 20:50, so I headed down to the gate around 20:40.
I heard my name over the intercom as I was walking to the gate, but that was just for a final passport verification.
Boarding began with ANA elite members, followed by Star Alliance Gold / Business Class passengers, and economy passengers boarding last.
The entire process was very orderly and commenced right at 20:50.
Seat and Cabin
This 787-8 is premium cabin-heavy and carries only 169 passengers — compare that to Scoot's 787-8 which carries 335 passengers! There are 46 seats in Business Class, 21 in Premium Economy and 102 at the back of the bus. Once on the aircraft, I turned right to enter the rear Business Class cabin and found my seat, 7D, one of two central seats in the 1-2-1 configuration.
While this is one of the less desirable seats as a solo traveler, it's still a very comfortable lie-flat seat.
Seat controls were to my right along with the IFE remote.
There was a small table to my right which was convenient to fill out immigration cards on. Below the table there was a small storage space perfect for your wallet, phone and small items.
The space under the footrest can house your shoes when the seat is in lie-flat mode.
Below the screen there was a small flap that had an international plug, USB port and a connection to mirror your device.
The cabin itself looked pretty modern and was spotlessly clean: I couldn’t spot so much as a crumb on the floor. Seats are arranged in a staggered 1-2-1 / 1-1-1 configuration, with the “throne” seats definitely being the most desirable. The next best seats for solo travelers are probably the window seats flush against the window (A or K seats).
I did get to try a few different seats out as a mom in 6C wanted to sit next to her daughter in 7G after takeoff and I was happy to switch. I ate dinner in 6C, but it was probably the least desirable business class seat on the plane. It is very close the aisle and right behind the bathroom so there is a lot of foot traffic along with some unpleasant aromas.
The last 2 rows of the cabin were completely empty so I was able to use a "throne" seat after dinner, 12F, which was far and away the most private and comfortable. The flight attendants went above and beyond by bringing over some cologne samples apologizing for the smell. It wasn't their fault at all and is a testament to ANA's service.
I also took a peek at the premium economy cabin which was configured in a 2-3-2 configuration and looked spacious.
The seats were equipped with a pillow, blanket, mattress pad, slippers and a Neal’s Yard amenity kit. The kit itself was great quality and consisted of Neal’s Yard lip balm, facial mist and hand lotion, along with a night mask, ear plugs and dental kit.
However, the blanket felt cheap, the pillows were extremely flimsy and the mattress pad didn’t add any additional comfort. The cabin was kept at an uncomfortably hot temperature throughout the flight so I could only sleep for an hour or so throughout the 11-hour flight.
The bathroom was equipped with dental kits, facial wipes and razors. It was kept really clean and had a window, which was cool.
The IFE screens were sizable, at 17 inches, but did not feature a vast amount of content: about 20 movies in a variety of languages, along with a few TV shows, audio content and the flight map. The screen could be controlled by touch or remote.
Wi-Fi was available at a cost of $6.95 for 30 minutes, $16.95 for 3 hours and $21.95 for the entire flight, though I didn't end up trying it out.
Food and Beverage
The flight attendants came around during the boarding process with welcome drinks — sparkling wine, orange juice and water — which I missed as I was shuffling around the cabin taking pictures.
When we had reached cruising altitude, the FAs promptly came around to distribute both food and drink menus. You could tell ANA had put serious thought into their offerings. The Japanese menu was prepared in a "Washoku" style, which is a type of cooking focused on natural, seasonal ingredients without heavy sauces, and has been recognized as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The Western options included a beef fillet, roasted barramundi or a mushroom gratin. Shortly thereafter, we were delivered a scented hot towel on a classy ceramic plate.
For the pre-dinner beverage, I went with the Toko Junmai Ginjo Sake which was smooth, easy to drink and served slightly chilled.
After our orders were taken, the FAs quickly came around with the amuse-bouche, which was served on a small plate with a mini fork. The tomato, mozzarella, olive skewer was bursting with flavor and my personal favorite, though I thoroughly enjoyed the smoked tuna with seaweed as well.
Next up was the "Zensai," which they defined as a "selection of morsels." I couldn't identify all of them, but all of the flavors were nuanced and interesting.
For the main course, the salt-grilled yellowtail amberjack was out-of-this-world good. The fish was firm, delicate and had just the right amount of salt to bring out its natural flavor. It was served with some pickled veggies which were nice to cleanse the palate between bites. On the side was a bowl of rice and some of the best miso soup I've ever had, with succulent mushrooms and scallions.
Soon after dinner a dessert cart rolled through.
I went with a piece of strawberry yogurt cake and a bowl of fruit which included dragonfruit. The cake was light, airy and a nice way to round out the meal.
Just when I thought the dinner service was finished, the FAs came around with a cart of chocolates, coffee, tea and port.
A cup of green tea was a nice way to wind down before trying to catch some sleep.
Service throughout dinner was impeccable. The FAs made sure I never had an empty cup of Sake and the food came out at a perfect pace. The flavors were incredible and it was one of the better business class meals I've ever had.
An extensive snack menu is available at any time.
Since I couldn't sleep very well, I couldn't resist an in-flight Udon snack. It came with a little packet of togarashi spice mixture and was as good as I found on the ground in Japan. It had a large piece of fried sweet tofu on top.
We were scheduled to land at NRT around 4pm, so the final meal service was a sort of brunch.
I went with the Japanese option again. The salmon was light and flavorful, but I found the grilled rice a bit too smokey. I was still pretty full from the bowl of Udon and dinner so I wasn't able to finish everything. This bowl of miso soup was different from dinner and had pieces of tofu and greens.
All in all the food on this ANA flight was nothing short of remarkable. Trying the Japanese "Washoku" cuisine in-flight was also a really cool way to get my palate accustomed to the flavors of Japan.
The cabin on this ANA 787-8 was immaculately clean, the service was professional and the food was second to none among international business classes I've tried. A major pitfall of the experience was the temperature of the cabin and the poor quality of pillows/blankets. Considering that a warm cabin seems to be the norm on ANA, I would seriously consider other options if that is something that bothers you — it bothered me enough to offset an otherwise excellent service.