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ANA enjoys top reputation for flights between Japan and the US. This 777 flight proved the airline deserves it. Pros: Great lounge, superior food, efficient service. Cons: The seat is dated compared to rival products, and the entertainment system doesn’t have a lot of movies.
For my return to the US following one of my 2017 highlights, the delivery flight for Singapore’s first A380 with the new first-class suites, I decided to book a one-stop trip from Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to New York-JFK, with a connection in Tokyo.
The first flight was operated by a 787-8 Dreamliner, which I reviewed here, and the trans-Pacific leg was on ANA’s 777-300ER, with a far superior business class product.
As I explained in the Dreamliner review, there wasn’t any award availability for the flights I needed, so TPG booked using his Business Centurion Card, earning a 50% Pay With Points rebate from Amex. In total, the $2,674 itinerary required 133,700 Membership Rewards points, but because it was booked as a revenue ticket, I was eligible to earn frequent-flyer miles.
I credited the flight to United MileagePlus — as a Premier 1K member, I earned 23,608 redeemable miles and 13,490 Premier-Qualifying Miles for this longer leg, plus 11,624 redeemable miles and 6,642 PQMs for the shorter flight from Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo. This itinerary would have cost me 90,000 MileagePlus miles — had there been availability, of course.
Airport and Lounge
I was connecting from Kuala Lumpur, and since that flight arrived at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (HND), I spent the night in the city — and the morning eating sushi. After my sushi feast, I took the Limousine Bus to Narita, then quickly passed through the security checkpoint and immigration before making my way to one of the two ANA business-class lounges.
ANA operates two business-class lounges at Narita Airport, located at opposite ends of Terminal 1. There’s also a United Club, which, while more appealing than those in the US, pales in comparison to the ANA lounges. United will soon open a Polaris Lounge at Narita, though, which will be accessible to ANA passengers traveling in business or first class.
Both lounges are typically fairly crowded — United customers in the know likely head here, instead of the United Club, which adds to the congestion.
There’s a decent selection of hot and cold food items, along with a self-service bar.
You can also get prepared-to-order hot dishes, including chicken curry and various ramen, soba and udon soups.
The sake bar is also worth a visit — made-to-order sushi is available there in the evenings, but not until all of the US flights have departed, unfortunately.
A sake sampling can help pass the time, though.
There’s a decent variety of seating available, spread between several rooms. During especially busy times most of the seats might end up being occupied, but there were plenty to choose from when I visited.
Personally, I’m a big fan of the cubicles, located just past the sake bar. They’re a bit hidden, so I’ve always found some to be empty, even during peak periods.
The Wi-Fi in the lounge was pretty solid, making it possible to get some work done before my flight. From there, it was a short walk to the gate, and my waiting 777-300ER.
Cabin and Seat
My particular 777, tail number JA787A, has been flying for the airline since 2010.
I had actually flown on this same 777 configuration in 2015, but in first class instead of biz. Business class is pictured below
ANA operates an exceptionally premium-heavy configuration on this route — while most planes have economy cabins occupying more than half of the aircraft, the opposite is true with this particular 777-300ER.
There are a total of 68 biz seats on this plane — 17 rows of four lie-flat seats each, spread between three business-class cabins.
I opted for a window-facing seat in the very last row, since I figured that would give me the best opportunity to score a quiet ride. There were a few empty seats, but most went out full.
21K ended up being an excellent choice, since it’s positioned closer to the aisle and there was almost no foot traffic in the aisle, with the premium-economy cabin located just behind.
I much prefer ANA’s long-haul biz seat to the regional product I had just flown on the Dreamliner. Still, this seat, based on Zodiac’s SKYlounge product, feels a bit sterile and dated.
I really liked the large side table — the meal service was efficient, with attentive flight attendants, but I still appreciated being able to move items off my tray, especially whenever it came time to make my way to the lavatory.
There was also a fair amount of storage — my backpack fit underneath the ottoman, though I still opted to keep it in the overhead. The ottoman itself was spacious and comfortable, too.
There was also a useful shoe compartment underneath the seat.
The seat was comfortable when it came time to sleep, too — ANA offers a large pillow, comforter and a bed pad, so I didn’t need to sleep directly on the seat. There are apparently pajamas available as a “rental” as well, but I wasn’t offered any on this flight.
Amenities and Entertainment
As I mentioned, there was a large pillow, comforter and bed pad — all three items were waiting at my seat.
There was also a fairly basic amenity kit, including essentials like an eye mask, ear plugs and dental kit, along with a facial mist, lotion and chapstick.
There were also some comfy slippers to use during the flight — which really came in handy with my shoes neatly tucked away in their special compartment under the seat.
I travel with my own noise-canceling headphones, but ANA’s weren’t half-bad, so I kept mine in my bag and used these all the way to New York.
The in-flight entertainment display was sharp and bright, and located directly in front of the seat.
The selection was fairly modest — there was a mix of new releases and older films, but many titles were listed several times, so there were far fewer available than I first thought.
There wasn’t much I hadn’t already seen, so I spent a fair amount of time watching the moving map.
You can also connect an iPod (remember iPods?) using a special cable and watch content from that — the availability of such a port dates this seat quite a bit. There were also USB and universal power ports, located in a panel below the screen.
Content could be controlled using either the touchscreen or the dedicated handheld remote.
There was also Wi-Fi available during the flight, but it was fairly sluggish and I couldn’t get the speed test to load. I paid $20 for a full-flight plan, but was limited to 100MB, which isn’t nearly enough, in my opinion.
Food and Beverage
Having enjoyed my Japan Airlines meal on the same route in 2015, I was especially excited to try the food on ANA.
The service started with a beverage tray before departure — I opted for a class of Lombardi Axiome Brut Champagne, which retails for about $40 on the ground.
The Champagne was fine, but I was especially impressed with the beer selection — Brooklyn Lager is served to and from NYC!
Dinner kicked off with an amuse bouche of marinated potato, a smoked scallop and cheese breadsticks.
For my meal, I selected the Japanese (Washoku) menu. Appetizers included seared Spanish mackerel, prawn with eggplant and bean curd, and a mix of monkfish liver, crab meat sushi, sesame tofu, simmered bamboo shoot and fried yam. I appreciated the variety of flavors, but as a fairly picky eater I ended up leaving more on my plate(s) than I normally would have.
For my main course, I had grilled rockfish served in a miso sauce with grilled chicken thigh, along with miso soup and steamed rice. Everything was flavorful, but not overwhelmingly filling.
That left room for dessert — a yummy mousse and a small piece of cake, both of which I enjoyed. Fruit and cheese was also available, but I was pretty full at that point.
I was quite pleased to see Hibiki whiskey on the menu, though, so I enjoyed a glass of that after the meal.
Later, I saw a small assortment of snacks arranged near the galley, along with extra amenities, including dental kits and face masks. The water bottles were the highlight for me there.
With a daytime flight time of around 12 hours, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to expect three full meals. While there wasn’t a mid-flight meal scheduled, ANA has a robust snack menu, including items like tortellini, a pork and cheese panini, pork cutlet, udon noodles, fruit, yogurt, cereal and more.
About halfway through the flight I ordered a bowl of IPPUDO ramen and a garden salad, along with an Asahi. That definitely hit the spot!
Oh hey, Ben & Jerry’s! How did that end up on my tray…
Finally, just before landing it was time for the second (or third?) meal. I had the Japanese option again — miso soup, along with simmered yellowtail and steamed rice, which was fine but not memorable. Saved me from arriving hungry, though!
I had a very good flight — the food was solid, the service was efficient and the seat was comfortable both upright and as a bed. I also lucked out by having a somewhat-quiet mini-cabin in the rear, but overall I have to say that I much prefer the APEX seat Japan Airlines offers on the same route — had we not already reviewed that, I probably would have opted for the JAL flight, instead.
There’s also an opportunity to move up to ANA biz using your United Premier 1K or Global Services Global Premier Upgrades (GPUs), which is pretty slick. Unfortunately you’ll need to book pricier economy fares to take advantage — only Y, B, E and G fares are eligible — but if your employer permits you to purchase higher-priced tickets, this could be an option worth exploring for sure. And, generally, I find ANA award availability to be quite decent, making this product fairly accessible using miles as well.
Know before you go.
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