The new gold standard: Review of The Room, ANA's new business class on the Boeing 777-300ER
[tpg_rating ticket-class="business" tpg-rating-score="90" ground-experience="16" cabin-seat="30" amens-ife="13" food-bev="19" service="12" pros="Supremely comfortable seat, one of the widest in the industry; top-notch amenities; delicious food." cons="Unexceptional ground experience; limited IFE selection; slow meal service." /]
Airlines don't introduce new seats all that frequently, but when they do, most hold big press conferences to stir up as much anticipation as possible.
So it was quite a surprise when ANA put out just a press release to announce new first- and business-class seats on some of its Boeing 777-300ERs last summer. Japan's largest airline has in fact released an exceptional product that sets a new standard for international business class.
The new biz, dubbed The Room, features some of the largest seats in the industry, so I couldn't wait to try it out. After flying it on a two-week old 777, let's just say that ANA should have trumpeted the debut of its new biz class — because it really is at the top.
Let's get this out of the way first: Getting a seat in The Room isn't easy. The new product is limited to the carrier's flights between Tokyo and Frankfurt (FRA), London Heathrow (LHR) and New York (JFK). It's anyone's guess when ANA will add more routes, but for now, you'll see the product pretty consistently on those runs.
Even if you're flying to one of those cities, there's little, if any, award space for the new seat. Ever since the introduction of the new product last summer, ANA has almost completely restricted availability to paying customers. That's changed recently, especially when booking close to departure, but the odds of finding an award seat are still slim.
If you're keen to fly The Room, be sure to set an ExpertFlyer alert for your desired flights. I was on a discounted paid ticket from Hong Kong that connected in Tokyo, but biz and first-class award seats were released just one week before departure.
When award seats are released, you should definitely book through Virgin Atlantic. If you're not flying round-trip, your best alternatives are:
- Air Canada Aeroplan for 75,000 miles
- Avianca Lifemiles for 75,000 miles
- United MileagePlus for 80,000 miles (or more, since United has introduced dynamic award pricing.)
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My experience with ANA’s new business class began very early at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. Though I was connecting from Hong Kong, I elected to clear immigration and proceed to the check-in counters to get the full ground experience.
The check-in desks were deserted at 5:45 a.m. A quick search of ANA’s website showed that the international check-in counters don’t open until 6:25 a.m. Instead of waiting for what would’ve been a boring check-in, I decided to clear security using the mobile boarding pass that I received during online check-in.
JAL — the other big Japanese airline — doesn’t include priority security when flying in biz, but ANA does. There wasn’t a line anyway, but it’s good to know for the future.
Within minutes, I’d cleared security (shoes stayed on) and I was on my way to the ANA business lounge located across from Gate 110.
The lounge opens daily at 5 a.m. and I was one of the first passengers inside.
The lounge is arranged in a long, narrow rectangle. There are various seating options, with plenty of counter space for those looking to work. There are great views of the international gates and domestic terminal in the background.
There are a few overflow rooms sprinkled throughout the lounge, which were most definitely needed by the time my flight boarded at 9:50 a.m.
I made myself comfortable at one of the counters and decided to have a light breakfast. There are two food areas in the lounge, one at either end of the rectangle.
The smaller one featured a cold buffet of salads and finger sandwiches, as well as self-serve alcohol.
The larger buffet had some hot dishes like scrambled eggs, sausages, dumplings and steamed rice. The Japanese selections were miso soup, assorted rice balls and inarizushi.
There’s also a noodle bar here. The menu was displayed at the buffet, and orders were prepared fresh within 10 minutes.
In terms of amenities, the lounge had blazing fast Wi-Fi (speeds around 200 Mbps download and upload), as well as bathrooms, six shower rooms, some phone booths and a shared wireless printer.
The shower rooms were quite small, and the reusable amenities were left lying on the floor.
Compared with lounge offerings in the U.S., it was better than your average domestic one but a noticeable step down from United’s Polaris Lounges. The food was good, but the space got really crowded. In a way, it’s the ANA version of the AA Flagship Lounge.
Before long, it was time to head down to Gate 107B to board the flight to JFK. Biz passengers were invited to board in Group 2, behind first class and ANA Diamond Service members. In my experience, there are tons of Diamonds on U.S.-bound flights, so I was initially nervous that the cabin would be filled and hard to photograph by the time I got on the plane. Fortunately, I was traveling with someone flying in first so I was invited to board in Group 1.
Japanese carriers board widebodies in record time and my flight was no exception. We had a delayed boarding but managed to fill a 777 in just 20 minutes. That’s impressive.
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I haven’t been this excited to board a plane in a long time. Once I got on board, my mind was blown.
ANA’s new The Room business class is arranged in a standard 1-2-1 staggered configuration, and the sheer amount of space dedicated to each seat is truly impressive. In space alone, this seat blows Qatar's Qsuite out of the water — and the Qsuite is winner of the TPG Awards for best business class two years in a row.
Not only are the seats themselves large, but the biz cabin is too. In fact, there are three “cabins” on the flight for a total of 64 seats. There’s a small two-row minicabin just behind the new first-class product.
Then there’s a massive 10-row cabin between doors 2 and 3. And finally there’s a four-row cabin stretching to behind the wing.
You may think the aisles are narrow but they’re not. I measured over 20 inches of width between seats. Seats themselves alternate between forward- and rear-facing.
Single seats with letters A and K face the rear and are flush with the window. The table separates the seat from the aisle.
Single seats with letters C and H face forward and are closer to the aisle. In this case, the table is flush with the window.
The same pattern holds true for the coupled seats. E- and F-lettered seats have tables on aisle, face the rear and are next to each other. If you’re flying solo sitting in one of these seats, there’s a large privacy divider that can be raised once airborne.
D- and G- lettered seats have their tables in the center of the plane, making the seats flush with the aisle. These would be my least preferred choice, regardless of whether I’m traveling alone or with a companion.
Typically, I like to sit in the main cabin to observe the service flow, but my strong preference in this configuration is a single seat flush with the window. Since none of the A or K seats were available in the main cabin, I made an exception for this flight and selected seat 19K, in the small cabin behind the wing.
The seat itself is incredibly well designed. The headrest occupies the entire width, though the seat gets narrower closer to the footwell. At its largest, the seat is 38 inches wide, which puts many first-class products to shame.
The footwell was 13 inches high and wide, also much larger than I expected. Although it may not pass the Brian Kelly- branded canoe test, it was big enough for me to sleep with my size 11 feet at every possible angle.
In bed mode, the seat was supremely comfortable thanks to a sleeping surface that’s the widest of any biz product. However, the bed is only 71 inches long, or 5 feet 11 inches. At 5'11'' myself, I had to bend my knees to sleep.
Nevertheless, once I closed the door, I had no trouble falling asleep.
Speaking of the door, it's actually a two-part manual door that unlocks at the push of a button. One part extends horizontally and the other vertically. Once fully closed, there is a small gap, but it still creates a sense of personal space.
If there’s one feature that could use some improvement, it’s the seat storage. The table is large enough for a laptop and other reading material, but it’s exposed. There’s a small shelf under the TV screen but it is way too small to fit anything larger than a wallet. Even my Google Pixel couldn’t fit.
Finally, there is a latched compartment next to the TV screen with a bit of space for some thin items like a tablet or book. This is also where the inflight magazines and mirror are kept.
The easy-to-use seat controls are located just below the table. There’s a slider reminiscent of United Polaris that controls recline. There are some preset settings for bed mode, taxi/takeoff and dining positions. Finally, there is a button to adjust the seat’s tracking.
Just below the controls are the light switches. And these are no ordinary light switches. ANA teamed up with Panasonic to offer what it calls the world’s first “Premium Seat Lighting Function.” These lights were noticeably better than those I’ve seen in other planes.
There are two lights on either side of the seat for reading, plus one near the TV that’s focused on the tray table and two above the seat for general illumination.
The tray table extends out from just below the TV. The bifold table is massive and slides along its track for easy egress. It measures 24 inches wide and 15 inches long, plenty big enough for my 13-inch MacBook Pro.
One neat feature is the mechanical switch that turns green once the table is locked into position. Too often I’m fumbling to secure the tray table in premium cabins, so I give ANA credit for really thinking through the details here.
Another feature reminiscent of first class is the electronic window shades. Accordion blinds work at the touch of a button. Another press and the blackout shade comes down, blocking all outside light.
For those who find the cabins of Asian carriers often hot compared to U.S. airlines, you’ll be thrilled to know that ANA installed personal air vents on these new 777s.
Finally, there are four bathrooms dedicated to the entire biz cabin. They are all standard-sized, but each features a bidet function and a selection of amenities, including a face and body sheet, mouthwash, toothbrush and toothpaste.
Overall, these new seats are incredibly impressive. The space dedicated to each passenger is unrivaled for biz class. In my book, The Room is the new gold standard for business-class hard products.
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ANA didn’t just hit a home run with the seat. The new product was packed with some top-notch amenities too.
The most noticeable is the highest-quality monitor I’ve ever seen on a plane. The 24-inch 4K screen is so crisp that it made working on my MacBook Pro with Retina display feel like I’d gone back to the 2000s.
I wanted to connect my laptop to the monitor, but sadly the HDMI ports were inoperable on my flight. Right next to the HDMI port are a universal power outlet and fast-charging USB port.
There is also another USB port built into the armrest.
You can connect your phone to the TV screen to preload your selections into a playlist.
Additionally, the IFE user interface is the most robust I’ve seen in all my travels. The touchscreen is highly responsive and there is plenty of detail about each selection.
You can even browse and order duty-free items directly from the IFE system.
If you prefer to relax in bed, there is a retractable touchscreen remote to help choose your content.
Though the screen quality is great, the IFE selection was weak. There were 40 Western movies on offer, including a full selection of Disney animated movies and some new releases like "Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood" and "Spider Man: Far From Home."
There were just nine Western TV shows to watch. If "Game of Thrones" or "Modern Family" isn’t your thing, you may want to bring your own content.
If you prefer live TV, there were three channels on offer — CNN, NHK World Premium and Sport24.
To listen to the IFE system, you need to use a two-prong audio adapter or the pair of Sony noise-canceling headphones waiting at each seat. I’d definitely recommend the former since the provided pair was mediocre at best.
The live map is highly customizable and was more than enough to keep this AvGeek happy. For takeoff and landing, I kept my eyes glued to the super-high-definition tailcam.
Other amenities included two pillows, as well as a Nishkawa-branded duvet and mattress pad sheet.
I definitely appreciated the two pillows, but found both the mattress pad and duvet to be too thin for my liking.
Also waiting at my seat was a pair of flimsy slippers and a Global Trotter amenity kit. The royal-blue kit was nicely designed, though the contents were a bit sparse. Inside, I found an eye mask, toothbrush, ear plugs, Senussi treatment wash, concentrate lotion and cream.
In addition, there were pajamas and cardigans available by request. ANA recently switched up its pajamas, and I liked the new ones, but I wish they had pockets.
With the introduction of this new 777 configuration, ANA also transitioned from selling Wi-Fi in data increments to time increments. This is a positive development in my book, and I chose a full-flight plan for just $21.95.
The speeds were quite impressive at about 7 Mbps download and 2 Mbps upload.
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If done correctly, flying with ANA can be a delectable gastronomic experience. To me, that means ordering from the Japanese menu and being a lot more adventurous than normal.
Unlike Western carriers, ANA doesn't serve pre-departure beverages (maybe that’s the secret to a 20-minute board time?). Once airborne, though, flight attendants came around with a tray of orange juice or sparkling wine.
On ANA you can see a preview of your flight’s menu and preselect your meal before check-in. I did that to confirm that there’d be a Japanese meal waiting for me on the plane.
Service started with an amuse-bouche of matcha almond pie sticks, an apricot butter roll and some olives. The small bites were a great way to get me excited for what was to come.
The next tray had a variety of different foods, including algae with tofu paste, salmon roe, crab sushi, salt-boiled prawn, scallop and field mustard.
In addition, I was served seared sea bream and some yuba and turnip in miso sauce. This was a lot of food, and everything I tried was fantastic.
I couldn’t fathom eating more, but I had a review to write, so I reluctantly accepted the main course which was split between swordfish and braised wagyu beef. I don’t eat meat so I stuck with the perfectly cooked and nicely seasoned seafood.
Throughout the meal, I sampled sakes. The flight attendant was friendly and explained the difference between the two bottles onboard.
Finally, it was time for dessert and I like to go big or go home. Hence, I had both desserts — an Emotion Mont-Blanc and matcha shortcake. They couldn’t have been more different, but they were both incredible. With that, it was time for a long rest.
I woke up about six hours later as the lights were turned on for breakfast. There was again a choice of Japanese or Western menu. For variety I selected the latter.
The eggs Benedict were served with rolls and a side of fruit. I was still full from the excellent lunch after takeoff, so just picked around the food.
The highlight of biz-class dining was definitely the Japanese cuisine. I highly recommend trying it.
[flight_stats ticket-class="first" review-stat-section="Service" tpg-rating="12" tpg-rating-max="15" live-tv="0" tailcam="0" headphones="0" comp-alcohol="0" extra-pillows="No" turndown-service="No" /]
Though ANA took the hard product to a new level, the service flow left a lot to be desired.
There was no service on the ground and once things got started, everything took a long time. The amuse-bouche was served more than 70 minutes after takeoff and it only got slower from there. The next course came 45 minutes later and my main course was served well over two and a half hours into the flight. In total, the first meal wrapped up about three and a half hours into the flight.
Sure, this is a long-haul flight, but I’d definitely prefer more efficient meal pacing. Service was done exclusively with trays that were delivered to each passenger, so maybe ANA should consider using carts to speed things up. Flight attendants were hustling throughout the service but didn’t really check in with passengers. That meant that I only got drink refills when it was time for my tray to be cleared.
Although the meal service was slow, every flight attendant I interacted with was warm and friendly. So it’s no fault of this particular crew. Instead, ANA needs to design a more efficient meal service.
With the introduction of The Room, ANA has set a new gold standard for international business class. The cabin is stunning and the seat is simply the best in the skies, offering copious amount of personal space and tons of privacy. Everything about the seat is well designed, including the fancy new lighting and adjustable tray table.
ANA didn’t just stop there. The biz-class experience was packed with amenities like two pillows, pajamas, a cardigan and slippers. The 4K IFE screen was also revolutionary though ANA could've definitely loaded a more robust selection of Western cinema.
As it stands, The Room is a phenomenal business-class product. If ANA were to improve the ground experience and modify the service flow, it would even compete with some international first-class offerings.
All photos by the author.
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