Award travel; ANA business class japanese meal first course

ANA Business Class NRT-SEA: Like a Dream

The onboard flight experience with All Nippon Airways (ANA) are so expectedly excellent, I’d have to be really looking for something to critique. It’s one of those instances where I’d roll my eyes at myself for pointing out extra-extra-first-world problems. On our flight from Tokyo Narita (NRT) to Seattle (SEA), it was my first time on ANA’s 787-8 long haul configuration business class.

Award travel; ANA business class lounge Narita (NRT)
ANA business class lounge at NRT after crowd clears out

First a quick word on the ground experience, specifically on the lounge. ANA’s NRT business class lounge is large, though feels cramped before popular flights; on the whole, it is average and is a world away from the inflight experience. Ryan even took the long walk to see if the United lounge was any better. They had a decent drink selection and a made-to-order ramen bar tucked away at one end of the lounge which was good (though, I am known to enjoy pretty much every noodle dish, as long as the noodles are not mushy). There was also a sushi chef making orders, but there was a limited quantity which kind of sucked if you didn’t get any 🙁

Apart from the seat map, I purposely avoided researching the inflight experience. There can be a bit of variance to the level of privacy and personal comfort based on your seat, so as much as I like to be surprised, I don’t skip this part of travel planning. It’s especially important when traveling with a companion; in this case, I was extremely smug about having done seat research and selection.

Business class is divided into a smaller cabin up front and then another larger grouping of business class seats. The seat configuration on the 787-8 is a bit on the odd side, perhaps a result of targeting solo business travelers:

  • If you want to interact with a travel companion, their site actually encourages selecting a window and a middle aisle seat, specifically the odd number rows. Normally, people traveling together on other plane configurations would select the two center seats. In this case, there is a partition between the two center seats and it is not adjustable (in contrast with Korean first class or Asiana business class).
  • The center seats are also configured to alternate between one and two seats in each row. Hence, the single seats (even number rows) are much more spacious and private. With a “side table” on each side (corresponds to the raised surface to accommodate the legroom of the two passenger seats behind it), these are akin to a king’s throne vs. the 2-seat row’s “regular” royal seating. Given that both Ryan and I wanted to be in our own world, I selected 2F and 4F. Heck, even if we wanted to hang out, I would have selected these seats, and just get up to chat.

As another side note, I really think it’s cool that more planes are being outfitted with windows in the lavatory. Additionally, ANA has the smart japanese toilets; I’m not sure if it’s also in the economy cabin. I didn’t try to guess if any other passengers spent extra time, because of the bidets 😉

I mentioned in the introduction that I didn’t research other aspects of the inflight service, so I could avoid having too high expectations. Of course, I had certain expectations, because of previous first and business class flights on ANA, but I have to try to take a more matter-of-fact mindset to judge the experience on its own, and in contrast to other flight experiences. Well, if it’s possible to have non-existent expectations blown out of the water then consider them blown!

The seat and cabin temperature were comfortable; a mattress pad is provided for sleeping which added to the comfort level. Our attendants were gracious, prompt and proactive. In terms of food, the presentation and taste were exquisite, and one would not think of them as “airplane” food in the slightest. If you recall my earlier assertions about noodles, and have flown ANA before, you might guess that I had my fingers crossed that the supply of Ippudo Ramen noodles was plentiful. It was four years ago, that we had stopped in Tokyo for lunch, and our friend took us to Ippudo Ramen which we really enjoyed. To my delight, on that initial ANA flight home, I learned that they provide the ramen as an inflight snack. On this latest flight, I had two bowls, in addition to gorging on every presented meal.

Okay, so here’s my extra-extra-first-world complaint with the inflight service: the attendants were too put-together and professional. Yep, it’s my standard complaint when I really have nothing to complain about. In general, I always feel really lucky to be fly somewhere; whatever cabin I’m in, I always think of the hard work that attendants. So, I really don’t feel comfortable when attendants have to assume a subservient demeanor. My favorite flights are when I sense that the crew are interacting with me in a fun way e.g. what Southwest team members do.

What’s your favorite airline to fly? How do you like to interact with flight crew?

Please share your thoughts on the post