It was time to head back to the United States and be a grownup…for a week at least. N left early to get back to his base, and I had some time to kill before my pickup. I wandered around the immediate vicinity of the hotel, then came back a bit before the scheduled pickup, to fine my car already waiting.
My travel agent had arranged what she told me was a shared taxi ride out to NRT for $100. That would have been fine with me, but it turned out even better, since we never picked anyone else up. Just me in a large van headed out to NRT.
The driver got there very quickly, and I arrived about three hours before my scheduled departure. Once into the terminal I couldn’t find the ANA First Class check-in. When I asked an agent, they told me ANA has a private dedicated area for First Class check-in, much like Thai does at BKK.
I walked over the the ANA Suite check-in, was quickly given a boarding pass and sent on my way through their private security. Unlike BKK, you have to rejoin the masses and go through the general immigration queue. Thankfully, there wasn’t much of a line, and I was quickly and sadly out of Japan.
I turned left and walked towards the end of the finger in search of the ANA F Suite Lounge, which was conveniently located, as my flight would be departing from one of the gates close by.
Once you arrive at the lounge area, you go up an escalator, hand your boarding pass to the agent at the desk and then turn right and go through the automatic doors to enter the F lounge. Inside a personal assistant greeted me and showed me to a cubicle in the “suites” section. This is meant to be more private than just sitting out in the lounge (which you can do should you so choose). Each little cubicle has a chair, a desk, power ports and a TV. The wifi was working terribly, so I had the attendant bring me some water and an ethernet cable. I watched a bit of Japanese baseball (which is a much lower level of play than I had expected) and then decided to take a shower before my flight, since I hadn’t showered before leaving the hotel.
There is no separate F shower section. I wasn’t sure where the showers were, but one of the lounge staffers explained to me it was a joint shower area for the J and F lounge passengers. She walked me outside and showed me where to go. When you sign in for the shower they check your boarding pass and F passengers get a better set of shampoo, conditioner, etc…
The lounge has various drinks and snacks available buffet style, and other more substantial food offerings that can be ordered.
I left the lounge before a boarding announcement was made to head over to my gate. When I arrived at the gate indicated on my boarding pass, I found that it was assigned to another flight and mine had been moved to a new gate a 3-5 minute walk away. There was no notice of this in the lounge…poor form ANA.
When I got to the new and correct gate, I found that my flight was also delayed…again no notice. It wasn’t a substantial enough delay to warrant going back to the lounge, so I stood around and waited. I was pulled aside for additional security screening at the gate with a group of other passengers whose names they seem to have selected at random.
When they finally got around to boarding, there was no pre-boarding call for First Class.
ANA’s lounge was OK, but nothing special, and the rest of their ground handling left a lot to be desired. In this respect, they are the total opposite of Thai. However, ANA also has an absolutely first rate airborne product that blows Thai away and deserves its spot in the international first tier.
Currently ANA has two versions of their first class product flying on their Boeing 777 aircraft. “Old first” is still on certain routes like Chicago. It’s still an absolutely fantastic product, but the “new first” product, known as the “First Square’ is on ANA’s 77W aircraft that fly to their flagship markets like SFO, JFK and LHR. This is an absolute top of the industry product.
It’s rare for ANA to open up old first availability to Star Alliance partners, and almost unheard of for them to open partner availability in First on routes that feature the First Square product. This is why when I saw the seat open up I wasted 2-3 hours on the phone from Phnom Penh to make sure I would get a chance to check it out.
The load in first for our disappointingly short sub-9 hour flight from Narita to San Francisco was only 4/8. ANA’s First Square seats [MANY PHOTOS AT THE END] are “suite” style, similar to TG’s 777W’s, but they lack the door for full enclosure. They also feel much more modern, sleek and new. There is a level of sophistication and polish that you get from ANA that an airline like TG just isn’t capable of. It comes through in everything down to the choice of wood tones on the table.
The ANA First Square seat has a huge IFE screen, but no buddy seat. There is an ottoman sort of “bench” for your feet, but it is a shelf under the TV, so it wouldn’t work for another person. Storage space is also ample. We received slippers, amenity kits (cheap quality and lousy contents) and heavyweight button up pajamas. I am not sure if you are supposed to keep the pajamas on ANA (I have read conflicting reports) but I kept mine.
I had a glass of Krug before we pushed back and my only complaint is that I wish the flight would have been longer. Since I have been flying a lot, I had already seen everything worth watching on the IFE list. Luckily, I had planned for this and downloaded some movies from iTunes. I watched the movie Goon with the meal service and while I expected next to nothing from this movie, it turned out to be hilarious, and I would recommend it to anyone. For the meal service, I opted to go with the Japanese Kaiseki menu option. It was an incredible amount of food, and towards the end I was secretly hoping they would stop bringing more. Very good though, excellent service and nice presentation:
After dinner, I was starting to feel a bit tired and there was nothing else I really wanted to watch on my iTunes. I started a second movie, but didn’t have the desire to power through as it wasn’t so good. Since the load was so low in first, I asked the stewardess if she could make 1G up as a bed, and I would sleep there whenever I was ready to adjourn from 1K. She happily complied and got out all the fixings to do the turndown service.
As I mentioned, this flight was a very short 8hours and 45minutes, which didn’t leave a huge amount of time for sleep. I would have been rather content with some unprecedented headwinds keeping us in transit for 12 hours.
On transpac flights from Asia to USA ANA serves dinner, breakfast and has snacks available in between. You can eat all of these meals whenever you want, as it is dine on demand. The ANA bacon cheeseburger is somewhat famous in frequent flier circles. I don’t much care for airline breakfasts, so when I woke up after a few hours of sleep, I rang the stewardess and ordered the burger for breakfast. I have to say, I have been served much worse hamburgers on the ground, well done ANA.
I read for the last hour or so of the flight and as our wheels touched the ground at SFO the harsh reality dawned upon me. Gone were the exotic and interesting asian locales I had grown accustomed to. All that lay ahead of me for the next week was predictable New York, mind numbing CLE classes and even worse a long haul flight on United…those asian airlines really know how to spoil you.
ADDITIONAL SEAT PHOTOS: