ANA First Class Introduction
This product has a special place in my heart…. ANA first class was my introduction to the world of international first class travel years ago, and I was excited to try it again on this trip to Beijing! I booked the roundtrip first class flight using 210,000 Aeroplan miles, which I transferred from my American Express Membership Rewards account. Availability was looking really good, with multiple dates having award seats out of both Los Angeles and San Francisco.
I checked out of the Marriott Los Angeles Airport Hotel about 3 hour prior to departure and took the shuttle to the Tom Bradley International Terminal. The check in area at LAX was a zoo, though thankfully there was no wait for first class passengers. ANA has two flights departing within an hour of each other, so I imagine the check-in counters tend to get quite busy on any given morning based on the volume of passengers.
Check-in took about 5-minutes, and I was directed to the Star Alliance first class lounge to relax before my flight. For what it’s worth, apparently ANA will escort you through security (bypassing the line) if you ask, but I was early enough that it didn’t matter. It took about 15 minutes to clear security, which left me with about 2 hours to enjoy the beautiful lounge dedicated for passengers departing in first class on Star Alliance airlines.
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I left the lounge about 15 minutes prior to scheduled boarding, and found a fairly large crowd of people lined up. ANA has very organized boarding, which began a few minutes late starting with passengers needing special assistance, followed by first class.
The Flight – ANA First Class
All Nippon Airways 175
Los Angeles (LAX) – Tokyo (NRT)
Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Arrive: 3:21pm (next day)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300
Seat: 2K (First Class)
I was greeted at the door by two of the cabin crew who directed me to seat 2K. I love the first class cabin on ANA, though some people argue it seems a little too much like office cubicles. There are a total of 8 suites over two rows in a 1-2-1 configuration, each offering plenty of privacy despite not having doors.
I love the contrast between the light wood and blue seats and appreciate the clean lines throughout the cabin. Considering it’s age, I think the first class product has aged quite well, though definitely not competitive with the newest offering from Emirates and Singapore Airlines.
Middle seats have a privacy partition which can be used after takeoff should you be seated next to someone you don’t know.
Each first class seat offers 76 inches of pitch and 33 inches of width, making it one of the widest of any first class products.
Amenities upon boarding included a samsonite kit with The Ginza face products (very high quality), Sony noise cancelling headphones, pillow, slippers, pyjamas, cardigan, and a day blanket.
The amenity kit is by Samsonite, and very similar to the Rimowa kit offered on EVA Air in business class and Thai Airways in first class. Inside was standard contents, such as socks and an eyeshade, along with face products by The Ginza.
Storage at the seat is fantastic, with cupboards for just about everything. There was a small spot for glasses (don’t forget them like I did), a tray near the footrest for pyjamas, and a spot for phones. There was also plenty of storage under the ottoman for hand luggage.
During boarding, the cabin crew came around and introduced themselves and offered a choice of pre-departure beverages and warm scented towel. There was a small bit of food or something left from the previous passenger, and when I asked for an additional towel to clean the surface, the friendly flight attendant seemed genuinely horrified, and in typical Japanese style, went on to apologize about 30 times (and even offered me to change seats).
It always amazes me how efficiently international airlines can board a 777. Despite the slight delay in getting started, everything seemed organized and took no more than 20 minutes. We started our pushback with the safety video playing, and after a short taxi we were cleared for takeoff.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get many pictures of the taxi/takeoff, mostly due to the design of the suite which blocks most of the windows. This is my only slight criticism of this product, but doesn’t really matter overall since window shades are closed shortly after takeoff.
The seatbelt sign was turned off after about 15 minutes, at which point I decided to visit the lavatory and get changed into pyjamas (because who doesn’t love eating in pyjamas). There are two bathrooms at the front of first class, so waiting is never an issue. The cabin crew did a phenomenal job keeping both lavatories clean throughout the flight, which is always appreciated.
I returned to my seat to take a better look at the lunch menu. ANA is known for having some of the best catering (particularly their Japanese option), and I was starting to get hungry since I skipped breakfast at the Star Alliance first class lounge. Menus are in a nice leather cover, and are extensive (particularly the beverage list).
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As mentioned above, the beverage selection is incredible, with many people raving about the Hibiki Suntory 21 year old whiskey (though I’m not a whiskey drinker) which retails for about $500USD per bottle on the ground. I stuck with the Krug, since I only ever get to drink it when flying first class!
For lunch, I decided to go with the Japanese menu, despite not being a very adventurous eater. Similar to my ANA Business Class flight from Tokyo to Shanghai, the cabin crew asked if I actually meant the western option, which I thought was a bit funny. Meal service began with an amuse-bouche of prosciutto and melon, seared tuna, quiche, and cheese bread sticks, which was served with a glass of Krug.
Next the table was set for lunch, and first out was the Sakizuke and Zensai courses, which consisted of Kombu kelp with herring roe and a selection of morsels. To be honest, I don’t really know what I was eating, but everything tasted fresh and delicious, and was some of the best Japanese food I’ve ever had.
Next out was a clear soup with produce and scallop fishcake, which was really good.
I was starting to feel full at this point, but that didn’t stop me. Following the soup was a selection of sashimi, which was the highlight of the meal service.
Up next was the main consisting of grilled sablefish with a simmered beef side dish, which was easily the best seafood dish I’ve ever had on a plane.
Just when I thought I couldn’t possibly eat anymore, another course of miso soup, steamed rice, and Japanese pickles came out, which was good, but I only had a taste.
Overall, I would consider this the best airline food I’ve ever had, and only wish I had more room to enjoy the final course and dessert (which I declined). On offer was fruit, cheese and a variety of sweets, and I was told I could change my mind and have some at any point during the flight. Instead, I decided to relax and enjoy some of the in-flight entertainment for a bit to let the food settle before trying to gets some sleep (first checking out the moving map and taking a quick look outside).
Media selection on ANA is good, but not the best, and not comparable to Cathay Pacific’s selection in first class. Even still, it wasn’t tough to find something to watch, with me eventually choosing Erin Brockovich, one of my all time favourites.
Seat controls are via a small touchscreen panel near the in-flight entertainment remote and power plugs, which was easy to use, though I found the interface lagged a bit, and actually prefer good old-fashioned buttons. Regardless, it wasn’t difficult to find a comfortable position to watch a movie and I appreciated the massage function.
About 20 minutes into my movie the flight attendant noticed I was looking awfully sleepy (AKA I was falling asleep), and offered to turndown the bed. Unlike our last flight on ANA first class, the cabin was nearly full, so there was no offer to turndown the neighbouring seat. ANA has some of the best bedding in the sky, with a comfortable mattress pad and thick duvet, which was really breathable considering they keep the cabin temperature a little bit on the warm side.
The sleeping surface is nearly 3-feet wide when fully reclined, which made it really easy to find a comfortable position. I appreciated the small touches, like the ANA ‘refresh’ scent card placed on the pillow during turndown and my slippers being placed near the foot of the bed.
I woke up after about 3 hours feeling a bit peckish, and decided to order some ramen, which really hit the spot, and put me back to sleep for almost the rest of the flight.
I didn’t realize, but at some point during the flight I must have hit the ‘do not disturb’ light, and woke up as we were beginning our initial decent into Tokyo, which meant I wouldn’t be able to sample the pre-arrival meal (I wasn’t too hungry anyway). Crew came around and thanked everyone for choosing ANA, and offered some chocolates as a parting gift.
We touched down shortly after 3pm and made out short taxi to the gate. I actually forgot my sunglasses in the storage cupboard, though thankfully a diligent flight attendant didn’t and caught me as I was heading out with sunglasses in hand! Much appreciated!
I headed through transit security (fast track, with the normal line looking awfully long – a first for me at Narita) and found my way to the ANA first class lounge (with access from my arriving flight) where I would wait for my connecting flight to Beijing.
ANA First Class Bottom Line
It’s hard to fault ANA first class, with spacious and private suites, phenomenal catering, and some of the friendliest cabin crew I’ve ever experienced. Furthermore, award availability is generally decent across the Pacific, with first class service to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago, and more.
I suppose if there’s one complaint, it’s that the suite design blocks many of the cabin windows, and you have to lean forward to get a clear view outside, though this only really matters during takeoff and landing since most carriers close the window shades during the flight to allow for rest.
Aeroplan charges 105,000 miles for a one-way ticket from North America to Asia on ANA in first class, with fuel surcharges imposed (though minor compared to others and minimal if flying to select destinations such as Tokyo or Hong Kong). Even still, I consider this one of the best uses of Aeroplan miles, and a small price to pay to experience one of the world’s best airlines!
ANA was my first international first-class experience, and this flight affirmed why I love the product so much. I can’t wait to fly them again!
Have you flown ANA first class before? How was your experience?