I've heard many a good thing about the business class experience on this airline. Now it’s my turn to see if all the plaudits are actually true as I’m given the chance to fly to Los Angeles from KL International Airport (KLIA) via Narita Airport in Tokyo.
Expectations are running high as I board All Nippon Airways (ANA) Flight NH816 and it’s a quick and pleasant experience coming through from the lounge at KLIA. It started really well at the check-in counter earlier – with smiling faces and exchange of pleasantries as I receive my boarding pass.
Best seats in the house
It’s the usual pleasantries and cheerful smiles onboard that I've come to expect as I’m shown to my seat. While the flight to Tokyo did not offer staggered seating I had so much legroom in my very comfortable cradle seat (yes it does feel like a cradle), it didn’t really matter. However it was staggered seating on my flight from Tokyo to LA on the B777-300ER, which makes every seat an aisle seat.
I check out the seat and the amenities that go with it. I am pleasantly surprised to find that I can actually store my carry-on in or under the two-level ottoman – this is great as I need to constantly do work and hate to be taking my laptop in and out of the overhead cabin. For business people always on the go and always dealing with work, this is a plus.
I still need to have some shut-eye on the long flights especially to LA and test out the seat, and find it most comfortable and conducive for a restful sleep. What I did not expect, though, was that it is comes with an optional bedsheet.
There’s also a small switchable light at the bottom ottoman – handy when you need to locate your shoes (you know the feeling tapping away with your feet trying to locate your “runaway shoes?)”.
Seat seems wider and when flat I can still view the TV screen well. The table is wider so I have space for my laptop and some drinks and more, and not feel cramped. The big side table with the sidelight is another plus.
The seat has so many options for reclining that the tracking feature comes in handy to find the one that suits you the most.
The flight is practically full and I overhear a fellow passenger saying to another that it normally is. He adds, “I’m a regular and find ANA has the best service, the quickest connections and, heck, even the best food.”
ANA has really seamless connections from KL to seven North American cities - besides LA and San Francisco, there is San Jose, Seattle, Honolulu, New York and Chicago. With 14 flights weekly to Tokyo and a short layover time there, it almost feels like a direct flight.
You don’t have to take my fellow passenger’s word for it – ANA is one of nine airlines worldwide and the only one in Japan to have the authoritative and prestigious five-star rating from Skytrax!
A for everything
I’m interested to find out myself about the service and famed Japanese hospitality and spirit - Omotenashi (they won the best airline staff in Asia at the Skytrax World Airline Awards this year), the comforts and the cuisine they serve.
As I peruse the menu, I’m stunned to see the various options available. They seem to have thought of every need. There are vegetarian, halal (even the otsumami, i.e. the snacks), Japanese and Western, and options for a mix of diets. On some flights, there are the “Connoisseurs” meals prepared by internationally renowned chefs and restaurants from inside and outside Japan. I’m lucky that my flights had those meals served.
It’s no wonder then that ANA Catering has been awarded the World’s Best Catering Service!
On the flight to Tokyo, it was selection of starters with a main course of salt-grilled salmon. They serve Japanese food by season and with a selection across all the Perfectures. My dinner on the LA flight was a Washoku (traditional Japanese dietary culture given Unesco heritage listing) – consisting of soup, three entrees and a bowl of rice. I was blown away by the high quality of each dish, especially the main of halibut.
There is also a wide variety of light meals you can order at any point during the flight.
There is a wide selection of drinks, too – from Japanese sake to sochu to plum wine. I tried them all and was very satisfied. Of course you can also opt for wine, champagne or hard liquor. Fret not: they have the usual juices, soft drinks and tea and coffee, if alcohol is not your poison. I was offered a herbal tea to relax me before I slept and the same after I woke up – it did its work.
The second time I asked for a drink they actually remembered I had ordered a plum wine before and asked if I wanted that again while addressing me by name.
After awhile, I noticed that the attendants are at your side at very frequent intervals, inquiring into your needs. And if I didn't want them to be so helpful, there are actually “Do not disturb” lamps, much like in hotel rooms, that I could turn on.
At the very roomy ANA Lounge in Narita, the pampering didn't stop; it had an excellent food and drink selection, all in snack portions so you don’t spoil your appetite on the flight. I didn't have time to savour more, as my flight connection to LA was coming up quickly (so no losing time waiting at the airport).
On my return flight back I noticed a familiar fragrance that was quite soothing. Apparently the cabins are infused with this special ANA aroma!
Also, all the service and the cuisine served on all my four flights were consistently good. No shocks, no worries – just a constant satisfaction.
Since ANA is a member of Star Alliance, you have mileage partnership with 27 member airlines as well as 11 other international airlines.
It was quite apparent that nothing is left to chance in ANA business class. This was like a five-star “flying hotel”.
Savour the experience – for it is unique.
If you would like to know more about ANA, please visit here.