There’s no bling to be found here, but if you’re searching for luxury and refinement – you’ve hit gold. All Nippon Airways (ANA) First Class is an exceptional way to fly, from curbside to customs. It’s not the newest offering on the market, yet the small touches keep it amongst the tippy top, in a very competitive landscape. On a recent flight out of Tokyo, we put their seat, service and amenities to the test – and with true first class offerings – there’s a whole lot to love.
It took no longer than three minutes to realize that this is a truly exceptional way to fly. After struggling to find the “Suites” check in desk, we consulted a roaming ANA Narita airport agent. The agent immediately insisted upon personally escorting us to the Suites Check In area, located nearer to security checkpoints, to the right of the terminal if facing in. Just walk straight past all the desks, head right and the look left.
Located behind an automatic glass door sits the lovely, well staffed ANA suites check in area. Personable staff members promptly completed procedures, while offering a hot towel. As any traveler can imagine – this is a fabulous (and hygienic) way to start an airport experience. If you ask us, the hot towel ritual is a detail which arguably costs ANA very little, but creates a lot of good will.
After clearing the private security channel for First Class passengers in a time rivaling a Usain Bolton 200 meter run, we were greeted in the “Suites Lounge”. The space is reserved solely for first class passengers and top tier All Nippon Airways frequent flyers. A lounge staff member promptly greeted our party and found a desirable seat location to our liking. Within moments of seating we were again offered a hot towel and beverage of our choosing. Two restaurant quality iced lattes later, we were very impressed.
The ANA Narita Suites lounge is a bit of an enigma. While nothing stands out as truly exceptional from a design standpoint, the crowd control, lightning fast wifi and rotation of culinary offerings make it a wonderful place to pass time. The lounge features a steady rotation of buffet treats, with light Japanese dishes, sushi, fruits, pastry and appetizer selections. Wifi connectivity speeds consistently offered 25MBPS upload and download or better, which is shocking – in a good way.
For passengers seeking more substantial nourishment during their stay, there’s a ‘made to order’ counter of Japanese classic udon noodles, soba noodles, ANA curry and even sashimi. Order, receive a buzzer, and soon enough you’ll be “buzzed” when your order is ready for pick up. Just don’t be alarmed when it starts beeping like you’ve tripped the master alarm at the Louvre. The desserts, by the way – were exceptional. If you come across a raspberry mousse, snap it up – a hot ticket item, indeed.
Wines, beer, spirits and tea are plentiful – but if you ask us, it’s worth waiting for the flight. The lounge selections are perfectly nice, and the coffee happens to be outstanding, but on board, ANA offers a wildly exciting array of choices with which to imbibe.
After a boarding process which will leave you nothing short of frustrated on your next (non) All Nippon Airways flight – we were on board, and within minutes – so was the rest of the plane. How can it take only 20 minutes to board a fully laden Boeing 777 when it takes an hour to board a regional jet elsewhere? It’s no wonder why travelers adore Japan. First thoughts: what a seat. Understated, wide, padded, private and very livable. There’s no door to be found, but you’d struggle to see another passenger without standing and peering. Storage space is certainly no issue here. A dizzying amount of space can be found at eye level throughout the seat and under the foot rest.Upon donning thy throne, guests will immediately spot pajamas, mini suitcase amenity kit and an All Nippon Airways cardigan, which happens to be fashionable enough for public consumption. Very shortly thereafter, expect a personal greeting and pre departure beverage. On our particular flight, there was hardly any time for a drink before take off. Settling in gave way to our one gripe of the ANA experience, and it’s one – likely shared with all passengers on board. ANA’s in flight movie selection felt particularly light, especially for the longer journeys which many of their flights entail. To ensure amusement beyond the (far too drinkable) Krug, Bring your iPad?
After yet another warm welcome from the lead cabin crew member, a selection of amuse bouche were served – along with world renowned Krug Champagne. Krug consistently ranks amongst the most desirable champagnes in the world, and this test was no exception. ANA publishes menus in advance, so if you’re flying First Class with the airline, preview their menu. ANA famously serves Hibiki Suntory 21 Year Old Whisky in First Class, which we believe is presently the most opulent spirit offered on any airline. At $500+ a bottle, it’s a rare treat and utterly drinkable in the air. Even in First Class, plane food rarely passes basic standards of well loved and cared for food on the ground. This flight was a notable exception. A beautiful lobster with consommé to start. A delectable Wagyu Beef entree for the headline event and a luxurious and satisfying chocolate torte for dessert. If not for the relatively short 8:30 minute duration, we would’ve dug deeper.
Finer points aside, the definitive benefit of top first class seats is sleep. Wider, longer more padded beds offer sleep rivaling many beds on the ground. After meal service, our crew offered a fast and efficient turn down service, adding a large padded mattress, duvet and blanket, as well as multiple foam pillows. Even with a 10 hour connecting flight immediately prior, sleep on this flight left us very well rested and “The Ginza” amenities left us looking somewhat the same. Our only complaint from this flight – we wished it to be longer. After a treat of a meal, 5 hours of sleep felt like robbery. For this experience – the longer the flight, the better.