Hello flyer friends. This report is the first of eleven reports that I'll be posting over the coming weeks from a round-the-world trip sampling some of the best Star Alliance carriers in first and business class. I hope you enjoy these travels as much as I did!
Courtesy of Great Circle Mapper, my journey
The first leg of the RTW journey covering 32,000 miles was to commence with a first class experience on ANA, Chicago to Tokyo. Having flown ANA business class and taking a peak inside the first cabin, I was over the top anxious for this experience, to put it mildly.
A young very attractive woman named Kamatsuki introduced herself immediately upon my arrival. With good english skills she escorted me to what would be one of my two nests for the next 12 hours. Arriving at my sitting nest 2K, Kamatsuki immediately opened a pack of slippers and placed them at the entrance of my den. Welcome to our house where we will treat you as if you are one of us was the message.
For those who choose a quick overview of the ANA first experience I offer the positives and negatives, solely my opinion. And for those who wish a vicarious ride, full details follow.
First, what I liked with a photo as affirmation.
The “Square” as it’s known is a spacious, private, well appointed first class nest. While not fully enclosed, it might as well be as you don’t see other lucky travelers in the front cabin.
This flight had 3 of 8 suites occupied. Two flight attendants were on duty. Odds are against getting a better ratio.
Krug champagne upon departure. While I am not a huge indulger of champagne (although this trip started to change that!), I happily enjoyed this fine treat with a lovely amuse that accomplished its sole purpose.
A bevy of amenities were offered and accepted. Precisely positioned for arrival were noise cancelling headphones, a Samsonite case amenity kit, sleepsuit, sweater, socks, pillow, blanket as well as offerings by Kamatsuki from a basket of additional items. More socks, tissues, eye masks, ear plugs, refreshing face towels, refreshing leg towels and lip balm.
Having viewed the menu online days before the flight, my most important decisions had been solidified. Washoku, Kamatsuki approved.
Japanese cuisine has become a favorite of mine for so many reasons. This dish exemplifies why.
After the meal Kamatsuki began to explain about a special tea on board, but before she could finish I said that I would love some Matcha tea. Nodding approval she returned promptly with tea and sweets.
Knowing that arrival in Japan would be at 8PM I saw no reason to sleep away this wonderful experience. Kamatsuki made a bed for me in the empty suite next door just in-case. I relented for a quick 2 hour nap. (I've yet to get a good photo of a bed on an airplane.)
Now for the dislikes, mostly nothing to do with ANA
Understanding United is constructing the new Polaris lounge at ORD doesn’t excuse the mess travelers encounter for the next 4 months. I present to you the Global First Class lounge, concourse C, at United's Star Alliance main hub:
Of course if you weren't traveling first class….
The ANA first class seat. I felt is was too firm. It just wasn’t as comfortable as Lufthansa’s or Cathay Pacific’s first class seat. Picky aren't we?
My 32,000 mile round the world trip began with a hiccup. For ground transportation to O’Hare I had arranged for a car. Having used the service before I reserved it 2 weeks in advance just to make sure. The day prior to departure the reservation was confirmed. At pickup time no word. Usually they are early. I waited 5 minutes and called. No answer. Not a good sign. 5 minutes more another call. The owner answered and stated he was trying to get in touch with the driver and would call back. A 2nd bad sign. 5 minutes later no call back. I called. The response was he could not locate the driver. The words out of my mouth are not fit to print.
I called Uber, Todd arrived in 5 minutes. Had this incident been pre-Uber I might have missed the trip.
For the outbound ticket the legs are: ORD-NRT on ANA in first class NRT-BKK on Thai in first class (BKK-MEL on Thai's first A350. Oops, it’s still at the factory so change to:) BKK-SIN on Singapore Airlines in business class SIN-MEL on Singapore Airlines in business class This was procured with 130,000 UA miles
ANA uses United’s terminal one for departures at O’Hare. I have nothing to comment on that suggested I was traveling first class, other than a photo stating so. I didn’t even get priority screening. (apparently Global Entry and TSA approved aren't applicable.) Fortunately the airport was not busy on a Saturday afternoon.
One of the disappointments of having ORD as your home airport is the fact United, as well as any *A carrier, doesn't have a decent lounge, especially when traveling first class. On the Lufthansa flight last year the United International lounge was a joke, fortunately it has been put out of it's misery with the construction of the new United Polaris lounge. Time will tell.
A fairly nice spread was for the taking, but with Washoku at gate C10, I refrained.
Time to fly.
JA788A, one of ANA's newer 777-300ER aircraft. (I missed Star Wars BB-8 by one day!)
Cabin: While yellow and blue seem like an odd combination, ANA makes it work.
Lavatories on this 777 were standard size, clean, well stocked and you have to try the Japanese bidet.
Seat Comfort: Yes I did say the seat was a little firm for my tastes, but it's wide, and in ANA's world renowned first class cabin, I was not colored blue.
Nifty place to hang your clothes once the sleepsuit is adorned.
The "Square" has plenty of little compartments, just not sure what to do with them. And why is it necessary to cover the window?
Electronics are well covered.
The main course has an oversized landing area.
Sleep Comfort: If one decides against enjoying 12 hours of delicious food and entertainment, the mattress pad, duvet and pillow are outstanding. Preparing my bed in the adjacent suite was also a nice touch from Kamatsuki.
The Samsonite amenity kit included the following items: Ginza Cosmetics Energizing Lotion Moisturizing emulsion Cleansing foam Facial cotton pads (4) Toothbrush, eye mask and ear plugs.
But you don't need to open your kit as almost everything is offered separately.
One of many oshibori
Pajamas are provided in first class. While comfortable for the flight, I'm not sure if I'll use them at home. They are warm for sure, but the material reminds you of burlap and is somewhat scratchy. But I lugged them around the world so I at least need to try them. For sure they aren't Lufthansa or Cathay pj's.
ANA's 13 page beverage menu included an extensive Sake offering as well as teas and coffees. Wine selection was a little narrow. full list here
Krug Grande Cuvee Brut retails for about $100 per bottle and their Rose markets at $60.
Red wines were about $40 per bottle. I choose the Trefethen.
Food Menu Selections and food extras: One of the joys traveling with a foreign carrier is sampling their native cuisine. I was not left wanting.
Meals Presentation: For the record, I don't understand the plain black tray. (Business class too.) It's not attractive. Maybe it's to highlight the dishes? But then why is the fuji bowl black?
The oversize table was necessary.
Food Quality: The meals were fantastic. However there was little distinction between this first class meal and my ANA business class flight to Singapore earlier this year.
Reliving the Amuse
Takiawase, Possibly my favorite.
I complemented Kamatsuki on her salmon cooking skills as it was tender and delicious. She blushed stating she only reheats the food. I didn't mention the number of airplanes I've been on in my life.
I enjoyed a coffee with the cookies and went on to try the Matcha tea along with the little gelatin treats whose nature escapes me.
Not being on this aircraft to watch calories, soon afterwards it was time for a mid-flight snack. From the "Light Dishes Anytime" menu I chose Seared salt-fermented squid and IPPUDO rich-tasting miso "DAICHI" ramen.
The squid was not my favorite and not consumed.
And the ramen was VERY "rich".
Precisely 90 minutes before NRT touchdown the cabin was prepared for the final service. Sticking wth Washoku for the second time around, I was not enamored with this meal.
Natto (Fermented soy beans) While difficult to eat I actually liked it enough to get it again in Japan.
Shusai - Grilled Spanish mackerel
IFE: A nice sized monitor with a good selection of movies made for an enjoyable flight. Airshow wasn't very informative however.
Wi-Fi: I purchased the 30 minute plan to check it out. Was able to send texts and view websites however photos could not be sent via the Apple iMessage function.
Flight Attendants: From the moment I stepped on to the plane I was treated like a treasured guest. Kamatsuki absolutely made the flight special. I was never without a bottle of water. I never had to ring the call button. And the parting gifts were incredible thoughtful.
Arrival at NRT was on time around 8PM local. Surprisingly immigration was fairly busy. It took around 20 minutes to process through. Welcome to Narita, where little did I know Typhoon Mindulle was bearing down on my next day travel plans.
This was a great way to start a long awaited trip flying 6 different carriers. However for a first class ticket few ground benefits were realized. Unfortunately with O'Hare as my departure town, there isn't a good first class lounge experience, at least from Star Alliance. (And ANA's NRT lounge isn't special either.) While the ANA first class cabin and seat are very good I think Lufthansa's first class cabin is far better. The food was very similar to a prior business class flight I've had on ANA. More so, while the first dinner was very good, it wasn't something I'd order again. And the 2nd meal was not to my liking. What made the flight special was the fantastic ANA crew with their service and thoughtfulness. Overall I enjoyed the trip, yet was somewhat disappointed.
As you'll see on the next report, which is first class on Thai's A380, if I do this again I will do it in business class.
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