Greetings Flight Reporters and welcome to another whirlwind Asian adventure. This was an especially exciting trip for me because I was bringing along a friend who was a complete newbie to most of the experiences I had planned for this trip. New to first class on top airlines, premium lounges, and new to a couple of the cities we visited. It's always a special treat for me to share experiences that I I value with someone else that I think will value them as well. To see things again through the newness of someone else's eyes. The reports of our travel will be broken down as follows:
It wasn't until I complied the list above that I realized the entire trip was via the 777-300. Somewhat unusual, I think. I've taken this ANA flight before and in fact have reported on the experience. But, I'm doing it again. This is not the best flight for maximizing the fantastic ANA on-board experience and I knew that going in. We discussed this and decided that the extra 12 hours in Singapore this routing would afford us was a worth while trade off.
We arrived at a very crowded TBIT at around 21:30. There was no wait for First Class check in and my companion was invited to join me even though he was traveling in J. The lines for J and Y were quite deep. An ANA supervisor explained to me that they were on a new res system that day and it was slowing the process.
Of course the check in lines were compact compared to the security lines. We entered the "Premium" security line and waited at least 30 minutes to get through. Not a very First Class experience. It was past 22:00 when we entered the Star Alliance First Class Lounge. We were warmly greeted, guest privileges were happily extended to my travel partner, and we were shown in and presented menus for the made to order a la carte food options.
The space is well appointed and I have never seen the lounge at capacity or anything approaching it. Neither of us had dinner in order to try some of the lounge offerings. First a survey of the buffet and beverage options. The buffet in this section is rather sparse however the J lounge is just a few steps away with many more offerings.
Our first order of business was liquid refreshment and a toast to embarking on this grand adventure.
We opted to take a seat in the dining area and order a few dishes from the menu. The service was rather slow I would imagine due the very crowded J lounge.
The portabella flat bread. Not a successful dish. the mushrooms were rubbery.
The shrimp salad. Flavorful prawns but little else of interest.
The "breakfast pizza". This was quite good with a runny egg and a nice piece of pancetta.
After our snacks we topped up the champagne and ventured out to the deck. It was a warm evening and the aroma of Jet-A perfumed the air. A very happy place for me and even my non-aviation geek pal.
As boarding time approached we popped back into the lounge for a coffee and baileys for me and a cognac for Mark.
We took a leisurely stroll down to the gate and found it quite crowded but at least orderly.
I asked one of the contract agents that was managing the boarding lines if Mark could board with me in the F/Diamond lane but was told no. This was surprising to me but not worth further discussion.
I boarded through door 1L and was warmly greeted and shown to suite 2A. I like the ascetics of this semi-encloded suite product. There is an abundance of storage compartments and a very comfortable seat/bed. My critique would be the blocking of the window by the "wall of storage".
I began to get settled and was engaged by one of the crew up front. She offered me a beverage and I requested champagne. I also mentioned that my travel companion was seated right behind in the mini J cabin and I inquired if I might have him up just to have a quick look at the beautiful seat and F cabin. She replied in the affirmative so I went and fetched my pal. When we returned we were greeted by both of the F flight attendants and presented with two glasses of bubbly (it's not the Krug on the ground). Offers to take our picture were accepted. They could not have been more sweet or welcoming. There was a funny exchange between the two as they competed to take the best picture of us posing in the suite. It was apparent there would be no service deficiencies on this flight.
As the travel arranger for this journey I selected a bulkhead seat in the small J cabin right behind F for Mark. I prefer the window sets that are nearer the window than the aisle but all were occupied at our late time of booking. This turned out to be a good seat and he was very pleased with the location.
I retired to the lav to don the pajamas. A cardigan sweater was also provisioned and I actually used it later in the flight when I felt a bit chilly. My expectation was for the cabin to be on the warm side and was pleasantly surprised it was the opposite. A flight attendant was dutifully waiting outside the lav to hang my street clothes upon my exit.
The Samsonite amenity kit was distributed.
In addition a basket of additional goodies was passed byt he FA and after some encouragement I selected a few items. I wouldn't want to be caught out with no leg refreshing sheets.
View of seat 2D, aka, my bedroom.
Eventually we were buttoned up and under taxi. The early morning LA traffic was light and we made our way to 25R for take off.
Service began promptly after 10k'. I assume they want to maximize sleep opportunities for the passengers by completing service as soon as reasonable. Of course traveling in F on ANA service is always present and available.
The oshibori was presented first.
Then, the service manager presented the menu and wine list in this blue bound folder. It is quite extensive for an overnight/supper flight. apologies for the picture quality. I struggled with lighting and some light chop on the initial climb.
My beverage selection de rigueur. The stemware is not traditional to champagne. It seems odd that an airline to detail oriented would not utilize a specific glass. Is there more to the consideration?
The "Amuse" was served with the Krug. This is a great presentation and variety of textures and flavors. Seriously, just leave the bottle and an ice bucket and bring one of these plates every half hour and you will have a very happy customer.
While I am delighting in this wine and tasty bites I am asked if I would like a bed made in seat 2D. Yes, please. Such a thoughtful and proactive service gesture. Then, I am free to retire at my leisure. Of course I will stay awake and enjoy Krug and treats as long as I am physically able!
Bed setup complete with "ANA Original Aroma".
After glass or two or three or… of champagne I opt to examine the snack menu in more detial. I request crab cake sandwich. I'm told it's a delicious follow-up to alcoholic beverages. ;)
The table is set. I decide to continue to enjoy the champange rather than venture deeper into the wine list. Lazy? Perhpas. But content.
The crab sandwich with chips. I enjoyed this however I removed the cheese.
I opted next for a bit of ice cream and a wee dram of the Hibiki 21. My goodness the Japanese can do a lovely smooth Scotch blend. I may have had a second pour to make sure.
At this point I wad out of gas and retired to the bed somewhere near PDX. Perhaps a little too boozy or just the excitement of the trip, I'm not sure, but my sleep wasn't fantastic. I regained consciousness somewhere near the date line.
I resume the film I was enjoying on the IFE and relax with some water for a bit. Here I am hurtling through the stratosphere, with all manner of delightful food and beverage options, so it's time for a snack.
I seek to secure a glass of Krug to start things off (resume?) but alas "it is no more." This being April I have available the Louis Roederer Rose Millesime 2010 rather than the Palmes d'Or Rose 2006 from Nicolas Feuillatte. I have never tasted the Roederer Rose so this will be new experience.
The table is re-set with oshibori and the wine presented.
Spoiled for choice in the dining department I cannot get past the pure comfort of Japanese ramen. Especially if it carries the Ippudo name.
Ramen and accouterments. Yes, butter.
I follow up the rich and unctuous ramen with the traditional Japanese cheese plate ;) A nice plate with the addition of some cured meat, fruit paste and bread.
I opt for matcha next. I am offered Japanese sweets with the matcha and I accept. The flight attendant carefully presents the items along with a brief primer on how to enjoy them and how the flavors go together. Simply superb service that allowed me additional appreciation of the dish.
At the end I enjoy the season yuzu green tea.
We land in the pre-dawn at Tokyo International Airport in a heavy rain. As we park at the gate and the seat belt sign is turned off the flight attendant asks me if I would like to deplane with my travel companion. I reply yes, that would be fantastic. She then proceeds to the J cabin and brings him up to deplane with me. It's the little details that leave the biggest impression on me.
Despite this being the beginning of a grand tour there is still a modicum of sadness leaving this airplane and crew. The short time together has managed to forge a distinct fondness. I am very thankful for their kindness and care.
Star Alliance Lounge First Class Section - TBIT
Los Angeles - LAX
Tokyo - HND
Thank you for joining me for the first installment in this grand journey. First Class with ANA is a fantastic way to start a trip.
The Ground Service: There are two dedicated F check in positions at LAX and there was no wait for me. I appreciated the inclusion of travel companion at the F position. After that you left to fend for yourself at the horrendous security lines. This is most likely beyond ANA's control but some sort of premium screening for F passengers at LAX would be most welcome.
The Lounge: The Star Alliance First Class Lounge at LAX is a cozy and well appointed facility. There is table service and an a la carte, made to order, menu which seems to be the standard for F lounges now. There is no "wow" factor in any of the aspects. if something comes close it's the outdoor deck that you access through the J lounge. I always enjoy my time there.
The Cabin: The load up front was 4/8 so this made the already excellent cabin even more spacious and private. The separate bed and set is, for me, the ultimate luxury in F travel.
The Crew: Culture, training, screening, or all of the above. The service is so magnificent I blush. There is really no room for improvement although I rate 9.5. In case there is something I haven't considered.
The Food and Beverage: Good variety for an overnight flight. There is no caviar on offer and that stands out to me. The variety of Japanese comfort foods and drinking snacks round out a well thought out menu.
Overall: It says right on the side of the airplane, "The Inspiration of Japan." This is a very good summary of the ANA F experience. I am inspired.
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