Greetings Flight Report community and thanks for stopping by. I am sharing a short 2 segment trip in this installment of reports. The genesis of this trip was my fondness for the Delta 747 and the nostalgia for all the safe and comfortable trips she has delivered me on. Her days of Narita operations were waning and, for me, the Delta 747-400 and Narita are forever linked. So the goal was set, get to Tokyp and blast out of Narita one last time aboard this majestic machine.
A few details had to be sorted out to get this trip in motion. First, how to get to Tokyo? I started exploring my NRSA(Non Revenue Space Available) options and there were several. In doing my due diligence I also explored points redemption as well. I located the ORD-HND space in ANA F on and decided to jump on it. I booked using 120,000 Virgin Atlantic miles and setup the outbound for this trip and the return for a trip in January. The second detail was a backup plan in case the NRSA trip on NRT-DTW 747 fell apart. I also booked a HND-PVG ticket with UA miles as insurance to try for the PVG-DTW 747 if NRT seemed out of the question. The final detail was buying a ticket to ORD which I accomplished via UA.
Carrier, route, equipment, class, lounge, and procurement method:
United Airlines - LAX-ORD - 757-300 - First - No Lounge - Cash (No Report) All Nippon Airlines - ORD-HND - 777-300ER - First - Polaris Lounge - Virgin Atlantic Flying Club (This Report) Delta Air Lines - NRT-DTW - 747-400 - Delta One - Korean Air Lounge - NRSA Delta Air Lines - DTW-DEN - MD-90 - Economy - No Lounge - NRSA (No Report) American Airlines - DEN-PHX - A319 - Economy - No Lounge - Cash (No Report) American Airlines - PHX-SNA - 737-800 - Economy - No Lounge - Cash (No Report)
United Polaris Lounge Chicago:
We arrived on time from LAX around 11:40am and parked at a C gate quite near the Polaris Lounge. I specifically mention "Polaris Lounge Chicago" in the title of this section as I don't want to cause confusion with all of the other Polaris lounges in the United system… This would be my second visit to this lounge and, come to think of it, I haven't been to any of the others. As this was my second visit my picture taking is light. I will have a more thorough review in a future report. Most of my visit this time would be spent sleeping. Departing LAX at 05:30 meant requesting an Uber from my Orange County home at 03:30 which in turn meant a 03:00 wake up call.
Before sleep time I took a bite of lunch with a view.
Fried chick sandwich as interpreted by Art Smith.
Aviation cocktail "Latin America Inspired"
The meal was very tasty and service was acceptable. The lounge is quite crowded so service can involve a wait.
I requested a nap room and I was led directly to a resting space. In addition to the amenities in the nap room I was offed a blanket from a warmer.
Why can't it be flat? At least it has direct aisle access?
Eye shade, chocolate, and aroma therapy spray.
"White noise" machine.
Another view of the couch.
View from the nap room.
I slept a solid 3 hours which was a great boost to my energy and my ability to enjoy the luxury of travel in ANA First Class. I am a huge fan of the nap room amenity in this lounge.
Next order of business was to secure a refreshing shower. Again, no wait.
Bench in the shower.
Rain shower head.
After a nap and a shower I was absolutely rejuvenated and starting to feel the excitement build for the upcoming immersion in Japanese hospitality. As boarding time was approaching I decided to sit for a snack and a cocktail.
View of the bar from the dining "booths" along the wall.
Another look down the bar and to the private liquor storage cabinets for the frequent visitors.
I requested the beef carpaccio.
Beautifully presented and a perfect light snack.
This time I enjoyed the European version of the Aviation Cocktail. A well balanced and crafted drink.
As wonderful as this lounge is I wasn't the tiniest bit apprehensive to leave it and snuggle up with the premium ANA experience. If United does truly commit to this level of service and amenities in the Polaris Lounge system then major kudos are due. It's as good as any Business Class lounge in my experience.
The departure gate was a scant 80 meter walk from the Polaris Lounge and I arrived as boarding was already underway. I joined the First class/ Premium queue and was aboard JA777A in a minute or two. I was greeted at the door by Kuroishi, the Lead Purser. I was shown to seat 2A. The only other passenger in F today was in 1K so this was a truly private and exclusive cabin today.
The seats arevery private and have pently of pros and cons. My number one complaint is the ability to see out of the window. Center seats.
Across the aisle.
My perch for the next 12 hours.
Kit and Sony headphones.
A dedicated headphone storage compartment.
Touch screen seat controls.
The seat controls can be detached from their mount.
A welcome beverage is offered and I request Champagne and water. i find it odd to give a water bottle and not a glass.
I am offered pajamas and escorted to the lavatory to change. There is no waiting with a 1 to 1 lav to passenger ratio.
Toothbrush, mouthwash, and moist towels.
Back at my seat one of the flight attendants offers a basket of additonal amenities. I make a few selections out of curiosity and courtesy.
There is a handy drawer under the ottoman.
Departure is on time and some great spotting in the evening light.
Queen of England.
Powerful GE90 departure.
A look around my semi-private cabin.
An oshibori is offered and aperitif order taken.
The menu and wine list are distributed.
I still get excited over canapes. This course is nothing remarkable but I get an inordinate amount of pleasure from sipping the Krug and nibbling on these tasty treats. It's a definite nod to the halcyon days of intercontinental travel.
The table is precisely laid and bread is offered.
The whole setting.
Excellent bread is a Japanese requirement. The Japanese appreciation of all things French sure pays wonderful dividends for all of us.
A beautiful caviar topped starter is presented first. It's a crepe filled with avocado and crab. I prefer a traditional caviar presentation but I take a bite or two.
Being that there are only 2 of us I inquire if I may have the other starter as well. Of course it is delivered straight away. It's a pleasant enough lobster and scallop atop a seafood/aspic terrine of sorts. I take a small sample. Must pace ourselves now… I will add that I asked that a small portion of each dish, throughout the meal, be served but I don't think they bothered to alter how it was catered. I understand that would be difficult and perhaps not offer the best presentation possible.
The salad is offered and I have a look. I nibble a baby rabbit size amount. The dressing was Japanese in style and very good.
Corn soup was offered next. Why not have a taste? It's really quite sublime. More thin than I would imagine but the flavor was of pure sweet corn. As if they put and ear of corn in a juicer.
Teh pacing and service was impeccable throughout this onslaught of food. It was if she learned how I took a few bites and sipped on some wine and was ready to move on. We might have been communication telepathically. Yeah, that's probably the explanation. The main was nicely cook wagyu beef and every bit as rich and decadent as you would require in a superior grade of beef.
To accompany a moderately priced Rhone blend of mostly Grenache. It was a successful pairing to meat dish.
Cheese! Cheese! Cheese! Always a lovely offering with ANA. Perfect temperature, lovely accompaniments. I don't recall the port that was served. I don't think I was wowed by the impression.
I will always have a look at the dessert but I was not moved to enjoy more than a bite or two of this pear tart. As beautiful as it was. A cappuccino made an appearance as well.
Dining with ANA is such a beautiful experience. The quality is well above average and the style and pace of the service is impeccable. This crew especially imparted a sence of true gracious hospitality that I find most enjoyable.
A tradition not to be missed is the 21 year Hibiki on board ANA First. This is the height of luxury and enjoyment for me. This special dram served in this environment ticks many of my "happy place" boxes.
Soon the days' indulgences catch up with me and it's time to enjoy the ANA aroma and retire to my bedroom in 1A. Oh to star gaze from be at 34,000 feet.
It is not difficult to drift of to never never land. I take a nap for an couple of hours but when I stir I force myself awake as, ultimately, I am here to enjoy ANA and not the inside of my eyelids.
Some ramen is in order. An the fact that it is Ipuddo is rather amazing. I have a long love affair with this ramen establishment having enjoyed their soup at several locations and taken out of town guests there for the experience.
I ask Kuroishi about what beverage to take with the ramen. She knows my patterns and suggests souchu.
This is a rich and satisfying bowl. The fact that they serve it with butter and Kuroishi suggests adding the butter to the dish makes me want to hug her. I refrain. As much as a diverted flight would make for an interesting Flight Report… The sardines over rice with roe sounds too interesting not to have a look at…so I do!
But not before having a look at the "other" Champagne boarded today. My goodness it's lovely too. My first time trying this cuvee and while it's not as assertive as the Krug it is a very nice wine and could understand someone preferring it.
Another go at a nap and some movie viewing and we were approaching the island. It was last call for a meal and of course I had to have a taste of the Sacchetti. It was served with a lamb ragout so I was powerless to resist.
The table was laid again. I stayed with the Jacquesson since she opened the bottle for me…I have a duty.
The pasta dish was fairly remarkable for coming at the end of a 12 hour flight. It was very tasteful and the pasta even had a nice toothsome texture. Of course the presentation is exquisite.
As we are tidying up for landing I enjoy and espresso.
Kuroishi brings me a lovely postcard and origami to commemorate the experience today. It's a lovely gesture but this type of flight will be remembered for a long time. The quality of the hospitality combined with the, food, beverage, and sparse passenger load make this one of the more perfect experiences i can imagine on an airplane. I have a heavy heart when it comes to an end (insert gluttony joke here).
United First International Lounge
Chicago - ORD
Tokyo - HND
The Ground Service: Noting special as a connecting passenger at ORD.
The Lounge: I am truly impressed with the Polaris Lounge. It is unlike anything I would associate with United Airlines. It is a victim of its own success in that it fills to capacity. But the food, beverage, nap area and showers are all very good.
The Cabin: Why oh why do they block my window? Other than that i find the Square Suite to be an excellent product in all seat modes. Having four of the squares to myself was nifty too. The bidet lavs are a fine enhancement too.
The Crew: I really respond to the Japanese service style. I found a fantastic group of professional and genuine flight attendants that exceeded any expectation I arrived with.
The Food and Beverage: Oh goodness there are too many delectable morsels to sample in this cabin. I tasted a lot of them. Very high marks for selection, taste, and presentation.
Overall: Look, I don't pretend to be unbiased. The way the Japanese airlines execute First Class service is just spot on with my sensibilities. Yes, I arrived not having showered on board or mingling in a lounge at 33,000 feet but I still had a genuinely First Class experience.
Thank you for reading and happy flying.
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