Greetings Flight Report community and thanks for stopping by. I am sharing a recent trip to Asia with JAL, Thai Airways, and ANA. The trip came about because I parked a return leg (NRT-ORD to be specific) of an ANA ticket on a random day in January, having used the outbound USA to Japan ticket back in August. When I booked the round trip in July the January return seemed so far off. Time flies when you're flying in premium cabins so January came before I know it. I could pay $50 to Virgin Atlantic to move the flight to some other date or find a way to Japan and use the ticket. The timing worked out with work and home life that I decided to use the ticket as is.
I had some Alaska Miles and some Krisflyer miles on hand in sufficient amounts so I started my search for a way to Asia using those currencies. Nothing on SQ excited me except for SQ25 but that wasn't even available for wait list on the day(s) I needed so I turned my attention to JAL and CX by way of Alaska Mileage Plan. Cathay didn't look very encouraging and JAL had space on both JFK-HND and JFK-NRT in F on the day I wanted to travel. Perfect! The Haneda departure is later so I opted for that one to allow more time to get to JFK. With Mileage Plan another 5k miles gets you an onward flight with JAL so why not keep going. HND-SIN with new (to me) business class seats was available so I tacked that one on too.
I have two holes now: Southern California to JFK and SIN-TYO. The first was easy 25k Alaska miles for Virgin America LAX-JFK. I could have done NRSA but I didn't want to sit in coach for a red eye flight. Starting out a long trip, with little to no ground sleeping time planned, already sleep deprived didn't seem like a good plan. Even though the Virgin America product is far from competitive on this route I figured I could get some sleep.
The second hole has many options. I have a small orphan balance of AA miles so that's where I started. Lots of Oneworld choices on the SIN-TYO route but I was drawn to MH. I have a soft spot for Malaysia Airlines and wanted to try them again. SIN-KUL-NRT was available at the times I wanted so I booked it. Or so I thought. You will see from map below of my final routing the flights didn't go as planned…
Courtesy of gcmap.com
Carrier, route, equipment, class, lounge, and procurement method:
Arriving a bit early was a nice treat. I had a day room booked at the Hitlon Narita as I needed to catch up on some sleep in an actual bed. First I decided to stop and check in for my ANA flight and grab the boarding pass.
The Suites check in was not open yet.
I found a Business class lane that was staffed.
I told the agent I was checking in for NH8 to SFO and presented my passport. After some typing she asked for my PNR or ticket number. I provided the PNR and she indicated that it was odd, the reservation said SFO but the ticket said ORD. Of course I know right away what the issue was and tried to stop her from fretting over it. Virgin Atlantic had not reissued my ticket and there was no amount of typing she could do to correct that. So now I had a task to complete before I could nap at the Hilton.
A crisp winter morning in Narita.
Check in was fast and i was in a room overlooking the airport quickly. I rang up Virgin and the said they would expidite the ticket reissue. I was told if I didn't get an email in 30 minutes to call back. I didn't. I called. I still haven't received that email but the ticket was reissued after the second call.
I took the a shuttle from the Hilton back to NRT at around 1pm.
I went directly to my happy spot. Perhpas the cold winter air was keeping the crowd size down.
I have a ritual to stop and the Lawsons and grab a "spotting" beer. There is a clerk at that shop that has been there since 2010. I wonder if he recognizes me the way i recognize him? Likely not.
The video crew made me think something special was going to happen. If it did happen I didn't notice.
I am so enamored of the Japanese love for spotting and photographing aircraft. This is a middle age woman sitting with her female friend and they brought their binoculars. Perhaps they were on to the same thing the video crew was there for?
It is not very busy at this hour.
The cold air chased me in to the comfort of the ANA Suites lounges. I stopped first at the Suites check in facility to pick up a boarding pass.
Security and passport control were fast. Security is exclusive to the Suites lounge and passport control was quiet as we were between flight departure banks.
ANA Suite Lounges
I stopped first at the No. 4 Satellite by the 40s gates.
It's a quiet time of day with only SQ11 in the house as far as F passengers go.
The usual entry formality takes place and I select a seat and enter my request for beverage(s).
A ramp view seat is my preference. Perhaps the views here are not quite as good as the No. 5 Satellite lounge but still comforting for an aviation enthusiast such as myself.
A general stroll around the facility is in order.
The Hibiki is in the house today. Most lounges have a standard beverage roster but as far as The Hibiki goes I cannot find the rhyme or reason as to when it shows up.
The buffet items rarely tempt me at the Suites Lounges. Except perhaps the little bowl of Swiss chocolates. The noodle bar is where to go for sustenance.
The tonkotsu ramen is first up today. The buzzer will hark when the swiney broth has been optimized and presented.
My tools are asssembled.
Ahhh, oishi. Truthfully it's nothing remarkable but it hits some of the notes of richness and saltiness. It's worth a few bites to scratch that ramen itch.
I'll have a taste of the katsu curry too. It has a very satisfying aroma and flavor.
It can be nice to grab a shower before an overnight flight so inquire att he shower counter and am assigned a room. They hold on to my boarding pass lest I try to make my escape with their shower.
The room is not very spacious and there is not a good place to set your luggage to sort and obtain fresh clothing. It's also a bit warm.
The Amenities are thorough.
After a semi-refreshing bathing experience I decide to relocate to the lounge adjacent to my departure gate in the No. 5 Satellite near the 50s gates.
I stop on the 2nd floor (Suites lounge in this satellite is on 4th floor) Business Class lounge out of curiosity. It's rather crowded and dungeonous but the 787 model signed by the Star Wars cast is cool.
Suites Lounge in the No. 5 Satellite near the 50s gates.
I was able to snag one of the last "good" seats by the window. And then the place got packed.
Nice ramp views from this lounge.
Hauling these things back from SIN was a chore. But I haven't seen them at home…
It got so crowded the dishes backed up everywhere and the had to limit the number of entries. On person leaves one person is admitted. In a "First Class" lounge?!!? I'm not here enough to speak to this as being the norm or an exception but I would be none to happy flying F and standing in that line.
They were also running out of food so some "Cheese" from the J lounge was offered.
I enjoyed the setting sun and The Hibiki 17 in my last moments in the lounge.
The First Class lounge experience carried over to the gate. This is "premium" boarding line. It moved fast enough but was lacking on the premium feel.
Almost to an assuredly premium locale.
All good now in 2K.
The warm welcome is received and escort to the seat. I was offered a drink and responded instinctively: champagne. It's not Krug on the ground but it's not prosecco or cava either…
The cabin was quite warm so I hung out by the open door and chatted with the flight attendant. They assured me thay are workin gon the cabin temp and it will be remedied shortly. While standing there I snapped a picture of the Boeing model and serial information.
This started a funny discussion where the lead flight attendant, who had worked on this aircraft type since it entered the fleet, had never seen this and she wanted to know what it meant. I filled her in on the MSN and customer number, etc. She was so tickled she had to call her colleagues over to show them and recount the information I had just imparted to her. It was a fun interaction.
The seat is comfortable and spacious but I cannot forgive the blocking of the window for all of these silly small compartments.
The amenities are plentiful and the headphones are very good.
Additional amenities are passed by the flight attendant.
A trip to the lav to change into the provided lounge wear reveals a thoughtful orchid decoration and well appointed lavatory.
The sunset sky out the, difficult to reach, window is rather fetching. As are the airplanes.
Eventually we are dispatched and make the long taxi over to 16R. You can kind of see Fujisan…
The menu are wine lists are extensive and decadent. I'll spare you all of the pages.
The service during the meal, really the entire flight, was astonishingly good. The flight attendant took quite a lot of pride in presenting each dish in the perfect manner.
The Krug Grand Cuvee to start.
The canapes are a thing of beauty. They are not spelled out in the menu but there is a duck prosciutto and some scallop. The mousse and orange thing escape me.
The pace is what you make it here so I linger on this course and enjoy a glass or two of the Krug before signaling I am ready to move on. The table is then laid for dinner and bread is passed.
I could not choose between two of the 3 starters so, given our light load of 2/8 I inquired as to whether is was possible to enjoy both. It was, of course.
First up is the (from the menu description) Gateau style of homard and its consomme gelee vanilla flavor with caviar. Stunning in appearance and only slightly less in flavor and texture.
Marinated Shinshu salmon and dried tomato farce with fennel sauce. Very good indeed. The texture of the salmon was perfection.
A champagne tasting was suggested as this course was presented. Bully to that!
The Roederer 2009.
The winner: Me.
As much as I love the salad dressing on ANA and the corn soup I skipped ahead to enjoy the Wagyu. I was given a courtesy pause to enjoy the champagne and let the next wine get acclimated.
Going new world today.
This is why I cannot venture away from the western menu. I never eat a steak, as such, in the air or on the ground. But here, oh yes please.
Grilled fillet of Hokkaido wagyu beef, pancetta and tarragon sauce, with lotus root galette.
Horseradish and mustard to accompany. Not that anything is needed but why not change up a bite or two.
Cooked more toward medium but he marbling in this steer makes it very forgiving.
The cheese is presented in extraordinary fashion. Chaource A.O.C., blue from Etanbetsu, Hokkaido, Caprillice Al Vino, Napoleon Vieux.
Some 30 year old tawny to accompany.
I was really impressed by the flower pedals placed in between the plates, a lovely presentation. I lifted the cheese plate and commented to the flight attendant how beautiful and she just beamed, "I made it for you." Unreal attention to detail and pride in work.
We're almost to SFO but I request a holding pattern so I might enjoy dessert. :P
Maple nuts with milk ice cream was my selection
As dessert is being enjoyed the bed is laid at 2G. Time for a quick nap before arrival. Curse these eastbound T-pacs.
I got about 4 hours in the rack. I appreciate the placement of the ANA aroma on the pillow.
Back across the aisle with about 1:15 remaining in flight and ready for a bite or two prior to arrival.
I head to the "Light Dishes Anytime" section of the menu for my pre-arrival treats. The set breakfasts don't interest me as much.
On this day it will be Japanese bar food deep-fried Daisendori chicken with Japanese spices and Ippudo "Soraton" ramen. So very nice and interesting on an airplane.
Some coffee and petits fours to finish.
Feet dry over the peninsula.
Lining up for the quiet bridge visual for 28L.
All Nippon Airways First Class Lounge
Tokyo - NRT
San Francisco - SFO
I know, I know another ANA F report from Socalnow. They're just such special experiences I am compelled to document them.
The Ground Service: The ANA Suite check in facility is a nice offering. I've never waited and there is private security. Of course you are dumped out into the same, sometimes massive, immigration queue.
The Lounge: I'm very happy at either Suites Lounge. Until the seams start busting and there are people hovering around looking for a seat and line out the door.
The Cabin: We were 2/8 on this flight so it was virtually a private jet. I don't think I ever saw the other passenger except for alighting at SFO. The seat configuration with blocked window will always irk me.
The Crew: Perfect clinic in genuine service from the heart. The pride and attention to detail was staggering. She was so seemingly touched when I would appreciate any aspect of the service.
The Food and Beverage: Wow, there really aren't even many peers in this area. JAL comes to mind. It's exquisite quality and bountiful selection.
Overall: I can't tell you this is the last ANA F flight as I just returned home from NRT on Sunday via ANA and had a fantastic experience. I'm also flying with them in May. And November. Perhaps I'll spare you. They're just so very good at this F thing.
Thank you for reading and happy flying.
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