Greetings Flight Report community and thanks for stopping by. I plan to share a series of flights that provided a chance to try several First Class products and lounges that were new to me and also enjoy some familiar but fantastic experiences along the way. A while back I had enough Krisflyer miles in my account to wait list for SQ25. This is a tough nut to crack for us mere mortals. (Rewardflying uses Jedi mind tricks to secure space on a whim.) I went about searching the SQ award engine for the rest of the year and wait listed on the only 4 dates (that could possibly work with my schedule) where even wait listing was available. I wait listed for both JFK-FRA and JFK-SIN. Fast forward several months and the magic email arrives telling me I have 48 hours to confirm my booking but only on the JFK-FRA segment. I'll take it!
If I'm going to be in FRA and flying Star Alliance I will all too sad not to drop in on my German friends and their spectacular lounges. The problem is I cannot book LH F through Krisflyer until space opens two weeks prior to departure. This date would come after my 48 hour window to book SQ. In comes the trusty Star Alliance member Asiana and their ever present F availability. I booked JFK-FRA-ICN on SQ and OZ as a place holder until LH comes calling. The SQ change fees are so very minimal it was worth it to me to have something. Worst case scenario is 10 hours in an OZ A380 suite. Concurrently I place flight alerts on Expert Flyer for just about every LH flight heading east form either FRA or MUC. The two week window arrives and the emails start flying in. Well, not really. FRA-PEK, FRA-PVG and, most interesting to me, MUC-PVG all offer O class space. Munich piques my interest as I have never done LH F from there and I know they have a new F lounge as well as a remodeled F lounge. Oh and expert Flyer was showing F8 for MUC-PVG.
I can't leave the table while I'm up so I start looking for where to go after PVG on this ticket. I would like to get to Tokyo but the connections don't work without an 8 hour wait. International to International MCT at PVG is 2 ours, just FYI so the other options didn't allow enough time. What about Osaka? I do like Osaka a great deal for night time food and adult beverage consumption. Plus, it's closer to Tokyo… Great, let's add PVG-KIX and book this thing! The Krisflyer rep on the phone had me hold to verify this was a legal routing but I'm confident. Shortly I have an email confirming JFK-FRA-MUC-PVG-KIX. What fun!
Now to get to JFK. I had a little snafu, you may have read about, with a ticket issued by American Airlines. Due to a date error i wasn't able to use it when I expected. I think I will try to use these miles/ticket to get to JFK. Then, in a somewhat miracle fashion, the points blogosphere blows up with news of AA releasing a lot of F and J space on the LAX-JFK transcon routes. Normally this is none. OK, this was meant to be. I look up my date and low and behold it's there. F space from LAX-JFK that fits perfectly. A call to AA and a super agent even waived all the fees. She siad technically I'm upgrading to a higher class of service so she can waive the change fee on the award ticket. Never mind that the city pairs had changed… I had to kick in 20k extra miles but i was excited to try the new AA F experience with new lounges and dining.
There is now one hole. TYO-LAX. I suppose you know how that ends. ANA of course. My favorite redemption, for 110k Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles, I booked NRT-LAX-NRT with the outbound to complete this mission and the return to begin another adventure in November. Enough talk, let's fly.
Behold the visual representation courtesy of gcmap.com:
Carrier, route, equipment, class, lounge, and procurement method:
After a delightful stroll about Narita I returned to the airport. I am a creature of habit and tend to tread the same paths over and over. Not because I don't like new experiences but rather I do like familiar and comforting experiences. I'm sure many people have their favorite spot in nature to relax and reflect. Perhaps it's a beach or a mountain top lookout. Mine is here. At an airport. The ritual goes like this: Visit the Lawson store on the 5th floor of the North Wing to grab a beer. Don't be distracted by all of the food items. Proceed to outdoor observation deck. Breath in the Jet A and enjoy the sights and sounds.
Lawson fired goodies.
Real airplane action.
Ahhh, wasn't that nice? Now it's time to head inside. I know I can get a mobile boarding pass on my phone or even visit a kiosk but those are joyless experiences. A private lounge for check in is far more interesting.
ANA Suites Lounge No. 5 Satellite
Boarding pass in hand and not gate assigned yet I ventured to the No. 5 Satellite Suites Lounge.
The hoards of passengers haven't arrived yet so I get my choice of seating.
I direct my escort to a window seat and she offers me a beverage. I request water and Champagne which are both quickly delivered along with a warm oshibori.
The Comte de Brimont Premier Cru Brut is a refreshing and easy drinking wine. This is my first time enjoying the Brimont.
A look at the buffet landscape.
Elgar for a snack I approach the noodle bar and request the kakiage soba. It's a perfect snack and the bonito scented broth is very comforting.
The noodle bar menu.
Soba and champagne with a view.
Around this time I request a shower room to freshen up from both the long travel day behind me and long travel night ahead. The shower facilities are not designed with luxury in mind but they are very functional and every amenity conceivable is provided. I appreciatet he fan as the room can get quite warm. I don't believe the other lounge has the fans so use the No. 5 Satellite Suites Lounge for your shower rather than the No. 4 Satellite (40s gates).
After the trip to the shower notice NH176 has been assigned a gate and it's on the other side of the terminal. I decide to make the trip now and pop in the other Suites Lounge if time permits.
This lounge also has nice ramp views.
SQ11 is readying to continue the trip form LAX-SIN.
I seem to have lost track of time airplane gazing as it's time to board. The excitement is high as I make the walk downstairs to the departure level and locate gate 42. Boarding is already underway so I proceed directly on board the aircraft.
Warm greetings and bows complete I make the turn towards 2A. I will learn shortly that the "A" side of the cabin is all mine and the "B" side will only have one passenger as well. I'm really getting spoiled with separate bed and seat First Class trips. It's such a spectacular luxury to have the bed made and ready when you want it and still a seat to recline and watch a film or have a snack.
Perhaps I've complained enough about the seat design blocking the window in favor of an assortment of small storage compartments and seat controls so I'll skip that rant. Here's what you get instead of a beautiful view of the massive GE power-plant and elegant wing.
There is another compartment to your right that can hold eye glasses and a water bottle.
As per my routine I opt to don the lounge wear right away so I am escorted to the lav and presented with a hanger. I really appreciate the little service touches like lowering the platform for me so I can change without standing on the lav floor.
The lounge wear is rather utilitarian but comfortable.
The lavatory itself is well outfitted with amenities and unique features like the bidet toilet. I guess I have to decide if I'm and emulsion man or lotion man. Why must we take sides. Sometimes it is appropriate to emulsify and sometimes lotion is called for. Either way ANA has your back.
We push from the gate more or less on time and taxi over to 16R. Traffic is light at this hour with the evening rush starting after our departure.
Takeoff is forceful and cacophonous on the 777-300ER.
The seat belt sign is turned off at around 10,000' and the menu is presented for my review. It's an epic read, as always.
Let's start with the drinks. I apologize for the blurry pictures, tehre were some bumps on initial climb. I'll put them in there in case they're of use to someone.
The savory and sweet delights.
Spoiled for choice and overwhelmed like a child in a toy shop my first choice was easy.
The lovely and engaging flight attendant pointed out the Krug ID, something I was not aware of. I'll spare you the wine ponce drivel but the facts on this bottle are as follows:
Received its cork: Summer 2016 Blend: 127 wines The oldest wine: 1990 The youngest wine: 2008
The aperitif pairings are really lovely and this is one of my favorite parts of the service.
The pace is as you like and I tend to linger on the Krug and canapes but eventually the table is meticulously set for the main event. Today a bread basket was placed on the tray. This is either a new service element or an FA going rogue. I rather it not be there as it takes up a lot of space and I will be tempted to nibble. Also, the bread just gets cold.
All of the appetizers read like culinary pornography and it's difficult to make a selection. Luckily the light load makes it so I don't have to.
I started with the rather verbose "tartar style of marinated red sea bream and botan shrimp, dill and anise-flavored vinaigrette with caviar." Say that ten times fast. It turned out to be a lovely crudo in both presentation and flavor. The caviar almost seems like an afterthought because, well, it's first class and there has to be caviar.
Next is the Hokkaido scallop and crab meat remoulade, high sugar content tomato with orange sauce. The plating is stunning and must take quite a bit of time. The tastes and textures were all winners. The super ripe tomato with the acidic citrus was to die for.
There will be no showing of the soup and salad today as the I passed on those courses. I wanted to save every parcel of digestive space for the Hokkaido wagyu beef with miso-flavored vegetable filling. This was a ratehr remarkable "airplane" serving of beef. The marble, the rare cookery, and the earthy miso glaze made quite an impression. I don't know how you execute this better at 30,000'. I'm not even sure if you need teeth to enjoy this slab of bovine perfection.
I have developed a following for the rindo wines thanks to ANA. It's an interesting study in combining Japanese precision and attention to detail and lovely Napa Valley fruit. It was a sensational companion to this beef dish.
The are very few scenarios where I will pass of the cheese course. It was also a perfect foil for trying the "limited" red wine for this route. This spicy Syrah was also lovely and sat well with the rich cheeses.
The Hokkaido products do seem to be prominently featured on today's menu.
We've made it this far it's probably best to have a look at a sweet. Again, like the first course, I have a had time choosing but settle on the ice cream and yoghurt sorbet. I hope the milk is from Hokkaido. The creamy richness is spot on and the frozen bits are served in a semi softened state rather than rock hard.
After dessert the table is cleared and my wine is moved to the side table. Some petits fours are presented as it's not appropriate to have an alcoholic beverage without a bite of some kind.
My bed is setup in 1A for me to retire at my leisure.
It's not possible to retire just yet as there is an important aspect of ANA First Class travel yet completed: Suntory time, The Hibiki 21. Such a treat.
I will note that any time I left my seat or bed for the lavatory I would return to a folded seat belt and/or turned down duvet.
Eventually sleep is inevitable and I succumb and wake up just prior to daybreak about 1:45 out of LAX.
Of course hunger is not at issue but desire to sample more flavors is. With that I take my arrival meal from the "Light Dishes Anytime" portion of the menu rather than the set menus. I request the ippudo "Soration" ramen and the grilled chicken skewers for that last grasp at Japanese comfort food. A cappuccino as well.
Proactively the flight attendant offers me a taste of the seasonal offer, Apple Juice: "Mapple Juice Fuji" and it's phenomenal. And not from Hokkaido.
Soon my glorious dream was over and we were holding for a Spirit A321 to take off info a foggy So Cal sky.
All Nippon Airways First Class Lounge
Tokyo - NRT
Los Angeles - LAX
The Ground Service: The private check in lobby is spacious and there is never a wait. Te service there is magnificent. I also appreciate the private security screening attached to the check in facility.
The Lounge: I think the lounge comes in a level below many of the top First Class lounges in the world. That said, i almost always have a pleasant stay and find some tasty treat to enjoy as well.
The Cabin: It's hard to not love a semi-private First Class cabin. One with spacious beds, proper bedding, and loads of personal space. The blocking of the windows still confounds me.
The Crew: I'm running out of superlatives. I could just copy and paste from previous stories. The only thing more amazing than the high level of thoughtful, gracious service is the consistency with which they can deliver such precision.
The Food and Beverage: The only carrier that competes with ANA in my experience is JAL. The food and drinks are outrageous in quality, presentation, and execution.
Overall: I've had a good handful of these ANA F TPACs and I'm still over the moon excited for the next. They surprise and delight every time.
Thank you for reading and happy flying.
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