Initially this trip was planned for over the holidays but had to be rescheduled. Empowered by more award availability I proceeded to book one of those insane how cool on paper for flying all those awesome aircraft but in reality you are exhausted just looking at it itineraries.
So I tinkered. And doing so was fortunate, I'm out of ORD while the overseas leg was Korean Air leaving from JFK, hence the JetBlue leg. The original departure day was one of the numerous messy ORD winter days experienced this year and that particular B6 flight was delayed by 4 hours. It arrived at JFK 5 minutes after Korean Air departed. I would have missed the subsequent KE connection as well as the CX A350 flight and the dominos would have continued to fall. Some times things work out.
My tinkering resulted in this itinerary: (And I was still exhausted.)
ORD-HND ANA B77-300 First Class / United Polaris Lounge - this report
HND-HKG ANA 787-9 Business Class - to come HKG-TPE EVA Air 787-9 Business Class - to come TPE-HKG Hong Kong Airlines A350-9 Business Class - to come HKG-DXB Emirates A380 First Class - to come DXB-ORD Emirates B777 First Class / Emirates DXB First Class Lounge - to come
As any confessed avgeek would do the morning of a highly anticipated flight, they would check for the assigned aircraft to their flight. Todays’ aircraft would be JA789A, Star Wars BB-8!
It had been quite some time since flying ANA in any class on any route in any of their aircraft. The last First Class flight was out of ORD. At that time the the Polaris lounge was under construction where the United First Class lounge was. So my ANA First Class lounge experience at ORD was this:
Fast forward to today and not only is Polaris open for business, it has been expanded since I first visited 18 months ago. Within months after opening United found they had a winner on its hands (go figure). The Polaris lounges are wildly popular and for good reason. They are comfortable, have private seating, are nicely decorated, with excellent food from either the buffet or with table service and you can rest in one of the private resting rooms as well as use the private showers and restroom facilities.
The lounge is located next to gate C18 which is in the middle of C concourse when you get off the tunnel escalator originating from B concourse.
When opened ORD had sit down dining arranged around the bar. There weren’t many tables available back then. So the expansion not only added more lounge seating, they created a separate dining area.
This new dining area adds 9 tables.
Parallel to the dining room are more seats. There are also some seats along the windows. These 2 photos essentially make up the addition to the existing club.
Fortunately for me I was in the lounge at a slow time, my flight was 4:15 pm and the bank of outbound European flights doesn’t get into high gear until after 6PM. If you want to have a sit down meal in this lounge come early is my only recommendation. And you know, it’s worth it.
Why not start early? Generous too.
Anticipating a feast on ANA111 I chose the Vegetable Risotto. It was fabulous.
A brownie on a menu is like a bone on a dog’s menu. I want it.
A beautiful dessert, and delicious too.
The buffet had some interesting food items available as well.
No it wasn’t me who attacked the brownie tray.
Time to go…
to the gate. I tried to get a nice photo of Star Wars BB-8 but this is the best I could do. Even a clear shot would have been disappointing considering the condition of these windows.
A better opportunity presented itself upon arrival in Tokyo.
1545 it was. Apparently this traveler was allowed early boarding and decided to take a jump seat.
Soon after I got settled I was joined in the cabin by Mr. Yoda.
Which prompted this tweet.
Not only was Yoda present on this flight, the boarding music was Star Wars theme and the Flight Attendants wore Star Wars smocks.
The Square as it’s called has plenty of storage. In addition to overhead bins, underneath the ottoman you can stow your computer bag / purse.
I also noticed this tray which had escaped me before. It’s very narrow.
My biggest complaint with this First Class suite are the fairly useless little cubby compartments that cover up the window. Although the IFE controller locked in place makes changing channels easier and you can watch yourself do it.
The biggest issue I have is with this beautifully large monitor is it’s antiquated and very difficult to see now that HD has become the norm. In fact I had to stop watching a movie because I couldn’t see it as many of the scenes were at night.
First order of amenity, a box of chocolates.
Along with the pass around basket of inflight amenities such as combs, toothpaste, body sheets (whatever they are), at the seat was a hard shell ANA Amenity Kit, new style very comfy ANA pjs, and Sony Headphones that were excellent.
I went to the standard size 777 (meaning small) lavatory to change. ANA has a plate that is lowered down in front of the toilet presumably so you can stand on something sanitary when changing clothes. Notice the basin color.
I returned in time to view ANA’s new safety video. This entertaining video goes back to the Edo period and uses characters from the Kabuki theater. In fact they are portions of the video that were performed by actors from the current play Sugawara Denju Tenarai Kagami.
Time to go. Bye-bye ORD.
Shortly after departure, Mickey the lead Flight Attendant came rushing over and pointed out the window asking if I could see the rainbow. I hadn’t, pretty cool. Mickey and the other FA Sueshuke were very good attendants. Not the best as I had to constantly ask for water and they didn’t to the over top things like make the bed in a different Suite (there was no one in row 2 after Mr. Yoda moved on), but they were great anyway.
It’s time for ANA to shine.
Champagne and Amuse.
How many airlines greet you with this first page in the menu binder?
Champagne and Amuse, deconstructed.
Typically I like to sample the native fare when traveling on Asian airlines (others too). But today the Japanese Cuisine didn’t cause any excitement. I didn’t know what alfonsino was. Turns out the next meal in business class out of Haneda had this fish alfonsino. I loved it. Next time.
My first glance at the International Cuisine menu was the “from Japan” page where Wagu beef was being served. Yes! Then I corrected my mistake turning to the “from USA” page only to have a plain old filet of beef as the bovine served heading west.
As luck would have it, 2 of the 3 appetizers contained items that I either can’t have or don’t care for, leaving little to decide, not that much was in question from the beginning. Sueshuke outdid herself with this setup and presentation.
In an interesting twist this was not so traditional caviar presentation as evidenced by the lack of onion, egg, etc. The caviar was accompanied by something called a Parsnip mousse. The different textures is what stood out, creamy and gelatinous finished with the saltiness from the caviar. It was really, really good.
Sueshuke cleared the empty plate and set up for soup and salad.
Next was the Corn Soup. SoCalNow had raved about this soup on his last (well one of the many last) ANA trip(s) so I was anxious to try it. He was correct about the rich corn flavor for sure. This bowl however was very thin, almost watery. It didn’t have any consistency. But as you can see the Krug is still going strong.
Everything was very good but I was having remorse for not ordering the Washoku as it’s so much more interesting and I’m sure Sueshuke would have allowed me to have the Caviar. But I didn’t and it’s time to say goodbye to Krug and head to red wine menu.
What’s this? A United States Washington State red wine as your best First Class red? And a blend no less? I’m by no means a connoisseur but I would have expected a Bordeaux from France or a Cabernet from the USA. Ironically there was a documentary on the IFE about how they select their wines. It’s a pretty lengthy process and they examine hundreds of different wines. While I’m sure cost factors into their decision (this Canvasback retails for around $35), the wine still has to “pass the smell test”. Another test of a decent wine is how you feel the next day after too much of it and in this case, 12 hours in the air. Canvasback passed that test!
A little over-sauced but still a nice presentation.
And the temperature was the rarest I’ve seen on a plane. The steak was very good.
The Cheese Plate was served without request.
Another documentary found on the IFE was about the history of their famous Suntory Whiskey, Hibiki.
And the 17 year old version happens to be on the menu.
While not a hard liquor drinker, and when I did it was scotch. I ordered a glass.
The smoothest tasting liquor ever.
I’d asked to wait on dessert and then choose the Warm bread pudding along with some coffee. It was the lowlight of the meal.
It wasn’t warm, it was more like a muffin. Time for bed anyway.
ANA flight 111 departure and arrival times are great. It’s a late afternoon departure arriving early evening in Tokyo, around 8:30PM local time. Then to the airport Royal Park hotel (which is great) for a proper nights sleep before hitting the jetstream again.
So the plan was a short nap which was accomplished, I’ll spare the bed photos. Upon awakening it was time for something else.
A delicious juice, not too sweet and very refreshing.
As well as pre-arrival options.
I ordered the Seafood Rice bowl which is kind of a chirashi.
It had a variety of seafood including, seared tuna, uni roe (sea urchin), ikura (salmon roe) as well as chopped avocado and tamago (egg omelette). It was excellent.
As the old saying goes, when you’re having fun time flies.
Luck of the draw Star Wars BB-8 made this an extra special flight. I have no issues taking ANA anywhere anytime. While they aren't the best they are consistent. They need to refresh the First Class cabins as the issue is with their monitors (and blocking the window!). Other carries have far superior screens. But I didn't fly them to watch TV (their content is outstanding), it's the ANA service and their food which has never disappointed that makes them a great carrier for premium travels. Finally the ANA flight attendants are polished, polite, fun and some of the best in the sky.
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