The airline with the best average rating is ANA with 7.9/10.
The average flight time is 12 hours and 41 minutes.More information
Greetings Flight Report community and thanks for stopping by this report. This is the continuation of our trip to Vietnam that became a reality after a Cathay Pacific "mistake" fare that was honored. Feel free to visit the SNA-ORD report for more background on the planning, etc. Today was very exciting as it will be Jennifer's (lovely wife) first time experiencing an Intercontinental First Class flight and all of the bells and whistles that come along with it (lounge, priority boarding, etc.) We have traveled internationally quite a bit together and almost always in J but that was Delta (NRSA) so this is a whole new world that I am excited to share with her.
OUr flight from SNA was on time and arrived at a "B" gate so we made the walk over to the "C" gates via the trippy neon tunnel. Unfortunately the soundtrack was different today and I missed hearing Rhapsody In Blue.
Our ANA boarding passes were in the form of email messages with QR codes but they worked just fine as the UA agents scanned them. My experience is that is not always the case.
The United Airlines Polaris Lounge concept is excellent and the three that I have visited (ORD, SFO, and LAX) have been exceptional Business Class lounges when compared to the offerings in any country and of any airline. When flying First Class from an airline's out station, like we are today, you are often left with a J lounge as the only option. When that J lounge is Polaris the letdown is minimal. In fact this lounge is superior to the ANA Suite Lounges at Narita in many ways.
Having only picked at the breakfast on the inbound flight we decided to enjoy the dining room early in our visit as to not ruin our appitie for the on board dining later that night.
First we had a look around the lounge so that Jennifer can become acquainted with the space.
Cubicle and open seating is available with ramp views if you so desire (I do!)
There's a prominent bar in the center of the lounge.
The stars are aligned for a trip to the lavatory.
The expanded dining room was fully utilized when we requested a table but a party was just leaving and we were quickly guided to a cubicle style table. Open tables are also offered but I prefer the cubicle versions as to segregate conversations a little better.
The server for our area was excellent and quickly offered a menu and inquired about drink prefrences.
The menu options.
There was a separate bar/drinks menu. I'm a cocktail fan and I'm always impressed with the thoughtful curation of the Polaris cocktail menu.
Jennifer opted th start with the Champagne and I opted for "The Vitimin C". Both presented well with our requested glasses of water.
To dine we decided to share several of the small plates: Italian onion soup, warm zucchini noodles, and Parmesan gnocchi.
The soup is presented in an individual gratin pan. This dish was well done with a crispy, bubbly gratinéed top.
The gnocchi was not as well executed with a rather chewy texture. Flavor wise it faired better with some nice roasted veg. mixed in.
The zucchini noodles, much to my surprise were quite well executed and maintained good texture. The confit tomatoes were bursting with flavor.
We closed out the meal with a coconut crème brulee "pie".
Overall it was a fantastic J lounge dining experience. The portions are small so we were able to experience a variety of flavors and textures without feeling too full. Again, kudos to United.
I neglected to get photos of the main buffet area but I did snap this other buffet area, next tot he dining room, that I had never noticed before. The waffle chips looks fresh, hot and delicious but I, somehow, refrained from indulging.
We both wanted a shower before departing for the night so that was our next stop. As with my previous stays in this lounge there was no wait for a shower suite.
The shower rooms are very spacious and well appointed.
We had a moment to relax in the lounge after bathing and prior to boarding so I opted to enjoy a taste of the WhistlePig rye.
We arrived at the gate as boarding was just underway and joined the correct lane.
We were greeted at the L1 door by Osawa, the Purser on this flight. We were shown to our seats by Aki, one of two flight attendants looking after the F cabin today.
We selected 1K and 2K on account of the ANA seat design preventing any meaningful contact between passengers. This worked out well as the load was 4/8 leaving us with the entire G/K side of the cabin to ourselves.
[div]I'll spare you my rant on the cabin design as today they were the best seats in the world. [/div][div]
[/div][div]Amenities including kit, pajamas, cardigan, and slippers were already positioned at the seat.
The kit is in a Samsonite branded box.
I shared with Jennifer my ritual of changing into the lounge wear prior to departure when possible. Oshio, the other excellent flight attendant, deemed there was sufficient time before departure.
The lavatory is well stocked with basic amenities.
Aki made the rounds with beverage offerings as we made ourselves comfortable in our little apartments for the next 12 hours.
I rarely need to utilize the cardigan as the cabin temperature is usually warm enough for my comfort.
Favorite channel tuned in.
Jennifer showing off her leg refreshing sheet from "the basket of many things" that Oshio passed for our consideration.
We were off the gate more or less on time and made the trek over to 28R for a departure to the west.
The glare on the screen is rather severe but I enjoy the last bit of natural light I will see for nearly 24 hours so I enjoy it.
English language literature has been pre-positioned on "our" side of the cabin. Attention to detail is a hallmark of Japanese hospitality and this is just another example.
Service starts promptly with the oshibori.
Osawa passes the menu and drinks list.
A light blanket is offered.
Jennifer decided to relocate to 2G for dinner service.
We both opt for the 2004 Krug to start.
The wine is served with a beautiful selection of canapés: apricot and goat cheese, rosette of smoked salmon, foie gras mousse, and cheese pepper bars.
Initial reviews are positive!
Time for the main event.
Olive focaccia selected from the bread basket.
The caviar service on ANA is always interesting. It's generally not served in the "traditional accompaniments" manner. Here the caviar is paired with a cauliflower mousse.
Jennifer's fist caviar experience ended with a request for a different appetizer plate.
The zucchini and burrata cheese roll with Parma ham was much more to her liking.
The salad with Yama-wasabi, Japanese horseradish dressing was fine.
The 2006 Charles Heidsieck made an appearance to taste next to the 2004 Krug. Both lovely but perhaps the Heidsieck was more approachable.
I'm always a fan of the ANA corn soup and this one didn't disappoint. Pacing is so very important in a feast such as this so I have to leave food on the plate. This confuses the Aki somewhat. I try to explain that I want to try everything, if only a taste or two. I'm not sure if the language barrier allowed for this to be conveyed.
I enjoyed the beef main plate: Fillet of beef steak diane sauce with creamy mascarpone potato. I adore the 2014 Rindo. Again, just a few bites of the lovely beef with the beautiful wine elicited a visit from Oshio, who had been working the galley, to make sure the cookery was to my satisfaction and it absolutely was. Not sure if my explanation of trying to save room to enjoy cheese and dessert registered.
A 30 year old Tawny to enjoy with a selection of cheese is a rare luxury and one I fully enjoyed. I will say this was one of the weaker cheese displays from ANA. Often times there are various soft breads and hard crackers with chutney and fruit. This is the first time I have seen packaged Carrs crackers…
I opted for some simple ice cream and a cappuccino to close out this massive feast. Word around the cabin was the Warm blueberry pie with vanilla ice cream was lovely too…
After dinner I enjoyed some lounging with The Hibiki 17 and a film. Jennifer retired to 1G for a nap.
Somewhere over the Northwest Territories of Canada I requested a bed made and it was setup in 2G.
Even tough it was 8pm at home the early wake up call and alcohol sent me down for a nice long nap.
I arose from my slumber about 2.5 hours remaining in flight. Jennifer had moved back to 1K to enjoy a film and I likewise moved back to 2K.
Of course I wasn't exactly hungry but I couldn't resist the IPPUDO rich-tasting miso “DAICHI” ramen which I requested for a pre-arrival meal. While it's usual for ANA to serve the ramen with butter this is the first time I have seen packaged butter. This and the cheese plate make me wonder if there was a catering issue. I request a glass of chilled sake to enjoy with the soup noodles and accept the recommendation of Aki for the Jikon Junmai Daiginjo.
The north wind direction had us touching down on 34R.
Beautiful wisteria flowers.
Historically, the Nihonbashi Bridge has symbolized that first step, and Haneda International Airport has built a scaled-down replica from Yoshino cypress. The bridge offers travelers the experience of the original Nihonbashi Bridge, which graced central Edo. Its surrounding replica folding screen wall depicts famous Edo areas, bringing to life the bustle of the former city through murals on porcelain panels.
Ema boards, or Japanese wishing plaques.
Of course outside for some fresh air.
The Ground Service: The Boarding procedure had a dedicated First Class lane which is a nice consideration.
The Lounge: I find the United Polaris Lounges to be very solid J lounges. On our visit today we enjoyed tasting the small plates, curated cocktails, and Champagne. While the space is crowded in the peak afternoon European departure bank we were able to dine expediently and find seating as needed. I was particularly impressed with the service in the dining area as it was prompt, courteous, and energetic.
The Cabin: The cubicle design of the seats is unfortunate. There is no configuration where you can easily have a conversation with a travel companion or even look out the window without contorting your body. That said, they are perfectly comfortable for lounging and convert to spacious comfortable beds. The product refresh underway in ANA First Class is most welcome.
The Crew: Gracious and detailed in the traditional Japanese service tradition. There was not special connection or remarkable moments otherwise. That's not a criticism by any stretch, just an observation. Of course my lack of Japanese language skills prevents me from having nuanced or in depth interactions.
The Food and Beverage: Always top notch with ANA, in my experience and this flight held to that expectation. Multiple "prestige" champagnes, 30 year port wine, Hibiki 17, and, boutique Napa red, are the beverage highlights for me. The food side is somewhat "safe" when compared to some of the JAL First offerings but the quality and selection are quite good.
Overall: Objectively this would not rank as my "best" First Class experience except that is most certainly was. Sharing the experience for the fist time with the love of my life was pretty fantastic. I was quite relieved that she was absolutely tickled by the whole experience as well. Hopefully that goodwill will power us through the next two red eye and early morning flights in Y.