After a couple of weeks in Asia it was time to head back to Texas.
I booked this ticket as part of an open-jaw 120,000 miles Virgin Flying Club redemption.
I arrived at Narita T1 around 7:10am or so and discovered the ANA Suite Check-In was not yet open. I waited around for a bit since I had quite a bit of time. My timing was awkward because I took the Keisei Narita Airport Line (saves quite a bit compared to the Narita Express and was more convenient for where I was staying) and if I had waited for the next train, it would be a full hour later.
It was a rather rainy day.
At precisely 7:30am, the Suite Check-In was open for business.
ANA Suite Check-In is a spacious open room with a number of counters and a sitting area for those who are waiting to be helped. There is candy and a writing pad at the counters.
Of course, since this is ANA, you can't check in with an oshibori.
The main advantage of the Suite Check-In is that you can go through the private security right behind it, saving you time compared to the regular lines.
ANA's lounges can be found up a set of escalators in the center of Satellite 5. The Suite Lounge shares an entrance with the regular lounge.
I was welcomed in with bows and directed to the right. At the end of this short corridor an agent met me and escorted me to a seat. She took my drink order at this time.
Let's take a tour of the lounge. Immediately upon entering is the literature display and a departure board.
The Suite Lounge is a good size, it never felt crowded. There are all sorts of seats available - I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. I chose a seat along the window (fourth picture). I belatedly realized later on this was not the best seat in terms of eating. Oh well.
The Lounge also has a number of individual work stations and massage chairs. This actually looks like a really productive setup. Alas, the productivity I needed this morning was to cram in three lounge reviews. This seemed to be a popular setup for people to sit back and watch TV.
A smoking room is available for those who are inclined.
As well as a phone booth.
The concierge desk was closed when I arrived and opened up later.
The bathrooms are clean and spacious. The amenities were by THANN and Sekkisei.
The majority of spotting from the lounge were ANA 787s, but here is a Singapore A380.
I'll let the buffet pictures speak for themselves. It wasn't that impressive for a first class lounge, but what was available was tasty.
You have a selection of Haagen-Dazs ice cream as well.
The drink selection is pretty good, highlighted by the various sakes and the Japan's famous beer machines.
The highlight of the food was the noodle station. I hadn't eaten breakfast yet so I made a beeline for it after setting my stuff down. After you make an order, you are given a buzzer.
Here is the full drink menu.
I had ordered the X3 Amairo Koujisanbai-Jikomi Junmai-Gensyu. It was presented with an oshibori. It was good, but hardly my favorite sake that I've tried.
The buzzer went off pretty quickly (there were very few guests in the lounge at this hour). The portion was fairly small, but great for a hearty snack. That said, I found it to be okay. Of course, airport ramen can hardly be compared to shops outside.
Still hungry, I went to the buffet and helped myself to some miso soup and rockfish. Both were good. In the time it took for me to go to the buffet and back, my finished ramen plate was already cleared.
I then inquired about using the shower and was escorted out of the lounge to the shower rooms. The showers are located past an entrance adjacent to the entrance to the Suite Lounge.
Here is shower room No. 2. It is a fairly spacious room with all the necessary amenities. I appreciated the clock and the fan. The water pressure was great.
The shampoo, conditioner, and body wash were by THANN whereas the hand soap, lotion, etc . . . were by Sekkisei. The usual items like shower caps, toothbrush, etc . . . are provided in a large basket. The towel can be found underneath.
After exiting the shower, I was welcomed back to use the Suite Lounge, but I told the front desk I was going to walk around for a while. I took Socalnow's advice for lounge hopping and went to the United Club next to check it out. It was about a 5 minute walk from the Satellite 5 lounge. The check-in agent let me know that there were first class lounges available for use, but that I was of course welcomed to stay. I let her know I was just here to check out the runway views.
This United Club was massive, with huge sections of seating. The highlight are the seats along the windows with the runway views. These were mostly occupied already. Unfortunately, due to the distance to the runway and the fact I was only taking pictures with a phone - I was not able to get any good takeoff pictures.
You'll notice an elevator in the lounge - this used to lead to the Global First section of the lounge. United no longer has a first class and so I believe the top floor will eventually be converted to a Polaris Lounge? According to OMAAT, United only began to design its international Polaris lounges in 2019, so it will be quite some time before we see this space used again.
In the back of the lounge is a large work area with plenty of cubicles. There was also an empty buffet setup that may be used later on in the day. For now it was empty except for a few drinks.
The buffet was fairly lackluster. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.
The drink section included a few Japanese drinks in addition to the usual reds and whites. A small selection of liquors are available as well.
Because I was unable to get good runway pictures, I left the United Club fairly quickly.
The satellite 4 lounge was another 5 or so minutes away from the United Club. Unlike the other lounge, the first and business class lounges are on entirely different floors. This Suite Lounge is the one where they direct the SQ passengers to.
The check-in agent explained that there was a closer lounge to my gate but that I was welcomed to stay. She also handed me a nifty little map of T1 and pointed out it would be a roughly 10-minute walk via the under pass to my gate.
The corridor leading in is shorter this time.
I did not take as many pictures in this lounge because it was virtually the same as the other Suite Lounge. The seating, buffet choices, alcohol selection, etc . . . were all the same. The only difference is that this lounge was a bit smaller.
There is a nice display of ANA Million Miler tags - I would love one of these.
The noodle station is a little different - a more welcoming looking in my opinion.
There is also a dining area right next to it that is quite convenient.
I assume this becomes a sushi station later on in the day?
The business area in this lounge has a bit of natural light and small work desks against the windows. Otherwise it is the same.
As before, I was escorted to my seat. This time I ordered the Harushika Junmaidaiginjo, which I liked better than the previous sake. I also grabbed a small cup of ice cream.
During my stay, an announcement informed me that NH174 to Houston would be delayed. I wasn't paying much attention and didn't really hear it so I had to flag down an attendant and ask about it. With many bows and "thank you for waiting"s, she informed me that NH174 would be delayed 10 minutes and the boarding time would be adjusted accordingly.
Around 10:20am, I left the lounge to head to my gate with its newly scheduled boarding time of 10:35am.
Here is my ride: JA783A, an 11-years old 777-300ER.
The lines had already formed by the time I arrived at the gate, so I assumed a position in Group 1. Preboarding began at 10:35am as expected, but there was a long delay after passengers requiring special assistance was called. I only assume there may have been an issue with wheelchairs at the door something. During this time, they regretfully announced that Wifi would not be available on this flight. When it finally came time for boarding, first class and ANA Mileage Club Diamonds were called first. First class also gets its own jet bridge.
I was welcomed on board by Kuno, who was actually serving business class today. She showed me to 1A where I asked what the load in First was. There was a cute moment of confusion because she thought I was asking for the overall load - to which she answered 270-something (I didn't remember the exact number). Once we corrected the confusion and learned the load today was 4/8 (up from 3/8 a day prior). I moved myself to 1K and gave the passenger seated in 1D the 1A seat (that way I could ask for my bed to be made up in 1G).
Yamashita, one of the first class flight attendants brought over the headphones and amenity kit that were at 1A previously. Soon afterwards, Senior Purser Katchi came by to introduce herself as well.
Here is ANA's "Square" 1K. This is the exact same seat I flew in on a few weeks earlier.
I won't go into as much detail on the seat since I reviewed it a few weeks ago in more detail. ANA has plenty of storage compartments and mirrors hidden all over the seat. An oshibori was brought over before the PDB.
The seat controls are easy-to-understand and fairly responsive.
A small pillow and blanket was waiting for me at the seat.
Kuno opened the package for slippers and laid them before me. A shoehorn and bag are available as well. Getting back to the blanket, it is a comfortable Tenerita brand blanket.
Soon, Yamashita came by with ANA's basket of goodies. This is the normal array of goodies compared to the New Year additions last time. I only took a few items this time.
Kuno brought over a Wifi card and told me she hoped Wifi worked.
ANA now has full flight plans for first class! I had no problem connecting to the Wifi once inflight and it was a decent speed.
ANA has Sony headphones. They are quite comfortable with good sound quality.
As far as flight reports go, you can always expect me to take a picture of the champagne with the amenity kit against the window.
I love these Globe-Trotter kits, this flight had navy blue ones. The Ginza amenities are also a nice touch.
This time I changed before takeoff. Yamashita escorted me to the lavatory and put the changing platform down before handing me a few hangers for my clothes. The lavatory is like most 777 bathrooms - small. However, it is very clean and has the standard Japanese bidet. I also love the small touches such as the flowers on the basket of linen towels.
The amenities have not changed - Ginza lotions and the usual toothbrush, mouth wash, etc . . .
Before we pushed back, Kuno came by to ask if I would be purchasing any duty free. I took her up on the offer and bought myself some ANA souvenirs. She wrote down the order - delivery and payment to come inflight (after the meal service).
We pushed back at 11:15am, 20 minutes behind schedule.
ANA's safety video is starting to grow on me a bit this second time around. We ended up taking off at 11:42am. The flight was very turbulent initially and the seatbelt sign was not turned off until 18 minutes after takeoff. The captain announced we were expecting an 8:10am arrival into Houston.
Now inflight, let's take a look at the dining options. The menu out of Tokyo is better than the menu from the U.S.
The drink menu is the same.
Katchi began service by bringing an oshibori and taking my drink order 30 minutes into the flight. I did not notice it on the previous flight, but the oshibori have ANA on them.
I began with the Krug, of course. This flight they switched back to the 750 ml bottles. I have to really compliment Yamashita this flight because the turbulence was quite choppy throughout the entire meal service and despite having a hard time pouring drinks half of the time, there was never a single drop spilled.
ANA does a great job with their amuses. This time we had a variant of their sticks with a olive and ricotta dipping sauce (which I was a big fan of on this flight and asked for a few more), lobster pincho, and uncured Miyazaki beef ham. Everything was excellent.
This flight I decided to go with the international menu for comparison. The fresh breadbasket was presented with quite a few unique options. I forgot what the orange bread was, but it was delicious and I asked for seconds.
After the amuse, the table was set with precision.
This was a very interesting caviar presentation. The caviar came in kolrabi cornets, and was arranged alongside abalone and Scottish salmon. While the dish was good overall, I can't say I am the biggest fan of caviar in kolrabi.
The salad was fairly fresh. I'm not sure what else to say for a salad.
Katchi presented the corn soup next and it was surprisingly delicious. I didn't expect to enjoy it as much as I did.
By now I was 4 glasses of Krug in and it was time to switch to a red for my main: the Avignonesi Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG 2015. It was a fine wine, light and fruity.
It took a while for my steak to cook (and Yamashita updated me around an hour into the meal service that it was cooking). It was worth the wait though. What a beautiful steak for something presented on a plane! It was cooked to a medium (maybe even a little beyond that), which is a bit more than I would have liked, but still tasted surprisingly good.
Instead of staying with wine for the cheese course, I switched to the Tengumai Junmai Daiginjo 50, an excellent light and fruity sake.
I accepted the cheese plate this time. It was small, which is perfect for me since I am not a huge cheese aficionado, and beautifully presented.
After that, I switched to my favorite sake from the last flight - the Masuizumi Oak-aged Kijoshu. I regret not seeing if I could buy a bottle from the duty free.
Katchi listened to me go on and on about this sake and decided to bring out one of the sake accompaniments (dressed mirugai clam with sea urchin sheet) unprompted. It did indeed accompany the sake quite well.
Next up was dessert and I went with the ice cream. It was beautifully presented, but when I pressed down with my spoon to scoop the ice cream, the plate broke in half. Roughly one-third of the plate just kind of fell off. I should have taken a picture to record it, but I was just in shock. Nothing like this had ever happened to me before and I did not use much force.
I pressed the call button and Katchi responded immediately. She had a look of absolute horror when I pointed out the broken plate to her. I tried to apologize for the plate breaking, but she would have none of it. Instead, she apologized profusely and bowed several times. She even tried to say it was her fault (it was either the plate maker or my fault, it couldn't be her fault). We eventually settled on blaming the plate maker. After a few minutes, she brought over an equally impressive presentation of the same ice cream. This time, the plate remained whole.
I asked chamomile tea to wrap up my meal. It was presented with a few Japanese sweets and a chocolate.
I was also given a water bottle for bed time.
Here is the smaller lavatory (the one that I prefer for everything except changing). The main reason is that the water basin and faucet is positioned such that it is easier to wash your hands without actually touching the basin. Of course, the toilet paper was re-folded after every use.
Here's why I switched to 1K: it's always nicer to have a separate bed in the empty suite adjacent to yours. Lights were switched off completely 3:30 into the flight. I took forever with my meal service and hope I didn't keep anyone else up. Before going to bed, Yamashita came by with my duty free order, which she placed in the overhead bin at my request.
I slept rather restlessly for the next 5-6 hour, waking up a few times. It's always hard to force your body to sleep when it otherwise wouldn't. I also drank quite a bit of water and noticed that every time when I woke back up, someone had replaced the empty bottle with a new bottle. Great service!
Upon waking up with approximately 2 hours to go, I ordered the Ippudo Soraton ramen and a cup of sencha. The ramen was good as you can expect for an instant base. I was a little surprised no oshibori preceded it.
With approximately an hour left in air, I asked for my breakfast to be served. This time, the oshibori preceded the meal.
For breakfast, I opted for the Japanese menu. I had a slight miscommunication with my order, because I meant to just say no rice, no natto, but for whatever reason I also pointed at the miso soup and nodded. I meant that I wanted the soup, but very clearly it came off as no to all three. I realized my mistake as soon as the tray was served, but didn't want to bother Yamashita with adding the soup - it was my mistake. The breakfast was delicious and just the right amount given how much I had eaten earlier. It was harder to indulge as much as the previous ANA flight since this one was about 2 hours shorter.
I ordered a cappuccino to finish my breakfast. The sugar cubes (as opposed to packets) as a nice touch.
After breakfast, I went to change out of the pajamas. Once again, Yamashita escorted me to the lavatory and put the changing platform down. Meanwhile, Katchi folded and packed the pajamas.
The captain announced the final descent 18 minutes before landing. We touched down at 7:55am CT and arrived at our gate at 8:04am (scheduled arrival was 7:50am).
Then it was off to Global Entry and to catch my connection on United where I was immediately hit with a 2-hour delay. Welcome back to the U.S.!
Lounge: The ANA Suite Lounge is a comfortable place to spend some time, but it isn't all that competitive with its rival lounges elsewhere in the world. The noodle soup station is probably the highlight, but true a la carte dining is missing. Service was warm and responsive and the food offered was still fairly good.
Cabin & Seat: ANA's "Squares" are a fine seat. Their defects (too enclosed, window blocked off, storage space is not that practical) are well noted, but ultimately the seat is comfortable both for sitting and sleeping. The new suite will be a big upgrade though. One item to improve is to change the lighting during sleeping hours to be completely dark - that makes a difference for very sensitive sleepers (as a night mask doesn't completely make up the difference for me).
Service: ANA's level of service is truly top-notch. Yamashita, Katchi, and Kuno were all excellent. If I had to nitpick (and it's very difficult), they were not as jubilant and enthusiastic as Inoue and Uryu on the previous flight. They were still phenomenal, quick to respond, and proactive in their service.
Meal & Catering: ANA's international menu is every bit as good as its Japanese menu. You can't go wrong with either.
Bottom Line: ANA First is a fantastic way to cross the Pacific. They have consistently fantastic service and catering. The one slight weakness, the seats, are being retrofit. I would definitely fly this again and again.