Star Alliance member ANA, short for All Nippon Airways, is Japan’s largest airline and with 5 Skytrax-stars one of the world’s best as well. Travel-Dealz editor Adrian hopped on board one of their planes in autumn 2018 on his way from Tokyo-Haneda to Munich. He was lucky enough to catch the newest member of ANA’s fleet – a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. This is a translation of his experiences during his twelve hour ride with Japan’s premier airline.
Since I was travelling without luggage, I used the ANA App to check in. Here I experienced a little disappointment: The check-in process was not native to the app, it more or less just opens the ANA website. Loading times are long and the user interface wasn’t really optimized for smartphones. On top of that, I got timed out and had to start the process again from the beginning.
It really surprised me that premium economy seats were displayed as well. They were sold out on this trip, but on a different flight, I would’ve been able to select them. I’m not quite sure if this depended on my booking class (B) or my Star Alliance Gold tier. It was a pleasant surprise either way.
ANA allows its economy customers to check two bags up to 23 kg, a nice perk in a world where one checked bag is standard and none are more and more common. Star Alliance Gold members may even check a third bag at no additional cost.
Tokyo-Haneda airport security offers fast lanes for premium passengers and frequent flyers. My Lufthansa Senator was explicitly mentioned as valid, but staff denied me access, because I wasn’t travelling Lufthansa (a ridiculous reason btw). Because regular lines were pretty long, I tried my luck at a different security checkpoint, where I was admitted without further instances.
Because of my frequent flyer tier, I was able to visit the ANA lounge. It is located right above gate 110 and may be one of the largest I’ve ever visited. Despite ANA offering one of the best business class products worldwide, its lounge is just mediocre. There were simply too many poeple inside, already queueing up at the buffet. The food does not show much variety, with regularly offered delights such as breaded chicken, potatoe wedges, meatballs, fried noodles, sushi, salads and wrapped sandwiches. A true highlight is the noodle bar, where Japanese noodle bowls are freshly prepared. The selection of drinks is above average: Fresh juices, softdrinks, sparkling and non-sparkling wine are offered as well as beer on tap. Most seats give a nice view to the apron.
Luckily, my gate wasn’t too far away from the lounge. First class passengers (a non-existent product on this flight) and ANA Diamond tier holders where to first to board the plane. A staff member welcomed them seperatly, after gathering them under a large sign. Next up were business class and lower tier holders. A different staff member checked beforehand if you were eligible to use this line. Economy class passengers are the last allowed on board, with no further seperation into boarding zones or seat rows. Still, the boarding process – which started just 40 minutes before our scheduled departure – went on smooth and efficiently; maybe because all passengers were repeatedly reminded to prepare passports and boarding passes long before reaching the counter.
Cabin & Comfort
ANA’s Dreamliners feature a three cabin layout: Business, Premium Economy and Economy. Economy cabin seats are arranged in a 3-3-3 pattern. The seatpitch of 86 cm (Lufthansa: 79 cm) is one of the most generous worldwide. Even if I streched out my 181 cm completely, I barely touched the bar underneath the seat in front of me.
The first economy class compartment offers a special private feeling – located between premium economy and the first of two galleys. You will find just three rows of seats here, spending as much intimacy as economy seating allows! Nonethenless, I will not choose to seat in this section again. During my flight, a lot of families with children were seated there, and it got pretty noisy as a consequence. By the way, you can choose any seat you like free of charge when checking in, there is no such thing as preferred seating. A nice touch in a world where ancillary revenues become more and more important to airlines.
The seat itself is nothing special and can be found on any other airline. With 42 cm it’s rather narrow, but reclines a good portion. It further has an USB-port, a multifcuntional powersocket, a touchscreen and a remote control for playing games or navigating the entertainment system. The tray table folds twice and offers a deepened circle to place cups. A special cupholder, that many other airlines on ANA’s level offer, cannot be found. Every passenger receives a pillow and a blanket, waiting for him on the seat after boarding.
The toilets are typically small for airplanes, but bright and friendly. The staff keeps them exceptionally clean. A pleasant surprise are delightfully smelling hand and facial lotions, that are rather unusual for economy class bathrooms. As you’d expect from a Japanese airline, the toilet seat is heated and offers a cleansing option.
Food & Service
The first round of beverages was offered approx. thirty minutes after take-off. The very friendly staff began by offering Japanese rice snacks (little rice cookies wrapped in seaweed, not unlike sushi) and a second choice of beverages. The selection of drinks was faboulos: Aside fom juices and softdrinks, alcoholic beverages like beer and wine were offered, as well.
Only 30 minutes later a flight attendant handed out laminated menus in Japanese, English and German. One could choose between steamed beef with rice omelett or breaded pork with egg fried rice. I chose the latter and did not regret it – it was delicious. While I enjoyed the food, both meal options had a distinct Japanese flavour. Poeple who prefer Western dishes may dislike both of them. The wide selection of starters was impressive, but again distinct Japanese cuisine: Lettuce with chicken slices and (this is the most accurate description I can come up with) some gooey stuff, sushi with green soybeans and a mixed salad served with a very strange tasting dressing, which may or may not be based on soy sauce. While a bottle of still water was part of each menu, bread was not part of the meal.
After the meal service every passenger received a small cup of Ben&Jerry’s vanilla ice cream. That means everyone except me, as I slept through it. During the entire flight, the flight attendants kept providing thirsty travellers with water and other beverages. In addition, you permanently had the chance the order other drinks by pushing the service button or stroll to the galley to take them yourself.
Approx. two hours before landing a kind of breakfast was served – although breakfast is defintely the wrong word on this daytime flight (Departure at 12.35, Touchdown at 16.45). Again, you could choose between two options, either teriyaki style grilled fish with rice or omelett with an english muffin and breakfast sausages. This time I chose the more Western dish, which tasted fine. It was accompanied by a fruit flavored yoghurt and some fresh fruit.
The metal cutlery used for both meals deserves a positive remark. Otherwise, cups and plates made out of plastic were used.
The flight attendants were incredibly friendly and – typically Japanese – extremely polite. They were really invested to give each guest the best service possible. Every service call was acknowledged instantly and each request was dealt with quickly. For example, when I asked for a second pillow, I got one immediately.
Entertainment & WiFi
As its industry standard on long haul planes, every seat was equipped with in flight entertainment (IFE). You could choose whether you prefer to use the remote control stowed in your armrest or take advantage of touchscreen technology to navigate it. The software was up to date and reacted promptly. Sadly, the USB-Ports only provided enough power to maintain the powerlevel of your devices, but not enough to recharge them (unless you are very patient). The movie and TV selection was comprehensive and almost every part of the entertainment program was available in multiple languages. The audio selection was pretty wide as well, with complete albums being available as well as pre arranged playlists.
Every passenger received his own set of padded headphones, which are equipped with a regular, single headset port. Because of this, it is possible to use our personal headphones as well.
WiFi on board was available. In contrast to their domestic routes where WiFi is complimentary, ANA will charge you for internet usage on their long haul flights. I purchased the Full-Flight-Package at a price of US$21.95 payable with credit card. The WiFi was reasonably fast and reliable. Like almost any other inflight Wifi worldwide, you are not able to receive pictures send via messenger services on ANA’s planes.
- Check-in & Boarding
- Cabin & Comfort
- Entertainment & WLAN
Compared to ANA’s excellent businnes class, their economy product is a bit of a let down: In my eyes, it is just a middle-of-the-pack product. The luxurious seat patch and incredibly motivated staff are outstanding. The food service is fine, but nothing extraordinary – and its lack of international diversity may discomfort some passengers. From a Skytrax-5-star airline, I expected an overall better economy class.
Cover Picture: © ANA All Nippon Airways