United Global First Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
Lufthansa Business and Senator Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
ANA First Square Class Washington Dulles to Tokyo Narita
ANA Suite and Business Class Lounges Tokyo Narita (NRT)
ANA Business Class Tokyo Narita to Beijing
IBIS Beijing Capital Airport Hotel
Air China First Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
BGS Premier Business Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Business Traveler’s Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Lufthansa A380 First Class Beijing to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt (FRA)
Lufthansa B747-400 First Class Frankfurt to New York JFK
United PS Business Class New York JFK to San Francisco
Washington Dulles (IAD) to Tokyo Narita (NRT)
Saturday, November 2nd, 2013
Arrive: 3:25pm +1
Duration: 14h 5m
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER (First Square seats)
First, a quick story: When I checked into the Lufthansa lounge, the lounge attendant told me cheerily that I would have the last meal choice. Or rather, she started off cheerily, but as she was reading the comment to me, I think she realized that she probably shouldn’t have read the comment to me and ended not so cheerily. Apparently, since I booked my ticket less than 24 hours in advance of the flight, the flight was only catered for 4 first class passengers, and there was a comment on my profile that I would get last meal choice, which was a major bummer since I really wanted to try the Japanese kaiseki menu, and the lounge attendant told me that all of the other passengers were Japanese and likely to order the Japanese menu.
I expressed my disappointment to the lounge attendant and told her that I really, really wanted to try the Japanese meal, and she eventually got her supervisor to talk to me. The supervisor contacted the onboard crew, and when I boarded, the purser came up to me and told me that she would try her best to get me a kaiseki meal. In the end, I did get a Japanese meal, but it was just an odd customer experience interaction with the lounge attendant, although this was the only major service miscue that I had with ANA.
I really enjoyed the new First Square product on the 77W. The seats are extremely private (i.e. you can’t see anyone else unless you’re trying), without making the cabin feel claustrophobic like I feel the Emirates suites can be on the A380.
My seat, 1A
Large screen, Rimowa (!) amenity kit, noise-canceling headphones, pajamas, cardigan, and slippers
The suite felt smartly designed, with intuitive controls and a minimalist decor. I also appreciated the storage space for glasses.
Entertainment controls with mirror and plugs
Seat controls, which I really didn’t use
Storage space for glasses
My biggest qualm with the suite, though, is that it’s hard to look out the window. While each suite takes up the space of 4 windows, 3 of the four are blocked by the walls of the suite. I can understand why the walls are there to help with privacy and to include things like the entertainment and seat controls, but it’s not good for people who like to see what’s going on outside.
View across the aisle; you can see that most windows are obstructed
The seat is comfortable while seated, and it’s also extremely comfortable while in bed position. ANA provides something akin to an egg crate mattress pad that makes you feel like you’re on an actual bed instead of a seat-turned-bed, in addition to a great comforter and two large pillows. Although not as wide as the Emirates suite on the A380, I found ANA’s bed to be more comfortable.
The food on the flight ranged from good to great if you like Japanese food. I ate and ate and ate some more, and I was super glad to have not eaten in the lounge. ANA posts their menus to their website (see here for first class menus and here for business class menus), so I had an idea of what to expect. Here are links to my specific menus: ANA IAD-NRT First Class Food Menu; ANA IAD-NRT First Class Drink Menu.
Prior to meal orders being taken, a flight attendant came around with champagne and amuse bouches.
I’m not a big drinker, but I couldn’t say no to a glass of Krug
For the first meal service, the purser informed me that I could have the kaiseki menu, and she proactively suggested that I start with some caviar. How could I say no to that suggestion? I appreciated that ANA’s caviar service comes with a caviar spoon.
After caviar came the kaiseki meal service, which was course after course of interesting Japanese food. My favorites included the squid with sea urchin, the chestnut compote, the soup of sea bream, the grilled sablefish, and the dessert. I also had ANA’s original “Aromatic Kabosu” drink, which I quite enjoyed.
Squid with sea urchin, and selection of seasonal morsels (squid in soy sauce, salmon, dried persimmon in ham, fishcake with beans, chestnut compote, gingko nuts, and red pimiento)
Soup of sea bream and matsutake mushrooms
Salmon, spotted gizzard shad, scallop sashimi
Simmered turnip, shrimp and surf clam, pickles, grilled sablefish, rice, miso soup
Dessert of adzuki paste spread between wafers
After sleeping for a couple of hours, it was time to eat again, so I chose the Ippudo ramen off of the snack menu and asked the flight attendant to choose a sake to pair with it. The ramen was delicious, as was the sake. To follow up, I had some fruit and a dessert off of the western menu, which were both perfectly acceptable, and my requested pot of tea came with some unrequested petit fours.
Ippudo soy sauce ramen paired with sake
Cheesecake with mixed berry sauce
Tea and petit fours
For my third meal/snack of the flight, I asked if there was any caviar left, and the flight attendant told me there was and obliged me with my second serving of caviar. I followed that up with the deep-fried taro, which was an item on the snack menu specifically designated as a good pairing with sake. The deep-fried taro was not quite what I was expecting, but I really enjoyed it.
Caviar serving #2
Deep-fried taro with crab meat
Finally, prior to landing, I chose the Petite Japanese course. The flight attendant seemed somewhat apprehensive serving me natto, which is slimy, fermented soy beans, but I assured her that I knew what it was and enjoyed it from time-to-time, and she seemed delighted to hear that.
Petite Japanese course: fiddlehead ferns, arabesque greenling, rice porridge, miso soup, pickles, and natto
I think ANA has some of the best food that I’ve had on an airline, but I’m (of course) partial to Asian cuisines. For what it’s worth, the purser asked how I was getting back to the US, and she was disappointed when I told her Lufthansa, as she wanted me to try ANA’s catering out of Narita, since she said it was superior to the catering ANA got out of non-Japanese airports.
While there was a bit of a language barrier, I thought that the service was impeccable throughout the flight, if a bit more formal than I expected. As an example, since I was sitting in seat 1A, the flight attendants would bow to me whenever they came through the curtain for service. But I appreciated a lot of the small touches: providing a caviar spoon, offering me a taste of a wine before pouring a full glass, making sure that logos faced my direction, smiling during every interaction, etc, and the fact that all of the flight attendants seemed genuinely interested in making sure that everyone enjoyed the flight.
Present from a flight attendant
Near the end of the flight, one of the flight attendants brought me a small gift, which included decks of cards featuring ANA’s 787, a nice note with origami, postcards, and leg refreshing sheets. I had mentioned to her earlier that I was really excited to fly ANA’s 787 later this year to Seattle, as well as how curious I was about the leg refreshing sheets provided as amenities, so I was touched both that she made a small gift for me at all and that she was thoughtful in what she included.
ANA provides a Rimowa amenity kit for first class, which is probably the most sought-after kind of amenity kit. The pajamas were comfortable, although extraordinarily large and baggy on me (I’m not sure how they chose the size, since the pajamas were waiting at my seat for me). I didn’t try the cardigan as the cabin was kept pretty warm.
The entertainment system is large and responsive, but the selection isn’t as good as I’ve seen on other carriers. Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising on a foreign carrier, but it appeared as if there were a fair number of shows that were inaccessible to non-Japanese speakers (i.e. no dubbing or subtitles provided). The noise-canceling headphones provided were good and effective.
Finally, ANA has a large number of additional amenities that they offer at the beginning of the flight in first class and for self-service in business class. Some of these are pretty straightforward like ear plugs, lip balm, and lotion, but there are also items like humidity masks, leg refreshing sheets, and aromatic scents.
Self-serve amenities in business class
The humidity mask is essentially just one of those medical-looking masks, and it provides “humidity” by making you breath the moisture you’re exhaling. While a bit awkward to wear at first, I could feel quite the difference after wearing the mask for a little bit and then taking it off. It was enough to make me keep the mask on for much of the remainder of the flight, including when I slept.
The leg refreshing sheet is probably the oddest of the lot, as it’s like a gel compress that you adhere to your leg (or I guess to any other part of your body). The “refreshing” aspect is that the gel is cool to the touch, but it was slightly unclear to me how long to leave on the sheet or whether or not there was anything else going on (nicotine?). Definitely worth trying at least once (it doesn’t leave a residue or rip out leg hairs).
The aromatic scents came highly recommended to me by a flight attendant. Essentially, they’re small pieces of paper with scent beads that you crush to release the aroma. They smelled fine, but I didn’t feel relaxed or renewed depending on the scent that I used.
ANA First Class is a wonderful experience. The food is good, the seat is private, the bed is incredibly comfortable, there are fun amenities, and the service is great. I’m glad that I had the chance to fly them in first class before it becomes that much more unattainable.