International first class on an Asian carrier is definitely one of the more exciting perks of this hobby. I’ve flown ANA before, but never in ANA First Class, so as we got on board, I had pretty high expectations. I think for the most part these expectations were met, my main complaint was totally out of the airline’s control. A winter storm passing through O’Hare is not ANA’s fault. Who could have guessed that Chicago would have winter weather issues?
It had (and has) been a pretty moderate winter in the midwest. Unfortunately, on the day of our flight, due to deicing delays, we departed more than 3 hours late. Lounging in our seat/suite wasn’t a bad way to spend the delay.
and the Krug helped as well
The crew wasn’t very forthcoming with information about the delay. They offered people the opportunity to get off, and seemingly quite a few did, but we just waited on board, figuring it would be more comfortable than in the terminal, even back in the United Global First Lounge.
Finally we got deiced, and then were on our way, a little over 3 hours late. Now the experience could begin for real.
ANA First Class First Square seat
ANA First Square
The seat itself is the ANA “First Square” product. It is a very nice seat, but as someone who likes to gaze out the window, the seat is not good for that at all. Plus the fact that we were seated together in the middle section means neither of us had much of a view out of the plane. These seats are very private. There is a partition between middle seats, but even when down, one has to lean forward to see/talk to a travel partner in the adjacent seat.
window seats only have one fully accessible window
There is a decent amount of storage, and a large screen for the in flight entertainment system. The large tray table slides out from the under the TV. The seat is wide, and comfortable for both sitting, and lounging. Once on board, I put on the provided pajamas, since who wouldn’t want to lounge around in pajamas? It might not look first class, but I prefer to be comfortable. At that time I didn’t know that I would be wearing them quite so long. ANA also provided an amenity kit in a Samsonite case. It is no Rimowa, but it was a decent kit. More details here, where I review the ANA Samsonite First Class Kit.
Samsonite amenity kit
There was also a day blanket, sweater and some slippers waiting on the ottoman. Lots of nice comfort items, but the cabin temperature was so warm, I didn’t use either, but slippers are always appreciated.
day blanket, pajamas, socks and slippers
ANA First Class dining
The intro to this post was nearly as long as the delay. Lets move on. Finally, here is the menu (link on ANA’s site) for the flight:
Wine and Beverage
Krug Grand Cuvée
Palmes d’Or Rose 2006 Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte
Hartford Court Russian River Chardonnay
Jean-Marc Brocard Fourchaume, Chablis Premier Cru 2012
Schloss Vollrads Riesling Qualitäswein Trocken Erstes Gewächs 2011
Campo Alegre 2013
World’s End Little Sister 2009
G.D. Vajra PN Q497 Pinot Nero
Lily’s Garden Shiraz 2010 Two Hands Wines
Château Mars Cuvée Prestige Hinoshiro Merlot & Cabernet 2011
Graham’s 30 Years Old Tawny
Sake and Sochu
Gorin JUNKO KOSHINO Label Junmai
Joppari Junmai Daiginjo Hanaomoi
Houken Junmaiginjo Hattannishiki
Katutama Plum Wine
Apertifs and Cocktails
Bombay Sapphire Gin
Brandy and Liqueur
Baileys Original Irish Cream
Asahi Super Dry
Kirin Ichiban Shibori
Sapporo Black Label
Suntory The Premium Malt’s
ANA’s original Aromatic Kabosu
7UP or Sprite
Iced Japanese green tea
Sparkling mineral water
Still mineral water
Suntory Whisky Hibiki 21 Years Old
Jack Daniel’s Black
Apple Juice: “Mapple Juice Fuji”
Sommelier Blend® “Yuzu” Tea
Hojicha (Low in Caffeine)
ANA’s Original Blend, mitococo (Rose, Jasmine, Peppermint)
Chamomile, TWG Tea
English Breakfast Tea
Comptoir des Indes Tea
Eternal Summer Tea
ANA Speciality Coffee Selection
Espresso freddo illy (iced coffee)
illy Caffe Americano
Cappuccino freddo illy
illy Caffè Latte
illy Caffè macchiato
And the food:
Japanese Cuisine Washoku
Vegetable à la grecque
Prosciutto and melon
Smoked salmon and scallop tartar in tart cup
Cheese pepper bar
Sakizuke Starter; a taste of what’s to come
Simmered oyster in soy-based ginger sauce
Zensai A selection of morsels
Simmered abalone in soy-based sauce
Grilled mackerel with mixed vegetables and egg
Aspic of monkfish liver
Crab meat rolled with marinated daikon radish in sweet vinegar sauce
Grilled duck miso taste and simmered apricot
Simmered plum blossom shaped wheat gluten in syrup
Owan A clear soup with produce
Shredded vegetables and sillago with pork fat
Otsukuri A selection of sashimi
Preserved sea urchin in salt
Takiawase Simmered treats
Simmered whelk and sea urchin in Sake sauce
Sunomono Delicacies dressed with vinegar
Deep-fried soft shell crab marinated in vinegar with sesame sauce
Shusai Main course
Grilled Spanish mackerel with Tamari soy sauce [303 kcal]
Steamed rice, miso soup and assorted Japanese pickles
This selection is served with “Koshihikari” cultivated in the Hida region of Gifu Prefecture (Specially Cultivated Rice).
Wagashi Classic Japanese sweet bites
Toraya “Omokage” Yokan is a traditional Japanese confectionery
Vegetable à la grecque
Prosciutto and melon
Smoked salmon and scallop tartar in tart cup
Cheese pepper bar
Mushroom bavarois with caviar and cauliflower soup
Balsamic-flavored roasted duck with pork pâté and potato salad
Smoked salmon rillettes roll and lobster with dill dressing
Served with a choice of dressings
Japanese yuzu citron dressing, Tomato dressing, Creamy black pepper dressing
Fillet of beef w/ horseradish-flavored shallot cream, escargot sauce [426 kcal]
Roasted Chilean seabass with American sauce [587 kcal]
Roasted lamb chops persillade [430 kcal]
Selection of breads
Please choose from four kinds of breads to suit your taste.
Served with butter or extra-virgin olive oil
Camembert – Gorgonzola – dolce Comté
Assorted ice cream
Warm hazelnut bread pudding with vanilla ice cream
Light Dishes Anytime
We invite you to enjoy light dishes whenever you wish.
You’ll find these dishes are a delicious follow-up to alcoholic beverages.
Vinegared quick-poached squid
Three kinds of deep-fried fishcakes
Tea-and-rice with Japanese plum and shredded kombu kelp
ANA original chicken curry and steamed rice
Japanese udon noodles garnished with dried sea lettuce
IPPUDO rich-tasting miso “DAICHI” ramen
Ciabatta sandwich—Smoked salmon, bacon and tomato
ANA original soup
Garden salad Served with a choice of dressings
Japanese yuzu citron dressing Tomato dressing Creamy black pepper dressing Cheese plate: Camembert, Gorgonzola, dolce Comté Fruits
International and Japanese set menus
Japanese Cuisine ~ 和食 Washoku
Kobachi Simmered brown algae in soy-based sauce
Shusai Grilled sablefish with soy-based sauce [289 kcal]
Steamed rice or rice porridge, miso soup and assorted Japanese pickles Accompaniment for steamed rice Choose from three condiments.
Nori, dried seaweed Natto (fermented soybeans)
Simmered Japanese clam in soy-based ginger sauce
Grilled herb chicken and vegetables with oregano-flavored dried tomato sauce [411 kcal]
Choose from bread or cereal.
Accompanied with butter and a choice of strawberry jam, marmalade or honey Cereal with milk
The meal service began once we leveled off. First item was the first of multiple hot towels throughout the flight.
hot towel #1
I opted for the Western meal. I love Japanese food, but since we’d be spending time there, I figured I could wait until I could have the real thing in country rather than what came from a catering kitchen at O’Hare.
ANA First Class Main Meal service
I’ll mostly let photos tell the story of the meal services:
First course, “Amuse” was a mix of canapes
The table was set and the courses began.
Next was the Appetizer course, which was an interesting mix of items, and included caviar
Then salad ( and my requested dressing on the side)
Bread selections from a basket plus a unique container for salt, pepper, butter and olive oil
I opted for the beef main course. It wasn’t Cathay Pacific grade steak, but it was solid.
Next was cheese course
and then dessert.
After the meal, time to chill. Then eat some more
After the meal was finished, I devoted my attention to the in flight entertainment. As James has recently reported, ANA has a relationship with Star Wars…During this flight I watched several segments from the movie franchise.
In all service on the flight was very attentive. It was typically Japanese, with countless apologies for any perceived slights, including the long delay. While service was excellent, it was noticeable how the flight attendants were not empowered at all. During the course of the delay, they seemed unable to do much of anything other than just apologize for the delay. it is entirely possible they had no information they could actually share. Once in flight, they were proactive and quite helpful.
Evian water bottle provided after main meal service.
Trans-Pacific flights from Chicago are a good length for an enjoyable flight experience, at least for me. Time for a leisurely meal, some relaxing/working/reading/movies, and presumably sleep. Flying west to Asia, I often don’t sleep a lot on flights in order to help with jet lag. That said, I couldn’t pass up this comfortable bed, so I didn’t crash out for a few hours.
As noted on the menu above, there were a few options for snacks as well meals after the main service. Between snacks we had during our ground delay, and the large meal after takeoff, I didn’t have the appetite for another full meal. Both of us did enjoy some items from the snack menu.
Beef Curry Rice
And some Udon noodles
Another hot towel. There were at least 4 offered during the flight.
As we got close to Narita, I realized we would misconnect for the flight I had booked for us to get to Osaka. The Flight attendants couldn’t provide much help, but the offered to call ahead, and that someone would be helping me once we landed. Even though we weren’t on the same ticket or even the same airline for our domestic flight, ANA did their best to help.
Onward from Narita
I booked some cheap business class tickets on JAL to Osaka Itami airport. Due to our delay, we didn’t arrive in time to make that connection. This was a separate ticket for which I paid in cash. Thankfully I was able to cancel those flights (I booked NRT-ITM-HND on JAL), and got nearly 100% of what I paid refunded. The ticket was refundable except for some booking fees or something else Expedia came up with.
The ANA agent who met us in the jet bridge was helpful and made arrangements for us as she walked with us to Japan immigration. She escorted us to the front of the line, and then took us all the way to the ticket counter for trains leaving Narita airport. During our walk to immigration, we mutually agreed that a train to Kyoto was our best option. After having experienced it, it was definitely easier for this trip than the additional time and hassle of getting to/from airports, etc.
I’ll provide a detailed review of our experience on the train in a future post. I’ve enjoyed high speed trains in Europe, so I was glad to try it out in Japan. Not surprisingly, it was quick, efficient, and a great way to travel.
The flight on ANA was a good experience. We were delayed, which was a hassle, but I feel ANA First Class is among the top products I’ve experienced. Personal preferences I’d say this is in the top handful, but I think Singapore was better. Lufthansa is probably preferred too, especially their ground services in Frankfurt and Munich. Still, I’d highly recommend it for the excellent experience. ANA seems to have a fair number of flights from the US that have decent space in First Class. Using United miles it is painfully more expensive since the devaluation, but I found it to be a great use of my United miles for a good way to start out our trip to Japan.