I’ve decided to try a new format for my trip reports. Rather than waffling on about my own personal experience, I figured it might make more sense to provide some hands-on information instead. Let me know what you think!
And a happy new year, by the way.
Getting to the Airport
In Ishigaki I stayed at the ANA Intercontinental Resort. There are two options to get from the resort to the airport. A taxi will take approximately 20 minutes to make the journey and costs roughly 2’500 Japanese Yen.
Alternatively, there is also the bus line 10, which in fact stops right in front of the hotel on its way to the airport. The journey by bus will take roughly 20 to 30 minutes and costs 430 Japanese Yen.
Online check-in does not appear to be available on the ANA domestic website. There is, however, an iPhone app which would, theoretically, allow you to check-in. But it seems that bookings for domestic flights that were purchased abroad or not purchased directly with ANA are not eligible for any type of remote check-in. This also means there’s no advanced seat selection, unless of course you call ANA directly.
Ishigaki is a nice little airport.
There are six ANA check-in counters at the airport, three of which are for passengers with checked bags. The other three are for passengers with cabin luggage only and also serve as ticketing counters. There is no dedicated Premium Class counter.
What Ishigaki airport also has, is a very nice open air observation deck on the second floor.
There are no lounges at Ishigaki airport. At least though there is a mini food court adjacent to the ANA check-in area where you can get some tasty Japanese food or a Starbucks coffee.
Departures are also on the second floor.
Boarding for domestic flights is always very efficient, orderly and quick. A fully loaded Boeing B 767-300 is boarded in just under 15 minutes.
ANA operates a variety of different cabin configurations and seats in its Premium Class cabins. It helps if you know what aircraft type you’re travelling on, although even then there appear to be differences within the same fleet type.
Further information about the seats and configuration can be found here. Please note however, that there are no detailed seat maps on the ANA domestic website and seatguru provides no information about ANA’s domestic configuration.
The Boeing B 767-300 are kept in good shape, for sure. But their IFE is somewhat antiquated and consists of a limited number of audio channels and one video channel. Films are showed on a big screen mounted on the cabin bulkhead. On this particular flight they’re showing a documentary about the Boeing B 747-400SD in ANA service. The aircraft will be leaving the fleet with the start of the summer schedule on 29 March 2014.
ANA provides every passenger with a blanket and slippers (available on international flights too). Additionally, pillows, eye shades and ear plugs are available upon request.
The ANA domestic website gives a lot of useful information about the kind of service and food on offer on flights that have a Premium Class service. Flights with departures between 13:01 and 16:59 are served a light meal, which has an afternoon tea theme and is branded as Premium SABO. The meal consists basically of a variety of sweets and savouries.
Further information can be obtained here. There is also a menu in every seat pocket of the Premium Class cabin.
ANA operates from Terminal 2 in Haneda.
Getting into Town
Haneda is the first, original Tokyo airport. Narita was built much later. To get into central Tokyo the most reliable option is to take the monorail from the basement of the airport to Hamamatsucho, which is the terminus station of the train.
At Hamamatsucho you can transfer to the JR Yamanote line, which draws a circle around Tokyo and connects most of the important locations. Shinjuku and Tokyo Station are both served by the JR Yamanote line and the Narita Express and are only a few stops away from Hamamatsucho. So having a hotel in close proximity to one of these two stations is very convenient. I normally stay in the Shinjuku area because it’s quite lively by day and by night. Tokyo proper is mostly a business district and once the offices close, it gets rather quiet and, well – a bit boring.
You can buy combined tickets for the monorail and JR lines at the ticket machines for the monorail in Haneda. If you’re not sure about the ticket price, simply get the cheapest ticket there is, which is 600 Yen. There are fare adjustment machines at every station for you to top up your ticket.
In the meantime the miles for the outbound leg to Ishigaki have been credited to my Senator account. Premium Class is treated as First Class and subsequently yields 3684 miles, which is quite substantial for Miles & More these days, especially given the cuts they’ve made in an attempt to cause maximum irritation at minimum advantage – even to themselves…
My last post left off with me arriving in Narita from Heathrow yesterday. I then had to make my way to Haneda, from where my flight to Ishigaki leaves todays, where I would also spend the night.
There are three ways to reach Haneda airport from Narita using public transport. First, there is the limousine bus service – not sure where the limousine bit comes in – which runs regularly between the two airports. This can however, be a bit of a wild card. Theoretically the journey time should be around 90 minutes. But traffic in the Tokyo area can be quite bad, significantly increasing the time to make the journey.
The second option is of course the famous Narita Express, which runs to Shinjuku and Tokyo station and takes a little less than an hour to make the journey to Tokyo station. From there you have to change to a JR Yamanote line train to Hamamatsucho, where you connect to the Haneda monorail service. The Narita Express is certainly the most comfortable way to get into Tokyo, with reserved seating on every train – but obviously with luggage having to change trains twice may be a bit cumbersome.
And then, finally, there is also the Kaisei line, which runs a direct train from Narita to Haneda in 92 minutes. The direct trains run every 30 minutes or so but are not near as comfortable as the Narita Express.
In Haneda I’m staying at the Excel Haneda Airport Hotel for the night, which has some really brilliant views of the apron and the runway (see below). Access to the hotel is via Terminal D2.
The Boeing 747-400 will leave the ANA fleet on 29. March 2014.
Airline: All Nippon Airways Aircraft: Boeing B 767-300 Cabin: Premier Class (Business Class) Seat: 1H From: Haneda To: Ishigaki Date: 29. December 2013 Departure: 11:30 Arrival: 15:00
I’m assuming that most of you will not know where Ishigaki is, which is why I’m adding a map pf the journey so far – courtesy of the Great Circle Mapper.
I exit the hotel at the far end of the departure concourse. The terminal is crawling with people. This is after all, the main holiday season in Japan. There are people everywhere, with long queues. But in typically Japanese fashion, the queues are orderly and move along efficiently and swiftly.
There is a segregated check-in area for status card holders and passengers travelling on one of ANA’s Premier Class services, with direct access to security. The queues here are much shorter and the staff take their time to actually help you repack your stuff once you’re through security. If only it were always like this! Once you exit security, there is an escalator on your right leading up one floor to the ANA lounge.
The ANA lounge is large and spacious, with plenty of seating options. Of course I follow my impulse, which is so much nicer than to call it a compulsion, to take a seat by the window where I can watch the action on the ramp, but I quickly change my mind. First of all, once you’re seated you can’t see the action outside anyway. Secondly, the seating area by the windows is markedly hotter than the rest of the lounge. It’s like a sauna.
The flight today is completely full. Boarding a flight in Japan is usually quite interesting to watch, and today’s flight does not appear to be any different in that respect. The first boarding announcement is for passengers with reduced mobility, and passengers travelling with children. Next it’s the Star Alliance members and passengers in Premier Class.
Boarding starts at 11:20, only 10 minutes ahead of our scheduled departure time, and I’m seriously wondering how much longer we’ll be on the ground here in Haneda. But when push comes to shove the Japanese will make that extra effort to achieve a group objective and much to my surprise, at 11:30 everyone is seated and the doors close for an on time departure to Ishigaki.
Take-off is from runway 23. As soon as we’re airborne, we do a sharp right turn to point us in a southerly direction. It’s a lovely day here in the Tokyo area and our route takes us nearly exactly above Fuji. Unfortunately though, I’m unable to take any decent photos. I’m on the aisle seat and the guy by the window keeps leaning forward to get a better view.
There’s something very retro about this bird. The overhead bins are still of the original
B 767 variety and have not been replace with the new B 777 style ones. The seat is comfortable enough, but there is no individual IFE and the seat controls are mechanic rather than electric.
The seating configuration is 2 – 1 – 2, with the designation AB for the row of two on the left, D for the single seat and HJ for the row of two on the right side of the aircraft.
Every passenger has a blanket and a pair of slippers at his seat. Pillows are also available on request.
There are two cabin crew working in Business Class this morning. One is the middle-aged maître de. Very stern and competent. And then there is a charming young lady, who is very personable and witty.
The meal is very tasty and very Japanese. It’s a two layered bento box with a variety of dishes, mostly fish, vegetables and rice. There is a menu in the box, but that is only in Japanese. So I can’t really tell you exactly what it is you can see in the pictures. Miso soup is served with the meal. To drink I have a cup of Perrier.
And then to conclude the meal I have a cup of Starbuck’s branded coffee and a chocolate fondant biscuit that is so divine I have to ask for a second one.
ANA’s premium meal concept on domestic flights is quite simple, but it serves its purpose well – the bento box and miso are rather nice.
For the rest of the flight I listen to my own music. Throughout the flight the crew pass through the cabin regularly to ensure that passengers are comfortable and to check if any one needs anything.
One hour out of Ishigaki there is another drinks service, which is accompanied by a basket with savoury and sweet snacks.
As I already mentioned, it was a lovely day when we departed from Haneda this morning. Unfortunately though I can’t really say the same about Ishigaki. It’s definitely warmer, but that’s about it. It’s quite windy and it’s raining – perfect weather to lounge around inside and read a good book or two. Which is, I think, what I shall do until the weather clears.
Welcome to my last flight of 2012, the 112th flight of the whole year. This review covers my journey from Tokyo’s Narita airport to Frankfurt on 31 December 2012.
I arrived in Tokyo the previous night on a Japan Airlines flight from Sapporo. I spend the night at the Century Southern Tower Hotel in Shinjuku, in close proximity to Shinjuku station and with rooms overlooking the tracks.
From: Tokyo Narita To: Frankfurt Airline: ANA – All Nippon Airways Aircraft: B 777-300 Cabin: Business Class Seat: 15A, window, left side Date: 31. 12. 2012
Getting to the Airport
I leave the hotel at around 08h00 in the morning. The next direct Narita Express train from Shinjuku will not be leaving until 09h39, so instead I hop on a Chuo Line train bound for Tokyo station and grab the Narita Express from there at 09h00. The journey from Tokyo proper to Narita’s Terminal 1, ANA’s home, takes 58 minutes to complete.
ANA has a dedicated row of counters reserved exclusively for Star Gold members. As I arrive the place is deserted and there are about five check-in agents waiting to assist me with the check-in process.
The ANA lounges are located near gate 52, from where my flight will be leaving later on. The Star Gold lounge is enormous and offers a variety of different seating options. Needless to say I choose a seat by the window overlooking the action on the ramp.
There is a good selection of hot and cold dishes and drinks. The soft drinks are dispensed from a machine – what else?
And here are some of the views outside. The Singapore Airlines pushed back on time and even started all engines. But after it had been standing on the taxiway for about 20 minutes, the aircraft rolled onto the stand again instead of departing. It was still there when my flight left.
Boarding starts exactly on time and is a well organised and orderly affair. First passengers with children or in need of assistance are boarded and then it’s the First and Business Class passengers.
The load in Business Class on the flight is very light today, with none of the seats between the two aisles occupied.
The cabin on this bird reminds me a lot of the Cathay Pacific Business Class set up in that the seating configuration offers a considerable degree of privacy in a 1 – 2 – 1 configuration.
When I arrive at my seat, there is already a pair of Sony earphones there, together with slippers, a large blue pillow and a large and very soft blanket. Before we depart I am also handed a thick blue cardigan in case I start to feel cold.
The cabin crew are polite and efficient. With the light load in Business Class today they take their time with the passengers, making sure everybody feels welcome. They are personable and give you the impression of really enjoying their job!
For a welcome drink there is a choice of sparkling wine or cold green tea. I take the latter. For safety reasons the drinks must be served in plastic cups while we’re still on the ground.
And then we’re off!
Once we are airborne, service begins with the distribution of cypress scented hot towels.
There are no vanity kits on this flight. But after the meal the crew set up a basket with a variety of items in the rear Business Class galley: moisturising facial masks, ear plugs, toothbrushes, eye masks and a few other items of which I’m not quite sure what they’re supposed to do.
First the table is set and the menus are distributed. And then the experience begins.
For an amuse bouche there is a small plate with a combination of Japanese and Western dishes: a small item made of pancetta and cream cheese stacked in layers. It comes with a olive filled with sardine paste and a Japanese style salted plum; cheese pastry sticks and a small dish of Tofu with Wasabi; soy beans and jelly.
To drink I have a glass of plum wine and a Perrier with lemon.
What I particularly like about the ANA meal service is that they do not use trays at all. Your table is set when they bring you the first course. The cabin attendant places a small side plate with two different types of bread on my table. With that she also places two small dish on the table: one with butter and olive oil in it and the other with ground pepper and sea salt.
Chicken, scallop and mushroom terrine with a bean salad and grilled bell pepper; pickled onions, cucumber and radish with truffle scented salt and olive oil.
The taste is excellent. The scallop and the chicken go well together, the pickles perfectly adding flavour, together with an ever so subtle hint of the truffle.
Sautéed tilefish with a yuzu-citron chilli paste flavoured vinaigrette, pancetta, Japanese mustard spinach and new potatoes.
It is a very unusual combination of flavours that works surprisingly well. The salty pancetta gives the chunky tilefish a lot of extra flavour and the citrus sauce is simply divine.
Camembert and Roquefort cheese with dried apricots and prunes, with fig bread.
And then it comes, the grand finale. This must be, without a doubt, the best dessert I have ever had on a plane. It is simply divine, with an amazing combination of textures and flavours that harmonise so elegantly that you forget you’re actually eating on a plane and not in a restaurant: a velvety smooth milk chocolate cream infused with pieces of praliné puff pastry, slices of thin milk chocolate with caramelised hazelnut pieces and hazelnut flavoured shortbread.
To finish off the meal I have a cup of coffee. The meal is over and yet the cabin crew continue their relentless onslaught on my taste buds: with the coffee I am served a chocolate praliné that seems harmless enough to look at. But then I bite into it and the sublime taste of rich chocolate, Early Grey tea and bergamot explodes on my palate.
The attendant brings me a bottle of water and then slowly the lights go out – and so do I. The seat is perhaps a tad too narrow, but only just and I still manage to have a very decent and comfortable sleep of about five hours.
When I awake I’m feeling peckish and we’ve still got another four hours to go to Frankfurt. A flight attendant notices me looking at the menu. But instead of approaching my seat directly, she walks past me towards the rear of the cabin and stops a short distance away where she can keep an eye on me unnoticed. As soon as I look up from the menu she appears, seemingly out of nowhere to take my order. Simply outstanding service!
So I order myself a bowl of Ramen in a spicy broth with spring onion. There is also a little sachet of something – it’s all in Japanese – which I decide to open and add to my soup, despite not quite knowing what it is. At a glance I assume it’s shredded radish or something. By the time I realise it’s garlic it’s already too late. The soup really is very tasty.
About two hours out of Frankfurt the cabin slowly comes to life again, window shades go up as the bleary-eyed passengers cast a surreptitious glance out the window to check the view outside: clouds as far as the eye can see. At least there are some pretty crystals forming on the outer layer of the window.
The flight attendant arrives and asks me if I’ll be having the Western or Japanese second meal. I opt for the Western meal – apparently a creation by the Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo – and it is yet another delectable and delightful meal, an array of unusual combinations of tastes.
The Second Service
Juniper berry flavoured beef consommé with red wine and Kyoto carrot cream and a basil and garlic pesto.
Parmesan scented cereal cake with smoked salmon and braised endive.
Mandarin and pomegranate mousse.
The meal is served with a selection from the breadbasket and a small dish of butter and black pepper savoured blood orange jam.
To finish the meal I have another cup of coffee.
After a flying time of 11 hours and 15 minutes our flight draws to a close as we land on the southernmost of the three parallel runways in Frankfurt. A part of the Lufthansa wide-body fleet has been parked up for the holidays. The sight reminds me a bit of when the Swissair fleet was grounded ahead of bankruptcy.
The next aircraft to come in behind us is the Japan Airlines flight from Tokyo – we beat them by about 5 minutes!
Immigration is a breeze and before long I’m already checking in to the Hilton at Frankfurt airport. I’ll probably sleep through the New Year, but that’s okay really. It’s what I usually end up doing anyway.
Well that was fun! My experience with ANA is a truly enjoyable and remarkable one. I found the cabin crew to be very courteous and attentive and very charming in their handling of the passengers. They had a good sense of humour and no request ever seemed to be too much for them. There was a young couple travelling with a little girl of maybe three years of age and it was truly heartwarming to watch the cabin crew do their utmost to keep the child entertained so her parents could get a rest.
The food on this flight was outstanding and certainly surpassed the meal I had in Lufthansa First Class on my way to Japan in terms of quality, taste and presentation.
I like very much what ANA has done with the Business Class cabin. The seat is comfortable and offers a high degree of privacy. My only complaint is that perhaps the seat is just a bit too narrow, but not to a degree where it prevents you from sleeping.
This has been a memorable experience and a fun trip. Tomorrow I will have my first trip in the new year, a short hop from Frankfurt back to Basel. Then three weeks later I’ll be off to Montreal again, this time however, on a Speedbird.