ANA All Nippon Airways, Business Class (The Room) – Boeing B 777-300: Tokyo Haneda to London Heathrow

Getting to Haneda Airport from Shinjuku

I haven’t been in Japan long enough to get jetlag, which is good because it means that when I leave my hotel in Shinjuku just before six in the morning, I’m actually feeling rather bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

To get from Shinjuku to Haneda airport by public transport, you can either catch an airport bus from the bus terminus at Shinjuku, or you can take a train and then the monorail – which is what I do. First, I take the Yamanote JR Line to Hamamatsucho. The nice thing about the Yamanote is that it runs in a circle. So even if you catch a train going the wrong way, you’ll still get there in the end.

From Hamamatsucho I catch the Tokyo Monorail from one floor up to take me to Haneda. The train’s first stop at the airport is Terminal 3, which is from where the international flights leave. The ticket is JPY700 for a oneway from Shinjuku to Haneda.

Check-in

ANA checks in on rows C, D and E. If you’re in Business Class and not using the check-in kiosks, head for row C. But be warned… The Japanese are incredibly polite, but also incredibly complicated. It takes me 20 minues to reach the head of the queue, mainly because the check-in agents spend a lot of time doing utterly useless things. For example, they label a suitcase on the conveyor belt. Next they open the security screen, check twice that there is nothing stuck in the conveyor belt, and then push the button for the belt to start moving and the suitcase to move forward to the main belt. Once the suitcase is gone, they close the screen, again checking that nothing has managed to get stuck anywhere. Mindfullness is one thing, but this just really very inefficient and very frustrating. I mean, it’s not as though lives hang in the balance by leaving the screen for the main conveyor belt open.

The check-in agent checks me in to Heathrow and then informs me that she cannot check me in for the last leg, because ANA has no check-in interline agreement in place with BA…

After check-in comes security, which again seems way more complicated in how it’s organised than it need be. But eventually, I manage, I’m through security and passport control.

The ANA Business Class Lounge

At Haneda airport ANA has a First Class lounge and the Business and Star Gold lounge. The views from the lounge are excellent. Too bad the place is crawling with people and there’s hardly any place to sit.

The lounge has an interesting selection of hot and cold Western and Japanese food items available from a buffet. The selection is good, but you need a bit of patience…

The entrance to the lounge is opposite gate 110, which also happens to be my gate for London.

Boarding

Boarding is by zones and a very orderly and quiet process. It looks as though it’s going to be a full flight.

Our departure is scheduled for 09:25. However, there’s a bit of a hold up because of something related to having to check the hold luggage. By the time we push back, we running an hour late.

The Room

ANA’s Boeing B 777-300 fleet has The Room Business Class seat installed. The main feature of the seat is a side panel that can be raised and a sliding door for more privacy. The door isn’t very high, though. The unevenly numbered seats are rear-facing and closer to the window, whereas the evenly-numbered seats are forward-facing and closer to the aisle.

The big advantage of this seat is that it is quite spacious. Other than that though, I have to say that it’s one of the more uncomfortable seats I’ve ever experienced, especially given that our flight time to London today is going to be 14 hours. First of all, the seat is very low above the ground. With my feet flat on the floor, the angle of my thighs to my torso is about 45 degrees and not very comfortable. The seatback is fully flat and offers zero back support.

I am 184 cm tall, which is pretty average for a male adult. Even so, it’s impossible for me to stretch out fully with the seat extended to a bed. The best results are achieved by lying at an angle, but even then it is not a comfortable surface to sleep on.

As far as I’m concerned, the seat’s only redeeming feature is that it gives me a comfortable and unobstructed view of the wing and the engine. The size of those things…

The Service

There are two Western cabin crew on this flight. One of them is male. The rest of the cabin crew are female. Service begins on the ground with the distribution of the welcome drinks. On offer are sparkling wine and orange juice. The cabin crew kindly oblige me with a still water instead.

After an hour of more or less incessant announcements in both Japanese and English, none of which make any sense, we’re finally ready to push. As we taxi out to our runway, we pass a whole line up of aircraft that look as though they have not been active in quite a while, including this B 787 with both its engines missing.

You can say what you like, but the B 777-300 is a total beast. Even heavily laden for a 14 hour leg across both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans the acceleration is impressive. Our climb out takes us in a zig-zag route over Tokyo toward Narita, from where we start our Pacific crossing.

Our routing today takes us up north along the Kamchatka peninsula. We then cross the Bering strait and make a beeline for Greenland, then Iceland and eventually Scotland. As we fly over the Northpole, it’s fascinating to watch the compass on screen gradually adjust.

The Meal – First Service

As on the outbound flight, I decide to go with the Japanese option.

The planned amuse bouche has been swapped and replaced with a special Japanese New Year dish of dried fish and something. It’s not very good and rather bland.

To be perfectly honest, the meal is incredibly boring and very bland. Essentially, it’s soy sauce with a variety of different veggies, meat or fish that all taste of, well… soy sauce and not much else.

The only remarkable thing about this meal is the stupendous chocolate mousse, which is rich, creamy and sumptuous.

The Meal – Inflight Snacking

ANA has a wide selection of snacks available in case you get the hungries on such a long flight, of which I try the delectable fondant biscuits, the vanilla ice cream, the fruit, the cheese plate and the IPPUDO plant-based ramen. If I’d known earlier, I think I would have skipped the main meal and just had the ramen.

The ramen can be spiced up with a small red sachet of red chilli paste, which is lovely!

The Meal – Second Service

Two hours out of Heathrow, the second meal service starts, and again I go for the Japanese option. Perhaps a note for vegetarians: ANA is really not very good with non-meat dishes. If you don’t want to go hungry, I would strongly recommend ordering a special meal ahead.

As expected, the second service tastes a lot like soy sauce. I have a coffee and a fondant biscuit for dessert just to make sure I’m not suffering from a sudden loss of taste.

Arrival into Heathrow

We make landfall over Scotland and fly down the length of the UK to make an approach from the East. Our final decent brings us in right over London and the West End. It’s a spectacular view that just never gets old!

Despite our departure delay of one hour, we land in Heathrow exactly on time, at 15:25. Our flight comes to an end at the satellite terminal 2B. I now have two hours to make my connection from Terminal 5.

Conclusion – The Verdict

Meh…! That was a bit of a let down, from the mess at check-in and the crowds in the lounge to the very bland food on the plane and the uncomfortable seat, this was not a pleasant experience with ANA. I seriously think I’m going to have to see a chiropractor when I get back. The flight’s redeeming features were a) the crew, which were all just so nice and friendly, and b) the fact that the flight was operated by a Boeing B 777-300. I mean, have you seen the size of those engines…!? Other than that, I wouldn’t actively avoid ANA in future, but I definitely won’t go out of my way to fly with them either.

ANA All Nippon Airways, Business Class – Boeing B 787-9: Frankfurt to Tokyo Haneda

Transfer in Frankfurt

The bus that picked us up at our aircraft arriving from Amsterdam ejects me somewhere deep in the bowels of the A concourse of Frankfurt airport, and I still need to make my way through the underworld and the passage of doom that connects the A and B concourses at Frankfurt airport and go through passport control. There is a guy with a sign for the ANA flight standing there as I enter the building, which I consider a good sign. He gives me instructions for how to reach the B concourse and tells me there is enough time. They have advised the gate ahead and they are holding the flight for me and the three other passengers coming off the Amsterdam flight. Frankfurt is very busy, so that by the time I finally reach the gate, the flight is already in the final stages of boarding. So no photos of the outside of the aircraft. It’s dark outside anyway…

The Cabin

On the B 787-9 ANA does not offer a First Class cabin. Instead, the Business class cabin is divided in two sections. There are two different cabin configurations on the B 787-9 that operate internationally. On my bird, row 8 is the bulkead row in the rear Business Class cabin. The aircraft is configured in a staggered 1 + 2 + 1 layout. The evenly numbered seats are window seats and offer a bit more privacy. The unevenly numbered seats are aisle seats, which are also nice – but a little less private. In addition, there are no middle seats on row 8, which makes my seat feel even more secluded and cosy. The proximity of the seat to the galley is not an issue during the flight.

The seat is a bit strange is that while there is ample space to place things, there is no storage space in the sense of a small bin that can be closed.

The IFE can be operated either by touch screen or by remote control. The screen is close enough for me to be able to use the touch screen functionality comfortably. Not that it really matters, because I only use the moving map to track our progress, and not much else.

The foot well is a good size, so that I am able to move and turn comfortably despite my size 10 feet.

Amenities

At my seat when I board is a nice comfortable memory foam pillow, a soft blanket with an opening to place your feet, a thin but very useful mattress, a pair of slippers, the earphones (Sony) and the vanity kit.

The vanity kit contains a toothbrush and toothpaste, eye shades, ear plugs, lip balm and yuzu facial mist (…??). There are more dental kits and mouth wash available in the lavatories.

The Service

The service on the ground begins with either orange juice or champagne for a welcome drink, which are served American-style from plastic cups. I ask for a bottle of still water instead.

The refreshing towels are now pre-packaged, which I’m guessing is a Covid-related move.

The flight begins with a string of seemingly endless short films: first comes the safety on board video, followed by a video about the hygene measures on board and a PhD-worthy treatise on air circulation on a modern airliners, and then another video on how to prevent the spreading of Covid.

The Meal – First Service

For the main service, there are three options to choose from – two international choices (beef or fish) and one Japanese option, which is what I have.

To drink I have a glass of sparkling water and something that is referred to on the menu as Kabusu, which is a signature soft drink made of citrus fruit for ANA. It’s very sweet, but also very tasty.

On the right is the foie gras amuse bouche. I’ll really never be a fan…

The Japanese meal is very tasty. It’s also nicely presented. The simmered beef (top left) looks kind of strange but tastes very good.

The main course is served with Gohan (rice), miso soup and pickels.

My only complaint about the meal service is that it simply takes too long. We were airborne by 21h05. It then takes over two hours to get the meal service done. By the time I finish with the main course, I’m just so tired that I decide to skip dessert. Instead, I go change into a pair of shorts, make up the bead and go off to Noddy land.

The Meal – Second Service

And what a trip it is to Noddy land! At some point during the night I begin to stir. I cautiously lift the lid of my eye shades to find the cabin brightly lit. At first I figure it’s the obnoxious mother seated on row 9, who has been pestering the poor crew ever since she stepped aboard the aircraft with Satan’s spawn in Frankfurt. Although to be fair, the kid is really cute and rather well behaved. It’s just a shame the same cannot be said for his mother.

I digress. I take a look at my watch and that’s when I realise the cabin is lit up because they’ve started with the breakfast service. We have 90 minutes to run to Handea, which means that I slept nearly eight hours solid without a murmur. Not bad. So, I quickly change back into my street clothes while the cabin crew bring me an orange juice and coffee.

For the second service there are also three options – Japanese, International and Continental. I go with the international meal.

The meal consists of a frittata, bacon and grilled veg.

A small bowl of fruit.

And pastries from the bread basket, served with butter and jam.

Arrival into Haneda

By the time we land in Haneda at 17:40 it’s already dark outside. I step off the plane and prepare to do a lot of waiting while I get processed to be able to enter the country. Much to my surprise though, the whole process doesn’t actually take that long, if you’re prepared. Basically, you will need three QR codes: the immigration form, the customs form and the COVID declaration form. A link to complete the forms was sent to me a few weeks before departure from ANA.

Getting from Haneda to Shinjuku

In Tokyo I’ll be staying in Shinjuku. I first take the monorail from the airport to Hamamtsucho, which takes roughly 20 minutes. There I connect to the Yamanote line, which takes another 30 minutes to reach Shinjuku. A oneway tickets costs Y500. The ticket vending machines accept cash only.

Conclusion

B***h momma aside, I rather enjoyed this flight with ANA. I think what really struck me, was just how noisy the Boeing B 787-9 was. Admittedly, that might also have been because I was sitting right next to the engine. Other than that, the seat was very comfortable and private. I don’t think I’ve ever slept so well and so long on a plane!

Japan Air Lines, Business Class – Boeing B 777-300: LHR to NRT – the next day

I awake again just under two hours out of Tokyo to this magnificent view.

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The Second Service

For the second service there is either a Japanese meal or a western meal. However, passengers also have the possibility to choose from a large selection of other dishes that they can put together individually. I decide to go with the JAL trademark Tokyo Curry Lab vegetable curry and a plate fruit. The curry is delicious and the fruit have remained surprisingly juicy. I finish off the meal with a cup of coffee. Coffee incidentally, is something JAL do really well.

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Arrival

We’ve now left the mainland behind us. As I write we’re crossing the sea towards Japan, only one hour left to go. I think I’ll leave it here for this post, which I’m also delivering from on board the flight.

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Expect the next installment shortly, but not from Tokyo.