Thursday, March 24, 2016

ANA 777 First Class JFK - NRT Trip Report

Pros 
  • Best in-flight meal ever
  • Fantastic service
  • Great seat/bed
  • Toto Washlet on board
  • Nice departure time (noon Eastern) means a very calm Terminal 7

Cons
  • Honestly, none. Other than it's 30,000 more points per person each way than Korean Air First Class, but you get what you pay for...

How I did it

Detailed info is over here, but the short story is: 110,000 United Miles + $5.60 in fees, per person, one way. We earned those miles through a combination of last year's flying on United and one 50,000-point United credit card sign up bonus. We booked around 9 months in advance

Arriving

We got stuck trying to do online check-in, but a quick call to ANA got that sorted out. ANA uses Terminal 7 at JFK, along with British, Cathay, and Iceland Air. Since the bulk of British Airways flights happen in the evening, the terminal was basically empty when we arrived at 10:30am. 

ANA check-in for all cabins is located to the right of the main hallway. For some reason our TSA Pre information didn't make it into ANA's computers from United, but the terminal was so empty it wasn't worth messing around with. The First Class check-in line was empty, and the agent offered to switch us to two center seats since it's quite difficult to have a conversation between a window and aisle due to the design of the seats. We accepted. He then directed us to the First Class lounge, which is a separate space to the left of the normal British Airways/One World Galleries lounge. 


Lounge

I'm not much of a lounge nerd, so I'll be brief:
  • Nice selection of food (onigiri rice balls, sushi rolls, hot oatmeal, pastries, nuts, snacks)
  • Nice selection of drinks (espresso, real champagne, pour-yourself bar) 
  • Not too busy, but I'm guessing it's a zoo in here between 7pm to 11pm
  • Broken Wi-Fi, but hey, they had a copier with a built-in fax machine…
I'd been in the Galleries lounge but I've never "gone left" after the lounge dragon!

Computers and copier

With Fax machine no less!

和食 Japanese food options

Pastries

Hot oatmeal and toppings

Full pour-yourself bar and espresso machine

real champagne

Mostly empty at 10:30am

Boarding

The boarding process seemed more orderly than the last time we flew ANA. There's a separate First Class boarding queue and the layout makes it much easier to enter without getting caught up in all of the boarding melee. We were greeted by name and shown to our seats.

The seat is like a miniature apartment - it took me a while to figure out all of the buttons and find all of the secret compartments. (Definitely keep poking until you find the chair massage button!) I know it sounds weird but the tray table is so simple and so perfect that I think it's my favorite part of the whole seat. The laptop storage drawer is also nice, but I wonder how many laptops get left behind on there. Pre-departure champagne, orange juice, and newspapers were offered. There was only one other person in First Class (i.e., 5 empty seats!).




Our adjoining seats

Immigration papers and pen waiting for us

Samsonite amenity kit, headphones, slippers, pajamas

slide the seat forward if you want to chat

Sure, I'd love some Krug to start...

Food

There's almost never a good reason to eat on a plane. You'll never feel better after airplane food than before it.  … Much better to show up in a new place and be hungry and eat at even a little street stall than arrive gassy and bloated, full, flatulent, hungover.  — Anthony Bourdain
I've agreed with this great quote for a long time, but after my recent flight I think this quote needs asterisk:  * unless you're flying long-haul ANA First Class. This was by far the best in-flight meal I've ever eaten. There's a full dinner, an elaborate hot and cold snack menu, and then pre-landing there's another light meal. I'll include the full menu and wine list screen caps at the end.


Amuse and Krug
Zensai. The fig jelly hiding under the whelk was amazing
Owan soup with clam
Tai sashimi with yuzu kosho
some tasty Gifu sake
Icelandic Halibut, monkfish liver, lobster
rice, miso, pickles
whisked matcha and wagashi
Dr. K doesn't like wagashi so he had cake instead...
Annnnd a Hibiki 21 to finish it off...

Sleep

When I went into the lavatory to put on the ANA pajamas, the flight attendant made up my seat into a bed.  The mattress pad is made of memory foam and has has an egg carton-texture. The comforter was thick and soft and had big foot pocket at the bottom. They also give you a heavy, tempur-pedic pillow to replace or augment the more traditional pillow they give out before takeoff. 

After takeoff, you're presented a basket of amenities to supplement those in your amenity kit. The interesting item in here was the squash-and-sniff aromatherapy cards. You open the protective sleeve and then press down on the bump to crush a foam membrane full of lavender essential oil. (The paper on top keeps it from getting on your fingers). I'm guessing these cards also keeps the cabin from getting to fart-y after people start digesting their meals. 

Extra Amenities? 
Bathrooms are cleaned after each passenger

Hooray for TOTO Washlet!

Cloth towels

Even more amenities in the bathroom
Aromatherapy card

Waking up

the IFE is good - big screen, new release movies, television shows, seat to seat chat, tail camera, live map, and satellite phone. ANA produces some of their own shows and they're quite good -- up to date food, travel, culture, shopping, and city guides. The Wi-Fi pricing is a bit different from last year: now it's by time, but with data caps. Given that most phones offer lots of controls to limit cellular usage but very few to limit data consumption on Wi-Fi, it can be easy to go over the limit even while doing nothing.

Sony noise canceling headphones

Ippudo ramen on board!

Tail cam

ANA original programming

the Wi-Fi works OK, but the data caps make it expensive

Lol yes we ate AGAIN

I got a bit more sleep and then the pre-landing meal was served. Sake and shio kara to start, then rice, pickles, natto, amberjack, potted baby clams, and vinegar seaweed. The FA triple checked with me that I knew what I was eating because as my Japanese best friend's father used to say "If California roll is Japanese food's Kindergarten, Natto is graduate school." 

mmm salty squid guts...

Breakfast!

Dr. K wasn't in the mood for more Japanese so he just went crazy on the light meal options insead. He had the curry, the fish cakes, the focaccia, and the ramen (!!!)

Focaccia 

... with a side of ramen

Fish cakes 
And an espresso to keep us awake until Tokyo bedtime

Final Thoughts

Yuzu tea
Before landing I tried the yuzu tea and it was tasty and tart and beautiful and reminded me of the Omjia punch we had on the Korean Air flight we took last year. And while I'm on that topic, can I just say how much better the food is on this flight versus that one? And remember I'm saying this as someone who loves Korean food. We only spring for First Class if we want the in-flight meal and service to be something memorable, and it just wasn't on Korean Air. Our British Airways flight had good (not great) food but the service was so perfect and thoughtful that it's still one of my all-time favorite flights. The one cool thing Korean has that the others don't is the upstairs Business Class bar. I don't know if it was the time of our flight or just Korean culture but we had the whole bar to ourselves, which was cool but also meant there was no one to socialize with so we were back in our seats after only 45 minutes, so the bar wasn't a very big "plus".

Given that there were so many open seats, I wish they could release a few more of these to Star Alliance partners. I'd happily pay the 30,000 mile premium to fly with them versus basically anybody else on earth :)

If you're interested in Japanese food, I use my Instagram account as a food map + blog, so I've been blowing that up quite a bit since we got here. Our good friends George and Michael are taking ANA First from Tokyo to O'Hare in a couple weeks, hopefully I can convince them to post some ex-Narita food photos for me!

Full Menus

cover

wine & liquor

wine & liquor

wine & liquor

wine & liquor

more beverages

espresso

meal

snack options and second meal


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