What’s it like to fly business class with ANA (All Nippon Airways)?

 

ANA (All Nippon Airways) is the largest airline in Japan, a member of Star Alliance, and ranked one of the top 10 airlines in the world. It is one of less than 10 airlines worldwide to currently hold Sytrax’s 5-star rating and has a fleet of more than 230 aircraft, with a coverage of over 170 different routes. Domestically it covers 50 cities, and internationally 32 destinations.

Having flown business class with the airline four times in just one week, amounting to almost 40 hours of flying time, I feel I’m now fairly well versed in being able to describe the experience. From London Heathrow to Tokyo Haneda International and back, I flew on the B777-300 and it is that experience I’ll focus on here. The significance of Haneda, though, should not be underestimated as it can be used as a stop-over for travellers from Europe and the US going on to other destinations with ANA such as – in my case – Singapore, with the option to spend just a few hours or a few days in the Japanese capital.

Tokyo Haneda International Airport

Pre-flight

Check-in was courteous, quick and efficient. Since the airline is a member of Star Alliance, I had access to Star Alliance lounges (United at Heathrow Terminal 2 and ANA’s own lounge at Tokyo Haneda) which in both cases happened to be conveniently right next to the gate.

ANA check-in

The seat

As a single traveller for this trip, I really appreciated ANA’s staggered business class seat configuration which gave a great deal of individual privacy.

ANA seats from behind

My initial reaction was that the seat didn’t look to be all that that long, but it is deceptive in its appearance and there’s a significant amount of leg room concealed beneath the monitor. Once in the flat position (and the seat does go fully flat), I found I had ample room with at least a couple of inches still to spare (I’m 6 ft tall).

ANA business class seating

ANA seat from behind

To make your trip even more comfortable, the following items are provided:

Nishikawa Sangyo’s Air Cyclone® bed pad – this won a 2012 Good Design Award

Nishikawa Sangyo quilt comforter – this is very light, but gives a sufficient degree of warmth

Nishikawa Sangyo structural pillow – this is concave in the centre and can also serve as a lumbar support when your seat is in the upright position, although the seat also has this kind of support built in

All this combined to give me an experience on which I had no difficulty sleeping.

The seat control offers four options – trackback, recline, lumbar support and upright/bed. There is a ‘do not disturb’ button, a coat hook and a spotlight for more direct lighting.

ANA seat controls

In front of you is a TV screen with a hidden control panel just beneath that reveals a USB port, iPod socket and Empower charging point.

ANA screen

ANA sockets

The service

Cabin staff had a welcoming smile and came round offering a choice of orange juice or sparkling wine once we were settled in our seats. Reading material such as the New York Times International Edition, Financial Times, WSJ and a variety of Japanese publications were also offered. On my outbound flight, I chose the Sunday Times travel magazine which, as luck would have it, had a cover feature on Tokyo.

Throughout my flights, staff were attentive without being too intrusive, offering to top up drinks, etc. If you just want to be completely ‘left be’, you can always illuminate the ‘do not disturb’ light.

The food

After being offered the in-flight menu, and a flannel and drink to freshen up, the pull-out table was laid with a tablecloth. I always feel it must be extremely challenging to serve quality food from 30,000 feet, but it was generally good, thanks in no small measure, I’m sure, to the team of ’26 Connoisseurs’ behind it all. There is a choice of both Japanese and international options, each led by different connoisseurs, as well as a selection of light dishes that can be enjoyed at any time. There are also conoisseur-selected wines, sake and whisky.

On my out-bound flight I tried the Japanese option…

Amuse: Pâté de campagne with orange canapé-style, sautéed prawn with lemon and herb, mushroom stuffed with chicken mousse

ANA light bites

Steamed rice, miso soup and assorted Japanese pickles, sake-steamed yellowtail with grated daikon radish thick broth

ANA Japanese food

Soy-based sauce cured hering roe, marinated prawn saikyo miso taste, simmered duck in soy-based sauce and simmered beans in syrup, simmered assorted vegetables and chicken dumpling, smoked salmon and quick-seared scallop with egg yolk vinegar

ANA Japanese cuisine

…and on my return I tried the international menu…

Amuse: Yuzu-citron flavored cheese bar, smoked fishcake, and two kinds of olive and cheese with herbed oil

ANA amuse bouche

Coppa ham, melon and sea bass brandade with smoked scallop gâteau-style (my favourite course!)

ANA in-flight starter

Fillet of beef steak yuzu-citron flavour with Takahata wine sauce

ANA in-flight main course

Amenities

A L’Occitane pouch was provided. This contained: L’Occitane ultra-rich lip balm with 10% shea butter, L’Occitane fabulous serum for skin hydration, eyemask, tissues, cotton set, earplugs, toothbrush and toothpaste.

Also supplied was a pair of slippers and a set of noise cancelling headphones to use with the entertainment system.

Reading material included Wingspan (the in-flight magazine of ANA Group), ANA seat service guide, a WiFi service guide and safety instructions, in addition to the reading offerings already mentioned.

Entertainment

On screen options include Skychannel (with a choice of movies, videos, news, audio, games and entertainment guide), Skyshop and Innovative Channel, with the latter including ‘ANA Original’ films. These actually made for quite interesting view; there were two available – one about Stephane Danton, a trained French sommelier, who had turned the world of Japanese tea on its head by introducing flavoured teas, and one about Tyler Lynch, an American running a successful ryokan in northern Nagano. More mainstream Hollywood movies including the likes of The Matrix and Vanilla Sky were available through the Skychannel.

ANA entertainment

On-board WiFi was available and worked reasonably well at a cost of $12 per 10MB.

ANA in-flight WiFi

Finally, ANA’s Takeoff Mode app is also worth a mention. If you’re a nervous flyer – or simply like to find different ways to while away the time when travelling – then take a look. Once downloaded, it doesn’t require an internet connection to play; it serves as a neat little distraction from take-off or landing, is easy to play and quite addictive once you get started. You can learn more about the app through this ANA video:

Give it a go and see if you can beat my high score of 3,380!

ANA Takeoff Mode app

Of course, the ultimate entertainment was the view outside… particularly when we got a fantastic view of Mount Fuji!

Mount Fuji

Disclosure: This post was created in partnership with ANA - All Nippon Airways. All opinions expressed in the post are my own and not those of ANA.

Comments (15)

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  1. noel says:

    I’ve flown ANA to Haneda and the service and food is fantastic in the coach section but wow, business class is definitely the way to go on this service. That food looks truly amazing and I want to go now back to Japan.

  2. Anna Parker says:

    I’ve never flown anything apart from a British or an American carrier so what I really like is the chance you have on this flight to try non-western food, and doesn’t it look tasty! The only thing I’m not sure about is how much cream plastic there is, it looks quite clinical – but then again, as you say, plenty of privacy as a result!

  3. Looks like an awfully nice way to cross many miles. Best of all I like the way the seats are built for privacy when traveling solo. I recent read about a similar app for nervous fliers that tunes into the sounds of the engines and works hard to relax you just as the noise gets loudest. The only thing the seats are missing is a ‘massage’ mode.

  4. The food looks excellent and, let’s face it, that is often not the case with other airlines. It all sounds extremely good and well thought through (apart from having to pay for Wi-Fi).
    The view of Mount Fuji, however, does rather overshadow everything else. Magical!

  5. Lash says:

    Hi Paul,

    Wow, sounds like you had several fabulous flights with ANA!

    I’ve been bumped up to Business Class twice, but neither of the airlines had this degree of upscale service I must say.

    But having lived in Japan for 6 years and flown with both JAL and ANA several times, I’m not at all surprised at the super high level of service, gourmet food, tech options and other amenities on your flights with ANA. When the Japanese do anything, they do it 110%, that’s for sure.

    I’ll have to experience ANA business class one day.

    Thanks for the report.

    cheers, Lash

  6. Paul Johnson says:

    Thank you, everyone… yes, it was a very pleasant and comfortable way to travel. I wouldn’t personally expect on-board WiFi to be free with a business class seat (perhaps more chance with first class, I don’t know)… I don’t think it’s really like a hotel where you might expect it to be included in the room rate. There are significant additional costs (I would assume) just in the set-up of airborne WiFi versus the same on the ground. http://aviation.about.com/od/Airline-Finances/a/Airborne-Wifi-Faqs-Broadband-Takes-Flight.htm suggests that those costs could be in the region of $100,000 per plane.

  7. Angelina says:

    Not many European and US travelers have tried ANA, but once you try their flights, it will be hard to find match, especially on international routes. The Japanese precision and attention to detail in cabin reflects in every inch. I particularly like their choice of meals and Japanese dishes are hand-picked and taste awesome. If you do not surf web or play games, in their business class seats- just sleep. The blanket, 4 way adjustable seats and space- there is nothing to grudge about.

  8. Paul Johnson says:

    Thanks for dropping by and commenting, Angelina – I’m glad you enjoyed it as much as I did!

  9. Chad says:

    I am very pleased to hear good things about ANA business class. Myself, wife and adult daughter are flying from San Jose CA to Tokyo in April 2016. I picked business class because I will not spend 10 hours on a flight in economy ever again. Did that flying to Europe in the center seat of a 2-5-2 arrangement, me of course being in the center of the 5. NEVER AGAIN. Looking forward to the space, comfort and service. Can hardly wait. Thanks again for the good news.

  10. Paul Johnson says:

    You’re welcome, Chad. I’m sure you’ll find it a much more comfortable experience. Please come back afterwards and let us know how you got on!

  11. Carie says:

    I flew business class with ANA from London to Tokyo in September 2015. It was as described above. My only comment would be the tv offerings which were not great. I am returning to Japan next week and praying that they have updated the tv selection!

  12. Paul Johnson says:

    Thank you, Carie – I’m glad to hear you feel it is an accurate account of the experience.

    I don’t know if the TV offering has been changed, I’m afraid, but I notice your IP address resolves to the UK. If you have an iPad, have you considered downloading programmes from iPlayer in advance of your trip?

    Safe travels,

    Paul

  13. Shane Redwood says:

    I am going to be experiencing my first business class flight on the new Lhr-Syd route, via Haneda. The price is good, From £2499 advertised, mine was £2496.

    Only problem with flying on a Japanese airline…. I hate seafood…

    Still looking forward to a flight where I can lie down, it’ll be a first.

  14. Paul Johnson says:

    Hello Shane

    I don’t think you need to worry – I’m sure you’ll find there are plenty of non-seafood options. Enjoy your flight and do please let us know how you get on.

    Paul

  15. Carie says:

    Hi Shane
    I have just returned to London from Tokyo on ANA. There are certainly non fish options on the menu. I stuck to the international option. The journey from Haneda airport took nearly 13 hrs due to a strong headwind but thankfully they had updated the tv options since my last trip in September. Enjoy the flight!

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