Saturday, July 21, 2012

ANA begins non-stop service from Seattle to Tokyo

Travelers from Seattle to Japan now have a third airline to choose from when flying non-stop to Tokyo’s Narita Airport. ANA, the go-to-market name for All Nippon Airways, commenced service July 25.

Previously, only Delta and United operated non-stops from Seattle to Tokyo (SEA-TYO).

ANA flights leave SeaTac at 1:15 p.m. and arrive in Tokyo at 3:15 p.m. local time the next day, as the flights cross the international date line.  Return flights leave at 5:25 p.m. local time, arriving in Seattle at 10:55 a.m. on the same day the flight departed, again owing to crossing the international date line.

As of  July 21, an economy ticket for flights leaving August 10 and returning August 17 could be purchased for as low as $2,425.50, while the lowest Business Class round trip ticket is $7,650.50, and First Class seats are available for as low as $9,250.50.  At those prices, all classes of ticket have restrictions; unrestricted fares are, of course, higher.

Coach fares are approximately double the price available on Delta, either through the airline’s own website or through Travelocity. Moving to Business Class, however, the gap narrows, with at least one Delta business fare available on the same travel dates for $6,533.10.

But then, you get what you pay for.

While I can’t remember when my last Delta flight was, I can remember being distinctly unimpressed. And I’ve been pretty outspoken in my criticisms of United, which sadly have not been abated by their merger with Continental.

ANA, on the other hand, has an excellent reputation in the travel industry (as do many non-U.S. carriers) and boasts of a number of awards, including being named Best Transpacific Airline in 2012 by the airline review web site SKYTRAX.

Although passengers will ride in a 777 for the first few months, ANA will replace the triple-7 with a 787, Boeing’s new Dreamliner that is winning accolades from its passengers, on Oct. 1, according to its web site. ANA was the first airline to take delivery of the Dreamliner and is currently operating 10 according to the latest Boeing data. The only other airline to have taken delivery of the 787 is Japan Airlines, which has taken delivery of four to date. Accordingly, passengers who choose to fly to Tokyo on Delta or United can be assured they’ll be riding older aircraft.

 It might be appropriate to insert some words of caution here: ANA has a code-share arrangement with United Airlines, and United's flights are also presented as options on ANA's web site, following the flights operated by ANA. Be sure to look for the words "Operated by United Airlines" to be sure you're choosing ANA flights, particularly if you want to ride aboard a new Dreamliner and not an older plane.

In addition to the age of the aircraft they operate, both U.S. airlines have recently been criticized for their lack of customer service as well as the state of their aircraft.

In my recent post “Actuallyusing those frequent flier miles,” I cited a survey that showed Delta at the bottom of the heap when passengers tried to use their accumulated miles.

Seattle Times travel writer Carol Pucci was also recently critical of the airline, writing on May 26 that Delta’s taking over of Air France's daily Seattle-to-Paris daily nonstop provided passengers with “the travel equivalent of a stale baguette.”  In fairness, Pucci later reported that Delta will be replacing the aging 767-300 it now flies on that route with a newer model 767 by January 2013.

Even with all else equal, I still recommend flying an airline operated by the country for which you’re headed. That way, you begin experiencing some of the flavor of your destination as soon as you board the aircraft rather than waiting until after you’ve cleared customs upon arrival.

Bon voyage!

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.

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