ANA’s service was every bit as gracious as I recall the service being when I first experienced British Airways’ First Class some 25 years ago and clearly surpassed what I experienced in the business class sections of American Airlines and Spanish carrier Iberia Airlines (see previous post) just a couple of years ago.
A business class ticket on ANA includes lounge access at both SEA and NRT.
|Club International Lounge at SEA|
Lounges can be used pre-flight, and between flights if one is connecting.
It’s important to understand that first or business class on an overseas flight isn’t even in the same league with similarly named classes of service on domestic flights. Certainly, domestic passengers “up front” get better food, free drinks, and often – though not always – better service than what the airlines euphemistically call “the main cabin,” but it still does not compare to trans-Atlantic or trans-Pacific service.
Boarding the aircraft, I was greeted by one of the six ANA flight attendants (F/As) who would be looking after the business class cabin. As soon as I slipped into seat 3A, another F/A took my coat and offered me a choice of sparkling wine or green tea to sip prior to departure.
While the airline added an extra flight attendant for the Dreamliner’s inaugural passenger-carrying flight between the two cities, ANA normally has five F/As in business class, which is an excellent ratio of F/As to its 46 business class passengers. For comparison, Iberia had four F/As for 42 business class passengers.
Waiting at each seat were basic amenities including a pillow and blanket, slippers and a shoehorn. Rather than providing each passenger with a pre-stocked amenities kit as both Iberia and American did, ANA’s F/As offered passengers a range of items including earplugs and sleep masks, premoistened face cloths, and mouthwash. Complimentary postcards, pens and memo pads were also available.
Individual toothbrushes with toothpaste were available in the lavatories.
Additional amenities included knitwear for rent or complimentary pajamas for those would rather not spend 10 hours sitting in their Brooks Brothers or Jones New York suits.
|Standard Business Class seating|
The Dreamliner's entertainment centers also provide the ability to send text messages to fellow passengers, a feature that could prove useful for business associates who aren’t seated together and who may need to discreetly discuss business matters or an upcoming presentation.
One feature Dreamliners do not have at this time is in-flight Internet access. As I noted in a previous post, Boeing plans to have it available by the end of the year, and ANA plans to add it to its 787s.
Seating arranged for convenience and privacy
|Row F seat with two workspaces|
Each business-class seat has a workspace next to it, but the position of that workspace alternates from row to row. Window seats in the odd-numbered rows are directly next to the window with the workspace on the in-board side, while seats in the even-numbered rows are on the in-board side and have the workspace between the seat and the window.
|Double seat with small workspace|
By contrast, the seats in rows D and G are the only seats adjacent to another passenger. That makes them a good choice for couples or business associates traveling together, but the arrangement also means each seat’s workspace is half the size of those at the single seats (see picture at right).
Since this post was originally published, ANA has taken delivery of Dreamliners with different seat configurations than that covered by this article. Business Class seats in the three-class Dreamliner are the same as those in the two-class Dreamliner; however, Business Class seats in the other two-class configuration are arranged in a two-two-two grouping and are without individual worktables, according to SeatGuru.com.
I opted for the Japanese meal, which started with an amuse bouche including shrimp in puff pastry and an assortment of nuts. That was followed by a first course of kobachi and sunomono: simmered octopus and tofu patty, salmon with bonito flavored citron vinegar sauce, a shrimp wrapped in daikon, a sea scallop topped with flying fish roe, and small slices of mackerel and beef.
The main course was grilled yellowtail with sweet miso with rice and miso soup. Dessert options were a mixed berry parfait or a fruit and cheese platter.
As with many long-haul carriers, ANA has an area near the galleys where passengers can help themselves to water and wine. ANA also offers what its menu calls “Light Dishes” – things like a cheese plate, fresh fruit, soup, or hamburger – which flight attendants will bring upon request.
When the time came to stretch and use the lavatory, my fellow business class passengers and I were pleasantly surprised by what my inside sources at Boeing told me has been nicknamed “The Dream Lav.”
|Dessert of wine and cheese|
While the food and the Dreamliner itself were both noteworthy, it was the service that put ANA head and shoulders above my most recent prior experiences. Iberia Airlines’ A340 was also well equipped and the food and drink were quite good, but the service I experienced was lacking.
Not so with ANA.
The F/As frequently walked up and down the aisles, refilling glasses and clearing trays, checking to see if passengers wanted anything, and just generally being available.
Many of them spent time chatting with the passengers, demonstrating their command of the English language, and making us feel more like guests than customers. In addition, they reacted favorably when I used the little bit of Japanese I’ve learned over the years. Their gracious acknowledgement that I was making an effort really made me feel valued.
When the flight crew darkened the Dreamliner’s electrically controlled windows indicating it was time to snooze, I found that ANA’s lie-flat seats actually did lie flat, and accommodated my 6’ frame pretty well. Iberia’s beds were tilted at about 170°, just enough off-level to make me feel like I was in danger of sliding off.
An ANA business class ticket includes up to two checked bags with priority handling so the passengers who are out of the plane first can get their bags first and clear customs quickly.
Based on my sole experience, I am not at all surprised that ANA won the title of Best Transpacific Airline in the 2012 Skytrax World Airline Awards. Even without WiFi, it has my vote, too.
ANA provided me with round-trip transportation and lodging in Tokyo as part of a media familiarization trip so that several reporters and bloggers could experience its service and the 787 Dreamliner first-hand.
Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.
Photos by Carl Dombek
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