4th August 2014 at 14:00 #545489
Anonymous4th August 2014 at 14:00 #545490
The business class reservation was made online in March 2014 for the flight in May 2014 using united.com which is a very efficient system which is immediately replicated in the mobile device. This was a code-share flight and once I had the ANA flight code, I was able to access the booking in ANA’s website in order to add my passport details etc. and most importantly to select my seat. ANA operates two daily flights departing at 10.50am and 5.15pm using a Boeing 777-300ER. In between, United operates one daily flight currently using a Boeing 747-400 departing at 1.00pm.
I arrived at Chicago O’Hare Terminal 1 at 2.00pm for the 5.15pm departure. I had already checked in 24 hours earlier but as I had a bag to check-in, I made my way to the ANA Check-In area which is to the far right of the United-dominated Terminal 1, next door to Lufthansa. I was attended to immediately and the luggage tag was attached to the Boarding Pass that I had printed at home before arriving at the airport.
I then exited the check-in area and was then directed to the priority security lane to the left of the check-in area. This was obviously a poor time to be here as despite being in the priority lane, it took about 40 minutes to complete the formalities which included removing all laptops, kindles etc. as well as shoes and belts.
Business and First Class ANA passengers have access to the United Clubs in Chicago Terminal 1, of which there are four, in addition to the First Class Lounge. As the ANA flights depart daily from Gate C10, it is best to select the nearest Lounge which is by Gate 18. Whichever Lounge you choose, they are still a major disappointment compared to the lounges in Europe. At this time of the day, the bar area was very busy. I just had a glass of the house white wine which was ok. The house wine and beer are complementary along with some spirits. The premium versions are available at a cost. The other basics of tea, coffee and water are available on a self-service basis as are cheese & biscuits, nuts, carrots, but not a lot else! There is plenty of room and it is important to choose the lounge which is best located to the designated departure gate. There is not a great choice or indeed space at Terminal 1 so the option of the sanctuary of a Lounge is a welcome distraction waiting for the flight to board.
No announcements are made in the Lounge but there are plenty of screens in order to check on the flight. They are listed in alphabetical order and with all of the code-share flights, it can take time for the pages to turn! Once the ‘Go to Gate’ message was displayed, I made my way to the Gate which was about a few minutes away.
ANA board their passengers by the relevant section. First Class passengers had their own entrance onto the aircraft via Door 1 so the rest of us had to use the other entrance. They called passengers requiring extra time first, which to be honest seemed to be most of Economy! There was also a school party and they boarded next. I don’t think it was supposed to happen like this as there was a great deal of arm waving and shouting as this huge party boarded. Eventually, the Business Class passengers were invited to board with many apologies for being kept waiting. It was not a great first impression to ANA but eventually I took my seat which was 10C in the second section of Business Class. Shortly afterwards the flight attendant introduced herself and informed me that the adjoining seat 10A was free so I could spread out if I wanted. She also handed out the small amenity kit and menu. I was also offered a pre-flight drink of champagne, orange juice or water.
The ANA 777-300 v2 Business Class has 77 seats split in 3 sections. The first section has two rows in a 2-3-2 setup and is immediately behind First Class (which has 8 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration). The main section has 7 rows and is configured 2-3-2. There are a further two Business Class rows, again set up 2-3-2 behind the self-service bar areas. Beyond this section of Business Class, there are 2 rows of Premium Economy configured 2-4-2, and behind those 16 rows of economy seating in a 3-3-3 layout.
The first section of just two rows probably appeals as it seems very private. The main issue is no doubt is avoiding the middle if travelling alone, aside from the usual issue of being close to the galleys and toilets. As it is a 13-hour flight, it is very important to be as comfortable as possible!
We pushed back a few minutes late and then proceeded to stay where we were for about 40 minutes without any announcement at all. Eventually, the Purser said that she was trying to find out what was causing the delay. We then moved a little and stopped and then moved again without getting very far and without any comment from the flight deck. Eventually, the Captain informed us that Chicago O’Hare had reduced the number of movements due to storms in the area. We eventually joined a queue of aircraft waiting to take off when the Captain informed us we would be taking off shortly. Finally, 90 minutes late we departed but were unable to make up any of the lost time.
Thirty minutes went by before the Captain switched off the seat belt sign and there was a rush to use the toilets as we had been kept seated for so long. The good news on this flight is only 19 of the 77 Business Class seats were occupied so there was plenty of space for everyone to spread out into. At this point hot towels were handed out.
The Purser came round the cabin and took orders for the main course. The menu as it covered the flight both from and to Japan in both English and Japanese was more of a booklet. There was a Japanese choice but I opted for the International Menu which was as follows:
Amuse: Smoked salmon and scallop tartar in tart cup
Risotto wrapped in roasted beef with ponzu soy gelee
Marinated mushroom in sherry vinegar
Appetizer: Bouillabaisse terrine and prosciutto
Main Plate: Fillet of beef steak and café de Paris butter with mustard sauce
Prawn and scallop brochette, sautéed Chilean sea bass with saffron sauce
Bread: Three types of bread served with Isigny butter from Normandy and olive oil.
After the meal orders were taken, this was quickly followed by the drinks trolley. This was then immediately followed by the Amuse which seemed to take everyone by surprise!
The meal service was conducted very swiftly which was probably due to the lack of passengers. It certainly was an excellent meal with a very attentive level of service. This was supplemented with the following wines:
Champagne: Charles de Cazanove Brut Tete de Cuvee
White Wine: De Loach Vineyards Heritage Reserve 2012, California
Mas Picosa White Ned Goodwin MW Selection 2013 Capcanes, Spain
Red Wine: Bogle Vineyards Merlot 2011, California
Cederberg Merlot Shiraz 2010, South Africa
The AVOD system had mainly Japanese movies but a wide selection of international movies too. However, I decided to use my iPAD as I had some programmes to watch on there. Unfortunately, the on-board power source was not working so I did need to use my own emergency supply that I carry with me for such occasions.
I did manage to get several hours sleep though I did not like the seat which converts into a ‘bed’ but is not flat but at an angle. I was glad that I did not have anyone next to me as it was awkward to get up from the seat other than returning it to upright of course.
The crew seemed to regularly check that everyone was ok and at one point I took up their offer of a BLT Sandwich. This came from the Light Dishes menus which comprised of:
• Assortment of selected cheese
• Vanilla ice cream
• Garden salad with tomato dressing
• Hot Japanese udon noodles garnished with Japanese leek
• IPPUDO “FURUSATO” (soy sauce) ramen
• Braised chicken and vegetables in sweeten soy sauce over steamed rice
• ANA Original soup
• BLT Sandwich
• Salmon and spinach lasagne with creamy tomato sauce
• Snacks: Mix nuts, Rice crackers, Cookies.
I also had several coffees which were beautifully served on china with chocolates.
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We arrived 90 minutes late and then had a long taxi to our gate. Both doors were used for deplaning which meant a swift exit. Immigration was very quick with the only delay for me getting stopped and searched by Customs as I left. Once this was sorted, I made my way to the Bus Counter in order to purchase a ticket for the Limousine Bus service to downtown Tokyo. As it was so late, I was advised that this was the best means of transport. The bus ticket cost approximately US$30.
In summary, an excellent flight with the most attentive service I have ever experienced. It was superb! The food and wine also hit the high notes. On the negative side, the long delay and lack of announcements was poor. In addition, the seat is not good for a long flight though ANA are slowly bringing in the new lie-flat Business Class seat which also gives direct aisle access to all.
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