Tried & Tested

ANA B747-400 (Club ANA) business class

29 Jun 2006 by Mark Caswell

FIRST IMPRESSIONS ANA has recently moved to Terminal 1 South Wing at Narita Airport, but when I flew from here it was still based at Terminal 2. I arrived at 0930 for my 1135 flight and quickly found ANA’s business class check-in area, which consisted of a large bank of desks, all dealing with business class passengers (and mostly empty). I had to pass my luggage through a security machine. This was straightforward for me but not for my colleague, who had to open his bag while staff searched through it until they found the offending item – a cigarette lighter tuckedinto a coat pocket. Check-in was fast and then a man briskly directed us through one of the many x-ray machines. Passport control was also rapid and then I was off up the escalator to the lounge.

LOUNGE Before its move to Terminal 1, ANA shared a lounge with other Star Alliance carriers. Now passengers can choose one of six lounges in Terminal 1 South Wing. These include the two existing United lounges (Red Carpet and United First International Lounge) plus four brand-new ANA lounge, two each for first and business class, with a combined seating capacity of almost 1,000. A total of 63 computers with broadband internet access are provided, and each lounge has showers with free shampoo, soap and towels.

BOARDING At 1050 there came an announcement that flight 201 would board at 1110 and 15 minutes later we were told that it was ready for boarding. I walked to Gate A63 and down the stairs to the gate to join the queue for first and business class passengers (much shorter than the one for economy passengers) and was in my seat (26D) by 1120.

THE SEAT The configuration on this three-class B747-400 is 2-3-2. The seat reclines to 170 degrees and has 165cm pitch and 65cm width. There is not a great deal of privacy between seats but luckily the cabin was barely half full on this flight and I had a row of three seats to myself. The in-flight entertainment was audiovisual on demand. This business class product isn’t new: on the airline’s 777s there have been improvements to the business class seat including a raised footrest to stop you sliding down, a privacy screen which slides across and arm rests that can be flattened to give extra width. These aircraft do not, however, fly on the London route.

THE FLIGHT Before taking off on this 11 hour 55 minute flight, staff handed out cardigans and copies of Japan Times. Slippers are already provided in the seat pockets (amenity kits were not distributed as this was a day flight). We left the stand at 1139 and were airborne at 1155. Staff handed round champagne and chilled green tea after several minutes, followed by a menu. I was hungry by this point but it was another 20 minutes before a snack arrived, which was cheese sticks with pieces of vegetable and an olive in tempura batter. I had intended to try the Japanese menu options but my head was turned by the pan-fried wagyu beef tenderloin with Chateau Duplessis reduction, which was a special dish as part of ANA’s 25th anniversary of international flights. However, everyone else must have had the same idea and the cabin attendant returned after 15 minutes to apologise that they had no beef left. I went instead for herb-crusted scallops with balsamic sauce followed by thyme-roasted jumbo mushroom and pasta with Italian tomato sauce. Both were well presented, and served with tasty warm plum bread with small dishes of olive oil and butter, and salt and pepper. I had expected the scallop dish to be hot but it was cold and the caramelised onions were a bit rigid, so I checked with the attendant that it was intended to be a cold dish (ie that they had not forgotten to warm it up) and she confirmed it was supposed to be cold. The pasta dish was good. For dessert I chose another anniversary special, the vanilla bavarois and peach compote with rosée champagne sorbet, which was lurid in colour but slightly tasteless.

After dinner I reclined into the bed position and settled down. As with most lie-flat-style beds I experienced a sliding feeling, but by manually tweaking the recline button I could raise the seat slightly to give me more grip. Although it was a day flight I was tired, and slept for around six hours thanks to the warm blanket.

The lights were switched on two and a half hours before landing and a menu of light dishes was available. This time I chose the Japanese option: salt-grilled masu (salmon trout) and miso-grilled free-range chicken with steamed rice and miso soup, which was served in attractive boxes.

ARRIVAL We touched down at 1442 local time, and reached our Terminal 3 Heathrow stand at 1451, 15 minutes early. We quickly disembarked and made our way to passport control. I tried to use the fast-track lane but was told that it was by invitation only, so I queued for the main desks (with other EC members). Once through (after about 10 minutes) I reached the luggage hall quickly to find my bag already on the carousel.

VERDICT A slightly tired-looking business class product but still comfortable, with excellent personal service and a punctual arrival.

PRICE ANA operates a daily non-stop service from London Heathrow to Tokyo Narita from £756 in economy and £3,087 in business. For reservations call +44 (0)1494 733 488; anaskyweb.com.

Sarah Maxwell

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