ANA started flights from London Heathrow to Tokyo Haneda on March 30, switching its daily flight from Narita airport.
It flies the route using a B777-300ER, on which there are several different seating configurations. (ANA has 19 B777-300ER aircraft out of a total of 216 aircraft in total — as of March 2014).
This review was for an evening flight in business class from Heathrow to Tokyo Haneda. The return flight, a day flight in premium economy, is here.
I had checked in online for my flight selecting my seat using the seatmap on the ANA website. This is in a sort of 3D which took a little getting used to – there is a screen grab of it here on the right of the page.
I arranged to have a mobile version of my boarding pass emailed to me, which arrived a few minutes later.
I arrived at London Terminal 3 at 1730 for my flight to Tokyo Haneda on NH278, departing at 1935, a duration of 11hrs 40mins arriving at 1515. Note that ANA moves terminals at London Heathrow and from June 18 will be in Terminal 2.
Check-in for the flight and bag drop is at Zone B at Terminal 3. There was no queue here and I picked up a paper version of my boarding card just so I had a back-up to the one on my phone. I had no bags to check-in.
ANA uses the No.1 Traveller lounge at T3. At this time of the evening it is very busy, not helped with large swathes of seating being marked as reserved. I asked who it was reserved for but didn’t get a satisfactory answer – perhaps first class passengers.
The food and drink selection is not large, with most items being for sale, and the ANA special menu is only for first class passengers or Diamond Members of Star Alliance. Still, they will serve you alcohol, although I think not “premium brands”.
It was a little like being in lounge in the US, although the furnishings were much better than most of those.
I went down to Gate 1 early. There was no queue and I waited a few minutes before first class and then almost immediately afterwards business class was called onto the flight.
There are several cabins of business class on this B777-300ER. To see a seatplan, click here.
This configuration is in four classes, with 112 economy class seats in an unusual nine-across configuration of 2-4-3 as opposed to the normal 3-3-3. Note that some airlines put ten-across in a 3-4-3 configuration, and indeed ANA is planning that on new deliveries of the aircraft as well as some retrofitted ones (see news, March 18).
In premium economy, which has its own cabin, the configuration of the 24 seats is 2-4-2 in just three rows (25, 26 and 27). To read a review of premium economy in that cabin, click here
Business class of 68 seats is in three cabins, ranging from one of only two rows (5 or 6) through to a main cabin (7 to 17) and finally a third cabin of four rows where I was, which ran from 18 to 21. Finally there is a front cabin of eight first class seats (or suites).
ANA has several different types of business class, but on flights to and from Europe it is what ANA accurately refers to as staggered.
By this, it means the seats in each row are slightly staggered forward and backward of one another, allowing your feet room to stretch out when your bed reclines beneath the side table of the seat in front.
I’ve seen versions of this seat before, but in this configuration it seems extraordinarily spacious. The side table is large enough to store all sort of books and magazines.
And although there was a sign on this table saying the table should be cleared for take-off, I asked and was told it was fine leaving things there, presumably because they would only slide backwards on take-off, not forwards.
The flight attendant came and took my coat and then offered a choice of champagne or orange juice, and told me that is I wanted to stow my mobile phones I could do so in a small lidded compartment to one side of the seat, which can be seen on the right of the above photo.
He said that was the best place for it because he had often spent time looking for passenger’s phones which had slid off during the flight (or on landing) and it could be difficult to find them. It sounded like good advice.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE?
Since some of the seats are further away from the aisle than others, in general I would choose to be further away, since you still have direct aisle access, but are further away from disturbance and also your fellow passenger (so 18A or 20A).
For those in window seats, note that the whole of this cabin is over the wing, so you won’t get any views.
An aisle seat
My seat, 18A, had the wardrobe for the cabin to one side, but this was not used during the flight and so caused no disturbance. The wardrobe also had the advantage of blocking out the sight of the galley in front, so no light disturbed me.
There was also little noise from this galley, I think because it was used simply as a way station for food delivery which was cooked at another galley further towards the front of the aircraft between the first two cabins of business class.
For that reason I found the rear cabin very quiet, and I would recommend these seats for that reason, although I’m sure the rear of the main cabin had the same advantages. Of course, that might suffer from being the last to be served if the service came from the front of that large cabin.
In our own cabin (rows 18 to 21) service was swift, and I was mostly served by a European member of staff who was friendly and efficient.
The table is a strange but great design, which pulls out from the screen, folds outwards with two side leaves and then can be pulled closer depending on whether you are working, eating, or just need yet more storage space. I don’t know how they do it, but it’s firm and easy to work on.
Having examined the instructions for the seat, I also saw there is a special place underneath for stowing your shoes. Additionally, there is space under the footrest where a bag can be placed.
Finally, the overhead lockers over the window seats are large, and I had no problem finding space for my two carry-ons, despite business class being full.
To see a video of this seat, click here.
The IFE had a 17-inch touchscreen and a reasonable choice of movies and entertainment, although not exceptional. Wifi is available at various price plans.
Underneath the IFE screen is a compartment containing the power source which fits both UK, US and EU plugs. However, because it was quite tight for space a three-pinned UK plug wouldn’t fit flush into the slot, so I used a US-converter which worked much better without the power flicking on and off.
By the side of that was a USB and also an iPod connection. I’ve never seen a connector like that one; a sign in the seat guide said the connectors were no longer for rental so perhaps that was some short-lived initiative.
Waiting at the seat were a pair of flight slippers with a bag enabling them to be taken away, some Sony headphones, which were fine although my first pair had a strange echo in one ear, and were replaced by the helpful cabin attendant, and an amenity bag.
When it came time for the evening meal, there were two completely different menus — Japanese and International.
ANA calls this its Connoisseurs initiative, which uses international chefs “to plan and create artistic new dining heights” for the pleasure of passengers.
There are ten chefs, five beverage specialists and nine of ANA’s own catering chefs, all creating seasonal meals, Japanese and western, paired with wines and beverages for all international and domestic passengers. For the day flight (which was detailed first on the menu), the food was prepared through a collaboration with Chisosottaku Restaurant in Ginza, Tokyo.
I went for the Japanese, which I will detail first, followed by the International.
Japanese menu (a set menu of many different parts):
- Amuse — Smoked salmon, marinated vegetable, pancetta and zucchini boat
- Zensai (selection of morsels) — Salmon sushi, simmered duck in soy-based sauce, marinated daikon radish in sweeten [sic] vinegar
- Sunomono — marinated octopus and mozuku seaweed in vinegared sauce
- Kobachi — Poached beef (beef chilled after being dipped in boiled water to pack in the umami taste, served with a soothing side of veggies)
- Shusai — deep fried seabass with ponzu rich broth (228kcal)
- Steamed rice, miso soup and assorted Japanese pickles
- Desserts — Paris brest or mix berry cake, cheese and fruit.
There was also the option of four premium sake and shochu “from locales across Japan”.
The International menu had the same amuse, and then:
- Appetizer — seafood terrine with rouille sauce
- Main (choice of) — fillet of beef steak, black pepper flavour with red wine sauce (369 Kcal) or sautéed seabass with garlic-flavoured vegetable and saffron clam sauce (209kcal)
- Desserts — same as above
The drinks list was huge, detailing at least nine different sake and shochu when the four already mentioned were counted. The wine list was as follows:
- Champagne — Charles de Cazanove Brut Tete de Cuvee
- Saint-Veran 2012 Closeries des Alisiers (white)
- Pascal Jolivet Attitude 2012, Sauvignon Blanc (white)
- Chateau de Lugagnac 2011 (red)
- Mas Picosa Red Ned Goodwin MW Selection 2012 Capcanes (red)
The food was delicious, and filling without being overwhelming because of the small portions.
The attention to detail in the serving was very impressive, as was the speed with which it was served when, in my case, you eat quickly and have your laptop to one side wanting to continue to work.
Other diners took their time over the food, and the crew were obviously fine with that.
There was also the offer of “Light Dishes” that could be requested during the flight. These included everything from fruit, vanilla ice cream and a selection of cheese to hot Japanese udon noodles garnished with Japanese leek or Ippudo “Soraton” (pork broth) ramen – Ippudo being a well-known ramen shop.
Other choices were stir-fried pork with soy-based ginger sauce over steamed rice, soup or a submarine sandwich. I’m aware a lot of this is the thrill of the new, but I thought the range of food choices, and how delicious they were, was extremely impressive, rivalled only by JAL (for a review of that airline’s business class, click here).
After the meal it was about 2230 and I wanted to sleep. The seat reclines fully-flat, but before doing so I spread out the underblanket (ANA calls it a bed pad) designed by Nishikawa Sangyo.
This has a non-slip surface on its underside to keep it on the seat, and a three-layer structure, which at first would seem to be unsuited for lying on, having small ridges inside it.
However, it actually levelled out the ridges in the seat and was extremely comfortable. The accompanying information said it contained 96 per cent air which I find incomprehensible but it certainly had the “breathability and comfort” promised.
The pillow was also by the same designer, while the quilt (too thin to be a duvet properly) was a nice design with a sort of pouch at one end for your feet which stopped it from slipping off during the night It was made of a mix of polyester and recyled PET plastic bottles.
I made the bed myself, although the helpful cabin staff would have done it for me, I’m sure. Before I went to sleep I was told if I wanted anything during the flight to just ask, and indeed when I woke after five hours good sleep there was a bottle of water on the large side table.
There were no cabin announcements during the night, helped by the fact that there was no turbulence either. Of course, I kept my seatbelt loosely fastened over the quilt in any case.
Pyjamas were available for rent, but I did not see anyone wearing them so I think everyone did as I did and either changed into their own sleep clothes or just slept in whatever they were wearing.
When fully reclined, the seat has lots of room and I was able to stretch out.
One arm can be released and folded upwards to create more room for your shoulders, while the other one pushes down almost flush with the seat.
Many airlines claim their seat goes fully-flat, when in fact it’s a couple of degrees away from that (more like 175 degrees than 180 degrees). It’s said this isn’t a problem because of the angle that the plane flies at, which might be true.
This seat, however, is very flat, and I felt my head was lower than my feet and so raised it just slightly, something which is easy to do with the seat controls.
When I woke I asked for a cup of green tea, and then worked until the rest of the cabin woke for the next meal service, which was served about two hours and thirty minutes before landing in Tokyo. Once again there were two different menus.
The Japanese menu was as follows:
- Kuchidori — thick wakame leaves
- Japanese savoury omelette
- Grilled sablefish teriyaki (165Kcal)
- Steamed rice, miso soup and assorted Japanese pickles
The international menu saw vegetable frittata cheese-met baked and crisp fried bacon.
About 90 minutes before landing, we went through an area of turbulence but it was daylight by then so I turned on the IFE and watched the sky outside from the camera under the aircraft which was very reassuring.
Very, very good. The attention to detail in the service, the products on board – from the bed cover to the way the food was served – and the huge range of food on offer, set ANA apart from much of the business class competition.
The bed is very comfortable for sleeping, though if you wanted you could have spent the whole 11 hours of the flight eating and drinking.
The only negative is the shared lounge at Heathrow.
- PLANE TYPE B777-300ER
- CONFIGURATION 1-2-1
- CONTACT ana.co.uk