ANA Club ANA

FIRST IMPRESSIONS: With a 1045 departure and mindful of the three-hour check-in advisory at O’Hare International Airport for long-haul flights, I had the good sense to book a room at Hilton O’Hare – the only hotel in the area directly linked to the airport – the night before. Thanks to that foresight, I strolled leisurely out of the building at 0730, and since I had heavy luggage with me, I found the nearest trolley cart stand, fed it US$3 so it would release one and relieve me of my burden. I then entered Terminal 1 at 0743.

ANA and Star Alliance partner Lufthansa share facilities, which are located on the far right side of the hall. Except for one passenger, I was the only other customer to be served. The staff all seemed to be in a jolly mood that morning, and the jokey atmosphere had me smiling in no time. Not having the TSA padlock (required for those wishing to lock their baggage), I was informed that my own would not do as airport officials would certainly force it open should they conduct a spot check. Seeing my concern, one lady offered to “secure” my bulging suitcase (a result of newly bought books and presents) with a plastic cord. That eased my mind somewhat.

As a Business Class passenger, I was invited to make use of the Priority Security Lane. Here, it was computers out of the case and jackets and shoes off. The line moved swiftly however. I headed for United’s Red Carpet Club near my boarding gate 10, where I took a seat overlooking the runway.

Not having had a proper breakfast at the hotel, I was disappointed to find only light fare and snacks at the counter. With no choice and a growling tummy, I settled on a bagel and some camembert. I would make up for it onboard, I consoled myself. Since no flight announcements were made, one had to continuously check the TV monitor for the flight status.

BOARDING: ANA links between Chicago and Tokyo were reinstated last October after being halted in 2003 when the SARS outbreak in Asia led to corporate travel advisories drastically reducing loads to the region. According to Naomichi Terazaki, who oversaw ANA’s marketing operations then, reprising his former position, Chicago is the hub of choice of Asian passengers wanting connections to points such as Ohio, Boston, Toronto and even Florida. For the return journey, the carrier offers same-day connections at Narita Airport to Hongkong and Singapore among other destinations in the region.

After coats and scarves were taken away to be hung, drinks and hot towels were offered. We were told that flight time was 12 hours and 56 minutes. The usual O’Hare congestion delayed departure, and we took off 30 minutes later than scheduled.

THE SEAT: Club ANA’s Business Class seats are not unfamiliar to us, having tried them out on a previous visit to the US. What we appreciate about them are the conveniently placed crevices (under the arm rest and another that’s shoulder level under the reading lamp) to store innumerable sundries we need to keep about us during the trip: spectacles, moisturiser, pen, lip balm, a bottle of mineral water, toothbrush. Following the cradle-type template, this product doesn’t fold out to a fully flat surface but instead materialises into a gentle slope. The control panel features fat push buttons.

THE FLIGHT: This being a Japanese carrier, Japanese cuisine naturally features prominently. But attractive as the Kaiseki (light meal) looked (some highlights included lobster simmered in special soy sauce and tofu and vegetable patty braised in daikon radish sauce), my carnivorous inclination kicked in when I spotted the pan-fried beef tenderloin with creamy mushrooms and madeira sauce on the Western menu. I wasn’t disappointed by the just-right portion that arrived with the bowl of steamed rice I requested. The lobster salad with pear vinaigrette and fresh garden salad that preceded it was a piquant appetiser.

I don’t remember much after the service, except that the attendants kept wafting in and out of my dreams assiduously replenishing my mineral water and face towel supply. I opted for a small portion of pasta before entering Japanese air space.

ARRIVAL: We hit the ground at 1455, and in minutes were parked at Narita Terminal 1. My connection to Hongkong was still in five hours’ time, but I didn’t mind waiting, enjoying the chance to explore the improved Tokyo gateway.

PRICE: A Chicago-Narita weekend return starts from US$9,660 and a weekday return from US$71,860.

VERDICT: Impeccable inflight service and the elegant cuisine deserves special mention.

CONTACT: www.ana.co.jp/english

Margie T Logarta


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ANA Club ANA

FIRST IMPRESSIONS:
Anticipating thorough luggage searches for this US-bound flight, I did
not padlock my suitcase for the inspection at Narita International
Airport. To my relief, normal x-ray scanning procedures were in place
that morning. Check in was swift with the ANA staff directing passengers
to a counter once it became available, often assisting them with their
bags. I was invited to proceed to the Club ANA Lounge in the
satelliteterminal where my departure gate was located.No other carrier
leaves for New York on the 1100 time slot and mine was a code share
with ANA’s Star Alliance partners United Airlines and THAI Airways
International.

THE LOUNGE:
Seats, positioned cheek by jowl, created a cramped atmosphere. But it
had a vantage view of the runway, especially the area providing free
internet access from three small laptops.Wi-Fi is also available. The
fare at the food station may have been sparse – nuts mostly – but there
was no stinting in the drinks department. I was tempted to try one of
the massage chairs in the relaxation room except I was too afraid of
succumbing to a restful nap and missing my flight. Boarding
announcements were made periodically but I chose to leave 10 minutes
before my call.

BOARDING: We were allowed through the gates at the time indicated on our boarding cards.

THE SEAT:
The Club ANA cradle-type sleeper seats are gradually being introduced
throughout its flight network,with Narita-New York as one of the first
to have them onboard. The control panel, on the right armrest (for
those in the window seat, and on the left, for those along the aisle),
was a cinch to master, thanks to the big and user-friendly buttons. The
outlet for internet access, provided by Connexion by Boeing, was
located deep in a recess under the armrest behind the crevice used for
storing eyeglasses and other sundries during travel. Although not
totally flat when fully stretched out, the slightly sloping bed gave me
no cause for complaint and I enjoyed uninterrupted slumber across the
Pacific. My two bugbears were the unwieldy table, which took some
maneuvering each time I had to get it out for a meal or wanted to write
and the scanty selection of reading materials in English.

THE FLIGHT: My
seatmate turned out to be one of those who wasn’t happy unless he was
online (which he seemed to be for most of the trip), and the attendants
and I were constantly on our guard not to spill anything on his beloved
companion. I only breathed easier when he settled down under his duvet.
For dinner, there was a choice of Japanese or Western. I immediately
opted for the Western repertoire when I saw “grilled tenderloin with
balsamic iberico pork ham”. But I have to single out the
appetiser,“fresh garden salad with Muscat dressing” that was crunchy
and tasted like it had just been plucked from the English countryside.

ARRIVAL:
About two and half hours before our descent, the captain came on the PA
to greet and brief us on weather conditions in the Big Apple – “A sunny
day with temperature at 7ºC”,which made me instinctively reach for – my
gloves. Breakfast of mushroom omelette with truffle sauce, a roll and
fresh fruit followed. Landing was smooth, which was not the case at
immigration where a computer glitch kept us waiting for a good 20
minutes. Welcome to the USA.

PRICE:
A Narita-JFK return weekend fare of US$6,305 and return weekday fare of
US$5, 972, both including taxes, is currently available.

VERDICT:
A product that does the job: gets passengers to their (long-haul)
destination without any neck kinks and provides the service of a highly
professional crew.

CONTACT: www.ana.co.jp/english

Margie T Logarta


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