My ANA First Class experience got off to something of a lacklustre start with the utterly pedestrian ANA Suite Lounge but honestly I had low expectations to begin with.
So often in the aviation industry we see step changes resulting in a radical redrawing of the pecking order of premium carriers. A decade ago it would have been laughable to suggest that American would have one of the best seats across the Atlantic or that United would have some of the best lounges.
Nowadays ANA’s international lounges are probably the worst of any full service carrier in Asia but the new First and Business seats, announced as a complete surprise in July this year, promise to be some of the very best in the sky and I was looking forward to seeing if they would truly deliver.
For all its faults, the ANA Suite Lounge has great views, giving me the opportunity to snap a picture of my ride back to London.
My gate was conveniently located outside the escalator to the lounge and I was able to make my way to the front of the line a few minutes before boarding was scheduled to commence.
The boarding area was methodically split into 4 boarding groups with Group 2 being the largest. Given the premium heavy configuration on the newly refreshed 777s (8 in first class, 64 in business, 24 in premium economy, and 116 in economy), this makes a lot of sense.
We boarded 15 minutes later than expected. I can only imagine that ANA embarked upon a national campaign of profuse apology as a result.
Japan takes public transport punctuality very seriously:
As I made my way down the stairs to the jet bridge, that familiar sense of excitement and anticipation built up within me. It’s an amazing feeling knowing that you’re mere moments away from finally seeing a brand new cabin for the first time. The press shots and reviews finally come to life.
In this case, nobody on earth has written a full review of this product yet. Getting the global exclusive only compounded the intensity of the excitement.
I was warmly greeted at the door of the plane by two smiling flight attendants and immediately started snapping pictures as quickly as possible, before the other passengers boarded.
The 8 seat First Class cabin of the refurbished ANA 777.
Once I had my shot of the First Class cabin, I quickly rushed past my seat (2A) and into the 2 row mini-cabin of business class. Excited though I was about First I was almost equally enthused by the prospect of seeing the groundbreaking new Business Class seat.
I only had a brief chance to photograph the new Business Class seat but I have to say that I was extremely impressed. If you’re in the two row mini-cabin, directly behind First Class, you’ll be in a quiet and private cabin, with the same number of seats as First class.
Although the seats aren’t as long as those in First, they are actually wider. You could easily fit two people side by side in the same seat, which presents a unique opportunity to indulge in companion dining.
The seat is so wide that ANA supplies two pillows per person as standard in order to fill the space out. At 24″ the IFE screen is a clear seven inches larger than the ones used by Lufthansa in First Class whilst boasting a far higher 4K resolution.
There is enough storage space under the foot rest to fit a roll aboard case and the seat boasts closing doors for complete privacy.
After seeing all this it almost felt like a waste heading back into First!
Stepping into the First Class cabin the first thing you’re struck by is the overwhelming enormity of the screens. At 43″ and featuring a 4K resolution these rival what a lot of people have in their living rooms. To see this on an airplane is truly incredible.
People usually have a strong desire to sit in row 1, meaning that the rear row in First tends to have empty seats. My plan of picking seat 2A worked perfectly. 2D was free to become my bedroom later on.
As I mentioned above, the First Class seats are actually narrower than those in Business. This is due to the addition of a slim wardrobe on the aisle side and a padded armrest on the inside.
Honestly though the seat still feels very spacious. If anything, I can see a valid argument for the Business Class seat being too wide and perhaps slightly uncomfortable as a result of the missing armrest.
Plenty of room under the ottoman for both my Rimowa Classic Flight and a pair of boots next to it.
A padded armrest featuring the touch screen IFE controller and both button and wheel style seat controls.
The seat is certainly not lacking in storage options. I was impressed both by the fact that the power supply supported fast charging and that HDMI connectivity was offered.
Very Meta: Editing photos of the flight whilst still on the flight. Unfortunately Seat 2A had a malfunctioning HDMI port as well as a broken storage compartment, which is why I was using seat 2D when connecting my laptop. Slightly worrying for such a new product…
This is in many ways the most exciting thing about the newly refreshed 777 cabins:
Finally an Asian carrier that permits passengers to control the temperature! In the past, enduring onsen-like temperatures was the trade off for superior service and food. Now you have air vents powerful enough to blow your chopsticks clean off the table, which is fine since connoisseurs eat sushi with their hands anyway…
Another huge improvement over the old seat, which blocked all but one window. First Class passengers now have three full windows to look out of featuring electronic blinds.
Overall this seat is by no means groundbreaking but still represents a huge step up over the old product which I reviewed back in 2014. Structurally the seat has a lot in common with the SWISS 777 seat (which I love) but adds more storage space, a better wardrobe, better doors and an enormous TV.
The only First Class product outside of an A380 that looks like it compares is the new Emirates ‘Gamechanger’ which I booked a while ago and will be flying in a few weeks. I’m very curious to see which comes out on top. At this stage though it really feels like we’re reaching the limits of what is possible within the confines of a single decker wide body aircraft.
The crew left me to it as I proceeded to photograph every little detail of the seat. This is usually an early indicator of a good First Class crew, they adapt the service delivery and wait for me to finish with my camera before asking if I want a drink or any help with the seat.
Once I had settled in I was offered a choice of pre-departure beverage.
I was surprised that the champagne wasn’t poured at my seat (it came from a tray of pre-poured drinks) and suspect that this was due to ANA not wanting to pay the duty for serving Krug on the ground. Another minor note is that I wasn’t offered an oshibori (warm towel). This is such an integral part of Japanese service culture and is standard on most airlines even in business class. The omission of this detail in First Class, on a Japanese carrier was somewhat jarring.
Prior to take off pyjamas and amenities were offered.
The amenity kits are Globetrotter branded and appear very similar in design to the Brics kits previously offered by Qatar in First Class. There is an additional kit within the kit; a set of three creams from The Ginza – a very exclusive Japanese skincare brand. This is further supplemented by a tray of more obscure amenities, distributed from a large tray by the crew.
From moisture masks to lip balm to leg refreshing sheets (which are exactly what they sound like), ANA really has thought of everything. I’ve never seen a more complete set of in-flight amenities offered by an airline.
Finally it seems as if airlines are realising that charging a few dollars extra for WiFi is not a good look in your most prestigious cabin. Complimentary WiFi is offered to all ANA First Class passengers on the refurbished 777.
You could use the WiFi to download the ANA app and use your phone to control the IFE. Personally I didn’t see the need given the responsiveness of the IFE system but I can see how this might be a cool feature on a short haul plane where films can be downloaded to your phone.
The Sony noise cancelling headphones were of a high enough quality that I kept my Bose QC25s stowed away – it’s not often that I can say that.
The film selection wasn’t huge but there was a decent mix of new films and a well curated selection of critically acclaimed classics spanning several decades. I did try and stream Netflix by connecting my laptop via the HDMI cable but unfortunately the connection speed wasn’t fast enough to load anything.
We took off around 40 minutes late, as a result of one runway being closed, due to a bird strike. When you’re in First though, these inconveniences don’t really seem to matter.
Menus were distributed shortly after the seatbelt signs were turned off.
The food menu is impressively extensive and ambitious, particularly when you factor in the ability to mix and match absolutely anything at any time during the flight. I remember the food being the absolute highlight when I last flew ANA F, to the point where I legitimately couldn’t distinguish it from dishes served in Michelin starred restaurants on the ground.
Nothing about this menu made me question that recollection. I mean how often do you see a dish like, ‘Barracuda poĕle and turnip flan with botargo emulsion’ on a plane?
A lot of other airlines are serving Krug 2004 in lieu of the cheaper NV but I actually prefer the latter and to my knowledge ANA is one of the very few airlines that still serves it.
The sake collection is very impressive too but the real showstopper here is the Hibiki 21. A whisky so rare and in demand that it is almost impossible to buy outside of an auction house.
If you’re lucky enough to get your hands on a bottle expect to pay at least £750… or £1 per ml. If you like whisky the presence of this bottle alone may be reason enough to sway you towards flying with ANA.
There is a wide selection of soft drinks available including a ‘luxury’ soft drink in the form of the cloudy ‘Mapple Juice Fuji’. Although frankly this pales in comparison with the ethereal Queen of Royal Blue Tea offered by JAL in their First Class cabin.
I asked for Krug and this time it was poured at my seat and served alongside a selection of truly delicious canapés. The FA described each of them in painstaking detail just as you’d expect in a high-end restaurant.
I opted for the Japanese Kaiseki tasting menu as my lunch, preceded by a starter of mixed seafood and marinated vegetable crudités with caviar.
Focus firmly on the Krug…
This dish was absolutely exceptional. Truly magnificent. A mixture of fresh and vibrant vegetables with crab, scallops, lobster and a generous serving of caviar. This dish was genuinely indistinguishable from fine-dining served on the ground.
The First Kaiseki course was beautifully presented on a slightly adhesive lacquer try, which prevents dishes from moving during turbulence.
Tiger prawn and fig with sesame miso sauce. Mashed lily bulb with green soybeans. Simmered duck in soy-based sauce. Grilled sweetfish. Simmered konjac in soy-based sauce. Persimmon rolled with daikon radish. Assortment on bamboo leaf boat (seared botargo, deep-fried ginkgo leaf-shaped sweet potato and propagules). Pear and dried gourd with tofu paste.
Obviously the presentation wasn’t quite up there with the likes of Michelin *** Wa Yamamura in Nara but given that these ingredients were mostly cured and prepared in some way, freshness wasn’t really an issue and the overall balance and variety of flavours was wonderful.
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The next two courses were the sashimi and the clear soup.
The sashimi was adapted for the air by searing the fish and using prepared monkfish liver, meaning that the lack of absolute freshness could be easily compensated for.
I’m a real sucker for a clear soup; the clean taste of the fish stock and the uni here was expertly offset by the vibrant yuzu peel.
The main course: Kazesayaka rice from Nagano. Simmered squid stuffed with glutinous rice in soy-based sauce. Japanese pickles. Grilled surf clam with red yuzu citron pepper and miso vinegar paste. Miso soup. Grilled avocado stuffed with seafood and grilled miso-marinated wagyu beef.
Not only was everything absolutely delicious I was also inspired to bake an avocado at home too after particularly enjoying that component of the main course!
I also took the opportunity to sample the sublime Aramasa 6 X-type sake as a pairing to the fish elements.
If the only sake you’ve ever tried came from a restaurant that serves two types: hot or cold, then the you will never forget your first taste of the good stuff. It is like an entirely different category of drink.
I rounded off the meal with an espresso macchiato and a selection of Japanese confections.
After that enormous feast I asked a member of the cabin crew to make a bed for me in seat 2D as I went to change into my sleepwear.
The Large size fit me well and didn’t feature the awkwardly enormous waistbands you get on other airlines. The material on these is thick though so if you didn’t have air vents you’d be sweating for sure.
All the cushions and pillows are memory foam and there is plenty of space so spread out, the doors also ensure privacy and help to keep light out if you’re in the centre seats. However, I did not sleep comfortably.
The memory foam mattress which I enjoyed on the old product is now gone. It has been replaced by a large linen napkin, roughly one micron thick. I’ve had far more comfortable sleeps in Business Class on the likes of AA, AC and NZ, all of whom offer proper thick mattress toppers.
Even a soothing cup of hojicha, served in a very elegant traditional cup, couldn’t lull me into sleep.
In the end I decided to just lie in bed and watch a 4K documentary on the island of Ogasawara. Technically it is part of Tokyo despite being a 24h boat ride South, in the middle of the Pacific and is referred to as the Asian Galapagos. I must admit I’d never heard of the island before but am now really intrigued by the idea of a visit…
After the documentary I decided to head back to my original seat and indulge in a spot of whisky tasting. The King George V is already a significant level above the Johnnie Walker Blue that most other airlines serve in First Class but I was far more excited at the prospect of getting my hands on a bottle of the unbelievably rare Hibiki 21. I got chatting to another passenger on the flight and he joked that even the chairman of Suntory can’t source a personal bottle!
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After quickly making my way through two very large glasses of whisky, in a bid to finish them before the ice melted, I felt like eating something would be a sensible course of action.
I began by ordering the smoked scallop and miso-cured roe from the ‘Sake accompaniments’ section of the menu. Delicious though this was, it wasn’t exactly going to sate my hunger.
Still unsure as to how hungry I was, I ordered the Tsumari pork rillettes and black truffle sandwich. It was a rich and dense slab of umami but still didn’t quite hit the spot.
I asked for the Wagyu sirloin with the dauphinoise of five potatoes and ginger sauce. Despite the fact that it was cooked medium it was incredibly tender and almost melted when touched by a knife and fork. Obviously it would have been rude not to pair this with a glass of Bordeaux and ANA had a very serviceable, if slightly young, Château Léoville Barton 2012 to fit the bill.
I was rather full at this point but was in the mood for something sweet to round out my meal. I decided to try a glass of the Mapple Juice Fuji, described as:
“A sophisticated juice from Nagano Prefecture, made from foliate apples grown on sunny slopes beneath Japan’s Minami Alps. Every apple is fully ripened with the leaves to heighten its nutritional value. Rich, fresh-squeezed sweetness complemented by bracing sourness. Free of water, sugar, preservatives, and other additives.”
It was better than regular apple juice from a carton but I wouldn’t go out of my way to track this down. I’m just not sure that the world needs a luxury apple juice…
At this point I was completely full and feeling very relaxed. I spent an hour or so editing photos in Seat 2D before changing back into my clothes, mentally preparing myself for the journey across London and the inevitability of heading to the office the following morning.
I’ve been to Japan ten times since 2014 and have flown a wide variety of carriers there, including Thai, Virgin, Qatar, JAL and Cathay. Recently I had almost exclusively flown to and from the Land of the Rising Sun on JAL; it is a very easily accessible product which regularly makes 2 seats available for redemption and is a wonderful experience in almost every way.
However, every time that I flew JAL I couldn’t help but think back to my ANA First Class flight back in 2014. Despite the bland seat with its blocked windows, I remember that flight very fondly and had been longing to try the experience again. I totally lucked out when booking this seat using Virgin miles. Availability was wide open back when I booked this, ten months ahead of the flight date when nobody had any idea that ANA would be releasing a new seat.
The service was extremely attentive throughout, every bit as good as I remembered it and easily on a par with JAL.
The drinks selection is extremely strong, if you like whisky you’ll be in heaven. As a champagne lover I’d still give JAL the edge though since they currently serve Salon, Cristal and Comtes de Champagne.
The kaiseki was impressive but actually I feel like ANA is even stronger with its Western dishes. The caviar presentation is absolutely inspired and I personally prefer it to the Sugalabo collaboration on JAL.
When I saw the air vents I thought that ANA was going to clearly beat JAL when it comes to sleep comfort. However the sleeping surface is rock hard (similar to Etihad apartments before they introduced their mattress topper) and is clearly something that ANA will need to focus on.
Speaking of hard products, this is clearly where ANA has the edge over their Japanese rival. The outlandishly large screen, unlimited wifi, closing doors and air vents mean that ANA has one of the very best seats in the sky. The design is very sleek, very elegant and very modern. In comparison, the JAL seat feels like visiting grandma’s house… in the 80s.
Where does the new ANA F stack up overall? I currently rate it second only to Singapore Suites. However ANA (much like SQ) still clearly need to work on their lounges. Lufthansa and SWISS both offer superb facilities to passengers in their home terminals and ANA’s is an embarrassment in comparison. I’d honestly rather spend time in Cathay’s outstation business class lounge in London than in the ANA Suite lounge in Haneda.
With these new seats ANA have issued a clear statement of intent. The hard product now matches the superlative service and phenomenal food offering. Will this be a flash in the pan or will ANA follow up to deliver a truly premium experience from end to end? Here’s hoping…
Here is a selection of our most recent Japan hotel reviews:
Great review as always. It’s surprising the lack of reviews on this. Availability must be hard to come by compared to they new J seat which has been covered a lot.
Thanks Linz, appreciate the kind words ?
I’ve received non-stop questions about booking this ever since I first mentioned that I’d be taking this flight.
I lucked out, pure and simple.
I was prepared to take the old product and thought that was what would be happening for the first 8 months after booking!
Honestly I’m not surprised that they’re restricting availability for now but as with all new products I think things will get easier after the initial euphoria has worn off.
Been looking forward to this TR and you NEVER disappoint Jarvis 🙂 To the last item your food/bev choices were exactly the same as what I would’ve made when I was reading the menu – with the exception of the sake (I would’ve asked the FA to recommend one – or all! – just coz I’m as yet very limited in my exposure to ‘the good stuff’), and perhaps I might have had a glass of the Chablis to go with the scallop snack app. I’m pretty sure I would’ve had nearly enough fortitude to polish off two ‘very large’ glasses of whiskey tho! *Respekt!*
Can’t wait to read your next TR!
*wouldn’t have , obvs 😛
oh and shame about the mattress too, tho on a day flight I might have just toughed it out and stayed awake the whole way (more time for sampling everything amirite?) ???
Toughing it out definitely seemed like the appropriate course of action in this case ?
Thanks as always for your support Patrick!
I think I need to drop the big multi-part trip reports and just start cranking out the big hitting individual reviews at this stage.
I have GA F, LH F, Q suites and 3 Aman hotel reviews which I should probably focus on rather than chronicling every small detail of 3rd party lounges in far flung corners of India etc. ?
As always a great highly comprehensive review. Pics very helpful to gain a better feel for this premium product.
Thanks for the support ?
I love your trip reports. Thank you for writing them. I’ve read and re-read many of them several times. I especially find your website to be easier to read that FT. Your writing and photos are among the best in the community and I’ve been inspired by you over the years. Take care!
Thanks so much Andy, that really means a lot to me.
My website was initially conceived as a more user friendly way of cataloguing TRs, so I’m thrilled to hear that it’s had its desired impact ?
I must admit that I’ve been a little more focused on Instagram of late but I’m happy to say that I will be clearing a large backlog of TRs in the coming months!
If you think this hard product potentially compares to EK’s latest 777 F you are shortly about to have a very pleasant surprise! Finishes look stylish and the screen is huge but otherwise there is nothing particularly revolutionary here. In contrast, EK’s new F is incredible, for my money not just better than this but also in many ways preferable to any of the A380 F products too. I was completely in awe the first time I walked into the cabin.
Food looks spectacular here as is almost always the case on ANA/JAL F, though.
I do not doubt that the hard product will be more impressive, albeit with a smaller TV ? but I’m interested to see if EK can pull off the experience as a whole.
ANA was always one of my favourite First Class carriers in spite of the hard product, this just helped to nudge them over the edge.
So far I’ve seen that EK are serving P2 on my flight but the food is nowhere near as impressive.
Ultimately I’m guessing that the crew will be the real tiebreaker.
In terms of hard product I have a feeling that I’ll come away still preferring the new SQ suites. They’re far more spacious and allow for a double bed.
I imagine I’ll probably end up ‘buddy dining’ through @Euriental‘s serving hatch at some point since there really isn’t a way to hang out with a companion otherwise ?
The IFE screen is 32 inches on EK and high quality which is more than big enough for something that is 6ft away, the NH screen is a bit overwhelming if anything.
Yes, I suppose if you are looking to eat as a couple then EK new F is not ideal but there are other things that more than make up for it! As a solo traveler it’s an unparalleled level of privacy far beyond e.g. the new SQ F (given solo travelers make up the majority of F travelers it probably explains why EK have gone for the layout they have as EK is probably the only carrier to have an F class that actually attracts significant numbers of cash bookings and makes money rather than being full of people redeeming miles).
Thanks, Jarvis, for this world exclusive. Like everyone interested in these things, I’ve been salivating to have a review of the new F product. I must say, though, that the bed seems completely unacceptable. The ability to sleep is an essential part of a flight of this duration in F. I’ll keep my fingers crossed my route has the old product when I fly NH in F.
I’m glad that you enjoyed the review, even if the bed was indeed a disappointment.
I fully agree with you. I think that the loss of a proper mattress topper is a big step backwards and one area in which ANA clearly underperforms against JAL.
Given how easily this can be fixed I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you not only get the new product but one in which mattress toppers have been added!
Got booked into HND-FRA in three weeks on the suites using united miles.
Do you know how is ANA supper service? Do they serve full meal during the 12.5 hours flight?
I’m excited for you, ANA is such a great experience in First Class.
You’ll be able to eat as many full meals as your heart desires during those 12.5 hours!
Just here doing my homework before flying ANA First class in a few weeks time 😛