Category Archives: ANA

SEA 2014: ANA Suite Lounge Tokyo Narita Satellite 4 (NRT)

I’ve previously reviewed the ANA Suite and Business Class Lounges at Satellite 5, but I checked ou the ANA Suite Lounge at Satellite 4 this time around.

Entrance to the ANA Lounge

Entrance to the ANA Lounge

Unlike the last time I was at the ANA Suite Lounge, it wasn’t particularly crowded, and there were plenty of different seating options to choose from. If it is more crowded, though, I suggest checking out the private cubicles if you’re looking to get work done, as those seem to fill up last.

Seating

Seating

Private work desk

Private work desk

Private work station

Private work station

The general consensus is that a lounge attendant will ask you for your first drink order, but after that, you’re on your own. I tried to order some kabosu juice like they have on board, and after talking to three different lounge attendants, I was offered miso soup. Not exactly what I had in mind…

The food options are pretty good. Not as good as my beloved JAL First Lounge, but definitely better than the United lounge. On this visit, I specifically liked the Pierre Herme croissants that they had. There are also hot food options (including the aforementioned miso soup), sushi, onigiri, and plenty of cold food options.

Food

Food

Sushi! Significantly better than the stuff at the United Club

Sushi! Significantly better than the stuff at the United Club

More food

More food

Drinks

Drinks

The lounge also has a noodle bar. I’m always appreciative of made-to-order food in lounges, but I haven’t been impressed with anything I’ve had from the ANA noodle bars. I feel like all of the broths kinda taste the same, but the taste is rather mediocre. If it matters, I’ve heard that you can specifically ask for a vegetable broth instead of a dashi broth (which is made with fish), although I haven’t tried this myself.

Noodle bar

Noodle bar

Dining area for noodle bar

Dining area for noodle bar

Noodles

Noodles

Overall, I think the ANA Suite Lounge is an okay first class lounge. There are a lot of food options, but nothing stands out in particular. The service is well intentioned, but I’ve had problems communicating in English (beyond the kabosu/miso soup thing). It can get crowded depending on the time of day. But I’d almost always choose this lounge over the United Global First Lounge, and those are the only two options for Star Alliance flyers at Narita.

Review: ANA Economy Class NRT to SEA on Boeing 787

When I went to scan my boarding pass to get on this flight, the machine angrily beeped at me, as I was supposedly pre-chosen to have a pat down prior to boarding. As far as I could tell, there were only three names on this list of passengers to get extra security.

I had called a couple of months prior to the flight to pre-select a seat, and I’m very glad that I did. The 787 that I flew had a three-class configuration of business, premium economy, and economy, and I was seated in 20C, or the exit row aisle.

ANA 787 Seat Map

ANA 787 Seat Map

For this configuration, 20BCHJ are definitely the best seats in economy. Because of the exit row, there’s nearly limitless legroom (okay, maybe not quite as much as the unlimited leg room on row 9 of the old UA 757 planes, but it’s plenty of legroom). The window seats aren’t ideal as the exit door slightly encroaches on the space of the window seat (not as egregious as the window exit row seats on UA’s 747 in economy), but if you value leg room over seat width, you should still consider the exit row window. My rowmate in the window seat started complaining to the flight attendant about his slightly encroached space because of the exit door and loudly proclaimed that he had the worst seat in the whole plane and should be given a seat in the premium economy section because of his Star Gold status. Needless to say, he did not get very far with the flight attendant.

Exit row seats

Exit row seats

Walking through the plane, business class and premium economy had very, very light loads, while economy was almost completely full. But it was a little shocking to see how small the economy section of this plane is. Since half of the plane is dedicated to business class and there’s also a premium economy section, the economy section seems tiny compared to any other wide-body jet I’ve been on.

The middle bathroom in the economy section is quite spacious, and should definitely be your first choice of bathroom if you’re seated in economy or premium economy. The bathrooms featured toilets with advanced functionality, as is common in Japan.

Spacious for an airplane lavatory

Spacious for an airplane lavatory considering that I can take this picture

Service was good and attentive for coach, and I pre-ordered VGML meals for this flight. The first meal was some sort of veggie patty with rice, while the second meal was spaghetti with a red sauce. Both were unremarkable but not bad.

VGML #1 on ANA

VGML #1 on ANA

VGML #2

VGML #2 on ANA

The real “fun” on the flight came upon landing. We had made good time and the captain said that we were going to arrive in Seattle about 30 minutes early. Well, we get to Seattle, and the captain then says that we need to go into a holding pattern since there’s heavy fog at Seatac airport. After holding for an hour, the captain says that we need to divert to Portland to refuel.

So we land in Portland, and we’re sitting on the tarmac, and no one knows what’s going on. We sit on the tarmac for about 2 hours, and the flight attendants are trying to do their best to provide people with snacks and water, but there just isn’t much food left on the plane (which is why I was super glad to have taken some onigiri from the Korean Air lounge in Narita). Then, the captain announces that there’s a maintenance issue and that they need to fly a mechanic down from Seattle since no one in Portland can work on this plane, and it’ll take 2 hours for the mechanic to arrive in Portland.

At this point, I think they realize that they need to let everyone off the plane lest they get fined for leaving passengers stranded on the tarmac, so we end up “clearing” customs and immigration at Portland, but none of the checked bags come off the plane, so it’s not really going through customs. They tell us to be back at a certain gate in about 2 hours, so I head off to the Alaska Air Board Room in Portland to grab a snack and wait it out.

Finally, I head back to the gate at the prescribed time, and the maintenance issue has apparently been fixed but they never refueled the plane, so we still had to wait for that. And then they finally bussed us all out to the middle of the tarmac where our plane was waiting, we get on the plane, and we fly the 30 minutes or so up to Seattle. It ends up being a 7-hour delay, and when we get off the plane in Seattle, we don’t go through customs.

Gorgeous day in Portland, but ANA's 787 shouldn't be there

Gorgeous day in Portland, but ANA’s 787 shouldn’t be there

Anyway, the 7-hour delay on Thanksgiving wasn’t ideal, and ANA doesn’t really seem to handle irrops very well in terms of communication with passengers and compensation (i.e. there is no compensation for a maintenance delay), but the in-flight service is good, and I personally enjoy the 787 (well, maybe not so much if they’re prone to maintenance issues). My sinuses feel less dried out after spending a long time on a 787 than on other jets, and I like the oversized windows.

Review: ANA Economy Class HKG to NRT on 767-300

As I was traveling over the week of Thanksgiving and wanted to spend Thanksgiving itself with my family in Seattle, I needed to fly from Hong Kong to Seattle. This gave me a good excuse to route through Tokyo Narita to fly ANA’s 787 between NRT and SEA, as my only other time aboard a 787 was a very short hop between Doha and Dubai on Qatar in business class (sold as first class).

My first segment from HKG to NRT was originally supposed to be on United, but they decided to cancel that route shortly before I was supposed to fly it. Of course, they didn’t notify me of this cancellation, so I had to call in to be rebooked on an ANA flight.

The ANA flight was operated by a 767-300, and I had recently flown this plane in business class between NRT and PEK. I was seated in the smaller forward cabin of economy class, and the first thing I noticed was the ample leg room. Because the seats have a hardshell that don’t recline (you recline by having your seat cushion move forward rather than your seat back move back), they have quite a bit of leg room when the seat isn’t reclined.

Economy seat with a hard shell

Economy seat with a hard shell

Each economy seat also has a personal screen for in-flight entertainment, and the options were identical between economy class and business class. The selection isn’t super extensive, but it’s perfectly adequate for a flight of this length (about 3.5 hours).

In-flight entertainment

In-flight entertainment

They served a meal and had a Japanese and a western choice, and I went with the Japanese meal, which was some sort of beef dish with rice. The food was okay, not great, but I admired the number of different things on the tray.

Japanese meal

Japanese meal

The service was very attentive, and I honestly felt that this flight in regional economy was better than most domestic first class trips I take in the US. You might not have as much personal space, but the service is superior, they feed you on a relatively short flight, and there’s personal IFE on demand. But mostly, it’s just that the flight attendants make you feel welcome and that they enjoy being there, which can be very hit-or-miss with some domestic crews.

Burn, United (Miles), Burn: ANA Business Class Tokyo Narita to Beijing

Introduction
Planning
United Global First Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
Lufthansa Business and Senator Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
ANA First Square Class Washington Dulles to Tokyo Narita
ANA Suite and Business Class Lounges Tokyo Narita (NRT)
ANA Business Class Tokyo Narita to Beijing
IBIS Beijing Capital Airport Hotel
Air China First Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
BGS Premier Business Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Business Traveler’s Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Lufthansa A380 First Class Beijing to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt (FRA)
Lufthansa B747-400 First Class Frankfurt to New York JFK
United PS Business Class New York JFK to San Francisco


NH 955
Tokyo Narita (NRT) to Beijing (PEK)
Sunday, November 3rd
Depart: 5:25pm
Arrive: 8:35pm
Duration: 4h 10m
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300
Seat: 4A

I arrived at the gate about 15 minutes after the lounge attendant in the ANA Suite Lounge told me to go to the gate, which was still about 25 minutes prior to departure. But this was a gate for a remote stand, and the final full bus had just started leaving when I arrived, so I ended up having to wait around for the other stragglers for the final final bus to leave. Specifically, there were 2 Americans trying to get on this flight, but ANA was considering denying them boarding since they were headed to North Korea from Beijing but didn’t have tickets to Pyongyang in hand as they were supposed to pick them up the next morning in Beijing. Oy. Luckily for them, they did get on the flight, and the final bus to the plane left about 10 minutes prior to departure.

Riding the bus to the plane

Riding the bus to the plane

Boeing 767-300

Boeing 767-300

Upon getting on the plane, I noticed that the business class cabin was relatively empty, with maybe only 1/3 of the seats taken. The plane had a regional config in business class with recliner shell seats, but it was perfectly comfortable for a 4 hour flight, especially since I had an empty seat next to me.

My seat, 4A

My seat, 4A

Plenty of space for a regional flight

Plenty of space for a regional flight

Not a particularly crowded flight

Not a particularly crowded flight

Even though I boarded quite close to departure time, we still ended up waiting a while before the plane started moving. And even then, we ended up taxiing for about 30 minutes before takeoff, which meant that our flight’s arrival into Beijing was delayed a bit.

Basic seat controls

Basic seat controls

Once in the air, the flight attendants were taking meal orders, but I asked if they could hold a meal for me so I could sleep first, which they were more than happy to oblige. Given that I had eaten about 4 Japanese meals on my flight from IAD to NRT and another Japanese meal in the lounge, I opted for the western option this time of pumpkin and sweet potato mont blanc-style, foie gras terrine, smoked Pacific saury, sauteed salmon with mushroom and port sauce, and a Pierre Herme chocolate dessert (links to the food menu and drink menu for the flight).

Seat in reclined mode

Seat in reclined mode

Western-style meal

Western-style meal

I slept comfortably for about 1.5 hours, and upon waking, had a flight attendant deliver my meal. Although it was a western-style meal, it still tasted Japanese to me, if that makes sense. It was pretty good, and certainly better than any meal that I’ve had on an American carrier, but the salmon was a little dry, which could have been due to the fact that I had my meal served an hour after everyone else.

The entertainment options were similar to my previous flight in that they felt slightly limited in content, but I enjoyed watching some Japanese variety shows which didn’t really require any language skills to comprehend.

The service on this flight was superb, and surprisingly, I think the English skills of the flight attendants on this intra-Asia flight were on a whole better than the English skills of the crew on my flight from the US (it was also surprising to me that most of the business class passengers on this flight were American). The crew seemed happy to serve, and their smiles felt genuine. Overall, a great flight.

Burn, United (Miles), Burn: ANA Suite and Business Class Lounges Tokyo Narita (NRT)

Introduction
Planning
United Global First Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
Lufthansa Business and Senator Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
ANA First Square Class Washington Dulles to Tokyo Narita
ANA Suite and Business Class Lounges Tokyo Narita (NRT)
ANA Business Class Tokyo Narita to Beijing
IBIS Beijing Capital Airport Hotel
Air China First Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
BGS Premier Business Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Business Traveler’s Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Lufthansa A380 First Class Beijing to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt (FRA)
Lufthansa B747-400 First Class Frankfurt to New York JFK
United PS Business Class New York JFK to San Francisco


After deplaning from my previous flight and heading through the transfer security checkpoint, I was spit out right in front of the entrance to the ANA Business Class Lounge and Suite Lounge.

Entrance to the lounges

Entrance to the lounges

Additional doors to the Suite Lounge side

Additional doors to the Suite Lounge side

Upon checking in, I was directed to the Suite Lounge side, but my first order of business was to grab a shower after the 14-hour flight. The showers aren’t located in either lounge, but rather they’re in a shared area to the side of the check-in area. I was immediately given a shower room and a small package with Shiseido amenities.

Shower room with Shiseido amenities provided

Shower room with Shiseido amenities provided

I then made my way into the Suite Lounge. The first thing that I noticed was how crowded and busy it was for a first class lounge, as there were very few empty seats open when I arrived. A lounge attendant greeted me, saw my look of mild shock and apologized for the scarcity of open seats, and asked me to sit down where she brought me a wet towel and a drink. After this initial greeting, everything else was self service.

Overlooking the Suite Lounge

Overlooking the Suite Lounge

Seating in Suite Lounge (once it got much less crowded)

Seating in Suite Lounge (once it got much less crowded)

Although I had gorged myself on my flight, I knew that I had to check out the food options and at least get a bowl of noodles. I was more than satisfied with the food choices as the noodles I had were delicious, and I enjoyed the inari and small desserts that I sampled.

Hot food options

Hot food options

Noodle bar options

Noodle bar options

Kitsune udon

Kitsune udon

Sushi

Sushi

Cold options

Cold options

Packaged snacks

Packaged snacks

Vaguely hidden Haagen Dazs freezer

Partially hidden Haagen Dazs freezer next to the noodle bar

Liquor selection

Liquor selection

Beer machine

Beer machine

One of the displays advertised relaxing massage chairs, and after sitting in a massage chair in an airport lounge at Shanghai Pudong, I knew I wanted to seek these out. An attendant told me they were located in the business class lounge, so off I went.

If I thought the Suite Lounge was crowded, that was nothing compared to the regular lounge. The lounge was quite large (probably 3x the size of the first class side), but nearly every seat was taken, and they were making periodic announcements to ask people to make space for other passengers.

The business class side is very, very large

The business class side is very, very large

But also very, very crowded

But also very, very crowded

Unfortunately, this also meant that all of the massage chairs were occupied by people who were using them as regular seating, so I didn’t get my massage.

In spite of how busy the lounge was, the food options also looked good particularly because there was also access to the noodle bar.

Buffet in business side

Buffet in business side

DSC03320 DSC03321 DSC03322 DSC03323

Sake bar on business side

Sake bar on business side

Having failed in getting a massage, I returned to the Suite Lounge where I checked out the personal cubicles, which might be the place I return to next time if the general lounge area is crowded.

Personal cubicle in Suite Lounge

Personal cubicle in Suite Lounge

Personal cubicles

Personal cubicles

As it was, by the time I got back to the Suite Lounge, the lounge was considerably less crowded than when I arrived, so it was a lot more peaceful. There were also some opportunities for plane spotting, including two kinds of planes that I’m planning to fly in the coming months.

Thai A380!

Thai A380!

ANA 787

ANA 787!

I think it’s also worth noting that the wifi in the lounge was too slow to use when I arrived and the lounge was super crowded, but after many people had left, I was able to use it successfully.

With about 30 minutes to go before my flight, a lounge attendant came up to me to tell me that my flight was beginning to board. Impressive stuff for such a busy lounge! Although she also told me the wrong gate to go to, but that’s possibly because there had been a gate change maybe an hour before the flight.

Burn, United (Miles), Burn: ANA First Square Class Washington Dulles to Tokyo Narita

Introduction
Planning
United Global First Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
Lufthansa Business and Senator Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
ANA First Square Class Washington Dulles to Tokyo Narita
ANA Suite and Business Class Lounges Tokyo Narita (NRT)
ANA Business Class Tokyo Narita to Beijing
IBIS Beijing Capital Airport Hotel
Air China First Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
BGS Premier Business Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Business Traveler’s Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Lufthansa A380 First Class Beijing to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt (FRA)
Lufthansa B747-400 First Class Frankfurt to New York JFK
United PS Business Class New York JFK to San Francisco


NH 1
Washington Dulles (IAD) to Tokyo Narita (NRT)
Saturday, November 2nd, 2013
Depart: 12:20pm
Arrive: 3:25pm +1
Duration: 14h 5m
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER (First Square seats)
Seat: 1A
Load: 5/8

First, a quick story: When I checked into the Lufthansa lounge, the lounge attendant told me cheerily that I would have the last meal choice. Or rather, she started off cheerily, but as she was reading the comment to me, I think she realized that she probably shouldn’t have read the comment to me and ended not so cheerily. Apparently, since I booked my ticket less than 24 hours in advance of the flight, the flight was only catered for 4 first class passengers, and there was a comment on my profile that I would get last meal choice, which was a major bummer since I really wanted to try the Japanese kaiseki menu, and the lounge attendant told me that all of the other passengers were Japanese and likely to order the Japanese menu.

I expressed my disappointment to the lounge attendant and told her that I really, really wanted to try the Japanese meal, and she eventually got her supervisor to talk to me. The supervisor contacted the onboard crew, and when I boarded, the purser came up to me and told me that she would try her best to get me a kaiseki meal. In the end, I did get a Japanese meal, but it was just an odd customer experience interaction with the lounge attendant, although this was the only major service miscue that I had with ANA.

Seat/Suite

I really enjoyed the new First Square product on the 77W. The seats are extremely private (i.e. you can’t see anyone else unless you’re trying), without making the cabin feel claustrophobic like I feel the Emirates suites can be on the A380.

My seat, 1A

My seat, 1A

Large screen, Rimowa (!) amenity kit, noise-canceling headphones, pajamas, cardigan, and slippers

Large screen, Rimowa (!) amenity kit, noise-canceling headphones, pajamas, cardigan, and slippers

The suite felt smartly designed, with easy to use controls and a minimalist decor. I also appreciated the storage space for glasses.

Entertainment controls with mirror and plugs

Entertainment controls with mirror and plugs

Seat controls, which I really didn't use

Seat controls, which I really didn’t use

Storage space for glasses

Storage space for glasses

My biggest qualm with the suite, though, is that it’s hard to look out the window. While each suite takes up the space of 4 windows, 3 of the four are blocked by the walls of the suite. I can understand why the walls are there to help with privacy and to include things like the entertainment and seat controls, but it’s not good for people who like to see what’s going on outside.

View across the aisle; you can see that most windows are obstructed

View across the aisle; you can see that most windows are obstructed

The seat is comfortable while seated, and it’s also extremely comfortable while in bed position. ANA provides something akin to an egg crate mattress pad that makes you feel like you’re on an actual bed instead of a seat-turned-bed, in addition to a great comforter and two large pillows. Although not as wide as the Emirates suite on the A380, I found ANA’s bed to be more comfortable.

Bed mode

Bed mode

Food

The food on the flight ranged from good to great if you like Japanese food. I ate and ate and ate some more, and I was super glad to have not eaten in the lounge. ANA posts their menus to their website (see here for first class menus and here for business class menus), so I had an idea of what to expect. Here are links to my specific menus: ANA IAD-NRT First Class Food MenuANA IAD-NRT First Class Drink Menu.

Prior to meal orders being taken, a flight attendant came around with champagne and amuse bouches.

I'm not a big drinker, but I couldn't say no to a glass of Krug

I’m not a big drinker, but I couldn’t say no to a glass of Krug

Amuse bouche

Amuse bouche

For the first meal service, the purser informed me that I could have the kaiseki menu, and she proactively suggested that I start with some caviar. How could I say no to that suggestion? I appreciated that ANA’s caviar service comes with a caviar spoon.

DSC03240

Caviar service

After caviar came the kaiseki meal service, which was course after course of interesting Japanese food. My favorites included the squid with sea urchin, the chestnut compote, the soup of sea bream, the grilled sablefish, and the dessert. I also had ANA’s original “Aromatic Kabosu” drink, which I quite enjoyed.

Squid with sea urchin, and selection of seasonal morsels (squid in soy sauce, salmon, dried persimmon in ham, fishcake with beans, chestnut compote, gingko nuts, and red pimiento)

Squid with sea urchin, and selection of seasonal morsels (squid in soy sauce, salmon, dried persimmon in ham, fishcake with beans, chestnut compote, gingko nuts, and red pimiento)

Soup of sea bream and matsutake mushrooms

Soup of sea bream and matsutake mushrooms

Salmon, spotted gizzard shad, scallop sashimi

Salmon, spotted gizzard shad, scallop sashimi

Simmered turnip, shrimp and surf clam, pickles, grilled sablefish, rice, miso soup

Simmered turnip, shrimp and surf clam, pickles, grilled sablefish, rice, miso soup

Dessert of adzuki paste spread between wafers

Dessert of adzuki paste spread between wafers

After sleeping for a couple of hours, it was time to eat again, so I chose the Ippudo ramen off of the snack menu and asked the flight attendant to choose a sake to pair with it. The ramen was delicious, as was the sake. To follow up, I had some fruit and a dessert off of the western menu, which were both perfectly acceptable, and my requested pot of tea came with some unrequested petit fours.

Ippudo soy sauce ramen

Ippudo soy sauce ramen paired with sake

Fruit plate

Fruit plate

Cheesecake with mixed berry sauce

Cheesecake with mixed berry sauce

Tea and petit fours

Tea and petit fours

For my third meal/snack of the flight, I asked if there was any caviar left, and the flight attendant told me there was and obliged me with my second serving of caviar. I followed that up with the deep-fried taro, which was an item on the snack menu specifically designated as a good pairing with sake. The deep-fried taro was not quite what I was expecting, but I really enjoyed it.

Caviar serving #2

Caviar serving #2

Deep-fried taro with crab meat

Deep-fried taro with crab meat

Finally, prior to landing, I chose the Petite Japanese course. The flight attendant seemed somewhat apprehensive serving me natto, which is slimy, fermented soy beans, but I assured her that I knew what it was and enjoyed it from time-to-time, and she seemed delighted to hear that.

Petite Japanese course: fiddlehead ferns, arabesque greenling, rice porridge, miso soup, pickles, and natto

Petite Japanese course: fiddlehead ferns, arabesque greenling, rice porridge, miso soup, pickles, and natto

I think ANA has some of the best food that I’ve had on an airline, but I’m (of course) partial to Asian cuisines. For what it’s worth, the purser asked how I was getting back to the US, and she was disappointed when I told her Lufthansa, as she wanted me to try ANA’s catering out of Narita, since she said it was superior to the catering ANA got out of non-Japanese airports.

Service

While there was a bit of a language barrier, I thought that the service was impeccable throughout the flight, if a bit more formal than I expected. As an example, since I was sitting in seat 1A, the flight attendants would bow to me whenever they came through the curtain for service. But I appreciated a lot of the small touches: providing a caviar spoon, offering me a taste of a wine before pouring a full glass, making sure that logos faced my direction, smiling during every interaction, etc, and the fact that all of the flight attendants seemed genuinely interested in making sure that everyone enjoyed the flight.

Present from a flight attendant

Present from a flight attendant

Near the end of the flight, one of the flight attendants brought me a small gift, which included decks of cards featuring ANA’s 787, a nice note with origami, postcards, and leg refreshing sheets. I had mentioned to her earlier that I was really excited to fly ANA’s 787 later this year to Seattle, as well as how curious I was about the leg refreshing sheets provided as amenities, so I was touched both that she made a small gift for me at all and that she was thoughtful in what she included.

Amenities

ANA provides a Rimowa amenity kit for first class, which is probably the most sought-after kind of amenity kit. The pajamas were comfortable, although extraordinarily large and baggy on me (I’m not sure how they chose the size, since the pajamas were waiting at my seat for me). I didn’t try the cardigan as the cabin was kept pretty warm.

The entertainment system is large and responsive, but the selection isn’t as good as I’ve seen on other carriers. Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising on a foreign carrier, but it appeared as if there were a fair number of shows that were inaccessible to non-Japanese speakers (i.e. no dubbing or subtitles provided). The noise-canceling headphones provided were good and effective.

Finally, ANA has a large number of additional amenities that they offer at the beginning of the flight in first class and for self-service in business class. Some of these are pretty straightforward like ear plugs, lip balm, and lotion, but there are also items like humidity masks, leg refreshing sheets, and aromatic scents.

Self-serve amenities in business class

Self-serve amenities in business class

The humidity mask is essentially just one of those medical-looking masks, and it provides “humidity” by making you breath the moisture you’re exhaling. While a bit awkward to wear at first, I could feel quite the difference after wearing the mask for a little bit and then taking it off. It was enough to make me keep the mask on for much of the remainder of the flight, including when I slept.

The leg refreshing sheet is probably the oddest of the lot, as it’s like a gel compress that you adhere to your leg (or I guess to any other part of your body). The “refreshing” aspect is that the gel is cool to the touch, but it was slightly unclear to me how long to leave on the sheet or whether or not there was anything else going on (nicotine?). Definitely worth trying at least once (it doesn’t leave a residue or rip out leg hairs).

The aromatic scents came highly recommended to me by a flight attendant. Essentially, they’re small pieces of paper with scent beads that you crush to release the aroma. They smelled fine, but I didn’t feel relaxed or renewed depending on the scent that I used.

Overall

ANA First Class is a wonderful experience. The food is good, the seat is private, the bed is incredibly comfortable, there are fun amenities, and the service is great. I’m glad that I had the chance to fly them in first class before it becomes that much more unattainable.

Burn, United (Miles), Burn: Planning

Introduction
Planning
United Global First Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
Lufthansa Business and Senator Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
ANA First Square Class Washington Dulles to Tokyo Narita
ANA Suite and Business Class Lounges Tokyo Narita (NRT)
ANA Business Class Tokyo Narita to Beijing
IBIS Beijing Capital Airport Hotel
Air China First Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
BGS Premier Business Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Business Traveler’s Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Lufthansa A380 First Class Beijing to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt (FRA)
Lufthansa B747-400 First Class Frankfurt to New York JFK
United PS Business Class New York JFK to San Francisco


So how did this all go down?

My final routing was SFO-ORD-IAD on United domestic business, IAD-NRT on ANA First Square, NRT-PEK on ANA regional business, overnight layover in Beijing, PEK-FRA on Lufthansa First on the A380, FRA-JFK on Lufthansa first on the 744, overnight layover in New York, and finally JFK-SFO on United domestic business.

Clocks in at 21,812 miles according to gcmap.com

Clocks in at 21,812 miles according to gcmap.com, which is 306 miles longer than my previous around-the-world journey

As stated in my introduction, my main goals were to 1) fly Lufthansa first class, 2) get access to the First Class Terminal in Frankfurt, and 3) fly ANA First Square on their 77W. Anything else was bonus, but I also tried to minimize my out-of-pocket expenses and not miss too much time at work.

Goal #1 is a bit redundant given goal #2, as the most straightforward way to get access to the First Class Terminal is to depart on a flight from Frankfurt in Lufthansa first class. Personally, I think that goal #3 is the hardest to accomplish, just because Lufthansa flies to enough destinations that it’s almost guaranteed for there to be first class award space available on some route, but ANA is quite stingy releasing award space on their 77W (but award space in the old first class config is relatively accessible out of Chicago).

So since I thought that ANA space would be the hardest to get, I started with that search. ANA flies their new first class config to San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Frankfurt, London, Chicago (one of the two flights), and Washington DC. Of these destinations, it seems like the best chance of snagging first class award space is to/from ORD or IAD.

While the most exhaustive way to do this award search would have been to use ANA’s website to search 7-day availability (searching backwards since I was looking so close-in) for each of these nonstop routes individually, since it was likely that I was going to leave later that night, I mostly just used United’s website. It wouldn’t have been fruitful to try searching for routings of SFO-NRT since the website doesn’t like it when you backtrack east before heading across the Pacific, but searches of ORD-NRT generally will also provide routings that connect in the east coast. As luck would have it, there was space on IAD-NRT the next day on the 77W, and I could find domestic availability to fly a red-eye to IAD from SFO that night to make the flight (the red eye ended up being two flights, largely because award availability kept changing so close in).

To get from Asia to Europe, there are a lot of options. But I thought that it might be more feasible to get award space on the Lufthansa A380 out of Asia than to some of their other destinations, so I started with A380 destinations first. Beijing is one of them (although it’s no longer flying to Beijing starting in December 2013; the others desinations are Shanghai, Houston, Johannesburg, Miami, and Singapore), and I found space on the A380 in first class the day after I arrived in Tokyo. Intra-asia award space in regional business was plentiful on ANA, so the connection was no problem, and I chose to overnight in Beijing rather than Tokyo mostly because it was a lot cheaper to get an airport hotel in Beijing.

Having found space on the A380 to Frankfurt from Beijing, I ideally wanted to find space on a Lufthansa 747-400 route to the US to get a different seating config (I believe this is the only aircraft config that provides all first class passengers a seat and a bed). In general, it seems like IAD and ORD again are some of the easiest routes to find first class award space from, but those cities are both served by the 747-8. Luckily, I found space to JFK, giving me a 2.5 hour connection in Frankfurt, which was plenty of time to visit the First Class Terminal and an overnight layover in New York to visit a friend, and I was able to find award space from JFK to SFO on United to round out the trip the following morning.

For planning an award trip like this, my main tips are to know your goals, know your routes, and know what’s most likely to be available. Finding first class space out of SFO or LAX is generally more challenging than finding first class space out of ORD or IAD (unless you’re talking about Cathay Pacific for SFO), so oftentimes, I start my searches pretending that I’m flying out of ORD to get a better sense of what’s possible. Similarly, it helps to do a little bit of research beforehand to know which aircraft serve which destinations if you’re looking to fly specific planes to help narrow down your search.

For what it’s worth, I ended up constructing a number of possible itineraries that I didn’t use. One was SFO to IAD on United, IAD to NRT on ANA First Square, NRT to BKK on the Thai A380, BKK to CDG on the Thai A380, CDG to FRA on the Thai A380 again, FRA to EWR on the Lufthansa 744, and EWR to SFO on United. This itinerary would have been nearly nonstop flying (no overnight layovers, with most layovers being ~2 hours) and given me access to the Thai First Class Lounge and Spa, but I opted for the itinerary through Beijing because I’m scheduled to fly Thai First class twice next year with one of those times being on the A380, so I thought it’d be better to try Lufthansa’s A380 instead.

I hope this post helps and wasn’t too much word vomit. To be fair, I don’t think I’ve slept for more than 4 hours straight since leaving for this trip on Friday, and I still have one more segment to go. If you have more specific questions or want advice, feel free to leave something in the comments or send me an email at efficientasianman (at) gmail (dot) com.

Problems Booking Lufthansa and ANA Flights Using US Airways Miles

REVISION: This post was done slightly in haste, so I’m not sure if other people will necessarily encounter the same problems as I did trying to book ANA space. I have a theory that I would like to test some more and I will follow up once I’ve gathered some more data.

As far as I can tell, it’s very, very challenging to book flights on Lufthansa or ANA if you’re using US Airways miles, which is a shame since US Airways miles are some of the easiest to accumulate via the Barclays US Airways credit card or their buy miles promos or the current share miles promo.

Matthew at Upgrd.com does a great job explaining what the problem actually is, but I figured that I’d add that it’s not just Lufthansa, as I’ve had major troubles trying to get US Airways agents to see space on ANA as well. And even though Matthew says that it’s not against policy to try to long sell flights, I spent over an hour one night calling US Airways about ten times, and I wasn’t able to find an agent who both knew how to do it and was willing to do it. Some of the agents were cognizant of the Lufthansa blocking as one of them told me that she hadn’t seen Lufthansa award space in months, and some of the agents seemed to know what a long sell was, but I was unable to get someone to long sell the ANA flight that I wanted.

So what’s the solution? If you’re ultra patient and willing to play phone agent roulette, by all means, follow Matthew’s advice and try to find an agent who both knows how to and is willing to long sell the flights to you. May the odds be ever in your favor.

Alternately, to save yourself from some head banging against a wall, you can try to avoid flights on Lufthansa and ANA. This can be extraordinarily challenging depending on where you want to go. I’m currently in the midst of planning a business class award to Tokyo around new years, and the most straightforward flights would be on ANA on their 787 to/from Seattle or San Jose. But since that’s not easily accessible and other trans-Pacific space seems dried up (e.g. EVA through Taipei, Asiana through Seoul, or even on United or Air Canada metal), I’m looking at the long way and crossing the Atlantic. This is also challenging since I need to avoid Lufthansa crossing the Atlantic, but I’ve seen some availability on Austrian through Vienna, LOT through Warsaw, SAS through Copenhagen, and even TAP Portugal through Lisbon. A future post will dive deeper into my booking process.