After arriving in Perth on Virgin Australia business class, I immediately made my way over to the international concourse to check in for the next leg of the journey: ANA 787 business class to Tokyo Narita.
ANA had only recently launched their Perth–Tokyo service, which provided another convenient Star Alliance direct option into Western Australia alongside Singapore Airlines and Thai Airways.
I was therefore very happy to have successfully included this flight – the first leg of a 48-hour journey that would eventually bring me over to Europe – on my Aeroplan Mini-RTW, and was especially looking forward to flying ANA long-haul business class, which is widely regarded as one of Star Alliance’s finest, for the first time.
The check-in staff at the ANA counters were friendly enough, although they were understandably quite taken aback when the system printed out five separate boarding passes for my upcoming flights to Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Vienna, and Geneva. That was followed by a few minutes of confusion as they tried to process my checked bag, which eventually needed two separate bag tags in order to list out the five different airport codes.
Eventually, everything was sorted out without issue, and I was handed my boarding pass for the flight and informed that I’d have access to the Air New Zealand Lounge prior to departure.
I quickly proceeded through the fast-track security and immigration lines and headed to the lounge.
The Air New Zealand Lounge Perth is dressed up in the same Kiwi-inspired themes as the airline’s flagship location in Auckland, although this location is much smaller, and only caters to the limited number of Star Alliance flights on Air New Zealand, Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways, and ANA departing out of Perth. At this evening hour, virtually all the passengers in the lounge were departing on the nighttime ANA flight.
(There’s also a Singapore SilverKris Lounge here as well which I could’ve accessed in theory, although it was closed for the day by the time I arrived.)
After sampling a few snacks and drinks in the lounge and getting a bit of work done, I headed for the boarding gate a little bit before the scheduled boarding time to take my place in the business class queue. In true Japanese fashion, the ANA staff performed a ceremonial bow in front of us as soon as the clock struck 9:25pm, and we were then welcomed onboard.
ANA’s Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft come in several shapes and sizes. The airline operates both the 787-8 and 787-9 variants, and even among each variant there are several different seating configurations.
This particular flight would be operated by a premium-light version of the Boeing 787-8 with only 32 business class seats, compared to the 46-seat arrangement on other 787-8s. The seats are arranged across nine rows, split across a main cabin of five rows and a mini-cabin of four.
ANA uses a pretty unique variety of staggered business class seating across most of their long-haul fleet (with the brand-new “The Room” business class on the Boeing 777 being a notable exception).
Here on the Dreamliner, the seats alternate from row to row between 1-2-1 and 1-1-1 configurations: the window seats alternate between being closer to the window and closer to the aisle…
…while the middle seats alternate between two seats right next to their respective aisles in the odd-numbered rows, and a single “throne” seat in the even-numbered rows.
As a solo traveller, while I’d usually have opted for one of the window seats, in this case I couldn’t resist taking up a throne for the night, so I had selected Seat 4F in the forward cabin.
As I took my seat, the amount of personal space I had access to looked seriously impressive, although the electric-blue cabin finishes and the fluorescent mood lighting were a little garish for my taste.
Waiting at my seat was the pillow and blanket for the evening, in addition to the amenity kit, slippers, and headphones. I sat down in the throne seat and began examining my surroundings.
In the throne seats, the 17-inch entertainment monitor is nestled nicely between the two seat in front of you, flanked by a set of coat hooks and positioned above the tray table, footwell, and personal storage space beneath the footwell.
All of ANA’s seats are mounted on a raised platform rather than directly on the cabin floor, so there’s enough room under the footwell to store a personal item like a backpack or laptop bag, but any larger carry-on baggage would still need to go in the overhead bins.
The ANA 787 business class tray table must be one of the strangest tray table designs I’ve ever seen: a long, thin, and heavy-set table slides out all the way towards you, and then the two slivers at the side can be folded over to make the table just slightly wider. There was nothing wrong with how the tray table worked in practice – I just thought it was odd.
The USB and power ports are found right underneath the entertainment screen, above the tray table holder. The fact that there’s a connection port for iPods speaks volumes as to the age of this business class product, doesn’t it?
I was delighted with how much surface space I had access to here in the throne seat, with the seat consoles on both sides of me being large enough to fit a full meal tray, a few drinks, or just my various knick-knacks throughout the flight.
Most of the seat features were concentrated on the right-side seat console, since, after all, the other non-throne seats would only have one of these two seat consoles to work with. The walls played host to a drink holder, a literature pocket, a headphone jack, and a reading light, while the seat and entertainment controls were positioned along the inner walls facing you.
The simplistic seat controls also harken back to a bygone era when this seat type would’ve been seen as more cutting-edge, and it’s definitely the right time for ANA to be refreshing their long-haul business class product (as they are currently doing).
One weakness to the ANA staggered business class seat is a lack of storage space: besides the area underneath the footwell, which was designed for a larger item, there weren’t any other storage compartments to keep your belongings secure.
A few flight attendants stopped by to welcome me to the flight, and one of them offered me a welcome beverage. While champagne was on offer, I was feeling very sleepy ahead of this flight and planned to maximize my rest onboard as much as possible, so I wasn’t really in the mood for a glass of bubbly. I simply went with a glass of orange juice instead.
I was also invited to flip through the menu, which read as follows:
ANA’s amenity kit is produced in collaboration with Globe-Trotter, a British luxury luggage brand, and while the leather material feels pleasant to the touch, I thought the aesthetics of the kit left a few things to be desired, since it looked rather cheap.
The amenity kit contents were also pretty run-of-the-mill, consisting of an eye mask, earplugs, dental kit, and a trio of Sekkisei MYV skincare amenities. I rarely actually use the items in an amenity kit anyway, so I put this one away for safekeeping to give away at a Miles & Points Event sometime in the future.
I donned the slippers and got comfortable in my seat, and just as the safety video began to play…
…I fell asleep for a solid 30 minutes or so, only waking up by the time we had already taken flight, and the crew member was asking me what I’d like to have for dinner!
Wow – I do tend to doze off during the takeoff sequence, but it had been a while since I’ve passed out so comprehensively on a flight. My relentless round-the-world trip must’ve really been catching up to me by this point.
As I always do when flying Japanese airlines, I elected to have the Japanese dinner in favour of the Western one, as well as a glass of ANA’s “signature aromatic kabosu” citrus-flavoured drink to start. While ANA is known for their impressive liquor selection in premium cabins, I chose not to participate on this flight when my goal was to maximize rest.
The crew member returned very soon to set my table and deliver my drink. As this was an overnight flight and most passengers were looking to get to sleep as soon as possible, the crew was naturally focused on carrying out the meal service as efficiently as possible.
To that end, the entire meal – appetizer, main course, dessert, and all – came served on a single tray. Accordingly, there was no real separation between the different courses of the meal, and I picked my way around the plate sampling every dish at the same time.
While the hot item of deep-fried sea bream (and ANA’s signature paper-wrapped steamed rice) was very enjoyable, I was a little perplexed by the zensai appetizer, which consisted of a plate of cold items – sliced pork, lotus, eggplant, and mixed vegetables – that didn’t really seem like they belonged together.
I had no complaints about the herring bites or the miso soup, while the red bean paste-filled wafer for dessert was pretty tasty, if a little dry.
During my meal, I briefly tried to connect to the wifi. However, ANA doesn’t offer free wifi even to its premium passengers, and I didn’t feel it was worth paying for wifi when I was planning to sleep for the rest of the flight anyway.
For what it’s worth, though, if this were a daytime flight, I probably would’ve gone ahead with the US$21.95 full flight package.
Overall, the meal service was highly efficient, and my tray was withdrawn about 30 minutes after it landed on my table, which is exactly what you want on one of these red-eye flights. I asked for a cup of of houji-cha (roasted green tea) to soothe my spirits before bed before heading to the restroom.
The Boeing 787-8 is a relatively small plane compared to many of its peers, so I was surprised at how spacious ANA’s business class restrooms were. There was even a window in the restroom – perhaps I haven’t really been paying attention, but I can only recall previously seeing those on larger 777 and A380 aircraft.
There’s a foldable changing bench for any parents with young children, which was rather narrow, but certainly better than not having a changing bench. I was also pleased to see that ANA keeps its business class restroom well-stocked with any toiletries and amenities that you might need.
The crew had already prepared my seat for sleeping by the time I returned, and I must admit, the ANA throne seat in the form of a lie-flat bed looked incredibly welcoming in my exhausted state.
In addition, I was very happy to discover that the ANA throne doesn’t really suffer from a problem that affects most other throne seats on the market. Many throne seats have a footwell that’s sandwiched between two seats in the row ahead of them, meaning that there’s awfully little space for you to move your feet during sleep.
However, the two seats ahead of ANA’s throne seats are perched far apart and very close to the aisle, meaning that you actually still have ample legroom even in lie-flat mode. You still won’t be able to sleep spread-eagled, but I did find myself able to bend my knees at a reasonable degree; combine that with my already dwindling energy levels, and I ended up sleeping for a very respectable six hours or so.
I awoke with about two hours of the flight left, which would give me just enough time to order something from the snack menu – a tradition of mine when flying on Japanese airlines, and one I very much intended to honour on this flight. The “Ippudo rich-tasting Daichi miso ramen” was a natural choice, and it was served with butter on the side.
The creamy butter combined perfectly with the umami-laden flavours of the broth to give me one of the tastiest bowls of noodles I’ve ever had in the sky – and I’ve eaten many such bowls of noodles across all my flights with the East Asian airlines.
The pre-arrival meal would soon be served as well, and before that, I quickly browsed through ANA’s entertainment selection. The selection of movies and TV shows on ANA’s older IFE systems really is pretty average, with only about 50 titles of each to choose from; the airline has, however, significantly added to this selection with the updated hardware on their new and refurbished Boeing 777s.
Sadly, the airshow software was completely broken on my entertainment screen, so I had no way of tracking our progress on the moving map as I usually do.
Just like the first meal, the pre-arrival meal was also served on a single tray, and featured another portion of steamed fish with a paper packet of rice, a side dish of marinated spinach, and a bowl of miso soup on the side.
I would’ve appreciated more variety compared to the meal from before, but then again, maybe it’s my fault for steadfastly choosing the Japanese option over the Western one every time.
The sun was rising as we began our descent into the Land of… well, Exactly That, and some of the window-side passengers opened up their electronic window shades to take in the views.
As for me, I simply rested both arms on either side of my throne seat, savouring the last few moments of an ANA business class flight that had passed all too quickly.
ANA’s older-generation business class, which you’ll find on some of their Boeing 777s as well as across their Boeing 787 Dreamliner fleet, is a competitive but not quite top-of-the-line product for travelling between Japan and North America, Europe, and Oceania. While the hard product does have a few highlights such as the throne seats in the middle aisle, it’s beginning to show its age in rather noticeable ways, so in that regard ANA couldn’t have timed the release of their brand-new “The Room” business class any better.
In terms of the soft product, though, ANA is definitely a leader among Star Alliance airlines, and despite limited interaction with the flight attendants on this overnight journey, I still disembarked with a very positive impression of the crew and a very satiated appetite from the many Japanese dishes I sampled.
I wouldn’t hesitate to fly ANA business class again, although I’d definitely try to seek out their newer 777 business class, rather than the Dreamliner, if I had the choice.