I am going to divide my return to USA flight into two parts, as they involve two different airlines. To make things more interesting, I made my return flight on Star Alliance carriers, ANA and Air Canada. The routing is HKG to NRT on NH/NQ, and then NRT to YVR and onto LAX on AC. No report on the last segment, but photo link will be provided to the meal on this flight. So let start with ANA’s brand new Club ANA Asia cabin!
October 10, 2007
NH 912 HKG-NRT Lv0940 Arr1455 Boeing 767-300ER JA612A/“612”
Operated by NQ Air Japan
So what’s Air Japan?
Folks are fascinated by this “Air Japan/NQ” label and not sure what it is this “Air Japan”? I will try to explain it using my minimal knowledge accumulated by reading various aviation magazines and folks with more knowledge can add more to it. Air Japan is just basically a lower cost subsidiary set up by ANA to cut costs and on some of the routes, you will find pilots who are non-Japanese, as well as near retirement age, and based on other places other than Japan. Some of the flight attendants are re-hired, as they retired from previous services on ANA, which has a lower maximum age, and some of them are foreign-based, and some of them are younger and hired at a lower pay scale than the regular ANA. NQ basically serves the regional routes, as well as some international routes using 767 (mainly Honolulu), but all are limited to the Boeing 767s. The service is no different to an average passenger like you and me, and you will get the same high quality service as all other ANA flights. Menus, amenities, magazines, safety cards, and all other stuff are “ANA,” and the difference is limited to the “lower” cost base for ANA mother company. So don’t worry about the label, Air Japan, as you can expect the same friendly service from ANA.
ANA really sets up an excellent website and the smart e-service is just an amazing way to begin the trip. There are still some glitches, but with the NH reservation code provided by my travel agent, I was able to just login and select my seats and enter my passport information. You can also enter your ANA FF number, if you want to. The only problem is that you still can’t enter FF numbers of Star Alliance partners. The seat map is nonetheless very cool and I immediately get the famous middle aisle seat with extra storage bin on the side, which is nice for a full flight.
How seamless is the Star Alliance:
I used the check-in at Hong Kong Airport Express Station, and Dragonair/Jardine is the handling agent for ANA at Hong Kong. The agent had no problem checking me all the way from HKG to LAX via NRT and YVR with all the boarding passes (yes all three segments), as well as checking my bag all the way to LAX. The agent was friendly, polite and thorough, just like any agent at HK. The standard of check-in agents at Hong Kong is just remarkably high. The check-in process was understandably longer, but all within reasons, and I am soon on my way to the airport. Yes, Star Alliance works all the way for me for the first time.
ANA shares the L’Espace lounge with Air France/KLM and its Skyteam member. The lounge is located on the other end of the airport, which requires you taking a short one-minute ride on the People Mover. The lounge was relatively busy, as there was now a mid-morning departure on AF from HKG to CDG, as well as the usual KLM flight to AMS, but still there are plenty of rooms to stretch out. Morning buffet includes some Asian flairs – stir fry noodles with chicken and shrimps, as well as corn and egg soup, as well as the usual cereal, yogurt, and breakfast pastries spread. There is free wi-fi, as the whole HK airport actually offers free wifi anyway, as well as a few white mac computer terminals. Definitely a nice lounge to hang out at!
Boarding began at 913am at gate 32, as our Boeing 767, JA612A, was waiting for us after rested overnight here. The new club ANA Asia cabin definitely looks really smart with the blue seats configured at 2-1-2 five abreast, and the leading purser was checking the boarding pass stubs and directing folks to their seats. As all Japanese carriers apply, there is no pre-takeoff beverage offered for no good reason (if you ask me), and a pair of headsets, slippers, and menu was already placed at each seat. The F/A were busy passing out newspapers, but what annoyed me was that due to their limited English proficiency, getting a local English paper is fairly difficult, and when you ask for an English paper, why don’t they just show you all the variety of papers? They also don’t automatically offer you local Chinese or English papers, unless you ask for it. That is definitely a point off.
Also the flight was not terribly full, and I saw a pair of seats opened, so I just jumped into it when the cabin door was closed. Then the NQ F/A immediately jumped towards me and mumbled something, and I got the message. Later I found out that a Japanese passenger had already requested that pair of seats in advance, as he was seated on a pair of seats with a neighbor. The whole situation actually annoyed me a bit because the F/A could not explain the situation to me. I guess if there is one small catch with Air Japan, it was their slightly lack of English proficiency. Nonetheless, the F/A was very apologetic about the situation and kept apologizing for a number of occasions. Other than this minor hiccup, the rest of the flight went very well.
New Club ANA Asia seat:
The new Club ANA Asia seat is definitely much better than ANA’s own regional business class seats on its 777s fleet, as well as CX’s NRBC and SQ’s regional seats. The seats feature about 50 inches of legroom and there is ample recline and the whole seat is well designed and comfortable. For the middle seats, there is an additional storage bin on the side, which can hold papers and magazines and small items. The negative of this seat is perhaps the video box under each seat, and the middle seat has no underseat storage and the pair of seats have limited underseat storage too. Fortunately, ANA also installs the 777 style overhead bin with extended bin size and the middle seat has two storage bins, so no problem. The side storage bin is good for magazines and a small laptop. The whole cabin was quite pleasant and well maintained. This seat is very comfortable for the medium haul flight, but I don’t know if it is that nice to fly on the longer SE Asia to Japan or HNL to Japan flights, but anyhow, it beats the original Club ANA cabin of Boeing 767s still used on a number of routes.
Door was closed early at 9:28am, as the load was not heavy this morning. We pushed back at 9:31am and headed towards R/W7R. We took off at 9:52am and the flight time was three hours and forty-four minutes. Our routing took us across the Taiwan Strait towards Taichung and Taipei at 35,000feet, and before climbing to 37,000feet as we entered the Japanese air space and cities of Kagoshima. Fairly typical routing! We began our descent at 2:13pm Tokyo local time, and touched down on R/W16L at 2:36pm, and parked at gate 45 at 2:45pm, as we needed to taxi all the way to the other side of the airport. Flight was smooth.
Here is the wine list and menu transcript:
Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Reserve
Rully Chardonnay 2005
Dourthe La Grande Cuvee Medoc 2004
KUSDAMA MARUICHIYA (Gifu)
(Note – all mini bottles and no full bottle service, which is sort of cheap if you ask me… but I guess these days they don’t matter that much or am I wrong?)
Chrysanthemum salad marinated in light soy sauce
Stir-fried pork in ginger-soy sauce
Fresh Seasonal Salad
Premium Ice Cream
Seared Scallops with Cajun Spice
Duck terrine with green peppercorn
Shrimp linguine with tomato-basil sauce (265kcal)
Fresh Seasonal Fruit
Premium Ice Cream
All for October 2007
Cabin service began with the usual beverage service, accompanied by the always nice ANA snack packets/baskets. There were basically three kinds of snacks – green pistachios, rice crackers, and black-peppered pretzel nuggets with almonds. There is also a basket provided for you to pour all the contents of these three snacks into it and mixed them up. A very good concept and all three snacks were delicious. Also, a polyester blue table placemat was placed on the table. That polyester was definitely a bit on the cheap side and I will prefer a real linen cloth.
Followed beverage, it was the lunch service, which was basically an one tray affair, and the Japanese lunch was okay, except it can use some fancier appetizers, such as seafood, sushi, instead of just some vegetables. The pork entrée was okay and the meal was acceptable. CX scores better on this area with more spread out meal service, but I guess CX does not offer a real Japanese choice on its business class cabin. Anyway, I still like CX meals better. Even Japan Asia Airways served a better Japanese meal on its shorter Taiwan to Japan flight. After lunch tray was collected, cups of Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream were passed out and there was no choice for those who care.
Candies were passed out after descent has commenced.
AVOD is available on this personal television system, and the selection is still a bit weak to my own liking. But there is a good sky map as well as forward nose camera system.
They are excellent in every way, and throughout the flight, they kept on serving beverages and passing out trays of water and orange juice, and they never take away an empty glass without asking if you want a refill or another beverage. Nothing is too much! The most amazing experience is that the F/A actually notices that I am suffering from severe nose allergy this particular morning, and I was like consuming tons of tissues, unless I gave up and took a Sudafed. But anyhow, she immediately got me a packet of tissue, as I was about to go get a new packet from my bag, and prior to landing, she got me another pack of tissue. That is service, if you ask me! Really observant and always make sure you are well taken care of.
Slippers were provided, as well as a basket of eye masks, face masks, leg masks, lotions, eyeshades, and earplugs were paced on the tray table of the empty bulkhead middle seat. The bathrooms were stocked with toothbrushes and packets of mouthwashes.
In conclusion, ANA/Air Japan definitely offers a good product for the regional service. The meal service can use some improvement and better English skills will be appreciated, but there is no doubt that I will fly ANA again on this same route. The new Club ANA Asia seats are comfortable for a four hours flight, and F/As were just excellent and no wonder ANA is like the brightest star in the international airline scene now. Now ANA has the task of maintaining the high standard that it has set up for itself.
Feel free to ask more questions!
Now going from ANA to Air Canada… what a different change! ANA strives to improve its service, while Air Canada…