Stargold From United Kingdom, joined May 2008, 83 posts, RR: 0 Posted (4 years 11 months 2 weeks 2 days 13 hours ago) and read 13837 times:
Like most of my trips back home, it invariably began with staying up all night. I should have concentrated more on packing and tidying up the night before, but instead I chose to spend almost the entire evening watching TV and talking to my housemate, which meant that it was 1am by the time I actually lifted a finger.
So, I spent the night tidying up and packing for the trip. But then I had a major scare regarding my plans – my rather insane plan, of LHR-ARN, ARN-LHR and then LHR-NRT all in the same day, basically relied on both European segments being more or less on time. Being used to the intercontinental flights that are almost invariably on time, it never occurred to me that European flights might be any different… that is, until I checked the Flightstats website. There, I found some very disconcerting information such as the average delay for that flight (45mins – which sounds not too bad, until you realise my connection in ARN was only 1h15m) and also the flight back, which wasn’t any better. Then it dawned upon me that if the worst case scenario should happen, I could potentially end up missing my LHR-NRT flight, which would be just too disastrous for words.
After all this, my previously relaxed and anticipating outlook for the day changed to one of anxiety with regards to the connection problems. I headed on time to Heathrow on the bus, which took only slightly longer than usual considering that I was travelling on a Monday during peak hours. Having not slept a single hour during the night, I zonked out for the first hour of the 1h40m journey then spent the next 40 minutes still worrying about the connections – it started feeling less and less like a good idea every time I thought about the worst case scenario. And I had no travel insurance. Bummer.
SK526 LHR ARN STD 1035 STA 1405
MD-80, Seat 21A
It was roughly 8:30am when I reached the SAS check-in desks, after depositing my bag at the left luggage for the day to collect when I came back to LHR to check-in for my NRT flight. Then I headed to the SAS check-in desks where, as I only had hand luggage, I just keyed in my PNR into the self check-in machine spat out a boarding pass for my pre-assigned seat, 21A. The boarding pass was strange as it had no perforation for the gate agent to rip the larger part – instead, it was just one large piece of cardboard and had a barcode, which I presumed will be scanned to register the passenger at the gate.
Once I cleared the security, I tried to go to the Singapore Airlines Silver Kris lounge based on my later LHR-NRT flight in First Class, but the agent was quite adamant that I needed a boarding pass, not just a PNR printout with the e-ticket numbers. Off I went to the ANA transfer desks, where apparently they will only open around 4:30pm – useless. So obviously the Silver Kris lounge was going to be out of bounds, but what about the SAS London Lounge? After spending 10 minutes trying to explain just what I’m doing today (she really looked confused… as would I, if anyone else was trying to explain such a crazy routing) she eventually gave up trying to make sense of it, and just let me in anyway. Thank goodness, because I was beginning to get really sweaty and was quite frankly desperate for a shower. The shower was decent enough, and the hot water was reliable, and I emerged 30 minutes later in a considerably better state than before. The rest of the time in the lounge was spent just using the internet and having a glass of orange juice – standard stuff really.
Fairly soon, it was time to board the SAS flight to Stockholm. I went to the gate, which was quite close to the London Lounge, where they hadn’t started boarding the flight, and the holding pen was pretty full up. Within 10 minutes they started boarding the flight, with no reference to priority boarding so everyone just stood up at once to board and I was one of the first to find my way down the corridor towards the MD-80 aircraft. I’ve flown it before (also on SAS) but overall I was quite surprised at the age of the aircraft, which was visibly quite old. Not quite “held together by duct-tape” old, but you just feel that it has been around for a while.
I chose 21A based on the description on the SAS internet check-in website as being “emergency exit – extra legroom” and I was not disappointed. It must have been a good 36-37” of legroom and I was glad to be able to stretch out and essentially fall asleep for the entire flight until 20 minute before landing, when I was awake enough to realise that – being in Economy Class – I was expected to buy orange juice or coffee, and instead quietly observed the landing into Stockholm.
The legroom in Row 21 - not bad!
“Nobody understands me!”
We landed uneventfully into Stockholm and I made my way into the terminal – the terminal had a very old and depressing feel to it (not at all helped by the fact that it was close to being a ghost-town), and just felt much less “Scandinavian” than, say, CPH airport.
I walked towards the transfer counters where there was no-one available, so I naturally think to myself, “I have a ticket that leaves here, I need a boarding pass, so I should just go to the landside check-in counters and come back in”. What a bad choice this turned out to be.
The passport control officer was completely baffled by my itinerary (LHR-ARN, a 1-hour stop, then ARN-LHR, then LHR-NRT the same day) and seemed worryingly close to refusing me entry to Sweden. I did my best to explain, but he just couldn’t seem to understand even after 15 minutes, during which time I was yet again lamenting my own ambitious plan of taking three flights in a day. He finally called his supervisor, who came around and pulled me to one side. The supervisor was far more switched on, and after I explained to him the craziness of ARN-LHR-NRT being cheaper than LHR-NRT, he finally said “Well, there doesn’t seem to be any reason why we shouldn’t let you in!” and told the original officer to stamp my passport. This was by far the most grief I have ever gotten at a passport control before (what exactly did they expect me to be doing anyway? Illegally enter a country that I don’t need a visa for??). I was actually pretty scared during the delay as to what could happen. Anyway, phew.
After that particular drama, I went to the landside check-in desks which was quite hectic, used a self check-in machine which spat out my boarding pass back to LHR, and I made my way through the Fast Track security into the airside section. I then made another mistake of going through passport control back into the International pier too soon, since there was no lounge in that pier and I had over an hour to kill. The ARN experience was fast beginning to be pretty lousy (and I wasn’t going through the passport controls yet again just to use a lounge!) so I did a bit of typing in a cafe and waited for my flight to board. 20 minutes before STD, the boarding was called (there was priority boarding this time) and I boarded the same aircraft that I arrived into ARN (I’ve never done this before!) although the crew were different.
SK527 ARN LHR STD 1520 STA 1700
MD-80, Seat 1F
Once onboard, it was a fairly uneventful flight again. I was in Business Class this time, and I chose seat 1F on the online check-in earlier that morning as it said “extra legroom” although it wasn’t quite true for 1F - 1D did indeed have good legroom since the galley partition finished before the seat. At least I had the window to keep me entertained.
The flight left on time again (I must have been really lucky, two European flights both on time!) and it was very strange to feel the take-off acceleration without the accompanying noise as the engines are at the back of the aircraft. Although I was still a little tired from lack of sleep on the previous night, I was awake this time so I decided to partake in the meal service.
The meal was a beef steak (no menu, and no choices) which was edible, but not much more. The whole experience, in fact, was very similar to the food – acceptable, but not much more. I suppose the nature of intra-European travel really is a flying bus these days, so even Business Class passengers should lower their expectations I guess. Thank god I had a more exciting flight experience to look forward to!
Service on SAS seemed pretty lacklustre – they were by no means bad, but it was apparent that it really was nothing more than a job for them, with not much of a service mindedness to speak of either. They seemed to do what the procedure manual told them to do, and nothing more. Perhaps I’m being more critical in hindsight after experiencing NH F?
After doing one round of the holding pattern, the aircraft landed into Heathrow on time yet again. Now I could almost relax, knowing that I would be able to make it to the next flight on time. It felt as though I had been worrying about nothing, but I’m sure the more experienced European travellers will tell me that I had a very lucky escape – I do realise it could have gone all so, so horribly wrong…
A little pink slip saves my life
After getting off the SK527 at one of the farthest gates possible (30-something, I think), I briskly walked to the arrivals hall. Yes, the SK flight back to LHR arrived miraculously on time, but I also had to go through immigration, retrieve my luggage from the Left Luggage, then go to the NH check-in to check in my bag and get my boarding pass. A lot to do in just over 2 hours.
So imagine my dismay and relief (it was a very odd feeling) when I reach the passport control hall, and discover the place absolutely packed to the brim full of people – it was as though 4 widebodies, containing only non-EU citizens, had arrived all at the same time. It was obvious that I would miss my NH flight if I actually stayed in the queue for that entire period. However, I was lucky yet again because I had kept a spare SQ Fast Track pink slip in my passport holder, which was duly accepted by the entrance dragon and I was on my way to Fast Track, not mass-asylum-extravaganza of the main queues. There was literally 1 other person in Fast Track so I was done with the passport control in 3 minutes, not 2 hours. I don’t know what I would have done if I was forced to wait in that main queue and ended up missing the flight – but jumping off a bridge would an accurate description of my sentiment! On BMI, no-show reward tickets are forfeited and cannot be changed once the journey begins. I shuddered just thinking about what could have happened.
I proceeded to the ANA check-in counters, where I was checked in efficiently but somewhat lacking in warmth. No matter – at least she didn’t give me any unnecessary hassle. Once I had my very plain looking boarding pass in hand (I think Star Alliance must be striving towards an entirely blank white BP stock with a very small logo of each airline in a corner. I much prefer the individual branding because it looks so much better! Boarding pass in hand, it was then a matter of security (which was pretty easy) and lounge.
NH202 LHR NRT STD 1935 STA 1440+1
B777-300ER, Seat 1A
Originally, I had booked a C-class seat on this flight – firstly, because there was no availability in F, but secondly, it seemed that food and service levels etc should really be equivalent to many other airlines in F. Although I had the miles and was willing to pay the cash portion for a F ticket, I had settled on using a C-class seat on this flight.
Then, 4 days before the flight, I suddenly found 1 seat available in F! I felt like I had struck jackpot. I very narrowly missed out on an equipment change to an A380 in SQ Suites for my return trip, but in fact I was more excited about getting NH in F than I would really have been if I managed to get the Suites. Both products are of course amazing products, but from previous experience and other reports I knew that ANA was really at the top of their game.
After what I termed “best £65 I have ever spent” on upgrading the flights to First Class through BMI, I found that 3 out of the 4 available window seats on this flight were already occupied, and I knew that the only remaining window seat – 1A – was blocked for VIP/CIP and only released at departure. As much as I was elated to get a seat on NH F, I also really wanted a window seat. So, I had already pestered the ANA reservations centre several times to ask them to send messages to the airport to give me 1A on the day of departure, then called up in the morning of the departure for good measure. I think they must have had a long comments trail on my PNR, since the agent that I spoke to last commented “I will tell our staff at Heathrow that you really, really want a window seat”
It turned out in the end that I got what I wanted – the very plain looking BP showed 1A. As for ANA’s particularly bad choice of lounges at LHR (being UA’s lounges before, and now they’re sending even F-class passengers to the AA Admiral’s Club!), it was easily rectified by ignoring the lounge invitation and instead, off I went to the Singapore Airlines Silver Kris lounge.
Singapore Airlines Silver Kris lounge - boring...
I was unceremoniously guided to use the First Class section. I had only used the Business Class section quite a long time ago, so I had forgotten what it was like – well, it turns out there was a good reason why I couldn’t remember. Even in the First Class section it was just a very ordinary collection of chairs, some food in the fridge and on the self-serve counters and a menu where you could order for hot food, but nothing really appealed. Perhaps I knew I should save space for the immense amounts of food that will no doubt be consumed on this flight. I checked emails and so on until roughly 7:10pm, when I made my way to Gate 17.
Boarding, first impressions, and some thoughts about the seat and cabin
The aircraft seemed to have more or less finished boarding by the time I had boarded, save for the usual dribble of latecomers (I wasn’t late, mind you!) and the holding pen was clear when I made my way down the bridge to the 1L door. When I entered the cabin – oh, that wonderful feeling of knowing you’re going to have a fantastic flight – I was pleasantly surprised by the relatively airy and spacious feeling of the colour scheme and design of the suites, especially compared to Singapore Airlines B777-300ER. The grey plastic and blue seats do look much more modern and light compared to the leather and wood-clad SQ version, although neither can exactly called shabby. The ANA First Class suite design was much curvier and “organic”-feeling compared to SQ.
Three more notable advantages of the ANA F suite over the SQ 77W seat: Firstly, they sensibly installed overhead lockers so you were able to preserve your legroom by putting the carry-on up in the lockers. Secondly, although the seat eventually turned into a very wide bed, the armrests were big and raised during non-bed positions so that it felt less like a vast expanse of space and more comfortable for general relaxing. Finally, the seat didn’t flip forward to be turned into a bed – rather, it was the more conventional recliner that reclined into bed. So you could have a much more reclined position than the SQ seat which stopped reclining quite early. On both seats, however, the footrest did not extend far enough so I couldn’t use it at all – you really need to be less than 5’9” to actually use the footrest, it seems.
The screen was 15 inches and of course not as strikingly large as the SQ’s 23-inch monster. However, the size was in proportion to the viewing distance and it didn’t feel too small. As many have commented, the AVOD selection was passable at best, especially after one has seen the way forward that is SQ’s Panasonic eX2 on their A380 and the B777-300ER. I didn’t actually watch any movies or TV programming (save for the beginning of The Bucket List which I will continue watching at home) and instead entertained myself mostly with eating. Therefore, the Sky Map was the programming of choice for most of the flight.
Once I had settled into my seat, I had a look around the cabin to see which seats were going to be filled. As predicted, all 4 window seats were filled, and also two more passengers boarded after me to sit in 1D and 1F. Having taken advice from FTers, I would have chosen row 2 if I had to sit in the middle (well, row 2 in general but 1A was the only window available) so it was interesting to see that 2D and 2F remained empty. So this was not quite a full flight but pretty busy. Everyone else had changed into the hotly-debated-on-FT pyjamas, but I decided to wait until later – it resembled Korean prison-wear a little too much so I wasn’t quite so sure on the looks, although obviously the key point is comfort and no doubt it was very comfortable.
Some seat and cabin photos
Seat in Relax preset - very comfy!
Seat in bed-mode. Couldn't take a better picture since the cabin was completely dark...
Power connector and headphone socket. The little leather pocket on the right is for the laptop AC adapter... How thoughtful!
IFE control panel (full controller under the flap) and seat controls. Pretty extensive, including particularly comprehensive lumbar adjustments.
The spacious and sturdy table (which apparently takes into account the angle of normal flight)
The IFE screen and the foot well
View of Seat 2D
There was lots of space between the seat and the window, which made it tricky to take outside photographs from my seat...
Something wrong with the "5-minute Chinese Lesson"!
Stargold From United Kingdom, joined May 2008, 83 posts, RR: 0 Reply 1, posted (4 years 11 months 2 weeks 2 days 13 hours ago) and read 13803 times:
So the flight starts...
The Chief Purser, Ms Akai came to introduce herself and to thank me for choosing to fly ANA. I was tempted to comment along the lines of “Actually, ANA chose to fly me by releasing the reward space” but I thought it might kill the moment. Then the other cabin attendant also came to introduce herself and asked whether I wanted any reading materials which I passed for the time being.
After finishing boarding before schedule, we seemingly waited around not doing a lot for roughly 15 minutes while the ground crew presumably were doing other things. Eventually, we pushed back and made our way to the runway, waiting for several European aircraft to take off first (a BA 757, BMI A321, Swiss A320 and TAP A320) then taking off in that wonderful way that the 77W powers through the runway with a wonderful gentle roar of the engine (note: I have only ever sat in First Class on 77W so I have no idea how loud it is in whY!)
It took roughly 10-15 minutes before the seatbelt sign was turned off. Then, menus were handed out in the very smart looking menu boxes. I would have normally fainted at the sight of such an extensive menu but I had already checked on the ANA website for the current menu so I already spoilt the surprise for myself. Here is the menu for this flight:
Smoked salmon roulade, braised duck breast and fried shiitake mushroom patty
Vegetable omelette, sweet vinegared daikon radish and cured persimmon mosaic
Simmered scallops and seasonal vegetables in hot seafood stock
Our selection of sushi
Chilled white wheat udon noodles with batter-fried shrimp tempura
Sea bream and seasonable vegetables simmered in special soy sauce
Grilled freshwater eel and cucumber salad tossed with Tosa vinegar
Steamed rice, miso soup and assorted pickles
Dessert - your choice of one of the following
Premium vanilla and strawberry ice cream duo
Pear praline roulade with a hint of passionfruit
Warm mandarin brioche pudding with raspberry Anglaise
Selection of fresh seasonal fruit
Toraya “Shin midori” yokan (white azuki bean and green tea jelly)
A la carte
Caviar with traditional garnish
Earl Grey smoked-chicken breast with truffled saffron mayonnaise
Pan-fried prawn and scallop filled in crispy phyllo with creamy leek
Fresh garden salad with Japanese dressing
Seafood salad Nicoise
Pan-fried beef tenderloin with eggplant purée and Italian anchovy sauce
Pan-roasted sea bass with clam jus lié
Veal costoletta Milanese with blue cheese-flavored tomato sauce
Creamy vegetables filled in Savoy cabbage with Périgueux sauce
Selection of breads with a choice of
Lescure de Charente butter or extra-virgin olive oil
Premium vanilla and strawberry ice cream duo
Pear praline roulade with a hint of passionfruit
Warm mandarin brioche pudding with raspberry Anglaise
Petite Japanese Course
Grilled eggplant and dried shrimp simmered in light soy sauce
Salt-grilled sea bass with herb vinegar
Steamed rice or creamy rice porridge
Natto (fermented soybeans) and dried seaweed
Miso soup and assorted pickles
Petit International Course
Herb-grilled chicken breast and baked tomato with mustard vinaigrette
Fresh seasonal fruit
Delights Selection Course
Sake Accompaniment -
Marvelous salt-cured sea urchin eggs
Salt-cured calamari with ink
Prawn and sea urchin eggs in tender-simmered gourd melon with rich seafood broth
Oden (hot pot with fishcakes and vegetables)
Assorted Japanese pickles
With Wine -
Light Dishes -
Bowl of hot Japanese udon noodles with fried tofu
Cantonese-style noodles in shark's fin soup
Grilled freshwater eel with special soy marinade, served over rice
Japanese tea poured over rice, garnished with sansho-peppered baby fish
Chef's special free-range chicken and mushroom curry with steamed rice
Stir-fried shrimp and squid Cantonese with black bean sauce
Rice burger with Japanese barbecued beef
Creamy corn potage
Premium cookies and ice cream
Fresh garden salad
Cornflakes with milk
Selection of fresh seasonal fruit
Krug Grande Cuvée
Chateau Mercian Niitsuru Chardonnay 2006 (Niitsuru, Fukushima)
Chablis Premier Cru Mont de Milieu 2006 J. Moreau & Fils (Chablis, Bourgogne)
Meursault Clos de Mazeray 2005 Domaine Jacques Prieur (Cote de Beaune, Bourgogne)
Maximin Grunhauser Herrenberg Riesling Auslese 2003 (Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany)
Chateau Rauzan Gassies 2002 (Margaux, Bordeaux)
Chateau Dassault 2004 (Saint-Emilion, Bordeaux)
Nuits-Saints-Georges Premier Cru Aux Perdrix 2004 (Cote de Nuits, Bourgogne)
Pyrenees Ridge Reserve Shiraz 2005 (Victoria, Australia)
Other beverages omitted, except a brief mention to Hennessy Paradis Extra!
A bona-fide orgy of food 37,000ft in the air...
The menu box (a nice break from the usual leather folders) with the contents
First, the Signature amuse were handed out along with my first drink choice, Krug. It consisted of some cheese bread sticks (which tasted amazing, no doubt because more than half its weight consists of butter!), a marinated mini pepper with mozzarella-pesto, and a bruschetta with parma ham. It tasted decent but the mozzarella did not have enough time to warm up so it tasted more like a mozzarella sorbet, but other than that it was all good.
Signature Amuse with a glass of Krug
I pondered over the menu while munching on the amuse guele and sipped on the Krug. I debated going for the western menu, but decided against it because it seemed relatively boring in comparison to the Japanese menu which should be stunning. So, in a show of truly gluttonous nature, I decided to have the caviar service, the prawn and scallop filo pastry starter, then the full Japanese menu. I did feel a little piggish while telling Ms Akai my choices, but such feelings of guilt were short-lived as I looked forward to the caviar.
I had finished the Krug with the amuse guele so I decided to try the Meursault with the caviar and appetizer. When Ms Akai brought the Meursault for me to try, I tasted it and it was a little different to what I expected – it tasted slightly watered down somehow. Although I didn’t frown on purpose, I guess my face must have shown some sign because Ms Akai suddenly looked very concerned and asked whether I wanted to try a different wine, but I decided to stick with it for the time being, waiting to see how it went with the food.
After the table was set with the very neat looking deep blue table cloth, I was absolutely dismayed to see that the cutlery was plastic. It was a very good and sturdy plastic, but still plastic nevertheless. I could only imagine that it is some strange regulation of Japan or something, but either way I amused myself with the thought that it was yet another reason to go for the Japanese course. Of course, the only thing that made some sense in plastic was the caviar spoon which was either going to be plastic or mother of pearl, so it wasn’t too unexpected in that regard.
The plate of caviar garnishes was placed on the table, then the jar of Oscietra caviar was placed next to the plate. The caviar garnishes consisted of chopped red onions, chopped egg yolk and chopped chives alongside quite a thick cream, presented together with two pieces of brioche and two pieces of bread. As for taste, nothing more needs to be said – it was the perfect combination of textures and tastes. I was still not sure about the Meursault, however.
The caviar service setting. Plastic cutlery - arghh!!!!
Once the plate was completely clean, the caviar plate was cleared away, and the seafood filo pastry was brought soon afterwards. The scallops could have been a little bigger – I am being really picky – but the dish worked very well overall, and the sauce both inside the pastry and outside were extremely flavourful. This appetizer was not the one that was available in Business Class. For both the caviar and seafood pastry, I was so hungry and anxious to eat that I forgot to take the picture until having taken a bite out of it.
The seafood filo pastry
The Meursault wasn’t really doing it for me, so when Ms Akai came round to ask me whether I wanted something different to drink, I asked her which sake she would recommend. She said she recommends the … but then brought around both bottles for me to try – she was right on the money. The other one was far too sweet, verging on sickly, whereas the … was perfectly balanced. So, I would have that one with my meal.
A tray was placed on the table, on which the Japanese food items will be placed. The zensai course, which had the various appetizer-ish items, were very good overall. The cured persimmon mosaic was a little odd and quite heavy due to being half Philadelphia which I thought was a most odd ingredient for Japanese food, but the rest – the fried shiitake mushroom patty in particular – were very good indeed. It was all gobbled down very quickly, as my gluttony hadn’t started taking its toll yet.
Zensai course (Assorted small items of appetizers)
Then the nimonowan, the soup course, was brought. It was a clear soup with seafood inside and tasted excellent – not at all “instant soup”-like in any way and tasted like it was made properly from actual ingredients, although who knows really? I enjoyed it very much regardless.
Nimonowan course (Soup)
The food orgy continued with three pieces of sushi for the oshinogi course. Now, sushi onboard an aircraft normally sounds like a disaster except in very limited circumstances, such as the fugu sashimi I enjoyed on my flight on ANA F NRT-LHR back in 2001. If any airline was going to do sushi decently in the air, it was going to be ANA, and in that regard I wasn’t disappointed. Although the three pieces of sushi look relatively modest, the taste was much better than anyone could hope for 37,000ft in the air. Everything was very fresh, and overall I liked it – almost wishing they had a few more interesting fishes on offer. But there was still yet more food to come, so I shouldn’t be too greedy!
Oshinogi course (Sushi)
I then decided to have the kobachi (soba noodles with soy sauce and prawn tempura pieces) and the sunomono (eel and cucumber salad) together, which was brought to me with some more sake. The soba noodles were probably my least favourite item, firstly because the noodles tasted very doughy and also because the tempura pieces were absolutely tiny as can be seen in the photos. It wasn’t bad by any means, just not really in keeping with the sheer delight of the meal overall. The eel and cucumber salad, on the other hand, was really excellent and the eel tasted really good.
Kobachi and Sunomono courses (Soba noodles, eel and cucumber salad)
I could tell that Ms Akai was a little confused at the sheer amount of food that I was consuming, but I ploughed on nevertheless – if only she knew how much I used to eat when I was a bit younger. They would not have any food left in F after I finished all the food items! She brought the next course, shusai, which was sea bream and seasonable vegetables simmered in soy sauce, served with steamed rice. This was the highlight of the meal, with the fish just the right texture and taste, the sauce which had the perfect strength and taste, and the rice which must have been freshly cooked. Very impressive stuff. The quality of this course really rivalled good Japanese restaurants I am used to going to in London.
Shusai course (Simmered sea bream and rice)
After the shusai and rice, I really felt too stuffed to continue – and who can blame me when the food is so good? – so I told Ms Akai that I feel like I need to walk to Narita to work off the food but instead I will be taking a short break and taking a walk around. I made my way to the Business Class cabin, with the slope flat seats – I sat on one and was very impressed with the relax position (in fact, it seemed more comfortable than the F seat for the relax position since it seemed to wrap around my body better) but the slope made it weird for the sleeping position, as it invariably seems to be the case for seats of this type. But overall, it certainly wouldn’t be a bad flight in one of these chairs!
Having taken a short walk, I was ready to tackle the next course, but I decided that any more solid food might be just too much so I asked for the ice cream. They had cleared my table by then and I had a new table cloth and napkin. Unfortunately, when the ice cream arrived with my Blue Mountain coffee, it was still absolutely rock solid so I had to wait for a good 20 minutes or so before it was soft enough to eat. The quality was great although I didn’t recognise the flavour as being one of the well-known brands such as Haagen-Dazs. As always, Jamaican Blue Mountain was good.
The ice-cream dessert and Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
Stargold From United Kingdom, joined May 2008, 83 posts, RR: 0 Reply 2, posted (4 years 11 months 2 weeks 2 days 13 hours ago) and read 13797 times:
It's such a hard life - exhausted after the huge meal
Having been through something of a food orgy, it was roughly 3 hours into the flight by the time I had finished everything. I tried to write some of the trip report but realised that my eyes were beginning to shut themselves so I asked the CA to make my bed while I brushed my teeth. When I came back, I was greeted by the sight of a very generously proportioned, flat bed with a small towel-type sheet and a thin feather duvet - certainly somewhere that you can sleep for as long as you need with great comfort.
Armed with a small bottle of Evian that the CA brought me and after asking her to wake me up at midday Japan time, I went to sleep. Initially I tried to sleep on my front, but the headrest was raised and got in the way, so I slept soundly on my back for a good 4 1/2 hours until the CA woke me up at 12:15 Japan time, 2 hours and 30 minutes of flight time remaining. Immediately I was offered a drink so I got a glass of orange juice to wake me up a little.
Time for yet more food (but not too much this time!)
It took me about 15 minutes to come up to speed, then the CA came round with the menu to ask whether I wanted to eat anything, since they were expecting turbulence towards the end of the flight. I wasn’t actually hungry at all, but felt compelled to try something from the great snack menu so I asked for a bowl of Una-don (Eel on rice) with a cup of coffee. Although it was a different CA serving, she remembered I take coffee with cream and no sugar – something I found quite impressive. They must have a big chart with the eating and drinking preferences somewhere – mine probably read “Eats like a pig”!
The quality of the Una-don was amazing. It was fairly substantial but still the right size for a snack. Topped with two large pieces of flavoursome eel, the rice tasted really good with the soy sauce marinade. I’ve had far lower quality on the ground in London at restaurants that weren’t particularly cheap, which really speaks volumes about the quality of food onboard.
The very impressive Una-don
I debated asking for some more items – I still hadn’t tried the Super Cheeseburger yet – but when the CA came back to offer me dessert, I just decided that I should finish with the dessert rather than having to be rolled out of the aircraft. I took the Warm Mandarin Brioche from the main menu which came with some cream and a raspberry coulis. Once again, it was very good indeed.
After all that eating, I wrote some more of the trip report, then tried to watch a film but gave up after about 30 minutes, realising that I would not have enough time to finish it. The rest of the flight was spent just lounging, as more and more fellow passengers woke up and the cabin becoming increasingly brightly lit. By 1 hour prior to landing, everyone had woken up, people were changing back into their clothes and getting ready for the landing. But the predicted turbulence didn’t turn up so people were also eating after waking up – I saw 1D having some breakfast items, 2A having a fresh fruit plate, and so on.
Soon enough, it was time to prepare for landing and the cabin attendants busily prepared the cabin for landing. Quite frankly, I would have gladly stayed on the plane for another 10 hours, but like all good things it was time to resign myself to the fact that I had to get off the plane in 30 minutes.
Landing was uneventful and smooth, we taxied quite quickly to our gate in the South Wing of Terminal 1, and once the door was open, the curtain was drawn to allow F-class passengers to disembark first. It was quite a long walk to the immigrations which was a complete zoo thanks to a whole slew of widebodies arriving from FRA, IAD, and so on – I spent a good 20 minutes queuing while lamenting the lack of a priority lane for F passengers. LHR, in that regard (and in that regard only) is better by offering a Fast Track lane.
Because the immigrations took a while, my bag was already on the belt and I passed through customs easily enough. I then proceeded to the ANA Arrivals Lounge hoping to have a relaxing shower, but apparently 40 people were waiting for the 3 available shower cubicles and instead of potentially waiting for more than 2 hours for a shower, I checked Hyperdia for the journey to my friend’s house and left pretty quickly.
So, what did I think of the flight?
I am confident that ANA offers one of the best in-flight cuisines at the moment, particularly in the age of cutbacks everywhere on other airlines. The caviar service was very well done, with decent caviar and the full accompaniments. The seafood starter was also very good. I knew that the Japanese food probably wasn’t going to be as impressive ex-LHR as it would be ex-NRT, but the quality was still really great (save for one or two small misses but it was really not a big deal). As others have commented, the snacks menu is simply unbeatable and you could easily have entire meals made out of the “snack” items. Although I only had the Una-Ju from the snack menu this time, I have previously tried items such as Oden and curry, and the sheer quality and variety of these substantial dishes are what puts ANA heads and shoulders above just about any other airline. Other airlines might be able to match ANA for the main meal, but no other airline I know of has such an elaborate snack menu.
As for champagne – Krug is onboard, which is more or less end of discussion (unless you’re trying to argue the finer points of whether Dom Perignon or Krug is better, which is something I wish I had to worry about more often!). The Meursault was oddly not quite to my liking but the sake was great. They had some pretty high-end spirits as well (Hennesy Paradis Extra) which I didn’t drink – people talk about the Paradis being served on TG F all the time, but NH serves it too as well as actually having a good F product.
In short, it was absolutely flawless all around. It was something I experienced back in 2001, and was very much hoping it hasn’t changed. For sure, they are not as engaging and relaxed as SQ flight attendants, but that is purely a matter of different style of service, and the quality of the service overall could not have been better. I really couldn’t think of any better way to improve it. Everything was done so gracefully and they seemingly had eyes on the back of their heads or something, since there was always someone whenever I looked around trying to ask for something. At the beginning of the flight I wondered whether the service might be a little rigid and wooden due to the language issues, but Ms Akai in particular became just as engaging and warm as the best SQ flight attendants, but in the Japanese way that is different from the SQ style.
3. Seat and IFE
The seat was very good. It had the advantage of a sensible design for relaxing and lounging (by virtue of being a reclining design) while at the same time having a very good bed mode. The armrests, which were huge and comfortable during the reclined position, come down to be level with the rest of the seat to form a larger width of the bed, which was big enough that you did not feel at all restricted for space. There were very good little touches everywhere, such as good storage all around (including a space for laptop power adapters underneath the cocktail table!), and the table was large, very sturdy and looked nice as well.
The IFE was a little less impressive, but these days I’m not really an IFE person as I prefer to use my own laptop. I haven’t been to the cinema much lately so there were at least two or three films that I wanted to watch, but it was apparent that the SkyMaster is no match for the SQ Wisemen 3000, let alone their new Panasonic eX2 system on the A380 and 77W.
The flight completely met my lofty expectations, and possibly exceeded them. Having tried NH F before on NRT-LHR and CDG-NRT on the old style seats back in 2001, I had a reasonably accurate expectation of the soft product, and the new seat was only going to make the flight even more enjoyable. Having said that, most airlines have cut back their service a lot during that period (2001 to 2008) that it was also possible that the flight would be a complete disappointment, and I was very glad that ANA have kept their quality very high.
Conclusion: Do whatever you can to get on one of these flights - it's worth it!
View outside the window fairly early in the flight - very nice, just like the flight
Palmjet From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2001, 1053 posts, RR: 16 Reply 4, posted (4 years 11 months 2 weeks 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 13436 times:
Great report and pics - you seemed to really convey your enthusiasm for your NH flight and the experience looked fantastic. Lesser mortals (aka myself) flew with NH for the first time last year, but it was a domestic 773 service from HND to ITM. Even that was excellent both in the air and on the ground at HND. I'd certainly fly NH again. Thanks for your report and keen to understand more about why it was better to go ARN - LHR - NRT.
Stargold From United Kingdom, joined May 2008, 83 posts, RR: 0 Reply 6, posted (4 years 11 months 2 weeks 2 days 10 hours ago) and read 13406 times:
Quoting Triple7man (Reply 3): It sounds like you had a good experience on NH. I was surprised to hear you were on a
777-300ER because I thought they were using 747-400's.
They've actually been running 77W to LHR for a while now - there are not many NH 744 international flights left, namely Paris and Frankfurt. In fact, I think that might actually be the only international 744 routes left. All the ohter ones, including all USA-bound flights, are now operated by 77W. They have been steadily phasing out the 744s and it wouldn't surprise me if the remaining 744s also get substituted - which is a shame, because the nose of the 747 is always going to be the best place to put the First Class cabin (for reasons of private feeling, no traffic, no galley noises, etc etc).
Quote: I am curious as to why you went by way of ARN.
Even though it was a miles reward ticket, it was still cheaper (I used a mixture of miles and cash) to start the trip in ARN than LHR due to the silly Zones system for the BMI reward chart. Like many things in the airline world, it doesn't really make any sense... :p
Triple7man From Thailand, joined May 2005, 683 posts, RR: 0 Reply 7, posted (4 years 11 months 2 weeks 2 days 8 hours ago) and read 13270 times:
Quoting Stargold (Reply 6): Even though it was a miles reward ticket, it was still cheaper (I used a mixture of miles and cash) to start the trip in ARN than LHR due to the silly Zones system for the BMI reward chart. Like many things in the airline world, it doesn't really make any sense... :p
I'm a retired AA international reservations supervisor. A lot of things didn't always make sense, but I still had to go by the rules.
Quoting Stargold (Thread starter): I suppose the nature of intra-European travel really is a flying bus these days, so even Business Class passengers should lower their expectations I guess
- True, European Business is more about aquiring extra FF miles and or tierage than the service.
Quoting Stargold (Thread starter): I was more excited about getting NH in F than I would really have been if I managed to get the Suites
Quoting Stargold (Thread starter): After what I termed “best £65 I have ever spent” on upgrading the flights to First Class
- I'd second that, it's quite amazing how good BMI's FF mileage redemption is.
Quoting Stargold (Reply 1): The Chief Purser, Ms Akai came to introduce herself and to thank me for choosing to fly ANA. I was tempted to comment along the lines of “Actually, ANA chose to fly me by releasing the reward space” but I thought it might kill the moment. Then the other cabin attendant also came to introduce herself and asked whether I wanted any reading materials which I passed for the time being.
After finishing boarding before schedule, we seemingly waited around not doing a lot for roughly 15 minutes while the ground crew presumably were doing other things
Stargold From United Kingdom, joined May 2008, 83 posts, RR: 0 Reply 10, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 2 days 7 hours ago) and read 12024 times:
Firstly, apologies for the late reply - it's been a busy few days on holiday back in Korea, and also my laptop died a temporary death until it started working again recently.
Quoting Palmjet (Reply 4): Great report and pics - you seemed to really convey your enthusiasm for your NH flight and the experience looked fantastic. Lesser mortals (aka myself) flew with NH for the first time last year, but it was a domestic 773 service from HND to ITM. Even that was excellent both in the air and on the ground at HND. I'd certainly fly NH again. Thanks for your report and keen to understand more about why it was better to go ARN - LHR - NRT.
I think part of the NH's excellence is the utter professionalism and an amazing service culture. Most US/European airlines have no hope of matching something so cultural and intangible. I recognise that there are obviously excellent individual flight attendants in those airlines, but overall, as a team working together to provide an experience, you can't beat the Asian carriers.
As I mentioned above, BMI's strange FFP means that it was cheaper to start the journey in ARN. So I duly accepted the challenge of the ridiculous flight schedule like any keen air enthusiast should!
Quoting BA319-131 (Reply 8): Quoting Stargold (Thread starter):
I was more excited about getting NH in F than I would really have been if I managed to get the Suites
Yes, I'm pretty sure. I did in fact very narrowly miss out on getting the Suites on my SIN-LHR (equipment swap), and I remember being very annoyed about it, but I was genuinely thrilled when I saw the availability for the ANA in F.
I have experienced SQ F in their 777-300ER already, and to me the differences between that and the Suites is not so huge (i.e. the meal service is exactly the same, the service standards should be identical, IFE is the same, etc) so the only difference is in the seat - well, for starters I don't want to feel like I am shut away from the rest of the world, and the 77W seat was more than adequate. I think the only thing that would make me really excited about the Suites is if I was travelling with a significant other, and I was able to use the double beds... :p
In comparison, I hadn't flown ANA in F for 7 years, and they have a fantastic soft product (even better than SQ in some respects), as well as a very good F seat. And it's truly rare that you get a reward seat on ANA F. Plus, it has only been a few months since my SQ 77W F trip so perhaps that's why I was more excited about the ANA flight.
As far as I know, no Japanese carrier serves pre-departure drinks. I think the official excuse is to "leave more time for the security procedures" or some other unbelievable crap, but I have yet to actually hear the real reason - so my closest guess is simply cost-cutting. (You have to pay the local duty when opening alcoholic beverages on the ground, so those bottles of Krug would add a hefty tax bill!)
Quoting Davescj (Reply 9): An absolutely terrific TR! Thanks for posting!
Thank you for your very kind words
In a few days, I have more SQ flights in F coming up, including getting the SQ Megatop with the SkySuite for the first time. Will report on those flights with plenty of pictures
ManchesterMAN From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2003, 1193 posts, RR: 1 Reply 11, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 2 days 2 hours ago) and read 11858 times:
Wel done Star Gold on a great trip report and even more for actually managing to get a NH F award seat out of LHR (I've tried several times and failed, was beginning to think it was an impossible task)!!
Quoting Stargold (Thread starter): So obviously the Silver Kris lounge was going to be out of bounds, but what about the SAS London Lounge? After spending 10 minutes trying to explain just what I’m doing today (she really looked confused… as would I, if anyone else was trying to explain such a crazy routing) she eventually gave up trying to make sense of it, and just let me in anyway.
I don't understand why you didn't just flash your star gold card for entry rather than trying to explain your itinerary??
Quoting Stargold (Thread starter): The passport control officer was completely baffled by my itinerary (LHR-ARN, a 1-hour stop, then ARN-LHR, then LHR-NRT the same day) and seemed worryingly close to refusing me entry to Sweden.
I guess you are not an EU citizen then. They don't even look twice at you in ARN if you are, let alone questioning you. Tough having to explain your routing though. I know why you did it for the cheaper award, but it can be confusing for the unsuspecting! I've had to explain similar crazy things to US immigration before which isn't easy.
Quoting Stargold (Thread starter): After that particular drama, I went to the landside check-in desks which was quite hectic, used a self check-in machine which spat out my boarding pass back to LHR,
I wonder if you could have got away with just skipping the ARN-LHR sector and not bothering with your detour? Probably too risky but if you checked in seperately with NH at LHR as opposed to through checking in ARN, would NH really know you had just flown the first sector? You could even have just checked in online for the ARN-LHR and not showed. I wouldn't risk it but it makes me wonder.
Stargold From United Kingdom, joined May 2008, 83 posts, RR: 0 Reply 12, posted (4 years 11 months 1 week 1 day 15 hours ago) and read 11618 times:
Quoting ManchesterMAN (Reply 11): Wel done Star Gold on a great trip report and even more for actually managing to get a NH F award seat out of LHR (I've tried several times and failed, was beginning to think it was an impossible task)!!
Haha, me too - I had basically given up getting NH F, so it was a complete surprise to see the availability. I don't think I've ever called anyone in such a rush as I was calling the airline to change my ticket :p
Quoting ManchesterMAN (Reply 11): I don't understand why you didn't just flash your star gold card for entry rather than trying to explain your itinerary??
That would be because I am only Star Gold in name - I lost it 2 years ago because I no longer travel all that much. Well, at least I seem to have found a suitable replacement for my lack of Star Gold - F boarding passes! :p
Quoting ManchesterMAN (Reply 11): I wonder if you could have got away with just skipping the ARN-LHR sector and not bothering with your detour? Probably too risky but if you checked in seperately with NH at LHR as opposed to through checking in ARN, would NH really know you had just flown the first sector? You could even have just checked in online for the ARN-LHR and not showed. I wouldn't risk it but it makes me wonder.
I did consider the possibility, but the potential for things going wrong (both in terms of probability and the utter chaos it would cause) was too much. Plus, it was an interesting day overall, even if the SAS experience wasn't up to much. So, I was satisfied with the arrangement overall.
I actually can see another F seat available on NH F NRT-LHR near the date that I was supposed to travel back, but I'm going to stick with my SQ F itinerary - I've been itching to travel on the SkySuite for so many years and it would be foolish to not do it when it's all set already!
FCA767 From United Kingdom, joined Nov 2006, 1720 posts, RR: 0 Reply 15, posted (4 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 14 hours ago) and read 8938 times:
Nice trip... ...I did that...I left Florida for New York on another airline american airlines 1 week early...and resumed Delta's Flight MCO-JFK-MAN basically skipping their MCO-JFK that I was booked on...I never thought about them cancelling my international...Maybe I should have been more cautious
Airbuseric From Netherlands, joined Jan 2005, 4068 posts, RR: 51 Reply 16, posted (4 years 4 months 2 weeks 4 days 10 hours ago) and read 8718 times:
another great report. But what a routing
Flying NH seems a real good experience, although reading your report, it isnt't that 'special' what I would've thought, actually.
About pre-departure drinks, Mark asked about it. Japanese carriers are not allowed by Japanese Civil Aviation rules to serve any catering before taxiing and takeoff. This is due to the fact that cabin crew needs to give full attention to safety instead of service.
btw, a good selection of pictures again! Thanks for that.
"The whole world steps aside for the man who knows where he is going"
Andaman From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 17, posted (4 years 4 months 2 weeks 3 days 23 hours ago) and read 8451 times:
Thanks for the TR! ANA first class looks really good, absolutely great looking meals you got.
Quoting Stargold (Thread starter): Service on SAS seemed pretty lacklustre -- they were by no means bad, but it was apparent that it really was nothing more than a job for them, with not much of a service mindedness to speak of either. They seemed to do what the procedure manual told them to do, and nothing more.
That sounds quite typical SAS these days, unfortunately. They used to be my favorite.
It's like the whole company would be kind of depressed, just hoping someone to buy them and fixing everything.
Stargold From United Kingdom, joined May 2008, 83 posts, RR: 0 Reply 18, posted (4 years 4 months 1 week 13 hours ago) and read 7770 times:
Quoting FCA767 (Reply 15): I left Florida for New York on another airline american airlines 1 week early...and resumed Delta's Flight MCO-JFK-MAN basically skipping their MCO-JFK that I was booked on...I never thought about them cancelling my international...Maybe I should have been more cautious
You were indeed very lucky - especially on one single airline! The no-show cancellation process is not even a human intervention - it's literally a matter of all the remaining segments automatically being cancelled! Don't do it in the future!
I still think back now and smile at the craziness of it all!
Quoting Airbuseric (Reply 16): Flying NH seems a real good experience, although reading your report, it isnt't that 'special' what I would've thought, actually.
Well, you have an amazing seat, great food, exceptional service... I can't see how it could get much better! Unless we start talking about services that we shouldn't talk about on here
Quoting Airbuseric (Reply 16): Japanese carriers are not allowed by Japanese Civil Aviation rules to serve any catering before taxiing and takeoff. This is due to the fact that cabin crew needs to give full attention to safety instead of service.
I understand the reason, I just don't think it's necessary. Just about every single other airline has the service and they seem fine!
Quoting Andaman (Reply 17): Thanks for the TR! ANA first class looks really good, absolutely great looking meals you got.
They were indeed. Makes me hungry every time I look at it again. Although I'm told catering ex-NRT is even better!
Quoting Andaman (Reply 17): That sounds quite typical SAS these days, unfortunately. They used to be my favorite.
It's like the whole company would be kind of depressed, just hoping someone to buy them and fixing everything.
Funnily enough, that is exactly how I would describe it... They seem closer and closer to it every day, in any case... Just a distinct lack of passion or even a hint that they are enjoying their job.
LHR380 From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 19, posted (4 years 4 months ago) and read 6889 times:
My god you put away a lot of food!!!
Not a big fan of the food itself, but It looked very well presented, apart from the plastic, why oh why do they insist on still having plastic knives and forks. I can understand for Y passengers, but F and J deserve only the best (Maybe not the mileage people )