SR117 From Mexico, joined Jun 2000, 785 posts, RR: 2 Posted (5 years 1 week 2 days 19 hours ago) and read 15484 times:
October 2008, the Hong Kong trade fair takes place in the Wan Chai Exhibition Center, hundreds of vendors from all over Asia come to peddle their wares to prospective buyers, thousands of useless and not so useless trinkets and items showing all the possible incarnations of plastic, fabric and wood. Marco Polo surely would have had a ball.
Wanting to attend this mercantile marvel and visit some friends in HK, me and a friend decided to cross the Pacific. As scavengers (aka, non-revs), our options were not easy. After days of careful load monitoring, our choices were narrowed down to UA or NH from LAX to NRT, and from there with NH to HKG.
As crossing the Pacific is much more pleasant in the front cabins, our original intention was to fly on the UA LAX-NRT nonstop.
After a lengthy queue at the UA lobby for a document check and dealing with a grumpy check in agent who insisted I needed a visa to transit through Japan (fate has bestowed upon me a Mexican passport), we were ready to head to the gate. Unfortunately, a friend who was kind enough to monitor the flight, informed us that there were several people on the upgrade list and more nrsa's ahead of us in line for first class, which made a middle seat in Y a terrifyingly real possibility.
Given the choice of flying NH economy or UA economy, the choice was clear, schlepp your bags to TBIT and fly ANA !!
12:55 - 16:20+1
Seats: 37F, G (Y Class)
We arrived at the NH counter at 11:55 and found it to be almost deserted given that departure time was only an hour away, we were checked in by a very nice young lady who after a few minutes of tinkering and discussing with a co-worker if I needed a visa or not, issued our standby passes. As the flight seemed to be a bit full we were not given seat assignments as tends to be usual with NH, but I was happy enough that we were on our way.
My cheeryness was promptly replaced by horror as I witnessed the massive security line which slithered all the way to the check in lobby, how would we ever get to the gate in time?? The scene was reminiscent of soup kitchen during the great depression. But then a miracle happened, a tiny filipino lady in a dark suit and an ANA sign spotted our boarding passes and came towards us, when she inspected our passes she paused for a second "Oh.. standby passengers" , for sure I thought we would be left to fend for ourselves in the ghastly queue, but to my amazement, she just shrugged and motioned us to follow her. She shamelessly fought her way through the masses of humanity and delivered us to the TSA priority lane, after thanking her profusely, we promptly stripped and readied ourselves for the compulsory inspection which fortuntely was painless enough.
Soon we were on our way to the boarding gate, wandering through the maze like cavern that is TBIT where much renovation is taking place. I am curious to see the end result, but for now, the decor consists of charming hallways of polished cement, exposed air conditioning ducts and loose wires, you can tell they were aiming for a Centre Georges Pompidou sort of vibe and they are certainly succeeding in their own industrial chic sort of way.
Once in the boarding areas though, TBIT isn't quite as monstrous, large windows give a very bright and airy feel as well as great views of the tarmac, seating areas also seem spacious enough. While TBIT(hip people pronounce it like Tibit!) is no Incheon, it was certainly better than the C/D concourse at Dulles which looks like the love child between the purgatory and a 1970s government office, sprinkled with a dash of mental asylum. TBIT was abuzz with the midday departures to Asia, CX, NH, KE and OZ all had their big jets parked at the time, and I was lucky enough to catch a spiffy looking Asiana crew heading over to their gate, Asiana girls are clad in impeccably tailored suits and they all wear a charming hat that is reminiscent of a goldfish cracker or an upside down skillet with a short handle.
Once at our gate things seemed to be orderly enough, with an army of ANA employees readying up everything for departure, immediately after arriving, we bit the bullet and ventured to ask the gate agent if she had called any standby's yet. Used to much grumpier agents, we were aprehensive about approaching, but thankfully our fears proved to be unfounded, as the agent promptly took our standby passes and kindly replaced them with 37F and G, thanking us for our patience. What a charmer !
With a few minutes before boarding I snapped some shots of our sexy 777, NH's colors may be old but I think they look great. I still find it surprising though that ANA manages to fit most of their economy class cabin in the rearmost cabin.
Soon enough, boarding started precisely at 12:25, being scheduled at only 30 minutes, I wondered if it would be possible to board an almost full 777-300 in such a short time? Surely it's not enough time for people to stash away their stuff and find their seats ! Especially without any fancy boarding zones or the likes. Despite my doubts though, boarding proceeded in an orderly fashion.
Each and every passenger was properly greeted by the ground staff when handing over their boarding pass, no rushing was to be seen, ANA staff were even careful to respectfully return each boarding stub with both hands and a smile. Uncanny !
The parade of smiles and greetings continued on board the airplane, all of the crew members on the flight were impeccably dressed and no frown was to be seen. This made the long trek to the back of the bus pleasant enough, as I nostalgically passed by and gazed at the Club ANA seats, past the Premium Economy section, past most of the Economy Class section until reaching our seats, the last row of the centre section.
Seat pitch seemed to be around 31-32 inches, tight but not unbearably so, seats were comfy enough and the cabin seemed quite clean and new. Each seat had a blanket and a schnazzy looking orange pillow.
Much to my surprise, boarding seemed to be complete with time to spare before departure, I wonder how they manage? Previously I have witnessed ANA board fully loaded A320s in 20 minutes, also with time to spare, quite impressive.
For anyone used to flying on North American carriers, it is quite surprising to witness that during boarding, All Nippon FA's are quite active not only greeting passengers and distributing newspapers, but also actively partaking in luggage storage, I would expect such a thing from hulky Lufthansa FA's, but tiny ANA girls?? All of this helps make boarding a much more pleasant experience as the watchful crew is always making sure that things go smoothly.
Soon enough we were on our way, flight time for today was a rather long 11 hours and 30 minutes due to nasty headwinds. I was rather dreading such a long flight being stuck in the back of the bus, however, attentive service would make this a memorable flight.
Barely a few minutes after takeoff, the seatbelt sign was turned off and people were free of their seatly confines. Cabin crew sprung into action and distributed hot towels, followed by a beverage and snack service.
The beverage cart is full of wonderful goodies, the usual juices and iced green tea, along with baskets full with wine (sparkling, red and white), sake and other spirits. I settled with some scotch which as usual with ANA, was generously served as a double by the charming FA, whoopeee !!
Warm beverages were also distributed, coffee, as well as english and hot green tea. I love the green tea served by ANA, fresh and leafy in a healthy shade of bright radioactive green, one can just feel the antioxidant goodness...
The snackpack is tasty enough, consisting of spicy and puffy snacks plus peas and shrimp crispies, not being a fan of seafood I could do without the shrimpy puffs..
Soon the meal service began, the choices were Chicken Katsu or German Style Eel, being in the last row made me quite fearful that I would be stuck with the seafood option, I watched as the chicken meals were flying off the cart, one after the other, perhaps the eel wouldn't be that bad? Thankfully I did not have to find out, as I was served one of the last Chicken Cutlets, my friend however, was not as lucky and was offered only the Eel, after stating that he was allergic to eel, the FA serving his side was visibly concerned, she promised to return, and return she did ! She managed to snatch a chicken meal from god knows where. It was very nice to see the crew members genuinely concerned and going the extra mile to make passengers happy.
The meal was pretty decent for a Y class meal, I dare say it was better than some premium class meals I've had on other airlines, quantities were small but appropriate, the one tray service consisted of salmon and salad, the main course, udon noodles with sauce, dessert and a bottle of water. I was quite satisfied after finishing my meal.
During the meal service FA's were constantly walking down the aisle offering tea and coffee refills.
After the trays were cleared we were offered small cups of Haagen Dazs Vanilla ice cream, I was full but who can say no to some iced goodness offered with a smile??
Drinking so many liquids soon required a trip to the lavatory, and my, what a lavatory !! The lavatory in the back galley is absolutely huge, one can probably fit 6-7 people in there (as long as they are stacked like pringles), I was tempted to throw a cartwheel or two but decided against it given I was heavy from hoovering so much food.
By this time an hour and a half had passed and we were cruising up the coast of the US headed to Alaska, due to the headwinds we were taking a northern course across the pacific. The next few hours were spent tinkering with the IFE, dozing off and listening to music. ANA's Skymaster II has a decent amount of on demand movies, japanese tourism documentaries and games. The true stars however were a couple of specials on ANA, including a behind the scenes look at their catering department.
During this time the FAs were constantly roaming the cabin with water, coffee and tea. Any special requests were promptly attended to in a friendly manner. I asked for a couple of Kirin's and they were always brought with a big smile and packs of snacks. I know that alcohol on airplanes makes you dehydrated, but there's nothing quite like a mile high buzz to make time fly by faster, especially when you're stuck in steerage.
It is interesting to note that each time that the 777 ascended a few thousand feet during cruise it was quite obvious sitting in the back of the bus, the noise of the engines spooling up caused quite a loud roar for the couple of minutes until the plane reached it's new altitude. I gotta admit I loved feeling the power of those engines
During mid flight we saw an FA casually prancing down the aisle with a mysterious basket. Sensing our curious eyes upon her, she stopped and offered us a snack. Her basket was full of fruit, potato chips and exotic japanese snacks. We helped ourselves to a bit of everything as by then we could do with a few nibbles, although there was no formal midflight snack, the basket items were more than enough to quench most midflight munchies.
After overflying Alaska and the international date line, headwinds started getting even stronger, at one point we were slugging along at barely 360 miles an hour, damned headwinds !!
Thankfully there were enough games and documentaries to keep ones self entertained during the long hours. It was odd to see just how many of these travel documentaries focused on food, food everywhere !! I couldn't help getting hungry again. By now we were 90 minutes from arrival and the cabin crew were back in the aisles with hot towels and carts full of food and baskets of wine bottles.
Our pre-arrival snack was cheese stuffed tortellini with spinach, always weary of airplane pasta, I was surprised that the pasta was actually pretty darn good, it certainly hit the spot as it wasn't too heavy yet it was filling enough.
During the meal service the crewmembers were constantly walking by with green tea, black tea and coffee.
Soon enough the trays were being cleared and we were beggining our descent into Tokyo-Narita. already some 30 minutes delayed because of the headwinds. As pampered as one may be, after 11 hours, one starts to get pretty darn restless. I was hoping for a quick straight in approach to Narita, however that was not the case as we ended up in a long holding pattern for a while before coming in for a landing on runway 34L with daylight coming to an end.
Landing was smooth enough and after a few minutes we were parked at the gate at Narita. Eleven and a Half hours had passed since takeoff at Los Angeles, I was quite tired yet there was still a further 4 hour flight ahead to Hong Kong.
That shall be the object of part II though as I have rambled on enough with this flight.
The verdict on ANA 005? I'm not much for fancy schmancy grading schemes, they are good but just not my style. So I shall simply say that ANA was a pleasure to fly. A seat, is a seat, is a seat, at the end of the day what makes you feel comfortable and welcome is the service provided by the crewmembers and supporting staff. The service provided by ANA was impeccable and wonderfully consistent, starting from check-in, to the lady that helped us go through security, boarding staff and cabin crew, everybody was proper, polite and eager to serve, one never felt as a nuisance or a burden upon anybody, it was particularly impressive to see crewmembers so attentive to any requests and their proactive attitude, this is something that one simply does not reliably see on US carriers on any class of service. Seating may be a bit tight, but otherwise, there is little to complain about the Y class service on ANA.
Thanks for reading up to this point and stay tuned for part two from NRT to HKG and transit at Narita.
Triple7man From Thailand, joined May 2005, 710 posts, RR: 0 Reply 1, posted (5 years 1 week 2 days 18 hours ago) and read 15309 times:
You do notice a difference between the service you get on US carriers vs Asian carriers. If I had to fly in Y class I would much rather be on JL, CX or NH.
What happened in regard to transiting Japan? Did you need to clear customs and immigration at NRT? Or were you able to get your boarding passes right away from NH?
SR117 From Mexico, joined Jun 2000, 785 posts, RR: 2 Reply 2, posted (5 years 1 week 2 days 17 hours ago) and read 15196 times:
The most comforting thing I have seen so far with my limited experiences on OZ and NH is that they are incredibly consistent in providing a quality experience, you are really hard pressed to find something to complain about in any link of the flying experience. You do see a FA or ground crew member who isn't 100% perfect every now and then, but even then they are proper and do their job efficiently.
You can certainly get excellent service on US carriers, very relaxed, warm, effortless and homely, however, it is also very probable that you'll get a crewmember or two (at worst, an entire crew) that simply does not care anymore. Next time I cross the Pacific I am quite tempted to aim for consistency and just fly NH or OZ even if it is coach
Transit through NRT was a breeze, you do indeed only have to re-clear security but it's pretty straightforward, while the signs mentioned you needed a boarding pass to use the transfer checkpoint, they let us through with only our paper ticket (NRT-HKG). After clearing security it only took a short walk to get to the NH transit counter where we were given a nice pair of A, B seats on 767. I love it how NH usually gives you a seat assignment when checking in, takes away so much of the stress from being on standby
BA319-131 From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2001, 8352 posts, RR: 55 Reply 3, posted (5 years 1 week 2 days 3 hours ago) and read 14081 times:
Great report and pictures, thanks for sharing.
Quoting SR117 (Thread starter): Given the choice of flying NH economy or UA economy, the choice was clear, schlepp your bags to TBIT and fly ANA !!
- Too right, good choice!
Quoting SR117 (Thread starter): I know that alcohol on airplanes makes you dehydrated, but there's nothing quite like a mile high buzz to make time fly by faster, especially when you're stuck in steerage.
- I agree, I've no problem sinking some booze whilst flying
Quoting SR117 (Thread starter): It is interesting to note that each time that the 777 ascended a few thousand feet during cruise it was quite obvious sitting in the back of the bus, the noise of the engines spooling up caused quite a loud roar for the couple of minutes until the plane reached it's new altitude. I gotta admit I loved feeling the power of those engines
- I have a dislike for 777's, they are so noisy!
Really enjoyed this report, especially as I have 2 NH intl segments due next year.
Aaron747 From Japan, joined Aug 2003, 7891 posts, RR: 27 Reply 5, posted (5 years 1 week 1 day 23 hours ago) and read 13752 times:
Quoting SR117 (Thread starter): All Nippon FA's are quite active not only greeting passengers and distributing newspapers, but also actively partaking in luggage storage, I would expect such a thing from hulky Lufthansa FA's, but tiny ANA girls??
Make no mistake - Japanese women are very wiry. A weak Japanese woman is an exception rather than a rule.
Quoting SR117 (Thread starter): one never felt as a nuisance or a burden upon anybody, it was particularly impressive to see crewmembers so attentive to any requests and their proactive attitude, this is something that one simply does not reliably see on US carriers on any class of service.
That's because the type of women that desire to be flight attendants here have the mentality of service imprinted on every facet of their personality. They are of a particular cultural pedigree in which service is literally what they live for. Call it what you want in terms of societal implications, but from a customer's perspective, it's truly enjoyable.
If you need someone to blame / throw a rock in the air / you'll hit someone guilty
Airbuseric From Netherlands, joined Jan 2005, 4125 posts, RR: 51 Reply 6, posted (5 years 1 week 1 day 15 hours ago) and read 13285 times:
thanks for this great report on NH. This is a very good airline company to fly on, for sure!A
So many items you describe, e.g. the help at security, the issuance of your seat assignment, the boarding process, the behaviour of crew on board, these things are so truly Japanese way! You'll find the same style on JAL. In the ground or in the air, you will feel yourself like a real customer.
I think you flew on one of the newer B777-300ER's, since LAX is a premium route for NH and they usually send their best equipment on such routes.
Great food and service for Y-class, many carriers should learn from this!
And you mention about the ANA colourscheme; indeed everlasting colours, but in my opinion one of the best corporate liveries in the world!
Thanks for the complimentary pictures, they give a good overall view on this trip.
"The whole world steps aside for the man who knows where he is going"
JRadier From Netherlands, joined Sep 2004, 4616 posts, RR: 51 Reply 9, posted (5 years 1 week 1 day 6 hours ago) and read 12848 times:
Quoting SR117 (Thread starter): Previously I have witnessed ANA board fully loaded A320s in 20 minutes, also with time to spare, quite impressive.
That's.... slow! Having 3 domestic Japan sectors under my belt I can say that JAL starts boarding 15 minutes before scheduled departure time on a 777-200/300 (400-500 seats) and makes it every time with minutes to spare!
For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and ther
Ryanair From United Kingdom, joined Jul 1999, 654 posts, RR: 0 Reply 13, posted (5 years 1 week 12 hours ago) and read 12238 times:
I have just returned to London having flown ANA LHR-NRT-ITM NRT-LHR in Y (although NRT-ITM I was upgraded to premium). On all three sectors their service was simply impeccable. Their style is very proactive and attentive yet not prescribed. For both of the 12 hour sectors I doubt more than five minutes passed without the crew offering some orange juice, fruit or alike - in a very unintrusive way. I had a small tub of ice cream when I boarded which the crew gave me a metal spoon for without being asked. They even made sure I got my special meal when I moved to speak with some friends.
The meal services were very good, with lots of buffet snacks available in the galley. I really enjoyed the "Sparkling Wine", which is champaign that can't be called as such because it has a screw top bottle. How many airlines offer that for free in economy?
My only gripe is with their 773ER config, because Row 23 has narrower seats (from the domestic 3+4+3 config) and very limited leg room which I genuinely think was the same as Ryanair (but with a narrower seat). I had row 23 on both LHR flights and it is awful for a long haul flight... Every other row in economy has wider seats with decent leg room.
SR117 From Mexico, joined Jun 2000, 785 posts, RR: 2 Reply 16, posted (5 years 1 week 3 hours ago) and read 11860 times:
Thanks a lot for the comments guys ! They are much appreciated.
Quoting Aaron747 (Reply 5): That's because the type of women that desire to be flight attendants here have the mentality of service imprinted on every facet of their personality. They are of a particular cultural pedigree in which service is literally what they live for. Call it what you want in terms of societal implications, but from a customer's perspective, it's truly enjoyable.
I have to agree, regardless of the implications, it is quite enjoyable being a passenger when such a pro-customer attitude prevails.
On a related note I think it is quite interesting to see that both ANA and JAL seem to be trying to imprint a certain celebrity aura to their employees. Or at least trying actively to give them a popularity boost through pop culture.
JAL for example seems to have sanctioned a TV series about a tomboy rockstar girl who is chosen to become a JL Cabin Attendant , it's a hoot ! :
While certainly it is not a 100% reflection of reality, one can still discern a very different service culture and also their own particular concept of the job at hand. The fact that the series was sanctioned by JAL says that they are comfortable with portraying such an image of their employees.
When browsing the inflight NH magazine, I noticed a similarly themed movie was coming for NH, turns out ANA does not want to be left behind ! I forgot to write down the name and asked about it when sending a feedback note on the flight to ANA. They were quite graceful in their reply and of course they also pointed me to the site with info about the movie, looks interesting !
Quoting Ronerone (Reply 8): I am always amazed at how trim and proper ANA's service seems to be. It's not so much 'by the book' or robotic so to speak, but still insanely organized, and just so Japanese! AMAZING!
Very trim and proper To be honest it feels very natural, and certainly very Japanese. I was particularly impressed during another NRT-LAX flight when I requested a seat change to a FA, she actually did some creative seat changes and me and a friend ended up with a row of 3 seats for ourselves. I didn't request anything of the sort, I merely asked for an aisle seat but she took the initiative to procure us a whole row.
Quoting JRadier (Reply 9): That's.... slow! Having 3 domestic Japan sectors under my belt I can say that JAL starts boarding 15 minutes before scheduled departure time on a 777-200/300 (400-500 seats) and makes it every time with minutes to spare!
A 777 in 15 minutes? Insanity !! Do people usually have a lot of carry ons? It seems crazy that people can shuffle their bums into the plane in such a short amount of time.
Quoting WAC (Reply 12): Apparently ANA crews are training alongside the magnificent Asiana staff cos of the latter rep.......
Oh really?? During the trip I was equally impressed with Asiana crews, they are also great and perhaps even slightly more relaxed in attitude and proactive than ANA.
Quoting Ryanair (Reply 13): I have just returned to London having flown ANA LHR-NRT-ITM NRT-LHR in Y (although NRT-ITM I was upgraded to premium).
Apparently on the NRT-ITM flights, Y, Premium Y and C class are sold as economy, hence you can end up with quite a seat upgrade, too bad it's such a short flight
Quoting Ryanair (Reply 13): I had row 23 on both LHR flights and it is awful for a long haul flight... Every other row in economy has wider seats with decent leg room.
I wonder why those rows have the narrower seats? The 2 row mini cabin would otherwise seem like a desirable place to be in.
Other rows to avoid would be the aisle seats in the rear where the plane starts to become narrower.. the rows are slightly curved making the legroom in the aisle seat quite tight.
Quoting Oa260 (Reply 15): Excellent report . ANA is an airline id like to fly with especially after your report. The meals looked great, I wouldnt eat Eel though lol....
My neighbor was having the eel actually, and, it didn't look vile and disgusting at all and it was not stinky either, I was almost curious to have a taste, however I thought it would have been too cheeky of me to dig into his dish.
Ryanair!!! From Australia, joined Mar 2002, 4706 posts, RR: 26 Reply 19, posted (5 years 6 days 17 hours ago) and read 11475 times:
Having flown both NH and JL, I can tell you the former is a sure winner. I found JL, while attentive and smiley, was too concentrated on pleasing the Japanese passengers and that left an international pax like me feeling rather ignored. NH on the other hand has all the works that JL posseses, and more.
Quoting SR117 (Thread starter): For anyone used to flying on North American carriers, it is quite surprising to witness that during boarding, All Nippon FA's are quite active not only greeting passengers and distributing newspapers, but also actively partaking in luggage storage, I would expect such a thing from hulky Lufthansa FA's, but tiny ANA girls?? All of this helps make boarding a much more pleasant experience as the watchful crew is always making sure that things go smoothly.
We do not need this report to remind us how lacking customer service is on US carriers. During boarding, the US FAs already set the tone for how the flight would be with their just-got-out-of-bed demeanour. Is it a restriction by law that the US FAs cannot help passengers with their bags up into the overheads?
Quoting SR117 (Thread starter): I love the green tea served by ANA, fresh and leafy in a healthy shade of bright radioactive green, one can just feel the antioxidant goodness...
Interestingly, NWA also has this green tea service on their trans-Pacific flights to NRT. Of course you can take away the smiles because all you hear is "greenteagreenteagreentea...." and it is poured for you without even looking you in the eye.
Quoting SR117 (Thread starter): after stating that he was allergic to eel, the FA serving his side was visibly concerned, she promised to return, and return she did ! She managed to snatch a chicken meal from god knows where. It was very nice to see the crew members genuinely concerned and going the extra mile to make passengers happy.
She probably swopped her crew meal. But still, it is heartening to see that she cared for a passenger this way. I had a crew meal plated on First Class cutlery for me on a recent JCL flight on SQ when the option I wanted was out.
Wow... Milano biscuits (or cookie for the Americans) is not a cheap addition to this meal.
Quoting SR117 (Thread starter): this is something that one simply does not reliably see on US carriers on any class of service.
Sigh, need we say more?
Welcome to my starry one world alliance, a team in the sky!
Triple7man From Thailand, joined May 2005, 710 posts, RR: 0 Reply 20, posted (5 years 6 days 13 hours ago) and read 11373 times:
I flew NH today HND-ITM-HND and just want to add to all the fine comments here...their inflight service is wonderful. For example the f/a's went around closing the overhead storage compartments. If you were on AA in Y class they would probably tell you to get out of your seat and close it.
They sprung into service right after the seat belt sign went off, serving drinks because it was a short flight. I asked for consomme and when the f/a came to collect my cup I asked if I could have another one, because it was very good. She gave me another one, and added "It is our pleasure to serve you." Some of you non Asian carriers need to learn a lesson in service here.
Because I am AA retired I always fly in first on AA and the service is wonderful. But if I had to fly in economy class, I would definitely choose JL or NH because their service is wonderful.
And now I'll go and read your part 2.
Econojetter From Malaysia, joined May 2001, 430 posts, RR: 5 Reply 21, posted (5 years 1 day 11 hours ago) and read 10268 times:
Thank you for an informative and nicely written report.
NH is one airline I have been waiting fly (and nearly did this year) on a long international route. I have flown with them a handful of times within Japan and have been impressed by the overall product. Pleased to hear that, despite the advertised 31" pitch, it did not feel too tight.