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[PART 2/3] YYC-MNL on Air Canada and ANA

Sun Mar 22, 2020 2:15 am

This is the second flight of a mini 3-part series trip report from Calgary to Manila.

PART 1 from Calgary (YYC) to Vancouver (YVR) can be found here: viewtopic.php?f=9&t=1443245

Airline: ANA (All Nippon Airways)
Aircraft and Reg#: B787-9 Dreamliner (JA897A)
Flight Number: NH115
Class: Economy (Y)
Seat #: 34G
Flight Route: Vancouver (YVR) to Tokyo-Haneda (HND)

Transit and Gate Experience
There was still a lot of time left until boarding of the flight, so I decided to plane-spot a little while walking to the gate and got a good shot of an Air New Zealand B777-200ER headed to Auckland in the evening, as well as a Lufthansa B747-400 to Frankfurt.
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Once at the gate, I went to the desk to ask if there is an empty row on the flight. The gate agent then said something that I wasn't expecting....

"We were actually paging you earlier. Did you check-in three carry-on bags in Calgary?"
"Yes, we did."
"I'm sorry, but we need to charge you an excess baggage fee because you exceeded the free allowance for checked baggage. The rate is $200 per excess piece so you need to pay $600 before we can allow you to board the flight."
"You're kidding me! But we didn't even choose to gate-check the bags. They were involuntarily checked in!"
"I know, sir. But we need to charge you this amount because the total checked baggage is now 11, which is 3 over the free allowance for the four of you."

This whole thing went on for about 15 minutes, until another gate agent came in. I asked about how I can dispute this, and they said that I would have to contact Air Canada since they were the ones who gate-checked the bags involuntarily. The gate agent understands my frustration, she never raised her voice and felt sympathetic but she had to follow the rules.
Time was running out until boarding, and since things weren't going well with the gate agent we just decided to pay the excess fee and I had to pitch in half of it.
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After the flight, I asked my friends who've had their carry ons gate-checked before and they said that they weren't charged anything because they were told that it was going to be gate-checked complimentary up to the final destination. One even suggested that this scenario is a typical example of the inflexibility of Japanese companies during abnormal situations and always go by the rulebook without deviation instead of compromising with the passenger during an exception. Having flown ANA for 10 years now without any problems, this one was certainly a shocking one for me.

Boarding and Departure
The aircraft used for the flight is a B787-9 Dreamliner
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During boarding, I saw the agents tear off a stub of the boarding pass. Since I always keep mine for memory, I asked if it was ok to not tear off the stub. She wrote down my seat number on a piece of paper and allowed me to keep the whole boarding pass. As I waled down the jetbridge, the same agent came by and said to me with an encouraging voice:

"Try to get the money back from Air Canada!" with a thumbs up. I just smiled and walked down the jetbridge as I didn't want to cause any more commotion.

Cabin Attendants greeted passengers with a smile. One thing I have noticed since I've flown ANA last time was the change in their boarding music. It took a while of getting used to, but now I like it as much as the old version.

ANA BOARDING MUSIC NEW VERSION: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k81MytqRW6M

Originally, I was seated in 35H but after seeing an empty row, I moved to 34G instead. The flight was not full, and it seems that most of the passengers were Japanese headed home for the summer.
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Pushback was just one minute past scheduled time, and the Kabuki-style safety video was played.
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Personally speaking, this safety video is wonderful. ANA nailed the balance between overhyped and boring.

Crew and Inflight Service
Pillows and blankets were given out to each passenger as well actual headsets, not the earbuds that most airlines have reverted to giving Economy passengers these days.
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After takeoff, the cabin attendants served rice crackers. For the drink, I opted for the ANA Original Aromatic Kabosu..
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Before, hot towels were handed out but ANA has changed them to wrapped wet ones instead.

The flight was still along the coastline when the first meal service began.
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I opted for the Japanese meal, with the side dishes consisting of potato and fruit salad, roe and seaweed mix, and a regular salad mix. Salmon with rice was the main entrée dish.
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The meal was excellent! ANA has never disappointed me with their onboard meals even in Economy.

After the trays were collected, the CAs distributed ice cream to the passengers for dessert.
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About thirty minutes later, the crew dimmed the windows for passengers to rest. They didn't lock the passenger tint controls but limited them to half-tint or darker to prevent unwanted sunlight coming in. They also offered more drinks. I opted for green tea.
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In the meantime, I explored the IFE system. It had a decent selection of content, with a majority of it being Japanese music, shows and podcasts. There was a good selection of non-Japanese content too.
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I turned on the flight map and it had an awesome 3D view was well of our flight progress.
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As much as I wanted to sleep throughout the flight, I tried to stay awake as much as I could as the flight was scheduled to arrive at 6:30PM and would rather sleep once I get to the hotel so I can adjust to the time difference easier. I stood up and went to the galley where they had a mini-bar set up for passengers to help themselves to snacks and drinks.
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By this point, the cabin was completely dark, with most passengers sleeping. The crew, however did not stop work and wandered off in the galley. Every 30 minutes, they would pass through the aisle offering drinks to awake passengers, as well as snacks on the occasional basis.
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About halfway through the flight, I went to the galley where a cabin attendant was re-stocking the mini snack bar. I gave her my logbook for them to fill up and we had a short conversation to pass the time. She even asked me if I wanted a picture of me with the cabin attendants after landing as a memory of this flight. Not wanting to turn down a great opportunity, I agreed.
On this flight, the cabin attendants were one of the best you could ask for. They would immediately respond to passengers' call button requests promptly and quickly. They never showed any hint of annoyance or rudeness. They would smile and bow before coming to your seat. I decided that their excellent service should be recognized and wrote a letter of praise to the chief purser about it when I handed my logbook.

About 1.5 hours before arrival into Haneda, the lights were turned on. The cabin crew handed out wet towels to the passengers to refresh themselves.
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It was time for the second meal service. On North America flights, there would usually be two meals served. However on ANA's Vancouver route, the second meal service consisted of a snack box instead of a full meal tray.
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The box contains a ham and cheese croissant, yoghurt, sliced fruit, rice crackers and a Kit Kat bar. For the drink, I opted for Kabosu juice.
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Descent and Arrival
The flight was estimated to land a full 1 hour and 5 minutes ahead of the scheduled arrival time of 6:30.
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Before landing, the cabin attendants distributed candies and ANA postcards to passengers who wanted them.
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Arrival into Tokyo was smooth, and we were parked at the gate at 5:43PM, a full 47 minutes before the scheduled arrival time. Immigration was quick and painless as we were the only international flight that arrived so far. After all the passengers disembarked, I went into the Business cabin and took a few pictures of me and the cabin attendants to remember this flight by. I also took a picture of them after asking, which they were more than happy to have. Afterwards, my logbook was handed back to me, along with a bag full of ANA souvenirs.

The wonderful cabin attendants of the flight. Faces have been blurred for privacy reasons.
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Flight logbook returned all filled up by the pilots and cabin attendants. The surnames have been blurred for privacy reasons.
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ANA souvenirs were given as well as a thank you for flying with them.
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Bonus: Akihabara, Tokyo
The layover time in Tokyo was over 15 hours, so a hotel was booked for the night. Akihabara Washington Hotel was our accomodation for the night as it offered a cheap rate. To get to there, we took the Tokyo Monorail to Hamamatsucho station. From there we transferred to the Yamanote Line to Akihabara. The fare was only ¥500 per person (about CAD$6.50). Since it was only about 6:45PM, I decided to roam around Akihabara, which is basically the anime and otaku capital of Tokyo.
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For dinner, I decided to theme it up a little bit and went to a maid café. I gotta say, the experience was great! Prices were a bit on the high side, but the experience was totally worth going to.
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Conclusion
The onboard portion of this flight was excellent. The service was exceptional and it was the highlight of the flight. The legroom had a seat pitch of 34", which is more than what carriers offer these days to Economy passengers. The meals were very good, and the IFE was decent. Overall, ANA is an airline that I will continue to fly with thanks to their excellent Japanese hospitality onboard.

The gate experience, unfortunately, cannot be said the same. I don't know whether the fee charged was correct, or if it was unnecessarily charged. I have contacted ANA after this flight and unfortunately, they said the same thing as the gate agent: Three bags exceeded the allowance, therefore the $200 per piece excess fee had to be charged.

Nevertheless, I will still continue to fly ANA. This experience was not perfect, but even 5-star airlines have their bad days.

UP NEXT IN PART 3 of 3: Tokyo-Haneda to Manila on ANA's B787-9 Dreamliner.

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