Trip Report: ANA First Class, Washington to Tokyo (not good)

ANA, a Star Alliance carrier based out of Tokyo, is regarded as a premier carrier, with an excellent First Class product. My experience, hopefully a one-off, found ANA to be a rather poor First Class product.

There are two lounges available to ANA First Class customers at Washington IAD: the Lufthansa Senator Lounge, and the United Global First Class Lounge. The Lufthansa lounge is at the departure gate, whereas the United lounge is a 10 minute walk away. I went to both lounges.

The Lufthansa lounge is basically a business lounge. Since this was a morning flight, there was your normal European breakfast spread of cold-cuts, juices, and small baked goods. There was no alcohol. The First Class section of the lounge is rather pathetic. They rope off a small section of window seats and four dining tables for First Class. At least for breakfast, there were no special offerings to First Class passengers; however, I’ve heard later in day they offer a better food menu and wine list. All-in-all, it’s a fine business lounge, but is not appropriate as a First Class lounge.

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Lufthansa First Class section

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The United Global First Lounge is about 10 minutes away from the ANA gate. It looks like any United club: dark and in need of renovations. However, they had alcohol out, unlike the Lufthansa lounge, and had a better breakfast spread. At this hour, the United lounge was a better choice.

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United’s lounge… Monopole champagne

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United’s food spread

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United GF lounge IAD

I was boarded onto ANA First’s Class after priority boarding was complete. The cabin was pretty full, with three empty seats. I was greeted by name, and escorted to my seat. I was given a pre-departure beverage of champagne, which I’m pretty sure was Krug (didn’t see the bottle, but I’m familiar with the taste).

The seat was quite comfortable, though a little hard. There was plenty of space and storage, and the design was very airy and chic. I was given a blanket, very comfortable PJs, and a cardigan.

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ANA F leg room

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ANA’s blanket

Sadly, ANA recently changed their amenity kit offering. Previously, they offered a Rimowa kit. Now, they offer a Samsonite kit. The kits are extremely similar, with basically the exact same interior. Unfortunately, the Samsonite kits don’t sell well on eBay like the Rimowa kits do 😉

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ANA’s new First Class amenity kit

My travel companion and I were asked our meal choices first. We both ordered the Japanese kaiseki meal. We were also disappointed to learn that ANA no longer offers a caviar service. However, there was a single dish, a crepe with smoked salmon that has a couple caviar eggs on it.

After a few minutes, the Purser came to us and tells us that there aren’t enough kaiseki meals, so one of us would have to choose the Western option. I was a little perplexed. We ordered first in the cabin, so we should have had first choice. Perhaps we were chosen because we were on award tickets, or because we were the only Westerners on the flight? Nonetheless, it was ridiculous, for a First Class product, that they didn’t load enough kaiseki meals. Oh well. My companion begrudgingly accepted the Western option, and I had the kaiseki meal.

Everybody always raves about how good ANA catering is. Further, I’m a huge fan of Japanese food. However, this food sucked. It consisted of weird gooey foods, didn’t correspond well with the printed menu, and the server missed the sea urchin course entirely. Except for the main, a cooked fish dish, and the miso, the rest of the food was downright bad. I mean “United domestic business” bad, i.e. awful.

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Throughout my meal I was dabbling with some wines, and over the course of 4-5 hours, had about 6 glasses. I was very composed and not even tipsy (as agreed by my travel companion). Before I wanted to go to bed, I asked for a final glass of champagne. The FA brought it to me, but said “I’m very worried about your health. You’re drinking a lot.” I was very puzzled, as I hadn’t drunk very much considering the time span, nor was I even feeling any effects. I didn’t argue and took that as I was cut off, but it was again, quite disappointing. Anyways, it was a very un-First Class experience.

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My last drink 🙁 FYI, this is how “full” each glass was poured, not just the final one!

When you go to bed, they place a memory foam mattress and pillow on your seat. It’s extremely comfortable. Further, this flight was relatively cool, which is great for sleep. I find most carriers, especially Asian airlines, run their planes way too hot. This was just perfect.

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Overall, my ANA First Class experience was disappointing. It has been hyped up as incredible, with rave reviews of their food and service. I found the service to be very hit or miss, with slightly rude FAs who made me feel like it was an imposition whenever I asked for something. Further, the food was disgusting, and ANA has downgraded their amenity kit and apparently no longer offers a caviar service. Considering how my experience contrasts other experiences, I’m hopeful that this was just a one-off, and if I were to try ANA again, I’d have a good experience. That being said, I would almost certainly go with other First Class options instead in the future.

Comments

  1. I’m not really surprised based upon my own experience. I flew IAD-NRT in First Class in February 2014. Perhaps my flight was marginally better than yours, but there were some similarities.

    The check-in agent at Dulles told me to use the Sakora Lounge in Narita during my transit. And I agree, there was nothing “First Class” about the Senator Lounge.

    I believe the catering out of IAD to probably be the the worst in the ANA system. My meal did not seem to live up to the quality that I had seen posted in previous ANA trip reports (I had the Western option). In particular, the main course that I ordered consisted of chewy beef and a single undercooked potato. Everything else was satisfactory including the Japanese pre-landing meal.

    I don’t remember feeling like I was cut off from the alcohol (I DO wish I had cut myself off, though!!), but I do remember feeling that I was annoying the flight attendants by not sleeping. I wasn’t overrunning them with requests by any means, but I was just asking for water refills every hour or so while watching TV. At one point the Purser brought me a pile of of their sleep cards and said, “here, use these and try to sleep.”

    BUT…It was a much more positive experience than my return Global First trip on United from ICN to SFO.

  2. Sounds like you were more interested in the alcohol above all else. And what were your plans or the kit, to actually use it or sell it on eBay? Yeah, I’m sure you paid handsomely for the beneits, wait, no, you were on ward travel, hah! Point is, stop whining. I’m sure the flight attendants were glad to see you and our companion’s backsides after you left the plane.

    • I’m not a heavy drinker, however, for many people, including myself, the availability and quality of alcohol is an important part of the First Class experience. I reflect that in my reviews.

      • they were doing you a favor in cutting you off. And 6 glasses plus a glass of champaigne is actually a lot of alcohol to drink on a plane (remember that the air is pressurized to a much higher altitude).
        It’s possible that the particular flight attendants you got just are a bit overzealous about worrying about your health 🙂 More possibly, they felt that you were drinking too much of their alcohol supply. considering you were not on a paid ticket, I don’t think you can really complain.

        I find caviar to be kind of gross, if I have it more than once a year…

        • My BAC would have been around 0.066g/100ml, which while in the air certainly would make me too intoxicated to drive in most, but not all, jurisdictions (I don’t even know how to drive, so that’s a moot point :P), I would not even be close to approaching drunkeness.

          I doubt the fact I was on an award ticket had anything to do with me being cut off. Indeed, I think that I was treated a little more poorly because I was on an award ticket, but I don’t think my alcohol service was one of those things affected.

          I’m a little bit of a wacky person, and I make terrible puns and silly comments, sober or otherwise. I suspect that by being my normally silly self, I gave off the appearance of more intoxication than I actually was.

  3. I’d like to think of your flight review as a well-rounded mix of the good and bad, but this review was horrible. Sounds like all you intended to do was to express how negative of a person you.

  4. YIKES! Will fly on ANA F award Asia-N.A. 777ER. Hope the experience is better going that way, and was merely reflecting coming out of crass/unfriendly DC? Agree that ANA’s lie flat – flown their J – is the best for sleep. Found Asian carriers re: food to be a dicey proposition, never really had anything that I enjoyed, save for ANA.

  5. Yes, but how hot was the cabin during the flight? The Japanese have a tendency to run it warm, which makes it uncomfortable.

  6. Which points did you use to redeem the ANA award?
    That sucks you had a bad experience, but I flew ANA F back in February from NRT to ORD and had one of the best F experiences I’ve ever had! They still had caviar service and the Rimowa or back then… Plus the FAs I had were amazing. I had the kaiseki meal (cabin was entirely full but perhaps because it originated in NRT they had more meals?) oh and by the way, it is spelled kaiseki, not kayseki — I was surprised you didn’t know that given how much you love Japanese food.
    I guess next time I will make sure not to fly ANA from IAD? Hope you have a better experience next time!

    • I used Aeroplan. Thanks for the spelling correction – I will update it accordingly. I’m a pretty terrible speller and heavily rely on my spell check, which isn’t properly calibrated for Japanese words!

  7. Not sure why the review is being attacked. Whether One spent $10K or used miles, one should be entitled to a good service.

    I had one experience with ANA on a 45 min flight in J from NRT-NGO. i was the only one in J and the FA was amazing.

  8. hmmm……. I must say the food pictured looks a bit ordinary, especially the presentation. The champagne looked to be one standard drink per glass, so 6 of those over such a long time does not appear excessive, unless you are called upon to pilot the plane or the like. You certainly won’t be driving! No caviar service? Is this an essential part of the writer’s diet? If it’s not on the menu you really can’t complain.

  9. Appreciate the catering warning.

    But hope you weren’t entering the cabin snapping away pictures.

    Was on a First Class flight DOH-CDG on Qatar this weekend, and immediately on boarding a prototypical ‘travel hacker’ came on wearing just a t shirt (no collar) and immediately started snapping photos with the shutter volume set to high.

    The person across from me was perturbed and raised her shade right away.

    I wish more points enthusiasts used more discretion and dressed for the occasion. No suit needed. But some contemporary urban casual or business casual please.

      • While there are t-shirts and t-shirts they generally are more suited to the beach or mooching around the house. If other F pax can make an effort, so can you, dude!

        • Totally agree.

          ” I don’t own clothing like that.”

          Would you expect to go to a nice restaurant while under dressed and get the same service? We’re not talking expensive clothes here.

          Listen – they provide pajamas and all – it is a glorified bedroom.

          But you care about the quality of the elegance you get from the airline – then you should also care about the elegance you present as well.

          Absurd to read complaints about the lack of refills on drinks when you won’t make an effort on what you bring to the cabin.

      • Didn’t think you were the offender, but if you don’t own clothing like that would suggest you do.

        It’s unfortunate, but that could have been one of the signals to the flight attendants that led to less than exemplary service.

        With the proliferation of blogs it’s becoming more and more reliable to spot the ‘travel hacker’ in the cabins each time.

        • When I was younger I would dress up to fly even in domestic economy and it didn’t make any difference (except to make me less comfortable).

          Now that I’m older I dress down to fly even in international first class and it doesn’t make any difference (except to make me more comfortable).

  10. Talking about the awful meal, I guess that’s just because of the horrible ground catering quality from North American airports. Just consider that, on ex-NRT flights, UA could even offer Japanese meals on par with those offered in ANA’s flights, while many ex-NA flights had seen UA offers quasi-swill stuff in their premium cabins…

    • This is true. When I was flying from CDG back to ORD on UA business, both the food and wine, esp the former, were much better than leaving the US.

  11. Generally, from the US, I would order Western food on ANA. The only exception would be their “light dishes” like ramen or curry.

    ANA has a massive food prep center in Japan that foresees every detail and looks like a tech cleanroom. They don’t have this in the US.

  12. Mmm maybe its the FA? I flew ANA from JFK to NRT in first on an award ticket and it lived up to the hype and then some. However I did notice the older FA was noticeably annoyed (perhaps at her job/life?) but the younger FA was pretty, nice, and very accomadating. I even had 2 bottles of Krug to myself. (I basically drank a bit of everything on the menu but the Krug was preferred) Food was great and I had no complaints except the entertainment choices were a bit lacking (older movies etc) I’d definately fly ANA again though but like you said the removal of caviar service (though they had a few scoops of caviar on top of a crabmeat appetizer (was very good), makes me want to try JAL next

  13. Based on your review, I am guessing you pissed off the FA’s. i have flown ANA so many times i lost count. Have flown 1st, business and economy. I have yet to have a bad experience and nothing like your review. Even I am western and i cannot praise ANA enough. From the lounge service, boarding process, FA service and yes, the food. Maybe i am just lucky, but with so many flights on ANA, I doubt it. One thing, i may have an advantage, my wife is asian and I know how to communicate well with them.

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