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.
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.
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.
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 😉
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.
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.
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.
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.