This is the first in a multi-part series covering my trip from Seattle to San Jose to Narita to Hong Kong and back home as a ANA Ambassador. Note that my flight was provided by ANA, but all opinions are my own.
Departing from San Jose’s Norman Y Mineta Airport (SJC) could not have been more of a breeze. The weather was perfect, the check in area was quiet and security lines were nonexistent. It was a great way to start off my flight to Tokyo.
I was about to embark on All Nippon Airway’s (ANA), first 787 service out of the US since the infamous grounding . With boarding passes in hand, I was escorted to the gate by a member of the airport staff where we could photograph the arrival of the 787 Dreamliner.
After being joined by other media, we grabbed the arrival photos from the sterile corridor and then headed up to the lounge. The “Club at SJC” is the new lounge that opened the day prior to the first service that ANA operated out of San Jose back in January. Unless you’re a business class guest (or Star Alliance Gold member) flying the one and only ANA flight out of SJC, the lounge will cost you an entry fee.
The lounge was slick, spacious and nicely stocked with plenty of free and paid food & drink options (including some hot breakfast items). The main downside was the lounge did not have the best views as the main windows faced either the car park or the terminal. But I was less concerned about the lounge views than I was about to fly on the 787 Dreamliner again.
After enjoying the lounge, I headed down to check in early to get some photos of the boarding area and the first passengers to board (of course I wanted to be right at the front).
Some airlines add some nice touches to special flights like this one and ANA did not disappoint. The VP of the America’s for ANA gave the pre-boarding speech and announcement before the boarding began. Also, ANA staff were handing everyone a little handwritten note to welcome them on board the first 787 after the grounding.
Even though I had not flown on a ANA 787 before, I had previously been able to check out the aircraft when the ANA 787 first began service to Seattle [ANA started operating the Seattle flight with a 777 on June 1].
The “Inspiration of Japan” service on-board is the most recent product available to ANA guests. In Business Class the “Business Staggered” seats are like a small pod that encapsulates you and provides a high amount of privacy. Want the most amount of privacy? Select an odd numbered row on the A or K seats as this has your seat next to the window and the storage areas on the aisle.
As we departed the gate area the ANA & SJC Airport staff lined up to wave goodbye (an ANA company tradition for all departures) and then it was off to the runway. After hearing those Rolls-Royce Trent 1000 engines spool up for take off, we climbed out of SJC and immediately the iconic 787 wing flex became evident.
The all composite wings on the 787, that allow quite a bit of flexing, are one of the features that I love most about the aircraft– those raked wingtip bring a smile to my face. During the climb out (once the seat belt sign went off) people started getting up and there was quite a bit of socializing among the passengers and via the in-seat messaging system built into the IFE.
Although ANA is well known for their Japanese cuisine, when lunch was served, I decided on the western menu. I figured I would try the Asian cuisine on the way back, since those are much better when catered from the home base.
The meal was a multi-course feast encompassing an almost Asian/French fusion as my beef main course (not over cooked!) was offered with an Asian inspired Soy & Daikon Radish sauce. Add on an Ice Cream dessert and some coffee and it was a pretty satisfying meal.
Snacking is available during the flight with a number of options including a Ramen dish from one of Japan’s more popular Ramen house chains Ipudo, tubs of Hagen Daaz Ice Cream, soup or even a chicken BLT bagel.
After lunch, many passengers settled in to rest, but since this was a daylight flight and we would arrive late in the afternoon, my way of combating jet-lag was to stay awake.
This didn’t stop me from borrowing a pair of super comfortable pajamas (you have to hand them back no free souvenir unfortunately) that ANA offers to their Business class guests. The power port and overly large tray table also allowed me to work in relative comfort during the flight.
If you intend on sleeping during the flight, the Business Class seat goes fully flat and the provides a blanket and pillow that are quite comfortable. There are quite a few options with the on-demand audio/video system, but the selection for English options was not as extensive as other airlines — but there was enough to keep me entertained.
After another meal (I went with the Japanese option this time, figured it was a bit lighter) there was a bit more socializing with fellow AvGeeks prior to descent and arrival into Tokyo’s Narita Airport.
There wasn’t much pomp and circumstance for this service since it wasn’t really the first, but a re-inaugural of the previous SJC-NRT 787 flight. This flight felt like any other flight and on the 787, that is not a bad thing.
We landed at Narita airport close to Terminal 1 allowing for a quick (for Narita standards) taxi to our gate. Checking out the different liveries around the airport can cause some confusion.
You’re in Asia and you might expect to see a majority of Asian carriers. Though you could be mistaken as Terminal 1 is also the United & Delta hubs for the Asia region. You might see as many Delta & United wide-bodies as ANA ones!
We disembarked the flight after a short 9 hour flight from the West Coast of the USA and all that was ahead of us was Transit security and the lounges of Narita Airport and this is where the real adventure began. But for those details you will have to wait until my next story.
|This story written by…Malcolm Muir, Lead Correspondent. Mal is an Australian Avgeek now living and working in Seattle. With a passion for aircraft photography, traveling and the fun that combining the two can bring. Insights into the aviation world with a bit of a perspective thanks to working in the travel industry.@BigMalX | BigMal’s World | Photos|