In Part 1 of our story, you joined me for the arrival of ANA-All Nippon Airways‘ first flight to Vancouver International Airport (YVR), the celebrations at the gate, and Flight NH 115’s departure for Tokyo-Haneda (HND).
Soon after takeoff, our 767-300ER made a wide right turn, climbing across the Strait of Georgia before turning on course northwest-bound along the center of Vancouver Island. I didn’t notice exactly when it happened, but after the landing gear retracted, the forward-view camera rotated to look straight down. As I looked up at the monitors, we flew right over the challenging little Duncan Airport, where the winds can make it interesting to land even a Cessna 172.
I watched the view for a while, and unstowed my In-Flight Entertainment System (IFE) monitor as we drifted up to our initial cruising altitude.
Business Class seats in this older 767 have a 9” display, with content controlled by a wired remote that stows in the armrest. This was ANA’s “SkyMaster 1” IFE, and newer aircraft have a more advanced “SkyMaster 3” system. I took a bit of time to explore the movies and videos after I figured out how to use the remote. I actually had to refer to the written instructions in the IFE’s guide, which might be a first for me.
There was a mix of Japanese, English, and other language programming. Rather than making a selection for the desired language after choosing a movie, the guide had multiple listings for each title, each with a different language. Making a list of English-language titles, I found 12 Hollywood movies, including a couple as recent as “American Hustle”, plus six individual episodes of U.S. network television and a few short documentaries. The audio selection was similarly diverse, with both playlist programs and albums in the system.
I tried out the Sony Active Noise-Reduction (ANR) headset that was in the seatback pouch, but found that my Bose ANRs did a better job of cutting out the ambient background noise. As usual, I kept them on for much of the flight.
While I was pushing buttons on the IFE remote, the four Business Class Flight Attendants were starting their service, getting the first drink requests from their passengers and handing out menus.
The food service is branded as “The Connoisseurs – ANA Fine Dining & Bar.” Passengers have the option of either a Japanese or International Cuisine, accompanied by a nice selection of wine, sake, shochu, plum wine, and assorted spirits and mixed drinks. I had the International menu, which started with an amuse bouche assortment, followed by an appetizer of bouillabaisse terrine and prosciutto with melon.
My main plate was a filet mignon, and the service finished up with chocolate mousse. Although I normally don’t drink much anything but water on flights, I had a great glass of an ANA-exclusive white wine from Catalunya, Spain with my enjoyable dinner. There was also a selection of light dishes and snacks available on request.
In 2013, ANA was awarded a 5-star rating by Skytrax, and our flight easily measured up to that high standard. Our service from the flight attendants was perfectly attentive and simply put, flawless. They added nice little touches, like giving us an origami-folded and hand-written note reminding us this was ANA’s YVR-HND inaugural flight, along with the amenity kit.
With my blindfold in hand, I was about to try to get some sleep during this 10-hour flight and looked out the window as I started to pull the shade. I stopped and grabbed my camera instead. We were at 32,000 feet over Kodiak Island on the south coast of Alaska, and it was “severe clear.” I took a photo, and I think it’s one of the best I’ve ever shot during a flight. I think you’ll agree it was a remarkable view.
So, now to sleep. In the somewhat-reclined, footrest-raised older-style business class seat, with a nice light duvet and pillow I started to relax. Yes, there was lots of legroom, and certainly space to step from my window seat while the aisle seat passenger was snoozing. But I had a heck of a time getting a good nap, while other passengers were happily snoring away. It might be that I’m just the wrong height for the way the different angles of the seat move around, or it could be because the seat was extra-firm, like a Japanese hotel bed. And I can hear you say “Don’t complain, you were in J class”, and I know I shouldn’t. But after being spoiled on flights with lie-flat Business Class capsules, I guess I’ll just say that passengers will be very happy when ANA replaces their venerable 767s with new Dreamliners. Or they can try to book one of ANA’s new 777s, which also have the lie-flats.
Of course, just as I started to drift off, we hit light-to-moderate chop. The turbulence continued for about a half-hour, then it smoothed out. Not unexpectedly for a trans-Pacific flight, it cycled like that for a couple of hours. I may have napped for a while, but eventually gave up, pulled out my laptop, and wrote the first part of this story which you’ve already enjoyed.
Before I knew it, we began our descent at 6:10 pm Japan Standard Time (JST). Sunset had been chasing us for the whole flight, and finally caught up as the cities along the Japanese coast came into view about 10 minutes later. We were 80 miles from Tokyo, and the density of lights was amazing. The mega-city that is Tokyo was visible out of my window, off the right side of the plane.
We slowed and continued our descent as we flew along the southeast coast of Tokyo Bay, and turned north onto a long final for HND’s Runway 34R. I tried to figure out when the forward-view camera rotated back up, but missed it when I was looking out the window. When I checked, the view on the monitors was of the runway’s approach lights, an image I think all #AvGeeks love to see.
After a smooth touchdown at 6:50 pm, we had a 10-minute taxi to Gate 105 at one end of Haneda’s International Terminal. The door opened right on schedule at 7:00 pm, and we had a long, but not unwelcome, walk to immigration and customs. Haneda has free, small carts for carry-on bags, and most passengers grabbed one to make the walk a little easier.
Government formalities only took a couple of minutes, and I had my luggage by about 7:15 pm. I was staying at the Excel Hotel Tokyu at HND’s Terminal 2, so it only took a short ride on the inter-terminal shuttle bus and a bit of a walk before I was checked in.
We had left YVR on Sunday afternoon at 5:00 pm, and it was now 8:00 pm JST on Monday night. That International Date Line does weird things. All I knew was that I needed to have something to eat and get to sleep, because our media group had a special event to attend at ANA’s Haneda facility on Tuesday morning.
You’ll read about that in Part 3 – stay tuned!