When two AirlineReporter writers decide to go on a weekend guys trip, the possibilities are endless. The thing is – we don’t mind long flights, crazy routing, or extendedÂ layovers – after all, that’s all part of the adventure.
It’s amazing how much ground you can cover in a few days, if you really want to. Once we made the decision to go somewhere, Associate Editor,Â Blaine Nickeson,Â and I spent a few weeks scouring the internet for decent airfares. Â We considered various destinations acrossÂ five continents. Â Finally, something really interesting (and cheap!) popped up: Denver toÂ Tokyo on United’s 787-8 connectingÂ on to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on ANA’s 787-8.
One stop from Denver to a city nearly on the other side of the world? Â Oh yeah, this is the kind of stuff the Dreamliner was built for.
JA873A, better known as “The R2-D2 plane” rolled out of the paint hangar – Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
It’s finally here!
We’ve waited months to see ANA bring their cross-promotion with Disney Japan for Star Wars: The Force Awakens to light, and boy was it worth it!
Just look at it! The attention to detail is stunning! Photo: Bernie Leighton | AirlineReporter
This aircraft is, of course, the first of three in the ANA Star Wars line. ANA takes its partnership with Star Wars seriously. How seriously?
Entering the ANA 777-300ER Inspiration of Japan first class cabin – Photo: David Delagarza | AirlineReporter
Airline: All Nippon Airways (NH)
Aircraft:Â Boeing 777-300ER
Departed:Â Houston Intercontinental (IAH)
Arrived: Tokyo Narita (NRT)
Class:Â First Class
Seats:Â 1D & 1G
Length:Â About 14Â hours
It seemed to happen every day for two weeks – Â I’d glance out my office window in Denver at about noon, just in timeÂ to see the contrail of a high-altitude wide-body fly by. Â Being the diligent AvGeek I am, IÂ wouldÂ check out my flight tracker phone app to find out what I just saw. Â The answer was the same every time: ANA FlightÂ 173 – from Houston to Tokyo. Â It felt like I was being teased — I had first class tickets booked on that veryÂ flight for our upcoming trip. Â Seeing thatÂ plane in the sky, day after day, was just rubbing it in — today’s not the day. Â But that day would soon come.
Flying this route was actually somewhat of a last-minute change to our itinerary, inÂ which Bangkok was our final destination. Â We had initially been booked trans-Pacific on United’s Global First service from Chicago to Beijing; however, a very short layover in Beijing combined with United’s poor on-time performance on the 747-400 was making me nervous. I had been keeping an eye on alternateÂ routing when I found first class award availability on ANA and Thai Airways via Houston and Tokyo about three weeks prior to the trip. Â Yes, please! Â The Houston-to-Tokyo route is a new addition to ANA’s North American offerings,Â having just kicked off service in June.
The first Boeing 787-9 for All Nippon Airways (ANA), seen at Boeing Field while conducting tests for Boeing Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter
Several weeks ago,Â Air New Zealand became the first airline to take delivery of theÂ new Boeing 787-9 — the stretched Dreamliner. Â With much pomp & circumstance, theyÂ took ownership of their “All Blacks” livery aircraft and flew it away back to New Zealand.
Then, just before the end of July, the second 787-9 was delivered to All Nippon Airways (ANA) (JA830A), and it quietly slipped away into the night off to Japan.Â At the time, it was unknown who might commence 787-9 flights first.
ANA’s first 787-9 departing Everett on delivery to Japan – Photo: Boeing
Air New Zealand, being the first to take delivery, did not plan to start their 787 on a new route until October when they would begin service fromÂ Auckland to Perth. Â The Kiwis had decided to operate flights back and forth between New Zealand & Australia to get their crew used to the aircraft (as this is their first 787) and although they were operating flights with crew onboard, there were a few with just friends and family. Â Despite that, it was ANA who would challenge the spot as first to operate the newest 787 model.
ANA was the first airline to take delivery of the 787-8, and they originally put it to work on domestic flights within Japan. Â The airline is also now the largest operator of the 787, with a total of 30 in service;Â 29 of those are the smaller 787-8, which is split between a long-haul configuration and a higher density domestic configuration.
The newest arrival to the fleet is set up in a domestic configuration as well, with a whopping 395 seats onboard. Â Meant to replace high-capacity 767s in Japan, the new aircraft will run back and forth between the Tokyo Haneda hub and other major Japanese cities like Osaka and Fukuoka. Â But could ANA get a 787-9 into service before Air New Zealand? Â You bet!
Climbing out from Vancouver-YVR on ANA’s inaugural flight to Tokyo-Haneda
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 115â€™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 didnâ€™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.