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 extended 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, Blaine Nickeson, and I spent a few weeks scouring the internet for decent airfares. We considered various destinations across five continents. Finally, something really interesting (and cheap!) popped up: Denver to Tokyo on United’s 787-8 connecting 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? 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: Boeing 777-300ER
Departed: Houston Intercontinental (IAH)
Arrived: Tokyo Narita (NRT)
Class: First Class
Seats: 1D & 1G
Length: About 14 hours
It seemed to happen every day for two weeks – I’d glance out my office window in Denver at about noon, just in time to see the contrail of a high-altitude wide-body fly by. Being the diligent AvGeek I am, I would check out my flight tracker phone app to find out what I just saw. The answer was the same every time: ANA Flight 173 – from Houston to Tokyo. It felt like I was being teased — I had first class tickets booked on that very flight for our upcoming trip. Seeing that plane in the sky, day after day, was just rubbing it in — today’s not the day. But that day would soon come.
Flying this route was actually somewhat of a last-minute change to our itinerary, in which Bangkok was our final destination. 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 alternate routing when I found first class award availability on ANA and Thai Airways via Houston and Tokyo about three weeks prior to the trip. Yes, please! The Houston-to-Tokyo route is a new addition to ANA’s North American offerings, 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 Photo: Mal Muir | AirlineReporter
Several weeks ago, Air New Zealand became the first airline to take delivery of the new Boeing 787-9 — the stretched Dreamliner. With much pomp & circumstance, they 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. 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 from Auckland to Perth. 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. 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. The airline is also now the largest operator of the 787, with a total of 30 in service; 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. 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. But could ANA get a 787-9 into service before Air New Zealand? 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 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.