ANA Boeing 777-300ER (JA781A) at Narita after my 11hr flight from LAX.
Flying in any airline’s Business Class is always a nice treat. There are some airlines with pretty decent domestic Business Classes out there, but to really have a top-notch experience, you need to take an international flight. Recently, when I flew from Los Angeles (LAX) to Narita Airport (NRT) in Japan, I was able to fly in All Nippon Airway’s (ANA) Business Class (disclaimer: ANA picked up the tab on my flight from LAX-NRT-LAX).
The benefits of flying in a premium seat starts at the airport. After arriving at LAX from Seattle I checked in for ANA and then it was time to hit security. Having a premium seat meant I was able to use the express TSA line. It wasn’t too much of a benefit for this flight since the express line only had two people in it, and the normal line had five — oh well.
After taking off my shoes and having my toothpaste scanned, I headed right to ANA’s Business Lounge. Unfortunately due to a bunch of construction going on at LAX, the view wasn’t the best, but I was able to watch a Qantas Airbus A380 get towed, so I was happy. There was plenty of space, free wi-fi and all the amenities you would expect to find in a Business Class lounge. This was good, since I had a nice 3.5hr layover in LAX.
Lots of room to work, sleep and play in ANA's Business Class. Click for larger.
From the lounge I could see when my ANA Boeing 777-300ER arrived and I headed down to the gate. This is where I had another bonus: being able to board first. The Boeing 777 I flew had First Class, quite a bit of Business Class, Premium Economy and then of course standard economy. Getting on the plane first to get settled for a 11hr flight is always nice.
Where most airlines have a rule that you can still use your electronic devices until they close the cabin door, ANA is much more strict. When I first walked into the plane I was told I had to shut off my phone. I then I tried to take some photos, but was politely told I couldn’t have my camera on either until we reached 10,000 feet. Eh, lame, but what can I do?
The seats were very spacious; there was 63″ of seat pitch and 21″ of width. There were only 7 seats across in a 2-3-2 configuration and of course I went for a window seat (photo). Unfortunately my original seat was 11A which had a dead space with only one window. Luckily, after the plane boarded, I was able to move back to 12A with all my windows. This was important since the flight was leaving at about 1pm and we would be racing the sun all the way to Japan — meaning it was going to stay light the whole flight.
One of three appitizers for one of my three course meals. Yes that is a whole fish you see (and I ate it).
After take off the flight attendants came around asking what we would like for our first meal. Boy did we have good choices: two Japanese meals and one Western-style. I didn’t know what half the food was, but I went for seared bass (photo) and whatever else came with the Japanese meal. There was a lot, a whole three courses worth of food. The food was fabulous and not like airline-food fabulous, but actual food in a nice restaurant fabulous.
While eating, it was time to start watching the in-flight entertainment. Each person has their own screen that folds out of the seat with a handy controller. There were quite a few pre-programmed movies and shows which are all free (even in economy), but I think the entertainment option was a weak spot for ANA. In the long run getting satellite internet and live TV would be great, but ANA did work with Boeing’s Connexion that provided satellite internet, but that didn’t work out. I am hoping in the future ANA and more international airlines will be adding internet and live TV. For the short term maybe a few more movie and television choices would have been nice. After flying 22hrs in total (there and back) I was quite done with my movie selections and I was NOT about to watch Sex and the City 1 and 2.
Flying, blogging, drinking and watching a movie. What else do I need? (anyone guess that movie?).
The seats were very comfortable and were quite adjustable (photo). They don’t lie totally flat, but they came pretty darn close. Talking to folks who are a bit shorter (I am 6’1″), some said they have had issues sliding down on the seat, but I did not. I was actually able to fit on the seat comfortably and got some real sleep on both flights.
Not only was the product very good, but the service was wonderful as well. They would constantly check up on me and always had a smile. The flight attendant’s faces must have hurt after smiling so bit, non-stop for the entire 11 hour flight.
Although ANA’s “old” Business Class product I tried out was quite good, they are introducing a newer and better pod-style Business Class on their new Boeing 777-300ER’s.
All this great product and service comes at a price. A Business Class Seat on ANA from LAX to NRT can cost $4000.00 plus. Of course many folks flying in Business Class either have a corporate credit card paying or are using their miles. If the Business Class isn’t enough for you, ANA’s also has First Class on many of their international flights which is a whole other experience. No matter what class I am in, I am always excited to take a flight halfway around the world.
MORE PHOTOS OF THE FLIGHT
Me about to board the Q400 in Seattle. I should have waved, presidential-style.
I have flown the route from Seattle to Reno many times in my life. From Reno Air back in the day, to Southwest, to America West to Alaska Airlines. The flight is easy, only about 1.5hrs, enough time to take off, get a drink and snacks and start the descent. In April 2008 Horizon Air took over the route for Alaska and since then, they have been the cheapest to fly. I actually prefer the flight on Horizon’s Q400’s versus Alaska’s Boeing 737 (or MD-80’s back in the day).
The main reason is, I love flying in smaller planes. It really lets the passenger connect with the flying experience. I think a lot of people do not like flying on smaller planes just for this reason. Unlike the larger planes, you get to board on the tarmac, which allows you to see the entire plane, not just a few inches around the door when you board in a jetway. The inside of the Q400 is set up in a 2-2 layout, so you always get a window or aisle. Of course I always go for the window, but I am happy to know if I don’t get one, I won’t be stuck in the middle.
Mount Rainier, just outside of Seattle, was one of many mountains you can see on the Seattle to Reno flight.
On this trip I was in a group of four people, which allowed me to get a few photos of me with the plane and even better photos from both sides of the plane while flying. The flight from Seattle to Reno is beautiful. From Mount Rainier to Crater Lake, if it isn’t cloudy, you are in for a real treat. The Q400’s fly quite a bit lower at about 25,000 feet versus 30,000 to 40,000 with larger aircraft and their wings are high, which means everyone has an awesome view.
We all checked in the day before online and only had carry-ons, so we didn’t have to wait in any Horizon lines, just put up with the security ones. Horizon has a semi-hybrid option between carry-on and checking your bags, called Ala Cart. Since the overhead bins are smaller than you would find on larger aircraft, not all carry-ons can fit in them. If yours cannot fit or you don’t want to lug it on the plane you can put your carry-on on a cart while boarding. They will put it on another cart when you arrive at your destination. It’s way quicker than having to wait in baggage claim not to mention, the Ala Cart option is free. If you do need to check your bag, it will cost you $20 per bag, up to 3 bags. Like their sister carrier, Alaska Airlines, Horizon also provides the 20 minute checked baggage guarantee.
Beautiful downtown Reno, just about to land.
Talking about Alaska Airlines, Horizon’s relationship with them is quite unique. Some people think of Horizon as Alaska’s regional carrier, but they are set up very differently. Both airlines have a parent company, Alaska Air Group which owns and manages both airlines. Most regionals fly for a larger airlines for fees and Horizon will sometimes fly for Alaska, but they mostly fly under their own brand. Horizon has their own marketing department, their own ads and unique brand of service. You will see the two airlines share a website together, but both logos are prominently displayed.
One thing that does make Horizon unique is offering free, regional wines and micro-brews, ah yea…can’t miss out on this. Our flight left at 7:40am, but that didn’t stop us from trying out some of that free local wine and beer. I mean, come-on it was the blog right?! Horizon is also offering free snack-packs on their Seattle to Portland flight, but I have yet been able to experience that first hand.
Passengers were able to de-board from the front and back of the Q400, making it super quick. Employees are getting the Ala Cart bags out.
A passenger in our group (we shall call her “Rita”) was a little apprehensive about flying on a smaller aircraft. I know many others out there have that same fear. However, I quickly pointed out that Horizon Air is extremely safe and has never had a fatality since they started flying in 1981 and haven’t had any sort of incident since 1990. That made Rita feel much more comfortable and after the flight she very much loved her Horizon experience (maybe the glass of wine she had at 8am helped too).
The Horizon Q400’s might be a bit slower than jet airliners, but they are much more cost effective and friendly for the environment. Horizon has green stickers on each of their planes touting how green they are and even painted one of their Q400’s entirely green (can you see “Shrek” as they call it here or here?)
I definitely get excited to fly on Horizon and flying on the Q400’s and hope that some of you can feel a bit more at ease flying in smaller planes in the future.
Check out my (ok our, thanks Ben, Rita and Amy) additional pictures of the trip.
UPDATE: I have been informed there are two green Q400’s, nicknamed “Shrek” and “Fiona.”