This flight is very convenient because it departs at 1 AM, which allowed me to not only have a normal work day but also have time to stop by a nice restaurant for a relaxed last dinner in Tokyo. Another bonus was that, since about a week prior, the flight took place aboard a brand-new Boeing 787-800.
Before the flight
I decided to take the subway to Haneda Airport, so I'm going to take the opportunity to share some of the unpleasant sides to this idea.
My first stop was the Shinjuku station. Naturally, I used my Suica card, which functions like a debit card and can be filled very easily at any terminal in the station. It’s very easy to get one (right at the terminal) and you don't have to pay anything for the card itself, other than a 500 yen ($6) security deposit that's added to the balance on the card.
The culture of trust and respect in Japan is such the entrance to the subway doesn't have any turnstiles. (Can you even imagine such a thing in New York or Paris?)
Shinjuku station is huge, but it’s fairly easy to find your way with a bit of practice and logic.
So, I took the Yamanote Line, getting off at Hamamatsucho station to take the monorail bound for Haneda Airport. Of course, nobody knows where the train doors will be when it comes to a stop, so everybody drifts to the edge of the platform, getting ready to force their way into the car.
Transfer to the monorail is very easy. The trip is over in 50 minutes flat. Passengers exit directly into the check-in area, after getting a glimpse of the 787. I was pretty excited.
The check-in counter of All Nippon Airways.
It was time for me to put on some clothes more appropriate for the trip and get rid of my tie. So I headed to the restrooms, which are fitted out with everything fr om a diaper changing station to a basin where you can wash your face and hair. No comments on the quality of equipment and cleanliness.
There was no separate security check for business- and first-class passengers, but despite the number of people, I got through the security checks in 10 minutes.
The flight was announced as being on time, and my heart was racing with anticipation.
I took a little tour of the All Nippon Airways terminal. The place is enormous and very stylish (at least in my opinion).
There’s a good selection of hot meals, sushi, sandwiches and a noodle bar, so even though I had just had dinner, I ordered sushi to pass the time.
Finally, here’s the moment you’ve all been waiting for. Unfortunately, it was night out so it was really difficult to get good pictures of the plane.
Boarding began at 12:50 AM, as scheduled, and finally I was aboard the Boeing 787-800.
The business class section
ANA's new business class is different from what we're used to with real flatbed seats in a staggered configuration. The color scheme of the interior is very pleasant.
It’s really comfortable. Maximum privacy guaranteed.
It comes with a handbook
Under the footrest, which becomes part of the bed when you unfold it, there’s a large space in which to store your carry-on. A stylish extra touch is a blue light over the footrest (seems useless, but looks pretty). In the picture, you can also see here the small folding table for meals, which folds and locks in the same way as trays in the crew area, for those who are familiar with those.
The table, unfolded
The shelf beside the seat is spacious and comes in handy for setting down drinks and magazines. I loved the blue LEDs in the edging.
The screen is very good quality and a real widescreen (16:9 aspect ratio)
The entertainment system is very easy to use, with quick navigation, but I found the selection of movies (43) rather lim ited, although over a dozen were in French.
Under the screen there are several outlets, including a USB port and an iPod outlet. To connect an iPod you had to request a special cable from the flight attendants.
The seat can be adjusted easily with buttons on the side. One of them allows the seat to quickly transform into a bed.
Inside you'll find a toothbrush, a sleep mask, earplugs and even a “sleep support” packet with a pill to help you relax!
The slippers with their storage bag
Good-quality Sony headphones with noise reduction
The storage shelves are simple to open and so spacious you can store suitcases standing up. A great way to make use of the space.
It’s very large and the polarizing system is really great. The window can change from transparent to completely opaque in less than 10 seconds.
What was a little surprising was that the air conditioning vents had to be adjusted manually, even though electronic adjustment has been available on many planes for years. What was even more strange was that there were two of them (same as the reading lights) but only one seemed to be working. Perhaps one was an intake, to remove stale air.
These took me a little by surprise, because when I first open the door I found them bathed in a pleasant blue light. Locking the door will switch it to conventional lighting. There’s lots of room and quite a bit of thought went into the design. For example, there’s a diaper changing station.
I was amused by the fact that the toilet’s lid closed automatically when flushed, by means of a small lever.
The seats are equipped with the same sizable screens as in business class.
The rear galley
Boarding went very fast, with the door closing at 1:05 AM. The flight was already running late and announced that we would be leaving Haneda at 2 AM.
The safety procedures card:
A shot from the safety video:
I hadn’t noticed that the plane was standing on water. But I might not have been surprised!
Oddly, we weren’t offered refreshments before take-off. Finally though, we were airborne, with a great view of Tokyo’s lights and the Tokyo Tower. Once we reached cruising altitude, the flight attendants distributed hot towels and menus. It was a standard menu for flights between Japan and Germany. When I first looked at it I thought it was a bit too much for me considering the 2 meals I had had earlier, but a flight attendant told me these were served on request at any time during the flight, except 2 hours before arrival. This is the life!
Before the first serving of drinks, a stewardess passed by and distributed supplementary toothbrushes (great idea) and “power patches”. I’m really interested to know what exactly these patches do when you stick them on your neck.
They also distributed bottles of drinking water, manufactured from carbon fiber by Toray (a sponsor) for the Dreamliner.
I should note that, unlike what most of us are used to on airplanes, the drinks are not offered to everyone, but have to be asked for, (except for the champagne, and a glass of seltzer water that was brought to me with some small appetizers that I ordered – the shrimp with grapefruit was delicious). The menu really puts the packet of almonds that I got on my previous flight to shame.
Finally, I gave in to temptation and ordered myself a bit of gingered pork with rice, which was also excellent.
The lighting in the cabin is very well thought out. With its mix of soft lights and blue LEDs, it's restful to the eyes, while still being bright enough to see by without turning on the reading lights.
And now it was time for a good, 7-hour nap
When I woke up, we were already over Europe. A quick tour of the plane uncovered a self-service bar, the usefulness of which I wasn't sure about, since I could already request anything I wanted from the flight attendants. They were very quick and attentive.
Up to two hours before landing, there was the option to request a small breakfast meal. It should be noted that, unlike in certain other airlines, the subdued lighting was maintained throughout to avoid waking people up abruptly. In addition to this, the food was delivered on platters to avoid making too much noise with the trolleys.
My choice of breakfast was more Western, since although I like Japanese cuisine, raw fish isn't my choice of breakfast food.
The meal is prepared very well, and arrived with an ANA bumper sticker.
We landed only 5 minutes behind schedule.
Disembarking was quick enough, as usual, with a bit of a line forming at the passport check. It doesn’t seem very difficult to set up several separate lines, as well as a priority queue for business- and first-class passengers, in my opinion.
I headed to the Lufthansa check-in (I was flying with Lufthansa to Paris, the second leg of my journey), wh ere I was told that I wouldn’t be allowed through because it was an All Nippon Airways flight, even though on my ticket I had a Lufthansa flight number. They must be kidding, I thought. I was getting pretty irritated with the employee, who kept telling me that the rules are the rules and the facts that I had a business-class ticket with Lufthansa and am a frequent flier didn’t matter. After I'm done with this review, I'm filling a complaint with the company.
But hey, it was still a lot of fun to travel on the Dreamliner.
What else is there to say except that it was a great experience on a new plane? The only criticism I can think of is that it was noisy compared to the Airbus A380.
Nothing to complaint with regards to the flight’s punctuality: one hour late departing and 5 minutes late arriving is nothing for a long-distance flight.
Comfort-wise, the interior is superb, and so are the seats.
Personnel: I could not be more satisfied.
Meals: the food was good, but as I didn’t use this service to its full potential, I can’t really comment on the quality of All Nippon Airways’ food.
Thank you for reading.
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