KARRYON Founder Matt Leedham flies up the front with ANA (All Nippon Airways) on the Sydney to Haneda (Tokyo) route in a Dreamliner 787/9.
The bowing and wide smiles begin the minute you walk into the ANA check-in area at Sydney Airport. If you’re unaccustomed to this level of respectful service or you haven’t been to Japan before, get ready to be spoilt.
Why? Because this is just the beginning of your being hailed a ‘grandmaster’ of the likes you may never have experienced on a flight. It’s both lovely and at times a bit awkward. Do I bow back? I’m never quite sure.
Classic Japanese efficiency says you’ll be on your way in two minutes after checking in and sure enough I am zipping off to immigration in a heartbeat.
Business and Premium travellers can use the Air New Zealand Lounge before take off whilst Economy guests can explore Sydney Airport’s new sprawling labyrinth of shiny objects and goods that actually make it a pleasant experience these days.
Once onboard, there’s more respectful nodding, and after kicking off my shoes, I’m handed a glass of French champagne to settle me into my seat for the 9.5 hours to Tokyo.
I’m a bit of a Dreamliner fan and ANA’s 787-9 impresses with its immaculate design and fit out.
The trademark Dreamliner large windows (I’ve got a bit of a thing for fiddling around with their automatic window shades), soft ambient lighting and what seems like a much bigger ceiling thanks to overhead containers that are angled upwards to give more space give ANA’s Dreamliner a light, airy feel.
And I do genuinely believe the jet lag is reduced on the Dreamliner. Having flown on the aircraft a few times now (including a couple of night flights) I can honestly say I have felt the ‘less lag’ benefits.
The Seat & Entertainment
The 48 Business Class seats on ANA’s Dreamliner are set up in a staggered 1-2-1 configuration. I’m in a window seat (13F) and all seats have aisle access adding an extra level of access and privacy.
As you’d expect in Business Class, the seat is super comfy and has plenty of leg room, even for my long legs which if you’re a regular reader will know – are extra long with my height of 196cms.
I like the extra table which is really handy to put your stuff on and there are a USB port and all the power you’ll need to keep your devices amped.
The seat converts to a fully flat bed, and comes with a comfy ‘Cyclone air bed mat’, which I learn is what professional athletes travel the world with. I contemplate taking mine with me off the plane as I like to think of myself as a bit of an athlete too, but they’re pretty bulky and I’m sure I’d get busted as I’m certainly no Olympian when it comes to running away from airport security.
The seat also features a front facing 15” LCD screen and entertainment system. The range of English movies and TV isn’t huge, but there are enough latest releases to watch and amusingly for me, plenty of hilarious Japanese sketch shows too such as ‘Salaryman’ to enjoy.
Watching Wimbledon live and CNN is also a great feature and feels like a real treat to stay connected to the world below you whilst relaxing at 35,000 feet.
And if you really need to get online, the plane is also wifi connected, with 30 minutes costing US$6.95; three hours for US$16.95 and up to 24 hours for US$21.95. Pretty good value when you consider where you are.
Service & Food
ANA was awarded 5 stars by the SKYTRAX World Airline Rating for the 5th consecutive year in 2017 and is the first Japanese carrier to achieve this.
As previously mentioned, attentive service and a ‘Whatever you wish’ culture is truly the approach here. You won’t be pestered and may even feel a little unloved at times, as you won’t be asked if you want things every few minutes as you might on other carriers.
But don’t worry. Ultimately, your privacy and personal space are respected and all you have to do is put your light on or catch one of the ever-circling crew’s attention and your wish will be granted extremely speedily and efficiently.
There are no carts here for meal service either and ‘Akiko’; the stewardess looking after me is extremely pleasant and professional as she takes care of me throughout the flight.
Thanks to ‘The Connoisseurs’ – ANA’s panel of renowned chefs who create the in-flight dining menus, the premium beverage selections on offer include French Champagnes and top shelf Australian, New Zealand, Spain and US wines as well as two sakes and an Umeshu (Plum wine) to savour.
With the choice of a western or a Japanese dish, I go for the local option and start with a Zensai tray (a selection of morsels) including octopus and salami with seaweed and chopped cucumber in vinegar sauce, Japanese omelette with eel, Grilled vegetables rolled with beef and simmered apricot in syrup and Otsukuri – sashimi seared tuna.
For main it’s the Salmon Meunière with a soy-based butter sauce with Steamed rice and Miso soup and it’s delicious. Afterwards, come green tea and chocolates.
You can also order anytime from a ‘snack’ menu that includes Seabass escabeche with lime, a smoked chicken and potato salad hot panini or my favourite – the Tsuruhashi Fugetsu Okonomiyaki – Japanese Pizza. There’s also a selection of soups, noodles and snacks.
There’s actually so much to explore, taste and discover here on the menu, but I’m tired and it’s time to sleep. And sleep I do for around 6 hours.
When I wake at around 5 am, the sun is rising and it’s a beautiful thing watching the orange glow out of the oversized window. We’re only 60 minutes from Haneda.
There’s no breakfast service as such on this flight so I order ramen noodles, some warm nuts and a pulled pork burger, which is absolutely delicious, even at the early time of day.
Fantastic service, a wonderful plane and a comfortable flat bed make ANA an excellent option for getting to Tokyo from Australia. I’ll take flying to Haneda over Narita too any day given the close proximity. I travelled on to Okinawa when I arrived off this flight and found the transfer process to be smooth and quick.
There’s also an excellent shower suite for arrivals at Haneda Airport, which for ANA Business class passengers is free. Otherwise, its 1000 yen (around AU$11.50) for half an hour and a great way to freshen up before heading to Tokyo or flying on to another destination.
Flight: NH880, Sydney (T1) – Tokyo (Haneda)
Class: Business Class, Seat 13F
Aircraft: Dreamliner 787/9
Timing: 9.5 hours, departing 2055, arriving Tokyo time 0525
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