Having never flown All Nippon Airways (ANA) economy class or the Boeing 787 Dreamliner before, this was the most anticipated leg of the trip. My trip started off with a quick visit to The Club at San Jose Mineta International Airport. Because San Jose is a fairly small airport, ANA does not have a dedicated lounge here but instead contracts with The Club for their premium cabin passengers. Though I wasn’t booked into their premium class cabin, I do have a Priority Pass membership which got me in for free. You can read my lounge review of the Club at SJC here.
About 40 minutes prior to departure, I made my way downstairs to gate 15 where boarding was about to begin. I quickly took several pictures of our bird before getting in line.
Aircraft: Boeing 787-8
San Jose (SJC) to Tokyo Narita (NRT)
Depart: 11:45 AM on Friday
Arrive: 4:10 PM on Saturday
Duration: 11hr 45mn
Seat: 24K Economy class
Boarding was extremely quick and efficient with several Gate Agents walking around, answering questions and directing passengers to their appropriate lanes. This is unlike any of the other airlines where the Gate Agents just stand behind the podium and let the passengers run amok. This made the boarding process extremely efficient and completely stress-free for everyone involved. People weren’t standing around aimlessly or trying to get into lanes they weren’t supposed to be in. After business class and Star Alliance Gold members, I boarded the Boeing 787 through door L2 and sadly, turned right instead of left. Walking through the business class cabin and the forward economy class section, I found my seat in row 24.
All Nippon Airways currently operates three versions of the Boeing 787-8 and this one was configured with a two class cabin: business (with the new Business Staggered seats) and economy. There are two business class cabins totaling 46 seats and two economy class sections totaling 112 seats. The forward economy class section is configured with only four rows of seats so if you can get them, go for it because they offer a quieter and more intimate feel.
All Nippon Airways 787s feature a quieter cabin, LED mood lighting and larger windows and overhead bins. The windows are 30 percent larger than traditional windows and are electronically controlled. No more plastic window shades here. The bathrooms are also bigger and are equipped with TOTO washlets which provides users with a warm water bidet function. I must admit I was not brave enough to try the bidet function but I’m sure it’s wonderful. The aircraft also boasts a lower cabin pressurization system that enables passengers’ bodies to absorb more oxygen and thus, leave the plane feeling more refreshed. Although, I couldn’t really tell a huge difference in the noise reduction or cabin pressurization.
ANA 787 bidet
Because I was doing a trip report and comparison of All Nippon Airways and United Airlines’ 787s, I wanted the reviews to be consistent across the board including the seat selection. For this leg, I chose seat 24K, which is the window seat located in the emergency exit row on the right side of the airplane. On United Airlines’ 787, the same seat would be 27L. All Nippon Airways economy class cabins are configured in a 2 x 4 x 2 layout whereas United’s 787 economy class cabins are configured in a 3 x 3 x 3 layout.
It should be noted that 24K is not the best seat in the house. The same applies to 24A on the left side of the plane. Because it’s an emergency exit row seat, the armrests do not fold up, windows are misaligned and the protrusion of the emergency exit door intrudes into your personal space. If you have longer legs, you have to cant your legs to the side to avoid hitting the emergency exit door. There’s no space to store your personal belongings during takeoff/landing and people tend to congregate in this area while waiting for the bathrooms. However, you do get tons of extra legroom and you don’t have to bother your seatmate if you need to use the loo.
On both All Nippon Airways and United Airlines, the emergency exit row window seats are not considered premium seats and can be booked ahead of time for free. But if you’re a bigger guy/gal, this might not be the best option for you. On All Nippon Airways 787s, the best seats in economy class are located in row 21. Those are the bulkhead seats located in the forward economy class section. You get all the benefits of a bulkhead seat minus the protrusion of the emergency exit door.
Waiting for me at my seat was a small pillow, blanket and set of headphones. With only eight seats across, All Nippon Airways economy class seats offer 18.6 inches of width and 34 inches of pitch. Those are some impressive numbers and you would be hard pressed to find economy class seats on other airlines that offer this much room. And because there are only eight seats across this wide body jet, there are still a few inches of space between your seat and the side wall. You can easily store your pillow, blanket or other small personal belongings in this space. Don’t expect this on United’s 787s. With nine seats across, not only is your seat more narrow, it literally butts up to the wall. No extra storage space here.
All economy class seats are equipped with a 10.6 inch, AVOD (audio/video on demand), entertainment system located in the seat backs with a selection of movies, music, games and a moving map. All seats are also equipped with universal electrical power outlets, USB ports and iPod connectors and a footrest. In exit and bulkhead seats, the monitors are located in the armrests and you don’t get a footrest.
Here’s my biggest gripe about the All Nippon Airways 787 hard product – the fixed shell seats. The economy class seats do not recline. Instead, the seat pan moves forward three inches to give you the illusion of recline. I hate this design because it just makes me feel as if I’m slouching forward and when the seat pan moves forward, it reduces your seat pitch. I end up having to use the pillow behind my lower back to provide some lumbar support. But on the positive side, when your neighbor up front reclines, he’s not invading into your face either.
All Nippon Airways economy class seat 24K
Limited knee space. That’s my knee up against the emergency exit door.
USB and power ports at every seat
Seat 24K IFE
Once we reached cruising altitude and the seatbelt signs were turned off, the Flight Attendants came around to hand out warm towels, drinks and rice crackers. I’m not much of a drinker but alcoholic drinks were complimentary during meal services. Laminated menus were kept in the seatbacks and dinner orders were taken about 15 minutes after drinks were served. Our dinner service had two options, the Japanese or international meal set. I chose the international meal set. I’ll let you look at the pictures but I can tell you the meal tasted as good as it looked. The seafood tasted really fishy and the rest of it just didn’t taste good. Because I knew I would be hungry later, I tried to eat as much of it as I could but man, it was painful.
I didn’t know this but apparently you can pre-book your meals. My seatmate next to me was a vegetarian and had pre-booked a vegetarian meal prior to our flight. Everything was confirmed several times but on the day of our departure, something went wrong and they didn’t have a vegetarian meal set for him. The Flight Attendant apologized profusely and offered him other meal options. But he wasn’t able to eat anything else, so he basically watched me eat the entire flight. Poor guy.
All Nippon Airways economy class pre-meal drink and rice crackers
All Nippon Airways economy class dinner menu
All Nippon Airways economy class dinner
After dinner, our trays were cleared and Haagan Dazs vanilla ice cream was served for dessert. Definitely the best part of the meal.
It should be noted that the Flight Attendants were absolutely top notch. Though their English was not the best, they were all extremely pleasant, polite and sincere. They came around the cabin frequently to offer drinks and to see if you needed anything else. Everything was said with a smile and they really did appear to care about our comfort.
ANA 787 window
ANA 787 with window dimmed
After dinner service, the cabin lights were dimmed and the Flight Attendants dimmed all the passenger windows so that those who wanted to sleep, could get some shut eye. However, I wasn’t tired and was still pretty hungry so I wandered around looking for more food. Snacks were provided in the galley in between meals but the selection was pretty limited. I basically had a selection of rice crackers, different rice crackers and mixed rice crackers. I was pretty desperate so I loaded up on some juice and several packets of mixed rice crackers. I then headed back to my seat to explore the IFE (in flight entertainment) system.
The IFE selection was pretty mediocre. There was a selection of about five current movies and the rest were classics. I didn’t explore it much but there obviously was a huge selection of Japanese movies. Seeing as to how I was flying over the Pacific, I decided to watch “Pacific Rim.” And in case you were wondering, yes, it was a horrible movie and a waste of two hours. After the movie, I decided to get some shut eye. The cabin was extremely warm and I was unable to sleep much. I ended up watching “Man of Steel” and dozed off for a bit.
About an hour and a half before our descent into Tokyo Narita, a breakfast meal service was served. I ordered the omelette. Again, it tasted as good as it looked. But I was so famished by this point that I devoured the whole thing.
All Nippon Airways economy class breakfast menu
All Nippon Airways economy class breakfast
After breakfast, the trays were cleared from our seats and we prepared for our arrival. The Flight Attendants came around the cabin handing out immigration forms but those of us who were only connecting, didn’t need one. The landing was smooth and we taxied for a few minutes before arriving at terminal 1. Getting off the plane was quick and easy and the Gate Agents were helpful in pointing people in the right direction.
Overall, I can see why there are so many mixed reviews for All Nippon Airways economy class. No one ever wants to fly economy class but All Nippon Airways really does a good job at making it as painless as possible. I enjoyed my flight but I can see why others would not care for them so much.
The pros included a great seat with plenty of pitch and width, personal entertainment, power ports and USB connectivity at every seat and fantastic Flight Attendants. The cons included an extremely warm cabin, horrible food and a lackluster selection of movies. So all things considered, would I fly All Nippon Airways economy class again? Absolutely, I would. I just need to pack plenty of snacks and load more movies onto my iPad next time. It’s never fun flying long haul in economy class, but there are far worse airlines to do it on.
Other reviews in this series:
The anatomy of my mileage run to Singapore
Lounge review: The Club at San Jose Airport
Hotel review: Fairmont Singapore
Lounge review: United Club, Tokyo
Lounge review: Korean Airlines Lounge, Tokyo
United Airlines Economy Class from Tokyo Narita to Los Angeles