Too Close for Comfort: A Review of ANA’s (787-8) Regional Business Class

Feb 15, 2018

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To The Point

ANA’s regional business class wasn’t memorable, but it was a decent way to get from point A to point B. Pros: Solid availability with miles and comfy recliners. Cons: Lack of privacy, limited entertainment options.

Following a phenomenal Singapore A380 delivery flight from Toulouse — including a first look at the airline’s new first-class suites — it was time to make my way back to New York, wrapping up my final work trip of 2017. There are plenty of points options to get from Southeast Asia back to the US, and one redemption that’s often available is ANA business class, with a connection in Tokyo.

Booking

As luck would have it, there wasn’t any award space on the date I needed to travel, so we ended up booking the flight through Amex Travel with TPG’s Business Centurion Card. In the end, the $2,674 flight required 133,700 Membership Rewards points — no small sum, but it did get me home from Asia and gave me an opportunity to review two business-class products.

I credited the flight to United, earning a total of 11,624 redeemable miles and 6,642 Premier-Qualifying Miles for this segment to Tokyo, as a Premier 1K member, and another 23,608 redeemable miles and 13,490 PQMs for my onward flight to New York. Since we value those miles at 1.4 cents apiece, I racked up $493 worth of miles from the trip.

Had I been able to redeem miles, I would have opted for United’s MileagePlus as well — the one-way journey from Kuala Lumpur (or Singapore) would have required 90,000 miles in business class, which sure beats forking over nearly $2,700 in cash!

Airport and Lounge

While this particular itinerary required that I begin travel in Kuala Lumpur (KUL), I was actually originating in Singapore (SIN). Singapore’s fares were considerably higher, though, so the journey to KUL made sense. That’s not to say things went especially smoothly, though.

I decided to save some money by booking a cheap flight on Air Asia, which sounded great in theory. The challenge is that Air Asia flies into Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2, which isn’t connected to the terminal ANA flies from. So to get from one area to the other, I needed to clear immigration and take a bus. In total, that adventure added about an hour to my transit time, though I fortunately had plenty of time to kill before my 2:15pm flight to Tokyo.

I still arrived with more than an hour to spare, so I decided to take a tour of the Star Alliance lounges near my gate, given that I had access both as a business-class passenger and Star Alliance Gold member.

My first stop was the Thai Royal Orchid Lounge, which actually ended up being my favorite — it was spacious and not very crowded.

The food and beverage selection didn’t look great, but I wasn’t especially hungry.

Next up was Singapore’s Silver Kris Lounge, just down the hall.

This space was far more crowded, and smaller, too.

The food selection was more or less the same, though perhaps Singapore’s is a bit fresher, since that there were far more people utilizing that lounge.

Finally, I went to the area ANA specifically suggested I visit, the Plaza Premium Lounge, which is also available to Priority Pass customers.

This lounge was packed — I didn’t stay for more than a couple minutes, considering how crowded and noisy it was.

I decided to use my last few minutes to check out the outdoor rainforest area in the center of the terminal — it’s easy to forget when you’re in the lounge, but Kuala Lumpur is hot!

Finally, it was time to head to the gate, where I went through security screening.

After a short delay, business-class passengers were welcomed to board our 787-8 Dreamliner to Tokyo (NRT).

Cabin and Seat

ANA operates four versions of the 787-8, and even though our flight was more than six hours long — the equivalent of a transatlantic hop from New York to London — the airline primarily offers its regional business class on this route.

This version sports 42 business-class recliner seats arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration. Seats measure 21.5 inches wide and are spread between two cabins, with 24 up front and another 18 just behind Door 2 and the center galley.

Although ANA’s been flying this particular aircraft, JA807A, since early 2012, the cabin still felt fresh. I’m really not a fan of this style of seat, however — the airline’s proper lie-flat seats offer far more personal space and privacy.

While these seats do have a small, fixed center divider, they all feel quite exposed.

If you’re looking for privacy, I’d opt for one of the window seats — either A or K.

I selected 4A, in the last row of the forward cabin — while I could easily see my neighbor, there was less exposure to the rest of the cabin, especially with the seat fully reclined.

While these are labeled as recliners, they do fold into a near-angle-flat position, and I did manage to get some decent sleep during our flight to Tokyo.

My favorite feature is the huge, electronic-dimming Dreamliner windows. These never get old!

I was also exceptionally pleased to see that there were dedicated air vents — the cabin was a bit warm, so I opened mine right away.

Amenities and In-Flight Entertainment

Given that ANA considers this to be a regional flight, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of entertainment and amenities — my expectations were not exceeded. While there were a few new releases to choose from, ANA’s selection was underwhelming overall, and the screen was among the smallest I’ve seen in biz.

There was a small pillow and a light blanket waiting at my seat.

There were also slippers, tucked underneath the in-flight entertainment (IFE) display.

I also got a water bottle — yeah, this flight was so light on swag that I’m mentioning my little bottle of water in the “amenities” section.

Food and Beverage

There was one main meal on this daytime flight, served shortly after takeoff.

First, I requested a glass of cold sake. There was beer, spirits, wine and Champagne (Collet Brut Art Deco) on offer as well, but I really just wanted to get some sleep on this leg.

A flight attendant brought over some munchies as well — rice crackers and something called a “fried pasta snack,” which was actually way better than it sounds.

I opted for the Japanese meal. The first serving consisted of several courses presented at once on a tray, including simmered prawn, chicken, smoked salmon, Japanese omelet, chilled udon noodles and eggplant. They were all decent, but not memorable.

The entree was a deep-fried whitefish with sweet vinegar sauce, which was pretty tasty. It was served with steamed rice, miso soup and Japanese pickles.

I requested some blueberry pudding for dessert, which was definitely a highlight.

Then, just before landing I decided to dig into the Light Dishes menu, and ordered an IPPUDO ramen, which I requested with a Kirin Ichiban beer. The ramen was good, but not quite restaurant-quality — not surprising altogether, on a plane.

I also ordered some fruit — the portion was tiny, but I wasn’t especially hungry after the ramen.

Overall Impression

This flight wasn’t anything special, but it did get the job done — I arrived in Tokyo feeling full and rested, ready for my onward journey to New York-JFK.

I’d recommend selecting one of ANA’s other aircraft, if available — lie-flat seats are the way to go, so if you see a 2-2-2 arrangement in business class, you’ll probably want to look for something else.

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