The ultimate guide to ANA first class
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There are only 11 airlines around the world that have earned a five-star rating from Skytrax, and while there are certainly some politics behind these rankings, a number of these carriers undoubtedly deserve the title. No one is questioning that Singapore and Emirates set the bar incredibly high, and I’d argue that both Japanese airlines, ANA and Japan Airlines, are also obviously deserving of the five-star ranking.
Today, we’re going to take a look at ANA’s incredible first-class product, including where to find it and how to book it for surprisingly few miles.
While ANA has over 50 777s in its fleet, you’ll only find a first-class cabin on its 24 777-300ERs. Since ANA has two major hubs — Tokyo Narita (NRT) and Tokyo Haneda (HND) — it can’t serve quite as many different destinations as you might expect with that many planes. In addition, ANA has two Airbus A380s in its fleet with a first-class cabin that it uses exclusively for flights between Tokyo and Honolulu (HNL)
At the time of writing, you’ll find ANA flying its first-class product to the following cities around the world:
- New York-JFK from both Narita and Haneda
- Los Angeles (LAX) from both Narita and Haneda
- Chicago (ORD) from both Narita and Haneda
- Washington, D.C. (IAD) from Narita
- San Francisco (SFO) from Narita
- Houston (IAH) from Narita
- Honolulu (HNL) from Narita
- London (LHR) from Haneda
- Frankfurt (FRA) from Haneda
In addition you’ll often see ANA deploying 777s with a first-class cabin on shorter intra-Asia flights to places like Osaka, Beijing or Singapore, but on these flights ANA doesn’t sell first class as a separate cabin.
Cabin layout and seat selection
We’ll start by taking a look at the 777s that make up the bulk of ANA’s first-class equipped fleet. The cabin consists of eight seats spread across two rows in a 1-2-1 configuration.
The seats are private, actually too private, with boxy shields that make it hard to see out the window or even to talk to the person seated next to you if you’re traveling with a companion in the center section.
ANA decided not to install closing doors, even though the bones of these seats look similar to some fully-enclosed suites you’ll find on other airlines. Each seat measures 33 inches wide and offers 76 inches of pitch, though the seat narrows a bit around your head when reclined into bed mode.
All first-class passengers will receive pajamas and a hard-sided Samsonite amenity kit, as well as a separate set of skincare products by The Ginza, a high-end Japanese brand.
One of the most quintessentially first-class experiences is indulging in a tin of caviar at 38,000 feet. Over the years ANA has gone back and forth on whether or not it serves caviar in first class. When I flew ANA first class in November 2018, there wasn’t a separate caviar course on the menu, but one of the appetizers had caviar on it. When I asked the flight attendant about it, she surprised me by bringing out an entire tin for me to enjoy.
Whether you opt for the Japanese or western menu you’re in for a treat. It should come as no surprise that the Japanese meal is simply sublime, but ANA is also one of the few airlines that can properly cook a steak at altitude.
Passengers on the New York, London and Frankfurt routes can round off a meal with a glass of Suntory Hibiki 21 year old whiskey, a vintage which now sells for $800 (£612) or more in many places due to global shortages.
Of course no discussion of ANA — in any cabin for that matter — would be complete without mentioning the incredible service. Japan is known for its phenomenal service culture, and that extends to ANA’s flight attendants as well. While their might be a minor language barrier depending on the crew assigned to a specific flight, the flight attendants I had were working so hard to make my trip enjoyable that you never would have known.
Little touches like holding the bathroom door open for me and insisting on folding my clothes after I changed into pajamas were one thing, but when I was ready to go to sleep a flight attendant actually came over and tucked me in under the blankets. I was bowed to at least five different times before we pushed back from our gate, and pampered the entire way to Tokyo.
While many airlines tease new products for years to build up hype and demand among passengers (think Qatar Qsuite or United Polaris, two products that were announced early and rolled out slowly), ANA took the opposite approach. Over the summer, with practically no warning, ANA announced that it would be retrofitting 12 of its 777-300ERs with stunning new business- and first-class cabins, dubbed “The Room” in business class and “The Suite” in first class.
The suite answers all my concerns about the older 777 first-class seats being too private, adding closing doors, fully retractable dividers between the center seats, and removing the side of the shell so passengers in the window seats can actually look out the window. These new cabins have been flying on the Tokyo Haneda to London route (NH211 and NH212) for a while now. Starting from Nov. 8 they’ve been deployed on flights from Tokyo to New York, with Tokyo Haneda to Frankfurt to follow after.
ANA’s three “Flying Honu” A380s each depict a sea turtle (honu in Hawaiian dialects) in a different color. The blue one, Lani, represents the Hawaiian sky. Kai, the emerald-green one depicts the Hawaiian ocean, and La, the orange one, represents the Hawaiian sunset.
First class features eight suites at the front of the upper deck, which is an unusually-small first-class cabin for an A380 (Emirates has 14 seats, while Etihad feature nine “apartments” and “The Residence,” a three-room suite unlike anything in commercial aviation).
The suites feature closing doors, soft wooden tones and wallpaper patterned with a starry sky. Like the retrofitted 777s, these suites feature a tremendous amount of privacy but still allow passengers to look out the window or communicate with a travel companion seated next to them.
How to book
If all this talk of luxury travel to Japan has you ready to pack your bags and go to Tokyo, you’re in luck. Assuming you can find award space, ANA first class is incredibly easy to book on points and miles. ANA isn’t the most generous with first-class award space, but it’s definitely possible to find it if you’re patient and flexible. I use ExpertFlyer to search and, when possible, I put “TYO” as my destination to search Narita and Haneda simultaneously.
You might be familiar with the Virgin Atlantic sweet spot for ANA awards, but if not you should bookmark this page for future reference. Virgin Atlantic isn’t a member of one of the major airline alliances, but it does have an individual partnership with ANA and an incredibly generous award chart. First-class flights cost either 110,000 or 120,000 miles round-trip depending on where you’re originating from, which as we’ll see in a moment, is less than some airlines charge for a one-way ticket.
The downside is that you have to book a round-trip (one-way awards are not allowed), but this is an absolute steal if you can take advantage of it. Round-trip first class flights from New York-JFK to Tokyo routinely price out at about ~$24,000 (~£18,330), giving you a whopping 20 cents per point on your redemption.
If you don’t have Virgin Atlantic miles, you can easily earn them by transferring points at a 1:1 ratio from American Express U.K. Membership Rewards. You can also transfer points from Marriott Bonvoy at a 3:1 ratio with a 5,000-mile bonus for every 60,000 Marriott points you transfer. Virgin Atlantic does pass on fuel surcharges so you can expect to pay ~$500 (~£380) round-trip on this award, which is nothing when you think about how good of a deal you’re getting.
If you choose to book through ANA you’ll need either 150,000 or 165,000 miles round-trip depending on the season, and again one-way awards are not allowed. If you need to book a one-way, either due to the flexibility of your trip or a lack of award space, here are your best options for doing so:
|Program||Mileage rate||Approximate taxes (departing U.S.)||Approximate taxes (departing Tokyo)|
|Avianca LifeMiles||90,000 miles||$5.60||~$50|
|United MileagePlus||110,000 miles||$5.60||~$50|
Not only does Avianca offer the lowest award rates, but it doesn’t pass on fuel surcharges for partner awards so your out of pocket costs will be nice and low.
ANA first class is truly a five-star experience from start to finish. The food and service are among the best I’ve ever experienced, the amenities are top notch and even the boxy seat you’ll find on most of its 777s isn’t that big a deal at the end of the day.
If you’re lucky enough to fly on one of the newly retrofitted 777s or on the A380s shuttling between Tokyo and Honolulu, you’ll walk away thinking that ANA first class is one of the best possible ways to fly.
Featured photo by Ethan Steinberg/The Points Guy.
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