Edited by: Jessica Merritt
& Juan Ruiz
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Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Flight #: NH159
Route: New York (JFK) to Tokyo (HND)
Date: April 24, 2023
Duration: 14hr 0min
Cabin and Layout: Business class, 1-2-1
Cost: 47,500 Virgin Points + $360.70 in taxes & fees
As the last vestiges of pandemic-era restrictions are finally disappearing in the rearview, 2023 has been a big year for travel. I’m no exception, as I’d been hoping that this would be the year I could go back to see my family in South Korea.
With this end goal in mind, I started planning my trip over a year in advance. It had been nearly 5 years since I last visited, and back then, I scored a relatively solid deal flying economy with my Delta SkyMiles. As I wanted to fly comfortably in lie-flat seats this time around, I gave myself ample time to strategize how I was going to get to South Korea via points and miles.
My patience paid off, and I was able to successfully book a round-trip flight on Japanese carrier ANA flying business class to Tokyo and first class on the way home. Sure, I wasn’t flying nonstop to Seoul. However, booking this stopover in Japan gave me an excuse to explore a new country while seeing many familiar faces in South Korea.
Here’s my full review of ANA’s newest business class suite, “The Room.”
One of the crown jewels of award travel is booking ANA’s premium cabins to Japan. Thanks to the carrier’s partnership with Virgin Atlantic, you can book a business class flight from the U.S. to Japan for 45,000 to 47,500 Virgin Points one-way.
As you can transfer rewards from virtually every major transferable points program to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, it’s easily one of the best deals out there … if you can find the award space. Booking 330 days before your desired travel date seems to be the magic number, as Virgin Atlantic will open up the calendar nearly a year ahead.
It can be difficult to navigate ANA’s website to find award space. However, you can search for flights much easier through United Airlines, its Star Alliance partner. The key is to find a business class ticket in fare class (I) that clearly denotes the flight is operated by All Nippon Airways (ANA). Once you find the award space, act quickly. Top off your balance of Virgin Points and call Virgin Atlantic at 800-365-9500 to secure the award flight.
You’ll have to pay taxes, fees, and fuel surcharges, which will run you an additional $300 or so. I paid with The Platinum Card® from American Express to earn 5x Membership Rewards points on this flight purchase (up to the first $500,000 spent per year; then 1x points).
Initially, I couldn’t find any availability out of New York, so I booked a departure flight from Chicago (ORD). While you should book your flight way in advance, you may also want to keep tabs on the flight leading up to your date of travel.
I was able to find last-minute award space out of New York (JFK) about 2 weeks before departure, so I called Virgin Atlantic to change my flight. While I paid a $50 rebooking fee, that surcharge was worth it to not connect and fly out of my hometown airport. Even better, I booked a seat in ANA’s newer business class, known as The Room, which is consistently flown on this particular route — but more on this later in the review!Hot Tip:
My new flight was scheduled to depart from New York (JFK) at 2 a.m. — quite an undesirable hour. However, I figured with 14 hours of flying time, I’d be able to get plenty of sleep in before landing at 5 a.m. local time.
My Uber dropped me off at Terminal 7, which was a new terminal for me. Alaska Airlines and Norse Atlantic Airways also operate services from here, while British Airways recently moved out of the space to co-locate with American Airlines in Terminal 8.
When I arrived just before midnight, the place was practically deserted. ANA was the last scheduled airline to depart that late, just after ultra-low-cost carrier Norse Atlantic’s 12:30 a.m. flight to Paris (CDG).
There were 3 check-in lines for ANA passengers: first, business, and economy. The first 2 lines were empty when I arrived, and I checked in 1 bag and received a printed boarding pass under 5 minutes. Meanwhile, the economy line looked considerably longer, but ANA was adequately staffed with nearly 10 check-in agents to speed through the process.
The security line was also just as empty. Although there was no separate TSA PreCheck line, the agent instructed me to show my boarding pass so that I could keep my shoes on. I managed to breeze through check-in and security within 10 minutes. Boarding didn’t begin until 1:40 a.m., so I still had roughly 1.5 hours to spare.
In addition to my boarding pass, I received a printed lounge card, giving me access to the “Airport Terminal Owner Lounge.” Previously British Airways Galleries Club Lounge not too long ago, the space has since been repurposed.
Located to the left of security, I went up a few escalators to the lounge. It was right next to the Alaska Lounge, which was closed at the time. The Airport Terminal Owner Lounge was staffed with an ANA agent checking guests in.
The lounge was spacious, with plenty of tables and seating areas. While the buffet was small, the highlight was a delicious traditional Japanese curry with chicken, potatoes, onions, and carrots.
Overall, the lounge was pretty hands-off. I could grab any drinks from the cooler and even pour myself a concoction of spirits.
Past the buffet and bar was the main seating area with individual plush armchairs and outlets to charge up devices. I kicked back there, and the Wi-Fi was speedy in the lounge as I caught up on a few episodes on Netflix.
It was impressive that ANA managed to board a widebody aircraft in just 20 minutes (U.S. carriers, take note!). While boarding didn’t begin until 1:40 a.m., the gate agents organized the lines efficiently in advance. I joined the line for Group 2, or business class passengers.
Minutes later, I arrived at 6H, my comfortable chariot for the next 14 hours. Known as The Room, ANA first debuted the business class product in the summer of 2019 — just before the start of the pandemic. With 64 seats total in a 1-1 configuration, every seat has direct aisle access.
I’ll admit, I was slightly skeptical at first. Can we still crown this business class seat as “new” when it’s nearly 4 years old? And as another caveat, the updated seats aren’t available on most of ANA’s long-haul routes. You’ll need to specifically look out for routes where ANA uses its Boeing 777-300ER, where some — but not all — of this aircraft type has been retrofitted with its award-winning business class (The Room) and first class (The Suite) seats.
If you’re seeking out this seat in particular, it helps to know which routes consistently carry the updated fleet. ANA consistently operates the newer business class product on several routes, such as the one I took between New York (JFK) and Tokyo (HND). Needless to say, I was grateful to be able to rebook to this newer aircraft last minute.
Whether The Room may (or may not) be a new product anymore, I’d argue it still takes the cake as one of the best business class seats in the world — if you’re successful in booking it. Let’s take a look at what you can expect onboard.
ANA’s business class cabin is divided into 2 sections, with a total of 64 seats. As a solo traveler, I picked one of the last remaining window seats (6H), located in the front section. This area was separated by a curtain behind first class.
Even in the middle section, privacy wasn’t an issue. With a press of a button, you could shut the privacy wall and door if you happen to be sitting next to a neighbor you don’t know.
When the walls are fully shut, The Room seats boast some of the most privacy you’ll find in any business class cabin.
It’s also worth noting that odd-numbered rows face backward, while even-numbered rows face forward. If you’re in a window seat, you may want to pick an odd-numbered row so that your seat is next to the window.
While I picked my even-numbered seat right in front of the lavatory and business class galley, I didn’t mind being this close. This mini section with just 2 rows of seats felt much more intimate, as there were just 8 passengers total.
The back section was much larger, housing the remaining 56 business class pods. In terms of privacy and space, you can’t go wrong with any of the seats here.
While flying business class is always a treat, I was instantly wowed by how wide this seat was. Boasting an impressive 38 inches across, I immediately understood why ANA calls it The Room. It truly felt like flying in my own mini living room in the sky, with understated yet chic navy blue accents.
Of course, the reason people shell out thousands of dollars (or points) to fly business class is the ability to lay flat at 180 degrees. As carriers continue to iterate and take premium cabins to the next level, ANA has also done a fantastic job of addressing several pain points — namely, narrow seat width and crammed footwells.
ANA’s The Room not only offers the ability to lay flat but goes above and beyond in making each pod feel spacious. Whether you’re sleeping, watching a movie, or catching up on some work, it’s virtually impossible to rub elbows within the confines of your seat. In fact, at 38 inches wide, The Room’s seat is nearly double the width of most business class seats out there.
Speaking of the footwell, it’s also quite spacious at more than 12 inches across. If you fly premium cabins often, you know that most footwells can be tiny and awkwardly configured in a diagonal as airlines try to cram as many seats as possible.
That’s not the case when flying on ANA. When you’re sitting down in your seat, you can stretch your legs out comfortably straight ahead — with plenty of wiggle room in the footwell, mimicking a real bed.
For those who love firm (or extra firm) mattresses, you’re in for a treat with ANA’s seats. The whole bed was the perfect firmness for my preferences. Though if you want more of a cushion, the seat comes with a mattress pad adding a bit more support.
Additionally, the pillows were just as comfortable. There was a thick memory foam pillow and a softer blue pillow, and I initially mistook the folded-up navy blue blanket for a third pillow. Once I unraveled the origami-style duvet, it was very warm and ensured a good night’s rest.
While ANA sacrificed storage to build a larger seat, I much prefer the increase in size and wish other carriers would follow suit. While I had to stow away my carry-on bag and personal item for take-off and landing, there was plenty of overhead space for business class passengers.
When it was time to sleep, the controls for the seat and lights were located right next to the remote.
While ANA does not offer turndown service, it’s quick and easy to put your seat in lie-flat mode. I did not end up using the mattress pad and placed it in the overhead bin instead.
However, for those looking for more comfort, the mattress pad is intuitive as well, with pull-on straps to easily fit onto the cushion.
With such a late departure time, ANA didn’t offer a full meal until breakfast. The flight attendants brought “light bites” consisting of edamame and a light salad.
Besides the snack, I went to sleep pretty much immediately — and I imagine that many other passengers did the same. I woke up hungry around 4.5 hours before landing, so I leafed to the page on the menu of “Order Anytime” items. The udon with shrimp tempura with a simple stock of dashi, soy sauce, and mirin immediately appealed to me. With a side of a light citrus yuzu drink, this definitely hit the spot.
Less than 2 hours before landing, the flight attendants awoke the passengers to serve up breakfast. Up to 48 hours before my flight, I could preorder a Japanese breakfast (rather than an American-style meal) on ANA’s website. I was happy with my choice, and the highlights were the grilled eel and steamed vegetables.
The meal, despite offering a variety of dishes, was served on 1 tray. However, there’s nothing stopping you from ordering more dishes if you are still hungry.
The amenities were just as aptly designed as the seat itself.
The 24-inch 4K TV screen was ginormous, offering a crystal clear display with an incredibly responsive touch. There was also a library of content, including English and Japanese movies and shows, though I spent my time sleeping or staring at the flight map.
From my seat, the screen felt far away — which was great and a testament to the roominess (pun intended) of the pod. Fortunately, the touchscreen remote was easy to navigate with no bugs or glitches to report.
The seat offered generous outlets to charge several devices. Hidden above the storage table was a universal and a USB outlet, and one of 2 headphone jacks.
The U.S. and Japan both use Type A plugs, which makes it convenient for both American and Japanese travelers flying on these transpacific routes!
I also briefly tested out the headphone set. However, the quality was nothing to write home about. It was convenient that the other headphone jack was located to the right of the seat with a USB-C wall outlet.
The tray table folded out right under the inflight screen. It was so long that it reached my seat about 6 feet away. I also appreciated that I could fit my 13-inch MacBook Air on the tray table and have plenty of room to spare if I was enjoying a drink or a snack at the same time.
For $21.95, I had the option to connect to Wi-Fi during the whole flight. I opted for the smaller plan with 3 hours of connectivity at $16.95 to catch up on emails. It was relatively fast, though I couldn’t load any streaming services.
Last but not least, there were several items placed neatly on my seat awaiting my arrival. With a 2 a.m. departure, I was in a rush to get to sleep after boarding. I first sorted through my amenity kit, a bright Easter egg blue, reminding me of Korean Air’s livery and interiors.
Inside were all the necessities: a toothbrush and mini toothpaste, eye mask, ear plugs, as well as a few skincare items from Japanese brand Shiro, including lip balm and a refreshing face mist.
While there were no pajamas on the seat, it seemed that all flyers came equipped in their most comfortable outfits given the 2 a.m. departure time. I forgot to ask for pajamas, but other flyers have reported that you may be allowed to borrow a sleep cardigan if requested.
My seat was next to the business class lavatories, and I didn’t mind as it meant easy access for me when I needed to brush my teeth or take out my contacts. The lavatory was small yet ergonomic, and there were face cleansing pads, individual mouthwash packets, and even more toothbrushes for passengers to use.
With (presumably) 64 business class passengers, the flight attendants did a terrific job of making the service feel personalized. Even as I woke up intermittently to ask for more water or snacks, the flight attendants worked swiftly to cater to my every request.
When I told my flight attendant, Sakura, that I wanted to sleep as much as possible, she made note of this and timed out my breakfast service perfectly — just 1.5 hours before landing.
The sun was just about to rise as we landed early at 4:30 a.m. local time. As one of the first passengers to get off the plane, I was able to get in line for Immigration and Customs quickly. However, with other international routes landing around the same time, it still took a considerable amount of time to get through.
I waited nearly 1.5 hours before I was able to pick up my checked bag at baggage claim. While Japan has fully opened its borders to international visitors, you must fill out a few forms and submit your vaccination card for approval to generate a few QR codes to show upon arrival. Perhaps this is why it took so long to get through, but hopefully, these processes will only speed up as time goes on.
It was well worth it to go out of my way to book this pristine business class seat. In sum, this was easily one of the most memorable — if not the best — business class flights I’ve ever been on. It was even better knowing that an extended vacation to see friends and family members was on the other side.
While 14 hours in the air is no mean feat, ANA nailed it on the head with spacious seats, excellent inflight amenities and catering, and particular attention to detail. If you can book this business class flight with points and miles, do so sooner rather than later. It’s only time before Virgin Atlantic increases award rates, or worse, gets rid of this partnership with ANA altogether.
Be sure to check out my review of ANA’s The Suite, the carrier’s first class seat. We’ll see if it’s possible for the carrier to boast a product that’s a step above The Room.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
Yes. Not only do the seats lie flat in a fully 180-degree position, but the seat width is an impressive 38 inches. You’ll feel like you’re flying on a couch rather than an airplane seat!
The easiest way to check is by searching your flight on ANA’s website, and you’ll want to make sure that the business class flight is clearly stated as The Room. Otherwise, there are a handful of routes that feature The Room on the updated Boeing 777-300ERs, including the following at the time of writing:
While it depends on the route, the cash price for ANA The Room between New York (JFK) and Tokyo (HND) will run you $10,000+ round-trip. Otherwise, you can book the same route starting at 95,000 miles round-trip. Read our guide on the best ways to book ANA’s business class with points and miles!
Wi-Fi is only complimentary for ANA first class passengers. ANA charges $21.95 for Wi-Fi on the entire flight.
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