Edited by: Jessica Merritt
& Keri Stooksbury
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Airline: All Nippon Airways (ANA)
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Flight #: NH 108
Route: Tokyo (HND) to San Francisco (SFO)
Date: May 16, 2023
Duration: 9hr 30 min
Cabin and Layout: First class, 1-2-1
Cost: 55,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club Virgin Points + $321.56 in taxes and fees
After an incredible 3 weeks in Asia, it was time to fly home — in style.
Truth be told, it had been an entire trip of flying new-to-me cabins from Korean Air’s new Prestige Class to ANA’s “The Room ” business class. Now turning my attention to ANA’s first class “The Suite,” I felt equally lucky and ecstatic to end my vacation on a high note.
Having never flown international first class before this experience, I wondered whether ANA could live up to my lofty expectations. Here’s my full review of flying ANA in first class, from booking to arrival!
We often say leveraging international loyalty programs is the best way to get maximum value from your points and miles. While you don’t necessarily need to know the ins and outs of every program, it helps to see where the “sweet spots” are.
Booking ANA’s premium cabins through Virgin Atlantic is definitely one of those sweet spots that have garnered a lot of attention over the years. It has become so popular that Virgin Atlantic upped the rates for first class earlier this spring without notice.
Even with this recent devaluation, the current rates are quite outstanding:
The challenge then becomes finding the award availability for your travel dates. Booking business class is marginally easier, as ANA releases a few award seats at a time roughly 8 to 11 months in advance. If you’re on the hunt for first class (like I was), you’ll need to be ready to book early, as ANA may only release 1 first class seat up for grabs.Hot Tip:
While it can be complicated, we’ve outlined the steps in our guide to booking ANA’s first class with points.
I was willing to fly on any of ANA’s nonstop services from Tokyo to virtually any airport in the U.S. So when I found the availability for my desired date to San Francisco (SFO), I was on hold with Virgin’s customer service. Note that I booked my flight prior to the devaluation, paying 55,000 Virgin Points instead of the updated rates.
Fortunately, there are so many loyalty programs that transfer over to Virgin Atlantic Flying Club, including Amex Membership Rewards, Bilt Rewards, Chase Ultimate Rewards, and Marriott Bonvoy. I also paid for the roughly $300 in taxes and fees with The Platinum Card® from American Express to earn 5x points on flights booked directly with airlines or through Amex Travel (up to $500,000 spent per calendar year).
I arrived exceptionally early at the airport — 8 hours early, to be exact. After a few weeks of traveling around with my mom, she was flying back on Delta Air Lines via the carrier’s nonstop to Atlanta (ATL). As her flight was leaving 4 hours before mine, I wanted to ensure she was all settled on her departure back to the U.S.
Terminal 3 at Tokyo Haneda Airport houses most of the international departures, but it wasn’t too crowded, perhaps because we arrived just before 3 p.m. I headed over to the ANA first class counter, and unsurprisingly, no one was in line.
I wasn’t sure the airline could accept my checked bag this early. Amazingly enough, the check-in agent had no problem tagging my bag and printed my boarding pass so that I could be airside with my mom for the rest of the day.
After going through security and immigration, I went to the ANA Suite Lounge, reserved for ANA first class passengers and select elite members. Even better, it was conveniently located above my gate.
The ANA Suite Lounge at Haneda is colossal and offers no shortage of space for first class passengers to sprawl out. I sat on the side overlooking the tarmac, which had individual cubicle-style seating for a mini office at the airport.
On the other side, there were plenty of tables and lounger chairs, with a noodle bar where I could pick up meals made to order. There was a QR code on every table, which took me to the lounge’s website where I browsed the menu for my last helpings of Japanese food.
I ordered a 5-piece nigiri set with a side of soba noodles and grazed on some of the buffet selections like onigiri. With such a late departure, it was nice to get a proper meal so I could maximize sleep once in the air.
Showers were available to freshen up before my flight. The Wi-Fi was fast and free, although it tended to disconnect after about every hour of usage.
The flight was delayed by 10 minutes, so I made my way down to the gate just after 11 p.m. By then, I was starting to doze off and was eager to get settled into my seat.
Once the gate agents boarded passengers who needed extra assistance, I was one of the first passengers to board the aircraft.
With my ANA business class experience fresh in mind, I knew what to look for on my first class flight home. I remembered how wide the seats were in ANA’s The Room product and loved the massive 4K inflight entertainment screen.
At first glance, ANA’s The Suite first class appears to offer a similar design. Once onboard, I realized there are notable differences, from the seat amenities to the level of dedicated service first passengers will experience. Let’s take a closer look.
ANA’s first class cabin is arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration, with just 8 seats in total. There are 2 lavatories in the front, with a curtain to the rest of business class.
When I checked in for my flight, only the middle seats were available. I picked seat 1D, although as a solo traveler, I would’ve preferred to sit in the window. Even if you’re in the middle like I was, you can’t go wrong, as the suites provide unparalleled privacy no matter where you turn.
Namely, there was a tall divider wall between the 2 middle seats. There was also another door to close my suite shut.
If traveling with someone else, you can also lower the privacy wall for more communal space!
The lead flight attendant gave me a mini tour of all the bells and whistles of the first class suite, which measured at roughly 76 inches of pitch (when fully lie-flat) and 34 inches of seat width.
By folding over the tray table, there’s a makeshift buddy seat, which is convenient if you’re flying with a companion.
The footwell area was ginormous, and I could practically store several pairs of shoes in the space afforded underneath. And compared to The Room, much more storage space was built into the seat.
There were 2 storage bins near the elbow rest, deep enough to store items I needed immediate access to.
Under the behemoth 42-inch screen — nearly double the size of the screen in business class — there was another larger storage bin that fit my small personal item.
On the tray table, I found the amenity kit, headset, and a bottle of water. During the flight, the tray table also slid all the way out to reach me at my seat comfortably. Once I grabbed the essentials from my carry-on, the flight attendant stowed the suitcase in the overhead bin.
There was yet another small storage area marked as “literature only,” but it could be a great place to stow a tablet or book. Above that, you could open up a small door to a mirror.
Once my bags were stowed, the flight attendant unwrapped the pajamas and checked to see if the lavatory was open so I could get changed.
For pre-departure beverages just before takeoff, you could choose from orange juice, Champagne Krug Grande Cuvée, or water.
With 2 dedicated lavatories for first class, 1 was spacious, while the other was much smaller.
The flight attendant waited until the larger bathroom was open to let me change — a testament to keeping passengers’ comfort in mind at all times. There were a few noteworthy amenities in the larger bathroom besides the bidet. On the floor, there was also a fold-down bench that you can step onto to change into your pajamas — and avoid touching your feet on the bathroom ground!
Once we were more than 10,000 feet in the air and I used the restroom again, the crew converted my bed into lie-flat mode — outfitted with a fluffy duvet and another pillow that helped me knock out almost instantly.
The seat controls and remote were located conveniently next to the bed. Here, you could also change the lighting to your heart’s content, whether that be with the reading lights (located on either side of the seat) or the main overhead light.
However, I never needed to finagle with any of the seat controls on my own since the flight attendants converted my bed into lie-flat mode or upright before landing.
When flying business class a month prior, the amenities were good but not as memorable. It’s clear that first class passengers are afforded a lot more once you’re in the air.
When I arrived at my seat, I found a set of pajamas, slippers, and a sleep cardigan. I forgot to ask for pajamas when flying business class (if they were even offered), so it was nice to find them already ready for me.
Once I changed into your pajamas, there was even a small closet built into the seat. I’m unsure if this would be large enough to hang a bulky coat in the winter, but it easily fit my long sleeve shirt.
I also found a memory foam pillow and a large grey blanket, which would’ve sufficed for sleep. However, as noted above, I was provided another duvet and pillow during turndown service.
The amenity kit was a mini suitcase from the British Globe-trotter, with some particularly nice amenities that were a step above business class.
From skincare items like a foaming cleansing wash to a light water-based moisturizer, I’ll definitely be reusing this amenity kit — and these travel-sized items — for future trips.
I could also pick from a basket of extra amenities the flight attendants passed around, including socks, cooling gel patches, and face mists.
I took the Sony headphones for a spin, which were much better quality than the ones in business class.
The touchscreen remote was aptly located next to the seat, and there were nearly 100 movies to choose from — both Japanese and American selections. When I briefly watched one of my all-time favorites, “Pursuit of Happyness” while awaiting takeoff, these headphones offered noise cancellation and good-quality sound.
Interestingly, there was only 1 universal outlet, 1 USB-C port (that didn’t work), and 1 HDMI port next to the headphone jack. It wasn’t that big of an issue as I could rotate charging my devices, but for comparison, The Room seats had 2 universal outlets and 2 USB-C ports.
Last but certainly not least, all first class passengers received a free Wi-Fi voucher for the entire flight, although it was only valid for one device.
I didn’t even bother connecting to the inflight Wi-Fi, as I spent the entire flight sleeping (or eating). However, the Wi-Fi was fast and strong when I flew on ANA’s business class, allowing me to finish ample work with no issues. Of course, the ability to get it for free was made even better.
When it came to food and beverage service, I declined any pre-departure drinks or snacks, though I was given a menu to choose between an American meal or a Japanese meal. If you got hungry before the meal service, you can also order from the long list of “Light Dishes Anytime” section, which includes enticing options like IPPUDO ramen and grilled salmon rice bowls.
I chose the latter, but to maximize my shut-eye time, the flight attendant told me she would wake me up around 1.5 hours before landing.Hot Tip:
You can view your ANA first class meal and drink options by route on ANA’s website.
This proved to be the perfect amount of time. Whether I was just exhausted or the seat was really that comfortable, I forgot I was even sleeping in an airplane seat.
Bleary-eyed when I was woken 8 hours later, I was surprised that the flight attendant had set up my meal in the window seat next to me. The motorized blinds were a nice touch, and she opened one of the windows to let the right amount of light back into the cabin.
You cannot often have an entire seat dedicated to sleeping and another dedicated to eating. Not to mention, the meal was fantastic.
If I had been awake already, the meal would have been served in courses. But I was more interested in maximizing my sleeping time, so the meal tray was the perfect arrangement for me.Hot Tip:
I was served a varied assortment of bites, including kobachi (wild marinated vegetables), grilled mackerel that was slightly sweetened with sake, dried nori, and even natto (fermented soybeans — a popular breakfast item in Japan). In sum, it’s amazing how ANA masters its inflight catering.
I didn’t receive a dessert, but there’s plenty on the menu like vanilla ice cream or a more traditional Japanese red bean jelly dessert. Instead, I chose to end the meal service with an iced latte, the perfect refreshing drink that awoke me from my deep slumber.
If you prefer staying up during the flight instead of sleeping, you can order a long list of menu items à-la-carte. Some standout options include ramen and udon noodle soup!
Before this first class experience, I wasn’t sure if ANA could deliver beyond what I experienced in business class. But boy, I was wrong.
Ultimately, the little details made the level of dedicated service a step above business class. With just a fraction of passengers in first class, the flight attendants took charge to ensure that you have the best experience from takeoff to touchdown.
Roughly 40 minutes before landing, the flight attendant told me when the bigger lavatory was available so I could change out of my inflight pajamas. Again, this is a testament to the thoughtful service I experienced throughout my flight.
It’s always a bit jarring to land in a completely different time zone after being gone for so long. In my case, I had gained nearly a full day of time traveling from Asia to the West Coast.
Thanks to my Global Entry, I exited customs in record time and awaited my checked bag at the carousel. Fortunately, as it was tagged with Star Alliance priority, my suitcase was the first to come out.
It’s certainly not every day you get to fly first class. But thanks to points and miles, I made this dream come true and cherished every moment. Without a doubt, it was worth going out of my way to “stalk” the award availability and book it for 9+ months in advance.
As long as Virgin Atlantic maintains its partnership with ANA, we can only hope that this award sweet spot continues to last. Bottom line, it’s a phenomenal way to fly from the U.S. to Tokyo.
From the thoughtful service to a five-star experience on the ground and in the air, ANA first class is certainly a home run in my book.
For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.
In ANA’s The Suite first class cabin, each seat is 76 inches in full-lie flat mode.
You can currently find ANA’s new products in business class (The Room) and first class (The Suite) on its routes between Tokyo (HND/NRT) and Chicago (ORD) or San Francisco (SFO), as well as between Tokyo (HND) and London (LHR) or New York (JFK).
No, ANA Mileage Club is not a transfer partner of Chase Ultimate Rewards. However, if you find the award availability through its partner Virgin Atlantic, you can transfer your Chase points to Flying Club to book ANA’s premium cabins for as low as 45,000 points one-way.
It can cost around $10,000 one-way to fly ANA’s first class on its long-haul international routes. However, by using points and miles, you can book this award for as low as 72,500 points one-way.
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