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ANA Boeing 787-9 Premium Economy Class Review [LAX to NRT]

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Ryan Smith
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Ryan Smith

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Ryan completed his goal of visiting every country in the world in December of 2023 and now plans to let his wife choose their destinations. Over the years, he’s written about award travel for publicat...
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Airline: All Nippon Airways (ANA)
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Flight #: NH5
Route: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Narita International Airport (NRT)
Date: October 1, 2023
Duration: 11 hours, 55 minutes
Cabin and Layout: Premium economy; 21 seats in a 2-3-2 configuration
Seats: 14D (aisle) and 16G (aisle)
Cost: 65,000 United MileagePlus miles + $5.60 (including onward flight to Singapore) each

After a recent rush of premium economy flights, I’ve come to enjoy flying in this cabin. And when my wife and I decided to celebrate her leaving a toxic workplace, a short-notice trip to Singapore and Bali seemed like a great idea. Given that we couldn’t find any reasonable awards in business class, I convinced my wife, who has trouble sleeping on flights, that premium economy would be an acceptable substitution.

While the plane got us safely to where we needed to go, it was not a good flight. That’s sad, given that it started so well, and we had such high expectations. Service was abysmal, and I’ll look to avoid ANA in the future. That’s on top of my wife not finding the seats comfortable for sleeping, though I can sleep pretty much anywhere, to be honest. Here’s what happened and why the flight left us unhappy.

Booking ANA Premium Economy

I booked this flight with 65,000 United MileagePlus miles per person plus $5.60 in taxes each. We were originally scheduled to fly United the whole way, going from Los Angeles through San Francisco to Singapore. When there was a schedule change, I asked a phone agent to put us on this route via Tokyo with ANA on both legs instead.

Hot Tip:

Use a card that earns extra rewards on flights when you pay your taxes, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express. Every bit helps!

Typically, United would charge more miles for partner flights to Japan or Singapore — starting at 71,500 miles. Cash prices average $1,400 to Singapore, though premium economy flights just to Tokyo cost slightly more due to demand: around $1,500.

ANA premium economy price LAX NRT
Image Credit: Google Flights

Thus, redeeming 65,000 miles for flights to Singapore or Tokyo provided a good value. That’s 2 cents per mile, which is above average per our valuation of United MileagePlus miles.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

Checking In

On arrival at the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT) at LAX, we were surprised to see that premium economy passengers had access to the priority check-in line with business class and ANA elites. As no one was in this line ahead of us, check-in was ultra-fast. We showed our passports, the agent saw that we weren’t entering Japan (and thus didn’t need any declaration forms), and we were on our way in less than 5 minutes.

Star Alliance Lounge

The real surprise was the agent telling us we could visit the Star Alliance Lounge as premium economy passengers. When I flew premium economy with Air France and ITA Airways recently, I didn’t get lounge access, so this was pleasant news.

ANA premium economy Star Alliance lounge LAX seating
Looking into the Star Alliance lounge at LAX.

The lounge had an open layout divided by partial walls, curtains, and glass walls leading to a patio overlooking the main hallway in the terminal. Immediately to the right after check-in, there was an unattended luggage storage area and a small library seating area.

ANA premium economy Star Alliance lounge LAX library
The lounge’s library.

There was a hot food bar, which changed from breakfast to lunch during our visit. Breakfast items included sausage, bacon, and scrambled eggs. Lunch items included salads, pasta, and miniature desserts.

ANA premium economy Star Alliance lounge LAX hot food bar
Breakfast foods on the hot buffet.

In the far corner of the restaurant area, there was a make-your-own ramen bar, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

ANA premium economy Star Alliance lounge LAX ramen bar

The make-your-own ramen bar at the lounge.

The lounge also had a full-service bar, coffee machines, bathrooms, complimentary Wi-Fi, and soda machines with Coke products.

Hot Tip:

Boarding

We departed from the Tom Bradley International Terminal using gate 154. Interestingly, we were in group 5 as premium economy passengers because ANA sells multiple levels of tickets in each cabin. We were booked into the cheapest fare type of premium economy, boarding after other premium economy passengers and with those who’d purchased the most expensive refundable economy fares.

ANA premium economy boarding gate 154 LAX
Our departure gate at LAX.

Boarding was organized and efficient, however. Even-numbered groups lined up to one side, with odd-numbered groups on the other. While group 2 boarded, group 3 got ready, and so on. With employees organizing the lines and checking boarding passes, this process moved faster than I’d thought it would.

ANA premium economy boarding groups
Lining up for boarding by groups.

After scanning our boarding passes and showing our passports, we boarded through the middle door into the galley in the middle of the 2 business-class cabins. Premium economy seats sat between partitions from business and economy cabins.

ANA 787 9 seat map premium economy
ANA 787-9 seat map. Credit: ANA

On Board ANA’s Boeing B787-900

Premium Economy Cabin and Seat

Seats were arranged in a 2-3-2 layout. From checking the seat maps in the days leading up to our flights, I didn’t expect the flight to be full and picked seats D and G in row 16. These were both aisle seats in the middle row of the premium economy cabin. By the time we changed our reservation, there weren’t any pairs of seats at the windows available together, so this option left an empty middle seat between us.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 seats
Premium economy seats in the first row.

With an empty middle seat in front of and behind ours, I figured the likelihood someone would come to sit between us was small, and I was right. That gave us extra space for our stuff during this long flight.

This partition behind business class had closing flaps and a video screen that played the safety video before takeoff.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 divider to business class
The divider between premium economy and business class.

Once we were in the air, flight attendants attached signs to the curtain to let us know that business class was off-limits.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 curtain for business class
Flight attendants made it clear that we shouldn’t pass the curtain.

Once we were on board, I took a quick tour of the seat. It had an interesting color scheme and pattern that I didn’t really like, but I did like the reading light on an adjustable arm next to each seat. The spacing between seats was solid as well.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 leg rest
There was ample pitch, and the seats also had legrests.

Each seat had a legrest. It wasn’t practical, to be blunt. It merely lifted our legs up so that they smacked the bottom of the seat in front.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 using leg rest
Using the legrest and footrest together was impractical.

The seat’s recline and legrest were both controlled by buttons on the armrest, which were labeled.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 seat control buttons
The buttons for seat controls.

The fold-away footrest was much more useful.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 seat pocket and foot rest
My footrest after I put it down.

The seat back pocket had safety information and a sick bag, and pockets above it held our headsets and slippers. The headsets weren’t noise canceling but were good quality.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 seat pockets with headphones and slippers
Looking at the back of the seat in front of me, showing where I found the slippers and headphones.

Slippers were another surprise for us, as we typically associate these with business class only. I put them on right away.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 slippers
I put the slippers on right away.

The slippers also came with a shoe horn and a carrying bag.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 shoe horn and slipper bag
The shoe horn and storage bag that came with the slippers.

The armrests between the seats had several important features.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 center arm rest
The armrest between seats, where I found the tray table.

There was a slide-out cup holder.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 cup holder
The slide-out cup holder between seats.

The tray table was inside, accessed by flipping open the top of the armrest.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 tray table in arm rest
The folded tray table was inside the armrest.

The tray table opened into a folded version, which had a divot to serve as a cup holder.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 tray table
The tray table had an interesting folding pattern.

When unfolded, the table easily held my 13-inch laptop.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 tray table with laptop
My 13-inch laptop on the open tray table.

At knee level, the plastic molding between the seats had 2 universal outlets.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 universal outlets
Seats had universal outlets below the armrest.

Overhead, there were reading lights but no individual air vents.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 overhead lights
We had overhead lights but not individual vents.

Since our cabin wasn’t completely full, the overhead bins were more than sufficient. Bins were located in the center and sides of the plane over all passenger seats in our cabin.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 overhead bins
The overhead bins were large and weren’t full.

Food and Beverage

I will save my most biting criticism for the service section later on, but the food and beverage section also deserves some harsh words.

My wife and I are both vegan. Because this flight had a codeshare with United, I requested special meals online, on the phone, and via Twitter from both United and ANA. I had screenshots to prove it when the crew said there were no special meals on board for us, despite us confirming them in advance.

Thus, the food and beverage was a major letdown. At one point, a flight attendant simply dropped this tray of side dishes in front of my wife and walked away. Not much for a nearly 12-hour flight.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 side dishes
All the flight attendant offered was some sides when they forgot our special meals.

When flight attendants passed later with a basket of snacks, I tried to check it out for vegan options. The flight attendant simply told me there were no halal options and yanked the basket away from me. That was confusing and further deteriorated the food experience.

After 6 hours of consuming our own snacks we’d packed and being upset about the situation, a flight attendant arrived to say that a business passenger had slept through his meal and that they could cut his meal in half for us to share. It was better than nothing, so we shared some fruits, a corn-couscous salad, and grilled cauliflower. It was cold, and they hadn’t reheated it prior to serving us.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 spare meal
My “meal” was half of someone else’s meal.

We were told that we could share that passenger’s meal again if he didn’t wake up for the light meal before landing — no promises. Lucky for us, the passenger didn’t wake up, so we were able to share this unimaginative pasta with vegetables. We were pretty hungry and ate it, lack of flavor and all.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 leftover food
This was my half of the second meal. Boring.

Given the lack of suitable food on the flight, we went straight to eat during our layover in Tokyo. Paying for a meal after coming off a 12-hour flight in a premium cabin with confirmed meal requests was pretty annoying. But it was less annoying than the service.

Entertainment

Each seat had an individual entertainment system. The screens were on the small side but not small enough that we had to squint.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 entertainment screen
The entertainment screen was small but not tiny.

There were options for movies, live TV, shopping, games, e-books, kids’ content, and a map of the flight.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 entertainment options
Entertainment options during my flight.

The list of movies wasn’t extensive, but the real downside to the entertainment was the audio selection. Each selection had just 4 or 5 songs. A playlist called “Best 100 of the 90s” had just 5 songs. I checked a few dozen albums and playlists to confirm, and every audio selection was similarly limited. That was odd.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 music playlist
Strangely, each album or playlist only had 4 or 5 songs.

Headphone jacks were located at hip level, under the slide-out cup holder. There were also pop-up remote controls here that could be used to change channels, volume, or play some of the inflight games. Next to this headphone jack, there was a seat number indicator.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 headphone jack seat letter
Seats had indicators next to the headphone jack.

Internet

Wi-Fi was available during the flight. It wasn’t cheap, though. A 30-minute plan cost $6.95, a 3-hour plan cost $16.95, and a flight pass cost $21.95. Given the time when you can’t use your laptop during takeoff and landing, that’s a bit over $2 per hour for the flight pass.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 wifi price
Wi-Fi costs on this flight were steep.

Lavatories

Premium economy passengers used the economy lavatories on this flight. They were standard and located along both aisles in the front and rear of the economy cabin.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 lavatory sink
The plane’s standard economy lavatory.

While the lavatories weren’t spotless, the flight crew did a good job overall of keeping them clean and stocked.

ANA premium economy Boeing 787 toilet
The toilet inside the economy lavatory.

Service

Boarding was great, and we were warmly greeted upon entering the plane. Flight attendants passed through the aisles, smiled, and offered to help passengers find their seats or stow their belongings. The flight was off to a great start. Everything went bad when the meal service started and the flight crew didn’t have our vegan meals.

The flight attendant on my side arrived first. I said that I’d requested a special meal, and her response was a hummed version of “OK” and then she carried on with her business. I assumed that meant someone would come with my special meal. When my wife’s flight attendant arrived on the other aisle, she told the flight attendant we’d requested special meals. The flight attendant checked a paper and responded with, “No, you didn’t.” That was not an appropriate way to respond.

We informed her that we had confirmed our special meals, including a final check the day before departure, and even inquired at check-in that our special meals were on the computer. I produced a screenshot showing our special meal confirmation, saved on my laptop.

The flight attendant laughed nervously and simply walked away. To be clear, I don’t think she was laughing at us, but with the language barrier, her not-great English, and the situation, I think she just didn’t know what to say. So she left.

Roughly 30 minutes later, after we’d assumed we weren’t getting food and relegated ourselves to the snacks in our carry-on bag, the same flight attendant dropped a tray full of side dishes on my wife’s tray table and disappeared again. I never got one and didn’t care to use the call button to ask for one. The flight attendants had been rude and condescending thus far — including the weird situation with a flight attendant not allowing me to peruse the snack basket for options — and I wasn’t interested in talking to them if I didn’t have to.

A full 6 hours later, we got half a meal each. I’ll be honest and say that I don’t think this was the flight crew’s idea. They made no offer or effort at any point to look for solutions. Somehow, it was simply our fault they didn’t have any food for us.

During the flight, I tweeted at ANA saying it’s one thing to forget our meals but another issue to be rude to us about it. My guess is that ANA looked up my name, found our flight, and realized we were still on board. The flight attendants made a complete 180 after this, and it was only then they found this uneaten meal. Dinner was several hours prior, meaning they knew this meal was sitting around for quite a while. No one had offered it to us until I complained to ANA on Twitter. If I hadn’t, I believe we wouldn’t have received anything.

It shouldn’t take a tweet complaining about a flight crew to get basics during a flight. The crew took no initiative to offer us extra snacks, try to improve a bad situation, or even say “sorry” at any point. They treated us like it was our fault that we lacked the special meals the airline had promised us — promised 3 times, or 4 if you count the check-in agent.

Bottom Line:

These were some of the worst flight attendants I’ve ever encountered. If “solving a problem” is part of the job description, they failed spectacularly.

Arrival

When we landed, we took a short taxi to the gate. My wife and I were itching to get off the plane, not just because we were hungry but because we just wanted the experience to end.

We deplaned quickly through the middle door. Flight attendants from the business and economy cabins were at the door, smiling and saying goodbye. Our flight attendants were nowhere to be seen, and it felt like they didn’t want to make eye contact with us on departure, so they avoided any final checks or goodbyes in our cabin. Their absence was notably peculiar, considering flight attendants should at least pass through for seatbelt checks.

Final Thoughts

This was our second flight on ANA, and while we weren’t impressed by the first, the second was just bad. It didn’t have to be like this. Minimal effort to try to improve things on behalf of the flight attendants could’ve made the flight decent, but they did everything wrong and made the situation worse.

The cabin and seat were decent — nothing special. The entertainment had its weird peculiarities, but it was passable. This could’ve been an OK flight, but we deplaned, dreading our ensuing flight from Tokyo to Singapore (luckily, I’d rate that flight “pretty good”). And we even debated changing our flights home to avoid ANA, given how bad this flight was. However, the costs of doing that on short notice were too much.

After this bad experience, I’ll avoid ANA whenever possible. Some people love the airline and rave about its service, but not me.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How many seats are in ANA premium economy on a Boeing 787?

The number of seats in premium economy depends on which layout your plane has. You will find 3 different layouts, all with 2-3-2 seating. On the Boeing 787-8 and 787-9, you may find 2 rows (14 seats total) or 3 rows (21 seats total). On the B787-10, you’ll find 3 rows of 2-3-2 plus an extra middle section, making 24 seats in premium economy.

How are premium economy and economy different?

Premium economy passengers typically use the same bathrooms as economy passengers, and there may still be middle seats in premium economy. Other than that, there are many differences. Seats in premium economy should have a footrest or leg rest — or both — have more space between seats, wider seats, and nicer amenities. These may include the use of real dishes instead of disposable items during meals, nicer headsets for watching movies during the flight, and seats that recline further.

How is premium economy different from business class?

Premium economy seats don’t lie flat as a bed, which you can find in international business class. Other amenities will differ, such as what types of premium alcohol are available, how many courses are in your meal, access to nicer or larger bathrooms, and the ratio of passengers to flight attendants. Business passengers also tend to get nicer headphones and amenity kits, and meals may be served on better dishes.

What plane type does ANA fly between Los Angeles and Tokyo?

ANA typically flies its Boeing 787 aircraft on this route. Typically, it will be a Boeing 787-9 series, but ANA also has 787-8 and 787-10 airplanes.

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About Ryan Smith

Ryan completed his goal of visiting every country in the world in December of 2023 and now plans to let his wife choose their destinations. Over the years, he’s written about award travel for publications including AwardWallet, The Points Guy, USA Today Blueprint, CNBC Select, Tripadvisor, and Forbes Advisor.

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