My First 787 Ride Was a Great One Thanks to ANA (Trip Report)

ANA, SJC - San Jose, Trip Reports

When we last left off, my wife and I had arrived in San Jose late but still with plenty of time to get to our ANA connection. Once we had our bags and walked up to the ANA counter, it’s like all the chaos from that morning melted away. From here on out, it was smooth sailing.

ANA 787 at San Jose

The ticket agent was friendly and smiling when we arrived, and there was no line at all. She took our bags and gave us our boarding passes. Then it was time for security. I hate that only domestic airlines (and Air Canada) have Pre Check. Sure, we had premium line privileges since we were in Business Class, but we still had to take off our shoes, remove our laptops, empty our pockets, etc. Once you know the goodness of Pre Check, it’s hard to go back. But sure enough, we had no choice this time.

After we made it through, we walked down to gate 15, which was quiet. As Business Class passengers, we could just walk into the lounge behind us, so we did. The Club at SJC, as it’s called, was packed. One area with the comfy chairs and a view was jammed. Another area with slightly less comfy chairs was full too. (The photo below was taken later after people had left to board.)

The Club at SJC

We could only grab a scarce table in the bar area. My wife got us some champagne to start the trip off right. (No charge for anything in this lounge.) I grabbed a little breakfast snack of eggs and potatoes (not delicious) from the food area. They also had a club sandwich but I wasn’t feeling that. By then we still we had an hour until our flight so we sat and waited.

Finally, an agent walked through holding a sign (but saying nothing so as not to disturb anyone) notifying us that boarding had begun. We made our way downstairs and our airplane was there waiting for us.

May 22, 2015
All Nippon 171 Lv San Jose 1245p Arr Tokyo/Narita 345p (next day)
San Jose (SJC): Gate 15, Runway 30R, Depart 9m Early
Tokyo/Narita (NRT): Gate 58, Runway 16R, Arrive 30m Early
JA828A, Boeing 787-881, Standard ANA colors, 95% Full
Seat 1K, Business
Flight Time 10h19m

Stepping onboard the 787 wasn’t anything exciting… until I turned left and saw the massive windows. As a window seat guy, this alone made the 787 one of my favorite airplanes right off the bat.

ANA 787 Front Barrier

I was sitting in seat 1K, the first row on the right side and my wife was right behind me in 2H. These are the staggered seats where it alternates being closer to the window and closer to the aisle. Row 1 is particularly private because there is a closet on the front left which goes higher than the usual divider. There was a mattress pad, comforter, slippers, a headset, and an amenity kit on my seat. I moved those over and sat down.

ANA 787 Business Class

The flight attendant came through and introduced herself and brought welcome drinks for everyone. The Japanese are incredibly efficient at boarding. Boarding began at 1220p and we were buttoned up and off the gate a full 9 minutes early at 1236p. Then again, there aren’t a lot of seats on this airplane.

We taxied to the end of the runway and then it was time to launch. Yes, the airplane is very quiet but it’s the wing flex that really grabbed me. I took video of the departure and sped it up 8x so you could see the remarkable change in the wing as our speed increased. You’ll also see us fly through the low overcast for a bit, presumably because we couldn’t climb until SFO air traffic control said we could. Here’s that 45 second video.

I continued to marvel at the incredible size of the windows. My head sat near the bottom of the window and then the opening went up from there, creating an impressive view. I started playing with the inflight entertainment system which had a decent (but not great) content library and a really big screen. The flight attendants soon came through with hot towels and began the lunch service, but I wasn’t hungry. They asked me if I’d prefer to eat later and I said I did. I would let them know when I was ready.

Dark Window ANA 787

In the meantime, I watched a few movies and drifted in and out of sleep. After the meal, the flight attendants turned down the lights and auto-dimmed the windows. The dim feature on this airplane is a thing of beauty. I love looking out but I hate disturbing others. I quickly found that of the five settings, the middle one let me see out without letting too much light in. Best of both worlds. It also creates a pleasantly-eerie blue glow. (Even the darkest setting lets some light in.)

Blue-Tinged Windows ANA 787

Then I decided it was time to visit the lav. In typical Japanese style, there’s a bidet in there, but I didn’t have reason to use it. I did like the flush mechanism though. You wave your hand over the sensor, and it flushes while extending a little mechanical arm that pushes the cover forward so you don’t need to close it yourself.

ANA 787 Flusher

The sink is sensor-activated as well. The only thing I didn’t like? The paper towels ANA uses feel more like tissues that fall apart in your hands.

I used the forward lav a couple of times, but I didn’t realize until later that I was using the wrong one. The one I used up near the cockpit was fine, but the ones behind had the greatest window views of those big engines. I took this picture while, um, relieving myself.

ANA Engine View From Lav

There were good views of some cool cloud formations along the way. But I was particularly excited when we flew over the Aleutians, just west of Cold Bay. Though cloudy as usual, I did get a glimpse of some rock and snow through a gap. We went very far north on this trip. Most of these flights seem to stay just south of the Aleutians but we went higher.

ANA Flight Path SJC NRT

The crew increasingly became concerned for my well-being and wondered if I’d ever want to eat a meal. When I told them I was ready (about 6 hours in), the flight attendant seemed overjoyed and happy to help. The tray table on this seat comes out from under the screen in front and it is huge. I really appreciated how useful it was for everything from typing (did a little note-taking so I wouldn’t forget) to eating.

ANA International Meal Steak

My wife had the Japanese meal so I picked an international one which was steak. (I figured they weren’t going to board the greatest Japanese meal in San Jose anyway.) I’m not much of a food person on airplanes, but this was very good.

The ride was mostly smooth with a little chop along the way, but the seatbelt sign never went on at altitude. I know I’ve said it before, but I really appreciate the way foreign carriers approach seat belt sign use.

ANA Japanese Snack

Shortly after the first meal, it was time for the second meal to be served. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to try something new, I opted for the Japanese meal and picked at the fishcake, daikon radish, Japanese omelette, and grilled fish despite being so full already. It was delicious, but I just couldn’t eat any more.

Farms Around Narita

When we started our descent, it was hazy but after awhile I could see the coast finally come into view. We circled around for landing and I was surprised at how agricultural the area is around Narita. I had forgotten, as a friend later reminded me, that it’s those farmers who have successfully blocked Narita’s needed expansion for years.

ANA Wings 737-500

We landed nice and early and taxied to the very last gate on the northern side of Terminal 1. It looks like a massive construction zone there with more gates to come, I assume. Next to us was an ANA Wings 737-500 which looked incredibly tiny surrounded by so many widebodies. Yet the place I always envisioned to be the 747 capital of the world was sorely lacking in that respect. It is, *sigh*, a 777 world now.

The experience on ANA was very, very good. I’d fly with the airline again anytime. Once we were off the airplane, it was time to explore Japan.

I won’t say much about the trip itself other than to say we loved it. We spent time in Tokyo, Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Hakone National Park. While I can’t say there was one favorite experience, going to the final day of the sumo tournament was up there as was attending a Hanshin Tigers baseball game. Oh yes, and then there was the experience of flying in Suites on a Singapore Airlines A380. That report will likely come later next week.

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30 comments on “My First 787 Ride Was a Great One Thanks to ANA (Trip Report)

  1. Cranky: Yes, Business Class is lovely. But I wonder if you heard/saw anything useful to report about the new seats in the back. Do they recline? Do knees have enough room? Are they comfortable or nearly-unpadded rocks (like Cathay Pacific’s)? And the stupid window darkening: what happens if you are on the sunny side, and like to look out; shall I still expect the moans from people who prefer to ignore the real world and want it fully dark for the movie?

    1. Jgjohnson2 – Well, I did walk back through coach, but it was pretty full and there wasn’t really a way for me to try out the experience. It looked fine, like normal coach. Big screens though. I didn’t see much beyond that.

      As for the window darkening, I thought it was excellent. The middle setting darkens it enough that it really doesn’t bother anyone with glare.

  2. I flew ANA 787 business class from Singapore to Narita back in about April 2014, and I was far less impressed. We boarded at around 5am, and they tried to force food on us straight away when I really wanted to try to sleep. When I gave up sleeping (the seats weren’t that great) they refused me a meal and fobbed me off with some reconstituted noodles, which were rubbish. The attendants were a bit rule-happy too – I find that with most of the Asia airlines, which is why BA still beats SIA for business class when I fly home.

    The flight back (Haneda-Singapore, also 787) was economy, with me and a 15 month old crammed into a single small seat. Thank god for the shell-structure of the seats, meaning that nobody in front could recline into us. Other than that it was hell, and I still thank the gallant English bloke next to me for being a gentleman and being asleep much of the time.

    I’d be happy to never fly ANA again…!

  3. I could never watch the video here, so I just went to youtube and watched it with no problem. That wing tip bends up more then I thought they could. The music was a nice added touch.

    Also if that toilet arm puts the seat and lid down, every wife is going to want one since her husband doesn’t do it himself…

  4. Love the music on the video. Did you record that yourself, Cranky? I think we must have been in Japan about two weeks after you and we really loved it as well. Our JAL flight attendants were awesome.

    1. Erik B – Nope. Just picked up some old public domain Japanese music off the internet. I think that’s from the 1800s (though obviously not the recording itself).

  5. We just flew on American’s 787 Dreamliner yesterday from DFW-ORD. Beautiful airplane but we had row 7 facing rearwards and it’s strange looking thru the whole main cabin. We experienced some turbulence and the center overhead luggage compartment really gets shaking. I wonder how well that baby is attached. I know that there has to be some flex built in but wow! Anyway what a beautiful plane.See enclosed pictures. That’s my wife so it’s ok to use it if you want. Russ

    1. Hi Russ, your pictures didn’t make it up to the blog comments.. :-/

      That row 7 is probably the safest seat in the whole airplane as rear-facing seats are better at protecting you in a crash than forward facing ones..

      (The same reason cars have headrests, to prevent whiplash.. Thats also why the brace position is set up to put your head against whatever it would be impacting, so this way there is no or very little room for your head to move and impact the front of the seat ahead of you.)

      I’m sure airplane interiors are tested to withstand turbulence and bouncing around quite a bit…

      1. I agree Nick. It was just so strange in that position and being able to see that luggage console shaking.

  6. I did not know that TSA Pre Check was not available for international flights. I guess Global Entry, which I also have, would only work when returning to the United States. The flight experience you had on ANA sounded great. At least that made up for all the problems you had getting there as you discussed in you previous post. I will have to look into that when I make a trip to Japan.

    1. Pre Check works on international flights, but the airline has to participate in the program, and so far Air Canada is the only non-US carrier that participates.

  7. I had my first 787 flight last month as well. Only it was on United, LHR-IAH, in Economy Minus.

    I loved the huge window too, the difference was especially noticeable once I boarded my connecting flight out of IAH on a 737 and it was immediately obvious how much smaller and lower it was. For most of the flight, the windows seemed to be locked at the darkest setting as I couldn’t change it.

    The narrow seats in 3-3-3 configuration when the plane was designed for 2-4-2 didn’t bother me. Maybe I’m skinny enough, or maybe it’s not so bad when it’s my wife that I have to squeeze in with. :)

    I think the higher humidity did make a difference. Even after 3 hours in a 737 after the 787 to get home, I still wasn’t completely worn out once I got home, and my wife never had to take her contacts out due to her eyes drying out like she usually does on long flights.

    Also, it’s 787-8, not 787-881. Boeing dropped the customer codes from being part of the model number with the 787.

    1. David M – See, this has been a point of contention when I talk to people.
      I know it’s the 787-8, so you wouldn’t call it the 787-800. But I’ve heard others still put the customer codes in when they’re still talking about a specific airline. But that’s wrong too?

      1. I don’t know a good authoritative source for Japanese airliners; the easiest way to see this would be to look up UA and AA 787s on the FAA database site. N804AN (AA 787-8), N45905 (UA 787-8), and N38955 (UA 787-9) are all officially registered without a customer code.

  8. Nice trip report Brett! Did you find the B787’s additional pressurization and humidity left you feeling a little more refreshed upon arrival? I certainly noticed a difference on my SFO-KIX flights. Not so much on my much shorter LAX-IAH flights.

    1. Hsano – You know, I felt just fine once we landed, that’s for sure. But I don’t know how different it would have been were we on a 777. Either way, by the time the clock struck 7pm, I was a walking zombie. Maybe I was just a better hydrated zombie!

  9. Funny you mention wanting to sit by a window. I flew AA from ORD-DFW in May specifically to ride on her since I probably won’t be doing a 12-hour international flight in the near future. I booked well in advance, so had a choice of lots of windows. Didn’t want to be blocked by the wing, so took 26L Imagine the feeling in my stomach at ORD when I looked across the tarmac and saw that blanked out window 5 windows up from the back, which was, you guessed it, Row 26!! Seat Guru said nothing about this (probably because AA had only been flying them a couple of days at the time, and still doesn’t say anything by the way). I ran to the gate and begged for any other window row!! Of course, that was thunderstorm day and the plane was completely full, but I waited until the end to board and went back to the agent and she gave me 24A!! I was saved. I could not believe that my dream trip had almost been a waste because of this. When I checked Seat Guru for United, it shows that row blanked out!!! It was by far my most favorite trip so far, the thunderstorms even accomadated me, by sending us west for 300 miles before going south and a 1+30 flight turned into a 2+30 flight!!!

    1. You just saved me the same screwing-over, thanks! I was booked for 26A from ORD-DFW this August. Even as a hard-core AvNerd, I can’t understand the labeling of “Dream Trip” though. After all, it’s still a short domestic hop in Y class on AA. :) Maybe I’ll understand once I experience the 787 first-hand.

    2. phew! I am 23L for my 1st dreamliner flight (also ORD-DFW in August). I was worried that would be windowless…

  10. UA’s 787 lav doesn’t have the little arm. However, it does auto-flush once you close the lid, which I thought was pretty cool.

    1. CB Guy – Never said that was a picture of Narita. That’s a picture of the area surrounding Narita that we flew over on final.

  11. The Boeing 787 is very cramped in a 3-3-3 Economy configuration. I flew on the Qatar one and it was so bad, I even wrote a poem.

    Qatar, Qatar, how cramped you are
    Your 787, so beautiful from afar
    Your airplane food was delicious to eat
    But my shoulders fall out of your Economy seat

    Qatar, Qatar, how cramped you are
    Your 787, so lovely from afar
    Your stewardesses, attentive and kind,
    But the lack of leg space blows my mind.

    Qatar, Qatar, how cramped you are
    Your 787, so awesome from afar
    Your website says a wide and spacious seat
    But my back hurts, did I mention my feet?

    Qatar, Qatar, how cramped you are
    Your 787, So beautiful from afar
    Flying your A350 was aviation heaven
    But never again your Seven-Eighty-Seven!

    And a video rant –

  12. Crank – nice story.  Our son happens to live in Tokyo and has flown on the 787 to Europe and loved the aircratt.

  13. Being in row 1, did you find noise from the bathrooms and galley to be noticeable and bothersome?


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