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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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