As my Aeroplan mini round-the-world award ticket review continues, the next few segments were the ANA flights from Beijing to Sydney via Tokyo. I was lucky enough to score the tickets from Beijing to Sydney via Haneda airport in Tokyo, because the award space for ANA from Tokyo to Sydney route was very scarce, even though the seats were almost empty, like 60 - 70% empty.
The first leg of the flight was from Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 3, which I consider is one of the worst international departure terminal possible. It has no priority lines or fast-track channels for premium passengers, and it is always very crowded. The customs and security checks always felt understaffed. Also, I have never seen all the security lines were open at one time. For such an unpleasant experience, I would just avoid it at all cost, for example, I would transfer to/from Beijing via PVG (not much better, but good enough). Unfortunately, for this redemption, this option was not possible.
For check-in, we went to the business class check-in counter which there was no line, but the ground staff had difficulties to figure out how to manually print out the boarding pass for both legs. The agent told me that they are using a new system, and they have not had any passenger would travel to Sydney via Tokyo. As the results, the automated visa requirement system can only recognize the visa-exempted passports and provide no options for staff to input the visa information for those citizens that are required a visa to visit Australia. After about 30 minutes or so, they finally printed out my boarding passes, and I headed to the shuttle train, passport control and security checks, same old long line, long wait, and bad smell.
My boarding gate was quite far away from the Air China’s business class lounge. Fortunately, I was able to visit the Air China’s first class lounge by using my priority pass. By far, this is the only lounge I would stay as a Priority Pass user. I doubt the value of it right now, and I do not think I will keep my personal American Express Platinum card after the first year.
Air China can always surprise me by the way. Today’s surprise was, a bit disgusting and feel free to skip this paragraph, I went to the washroom after I entered the lounge, and discovered that the toilet cover paper was not prepared. As shown in the picture, I pulled out three cover papers and finally gave up. Hope I did not get any STDs… For god sake, this is a first class lounge from the Chinese flag carrier. No wonder why the Chinese airlines, have always been more or less a joke to the international aviation industry when coming to quality.
After had some okay dim sum, I realized the flight was already doing “ the last call,” so I rushed myself to the gate and finally settled down to my seat. This 777-200 aircraft was one of the older ones, featuring 2-3-2 layout and mainly used for short-haul international and domestic flights. For a two, three hour flight, I am okay with it. I am surprised how well ANA has maintained their aircraft, as they seem quite clean and new to me. I seated in the second row, and even though it was angled seat, I liked the wooden material and the overall feeling of the seat.
I am not sure if it was because I was a bit late to board, I did not have any pre-flight drink, nor the newspapers or magazines. I did not care much, but it seems irregular to a disciplined and five-star Japanese airline though.
After the takeoff, the food selection includes both Japanese and Western style lunch, and I selected the Japanese style. It came with five, six small bento boxes styles, with meat and vegetables. The food was pretty fresh, and I liked it. I also asked for a glass of shochu, which people mixed it up with the Korean soju, because they have similar pronunciation, but they are two entirely different things. Japanese shochu can be considered as Japanese whiskey, though Japan has some great whiskey too. I discovered it in a local liquor store in Canada at first; then I liked the taste of it.
The service of this flight was okay, nothing special and no pre-flight drink. This short flight landed at Tokyo Haneda airport after three hours. My next flight was a few hours later, so I took a train headed to Shinjuku.
After few hours of shopping, I returned to the Haneda Airport and visited ANA’s Business Lounge. It is a beautiful lounge and has delicious food and a good selection of spirits. It is on par with lounges in Taipei, and much better than Asiana’s Business lounge at ICN. The most impressive experience in this lounge was the shower room. It provides a massive amount of amenities and superb attention to details. Even though it is a bit smaller compared to some other shower room, but overall, it is the best. Here are some photos of it.
One small disappointment occurred when I realized my next flight will not be on the ANA’s Star Wars 789 aircraft, even though the ground staff in Beijing and various of flight tracking software told me.
The flight started boarding around 21:45, my seat was 2K, and ANA has staggered business class product which seems very new and very well maintained. I liked it very much and preferred this over reversed Herrington or the 2-2-2 layout product used on United, Air China and even Hainan and Turkish uses (though, it is quite comfortable for sleeping, just not enough privacy and seems dated).
After I boarded, I noticed some of the Japanese passengers were distributed some jacket, but the flight attendant never asked me about it. I guess maybe it is the language barrier or cultural differences? I was given an amenity kit from L’Occitane. It is one of the weakest amenity kits I have ever had. It seems same as the Turkish and Air Canada’s premium economy amenity kit. Maybe not the brand name, but the size and the content felt cheap. I cannot believe this was from ANA. I also asked to get a pyjama, which was comfortable. We also received a pad for the bed, which I will talk about later.
After reached cruising altitude, we had some drinks, and select the meals. I again selected the Japanese style meal. The taste of the meals on ANA has been consistently okay, nothing to complain. After this late-night meal, I did read about the mattress pad’s manual. It seems that you need to make your bed. ANA gives you a picture based manual so that nothing can go wrong. It does take some efforts for someone who has never done it, but no big deal. At this point, I am a little disappointed about the hype of this preferred airline. I flew with ANA once in the past in economy, and I felt that the services and overall experiences were much better than this time, where I am in Business, and the cabin was only 10-20% occupied. It is Unbelievable. The worst part of the journey happened during the breakfast time, after having my meal, I asked for a cup of coffee. Guess what, and I never got my cup of coffee.
One last thing, the price for onboard wifi is 20 some USD, which is expensive comparing to some other carriers I have flown. Overall, I am not very impressed with them, and I will never spend a penny for their flight (good thing I do not live in Japan). I think I have too high of the expectation. I will choose to fly Eva instead of ANA any day.