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All Nippon Airways wowed travelers in 2019 by unveiling a new first class product: The Suite. Combined with ANA's reputation for incredible onboard service and excellent food and drink, ANA's The Suite quickly landed near the top on lists ranking the best first class product in the world.
However, shortly after its launch, the pandemic forced the closure of Japan and led to cutbacks for in-flight service. So, I waited to try out ANA's The Suite for myself until things returned to normal — or at least the new normal.
Here's what it's like to fly on The Suite, one of the best first class options in the world.
ANA first class can be booked through several mileage programs, including United MileagePlus, Air Canada Aeroplan and Avianca LifeMiles.
However, the best way to book ANA first class is to use Virgin Atlantic Flying Club points. And that's how I booked this award flight.
This one-way, 13-hour award flight from Tokyo to New York cost me just 60,000 Virgin points per person plus $173.17 in taxes and fees. That's a spectacular redemption considering you'd need to pay 110,000 Aeroplan points, 120,000 LifeMiles or at least 121,000 United miles for the same award flight.
Or, if you're made of money, you can book an ANA first class flight between New York and Tokyo for around $15,193 one way or $23,111 round trip.
You can pay even fewer Virgin points to fly ANA first class between Tokyo and Hawaii or the U.S. West Coast. However, be careful when booking, as only certain routes have ANA's The Suite.
Note that it's rare to find any ANA first class award space between Tokyo and the U.S., much less for two passengers. But that's what I was able to find for this flight. Even better, this award space opened for a flight on my wife's birthday — and you'll see below how ANA helped us celebrate.
» Learn more: The best Star Alliance program to earn miles
From the airport entrance to the gate, ANA provided a streamlined ground experience. Two first class agents worked as a team to quickly and efficiently check us and our bags into our flight. At the end of the check-in process, an agent stepped over the baggage scale to hand us our passports and explain the boarding time, gate location and lounge access.
Haneda Airport doesn't provide a dedicated security line for priority passengers, but there wasn't a need as the security and immigration process couldn't have gone faster. It took us just 18 minutes from entering the airport terminal to arriving at the entrance of ANA's first class lounge. And that's with plenty of stops for photos along the way.
The lounge drink options were underwhelming and the lack of table service disappointing. But the food was decent overall, despite being small portions. Read my full review of the ANA lounge at Tokyo-Haneda.
The efficiency broke down at the boarding gate. After a long and confusing preboarding process, gate agents began the standard boarding process just 21 minutes before scheduled departure.
Agents mistakenly started boarding the Group 2 business class line. About half of that line would board before agents realized the error. After heartfelt apologies to us first class passengers and their top-tier elite passengers, we were welcomed onboard.
First class passengers were directed down the forward jetway. It turned out that my wife and I were two of just three first class passengers. Once all three of us had boarded, the crew closed that boarding door and the ground crew separated the jetway for departure as passengers continued to load through the second boarding door.
Seat and cabin
This flight featured ANA's "The Suite" first class product. Despite being introduced back in July 2019, these seats still aren't found on all aircraft and routes. The Suite is generally offered on ANA's flagship routes — including flights to New York — that are serviced by Boeing 777-300ER aircraft.
The cabin is arranged into two rows of a 1-2-1 configuration, meaning there are individual window seats on either side of the aisle with two seats in the middle.
If you're flying solo and aren't able to snag a window seat, the central divider between the middle seats makes for a substantial wall.
Flying as a couple? That wall can be dropped to let you fly side by side.
Suites measure up to 38 inches wide, although the seat itself is a bit smaller. And there's practically unlimited legroom. The seat reclines flat into a bed measuring 76 inches long.
When you're ready for some rest, you can close the doors to complete the "suite" feeling. With that said, the walls aren't very high, so don't expect the doors to provide much privacy.
Each suite offers an individual coat closet, hidden away in the wall. On the opposite side of the suite is an in-flight entertainment remote, seat and light controls, headphone jacks, a universal power outlet, two USB power outlets and an HDMI outlet.
ANA first class window seats offer three windows. Each window has individual controls that you can use to lower a privacy shade or cover the window entirely. Or, you can utilize a button on your seat to open or close all three blinds at the same time.
The suite's in-flight entertainment screen stretches 43 inches diagonally. Combined with the high-quality noise-canceling headphones, watching in-flight entertainment is quite the immersive experience. And AvGeeks rejoice: You can enjoy the flight through the onboard cameras.
When stowed, the tray table serves as a table under the in-flight entertainment screen. The table can also be released and pulled along a track toward you as close as you want. When fully expanded, the tray table is massive. However, it's a tighter squeeze if you want to dine with a fellow passenger.
ANA first class passengers have two dedicated restrooms for a maximum of eight passengers. That means you're rarely, if ever, going to have to wait to use the restroom. Basic amenities are provided there: dental kits, individual satchels of mouthwash and refreshing body wipes.
As one might expect from a Japanese airline, the toilet offers a bidet option.
Food and drink
ANA started its first class food and drink service just moments after we boarded. A flight attendant offered a tray of champagne, orange juice or water.
And this is no ordinary champagne. ANA served Krug Grande Cuvee (edition 167) on our flight. The flight attendants were more than happy to display the bottle that retails for over $200. Looking for something a little different? Well, Krug is just one of three champagnes served in ANA first class.
All of the food and drink options were laid out in two substantial menus, which were presented in an elegant leather-bound black folder.
Once we were in the air, it was time to feast. Whether you order the Japanese or "international" menu, ANA first serves an "amuse-bouche" — a small plate of bite-sized appetizers. And although my wife and I both ordered the Japanese menu, the flight attendants proactively offered the caviar appetizer plate from the international menu.
ANA followed these two appetizers with a parade of four more courses. Each was meticulously placed and introduced by the flight attendant.
If you get peckish midflight, ANA first class passengers can order from a selection of hot menu items. I tried the deep-fried fishcake, which was complemented by a refreshing sake.
For my arrival meal, I opted for the Japanese menu of simmered meats, flounder, steamed rice and complements.
At boarding, each occupied suite was prestocked with an amenity kit, noise-canceling headphones and slippers. Shortly after boarding, a flight attendant offered a set of pajamas. Unfortunately, they underestimated my size, leading to a rather tight fit, so don't hesitate to ask for a larger size before departure.
Also during boarding, a flight attendant passed through the cabin with a basket of additional amenities, including eye masks, moisturizing masks, combs, earplugs, cleansing wipes, dental kits, moisturizing sprays and more.
All ANA first class passengers receive a voucher providing a full-flight Wi-Fi pass. The Wi-Fi tested much better than it performed. When running a speed test over Montana, it clocked in at 3.24 Mbps download, 0.67 Mbps upload. But, at the same time, it couldn't successfully load email in another tab. So, don't plan on getting much work done online while in flight.
» Learn more: Is there Wi-Fi on flights that’s actually good?
ANA first class flight attendants provided spectacular service. From offering a detailed tour of the suite to precisely positioning plates and giving descriptions of the numerous courses, it's clear that ANA first class flight attendants are trained to provide top-notch service.
ANA also earned points by providing above-and-beyond service for my wife's birthday — something that we didn't communicate to the airline ahead of the flight. For dessert, our two flight attendants brought out Katie's dessert on a plate marked with "Happy Birthday" and the date and number of our flight.
When we were ready to rest, flight attendants used the empty seats in the middle of the cabin to set up our beds. This meant that we could continue to enjoy our suite until the bed was made, rather than having to vacate our seats and wait while the beds were set up. To top off the service, our flight attendants left a bottle of water and a glass beside the bed.
Although we received spectacular service, the only thing that could have improved was more flexibility. My wife and I are lucky enough to have flown first class a few times, yet we were still a bit overwhelmed by this experience. First-time first class passengers might find the service too formal, almost bordering on stuffy.
ANA first class could take its service to the next level by adapting to each passenger's personality — as we've experienced onboard first class in Cathay Pacific and Etihad Airways.
The Suite review, recapped
ANA's first class "The Suite" consistently ranks as one of the top first class products in the world. From incredible food and drink to top-notch service and a massive suite, our onboard experience lived up to the hype.
Our only disappointments were with the poor boarding situation and a less-than-first class lounge experience. Still, for the price I paid — 60,000 Virgin Flying Club points one way — this was a spectacular deal and an experience I heartily recommend to anyone who can find ANA first class award seats.
Featured image by JT Genter.
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