A few months ago I found an extremely cheap fare from Washington, DC (DCA) to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (KUL) through Tokyo, Japan. The round-trip cost was less than $450. I didn’t particularly want to go to KUL in economy but the price was too good to resist.
Two things, other than the long distance in economy, concerned me about this trip. First, the flight from DCA to ORD was on ANA’s partner United Airlines. Second, the trip required changing airports Tokyo from NRT to Haneda (HND).
This was my first flight on United in years. And here’s the good news: I survived without being dragged off bloodied and beaten. Actually, the flight was great. Boarding was more orderly than on Delta or American and I had, thanks to United Silver status through a Marriott credit card, I had an exit row seat and the row all to myself. No upgrade to first, but the exit row on this A319 was very comfortable.
ANA Flight 11 ORD – NRT
There are 6,267 great-circle miles between ORD and NRT. Flight time was predicted to be 12 hours and 20 minutes..
The flight was scheduled to depart at 11:50. Boarding at ORD Gate C10 began with pre boarding at 11:18. The process was even smoother than at DCA. So I can’t blame gate design as the reason boarding in the U. S. can be so chaotic.
Economy seats on this ANA 777-300ER are arranged 2-4-3, and according to SeatGuru are 16.5 inches wide and have 34 inches of pitch. The seats felt wider than that.
My seat was 34G, an aisle seat on the starboard side in the middle section. The two middle seats in this row were unoccupied.
The difference between a long-distance economy flight where all seats are taken and one where no one is sitting beside you is enormous.
Seating Tip: To have the best chance of sitting next to an empty seat, choose a seat near the back of the plane. Also, before boarding, check with the gate agent or a rep in the lounge and see if they can put you next to an empty seat. If that fails, keep an eye open after boarding for seats you can move into. Let the flight attendants know your plans and move as soon as the boarding door closes.
All seats have seatback video, footrests, articulating headrests, and a/c and usb power. Amenities are small pillow and blanket and headphones. The headphones are not noise cancelling, but they are much better than the earbuds many airlines provide in economy.
Another nice amenity was having hand lotion in the bathrooms in economy. Airplanes exacerbate dry skin issues. Providing hand lotion encourages all to wash hands.
Pushback from the gate was at 11:46. Flight 11 departed ORD on runway 8 at 12:03. The IFE flight following was showing 12 hours and 32 minutes as the travel time to NRT.
Service began 45 minutes after takeoff with bottled water and rice crackers.
A beverage service followed. I had a Kirin beer before lunch.
ANA eliminates language issues in ordering meals by providing picture menus. The menus provide calorie information, too.
I selected the creamy scallop and squid gratin with rigatoni.
The meal also had noodle sauce, a packet of roasted seaweed, and bread and butter. It was very tasty as well as healthy. Lunch was served with real silverware and metal chopsticks. Right after serving the meal the FAs returned with a second beverage service.
Lunch was so filling I went to sleep for a few hours waking up just south of Anchorage, Alaska. Watching the videos and flight following occupied my time until the mid-flight snack. five hours and 30 minutes from NRT.
One thing I like about ANA flight following is that is displays latitude and longitude information. That way I know when I’m crossing the equator or an important meridian like the International Date Line.
The EAs served the arrival meal early, about two hours and 25 minutes before landing. Again they had picture menus. I appreciated the timing because it left plenty of time after the meal and before landing to pack everything up, go to the lavatory, etc.
On final approach to NRT the pilots suddenly broke off the landing and went through some convoluted turns at low altitude.
The captain said rejecting the landing was necessary because NRT closed our runway while we were on final. There was no explanation for the runway closure, but after some low altitude maneuvers it appeared that we landed on the same runway we were originally limned up on.
Touchdown at NRT was at 14:48 12 hours and 48 minutes after departure from ORD and two hours ahead of the scheduled arrival time of 16:50. I was grateful for the early arrival since I still needed to get to Tokyo Haneda airport for my next flight.
I really enjoyed the nearly thirteen hour flight in economy on ANA’s 777-300ER. Of course an empty seat beside me makes a big difference. Empty seat notwithstanding, the amount and quality of food was very good and the FAs were professional and courteous. The headrests and footrests improved seat comfort. ANA offers a good economy product and service and at the price for this trip, a great value.