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.
Other than the long distance in economy, two things 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 in Tokyo from Narita (NRT) to Haneda (HND).
United A319 DCA to ORD
This was my first flight on United in years. And here’s the good news: I survived without being dragged off bloodied and beaten. Seriously though, the flight was great. Boarding was more orderly than on Delta or American and, thanks to United Silver status through a Marriott credit card, I had an economy exit row seat for free. I was the only one in the row. No upgrade to first, but the exit row on this A319 was very comfortable and has more legroom than first class.
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. Boarding went quickly without confusion and the need to fight through a crowd. This gate is no different from other gates at ORD. Gate design, then, is apparently not the reason for the often chaotic boarding process in the U. S.
ANA had separate and easily identifiable boarding lanes for different passenger groups. Agents also checked boarding passes to ensure passengers were in the correct lane. Hint to Delta, American and United.
Economy Cabin and Seat
Economy seats on this ANA 777-300ER are arranged 2-4-3, and according to SeatGuru are 17 inches wide and have 34 inches of pitch. The seats felt roomy probably because of the generous seat pitch for economy and no one was sitting next to me.
My seat was 34G, an aisle seat on the starboard side in a four seat row in the center section in the aft economy section. The two middle seats in this row were unoccupied. That added greatly to my comfort on this transpac flight.
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.
Seat Features and Amenities
All seats have seat-back 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 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. IFE flight following was showing 12 hours and 32 minutes as the travel time to NRT.
First Meal Service
Service began 45 minutes after takeoff with bottled water and rice crackers.
A beverage service followed. I had a Kirin beer. ANA eliminates language issues in ordering meals by providing picture menus. The menus provide caloric 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.
One thing I like about ANA flight following is that it displays latitude and longitude information. That way I know when I’m crossing the equator, an important meridian or nearing the North Pole.
The mid-flight snack was served five hours and 30 minutes from NRT.
The FAs 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. and get buckled in for landing.
Short Final Go Around and Arrival
On short final approach to NRT the pilots suddenly broke off the landing and went through some convoluted turns at low altitude.
The captain announced that 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 lined 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 13 hour flight in economy on ANA’s 777-300ER. Of course an empty seat next door 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 on the 777-300ER with 34 inches of pitch. The price for this trip was a great value.