The Voyage Home: ANA First Class, Tokyo – Washington Dulles

This is a Continuation of “Trip Report – A Private Jet Experience: Alone in First Class on ANA and Thai, Plus Singapore First, a Suite, a Villa, and Some Incredible Food Porn”

Past installments:

We returned to the ANA Suites Lounge after clearing transit security, and were the first customers of the day.

I shared photos of the shower room earlier, so I’ll just add one more, it’s hard to be in Japan and not marvel at the toilets and I must admit there is something nice about a heated seat at the least.

Things filled up over the course of our four hour stay. Again the food options were far more extensive than on my previous trips through Tokyo. I whiled away the time catching up on some work, I was beginning the transition back to the real world. I didn’t fill up on much, just had a cappuccino and a couple of bits to eat as I’d have plenty on offer during the flight.

We were visited by an ANA agent who confirmed our baggage had been transferred over from the Thai flight and would be on our aircraft home to DC. This was something similar to our trip through Tokyo a couple of weeks earlier when Singapore came to find us, I thought that was even a bit more useful since we were on separate tickets and it wasn’t even their lounge whereas I suppose it isn’t surprising that NAA would know where I was when I had checked in at the desk a couple of hours earlier. Still, it’s equally impressive when they know who you are, where you are, and how to find you. And I appreciate proactive service for my bags!

Our departure was delayed by about 10 minutes and an announcement was made that customers in the lounge on our flight were requested not to go to the gate yet. The proactive announcements are helpful, though they didn’t tell us how long a delay to expect and I was a bit surprised when I heard shortly thereafter that it would be time to proceed to our gate.

There was a long line for boarding but no one in the premium queue, we walked right onto the plane and into the first class cabin, where I asked about the load and was told that two more passengers would be joining us for the flight to DC. Sadly, not another flight alone in first class, but a load of 4/8 shouldn’t tax the fine service of the ANA flight attendants!

An older Japanese businessman joined, and then just before pushback an older well-dressed Japanese woman was escorted onto the plane. She looked very familiar to me, I’m nearly certain it’s the same VIP who was on my Tokyo – DC flight in ANA First back in 2006. She was met on arrival in DC then and escorted through diplomatic immigration, and she was once again met on the jet way on our arrival in DC this time. I don’t know her role, but she was clearly recognized as important by the ANA flight attendants, both the last time and this. There were no service flaws for us or that I could tell for the other passenger in the cabin, but it was obvious from the way that the flight attendants acted that she was by far the most important person in the cabin.

Amenities were distributed (the basket wasn’t left out on an empty seat this flight, if you wanted more items you’d need to ask), the flight attendant inquired if I wanted to change into pajamas prior to departure and I said I’d wait. So the pajamas weren’t brought out, I was asked to let them know when I was ready. Menus were distributed as well, and we quickly pushed back. There wasn’t much of a departure backup at Narita at a bit past 11 o’clock in the morning, so we were well on our way in a hurry.

After takeoff drink orders were taken, and I had a bit of Krug. And then meal service began.

The menu for the flight was as follows:

Grilled flat fish, Japanese parsley with cod roe Prawn with Tobiko, Broiled chicken, Japanese abalone, Trout with egg yolk
Noodles with grilled sea bream
Thinly sliced flatfish and herring roe
Assortment of steamed turnip and seafoods
Seafoods and vegetables dressed with spicy vinegared miso
Grilled tilefish with sake lees 199kcal

Caviar with traditional garnish
Crab meat and avocado salad with apple “Crown” style
Medallion of lobster and scallop with pistachio and vinegar sauce
“Kouchi”Prefecture pheasant,foie gras and truffles traditional galantine
Fresh garden salad, choose from three kinds of dressings Japanese style onion dressing, strawberry dressing, carrot dressing

Fillet of Kuroge-Wagyu beef steak truffles flavor with Annou potato croquette 427kcal
Fillet of yellowtail fish with lightly smoke flavored with potato puree 171kcal
Roasted “Shibetsu” lamb loin with herbs and crépinette with Noord’s Oude Geneva Sauce 214kcal

Freshly-steamed Nara koshihikari rice, miso soup and assorted pickles
Selection of breads (luvain baguette, butter roll, campagne, calamari ink bread) with flavorful domestic Hiruzen butter or extra-virgin olive oil

Cheese plate (Brie de Meaux, Roquefort, Mimolette and Pont-l’Evêque)

Selection of fresh seasonal fruit
Trio of strawberry sorbet, vanilla & jeasey milk ice cream
Savarin with custard cream
Tarte tatin with premium vanilla ice cream
Three varieties of amanatto (sugar-glazed chestnuts, toroku beans and sweet potatoes)
Three kinds of petits fours champagne flavored chocolate,petit strawberry tart,green tea macaroon

Caramelized freshwater willow minnow in sweet soy sauce
Deep-fried fishcakes
Devil’s tongue dengaku

Bowl of hot Japanese udon noodles, garnished with wakame seaweed
Japanese tea poured over steamed rice, garnished with grilled rice ball
Semi dried flakes yellowtail , served over steamed rice
Cauliflower and crab chowder
Pork cutlet sandwich
Stir-fried scallops and squid in Chinese leek-infused broth with kinshinsai buds
Special chicken and mushroom curry with steamed rice

Stir-fried burdock root and carrot
Simmered mackerel with ginger
Steamed rice or creamy rice porridge
Miso soup and assorted pickles
Accompaniment for steamed rice (Choose from four condiments)

Cured ham and Italian salami with two kinds of cheese
Morning bread accompanied with flavorful domestic Hiruzen butter and a choice of three kinds of sweet spreads
Selection of fresh seasonal fruit
Plain yoghurt with green lemon confiture
Crisp brown rice flakes with milk

Meal orders were taken on the left side of the cabin, the other two passengers first. Then they came to me, I asked for the Japanese meal. And finally my wife, she requested the Japanese meal as well — and were told that they had no more. They had only loaded three!

I tried to get my wife to take the Japanese meal instead of my having it, the Western options looked fine, but she wouldn’t. The flight attendant was clearly embarrassed, and offered to split the Japanese meal so we’d each be able to have some, and suggested she could make a custom Japanese meal from some of the other options on the flight. But my wife opted for Western options instead.

It wasn’t that much of a letdown, ANA’s food really is excellent and their menu extensive. I have definitely noticed cutbacks compared to the menu two and five years ago, but they’re still legions ahead of any carrier I can think of in food. Still, I was rather shocked that ANA would only cater three Japanese meals, I’ve never seen or heard of ANA not having sufficient food selection to meet their first class passenger requests.

Meal service began, and we both started with the caviar from the Western menu.

I did have the Japanese meal, although slightly abbreviated, not hungry enough for the entire thing.

My wife had some of the Western options, though not every course either (she did have dessert).

Some petit fours to end for both of us.

I proceeded to try to get some sleep, I should have been really tired after the too-short overnight flight from Bangkok, but I changed into pajamas and had the flight attendant make my bed but I couldn’t sleep so I stayed up and watched the rest of season 6 of The Shield on my laptop (still not a fan of ANA’s insufficient video options, even if they’re much improved over three or four years ago).

Midflight my wife and I each had snacks while we whiled away the hours.

All in all the flight didn’t have the special appeal of our first class segment on ANA on the outbound, I suppose it’s just a matter of expectations, for the outbound we were actually alone in the cabin and that made for a truly remarkable once-in-a-lifetime type of experience. “Yoga in the cabin” pretty much encapsulated that outbound. This was a perfectly good, workmanlike ANA first class segment. The flight attendants were gracious. There was little lost by not having four Japanese meals. The food was good. We were made perfectly comfortable. This was just a great way to fly, but the last segment of the trip isn’t the one that will be most remembered, in fact other than the Singapore – Bangkok and Thailand domestic flights, it was the least memorable of a trip that was overall incredible – alone in first class on ANA and on Thai, a chance to fly Singapore first class, the incredible ground service from Thai in Bangkok and the treat of the Jetquay service in Singapore… an overall air travel mileage redemption trip to remember!

Thank you all for reading along, and let me know if you have any questions…

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Fabulous menu! ANA F looks great! Next time I am sure you will find a way to get on the new squares. As usual just a wonderful trip report.

  2. Did having to share the cabin with two other people, one of whom received preferential treatment, detract from your experience to the extent it was just a “workmanlike” flight?

  3. It was just different and less special, less memorable, *than the other flights* were. Comparative, y’know? Nothing wrong with the flight, ANA first class was definitely lovely!

  4. Extremely interesting, informative and enjoyable trip report. You might want to look at the Canon S95 camera Lucky recently purchased before your next long trip. Just trying to be helpful…

  5. @JetAway yes I have seen the photos, have been very tempted by the S95, have a little outlook reminder to consider it in fact!

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