On the Ground: I arrived at LAX expecting the terminal to be lifeless before take-off for my midnight flight. I could not have been more wrong. The airport was buzzing, and the ANA counter had more energy than I do after a cup of coffee. I went to the business-class line and only had to wait a few minutes for the next available agent. I was checked in and given very exact directions on where to board. The staff was accommodating and excited to welcome guests on board the flight to Haneda Airport.
The boarding gate was a fair distance from security, so I went directly to the gate. Unfortunately, we had to be bused out to the aircraft, certainly not the fault of ANA, but it is always easier to board the aircraft directly from the airport. However, once on board with LAX behind, the true business-class experience began. (28/30)
Pre-flight: After boarding, I was happy to be sitting, knowing sleep was very near. The Boeing 777 business-class seat reclines 170 degrees to an almost fully flat position. Before take-off, the flight attendants explained the meal options to each passenger and requested our orders so they would be ready. Having already eaten dinner, I declined the meal and opted for sleep. (26/30)
In-flight: When I awoke, I called for a flight attendant and ordered dinner. I chose the Western meal of chicken fricassee with curry flavor, rolls served with Isigny butter from Normandy, and fresh seasonal fruit. The neat presentation of the Japanese always impresses me, especially 30,000 feet in the air, but I believe the presentation outdid the actual meal. (36/40)
The Experience: The service on board was very efficient. The greatest advantage to this Los Angeles–Tokyo flight was the fact that we were landing at Haneda Airport. Traditionally, all international flights have landed at Narita International Airport (NRT). ANA started this service on Oct. 31, 2010, and landing at the smaller airport closer to the center of Tokyo makes a world of difference after a long flight. Haneda was renovated last year to accommodate increasing traffic from overseas. When we landed, I went quickly through customs and found the sign for ground transportation. I bought my bus ticket for the ride into town — half the price of a ticket from Narita — and I was only 30 minutes from my hotel in Tokyo, versus an hour and 30 minutes from Narita. I waited in the ANA arrivals lounge until my bus arrived. The small lounge located after baggage claim serves small bites and beverages; it was the perfect refresher before catching my ride into town and starting a business day in Tokyo. The flight also landed early in the morning, allowing me to waste no time and make a full day of meetings.
Total Score: 90/100
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