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ANA was designated a 5-star airline by Skytrax along with Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines, Cathay Pacific Airways, Asiana Airlines, Hainan Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, EVA Air and Etihad Airways. I was looking forward to see what the difference was, having enjoyed my Upper Class flight between London and Los Angeles on Virgin Atlantic.

Our itinerary was:

London Heathrow LHR T2 – Tokyo Haneda
Dep. 19:00 Arr. 15:50 the following day
ANA 212 · Boeing 777
11h 50m

Stay three nights at the Mercure Hotel Ginza, Tokyo.

Send one large suitcase to the Hilton Osaka so we could travel to Sydney with just hand luggage.

Tokyo Haneda – Sydney
Dep. 22:10 Arr. 09:45 the following day
Tokyo (HND) – Sydney (SYD)
ANA 879 · Boeing 787
9h 35m

Stay three nights at the Hilton Sydney.

Sydney to Tokyo Haneda
Dep. 21:30 Arr. 05:05 the following day
ANA 880 · Business Class · Boeing 787
9h 35m

Take the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Osaka and stay four nights at the Hilton Osaka.

Take the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Tokyo and stay one night at the Royal Park Hotel at Haneda airport.

Tokyo Haneda to London Heathrow
Dep. 11:40 Arr. 15:25
ANA 211 · Business Class · Boeing 777
12h 45m

The best part was that three of the four flights were overnight and we hoped to be able to sleep through those journeys – all the flights included lie-flat seats.

All flights were on time.

London – Tokyo

We arrived at London Heathrow Terminal 2. Check-in was smooth and we were, as you would expect, able to use the fast track security. We were given a map on check-in that showed the locations of the Star Alliance lounges. I’d already chosen the Singapore Airlines lounge as most likely to be best – other choices were United and Air Canada.

lhr-t2-map

It’s a really long way and easily takes 20 minutes, even with the moving walkways, escalators and elevators. If you have any trouble walking long distances, I’d book special assistance and have them drive you on one of those electric carts. I was really disappointed that Terminal 2, as the newest terminal, had such poor arrangements for getting passengers from security to the gate.

The Singapore Airlines lounge was pretty good, with plenty of space, a good bar with champagne and some reasonable food choices. It wasn’t amazing, but we enjoyed our time there.

The line for boarding was quite long – ANA have a large Business Class, plus a small First Class. Once onboard, the cabin felt spacious and each seat had slippers, amenity kit, seat mattress, duvet and headphones. This picture may have been from the Sydney flight, but there was hardly any difference between the 777 and 787 seats.

ana-02

There was plenty of overhead locker space, plus space in the footwell where you could store shoes.

The flight attendant arrived with plastic glasses of orange or sparkling wine – it may have been champagne but who can tell when it’s in a plastic cup?

After take off we were given menus. I think this one was from the Sydney flight, but they were all pretty similar; choice of a Japanese or International menu.

ana-menu-01 ana-menu-02

There was also a selection of on-demand dishes.

We both went for the Japanese menu and it was served really nicely, mostly course by course. The wine selection was limited but good quality. In fact, all the service was very good – what you’d expect from a Japanese airline.

I decided to complete the landing cards. The amenity kit had the usual lip balm, those eye shade things, earplugs, toothbrush but no pen – which I found a ridiculous omission.

The in-flight entertainment had several new releases, but the overall selection was limited. I could connect to the internet on my phone for $20 for the full flight, but didn’t bother

I’d researched online as to whether ANA offered pyjamas or sleeper suits and found they did – although oddly they insist on these being returned after use. It’s always a hassle to change into and out of these in the small aircraft bathrooms, but makes sleeping more comfortable and preserves your regular clothes for when you land. I asked for some pyjamas and changed – I noticed that pyjamas weren’t being actively offered and wonder how many sets they carry.

The seat did indeed lie flat, but I was disappointed in the mattress/seat cover. It was only a half-fit, running to about knee level and wasn’t that comfortable – contrast that with the lovely white mattress cover that is tailored to exactly fit the Virgin Upper Class seat.

Tokyo – Sydney

Check in was smooth, except that I asked about fast track and they advised that only First Class passengers can use fast track – what a stupid rule that is. As it was the regular security was very quick.

The lounge was spacious but had very limited food and drink choices – it was actually really disappointing considering this was ANA’s lounge in their own hub airport.

The flight to Sydney was similar food and service as the flight to Tokyo.

Sydney – Tokyo

I’m pretty sure there wasn’t fast-track in Sydney but can’t quite remember. The Star Alliance lounge was much better, although still not as good as the London Singapore lounge.

The flight again was similar, but at least on time.

Tokyo – London

Again no fast track and again the ANA lounge was disappointing. Despite being early morning, there wasn’t anything that resembled a Western breakfast option.

The flight was similar, except as this was a day flight, I spent most of the time watching in-flight movies and not sleeping. Nonetheless I still wore the pyjamas in order to preserve my regular clothes.

Overall

I was pretty disappointed. The long walk in Heathrow T2, the plastic cups for welcome drink, the poor seat cover, lack of pen in the amenity kit, lack of fast track and really poor ANA lounges in Tokyo were not what I expected from a 5-star airline.

I realise that these are First-World problems and of course we benefitted from lie-flat bed seats and slept quite well. However, I’d definitely choose Virgin Atlantic over ANA.