ANA Premium Economy

Last Saturday I blogged about my upcoming trip home:

I’ve never flown ANA before. NH912 is on a 767, and I have a window seat; NH008 is on a 777, with no seat assigned. I hope that isn’t a bad sign. At least I can credit the miles to UA.

It turned out to be an exceptionally good sign. Here’s what happened.
I got up bright and early, checked out of the Huawei hotel, and got a taxi to Shenzen Shekou ferry terminal. It’s amazing how a complex piece of logistics can become routine after only one repetition. I boarded the ferry, got a seat as close to the exit as possible, and watched the time crawl by as we moved slowly through the morning fog. Scheduled: 30 minutes; actual: 45, Hmmm. I was the first one off the boat, and raced over to the ANA checkin area. (Most airlines allow you to check in at the “Skyport”, rather than having to do it at the main terminal.) The ANA representative was friendly and helpful, so I asked if there was any chance of getting a window, or at least an aisle, on the NRT-SFO leg. “Sorry, no, it’s very full”, she said, “but I’ll put you in the first row of Economy.” I wondered about the pros and cons of this – usually more leg room, but narrower seats because of the tray tables – but I didn’t argue; there was no time to lose. I thanked her, went through security (tediously slow), collected the refund of my departure tax, and got on the bus to the terminal. Almost immediately, the bus started off, raced up a short access road, and stopped. A security guy was blocking the road, and just to make his point clear, he proceeded to place four orange cones at the four corners of the bus.
We all waited. There was no announcement; people seemed resigned to the wait. It glanced at my watch: it was just past 9:00, and my HKG-NRT flight was due to start boarding at 9:45. I sweated a bit – not difficult, because the air conditioning wasn’t coping very well with the 98% humidity. Finally at 9:15 we were released, and by 9:25 we reached the terminal. Somehow I made it to the gate by 9:42, and boarding commenced immediately.
The HKG-NRT flight was on a 767-300 that looked as if it was due for retirement. I’m sure that ANA had hoped that it would be putting 787s into service by now. Coincidentally, the lunch service included a bottle of water wrapped in advertisements for the Japanese supplier of some of the composite materials used in the Dreamliner. At this point, ANA and most of the other customers have probably torn up their 787 launch plans until Boeing comes up with some real data. In any case, the flight was full, the service was good, the food was excellent, I managed to sleep,and so I don’t remember too much about the whole thing. “Uneventful”: the best kind of flight.
At NRT I went through the inevitable security check, and then hung out for a while at the Red Carpet Club. (I was trying to resist the siren song of the “Akihabara at Narita” store just across the corridor!) Eventually we boarded, and I received a pleasant surprise: I was in Premium Economy! Half-way down the interminable fuselage of the 777-300ER, squeezed in between Business Class and Economy, is a little three row section that ANA has designated “Premium” class. Instead of the 3-3-3 seating in regular Economy, Premium is 2-4-2. Pitch is 38 inches, the seats are a couple of inches wider than usual, and they recline a few degrees further. (Yes, they really recline – no “shell” nonsense.) And there are real leg rests. Life is good.
The result? One of the most comfortable long-haul flights in a long time. The food was good, and the flight attendants were doling out bottles of wine as though it were the eve of Prohibition. The in-flight entertainment included great video-on-demand, and the headphones supplied were battery-powered active noise canceling.
Verdict: heck yes! I’ll fly ANA Premium Economy any time.

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