(Traveled on December 17, 2016)
With the entry of Boeing 787s into its fleet, ANA All Nippon Airways opened routes to selected secondary cities in Europe in the last couple of years. This article reviews one of those – flight NH209 from Tokyo Narita to Dusseldorf – that also happened to be my first international flight on the 787, and my first international flight with ANA.
After a slightly unexpected turn of events, rather than getting to the airport in the morning of December 17 to catch the 11AM flight, I went the night before and stayed at Marroad Hotel which offers excellent views of Narita’s runway 16R.
Having taken the 8:40AM shuttle from the hotel, I arrived at the airport shortly before nine. After going through the semi-automated check-in, I headed to the observation for a quick look before clearing the security and taking a short break at the KAL Business Class Lounge.
I had a quick breakfast at the lounge, and headed out to gate 47 where the flight was scheduled to depart from.
Are you interested in trying business or first class for the price of economy?
If so, you might want to check out Four Ways to Try Business Class Without Breaking the Bank - a free guide that I put together detailing some of the ways I was able to do so - and experiment with some of the methods mentioned in it.
Getting Onboard the ANA 787-8
Boarding begun about 30 minutes before departure in the typical fashion – people requiring assistance followed by business class passengers followed by the rest. As I was boarding, two people in front of me got sent away from the gate – perhaps they tried to get on the wrong flight?
Once onboard, I headed through part of business class and through premium economy into the small economy class cabin, and settled in my seat 22D.
The three-class Dreamliners of ANA have a capacity of 169 seats with 46 seats in business, 21 in premium economy, and 102 in economy class. With 110 passengers onboard, the loadfactor was 65%.
The seat pitch in economy class was acceptable. However, with the 3-3-3 configuration, the seat was a bit narrow. Luckily, when the doors were closed at 10:55AM, the two seats next to me were empty, and so I had a whole row of three seats for myself once again, just like on my flight to New York a couple of weeks earlier.
We were pushed back three minutes after our scheduled departure time, at 11:03AM. It took almost ten minutes until we started taixiing, and almost half an hour until we took off from runway 34L at 11:30AM.
The In-Flight Service Begins
Having been awake the whole night, immediately after the seat belt sign was switched off, I stretched across the three seats.
I woke up to one of the cabin crew members putting a bottle of water into my seat pocket. That was about twenty five minutes after take off.
Another five minutes later, rice crackers and drinks were served.
Soon after the snack service, the Captain came on the PA announcing that we were flying over Sea of Japan at an altitude of 36,000 feet, and that the flight time would be 11 hours and 40 minutes. To my surprise, besides the obligatory Japanese and English, he also did the announcement in German!
During a quick visit to bathroom before the meal service, I had a chance to see the bidet-style toilet unique to the ANA Dreamliner. It has to be one of the most advanced toilets in the skies – most certainly so in economy class. On the other hand, there were no amenities (toothbrushes, etc.) handed out throughout the flight nor available in the bathroom.
Lunch Time: Beef Stew or Kaisendon
The meal service started about one hour after take off.
While there was a generic menu in the seat pocket – saying that there would be two meals served and each would have two choices, that days menu was handed out on a laminated A4 card. Once each passenger chose, the menu was taken away and handed to the next one while the previous passenger was being served. I thought that was a nice idea that avoided a lot of waste, yet gave everyone more information for making the choice than the standard “chicken or pasta.”
It was also interesting to note that the menu also had a “other inflight amenities” section that, among other things, mentioned that pens and postcards were available on the flight!
Given that I am not a big fan of beef, I chose “kaisendon” – a Japanese rice bowl with sea food – over beef stew. It came with three salads – a potato salad with salami, lettuce with dressing, and an Asian-style glass noodle salad. Unfortunately, the main course’s taste was really bland, and there were no condiments. On the other hand, all three salads were great.
Upon receiving the tray, I was surprised that there was no desert, however, everything was sorted out when Häagen-Dazs ice cream was handed out after the meal.
Cruising Towards Dusseldorf
With the lunch service over, and the time in Europe being about 5AM, I decided to take advantage of the three seats I had, and lay down. I woke up about 4 hours later, and stayed awake for the rest of the flight.
Throughout the flight, until the breakfast service later, the cabin crew passed through the aisles about every hour offering drinks.
When one of the cabin crew members was passing by without a drink tray in her hands, I asked her to kindly fill my log book.
“How would you like to have it filled in?”
“I leave it up to you.”
“Aww, thanks! Do you always get a log book filled?”
“Yes, generally, unless I am too tired to hand it out.”
“Great, thank you!”
A couple of minutes later, she came back and continued the conversation – asking whether I had flown with ANA before, and if I had any comments or feedback about the flight.
For the rest of the flight, I worked on a post about the KAL Business Lounge, and explored the in-flight entertainment options.
ANA’s In-Flight Entertainment
Before starting to explore the actual IFE system, I took a quick peak into the seat pocket which contained the usual in-flight magazine, entertainment guide and duty free shopping catalog.
Next, a look under the seat. To me, perhaps the most important part of the “in-flight entertainment” on a long haul flight is a power socket. Having installed one under every single seat, ANA scores full points in this category.
Finally, a look at the seat back. It is equipped with a 9” touch-screen, and features a earphone connector and a USB port.
The in-flight entertainment system itself was mediocre. It offered a sub-par selection of Hollywood and Japanese movies, as well as a selection of TV shows. The selection of music was slightly better with a decent selection of both Japanese and Western albums. Notably, the 6AM news of the day of both NHK (Japanese) and BBC were offered.
Selecting games led to a separate menu screen where one could set an avatar and name for playing against other passengers, and also choose one of the nine games offered.
Other items included shopping – a full catalog of the duty free items offered, and the obligatory airshow with the usual selection of maps and autoplay.
Willkommen in Düsseldorf
About two hours before landing, the crew sprung into action once again, and started the pre-landing meal service.
First, packaged wet tissues were handed out.
Soon after, the meal was served. I did not regret my choice of Japanese style fish – the taste was very good, and the portion was decent.
At this point, the cabin was getting a bit too cold, and many people in the aircraft were coughing. Luckily, only about an hour and a half were left before landing.
At 2PM Dusseldorf time, the Captain came on the PA announcing that we would be landing five minutes after three, and that the weather was cloudy with a temperature of six degrees. Once again, after Japanese and English, German followed.
Soon after, my log book was returned not only with the flight information, but also with “thank you” stickers all over it.
Shortly before the seatbelt signs were switched on at 2:43PM, the cabin crew passed the aisles once again offering passengers a selection of candies and Kit Kat.
We landed at 2:56PM, and after quick braking and a short taxi, we reached our parking spot at 3PM sharp – on-time.
After taking some cabin shots, I disembarked the aircraft and headed out into the terminal to meet my friends before continuing on to Vienna.