Downgraded On ANA, And I’m Not Sure Why

Filed Under: ANA

I’m curious if anyone has any insights on this, because I can’t quite figure it out.

Ford and I are headed to Japan in May. We booked roundtrip tickets from Chicago to Tokyo Narita in ANA first class using 120,000 Virgin Atlantic Flying Club miles per person, given what a great value it is.

ANA First Class
ANA’s 777 first class

While I realize that for the most part getting around Japan by train is best, we are heading to Nagoya at the start of our trip, and decided flying out of Narita made the most sense.  While getting from the city of Tokyo to Nagoya is definitely easier by train, if you’re at Narita then flying is faster.

I booked “first class” tickets a while back — the premium wasn’t that much. and I was curious to review what domestic first class is like on ANA.

However, yesterday I received an email from ANA indicating that our reservation had changed, noting that “your flight and boarding class have been changed due to the cancellation (or flight number change) of your reserved flight.”

In reality, looking at the itinerary we were just downgraded from first class to economy. I figured the flight had been replaced with a plane that doesn’t have a premium cabin. We were initially booked on an A320, though looking at the schedule it appears that the flight is now operated by a 787-8.

Indeed, when you look at inventory you’ll see that they’re not selling first class on the flight.

I thought to myself “hmmm, I didn’t realize ANA has 787s without a premium cabin.” But then I looked at the seatmap, and in fact the plane is actually one of their longhaul configured 787-8s with fully flat staggered seats in business class… but the seats are being sold as economy!

Aside from the general inefficiency of operating such a low capacity widebody on a short domestic flight, I’m even more confused that they don’t seem to sell the premium cabin?

I feel like going from an A320 to a 787-8 should be an upgrade for us, but somehow we ended up in economy.

ANA’s 787 business class

Anyone have a sense of why ANA doesn’t sell the premium cabin on some domestic widebody flights, or how to snag one of the business class seats, even if they don’t come with better service?

  1. I feel like this is advice along the lines of unplugging it and plugging back in, but did you try calling the airline for those seats? Or for a partial refund?

  2. Hey that’s the kind of downgrade I can live with. I do agree thought, it would make sense to sell those seats at a premium and not give away. Did you happen to notice if this is a one off or a long term schedule change?

  3. Had a similar thing happened when booking a J Aeroplan redemption with a domestic sector in Japan. Flight was operated by a regional (non-domestic) 767 and the entire aircraft was sold as Y. I was able to select seats in the “J” cabin during online check in.

  4. My money would be, so ANA can have to flexibility to switch out the airplanes last minute without having to downgrade the majority of the premium passengers.

  5. ANA’s domestic A320 does not have a premium cabin. Despite the equipment change to a 787, perhaps the A320 is still what ANA has in the system… Just a guess….. On the upside, it’s only a 1 hour flight from NRT to NGO.

  6. @Doug @Nike, I would assume not as it looks like on expert flyer that they’re blocked, so I think it’s check-in only, or if they were available, I would assume that people would’ve already taken them

  7. Can you also try JAL domestic First and/or Business class? I know they have some domestic configured 777’s which have all 3 classes or service

  8. All seats on the flight will be sold as Y and you will be able to select “J” seats at check in. No “J” service will be available.

  9. Have you got any form of refund/compensation for the downgrade and are you able to select a business class seat?- I remember flying Heathrow to Madrid on a BA 4 class 777 and they blocked off First class so I wonder if its similar to that.

  10. It’s probably apples and oranges (and you probably already know) but I had a similar experience a couple years ago using AA miles to fly ITM-NRT-JFK on JL in F. Intra-Japan connecting flights were specifically excluded from booking F seats; that detail was buried somewhere in the award travel rules. Perhaps ANA has a similar rule?

  11. Go with JAL, on specific 777 u can buy economy and upgrade at check in for first class for just 7000 Yen or 1000 Yen for Biz class that is really bargain!!!!.

  12. “While I realize that for the most part getting around Japan by train is best”

    Repeating this line every time you write about flying domestically in Japan is tiring. It’s okay to virtue-signal only every other time.

  13. @Daniel presumably, but if you’re writing a blog surely it makes more sense to split every story into a beginning, a middle, and an end to maximize posts?

  14. As a data point, I recently booked and flew a United Mileage Plus 5k saver economy award for NRT-ITM for 2 people to connect of a UA flight on a different ticket. The flight was operated by a 4 class NH 773ER. My initial seats were in row 40, but on calling NH I was able to snag 2 of the staggered lie flat business seats (I could have also snagged 2 premium economy seats). Apparently, domestically NH sells the 8 suites as F, and the rest of the plane as Y. Also, the 773ER was an international configuration, which they have out of NRT – I think the HND widebodies have a different high density configuration.

  15. Can you explain how the domestic Japan tickets were booked. The article is pretty confusing. Is the domestic flight a paid fare? is it a separate point redemption from your other award? Is it part of the same award booking as your international flight (and if so how many if any additional miles did you pay to add the domestic flight to the award)?

  16. Usually Japanese carriers only allow coach flights for domestic connections regardless of international segment award ticket class. Sometime when booking via a partner, I’ve been able to get a premium domestic connection. But, just like in your case, it is clawed back close to departure.

  17. it’s like a 30 minute flight…who cares
    when i opened this, i thought you meant the longhaul flight, which would’ve been newsworthy. domestic short haul flights get messed about all the time.

  18. My family and I travelled to Japan last summer. We flew ANA from Tokyo Narita (NRT) to Osaka Itami (ITM). Our flight was operated by an internationally-configured, four-class B777-300ER (77W) (which the Chicago – Tokyo Narita flight is operated by). The international first class cabin (8 suites in a 1-2-1 configuration) was sold as domestic Premium Class (first/business class), while the international staggered business class cabin, international premium economy class cabin, and international economy class cabin were sold as domestic Economy Class, where domestic Economy passengers were able to assign seats in any of those three cabins, all of which recieved the the standard domestic Economy service. Were you able to select the international staggered business class seats (which we were able to do on economy tickets) even though you were downgraded to economy? And, is it possible that the blocked seats at the front of the business class cabin will be sold and serviced as Premium Class?

  19. The reason they are operating NRT-NGO by 787 might be the engine issue they are having. Probably inefficient but better than parking

  20. If you have UA SIlver status (or higher) on your reservation the first class seats should open up as an option for free! Did this in April last year. Awesome first class seat for Y price! Service was the same as Y though.

  21. I’m Japanese, it’s my understanding that for this particular route they open the business seats to economy pax (with status) whenever they assign an international plane.

    Maybe the flight is too short and it’s impossible to provide the “premium class” service to many people…

  22. It’s possible (albeit unlikely) that the equipment change is part of some government or corporate booking that required some or all of the premium cabin. As others have said, call. I’ve never found a Japanese carrier that wasn’t interested in figuring out how to deliver the best experience possible to premium passengers (which you are).

  23. 1. You are not supposed to be booked in domestic premium class when redeeming miles (both ANA and partner airlines). I hear occasional glitches, but the fundamental rules are there.

    2. The reason they don’t sell Premium Class for that case is that they would not be able to provide the Premium worthy service for such a short flight – for 50+ seats – remember, the high standards!

    3. You can book those Business Class seats by calling ANA if not occupied or blocked. They might release additional seats when the departure day gets closer. 1A could be available only on the departure day if not taken before that…but normally given to ANA Diamond member.

    4. I flew int’l configured 777-300 for NRT-ITM, and got a Business Class seat (in the small section behind First) with Economy fare. Only the first two rows/8 seats (Int’l F configuration) were sold as Premium.

  24. Because

    1) If they designate the entire intl’ 787’s business cabin as the Premium Class, there will be way too many seats. There simply isn’t that many demands. If you look at the seat map of densely configured domestic 773, there are only 21 Premium Class seats as opposed to 493 in economy.

    2) Passengers flying domestic from/to Narita are mostly intl’ connecting passengers and as others pointed out, even if you’ve booked intl’ ANA first class ticket connecting to/from domestic flight the latter part would automatically be economy, so again not many will be willing to shell out for an upgrade that is merely a short ride.

    At times both JAL/ANA use intl’ 77W on a domestic route between Narita and Osaka Itami, and in that case, they release their first class section as Premium Class (ANA) and Class J (JAL), because they are only 8 seats per aircraft.

    By the way, if you want to experience the true Japanese domestic premium cabin, I’d highly recommend flying on domestic JAL First (above Class J). It’s in a league on its own in terms of overall experience, and only costs JPY 8,000 (or USD 70) to upgrade from economy which is really a good deal. Not sure if it’s also offered now but they used to offer rare Yamazaki whiskey in their domestic “Diamond” lounge in Haneda which F passengers have access to.

  25. @lucky
    Btw if you’re leaving in the evening on ANA first class from HND, they now have a la carte dining in the suite lounge. I’m not sure if it’s still there, or if it’s also at NRT.

  26. I had a similar occurance a couple of years ago. Flying from Atlanta to Narita, and then continuing pn from Narita to Kagoshima. When we boarded we were in the first class section (with economy service) while the remainder of the plane was filled with students returning from a field trip to Tokyo from Kagoshima. The plane change and cabin change made no sense until the flight was boarded.

  27. Other frequent flyers like Fabio Vilela have noticed the same thing. At check in just ask them to reserve u a seat at one of the business class seats.

  28. Most likely linked to the engine issues on the 787 fleet. As the largest operator of Trent powered 787s, ANA has a number of 787 on the ground at Haneda and Narita and needs to juggle aircraft around and maximize utilization of aircraft. The A320 initially scheduled will probably be used on another route and the 787 you’ll be flying on is putting a couple of flights and hours additional that day. It is more than likely that you will end up in one of the premium seats that day.

  29. @lucky

    Hi, an ANA frequent-flyer here. These wide-body aircraft configurations are for international routes exclusively, and they are only occasionally used for domestic routes for operational reasons. In other terms, you got lucky.
    Because ANA cannot provide proper domestic first services (a proper meal etc.) for all these seats, they wouldn’t charge the premium for it. You should understand the Japanese mentality, where people pay the premium for the SOFT product, not the HARD product 🙂

    Enjoy your flight!

  30. @lucky

    Oh, another point is that these seats are not exactly handled as ordinary economy seats: First class seats are reserved for ANA Diamond members, where Business class seats are reserved for Staralliance Gold and ANA Platinum members. So these “free” premium seats are a reward for frequent flyers.

  31. I think ANA Diamond members had first priority and stole premium seats when aircraft changed, as some comments say.
    ANA prioritize AMC Diamond members very much.

  32. I recommend you call up their call center and check what happen. Such stuff isn’t supposed to happen apparently.

  33. Free upgrades for frequent ANA passengers and you are not one of them

    UNITED did the same thing o legacy triple seven with three cabins you can get the first class suite sold as business but only if you were 1K passenger

  34. ANA dometic flights must be booked in economy on an international award, even if the award is a business or first award, when booked via United and several other programs. Many agents do not know, so they might book you in J/F at first, but ANA will always eventually downgrade to Y (although in my experience with dozens of these booked via UA miles, they will always do it before ticketing). I don’t have experience with VA, but I imagine it’s the same rule.

  35. Thought of doing the same with my Virgin Atlantic points and booking first class ANA DC to Tokyo. I’m nervous the cabin will be too hot. I heard international carriers have an issue with cabin temp. Can anyone share their experience? I flew Biz class 777-300ER on Air France and it was brutal. Way too hot.

  36. I experienced this many years ago from KIX to GUM. It was a 763 with old J recliners. Those seats were accessible to ANA elite and Star Alliance Gold, and I snagged one as I was a US Airways Chairman at the time. Service was still economy, but that was okay for the final four hours of my trip.

  37. @Steve, ANA is notorious for being hot, and premium cabins usually don’t have individual vents. I have flow IAD-NRT many times and I always change to shorts as soon as the seatbelt sign is off.

  38. I’m a diamond Ana member. ANA occasionally switches planes due to repairs or what not. That is why you ended up with a superior newer 787 as most domestic planes are older or have less premium seats. Or at least they would be premium domestic seat and not intl seating like the 787.

    I’ve been on a domestic flight that changed planes and I ended up in a intl business class seat even though I was booked on a reg economy fare seat. It’s one of the few times they had to switch to an available plane.

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