Review: ANA First Class 777-300ER Chicago To Tokyo

Filed Under: Airline Reviews, ANA

We arrived at O’Hare Airport at around 9AM for our 11:20AM flight to Tokyo Narita. We had already checked in online, so we headed straight through security and to the United Polaris Lounge, which ANA uses for their first and business class passengers in Chicago.

Chicago O’Hare Terminal

I’ve already reviewed the Polaris Lounge Chicago in great detail. The only thing I’d add is that since I last visited they expanded the lounge a bit, by adding a dining section and a bit more seating at the far end of the lounge.

United Polaris Lounge Chicago dining


United Polaris Lounge Chicago dining


United Polaris Lounge Chicago seating

We had breakfast in the lounge before our flight.

United Polaris Lounge Chicago breakfast


United Polaris Lounge Chicago breakfast

Polaris Lounges continue to blow me away, especially when you consider that they’re from a US airline. These really are some of the best business class lounges in the world.

Our ANA flight to Tokyo Narita was departing from gate C10, just a short walk from the lounge. Boarding was scheduled for 10:50AM, so we headed to the counter at around 10:40AM to have our passports verified.

You’ve gotta love how consistently Japanese airlines try to apply their service standards, even at outstations. The guy checking our passports was caucasian, but gave us a proper bow when he handed us back our boarding passes and passports. Hah.

ANA has a separate line for first class passengers, which was at the far left of the gate.

ANA departure gate Chicago

As you’d expect, boarding started exactly on time. One awesome thing was that I noticed we were flying ANA’s Star Wars 777. Unfortunately they don’t brand it quite to the level of EVA Air’s Hello Kitty flights, though it’s cool nonetheless.

All Nippon Airways 11
Chicago (ORD) – Tokyo (NRT)
Tuesday, May 28
Depart: 11:20AM
Arrive: 2:20PM (+1 day)
Duration: 13hr
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 2G (First Class)

We boarded through the forward door, where we were greeted by no fewer than three bowing flight attendants, and escorted to our seats. ANA’s first class cabin consists of eight seats, spread across two rows in a 1-2-1 configuration.

ANA 777-300ER first class cabin


ANA first class cabin 777-300ER

The cabin only takes up a bit over half the space between doors one and two on the 777-300ER as there are also two rows of business class immediately behind it. ANA’s business class features staggered seats with direct aisle access.


ANA business class cabin 777-300ER


ANA 777-300ER business class cabin

While I don’t like to complain about international first class seats — obviously they were incredibly comfortable — I find that ANA’s are among the most poorly designed out there. They box in the seats, and this simply makes no sense. It’s one thing to have the option of extending a door for privacy, but these seats don’t have doors yet feel like cubicles.

This means that if you’re in a window seat you can’t really look outside, while if you’re in one of the center seats you can’t even talk to your travel companion.

ANA first class seat

I selected seats 2D & 2G for Ford and me, though in retrospect we might as well have just both selected window seats, since we couldn’t practically communicate with one another.


All Nippon Airways first class seats

The seats themselves are comfortable and there’s lots of personal space, it’s just that they’re boxed in.

All Nippon Airways first class seats


All Nippon Airways first class seats


All Nippon Airways first class seat

There’s an ottoman, counter, and TV at the far end of the seat. Since they decided to make the seats so private you’d think they would have at least designed the seats so that you had a “buddy seat” option, but even that isn’t the case, so there’s no way you can dine with someone.


All Nippon Airways first class seat

The tray table folded out from the very front of the seat. Rather annoyingly you couldn’t “lock” the table in any position other than completely extended.


ANA first class tray table

All the seat controls were on the center console, including the entertainment controllers, seat controllers, power outlets, reading lights, and even some small cabinets where you could store things.


ANA first class seat controls

Then along the aisle-side wall was another small compartment where you could store reading glasses or a phone.


ANA first class seat storage

While there was a small open space between seats, there was also a panel you could extend for more privacy. Then again, you can’t really talk to the person across from you anyway, so it doesn’t matter that much.


ANA first class seat privacy

Along the outside of the seat was a small closet where you could hang a jacket or two.


ANA first class seat closet

The seats don’t have individual air nozzles, which might be problematic for those who tend to get warm on planes.

Waiting at my seat upon boarding were a pillow and blanket. These were just intended while relaxing at your seat, and then there was separate bedding when it was time to sleep.


ANA first class pillow & blanket

There were also a pair of Sony headphones, which were reasonably good quality.


ANA first class headphones

Once settled in, the nonstop, fabulous service began. First both of the flight attendants working first class, as well as the chief purser, came by our seats to introduce themselves and inform us of the flight time of 12hr15min. They couldn’t have been kinder and more adorable. For example, the chief purser said “Is there anything I can do for you? I hope you enjoy the yummy food and good sleep.” While saying “yummy food” she rubbed her tummy, and while saying “good sleep” she put her hands to the side of her head as if she was sleeping.

They asked if we wanted something to drink, with the choice between water, champagne, and orange juice.

Until several years ago Japanese airlines weren’t even allowed to serve pre-departure drinks, so I guess I shouldn’t complain, but the champagne was room temperature and somewhat flat. I get how it could be room temperature, but flat already?!

ANA first class pre-departure champagne

A few minutes later we were brought Samsonite amenity kits with excellent “The Ginza” toiletries.

ANA first class amenity kit

Then we were offered vouchers for 100MB of free wifi per person, which is a nice feature for first class passengers.

Free wifi for ANA first class

We were also offered socks, shoe horns, and shoe bags.


ANA first class slippers

Then we were offered cardigans.

ANA first class cardigan

Lastly we were offered pajamas. These felt high quality, though were also quite thick and felt warm.


ANA first class pajamas

We were also offered immigration cards for Japan, as well as fast track forms.

Landing cards for Japan

In addition to the amenity kit, the crew came around with a basket of goodies to choose from.


ANA first class amenities


ANA first class amenities

I’ve always wanted to try the “leg refreshing sheet,” though I’ve never quite been sure what to do with it…


ANA first class amenities

Since this was an ANA Star Wars plane, the boarding music was from Star Wars, which is a cute touch. Suddenly a flight attendant appeared from behind us with this huge Yoda stuffed animal, and tried to scare us. It was hilarious, because it caught me off guard and I may or may not have screamed. 😉

The crew asked if we wanted to change into pajamas, which we agreed to. They set up the two lavatories at the front of the cabin, and then stood outside so they could hang our clothes when we emerged.

The lavatories themselves were well appointed, thanks to the bidets and the number of amenities they had. As you’d expect, toilets were absolutely spotless the entire flight, down to constant toilet paper triangle art.

ANA first class lavatory


ANA first class lavatory


ANA first class lavatory bidet


ANA first class lavatory amenities

By the time boarding was complete there were a total of four first class passengers — we were the only ones in row two, and then in 1A was a Japanese guy and in 1K was an American lady who was going on a two week group tour of Japan.

At 11:20AM the door closed, and a couple of minutes later we commenced our pushback. At that point the safety video was screened, and then a few minutes later we began our taxi.

Usually I’d switch to a window seat for takeoff, but given that you can’t really easily look out of the windows either way, I just stayed in the center seat.

During the taxi out, there was a PA from R2-D2 and C-3PO.

Our taxi was fairly quick, and by 11:40AM we were cleared for takeoff. The seatbelt sign was turned off just a few minutes after takeoff.

15 minutes after takeoff the crew distributed the menus and wine list for the flight, which were presented in a binder. We were also given warm towels.

ANA first class menu

ANA offers a dine on demand concept in first class. The menu read as follows:

The drink list read as follows:

We were given a bit of time to look over the menu, and then 30 minutes after takeoff our meal and drink order was taken.

35 minutes after takeoff we were served our first drink — we both had a glass of 2004 Krug to drink. For a limited time ANA was serving the 2004 Krug (rather than Grande Cuvee) in first class, which was a treat.

ANA first class 2004 Krug

Continuing the Star Wars theme, the napkins were even Star Wars branded!

ANA Star Wars branded napkin

We were offered an amuse bouche to go along with the champagne, consisting of apricot and goat cheese, rosette of smoked salmon, foie gras mousse canapé, and cheese pepper bar.

ANA first class lunch — amuse bouche and champagne

For the actual meal we both had the cauliflower mousse with caviar to start.


ANA first class lunch — caviar

Next up I had a garden salad with horseradish dressing, which was excellent.


ANA first class lunch — starter

Ford instead had the corn soup, which I skipped.


ANA first class lunch — soup

Suffice to say that the crew kept our glasses very full. At this point we decided to switch to sake.


ANA first class lunch — sake, champagne, and water

For my main course I selected the sautéed chilean seabass with raisins and herb brown butter sauce.


ANA first class lunch — main course

Ford had the vegetable cannelloni with dried tomato polenta.


ANA first class lunch — main course

For dessert I had the cappuccino mousse cake, while Ford had the warm blueberry pie with vanilla ice cream.

ANA first class lunch — dessert


ANA first class lunch — dessert

To finish off the meal there were some petit fours (after all, one dessert is never enough).

ANA first class lunch — petit fours

I thought the meal was excellent all around. The meal service was finished about 1hr40min after takeoff and was perfectly paced. The crew was attentive without being overbearing, and as is the norm on ANA, couldn’t have been kinder. It was bumpy throughout the first meal service, which made it fun to try and take pictures of the meal.

We were quite tired after the meal, so decided it was time to nap. We had them set up the beds in the window seats in row two so that we could switch between beds and regular seats without having to disturb them going forward. At this point we were a bit over two hours into the flight.

Moving map enroute to Tokyo


Moving map enroute to Tokyo

The bed in ANA first class is quite comfortable. The sleeping surface is nice and wide, and the bedding is good, though I do wish they had bigger pillows and blankets.

ANA first class bed

ANA first class bed

Much to my surprise I got a solid four hours of sleep, and woke up with about six hours remaining to Tokyo, meaning we were just past the halfway point of the flight. At this point we were just leaving Alaska.

Moving map enroute to Tokyo

Moving map enroute to Tokyo

Once awake I decided to browse the entertainment selection.

ANA entertainment system

ANA’s entertainment selection is pretty lackluster, so I’d recommend bringing your own entertainment, personally. The selection is quite limited, especially when it comes to western movies and sitcoms.


ANA entertainment system


ANA entertainment system


ANA entertainment system

Fortunately some of the entertainment was amazing, at least in an ironic way. There was a video about crime prevention for tourists in Tokyo, and it was so hilariously bad that I watched it twice.

ANA entertainment selection

It featured two caucasian guys who communicate exclusively in Japanese, but one of them has never been to Japan before and knows nothing about the culture. So when he lands in Japan the first thing he wants to do is buy a knife so he can defend himself, he talks loudly on the bus on his phone, etc. If anyone can find this video online I’d sure love to watch it again.

ANA entertainment

While watching the show I also ordered a cappuccino. Unfortunately it was watery, so that was the only one I ordered.

ANA first class cappuccino

ANA has wifi on their 777-300ERs, and the pricing is ordinarily as follows:

  • 30 minute plan costs $4.95 (up to 15MB)
  • One hour plan costs $8.95 (up to 30MB)
  • Full flight plan costs $19.95 (up to 100MB)

ANA wifi pricing

Fortunately because I was in first class I received 100MB of free wifi.


ANA wifi complimentary wifi

While I appreciate that ANA has wifi and that it’s even free for first class passengers, it’s provided by OnAir, and is excruciatingly slow. Nonetheless I managed to get a bit of work done for a few hours.

About three hours before landing I decided to order a pre-arrival snack, consisting of curry with steamed rice. The curry is one of my favorite staple dishes on ANA.


ANA first class curry

Ford had the cheeseburger, since he has never had a burger on a plane before.

ANA first class cheeseburger

To finish off the meal I ordered a cheese plate.

ANA first class cheese plate

After the meal I changed out of pajamas, and before I knew it we were just about an hour from our arrival in Tokyo.

At 1:05PM Tokyo time the captain announced that we would be descending in about 20 minutes, and thanked everyone for flying ANA.

Moving map enroute to Tokyo


Moving map enroute to Tokyo

30 minutes out the crew offered everyone in first class iced green tea, and thanked us for flying with ANA.

Pre-landing drinks

After that the three crew taking care of us each stopped by our seats to thank us for flying with ANA. At this point I switched to the window seat, though I did have to briefly unbuckle my seatbelt every time I tried to take a picture out of the window.

View approaching Narita


View approaching Narita


View approaching Narita

We touched down at Narita Airport at 2PM. There was another Star Wars announcement at this point, saying “may the force be with you.” We also taxied past an ANA 787 in Star Wars livery at this point — how cool!

Star Wars 787 Narita Airport

We arrived at gate 58A in Terminal 1 at around 2:10PM.

Star Wars 777 upon arrival

We cleared immigration and headed towards the domestic part of the terminal for our flight to Nagoya.

ANA first class bottom line

All things considered ANA first class is excellent, especially when you consider the deal we got on miles. The crew was incredibly kind and professional, the food and drinks were excellent, and the amenities were endless.

However, I maintain that I have a strong preference for Japan Airlines first class over All Nippon Airways first class. This comes down to the better seat design and the much faster wifi.

It’s sort of frustrating when you’re traveling with someone and literally can’t talk to them unless you’re either standing or leaning way forward.

Fortunately many of these problems will be solved with ANA’s new first class, which debuts in a few weeks. That should be an exceptional product.

If you’ve flown ANA first class, what was your experience like?

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Comments
  1. I happen to love ANA, much better than JAL. On my flights, the cabin was actually kept cool! JAL I sweat. The seats in the boxes are silly but the seat itself is more comfortable than JAL. The food on ANA is as good as First Class or airplane food can get, as long as you get the Japanese meal. Service on my 2 JAL flights were not good with much bigger language barriers than my ANA flights. I guess that could have just been bad luck.

  2. @Ralph: Looks square to me. Nice to see ANA take cues from Dave Thomas (Wendy’s) and not cut corners! 😉

  3. @Ben the “Leg Refreshing Sheet” goes on the back of your calves while you rest/sleep. It is sort of like a cooling gel pad that relaxes your leg muscles. They really did seem to make me more relaxed. I also liked the aromatics they place behind your pillow (if they still do that).

  4. Would you recommend row 1 or row 2? Is row 1 loud or bright? We’re flying that route next May (ORD-NRT and HND-JFK on the way back) and are currently in the 2nd row middle, though I am really hoping to get the new cabin by then.

  5. We took this route back in May. The crew will happily give you as many WiFi passes as you want, so you’re really not limited to 100 MB.

  6. We flew ORD HND last September and it was a great experience. They had a special sake made just for ANA, which was delicious. And being a fan of Hibiki, I made sure to try both the 17 and the 21 y/o.

    The downside was certainly the inability to chat easily with my wife next to me. Mind you, some might find that a significant benefit for 13 hrs. 😉

  7. I LOVE THAT “CRIME PREVENTION VIDEO” ON ANA!

    My favorite part is when the friend visiting Japan for the first time loses his wallet, and the other friend tells him not to worry and that someone will turn it in. He just has this amazingly smug attitude that says, “You’re in a civilized country now. People wouldn’t do something as barbaric as steal your wallet.”

    The fact that they’re both speaking only in Japanese makes the whole thing even more surreal.

  8. @Brian Vysocky The cardigan stays. I know they at least have LL pajamas. I’m usually a Large and sleeves on the L pajamas hit me about 3 inches above the wrist. The LL was much better on top, though the bottoms were a bit loose.

  9. I’m going to be on this same flight just a couple of months from now and I can’t wait! I actually love those legs cooling pads, hah! They’re pretty good especially if the cabin is kept too warm. By the way I’m curious, is there a particular reason why you both picked the western meal instead of the Japanese one?

  10. Ben – Another great review! However I’m curious… you mention you got a deal on these seats with miles. Can you elaborate on that aspect of the trip? I’ve been saving up my Citi and Amex points and have been looking at transferring them to Virgin to use on a possible ANA J or F flight (which I found out about through you and TPG!). Thanks!

  11. My favorite airline hands down. I enjoy the seats very much as I find them very conducive to getting a good rest.

  12. Sitting in close proximity to/ communicating with spouse/SO is not always the preferred option : yesterday I was seated next to a very nice man , in budget airline Y, a 9 hour flight. He told me that his wife was seated about 20 rows back, so I offered to swap ( more out of courtesy than a real desire to go further back).
    He was quite adamant that I stay. It was pretty clear that they both enjoyed the break . Probably healthy after 30 plus years.

  13. Ben,

    I’ve flown ANA F 10+ times and I’ve always been baffled about the cubicle approach, especially the fact that the windows are blocked.

    I lived in Japan for a few years and was always perplexed by the culture of the window, i.e. the fact that they “block” windows in dwellings, temples, etc. (Example: even though my second story Tokyo flat looked out onto an empty field, all my windows were frosted opaque!)

    In Japan having one window to look out of, and covering up the others is not abnormal. It’s a matter of a “curated” view.

    That’s my very unscientific guess as to the reasoning/justification for the seat design.

    For a good example of window culture, google “viewing room at Unryu-in, Kyoto”.

  14. I love ANA first and agree with a previous poster that it is largely superior to JAL. I also agree that blocking the windows is odd but let’s be honest, for 95% of the flight there is little to see out of the window and the middle window is still accessible. Also I appreciate the limited ability to talk to each other, not because I want to be isolated from my travel companions but rather because I HATE when passengers chit chat all flight. It’s extremely rude and disruptive and anything to limit that is good in my book. The ANA crews are truly the best I have ever had consistently (JAL is a mixed bag) and the food is superior as well. They still serve Hibiki 21 which is virtually impossible to find and sells for over $1000 a bottle today. On my last flight she left the bottle for me on my tray. It’s just an outstanding airline.

  15. The cubicle seats are a very Japanese thing about privacy/being left alone/no one else can see you. ANA and SQ are always outstanding no matter what cabin you are flying in

  16. Those pajamas look a little higher quality than the ones I received on this flight back in 2017. I didn’t keep my ANA pjs then but those look like ones I would keep.

  17. American and Chinese tend to speak very loudly in public , not of all of them but a lot of them

  18. Great report, Lucky. That burger looks good. And I have to find this crime prevention video. Lol.

  19. While the F/A stood guard outside your lavatory door for you to change into the pajamas did you notice the drop down platform/step for you to stand on to keep your feet off the lavatory floor? I’m not sure both lavs have it, but the larger lav definitely has it.

    Were condiments (egg white/yolk, onions, sour cream) offered with the caviar?

  20. They serve Belgian caviar on this flight.
    That makes as much sense as Iranian chocolates.
    Who came up with this for a food item that has so much visibility?

  21. Imagine if you were a first time flyer and the safety brief was given by R2-D2.

    I have to admit after the yoda thing i read, “The crew asked us if we wanted to change undies.”

  22. @Clem~ The Japanese menus on JAL and ANA are really nothing like the Japanese food you may be accustomed to at home. It is mostly traditional high calibre delicacies not rolled out for everyday eating.
    Most ( and there are many, many little plates!) are not to most Westerners tastes. Older Japanese can relate more to them. So you may be disappointed if you like the idea but are not certain what you will get!

  23. The colour scheme ANA uses in both first and business class has to be the one of the most unattractive of any airline. Absolutely awful.

  24. I have found that ANA First Class F/A’s have a better grasp on the english language than JAL. They’re also a bit more personable and not overly formal/sterile, which can be the case on JAL. Catering EX: TYO is exceptional. A5 Waygu beef, a-mazing. Also Hibiki 21 (JFK/FRA/LHR routes), is the best whisky in the sky!

    The seats are FINE when traveling alone (table tray does suck), and I agree IFE needs much more content, and the WiFi clearly is running off a 14.4 modem.

    Living in Asia, ANA First is still my favorite way to get back to The States.

    –JRL

  25. I flew ANA J class on a 777 HND-HKG a few years ago when they were just rolling out the Star Wars livery.

    As I recall, the in-flight magazine had a couple of pages showing the fleet: so many 777s, so many 787s, … and 1 Millennium Falcon. You have to admire that level of attention to detail.

    Would love to fly ANA long haul F.

  26. @Ted
    Hibiki 21 yrs is not over $1000.
    You should be able to find one for around $500~600
    Hibiki 17 yrs is about 350~400

    Nevertheless, they are both good and expensive whisky

  27. @Luis: “weird that you and Ford never order the asian meal on asian airlines. Live a little Ben.”

    And yet, he ordered the Japanese curry.

  28. @Eric Wu

    The price of Hibiki 21 has sky rocketed in the last year. No more $500 bottles, at least not in the U.S. It is true that I slightly exaggerated though. It is very difficult to find in stores and online in runs $850 to $1,000. Over a thousand for decorative bottles (I agree, that does not count). If you can buy it for $500 I’m in, please let me know where!

    https://www.google.com/shopping/product/1?q=hibiki+21+year+old&client=safari&hl=en&biw=375&bih=635&tbs=vw:l,ss:44&prmd=sniv&prds=num:1,of:1,epd:10226721272701632295,paur:ClkAsKraX3W_ufpUlNxgUxnBQuLBA8Z5CDkzPCs7oJVDGxftma4OQ_TMPDA9Z0Pv8XvQRukJELVmZr99ui6ZOi5lbrhnpQN-ELKWBy1H8xJ9LnMi4zzMRSykgBIZAFPVH70ymZKC9Rua9oxKqyiLuTkB1bOSFw,prmr:1,pid:10226721272701632295,cs:1

  29. @Eric Wu

    I just tried posting several links to Hibiki 21 selling at or over $1,000. I guess links may not be allowed?

    Suffice it to say that the days of $500 Hibiki 21 are over for now. The prices have skyrocketed in the past year (at least in the U.S. If you are able to get it for $500 buy all you can, it would be a fantastic investment!

  30. @Eric Wu

    A quick search shows prices in the $800-$900 range in Hong Kong, slightly more in Japan and north of $1,000 throughout the U.S.

    When they discontinued it last year prices went nuts. Even the 17 year old is in the $500 – $600 range. So ANA is serving some expensive whiskey!

  31. Ben, regarding your comments about the style of boxed in first class seats. I find it a little harsh given the luxury that sourrounds and the utter courtesy of the ANA cabin staff. Flying 12 plus hours is a long time to keep smiling and be courteous. Nothing quite compares.

  32. For me the biggest issue with ANA is the IFE and rip-off Wi-Fi ($19.99 for the “whole flight” up to 100MB . . . which lasts closer to an hour than the entire flight). I find JAL food and lounges somewhat better, but when service is good, its as nice as can be. I hope the new products don’t make already tough redemptions even more difficult – if you can find seats ANA is an unbeatable redemption value.

  33. @glenn t : I have flown both ANA and JAL in F , and have been to Japan several times – a big reason for that being that I thoroughly enjoy traditional Japanese cuisine as opposed to westernized “Japanese” food ;).

  34. @Clem~ I expect you would be in a small minority in enjoying Japanese traditional cuisine. The average American who thinks hamburgers are a gourmet meal would not. In fact many younger Japanese feel the same way. They would also gag at the idea of whale meat that their grandparents still consume, not that the airlines serve that, as far as I know.

  35. What “average American” thinks hamburgers are “gourmet meals”. None is the answer. Many many Americans love burgers, none think they are gourmet meals. If you are flying first on ANA or JAL you absolutely should do the Japanese meals. Both are excellent.

  36. Overall the review was pretty standard stuff to expect in ANA F except the Sony headphones, those are significantly better than any Bose that I’ve come across, as Sony’s usually are, to say them are of regular quality is quite a crime.

  37. “total of four first class passengers — we were the only ones in row two, and then in 1A was a Japanese guy and in 1K was an American lady who was going on a two week group tour of Japan.”
    I wonder how much this American lady paid for her 2 weeks group tour of Japan including her Ana1st Class flights.

  38. Just chiming in with the others to say that you really missed out not drinking the Hibiki 21. The Krug is great, but for more readily available and less than half the price.

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