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Around the Frigid North ORD-NRT-VIE-ORD (ANA J, Austrian J)

Around the Frigid North ORD-NRT-VIE-ORD (ANA J, Austrian J)

Old Apr 13, 14, 4:14 pm
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Posts: 1,128
Around the Frigid North ORD-NRT-VIE-ORD (ANA J, Austrian J)

For the longest time, I had wanted to take advantage of the sweet spot in the US Airways award chart and do a North Asia via Europe quasi-RTW. With the impending merger, I knew the clock was probably ticking on this opportunity, and at the least ticking on using their Star partners. The final straw was when I received a targeted offer for 25% off a mileage redemption.

Originally I had wanted to visit Japan at fall peak and then Christmas time in Vienna, but with the busy holiday season, that just didn’t work out. Instead, January it was!

Unfortunately, my beloved Canon chose a very inopportune time to bite the dust on me with a lens error that occurred shortly into my first flight. This took the wind out of photography sails, and I wasn’t feeling as artsy-fartsy with inferior equipment, but I still have most of the bases covered.

ANA recently added a second daily flight to Chicago. It’s interesting how this works. The new eastbound flight is timed better for connections, while the westbound flight gets into NRT too late to connect to nearly everything. Between the timing, the huge capacity increase on the route, and the low winter season, I quickly discovered NH1011 loads to generally be shockingly low.

The downside of this is the scheduled utilization of a non-refurbished 77W with the old 7-abreast/slanted J seats. While the bells and whistles of the new cabins are appealing, I was feeling fine about this trade off, thinking i’d have 2 seats to myself- one for sleeping and one for sitting. Hard to beat that.

So imagine my surprise when, upon checking in on the awesomely-detailed seat maps of ANA.com, I saw the new staggered lie flat! Must have been a last minute equip swap .

It’s going to be difficult to keep from fawning over every aspect of this flight. I know I have a fraction of premium experiences compared to many of you, but i’ve been around the block a few times, having flown AA, BA, LH, and CX premium cabins. 13 hours later...this had become my best flight, ANA had become my favorite airline, and neither debate was particular competitive.

On to the flight!

Chicago ORD-Tokyo NRT
D: 16:30
A: 20:45+1
Boeing 777-300ER

Chilled out in the United Club on C Concourse before the flight, mostly amassing cups and cups of snack mix and foraging for the honey sesame sticks. Noticed that there were cheese cubes instead of the packaged Tillamook. I’ll take the blame for this tragedy of the commons, since I just found a stash of 3 month old sweaty cheese in my backpack. It sounded like a good idea at the time...

Headed on over to the usual ANA gate C10 around 4. Unfortunately could not get any decent vanity shots of this beautiful bird from the outside. First class had the first jetway all to them, all two of them. It was very evident from the gate area that the flight was way below capacity across the board. Few groups of Japanese students and tour groups, not much more.

Upon boarding, the equip swap was confirmed with the new J product. I took my 16K seat near back of the cabin and over the wing. FIrst impressions of the seat were good. Since flying CX, i’ve considered that style to be the gold standard of business class. While I can’t say this staggered style is any better, I found it to be as good. Nothing screams "luxury" about it, but it does feel quite "Japanese" (whatever that means) and comfortable. The seat is not indulgent, but firm and promoted good posture which is important to me. The foot cubby was large enough to not be bothersome when lying on my side. The privacy of the window side seats is pretty unmatched. Very good TV screen and large, sturdy tray table. The side table is very nice and convenient for keeping snacks and drinks on hand at all times, which they most assuredly were. The blue plastic used for this is kind of utilitarian and clinical, but the slick lighting and pure functionality make up for it. I’m also such a sucker for blue LED accent lighting. That, and water features. If this plane had a fountain I wouldn’t have left. There are the Toto’s...

Then came at least 4 different crew members introducing themselves. Crew was overall excellent and exactly what I expected... generally young and attractive with an insatiable lust for cuteness.

The vacuous nature of this flight became more apparent when doors closed and the last 5 rows of J were pretty much my domain. The crew told me the pax count was only around 80. Really hard to beat this.

Note the lack of focus..

After some deicing at the gate, we pushed back on time and the captain announced an expected flight time of 13:15. Certainly long for this route, but I wasn’t complaining. The short, powerful takeoff amazed as usual and I was happy to say goodbye to this wretched midwestern winter in search of other variations on winter.

I browsed the extensive menu. At first I had the wrong one, since the NRT-ORD version was at the front. Lots of drinks. Very nice whiskey, sake, shochu, etc menu. Very extensive snack menu, which is always appreciated. I was excited go with the Japanese meals on this flight, trying whatever they threw at me. Wine menu was underwhelming, but I had no use for it with all these Japanese treats onboard. 

I started with a Suntory Hibiki 17, which would be a trend. It’s a very nice whiskey which I really enjoyed.

Part of the extensive drink menu:

Started with an amuse bouche of crab tart, ham/melon, and some pickled stuff.

Here is the menu which will better describe the food than I can, obviously.

I’m thinking whoever writes these in English moonlights in anime erotica or something...

Most of it was great, whatever it was. You’d think the menu would’ve helped me figure all of it out... Only negative was the chewy octopus. Shocker. Never have developed a taste for that.

As you can see, the tableware was really cool.

Then came the main event..

This was a delicious dish. The sablefish was very rich and delicate. Just excellent.

Green Tea Cheesecake to finish. This was wonderful too.

More Hibiki and chocolates to wind down.

Entertainment: I thought the entertainment system was good. I watched a few newer movies I hadn’t seen- We’re the Millers, Jobs. They had a lot of Japanese tourism content which I really enjoy and some aviation stuff. There were a few things without english subtitles unfortunately. I’ve heard people complain about the content. It was fine for me. But then again, I haven’t actually flown an airline with a *great* IFE system like Emirates ICE, etc. That’s ok, ignorance is bliss.

Flat bed: I was able to sleep for about 3 hours after dinner, which is no small feat for me. I generally don’t sleep too well on planes, no matter which class, strangely. There was a mattress pad provided. I prefer a firm surface and ended up not using it.

Tonights routing taking us over Northern Alaska. Hey, I can see Russia from here!

I checked out the spread in the galley. Wine, nuts, crackers, and these interesting Hokkaido honey bears. These were actually delicious and I ate/took way too many of them.

I wonder if he liked the Grateful Dead. We'll never know...

Soon after, I picked out the ramen from the snack selection and it was quickly prepared. It was pretty good.

Soy sauce ramen and cold green tea

I think the beverage choice at this time was a sweet potato shochu. It was interesting, but give me back my Hibiki! Love the lighting...

Snack and 2nd meal menu

Chose Grilled Salmon with mustard. Another seriously delicious ANA meal. Just look at that presentation. It tasted as good as it looked.

Should also note the fruit was excellent.

The service was rounded out by simple but sweet pre-arrival ice cream

As I said, the crew was excellent on all accounts. I was able to chat at length with several of them, from topics ranging from my itinerary in Japan to my Wisconsin motion W logo matching that of her Tokyo University. I was later given a postcard note from them telling me about a good bakery in Kyoto. Very nice gesture!

Better overview of the seat on arrival (I was in the one behind)

Arrival was smooth and uneventful, touching down on 34L around the 9PM local hour.

All in all, a pretty much flawless experience which I thoroughly enjoyed. There may be better airlines or business classes out there, but I certainly haven’t flown them. With the empty cabin, the experience felt much closer to First. Outside of some frills like caviar and a larger seat, i’d expect most aspects were close. The main courses and service were certainly F quality.

Thanks for reading. More to come!

Last edited by jpetekYXMD80; Apr 13, 14 at 8:55 pm
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Old Apr 13, 14, 7:43 pm
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Some pictures from a week in Japan, venturing down to one of my favorite places- Kyoto, and flying back up from Osaka on JAL.

Living in the Midwest... as nauseating as the sight of snow is at this point, it made for a very fortunate event in Kyoto.

Delectable Matsuzaka beef


Pleasant flight on a JAL 777-200 from Itami-Haneda

Awesome observation deck at HND on a warm winter day

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Old Apr 14, 14, 6:24 am
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Shocking loads for a 77W ! Hope they can keep the second frequency alive, maybe switch it to a 787?
Great photos and would like to know about your itinerary!
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Old Apr 14, 14, 7:30 am
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great pics so far. looking forward to the rest!
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Old Apr 14, 14, 10:30 am
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Love the Shibuya shot.

The golden temple looks very pretty with a sprinkling of snow, too.
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Old Apr 14, 14, 6:56 pm
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I was on this flight as well on 14jan 14 on my way to SINDO in F - I recall how empty it was. I'm sorry we did not meet up, would have guested you in UA GFL. Great flight, only 2 in F and a great TR!

Last edited by ordogg; Apr 14, 14 at 9:11 pm
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Old Apr 15, 14, 10:48 am
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Great TR so far, enjoy the rest of your trip and looking forward to future installments
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Old Apr 15, 14, 10:53 am
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Inspirational. While Tokyo is on my immediate list, I do not know if we can do Kyoto as well.
I blame the 2 week leave policies. No time to live till too late
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Old Apr 15, 14, 2:12 pm
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Thank you all for the comments! I will work on the Austrian flights.

itinerary was:
Arrival night at NRT hotel
Shinkansen to Kyoto, 3 nights in a small guesthouse near Gion, visiting main tourist sites
2 nights at Swissotel Osaka exploring Osaka
Fly ITM-HND, 1 night Prince Shinagawa
Depart for Austria via Narita Express

Very cool! I was only a peon in the United Club though . Did you enjoy your own jetway? What did you choose for a main in F?
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Old Apr 15, 14, 4:10 pm
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For the next installment-

I imagine there will not be too many days in my life where I will awaken in Tokyo and fall asleep in Bratislava. This, however, was one of them.

Caught the 9AM Narita Express from Shinagawa to NRT. I recommend Shinagawa as pretty good location in Tokyo for easy access to popular areas as well as excellent airport links to Haneda and Narita, while being typically affordable. There was another notable snowfall during the night, so the trip out to the airport felt like a surreal winter wonderland.

I was excited to be giving Austrian a try. Previous trip reports have left good impressions and the food looked delectable. NRT is always a great place to impulse buy with the leftover yen. Who doesn’t need weird flavored Kit Kats? My bag was already stuffed full of Yatsuhashi from Kyoto. Headed over to the United Club, since it was convenient to my gate and didn’t wander all the way down to the ANA club. Food spread was good for a UC, but I didn’t want to spoil my appetite very much. The club made for some nice plane spotting, too.

Austrian 52
Tokyo NRT- Vienna VIE
D: 12:25
A: 16:15
Boeing 777-200ER

Boarding was on time. First impressions of the cabin were good. Certainly the color scheme/bulkheads can be a feast (or famine) for the eyes, but I enjoyed it. I’m one to err on the side of character to boring monotony. Load today in J was only about 50%. Y looked nearly full. Unremarkable but palatable Duval Leroy Champagne was served.

I was expecting more cramped quarters than the ANA product, and that was true. Still very nice. The PTV/seat/controls were very slick and high tech. There are also convenient seat controls while in the fully flat position. Like ANA, there were convenient storage nooks. I found the sitting position to be suitable to my tastes while dining, and there were nice lounging positions attainable. The air-adjustable firmness of the seat is a nice feature. Unfortunately, it seems the air pump needs to adjust itself every so often which can be disruptive to sleep. The foot cubby is pretty tight, but my window seat wasn’t so bad. I was able to go on my side to sleep, barely. While this seat is a very nice new product that is becoming ubiquitous, it’s least conducive to 777. The window seats in the 2-2-2 rows have pretty awful aisle access. When on the 767, every seat has easy aisle access.

Do&Co neighbor heading to IST

GE90s rocketing us off

Nice views of Northern Honshu

The “chef” springing into action. He came by to take the orders for the main. Sure it’s a little gimmicky to have a “chef”, but I can’t take anything away from the food and presentation, which was a step beyond.

Great menu here. Everything sounded delicious.

Beverage menu was mostly unremarkable, with the usual suspects. (Until the coffee menu... we’ll get there) I stuck with Riesling during the meal, which was nice.

Nice assortment of starters. Eclectic to say the least

Potato leek soup was delicious. Love soups in the air, which usually turn out.

After much deliberation, I went with the goulash. I thought it was perfectly executed. Superb comfort food in the air.

This is what the chicken looked like.

Coffee menus were distributed before dessert:

Then came the decadent dessert course with 2 headliners: apple strudel and Sacher torte, along with some high quality fruit and Beerenauslese late harvest dessert wine.

Yep. That will do..

Or the strudel...

Then we finished things off with a Fiaker

So yeah, I don’t need to tell you this meal was good.

Japan or far east of Russia, I forgot

After lunch, I was able to get a few hours of airplane sleep without being particularly tired.

IFE: The screen was very nice. The controls were good once you got used to the cursor button. Selection was about the same as ANA, decent but not great. Movie selection was broader than TV. There were a lot of old favorites such as Sound of Music (of course) and Home Alone for the holidays. I especially liked the games. There was some nice trivia and that thing where you shoot balls up to connect them to the same color and disappear. What’s that called? Kept me occupied for a few hours.

Crew: Very nice and pleasant. Red. Very red. At least 4 Japanese speakers who were very good. Quite a wide array of age and -um- looks on Austrian. Regrettably, one of them wins a particular Dundie award.

You know who you are.

Some Siberia, being chased by the sunset today

“Now THAT is going to look good on openflights”

Unfortunately the airshow always was updating itself to the shortest possible distance, which defeats the purpose of seeing the actual routing.

Snacks were laid out in the galley, but I was stuffed from the first meal.

The second meal service began a few hours out of Vienna.

This was a very nice second meal. I’m not a smoked salmon fan, but it was decent. The gnocci was great for being on a plane. Just the right amount of food.

Followed by more stylish coffee

Some cabin pics before landing. The large 777 galleys are always nice to stretch out in.

A big surprise on decent was seeing how green Austria was. This is January, mind you. Temperatures had been unseasonably warm until this point. Unfortunately, it got very cold for my visit without any pretty snow.

Welcome to VIE

We touched down around 4PM after flying 11:30. Entire flight was very smooth with almost no chop. Overall, this was a very enjoyable experience which left me very satisfied with Austrian. ^^

Last edited by jpetekYXMD80; Apr 16, 14 at 9:51 am
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Old Apr 15, 14, 5:32 pm
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From VIE, I headed for a night in Bratislava staying at the lovely Hotel Marrols. Bratislava had a lovely old town center. It made for a pleasant evening stroll with some street food. The city was kind of dead on a random Tuesday night in January, though. The seasonal cold had caught up to the region. Did not have much time to spend here. I read in some other trip report somewhere that Bratislava felt like a long way from home. I concur, for better or for worse.

Then it was on to Vienna. A very enjoyable and grand city. Saw most of the sights on foot in the center, while also visiting the Hofburg palace apartments and Austria crown jewels. There was the ice skating festival going on at the city hall. There was also a large protest of the Freedom Party ball that made for an interesting evening. Would love to visit in summer when all the parks and gardens are in full bloom. The Vienna coffee house culture was amazing, too. Where can I trade my Starbucks?

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Old Apr 15, 14, 7:25 pm
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Time to head back

Austrian Business Lounge Vienna
Ok, this sucked. The itself space was ok. Similar to a Lufthansa lounge. I overheard 2 guys traveling together.
Guy 1: What do they have to eat over there?
Guy 2: Uh.. they have bread.
And Guy 2 was very accurate. Slices of bread were literally the highlight of the food offering here. There were some crackers or pretzels. There was some sketchy looking yogurt with canned fruit bowl (I think?). That is about it. I couldn’t even find butter or jam for the bread. Basically, the spread here made the venerable United Club look like Golden Corral.

They did have a few of these sweet lounge chairs at least.

In general, this new Austrian terminal at VIE was average at best. I think they blew it with this one. Reminded me of B pier at Brussels, if anything. Decent, but hardly something to aspire too.

Gate areas were too small. They had this weird setup where J passengers could enter this roped off area in front of the podium, but boarding didn’t start for another 10 minutes. Without enough seats, I was left standing. Finally the agent announced boarding for Washington Dulles. Honest mistake, but the reaction was funny.

Austrian 65
Vienna VIE-Chicago ORD
D: 10:15
A: 14:00
Boeing 767-300ER

It was nice to settle into my seat after that livestock-esque experience. Same deal as before, except there are only single seats on the sides of the 767, meaning a bigger table, aisle access, and lots of privacy if you’re right against the window. Definitely comfortable. The 767 had a fully updated interior, and was in great condition for it’s age.

One of the few things that sucks about the 767 is how the proles lovely main cabin passengers need to file through from L1 door. Once boarding was complete, I was given some sparkling wine and could sit back and relax for the final portion of this whirlwind.

Lay of the land

Off we go, you can see the forgettable new terminal in the foreground

Lunch service began shortly after climb-out. All around the menu was a little less inspiring than OS52.

Starter plate. Bread and nuts not pictured

Tomato soup was tasty

I went with the chicken. It turned out pretty well for being fried chicken on a plane, a touch dry. The combination with rice made it a little bland. Not a bad dish by any means, but not great.

Then came dessert, where I chose the marzipan stuffed apricot and strawberry sorbet

Followed by Kaffee Baileys

Overall a nice meal, but not quite up to the standard set by my previous flight

Crew: Kind and professional. Didn’t have much of a chance to chat, but they were good.

IFE: Same selection as previous flight. I found it fitting to watch Ron Howard’s “RUSH” about Niki Lauda and James Hunt, and I found it masterfully done.

The North Atlantic was not a friendly place today. It wasn’t anything severe, but it was an hour of consistent moderate to heavy turbulence between Greenland and Canada. Mostly, it was more roll movement than i’d experienced before. I wasn’t getting nauseous or sucking on my thumb, but it was uncomfortable.

For the 2nd meal, I had the Caesar salad with shrimp, which came with a kind of tiramisu pudding.

It was tasty, but just barely satisfied me. I wasn’t all the hungry after the turbulence. I know the crew would’ve brought me more to eat, but I declined. Still, i’d like to see the 3 part 2nd meal portion used on Asia-Vienna used on Vienna-North America. The flight times are practically the same.

I commonly have this gripe about westbound transatlantic flights. Except for AA, bless them, who will gladly stuff you full of deep dish pizza no matter your class.

I think on a 9-10 hour flight, during the middle of the day, 2 legitimate meals should be expected. Especially in J. But this is a lot of moaning for me to say the salad was okay.

This was another long flight against the headwinds, clocking in at 10:30. Due to the circumstances, this one felt that long. I learned that while traveling around the world in a westerly direction makes for longer flights, it’s much easier for your body to adapt to the time changes. I’ll usually take that tradeoff.

Decent over Lake Michigan was beautiful and surreal, with most of it covered by ice. Had some great views of downtown on approach.

After 12 days and a legitimate 36 hours of time in the air, I was back in Chicago.

T5 bursting at the seams

We parked way down at M21 meaning a colossal walk to customs. Wonders never cease and there was NO ONE in the carry on only line. I was through in 3 minutes.

What have we learned?
Can winter be pretty too? I guess... Hmph.
Is it a small world or a big world? I’m not sure.
Is this a legitimate round-the-world? No, even though that was a long time in the air. This was around the Northern Hemisphere.
Would I do a round-the-world? Eh, given more time.
How good is ANA Business class? Great, all around. 5 stars. Amazing airline.
What about Austrian Business? I’d say usually a solid 4 star product. Seat more cramped. Can be rougher around the edges (particularly on the ground) I’ve heard of more inconsistencies in staff and services, though I didn’t experience them.

All in all, a truly wonderful and special experience.

Thank you for coming along for the ride. I hope you enjoyed the journey.
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Old Apr 16, 14, 8:25 am
Join Date: Oct 2011
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more excellent pictures. Thanks for the report. I love your out the window pics too!
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Old Apr 16, 14, 9:13 am
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Awsome TR, really enjoyed it.
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Old Apr 16, 14, 7:59 pm
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LOL - an escort took me and the other passenger straight from the IFL to the front jetway - I believe we were the last ones onboard. I had the Japanese menu for both meals, exotic but good. I have the menu around, will try to post a picture.

Originally Posted by jpetekYXMD80 View Post
Thank you all for the comments! I will work on the Austrian flights.

itinerary was:
Arrival night at NRT hotel
Shinkansen to Kyoto, 3 nights in a small guesthouse near Gion, visiting main tourist sites
2 nights at Swissotel Osaka exploring Osaka
Fly ITM-HND, 1 night Prince Shinagawa
Depart for Austria via Narita Express

Very cool! I was only a peon in the United Club though . Did you enjoy your own jetway? What did you choose for a main in F?
ordogg is offline  

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