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Brief Report: ANA in F "The Suite" during Covid

Brief Report: ANA in F "The Suite" during Covid

Old Sep 16, 20, 12:05 am
  #1  
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Join Date: Sep 2007
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Brief Report: ANA in F "The Suite" during Covid

Howdy all,

There have been a few threads inquiring about how F has changed during Covid so I thought I would throw together a brief TR. I was originally booked months ago AUS-IAH-HND however as the summer unfolded, I felt it was safer to adjust to AUS-ORD-NRT as ANA's adjusted schedule had LAX and ORD routings showing daily with other cities being reduced to a few times a week. As the trip approached, I noticed that JFK-NRT had availability and was showing a renovated craft with The Suite so I changed once again to an odd routing of AUS-EWR-JFK-NRT. The first leg was uneventful but it was interesting that the flight was nearly full - I was one of a few people on the plane without someone sitting next to me (this was a mixed itinerary United First Saver award) - and Newark was a bit of a zoo. People are definitely travelling once again!

To back up momentarily as travelling to Japan right now is not really possible as a tourist, the rest of my family are Japanese citizens and in Japan for the fall (at least) so I was able to work out a visitor's visa to join them. A negative covid test is required to board - the embassy had their own form they wanted filled out and signed by the doctor - but it no longer has to be a PCR test, which is good because GOOD LUCK getting one of those plus results within the 72-hour-prior-to-flight window. I was able to get a rapid antigen test 24 hours before my first flight with results in 20 minutes.

After a 16 hour layover in Manhattan stuffing my face full of all my old favorites, I woke up in the morning and made my way to JFK for the main event. There was hardly anyone in the terminal except for my fellow NH 9 pax - all told there were maybe 40 of us.


Check-in consisted mainly of some expected confusion regarding my eligibility to fly. Airlines are understandably keen to avoid anyone being turned away for entry AFTER arrival. A little explaining and one phone call later everyone was satisfied I could go. They let me know I would have the F cabin to myself, and made a point of offering me the option to switch from 2K to 1A, which I declined. Oddly they required me to check my guitar citing a vague "safety issue" - never encountered that before on ANA or any other airline. They busted out the giant bubble wrap and a few minutes later it was wrapped and checked.




TSA Pre security was a breeze, especially now without my guitar. ANA oddly uses the BA lounges at Terminal 7, which are both closed during Covid, so we all milled around the gate for about 40 minutes at which point they started preboarding.



Boarding has been altered for Covid, with Business and First in Group 4 (boarding with a single jetway from the back of the plane forward). I entered and crossed the plane, turned left through the biz mini-cabin into F, turning back to snap a quick photo of "The Room" along the way:



The Room and Suite hard products have been reviewed ad nauseum elsewhere, but TBH I don't feel like photos really do them justice (especially my crappy ones). Everything looks and feels MUCH larger and more spacious in person. The finishes and color scheme are perfectly elegant and muted - a huge improvement over the previous product. As others have pointed out, it's nice to not feel so boxed in (and you have the suite doors if you like the cocoon feeling/extra privacy) and to have three full windows.





Mihoko introduced herself right away and made sure I had everything I needed, including tolerating my mediocre Japanese. She immediately offered me champagne, which I declined (not really a fan) for some OJ instead, knowing how much whiskey lay ahead once we were airborne. She then offered me a choice of baby blue or brown Globetrotter amenity kits - I let her know that I thought my wife would appreciate the baby blue so that's what I would go with. She returned a minute later (perhaps checking with the boss?) to generously let me know that it was a "special day" and that I should keep both kits for my wife and myself. Inside were some standard ANA amenities as well as a "The Ginza" cosmetic pack. She also provided some extra amenity choices from a basket and gave me a Wifi voucher good for one device for the entire flight.





Rounding out the goodies in the suite was a Sony headphone set I returned in favor of using my own, and a set of loungewear Mihoko quickly went to exchange for size LL. I let her know I was unlikely to use it as the fit is usually not good for someone fairly tall and thin. I will say that other than the check-in and in-flight staff all wearing masks (and the lounge closure), nothing about the experience thus far felt super "covid-y" - especially for a Japanese airline and passengers where seeing masks is not at all uncommon thanks to a culture that actually cares about and respects others.




I then (as nicely as I could) broached the subject of temperature. Mihoko said it's normally set at 23 degrees (not bad at all compared to the sauna that you sometimes experience on asian carriers!) but that she would be happy to lower it to 22 or even 21 for sleeping if I preferred. Score! (this is another reason I was unlikely to use the loungewear and definitely not the cardigan) Maybe they figured with so few pax they had tons of blankets to pass around if needed :-)

One safety video and super-short takeoff roll later we were underway ahead of schedule (which was good because there were very unfavorable headwinds that led to a loooong flight).




Shortly thereafter Mihoko started preparing for meal service, including the afore-hinted-at Hibiki 21, w00t! Available drinks did not look any different than I recall from my one other ANA F experience (I did not take photos of the wine pages):







Hibiki 21

As usual I went with the Japanese meal, which did not disappoint.





I tore halfway through the sashimi course before remembering to take a photo (oops)


I asked to switch out the jelly dessert for the berry/apple crumble tart from the western menu.


Mihoko and her colleague kindly offered to make a bed up in suite 2G across the way. I clipped a usb-powered fan onto the divider which wasn't strictly necessary since the cabin temp was plenty low, but it was nice to have some gentle airflow on my face since I was going to (attempt to) sleep in a mask. I never can sleep on planes, and this was no exception, although I was able to get some decent rest.





After resting I ordered the angus cheeseburger (and a 5th Hibiki 21) which was pretty tasty. Later on I orderd the udon and just the curry from the curry rice. Drank the broth and then combined the dishes for some curry udon. Not bad. Finally had a fruit plate prior to prep for landing.

Tech notes: I brought my hdmi adapter for my laptop but stupidly left my actual hdmi cable in checked luggage so I was not able to test if the laptop could drive the screen at [email protected] Hopefully I'll get another opportunity some day! As for wifi, it was decent all things considered (it does cut out for a good while as you near the arctic) however it appears that the Microsoft connectivity tester website that Windows 10 uses gets pushed to the ANA captive portal even when fully connected - leading the OS to believe that there is "no internet" and thus preventing a number of applications from working. Web browsers work fine. This also prevents Windows 10 from enabling hotspot mode so that the connection could be shared to other devices. The internet on my laptop never did recover after we left the arctic for some strange reason, but Mihoko happily provided me with another voucher so I could connect my phone and retrieve an address I needed for the customs and Covid quarantine forms.

The first four hours were smooth, the middle four hours a bit bumpy, and then things smoothed out again until an uneventful landing. Upon landing, they asked everyone to remain seated so that the (7 or 8) pax that were continuing on to other destinations (they were all China-bound based on the passports) could deplane (through a single jetway again, this time at the very front of the plane).

Next they deplaned me, then biz, then economy. They had us all way (socially distanced) at the end of the jetway and then a staffer led us to the first of a sequence of makeshift "reception" desks that had been set up to process everyone. They checked our pre-flight Covid tests, then let us move on through a series of long moving walkways to where they were passing out self-administered saliva-based tests. I gave my specimen to the staff and moved on to the next area where they again checked through all our paperwork, applied a specimen number to the forms, and then issued a plastic placard that corresponded to spaced-out seat numbers that had been taped to chairs throughout the gate area. They asked us to sit in our matching seat and wait for our number to be called. This took not quite an hour or so. They confirmed I was negative and then directed me to the next hallway which led up an escalator to immigration. Normally the Fast Lane pass that Mihoko gave me would be very worthwhile here, but there was no line to speak of. I waiting about 45 seconds for an available immigrations attendant who looked over my visa and other documents, took my fingerprints and photo, and then escorted me to a woman in the side office who looked over everything yet again (my visa situation is uncommon, so I wasn't super surprised by all this) and even asked to inspect our koseki tohon (which luckily I had on my phone - I didn't bring a paper copy). After another 15 minutes or so she approved me and sent me down to baggage, where my bags and guitar were waiting. A helpful staffer grabbed some scissors to help me cut of the 5 layers of bubblewrap and I headed out to meet my father in law. Whew!

As I mentioned before, other than some expected and unsurprising changes prior to and following the flight, the experience did not feel super covid-affected - at least not in-flight. Fantastic service, food and of course hard product! Will report on my return in JAL F later this fall (assuming the flight happens - I've already had KE 747-8 F and another JAL F flight cancelled so far!).
pesos is offline  
Old Sep 16, 20, 2:04 am
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Join Date: Oct 2010
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Thanks for sharing your experience.
If you don't mind me asking how strict was the mask policy on board during meals or when having a drink? Can you keep it off during a single course, or do they expect you to put it on after every bite and chew with the mask on? It's an odd question, but I'm curious after a not so pleasant experience I had on a train last week.
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Old Sep 16, 20, 2:20 am
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Originally Posted by CosmicGirl View Post
Thanks for sharing your experience.
If you don't mind me asking how strict was the mask policy on board during meals or when having a drink? Can you keep it off during a single course, or do they expect you to put it on after every bite and chew with the mask on? It's an odd question, but I'm curious after a not so pleasant experience I had on a train last week.
Itís hard to speculate about what the flight would have been like if others had been in F. I canít point to anything that makes me think it was necessarily more lax, but I could imagine that playing a part. That said I had a mask on for takeoff (after I finished my OJ) up until my whiskey arrived. I took it off then and throughout the entire meal, which was a considerable amount of time. I also kept it off while drinking water, which I drank a lot of. Otherwise I put it on or pulled up the baklava/gaiter style mask that I wore while trying to sleep. I didnít want to make the wonderful staff uncomfortable or put them in a difficult position. We still had plenty of conversations with my mask off as I was mid-meal(s). Of course in some ways I may have been seen as less of a concern even than the Japanese nationals making up most of the pax - as a non-citizen I had had to get a negative test within 72 hours of my flight (and the FA and I had discussed this explicitly while chatting).

On my domestic United leg I took my mask off to eat the provided snacks and the sandwich I had brought on board. Put it back on once I was all done. Wasnít bothered by anyone for the 15 minutes or so I had it off.
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Old Sep 16, 20, 2:30 am
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Originally Posted by pesos View Post
Itís hard to speculate about what the flight would have been like if others had been in F. I canít point to anything that makes me think it was necessarily more lax, but I could imagine that playing a part. That said I had a mask on for takeoff (after I finished my OJ) up until my whiskey arrived. I took it off then and throughout the entire meal, which was a considerable amount of time. I also kept it off while drinking water, which I drank a lot of. Otherwise I put it on or pulled up the baklava/gaiter style mask that I wore while trying to sleep. I didnít want to make the wonderful staff uncomfortable or put them in a difficult position. We still had plenty of conversations with my mask off as I was mid-meal(s). Of course in some ways I may have been seen as less of a concern even than the Japanese nationals making up most of the pax - as a non-citizen I had had to get a negative test within 72 hours of my flight (and the FA and I had discussed this explicitly while chatting).

On my domestic United leg I took my mask off to eat the provided snacks and the sandwich I had brought on board. Put it back on once I was all done. Wasnít bothered by anyone for the 15 minutes or so I had it off.
Thanks! That sounds a lot better than getting yelled at for having a piece of chocolate in my mouth without my mask on when the next person was at least 10 rows away...
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Old Sep 16, 20, 6:44 am
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Thanks for sharing. I'm scheduled for an ANA flight in March from IAH in F. ANA is restarting the Houston route next month, but if the announced schedule doesn't change my flight is not happening. I've contemplated trying to change routing to do JFK-HND, but Japan is just a stopover for me. Ultimate destination is New Zealand. Right now we know that isn't happening, and who knows if New Zealand's border will even be open by then. I'm not liking my chances at the moment.

Anyone knows what happens if my date from Houston isn't back on the schedule by March? Would they reroute me from Houston to another gateway city to make my F flight? This is an award ANA award flight.I also have a JAL F flight (if there isn't a plane swap) from HND to SYD the next day.
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Old Sep 16, 20, 6:48 am
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Great tr! Nice photos. Have a great visit :-)
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Old Sep 16, 20, 7:28 am
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Originally Posted by diverg View Post
Thanks for sharing. I'm scheduled for an ANA flight in March from IAH in F. ANA is restarting the Houston route next month, but if the announced schedule doesn't change my flight is not happening. I've contemplated trying to change routing to do JFK-HND, but Japan is just a stopover for me. Ultimate destination is New Zealand. Right now we know that isn't happening, and who knows if New Zealand's border will even be open by then. I'm not liking my chances at the moment.

Anyone knows what happens if my date from Houston isn't back on the schedule by March? Would they reroute me from Houston to another gateway city to make my F flight? This is an award ANA award flight.I also have a JAL F flight (if there isn't a plane swap) from HND to SYD the next day.
If they're flying to/from Houston on another day that week they might rebook you onto that flight. I was booked onto JFK-HND/NRT-JFK in May when they were only flying to JFK from NRT a few days a week. Both flights were cancelled. When looking at MMB on the ANA website I noticed that they had dropped the outbound but rebooked the inbound NRT-JFK a day earlier than the original inbound. Note that this was a VS award ticket, so ANA only saved me a seat on the flight but I didn't have the ticket reissued with the change (obviously, without an outbound). The seat map on the rebooked flight was full in F so they must have consolidated F pax onto the remaining flights that week.
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Old Sep 16, 20, 7:34 am
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Originally Posted by CosmicGirl View Post
If they're flying to/from Houston on another day that week they might rebook you onto that flight. I was booked onto JFK-HND/NRT-JFK in May when they were only flying to JFK from NRT a few days a week. Both flights were cancelled. When looking at MMB on the ANA website I noticed that they had dropped the outbound but rebooked the inbound NRT-JFK a day earlier than the original inbound. Note that this was a VS award ticket, so ANA only saved me a seat on the flight but I didn't have the ticket reissued with the change (obviously, without an outbound). The seat map on the rebooked flight was full in F so they must have consolidated F pax onto the remaining flights that week.
Just using the current announced schedule starting in October,t he flight schedule is Sunday, Thursday and Friday. If it stays that way those dates don't really work for me. The only one that I could make work would be the Sunday flight. I would rather reposition if it can be done, and leave on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Oh well it another few months of wait and see for me.
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Old Sep 16, 20, 8:39 am
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Thanks for your report and... boy does it make me want to fly to Japan!

My first intercontinental trip has been on JAL and I've remained loyal to them throughout, although I can't say I fly to Japan frequently (3 times in a decade). However, the look, feel and decor of ANA are seriously tempting, even though it's highly unlikely I'll ever be able to check them out in the pointy end.

Oh, and thanks for the safety video photo. I went on Youtube to see it and it's great!
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Old Sep 16, 20, 5:53 pm
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Great report!
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Old Sep 17, 20, 12:25 am
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Whoever is responsible for catering at BA needs to see this thread!
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Old Sep 17, 20, 8:11 am
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Originally Posted by daniellam View Post
Whoever is responsible for catering at BA needs to see this thread!
Itīs all for security reasons, BA is caring about us
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Old Sep 17, 20, 7:25 pm
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Originally Posted by offerendum View Post
Itīs all for security reasons, BA is caring about us
Oh sure, BA sure cares about its passengers, you know, only when it's convenient
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Old Sep 17, 20, 11:54 pm
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Originally Posted by offerendum View Post
Itīs all for security reasons, BA is caring about us
When writing in to BA to complain about their catering in F, be sure to include a link to this thread!
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Old Sep 18, 20, 5:17 am
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Originally Posted by daniellam View Post
When writing in to BA to complain about their catering in F, be sure to include a link to this thread!
So far I was lucky enough to avoid flying with them in "new times"
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