All Nippon Airways Flight Review: Manila to Tokyo (Round-Trip)

This was my second opportunity to fly with All Nippon Airways (ANA) after flying with them aboard a domestic flight in Japan last year.  As I was impressed with the service on that relatively short flight, I looked forward to my first international flight with the airline.

Copyright Photo: Angelo Agcamaran/PPSG
I was scheduled to travel from Manila to Tokyo Narita on board ANA’s Boeing 767 aircraft. On this particular flight, I was seated in Business Class. ANA's Boeing 767 Business Class cabin is configured in a 2-1-2 configuration. I was assigned to one of the center seats.  The Boeing 767 is a rather uncomfortable aircraft as its cabin is not as wide as the Boeing 777 or Boeing 787. The overall feeling of the 767 cabin is somewhat cramped.  That feeling was amplified by the presence of about six overweight people in the cabin on this particular flight.

Copyright Photo: Tamarind Walk/PFN
The flight departed from Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s Terminal 3, which while more convenient and less crowded compared to the other terminals in Manila, is still rather disappointing.  The air conditioning was “under repair,” creating a warm atmosphere in the building.  Security appeared to not know what it was doing and caused unnecessary delays. In general, the terminal appeared shabby and in need of a good cleaning – particularly the windows which were dirty!  Sadly, there was no business class lounge available for ANA in this rather sad and dim terminal. (What’s wrong with the lights???)  

As in the other Manila terminals, there appears to be people hanging around serving no purpose but to stare and talk to one another, contrary to airports in other countries which are quiet, clean and uncluttered. As usual in Manila, there are too many check points that impede passenger flow.

Like most departures from Manila, relief from the confusion and hassle inside the terminal building was obtained once I was on board the aircraft, which was cool, quiet, and uncluttered.  ANA maintains its aircraft in pristine condition and even though this 767 was an older member of its fleet, it was spotless and so was the service.  

My seat was relatively comfortable. Being alone in a center seat made the trip peaceful with no one climbing over me, while eliminating the need to climb over someone to get to the restroom.  The in-flight entertainment (IFE) was good and very well maintained with a top notch selection of movies.  Food service was handled very well and the crew were efficient and prompt to respond to requests.  Food quality was first rate.  I cannot compliment ANA enough on its overall service.

Sadly, arrival at Tokyo Narita was a letdown as no gate was available, meaning that we had to be bussed into a very busy terminal in the rain.

Copyright Photo: Tamarind Walk/PFN
My return flight was one that I had been anticipating for quite some time. It was my first ride on Boeing’s new Dreamliner aircraft, the 787.  I took this flight from Tokyo Haneda to Manila.  Haneda is a superb terminal with clean and efficient facilities, combined with good food outlets. The entire airport is very easy to navigate – a benchmark for others!  

Copyright Photo: Tamarind Walk/PFN
The fact that Haneda provides free shuttle bus service between its three terminals is a big bonus – something other airports would do well to copy!  Boarding the 787 was prompt, efficient, and easy.  As a frequent flier and a pilot, I was excited for this journey and my excitement was well-rewarded.

Copyright Photo: Tamarind Walk/PFN
The 787 is truly a passenger’s plane.  Business Class seating on ANA’s version is in a 2-2-2 configuration, which is similar to some of the Business Class cabins aboard Boeing 777 aircraft and A330/A340 aircraft. Overall, it was very comfortable.  The plane is a true wide-body and the improvements in passenger comfort are readily visible upon entering. The seats recline well and the view from the larger windows, which are approximately 30% bigger than on other aircraft, is noticeable right away.  The cabin gives the feeling of spaciousness like the Boeing 777, A330, and A340 aircraft. However, it definitely feels larger than its Airbus rivals.

Copyright Photo: Tamarind Walk/PFN
The windows offer a new innovation in that they are self-shading.  On the 787, gone are the days of the need to pull down shades.  The shading is accomplished by gradual darkening of the windowpane itself to one’s liking, much like glasses that darken in the sun light.  However, the darkening is accomplished by a gradual introduction of a blue color that darkens progressively by a control switch at the passenger’s side.  The blue impact on the colors outside the plane provides an “other world” effect,  but it does the job.  When the windows are on full dark mode, they appear as black areas on the plane’s wall.

Copyright Photo: Tamarind Walk/PFN
The bathroom on the plane (at least on ANA’s version) is a hands off bathroom.  One does not have to touch controls to activate the water, the flushing, or closing the toilet cover.  All is done by photo sensors automatically. It’s a bit of a surprise the first time!  The door to the toilet is also a sliding door, thus saving room and space.

Copyright Photo: Tamarind Walk/PFN
The plane flies like any other passenger aircraft, in spite of it being made of composite materials rather than metal.  If you're a first time passenger, looking out the window and seeing the wing flex is amazing. Boeing advises that the aircraft has greater pressurization and that cabin altitude is maintained at 6,000 feet rather than 8,000 feet on other aircraft.  This plus the maintenance of greater humidity and better air filtration seems to yield a better flight.  I felt as if I was bouncing off the plane and rather than just arriving, I felt better after the experience.

Copyright Photo: Tamarind Walk/PFN
As usual, ANA’s service on the flight was first rate. The 787's IFE was a big improvement over their 767 aircraft as it offers a bigger selection of media in more languages and a larger screen in the individual seat units.  Definitely, the IFE helps the flight to move faster and keeps the passenger entertained.  For those airlines without it, sorry, I am not your passenger!  The meal service was also very good, offering both Japanese and European dishes and the food, having been prepared in Japan, was very good.  The flight crew was very attentive and able to make the passenger relax.

Copyright Photo: Tamarind Walk/PFN
Arrival was smooth but again, Terminal 3 was disappointing and looking like it needed a clean up and paint job. It is hard to imagine that almost $1 billion went into building it!  The jetway was shabby and in need of air conditioning. The automatic walkway was broken down and the terminal was still warm – apparently air conditioning problems plague more than one terminal in Manila.  Immigration was slow.  The good thing is that baggage was delivered promptly and now that customs is no longer the hassle that it used to be, getting out of the terminal was accomplished quickly, albeit one still had to skirt the usual loiterers that somehow manage to worm their way into the terminals and appear to do nothing.

Copyright Photo: Diego Roxas/PPSG

Overall, hats off to ANA for excellent service and to Boeing for the 787.  It is definitely an improvement over the 767 and more spacious and comfortable than the A330.   I’m trying to find another trip on one as quickly as possible!

-Tamarind Walk

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