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ANA and Thai First Class

ANA and Thai First Class
JFK-NRT-BKK and back to RGN
June 2013

What is it about Burma and airline currency desks? After Korean Airlines offered RGN-BKK-ICN-LAX First Class tickets for $245 last year, you'd think they'd learn. I bagged three of those but was only able to fly one, including an amazing KE A380 ICN-LAX flight. My RGN round 1 trip report including CX and KE First

Incredibly a few months later, travelocity.co.uk and NH/DL combined for an even bigger blooper... a £54.50 one way RGN-NRT-SEA Business Class fare, with the 6 hour RGN-NRT flight on NH's new all J class 73G. Despite the fact that it was only Business, Short hair Francis and jfkeze convinced me to hop on board. With other FTers joining in, we picked July 1 and pretty much bought out the entire flight that day. The screen shot of the seat map from 9 months out was pretty impressive.

Compared to the inbound that same day.

Now to position for the DO. After searching for interesting routes, I lucked out and found a First Class O seat on NH's JFK-NRT 77W, connecting to NRT-BKK in TG First, and then to RGN in TG business. At T-14, UA released DEN-LGA to complete the ticket. So for only 70,000 UA miles, I had DEN-LGA/JFK-NRT-BKK-RGN, with both long-hauls in 77W First Suites.

With Mrs. SFO only (finally) mildly complaining last night, I bid adieu at 6AM and headed out to DIA to start 3 days of my favorite hobbies... flying, eating and drinking.

-United Club West at DEN
-United 1111 DEN-LGA United First
-British Airways First Class Lounge at JFK T7
-ANA 1009 JFK-NRT First Class
-ANA First Class Lounge at NRT
-Thai 641 NRT-BKK First Class
-Thai First Class Lounge at BKK
-Thai 305 BKK-RGN Business Class
-FT RGN DO
-RGN Lounge
-ANA 914 RGN-NRT Business Class
-Lounge Hopping at NRT
-Delta 156 NRT-SEA Business Class
-Alaska Airlines Board Room at SEA
-Alaska 682 SEA-DEN First Class

Another beautiful Colorado morning with little traffic all the way. Can I drive and take pics at the same time?

Not surprisingly, I was unable to OLCI, so I headed for the counter.

The itinerary was also giving my friendly agent trouble. One look at her screen and she had that look of incredulity... "Where are you going today?" She had to enlist help from another agent to complete the check in. Apparently the LGA-JFK connection was too much for SHARES to handle.

In spite of my International itinerary, I got the magic three beeps at PreCheck. Not quite as stream-lined today, as a couple of rookies in front felt the need to disrobe, ignoring my "you know you don't need to take off anything in this line" comment. Whatever.

Lots of time this morning for pics of what really is a very attractive airport and one I've grown to like, in spite of being located half way to Nebraska.

The DEN West United Club was recently refurbished and, although still a United Club, is much improved over the tattered dregs of a few months ago.

With some great views for airport junkies...

Sorry AA, I'm cheating on you today.

Pretty sorry looking food selection. Miss those chocolate covered pretzels.

I settled in to check emails and was glad that I hadn't checked this 3 hour delay email follow by "never mind" sequence before.

6:43A: Your flight has been delayed 2 hours 40 minutes.

6:51A: Never mind

At T-50, I headed out to B22 and my marathon "trip to nowhere" as Mrs. SFO calls my MRs.

Yes, UA 1111 is flying DEN-LGA today...

And then to ORD...

And finally to SEA which has to fall under the TMI category 'cause no one is MRing to SEA on a thru flight for only 1,000 miles...

DEN-LGA
United 1111
737-800
DirecTV
8:20A-2:15P (sked)
11:00A-4:35P (delay)
8:20A-2:15P (reschedule)
8:20A-1:55P (actual)
June 29, 2013
Seat 2A
Breakfast

Even though I'm a UA kettle, I've flown a lot of UA lately, mostly shorter DEN-SFO/LAX. While the crews have been great, catering has been horrid. Good Bloody Mary to start the day.

Hot towel to start.

And about five time larger than the pathetic hot towel the BA hands out to TATL F pax.

The eggs, sausage, cheese and broccoli strata was a lot better than the gross Jeff McMuffin served on DEN-SFO/LAX. And the always tasty warm cinnamon bun.

DirecTV is always nice but I had to settle for B&W retro version of Wimbledon today.

 some gratuitous NY/LGA pics on a circuitous approach.

We arrived 20 minutes early at the dump that is also known as LGA.

Ten minutes in the taxi queue, then 25 minutes and $40 later I was at T7 at JFK.

Up next: My first ANA flight.

Arrived at T7 at 2:50P, just over three hours before our scheduled departure.

Good timing as the counter opened for check-in just as I arrived. With only 2 pax in F today, there was no one the First Class line.

Not much action in the premium security line as I was thru that and in the lounge by 3PM.

ANA uses the BA lounges at JFK. Been there, done that. Not a great lounge with limited food options and furniture that reminds me of grandma. But it was empty when I arrived and found a table to set up shop and do some work, edit pics and start the TR.

At T-50, I headed out to the concourse to explore and head over to Gate 5.
Dated terminal makes it pretty cramped in most areas.

ANA 1009
JFK-NRT
777-300
6:05P-9:00P+1
June 29, 2013
Seat 2K

Semi cattle call boarding call with some pre-boards and then First, Business and NH/*A elites.

When the FA greeting pax saw my F BP, she walked me over to another FA who escorted me 20 feet and handed me off to one of the First Class FAs who escorted me to 2K. EF showed F6 and sure enough, there was one other pax in the cabin today. As he was in 1A, it indeed seemed like a charter.

Very soothing and attractive cabin, but not sure about the suites. The wall blocking one window takes getting used to. Tough to see out without leaning forward. But once in the air, you can't see anything anyway and the wall does provide deflected lighting and eliminate the harshness of direct suniight.

The seat itself is quite comfortable, even after 12 hours... much softer and more comfy than the LX seat, which is downright uncomfortable by comparison.

Time to settle in and explore my home for the next 13 1/2 hours. But first a glass of champagne.
The glass had been poured but I'm going to say that it was indeed Krug.

The Rimowa amenity kit features a lot of useless (to a guy or at least this guy) stuff...

The lack of a direct window view in a window seat takes getting used to. At times, the walls on both sides make it feel a little claustrophobic. There are lots of little storage compartments, although a few in the strange category. On the other hand, there is a nice tray storage cabinet under the foot rest and TV. The position of the power outlet is inconvenient and annoyingly right by your elbow. The two side suite lights are very bright, don't dim and are strictly on or off. They are so harsh and so wide angled that I couldn't use them. And the single overhead "reading" light is not strong enough for much of anything, plus shines on your head and not the work space unless your seat is in the upright takeoff/landing position. IMO, not in the same league as Cathay, Korean or Lufthansa New First.

The suite comes with a very comfy pillow and beautiful blanket, PJs, slippers and a sweater!

The tray table is solid and slides nicely in and out at perfect dining and work level.

Despite an almost on time push back, lots of taxi and wait time is normal at this time of day at JFK as we joined the conga line.

Right behind new and gorgeous AA 77W. Unfortunately, that would be the one which apparently offers Russian roulette "will I really keep my F seat" to anyone on a mileage award seat.

Unlike US airlines, the captain turned the seat belt sign off within 3 minutes of wheels up.


 

Shortly after take-off, our wonderful crew began an amazing dinner for just the two of us on tonight's flight.
With the first order of business, closing the curtain and keeping those annoying J pax out. LOL.

Hot scented towel.

Followed by an impressive bound menu.

And my usual G&T (Bombay Sapphire) and a delicious amuse bouche.

I inquired on my FA about the different kinds of sake. She explained a few and suggested a taste test. Great idea.

Now well lubricated with a G&T and double sakes, it was time to get serious about dinner. The menu was a little confusing as I wasn't aware that the first half is NRT-JFK and second half a totally different JFK-NRT menu. Then again, it might have been the alcohol as the menu had small tabs. I enjoy Japanese food and indeed one of our favorite Denver restaurants is wonderful Izakaya Den (with a Zagat 27 rating). But I'm not very adventurous. And definitely draw the line at eating something that looks back at me.  I was actually relieved when my FA directed me to the correct pages as I was really having trouble thinking about salt cured fish entrails, sea urchin, big fin reef squid and simmered eggplant which were thankfully on the NRT-JFK menu.

Duh...

Tonight's JFK-NRT menu...

And the most important part of any meal..

I opted for the multi-course Kaiseki menu, most of which was truly delicious.
But first, the caviar of course.

Elegant place setting...

And the next glass of my own entire bottle of Krug.

Showtime...

Sakizuke:
Boiled bok choy and grilled scallop in seafood broth

Zensai:
Grilled squid with egg yolk
Simmered ivory shell in soy-based sauce
Northern shrimp dressed with smelt roe
Smoked duck
Fishcake with sweet corn
Asparagus and bacon roll
Pickled red turnip

Nimonowan:
Ice fish wrapped in bean curd crepe
Japanese white wheat vermicelli

Otsukuri:
Quick-seared tilapia
Quick-poached jumbo shrimp

A little more Krug and sake...

As if I hadn't had enough...

Kobachi:
Deep-fried shrimp fishcake with grated daikon radish

Sunomomo
Quick-seared beef with sesame and ponzu citron soy sauce

Shushai
Steamed flounder stuffed with savory egg and vegetable patty in rich seafood broth

Onboard-steamed rice (Toyoma Yumegokochi), miso soup and assorted Japanese pickles

For dessert:
Warm chocolate mochi cake with ice cream and green tea sauce.

A selection of fresh seasonal fruit...

And green tea and bon-bons...

OMG. I think I'll survive for a while. 
Now back to the movie. IFE is passable but with a limited selection of Western movies.

Better than the LH selections but nowhere near the amazing CX, SQ or EK IFE options, or even LX.
Watched Parker, action packed movie with Jason Statham and Jennifer Lopez.

Our FA had earlier prepared my bed across the aisle in 2G, so I changed into my PJs and dozed off. Nothing beats the LH 744 bed but it was still reasonably comfortable and I slept for about 4 hours.

With a little over 4 hours to go, back over to 2K and editing pics... from 375 down to 120 or so. 

Our wonderful FA continued to check in periodically for water refills and nibbles.

With a beautiful sunset in the west.

At about T-90, I decided to have the Petite Japanese Snack.

Including the most amazingly fresh and moist Grilled Chilean sea bass with citron soy sauce...

And a few dishes that were not quite as yummy.

We touched down 30 minutes early and parked at the gate 51 a few minutes later. What a wonderful inflight experience. Flawless service, gracious and attentive without being overbearing. And good enough overcome most hard product issues. I would definitely fly ANA again. On the other hand, ANA's ground support for First Class pax is pretty much non-existent. Although we deplaned first with out FA's holding other pax until the two F pax deplaned, we were on our own once we left the airplane. No priority lanes. No priority anything. Although it wasn't that big a deal tonight as with only a handful of pax in line tonight, customs was easy and I was in the arrivals area 10 minutes after deplaning.

 

The bus shuttle area is reasonably well marked and it only took another 10 minutes for the Hotel Nikko bus to arrive for the 5 minute drive to the hotel. Daytime pic from this morning.

Since Mrs. SFO was not with me, I relied on tripadvisor for a recommendation and bagged a $65 room at the Nikko. Slightly larger than a closet but clean and very comfortable with fast, free Wifi.

Since I had slept on the JFK-NRT flight, I was up early and decided to head to the airport and a lounge or two.

But without a boarding pass, I didn't realize that the Thai counter would not be manned (by ANA staff) until two and a half hours before departures. So I found a quiet area on the upper floor to download and edit more pics.

Just before the TG counter opened, I stopped at the NH counter to get my RGN-NRT boarding pass for tonight's flight. Ten minutes and three agents later, someone finally figured out how to print my BP even though I had been auto checked in by ANA.com.

More fun and games at the TG counter as none of the contract NH staff had never heard of Myanmar Visa on Arrival, and insisted that I needed a photo visa for Myanmar. Made me sign an indemnity waiver agreeing to be on my own if I was denied entry. Once that was done, as a First Class pax, I was personally escorted from the check-in counter to the front of security, and was through in no time.

First stop was the far away ANA First Class Lounge, located at the extreme end of the concourse near gates 45+. Nothing special, more like a nice Business Class Lounge.

Rather un-First Class food offerings...

But nice views...

 

After twenty minutes, I decided to head back to check out the United Club, conveniently located right beside my TG gate 31, where the 773 was already in and showing an on time departure.

But the shocker of the day was the United Club which I had heard was nice.

But one level on the 4th floor is the huge Global First Lounge. Wow, this is a beautiful facility. This is actually United??

Although the were enough littles touches to remind me that it is still United.

NRT-BKK
Thai Airways 641
777-300 (Jet Airways lease)
11:30A-3:40P
July 1, 2013
Suite 2A

The good TG First experience continued as the same agent that escorted me from checkin to security was at the gate, came over to me at the gate and personally escorted me to the front of the priority line. And no lumping First and Business pax together on Thai.

I was the first one down the jet bridge to board and yes, First has its own door, so no mingling with Business and Economy using 2L and no traffic thru the F cabin. Warm greeting on board from our purser and both FAs in the F cabin, as we exchanged the traditional Thai wai greeting.

This 777-300 is one of a number that Thai leases from Jet Airways. While the first impression is positive, this old bird shows signs of age.

And the best amenity kit I've seen in quite a while. Way better than ANA and LH.

Pre departure glass of Dom in one of the nicest champagne glasses in the air.

Jet's choice of some of the trim and suite features have made it a lot more difficult to maintain a fresh youthful experience.

And, unfortunately, a lot of the suite areas suffered from a lack of attention to basic cleaning 101.
Finger and grease stains on the A/V controller were gross.

Some of the other push buttons were sticky with an obvious layer of some old food substance. I used my hot towel to clean the bulk of the worst. Mrs. SFO would not have been impressed.

An on time push and time to get the show on the road.

Lunch-time. Nice hard bound menu.

And a very nice wine list with all French wines.

To start, Japanese Yakatori on Skewer and Scallop with Shishito Pepper were excellent.
Would have been even better if they server my G&T with it instead of a few minutes after.

The Salmon Terrine was excellent.

But the Lentil and Sausage Cream soup was out of this world.

TG offers a "book the cook" type service and I had pre-ordered the Lobster Thermidor online months ago. It was fabulous.

OMG, cheese and fruit and port of course.

And finally an incredible Nougat Bavaroise.

IFE is adequate not great, kind of like NH. Just wished I didn't have to touch the control unit. Yikes.

And lights out with a cool starry night effect...

We arrived at BKK about 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Nice plane gazing on the taxi.

Waiting for all F pax with our names on a sign, the Thai First Class meet, greet and drive service. Our lovely TG escort. She how lovely the back of her head looks.

She escorted me up the transit escalator thru security and handed me off to First Class Lounge staff. Much like staff at a fine hotel, multiple staff welcome me in and escorted me to my own private lounge suite, delivering towel and drink, offering food, drink and spa services. Just like at the Admirals Club. LOL.

My private suite for the next two hours...

Time to explore the rest of the lounge...

A nice selection of self serve food options.

Dining room area. Not sure if they serve off a menu during meal times.

Checking on the lavs, showers and sleep rooms.

Nice showers

And a number of sleep rooms.