I have never flown on ANA before and grabbed the opportunity to try it out using my Virgin miles to fly First Class to Tokyo. It had been booked prior to the recent First And Business Class upgrades on the London route, so I was even more excited about trying it out now!
I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 2 about 4 hours prior to departure and was expecting to waste an hour or so in the Plaza Premium Landside Lounge. However, when I arrived I was pleasantly surprised to see that one check-in agent was manning a bag drop off counter at area D1. So I grabbed the opportunity to dump my luggage and headed through fast track security to Terminal 2 airside.
I had never been through this terminal and to be honest, was slightly underwhelmed by it. Someone really needs to take a duster to Richard Wilson’s “Slipstream” sculpture! The terminal feels very small in relation to T3 or 5. Having said that it is a smart-looking space.
I had read that there was a very long walk to the satellite B gates but all in all it only took about 8 minutes though you have to negotiate a myriad of escalators either end. I had the choice of the Air Canada Maple Leaf Lounge, the United Airlines Lounge or the Singapore First Class or Business Class SilverKris Lounges, given that all are members of the Star Alliance. You won’t be shocked at which one I chose to visit first!
The Singapore First Class Lounge was really elegant.
I was the only passenger in it for about 90 minutes. The staff were all very charming. I was presented with a hot towel and menu before I sat down and I decided to have a few glasses of Laurent Perrier (whilst trying to save myself for the Krug on board) and a snack.
The menu has a decent choice of items and I enjoyed a sushi platter and a perfect sized portion of beef rendang. Delicious! The TV was on full volume so I asked for that to be turned down which it was. There was also a cocktail menu.
The lounge also has a very decent array of snacks and drinks on offer. The view was a bit grim (overlooking a building site on the apron) and as a result, the windows were not the cleanest but it was a very relaxing place to spend a few hours.
There was a mix of seating, including some smart pods and I spent an hour on one of the reclining chairs located in semi-private cubicles (where I may or may not have enjoyed a Singapore Sling or two and some dim sum!). A soft blanket was provided. The staff were very proactive. I did have a look at the showers which were spacious and well kept.
I left about 60 minutes prior to boarding as I wanted to see the Singapore Business Lounge and the United Lounge. I think it I had to choose I would say the United Lounge is superior to the Singapore Lounge. I’d recommend this lounge even over the Lufthansa Business Lounge in the main terminal (definitely worth the descent into the bowels of Heathrow and the walk over and back).
Boarding was possibly the most efficient I have ever encountered. At precisely 30 minutes prior to departure the gate agents all bowed in unison and the Group 1 were allowed to board! There were 3 people in this queue but I noticed how efficiently the agents corralled the other groups into orderly lines prior to this.
First Class had its own door to the aircraft. I was greeted enthusiastically by the smiling Cabin Manager and ushered into a very elegant (though shrouded in blue mood lighting) cabin. My first impressions were how lovely and refined the space felt. My coat was hung up and the other crew member introduced themselves to me. The cabin didn’t blow my mind like the Emirates New First Class Suites, but nevertheless I knew this was a very classy affair.
Seat and Cabin
The 8 seats in first are laid out in 1-2-1 configuration. In the middle seats, the divider can be lowered to make a double suite.
The first thing that grabs you is the massive 43” TV monitor in 4K definition. It is the width of the suite!
The space is quite angular but the dark colours exude sophistication. On the ottoman was a pair of PJs, slippers and an ANA Cardigan (apparently for inflight use only) and a rather lovely cashmere blend blanket. There was a Globetrotter Amenity Kit and a pair of SONY Noise Cancelling earphones.
The pillow was sadly lacklustre and I did acquire another from a vacant seat for the duration of the flight. I was the only passenger on my side of the aircraft. There was plenty of space underneath the ottoman for a small carry on bag. I placed my trolley in the overhead locker.
There were 3 storage options. The seat was very wide and a little firm for my liking.
In addition to the Amenity Kit contents, the crew came round with a basket of goodies, including face masks, leg reviving sheets, Shiseido Lip balm, calming pressure point scent and all manner of other things.
I was told to help myself. It really was like Christmas! The Amenity kit contained some lovely Ginza Cosmetic Company products too. In addition, in the very smart washroom were sachets of mouthwash, face and body sheets, toothbrushes and Ginza Moisturiser and Energising Lotion.
I was then asked if I wanted to change into the sleepsuit. I was ushered to the Washroom, where a footstep was arranged so I wouldn’t have to stand on the floor. When I exited there was a crew member waiting to take my clothes away and hang them up.
Food and Drink
Food and Drinks Menus were distributed after departure. Full menus were also available online for some months prior to the flight so I had a good idea of what I fancied.
Drink orders were taken, I decided to have a flight of champagne.
The Billecart-Salmon was delicate and elegant, but not a match for the complexity on my personal favourite, the Krug.
The Amuse Bouche was delivered and it was delicious. The crab meat and Apple and Parsnip puree was delightful. The cheese sticks superbly crisp.
By this point, I had been grazing for about 4 hours so I chose something light. So I opted for all 3 starters (see menu pics) and no main. I was planning on having the Waygu fillet on the return flight. All 3 starters would pair well with the Krug which I continued to enjoy. In the interests of research, I also tried the Chablis, which did not disappoint.
One thing that really stood out was how wonderfully chilled the water was. It really was refreshing,
The starters were all enjoyable though the blinis were cold and slightly stodgy. The caviar was lovely. Unfortunately, the Fois Gras was also served icy cold so it took a while for it to relax enough to be enjoyed. The Scallop and Lobster roll was the star of the show and this paired particularly well with the Chablis. I then finished with the cheese and a glass of the Dessert wine which I also rated.
During the service there was moderate turbulence, I was impressed how the crew continued to work throughout, without spilling a drop.
Towards the end of the meal service, the crew member asked if I would like my bed made up in the adjacent suite which I accepted. There was a decent mattress pad but I still found the surface too hard. In bed with the suite door closed the space did feel very private and dark. Boy was it spacious! I slept fitfully for about 5 hours. An additional memory foam pillow was also provided.
The only problem I had was the amount of light pollution from the other monitors in the cabin. Although the lights were out, there was considerable glare from the constantly changing moving maps. Also, the seat controls are lit in a piercing blue and white light which cannot be dimmed. API resorted to sleeping with the soft pillow over my head.
2 hours before landing the window blinds were raised by 50%. I then moved to my original seat and my breakfast order was taken. I had a Japanese citrus juice, a Mimosa and a Capuccino. I enjoyed some fruit and a wonderful brioche. The omelette in mushroom cream sauce was also delicious.
Prior to landing a glass of Maple Apple Juice was offered by the crew. This was so refreshing.
The Cabin Manager then had a long chat with me about the new cabin and whether I enjoyed my experience. The service throughout the flight was typically Japanese. Refined, elegant and very friendly.
I did have a stroll into the Business Cabin, the new “Room” (see pics) which also looked very impressive. As wide as the First Class suite but not as long it did look very private and refined. I was struck by how far back the “3” business cabins went, I would have no problem in enjoying the Business Class Seat on this aircraft.
The monitor is huge and the quality excellent. I use my own Bose Noise Cancelling headphones, but I did try the SONY ones provided and I was impressed.
The selection of movies was not as good as say Cathay, Qatar or Emirates but there were enough media to keep me going. I was also offered a free WiFi code for the duration of the flight.
Conclusion and redeeming Virgin miles for ANA
This was a very professional product. It was refined and elegant and the crew were wonderful. The food could have been a better temperature for me, but I did nevertheless enjoy it. The Krug was lovely and plentiful. The amenities provided were almost never-ending and of great quality.
I really recommend this suite and if you are lucky enough to see availability on a miles redemption booking, then the 120,000 Virgin miles and £403 tax for a £10,000 plus ticket is an absolute bargain!
You can read more about the best value flights for redeeming Virgin miles in this article.