“A glass of champagne s'il vous plait Mademoiselle: it matches my complexion…”
The very sweet Japanese cabin crew girl onboard our ANA business class flight from Tokyo to London giggled at this proud Frenchman as I pouted back at her fiercely, preparing to tuck into a very tasty beef steak fillet and Aomori black garlic confit.
Stefan also looked on in a fit of giggles at me as I so effortlessly settled into my ANA business class experience…
And wouldn't you? All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan’s largest airline, is not only recognised as one of the seven 5-star Airlines by Skytrax, the ANA business class always ranks amongst the top of the World Airline Awards. The accolades don't stop there. ANA's business class is also highly rated for its seats, airline staff, catering and comfort amenities.
We flew business class on ANA Boeing 777-300 on our way back to London from Tokyo (12.5 hours). We loved every second of it and couldn't wait to write our review of flying business class with All Nippon Airways.
Experience Japan on a gay tour
Psst! Want in on a secret? Our friends at Out Adventures recently launched a super kawaii tour of Japan. On this all-gay foray, travellers will ride the Shinkansen bullet train between Osaka, Kyoto and Tokyo. Highlights include a street food tour, samurai experience, a night in an authentic onsen, and an evening in Tokyo's gay district, Shinjuku Ni-chōme.
Business-class check-in with ANA is very smooth and efficient. The airline has its own dedicated desk for business class passengers at Tokyo Haneda airport.
Once through security and immigration, a spacious lounge overlooking the runway awaits you. There, you can get some refreshments, food and also use the showers if you need to. Plane addicts (like our champagne hogging Frenchman) will have heaps of #planeporn fun here.
State of the art business class seats
The ANA business class seating arrangement has been carefully designed using a staggered 1-2-1 configuration, ensuring a sense of privacy for each passenger as you're never directly next to anyone.
This also means that every passenger has direct aisle access, avoiding the unpopular middle seat dilemma.
The real fun starts from the moment you board the plane and take your seat. These are no ordinary seats. ANA's business class seats were rated the 5th best in the world at the World Airline Awards and deservedly so.
The seating area is very spacious with a fully reclinable seat, large side table and your own personal overhead luggage drawer.
The seats have a width of 19.4 inches/ 49.3cm and fully recline to a length of 74.5 inches / 189cm, to become a very comfortable flatbed. For us, this was more than enough space to sleep in a straight position: Stefan is 170cm (5ft 7″) and Sebastien is 175cm (5ft 9″).
A bed pad and a soft warm duvet are provided which makes for a very comfortable night's sleep.
The inflight service
The standard of service onboard ANA is extremely high, as you would expect from a Japanese airline. They were rated one of the world's best cabin staff at the recent World Airline Awards and considered the #1 for best airline staff in Asia.
The staff are never short of smiles. And of course, neither were we when greeted so warmly (with a glass of champagne to hand).
The ANA staff take a genuine interest in you without being intrusive. They make you feel like you have your own personal attendant throughout the flight. They are on hand whether you want to order a particular meal, want a copy of The Times newspaper, or just want to top up your champagne.
Throughout the duration of the flight, they ask you if you want more drinks and always ensure you have plenty of water to keep you hydrated – and always with a smile.
Fine-dining at 30,000 feet
The meal service is high class. Menus have been selected by THE CONNOISSEURS, a group of master chefs and wine experts from outside and inside Japan.
The friendly cabin crew lay a white table cloth, provide you with a warm towel and present all passengers with a menu, listing the excellent culinary options.
For the first meal, you have a choice of the Washoku Japanese Cuisine or International Cuisine.
Prior to the first meal, everyone is served a delicious hors d'oeuvre. This consisted of sweet glazed walnuts, young bamboo shoots aspic with okra puree, uncured beef ham and artichoke, cornichon brochette and marinated herring, feta cheese and semi-dried tomato:
The Japanese Washoku
If you choose the Japanese cuisine, you'll be spoilt with a variety of culinary prizes like firefly squid with vegetables, chilled quick-poached beef with ponzu jelly, quick-seared seven-band grouper, quick-poached diamond squid with nori and simmered mackerel in soy-based rice.
The International Cuisine
This option included smoked shrimp, soft-dried beef and marinated turnip starter with a main of fillet of beef steak, Aomori black garlic confit with teriyaki sauce and sautéed tilefish and cereal risotto with slaty cherry blossom-flavoured sauce.
Everything is so beautifully presented, making it hard to put the camera down and tuck in.
There's everything you could possibly imagine on offer, whether it's whisky, sake, wine or beer. They have a great choice of white and red wines which have been carefully selected to complement their menu. The champagne Henriot Brut Souverain on offer was enough to satisfy even this demanding Frenchman's taste buds.
A La Carte light dishes
For the remainder of the flight, a selection of Light Dishes is available for order at any time, like salads, soups, croque-monsieur and also including some of our Japanese favourites like udon noodles, ramen and okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake).
Each cubicle has its own large 17-inch touch screen with the ANA Sky channel entertainment system, which includes some of the latest blockbusters, games, music and documentaries. Sony noise-cancelling headphones are provided, which are so effective, they make you forget you're flying.
Underneath each screen is your own personal USB dock and power connectors to charge your phone and laptop.
ANA gives all business class travellers a plush flannel toiletries bag filled with L'Occitane products including lip balm to soothe dry lips, a revitalising serum, earplugs, an eye mask and more.
The bathrooms are equipped with Japanese style bidet toilets, and in addition, toothbrushes, mouthwash and wet face towels are provided.
So is it worth flying Business Class with ANA?
We had a fabulous experience from start to finish. The service was outstanding, the food, delicious, and the seats… well, you'll never want to fly economy on long haul flights ever again.
ANA has now become one of our favourite airlines and definitely the one we will choose to fly to Japan again.
Advice for LGBTQ travellers to Japan
We found Japan to be very gay friendly for LGBTQ travellers. Whilst society is very conservative, the Japanese are one of the most respectful and polite people we've ever met. They welcome all foreigners with a charming smile and bow. As a gay couple travelling in Japan, booking a double bed was never an issue in any of the hotels or guesthouses we stayed at.
For more inspiration:
- For more airline reviews, read about flying with Singapore Airlines
- Check out our gay city guide to exciting Tokyo
- Along with all our favourite gay hotels in Tokyo
- Find out how we were transformed into Geisha in Tokyo
- As well as the best gay tours of Tokyo, particularly handy for first timers
- We also have a gay Japan itinerary for first time visitors if you're heading further than Tokyo
- If you're going in the opposite direction, find out which are the sightseeing highlights for gay travellers in London
- As well as the best gay musicals and theatre shows to see in London
- And be sure to check out our favourite gay drag bars in London.
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Happy travels are safe travels