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Mediocre by Japanese Standards: Narita to Hong Kong on ANA NH811

Is it fair to hold carriers to different standards based on their country of origin? ANA and JAL are often not cheap when it comes to flying between Hong Kong and Japan and on that  basis alone I have certain expectations. But I also do expect a high level of service on Japanese carriers internationally. That came to mind recently as I had a flight which would have been fine were it operated by, say, Cathay, or excellent if operated by Hong Kong Airlines, but as it was ANA, was a bit below my expectations.

We last reviewed ANA on this route five years ago – you can read that review here.

At the Airport

I checked in earlier in the afternoon at Narita airport. ANA is in the South Wing of terminal one – I normally use the escalators but only discovered on this visit that there is an express lift to the departure floor from close to the exit from the train lines. There was no queue at checkin, which was very fast and friendly, no queue at security and no queue at immigration. Japanese airports really are a pleasure in this regard.

Equipment

The flight was operated by a Boeing 767-300 (registration number (JA615A).

The seat was comfortable enough, with a small recline. However as I had planned to work on my computer on this flight, I was disappointed by the lack of a power outlet; there was also no USB. The seatback screen was very small. The legroom felt a bit limited.

At the seat was a blanket and the cabin crew distributed substantial, comfortable pillows.

Flight

Economy was about half full. As I was at a window seat and the configuration was 2-3-2, the seat beside me was empty.

Boarding was scheduled to start from gate 35 at ten past six, but was delayed for ten minutes. The boarding gate is open to the airport and has a large screen news television, so was quite noisy.

Boarding was through a single jetbridge and very efficient, so despite the delayed boarding we pushed back on the nose at 6:35.

There was sporadic turbulence throughout the flight, with  an accompanying announcement each time that it would not affect the safety of the aircraft.

As we were about to begin our descent, we were informed by the antipodean sounding captain that due to congestion we would be circling. This meant that we finally arrived at gate 22 at 10:40 in the evening, twenty five minutes behind schedule.

Service

First the crew came around with wet towels, then did a drinks run with mixed Japanese snacks. They  then had a meal service, showing a laminated menu on which the two options were written and photographed.

After that the crew were only occasionally in the cabin. At one point, I therefore went to the galley to ask for a drink, and the flight attendant said, “it is too late as soon we will commence descent.” “What,” I asked, “forty minutes before landing?” She looked a bit unhappy, and then her colleague interrupted and asked what I wanted to drink, before bringing it to me. This episode fell well beneath what I expect from a Japanese carrier. With the aircraft in cruise mode and seatbelt signs off, the cabin crew not yet preparing the cabin for landing, I see no reason not to serve cold drinks.

Each announcement was made in Japanese, English and Cantonese by a crew member.

Food and Drink

The menu was as follows:

I chose the Japanese selection. The meal was delicious, with the seafood entrée even including snow crab.

Conclusion

The delayed boarding and crew attitude on this flight are both fairly minor, but meant that while good it was not quite at the level I expect from a Japanese carrier.

 

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