When flying, everyone is out there looking for a great deal. Who doesn’t?
Any type of trip, may it be business or vacation are always an expensive affair. That’s why last year I’ve been meticulously saving ever dollar by dollar a list of expenses for my trip to the Philippines.
The biggest of them all being the roundtrip airfare from Los Angeles to Manila.
My November 2015 flights marks also the first time I ever booked directly with an airline rather than going through a travel agent. After scouring and comparing deals via Kayak and numerous airline review sites, I decided to try my luck with All Nippon Airways due to their low fares and stellar customer service reviews.
All Nippon Airways also called ANA covered most bases of what I was looking for in a flight. I needed 3 things: Low Fare, Stopover in Japan, and edible food.
Before I start my review here are a few keywords you need to know about my ANA experience. FARE, FOOD, SPACE and WIFI
While most Filipinos prefer taking the direct flight from LA-MNL via Philippine Airlines, I decided that being in a cabin for 13 hours straight was not for me. Plus my short stopover in Narita, Japan will allow me to buy much needed souvenirs for friends & family. You have no idea how many people been asking me for Wasabi Flavored KitKats.
I was able to find a flight for $750 flying roundtrip from Los Angeles. A great deal during the November dates being so close to Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
As of 2015 ANA began updating their international fleets to the bigger and roomier Boeing 787 Dreamliner and 777 series offering an upgraded and newly designed Business class and roomier Economy and Economy Comfort sections. A major plus since I have a knee injury that needs to be stretched out during long trips.
One of the major planning factors of my trip that should coincide with the low airfare dates would be the weather. Philippines being mainly a tropical monsoon country often have rains & storms during the August-November months. However normally during the middle of November, the rains ease up just in time for the Christmas holidays.
What I did not expect during my November flight was the occurrence of The Asian Pacific Summit also known as APEC 2015, where all world leaders including President Obama was scheduled to arrive in the Philippines to discuss about economic trade and environmental issues. Unfortunately the Philippine Govt and Aviation Industry issued a No Fly Zone and No Drive Zone during the days of my flights. Many flights between Nov 15-20th would be cancelled or diverted on the 4 days of the summit, causing major traffic backlog and me possibly being stranded in Japan. Only Cebu Pacific and Philippine Airlines promised free flight modifications or refunds during that time.
Unfortunately for most airlines, mine included, changing or modifying your flight will charge you almost a $300 fee.
This is where the team from ANA stepped up. I bought my ticket around August before all these announcements were made, with some nudging and documentation from APEC themselves I asked both the US All Nippon Airways Office and the Philippine Branch if they can give consideration of waiving the change date fee. The wonderful reservations coordinator Toni from the Philippine Office was able to build a case for me to have my flight moved a few days earlier on Nov 14. These were completed within a 1 week time span before APEC lockdown deadline.
In addition to that, they took consideration of my leg injury and made sure I would be seated in an area where I can stretch my legs. This experience alone sealed me in to be a loyal customer in the near future for ANA and I applaud ANA’s team commitment to customer service.
The only hitch I had during my flight departure was a backlog at the Los Angeles Airport TSA Check due to the recent attacks in Paris prompted security to conduct a tighter and longer inspection period. Our flight was delayed for nearly 40 minutes and I had less than 20 minutes to get to my connecting flight from Narita to Manila (our layover was only for 1 hour) and I barely made it in time.
The Economy Review
My LA- Manila flight was with one of the newer 787’s. Since I had an ANA Mileage membership account I was given the choice to also select my seating when I originally purchased my tickets online. The fastest flight duration from LA/SF- Manila would be between 17-20 hours including the stopovers. The return flight would be between 16-18 hours for the fastest time routes.
I was seated in an overhead section that gave me a LOT of room for my legs to stretch and was easier me to load and offload my carry-on at the compartment above.
The restroom itself was pretty spacious, enough for me to stretch out my arms and move around freely. In all my years of flying, I have never seen a more spacious lavatory. For my connecting flight I was the only one seated in my section that gave me pretty much 4 hours of me turning 2 seats into a couch.
I have to say we were very much well feed. For lunch I selected the beef stew. So soft, soo yummy. My seatmate had the Japanese selection of cold noodles, mackerel and miso sauce.
For dessert we had Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. And was offered a generous serving of Matcha tea and wine. I’m not normally a wine drinker but I needed to knock myself out for the flight so it helped. Before our layover in Narita we had sausages and potatoes for breakfast. In between, the flight attendants would give us snacks like crackers or pastries. You can tell they are about to serve food once they give out hot towels.
If you are in business class you get to have miso soup and some hot ramen. Unfortunately these are Business/First class only food and unless you have dietary requirements, you cannot make any special order for meals.
I was really hoping I would get to be on the R2D2 plane, however that flight was only reserved for domestic Japan routes. ANA flights do however, screen ALL the Star Wars films from Episode 1-6. I was able to catch up on films I didn’t get to watch like Minions and Mission Impossible Rogue Mission. They offer English subtitles for their Japanese programs, mostly which I watched were Japanese game shows similar to American Ninja Warrior- very addicting I must admit.
During my 2014 trip, I flew via Delta airlines (great airlines btw) which offered inflight WIFI with a fee. However with ANA, they offered 15 minutes of FREE Wi-Fi at 10MB capacity, just enough for you to text and send one or two emails and maybe an FB status. I was able to message my office and family that I was safely onboard. You can purchase additional WIFI between $9-25.00 depending on the package. You do need to register your email to avail for the free WIFI. The fact I can Facebook while thousands of miles in elevation is pretty cool.
You have two Japan airports that your flight can make a stopover for your US-Manila flight. Either Narita or Haneda. I did both which for the Haneda section I will cover in a later article. Narita Airport is far the most familiar airport I’ve ever used since flying with Delta and Northwest. Best thing about both airports are the shower lounges. I gladly paid $11.00 for a 30 minute use of thier shower facilities. If you are a ANA mileage member for a fee you can take advantage of the ANA Lounge or just walk around the various duty free or small shops and restaurants near the gates. For me I use whatever down time I have before connecting flight to bulk up on Japanese KitKats and Sake.
If your flight requires transfers between Narita to Haneda or vice versa, there are Terminal limo transfer services from airport to airport. You need to pay a ticket fee under $30.00 I believe for the transfer. You can buy the bus or limo transfer in advance in the US or online. Just remember to pick up your luggage and check them in again at the next airport.
Overall Notes and Reminders
- If you need to transfer between Japan airports remember that you need to pick your luggage and check it in at your connecting airport. You can buy a Limo transfer ticket in advance online or through US ANA Ticketing offices or Japan travel agents. If you are flying Los Angeles/San Francisco to Manila with only one stopover, you do not need to check out your luggage as the airline will automatically offload them.
- Do sign up for the ANA Mileage Club program. By doing so you can modify your seating arrangement online and request for special meals in case of dietary requirements (diabetes, gluten free, vegan, religious). Once you acquired enough points you can exchange them for seat upgrades, extra baggage and Limo transfers on future flights
- Take account delays on either US-Japan or Philippine to Japan flights. Select a flight route that will give you enough time to catch up on your connecting in case of delays.
- When in doubt always keep the ANA Customer line on you handy. As well as their Facebook page wont hurt.
As I said earlier, my experience with ANA was absolutely amazing. There were few circumstantial glitches, delays due to TSA checks and my back aching after sitting 8 hours nonstop, but all were relatively minor and amendable. The flight attendants and crew were absolutely friendly and I made sure to express my thanks. I gave the ANA flight grew a gift bag of candies and chocolates and the Philippine ANA branch a gift bag of the same and some US goodies.
I highly recommend All Nippon Airways to consider for your Philippine travel and may I add, every now and then ANA sends outs contest for a free flight to Japan. That’s another Win-Win for me.