I recall the first time I took a long-haul flight. I travelled 13 hours for my graduation trip from Singapore to Southern Europe on economy class, which left me fatigued and disoriented when I finally landed.
When I learnt that I had to fly to New York on a business trip, I was excited to visit the glamorous “concrete jungle where dreams are made of”, in the words of American singer Alicia Keys, but felt equally daunted by the 22-hour travel time.
This time, though, I was scheduled to fly business class on ANA, a Skytrax 5-star airline. Their personable service, excellent cuisines and ample space on board now give me a different view on long-haul flights – it is possible to fly comfortably and arrive fresh for work.
Business travellers will also be pleased to know that ANA flies from Singapore to 10 destinations in North America, covering principal business centres: Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Washington DC, New York, Houston, Chicago, Vancouver and Honolulu.
A chance to experience Omotenashi
As expected of a premium airline, the service on my flight was top-notch. The cabin attendants and airport ground crew displayed the Japanese service philosophy of omotenashi, loosely translated as warm and selfless hospitality.
For business travellers whose thoughts may be filled with that crucial meeting waiting for them at the end of their flight, the service offered by the ANA flight crew will provide an oasis of calm.
From the moment I joined the Business Class priority line, everything was orderly and professional. The on-ground crew thanked me for waiting and cleared the queue efficiently.
“Irasshaimase,” the cabin attendant said to me as I boarded the aircraft.
Once I had put my bags away and settled down, the cabin attendant in charge of my aisle came forward to introduce herself personally.
When we were ready for take-off, the cabin attendants stood at attention to give all passengers a 90-degree bow – the hallmark of omotenashi. It felt like I had a crew of personal butlers at my service.
That’s probably not too far from the truth.
Cabin attendants walked down the aisles every 30 minutes to check on passengers’ needs. They were meticulously attentive and approached me when it seemed like I needed help – when I was holding on to the menu or had some trash in hand.
Without asking, I had easy access to refreshments and anything else I could need.
Sleep or watch movies in comfort
Being able to lie down fully on the comfortable bed pad covered with a warm duvet is absolutely precious on these long flights. It meant less fatigue and grumpiness on my part, and I could hit the ground running when I touched down in New York.
Privacy is an important consideration, especially when you’re on a long journey.
ANA’s business class section offers a staggered seat configuration – made possible by having each seat extended below your personal entertainment screen. This meant I did not disturb other fellow travellers, and our staggered seating still gave all of us aisle access and adequate legroom.
Space is a premium on any airline, but I never felt constrained by the lack of it during my ANA flight.
My seat came with a large storage compartment below the seat where I stored my carry-on bags and I did not have to use the overhead compartment to store my belongings. The spacious side table where I kept my beauty essentials close at hand was a good-to-have too.
Extending its consideration for passengers’ privacy, ANA’s business class provides its passengers with a “Do Not Disturb” option, which I appreciated. Turn it on just like you would at a hotel room and you can be sure your rest will be peaceful in your cosy pod-like seat, as cabin attendants are alerted to your request for some alone time.
But if you don’t need a rest, you’ll still have plenty to occupy yourself with. On my trip, I indulged in a movie marathon and watched 12 shows at a go. There is a wide selection of movies from all over the world in 12 languages excluding Japanese, complete with subtitles or dubbing in major languages.
Whether it was to get some shut-eye, or recline and sit back for your private cinema experience, the fully adjustable seats allowed me to relax in any position I wished, with a convenient touch of the high-tech seat buttons at the side.
To top it all off, each Business Class passenger was provided with a Neal’s Yard Remedies care kit containing all-natural, organic products: Bee Lovely Hand Cream, White Tea Facial Mist and Shea Nut & Orange Organic Lip Formula, along with essentials like ANA original toothbrush and toothpaste, eye mask and earplugs.
Enjoy the taste of Japan up in the air
Like many Singaporeans, I love Japanese food.
So imagine my delight when I got to sample authentic specialty Japanese dishes, with the best ingredients sourced from different prefectures around Japan. Having a roasted Akita Nikaho-city fig with my beef steak fillet for dinner was absolutely posh.
Lunch and dinner were four-course affairs, consisting of amuse bouche, appetisers, main course and dessert. The meals were specially prepared by “The Connoisseurs” – internationally renowned chefs from inside and outside Japan.
Light dishes – such as Japanese ramen, okonomiyaki, ANA original curry rice, and cheese plate – were available anytime.
When my food was served, the dishes were arranged on beautiful tableware, complementary to the season, that added to the gourmet experience.
These dishes were only a fraction of what I enjoyed on the flights. If you wish, you could also finish off your meals by selecting from a wide variety of wines and liquor, including Japanese offerings like sake, shochu and plum wine.
Business class travellers on outbound flights from Singapore will be pleased to know there are premium dishes offered in collaboration with The Regent Singapore.
The saffron risotto cake with sauteed mushrooms and truffle cheese fondue sounded luxuriously delicious, but having indulged in the ramen, I fought back the temptation to order more.
In another instance of omotenashi service, I was touched when an attentive cabin attendant remembered my tea preference (I had asked for black tea with milk earlier on in the flight). Her offer to bring me my preferred cuppa with my late-night ice cream order was a meticulous gesture that made me feel so pampered.
While it is now increasingly common to have full-service carriers provide refreshments and snacks at self-service kiosks, it was a nice touch from ANA to stock its pantry with Royce chocolates and Reman fondant biscuits, in addition to the usual mixed nuts and drinks.
Singapore to United States with seamless transit options
Long-haul travel can be tiring, either because of long wait times during transit or if you find yourself rushing when there is too little time to catch a connecting flight.
But the schedule offered by ANA was very well planned, with a wait time of between two and four hours.
During my return flight, I even dropped by a Japanese souvenir shop in Narita airport to get matcha cookies, a small but happy highlight of my journey.
Travel from Singapore to the US is even smoother and more flexible now via Haneda airport (Tokyo). In addition to Narita airport, new routes to New York and Chicago from Haneda airport (Tokyo) have been added from Oct 30, 2016.
ANA is one out of only nine five-star airlines worldwide recognised by airline authority Skytrax. With a track record of providing excellent service and amenities, you’ll be able to arrive well-rested and ready for work.
For instance, Singaporeans who are members of Singapore Airlines’ KrisFlyer frequent flyer programme can earn miles on qualifying fares when flying on ANA as well.
Singapore business travellers are closer than ever to the United States. Going to Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle, Washington DC, New York, Houston, Chicago, Vancouver or Honolulu? Read more about ANA's global network and omotenashi service here.