Tokyo and Seoul: Part 4 – NH 1161 HND-GMP 777 Economy: Wow! So this is what they have back here?

With my meetings in Tokyo (successfully) concluded, it was time this morning to travel onward to Seoul.

The night before my morning flight to Seoul, I enjoyed a good dinner with some of our local office staff and a few other colleagues from New York who were visiting on other business.  The crew got more and more drunk throughout the meal - I did not join in the post dinner drinking and debauchery.  Reading the emails from those that did, I made the right call!

After breakfast, I took a cab from the Okura at about 7:15 am.  We arrived at Haneda in about 25 minutes. The cab fare was ¥6,100 (which I'm hoping will earn double Chase UR points).  Unfortunately, I was on the phone and not paying attention; the driver let me off at the domestic terminal, not the international terminal, where my flight was leaving from.  I needed to take a shuttle bus over to the international terminal, which was relatively easy.

Both the international terminal (for all carriers) and Star-only domestic terminal were quite nice.  They were fairly new, immaculate and well signed in English.

I checked in at ANA's Star Gold/Business Class line.  Due to new company regulations, for flights under 3 hours (even international flights), we now must generally fly economy.  While in the US that can be a bit of a drag, over here in Asia, it turned out not to be such a big deal.  I had access to this line thanks to my Aegean Gold status.

The check-in queue was short, and I was helped by a very nice young lady in just a minute or two.  When I presented my Aegean card (I still have my old one, which reflects Star Silver, not my new Star Gold status), she looked a little confused by the card. After perhaps two minutes of her fussing with the computer, I asked if everything was ok with my ticket.  She assured me it was, but said she was having problems with my Frequent Flyer number.  She asked if my account was now Star Gold (which it is), and I said yes.  Then, oddly, she asked if I knew "the two letter code."  It took a second, but I realized she was asking for Aegean's IATA code.  I told her it was A3, and she thanked me profusely.  How she knew the account was Star Gold without knowing the A3 code, I don't fully understand - but I did not ask any questions.

She handed me my boarding card and suggested that I visit the lounge. The boarding pass even had "lounge invitation" printed on it.

Clearing security and immigration were both very quick, with numerous channels to select from.

The ANA business lounge was just a few steps from my gate. I relaxed for a few minutes at one of the high shared counter seats and enjoyed a small bit of Miso soup and a piece of sushi.  The food was very good.  The decor of the lounge was reminiscent of some of the CX or QF Business Class lounges, which I find quite comfortable.  There was also a First Class lounge, which I did not enter.

ANA's Haneda Business Class Lounge

It is acceptable to slurp soup and noodles in Japan - and I listed to a chorus of slurpers sitting around me at the shared table. It was something I was not used to!

The lounge was fairly full, but it was not unduly noisy or unpleasantly packed (as domestic lounges often can feel in the US at peak times).

About 30 minutes prior to my 8:55am departure, I headed downstairs to the gate.  There was a queue of about 20 people waiting in the Business/Gold line, though boarding hadn't yet commenced.  They opened the gate a few minutes later, and boarding proceeded very quickly.

Two jet bridges were used to board the 777-200.  As I turned right from the second jet bridge, I realized that I had never flown on a 777 in a non-premium cabin. Jokingly, I though to myself, "So this is what they have back here." All of my other experiences on ANA have been very good...but all of my prior ANA experiences were in First Class on longhaul flights.  I wondered what was in store for this journey.

I was one of the first economy cabin passengers on the plane, and I got settled without being rushed.  I was assigned 33C.  Being new to this part of the plane, I of course took the wrong seat, sitting in 34C instead.  A few minutes later, a young man came up and nervously showed me his boarding pass (which reflected 34C).  I realized I was in the wrong seat and quickly moved up one.

Legroom was fine (I am 6' 4" tall) on the plane.  The cabin was about 80% full, though the middle seat next to me was empty.

Sufficient legroom in economy

Before we departed, and without my asking, a flight attendant brought me English-language landing cards for Korea. That was very thoughtful.

As soon as the seatbelt sign turned off, the flight attendants handed out packaged disposable we washcloths than began a hot meal service.  While no choice was offered, the meal was very good.  Though I did not partake (this being an 8:55am departure), alcohol was available (beer and wine at least) free of charge.  The man next to me had a beer with his meal.

Breakfast was served

There were some young children in the row in front of me, and there were special children's meals for them. (Even in first class on several domestic carriers in the US, children-oriented meals are no longer offered.  The kids also got a deck of playing cards and some other goodies from the Flight Attendant.)

One of the things my kids do too often is hand garbage to both my wife and me.  (I now vigorously encourage my kids to find a waste can.) While the two young kids in front of me were very well behaved, they had one trait very similar to my kids (who are also well behaved)...handing trash to their parents. That trait seems to transcend at least some cultures and ethnicities.

Having had breakfast at the hotel and a small snack at the lounge, I only had a little bit of the food.  It was all tasty, but certainly a few of the items were a bit unusual to my uncultured American palate.  After the meal, Japanese tea, coffee, and English tea were offered.

Arrival into Gimpo was largely uneventful, except for the immigration queues.  Apparently, a new computer system was in place, and there were some technical difficulties.  There were perhaps 20 channels to go through, but each had a queue of well over 20 people.  For a period of about 15 minutes, none of the queues moved.  I suspect their system crashed.  The pace ultimately picked up, but it took well over 45 minutes to clear immigration.

My fare for this journey was only a few hundred dollars (USD).  Considering the distance travelled and level of service, this was a very good value compared to travel I'm used to in the States.  This was my first time in economy on an Asian carrier.  Assuming my experience was representative, I am pleased to report that travel in economy on ANA really isn't that bad.  Notwithstanding the name of this website, let me go so far as to say ANA's economy service should probably be considered very good.  It is a service I would not hesitate to fly again.

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