Sky-high Drinking and Dining: ANA vs Japan Airlines Business Class
Remember that time we flew first class on Emirates? I’ll never forget it, in spite of how much alcohol at altitude they pumped into me. While that may have been a once in a lifetime experience, as any points-obsessed weirdo (like Christine and I) knows, there’s plenty of drinking to be done in first and business class travel — which is exactly what we got to experience when we flew business class ANA to Japan, and Japan Airlines back.
ANA vs Japan Airlines is a great little head to head, as they’re the largest air-travel providers based out of Japan, and both known for their luxury business class offering. Put it this way — it was quite literally my pleasure to consider the drinking and dining comparison over the 13h flight to and from Japan.
Given we flew ANA to Japan (via LA), let’s start there shall we?
ANA Business Class Review
It’s bloody hard to photograph airplane seating situations, but I hope the above gives a rough sense of the scale of the pod. It’s HUGE and size-wise felt more first class than many other business classes we’ve flown on. As a matter of fact, I’ve only ever successfully slept on two flights ever — and ANA was one of them (guess the other).
The aircraft we flew on was a B788, so best to check your airliner when booking ANA — it seems improbable all offerings are this enormous.
Drinking in ANA Business Class: 8.5/10
The alcohol selection was excellent for business class. By comparison, Air Canada’s looks like the cash bar at your cousins stag and doe. In particular, there were several Sakes to choose from, and a staff happy to make a suggestion based on your preference.
I thouroughly enjoyed the on-offer Chapagne Castelnau and enjoyed a couple of glasses to start. It was relatively subtle, but had a lovely bouquet even at altitude, and — while probably not a top-shelf bottle by anyone’s standards — had a refined enough flavour to fool this Business Class traveller.
There was a nice blend of old and new world wines (the latter of which I enjoy for their bolder flavours easier to appreciate at altitude), both white and red, and a few different whiskies to choose from, including the Hibiki 12 and Suntory’s AO, both of which I indulged in before sleeping.
Dining in ANA Business Class: 7.5/10
The food in ANA Business was varied, ample, beautifully presented and very, very Japanese. Even the “Western” option (which Christine received because they ran out of Japanese fare) was presented and flavoured in a way I think very few people would construe as “Western”.
Like all airplane food, everything looked a bit better than it tasted. But there were so many little bites to choose from, there’s definitely something here to please everyone.
Though I forgot to photograph it, one of the highlights was the big bowl of miso ramen that was brought to me right after I awoke from my nap. Springy, delicious ramen noodles in a rich miso broth — bonus points for it being vegetarian which didn’t reduce it’s quality at all.
Being in ANA Business Class: 8.5/10
Aside from the drinking and dining how was everything else? Pretty good! Size and comfort were the highlights by far. The tech was woefully outdated and the screen felt like I was watching the movies through a dense fog. Plus, the fit and finish of everything just felt a tad cheap/dated. But the service was excellent, and honestly nitpicking aside it was a damn good flight.
Overall Experience: 8.25/10
Japan Airlines Business Class Review
If taking a pic of the ANA pod was hard, Japan Airlines was impossible. That’s because, at least on the B789 we flew on, the Business Class seats were kinda tiny, by Business Class standards. Lots of forward leg room (though less than ANA), but the seats were narrow, and the storage pressed in making the arrangement feel a touch clausterphobic (at least for this THICC boi).
That said (and I’ll get to this at the end of the review), the fit and finish was very high, and the big bright screen was a delight.
Drinking in Japan Airlines Business Class: 8/10 (a bonus .5 awarded for preflight drink)
The drinking experience on Japan airlines started with some pre-flight bubbly — a high-gloss touch we’ve only ever experienced on Emirates. The Champagne itself was good, remarkably bold and effervescent, a nice sensory experience both on the ground and in the air, though not a bottle I’d necessarily seek out frequently.
There were a few uninspired wine options, but I opted for some dry Sake that was absolutely delicious (and was recommended by the informed flight attendant). There’s also a sweet option for those who prefer their sake saccharine. And the pours? Wow. It’s like they’re trying to get you liqoured up.
Those gargantuan pours extended to their whisky (which I neglected to photograph). The selection of whisky wasn’t great, and they only had one Japanese option (literally called “Our Japanese Whisky” on the menu — I suppose it’s prone to change). I believe it was the Hibiki 12, but in honesty I can’t recall. It was great, and I nearly drowned in my enormous dram which was refilled almost the minute I put it down — Japan Airlines has preternaturally good service in Business Class.
Dining in Japan Airlines Business Class: 7/10
In truth, by the time we were flying back from Japan, we were both a bit nostalgic for Western food. In fact, one of us decided to get the Western option for our in-flight meal. Can you guess which is which from picture above?
It’s a trick both of those are the Western option (which in truth we both opted for). Like ANA, everything LOOKED amazing, but was a combination of over-seasoned, or a bit bland. And again, this is probably the palate exhaustion from 5 weeks abroad talking, but I felt some of the dishes had overly-challenging textures for a “Western” option.
It was by no means bad, and I ate most of my meal, but it was hard not to be a little dissapointed. I mean just look how beautiful the presentation is.
Being in Japan Airlines Business Class: 7.5/10
Let’s get the great out of the way — Japan Airlines has second-to-none service of any Business Class flight I’ve been on. If that is particularly important to you, you’ll be over the moon. As for the good, I loved the fit and finish of the little pods, and the upgraded tech was a nice touch too.
For the less-than-fantastic, the movie selection was abysmal — nerfing the appeal of the big high-def screen considerably. And, I’ll say it again, the chairs were too damn narrow (unless you’re Christine-sized in which case I’m sure they’re more than ample). I don’t want to fly Business and worry about getting clipped by the food cart in the aisle.
But with ample leg room, decent storage, and telepathic service, I’ll give a 7.5 for this section.
Overall Experience: 7.5/10
ANA vs Japan Airlines Roundup
When reviewing upscale products, it’s imperative you look through an upscale lense. Obviously after a domestic economy flight from Sapporo, Japan Airlines Business Class felt increeeeeedible. But comparing it’s cross-continental kin, I have to tip my cap to ANA. More space, equivalent, maybe slightly better food, and an elevated drink menu. If you have the option, might I suggest ANA?