Airport lounges are wonderful refuge for travellers, and there is no greater place to replenish that energy that has been zapped by the frustration of queueing in passport control or fretting over the scanners in security check (damn those terrorists!). And when they are in the airline’s home base, airport lounges are supposed to be even more amazing, thus I had high expectations for the ANA Suite Lounge in Narita, so this report will be on the First Class check-in experience as well as the First Class Lounge visit. First of all was getting to Narita from Shinjuku, and thankfully, there was an airport limousine bus that leaves my hotel at 12:30pm which is recommended even though my flight does not leave Narita till 5pm. This is because of Tokyo’s horrendous traffic which meant I arrived in Narita around 2:30pm. ANA uses Terminal 2 in Narita and they have a dedicated Suite check-in in a corner, also labelled as aisle Z, which is where I headed straight to. Though I think the agent guarding the entrance kind of doubted I was in First or an ANA Diamond member since I was dressed in T-shirt, jeans with a leather jacket over me.
The glass door of the suite check-in was not wide enough for my snowboard to pass through, so another agent came and help me with it. A dedicated First-Class check in felt special, as Singapore Airlines have this in Changi, Cathay Pacific has a dedicated check-in row as well in Hong Kong. Upon heading to the counter, the lady agent aforementioned came over with a hot towel.
However the check in took some time as the male agent was apparently very strict to the guidelines, including measuring the dimensions of my snowboard bag. The slow check in was the downside to the whole experience as it took some time for them to process the snowboard for check-in. The wait allowed me to venture around the terminal and look around for last minute gifts. However the wait was offset by a dedicated security check for First Class passengers at the end of the Suite Check-in area. There was no wait either at passport control which is common for all passengers, though the main security check looks quite empty as well. Again another thumbs up for Japanese efficiency, and probably a good reason why Kaizen principle works for Toyota and not General Motors though that is another story for another journal entry.
Shopped for some snacks for gifts including the Jagga Pokkuru potato sticks that was only available in the store beside gate 52 after passing immigration. From there I proceeded to the ANA suite lounge which is located one floor above the departure concourse. The one here was recommended by the check-in agent as being closer to my gate and larger. This was also near gate 52 where I purchased my snacks. As I entered the Suite lounge, I noticed a personal room area on the left, and decided to store my luggage there by getting a cubicle to myself. I was pleasantly suprised when a hostess came over to greet me and welcome me with another hot towel service. She also asked me if she could bring me anything to drink or eat. However I didn’t really know what they have on offer, so declined her offer.
After depositing my stuff at one of the cubicles, I headed to have a beef bowl for lunch with some cold green tea for drinks. This was after all my lunch, and the small bowl failed to satisfy me so I went on to get another bowl of Kitsune Udon. Both food choices was fantastic though I enjoyed the udon more which was cooked to perfection and the sweet taste of the bean curd added a tasty texture to the dish! Furthermore, there was small bottles of condiments to add to your food and in addition to the normal seven-spices powder common in Japanese restaurants, they have a variation that includes a ponzu flavour which I think is a seasonal garnish for winter. I like it when airport lounges have freshly prepared food to order, and this one is up to my expectations, so it was a nod to All Nippon Airways.
With my stomach filled, I went to request for a shower, and one of the agent went to help me reserve a shower room, but when she escorted me there, the shower room turns out to be fully occupied so it was back to the lounge where I waited and while waiting made myself a cup of iced caffe latte. But just as I was going to be seated to enjoy the coffee, the agent returned to let me know the shower room is ready, and thus I made my way to the shower rooms which is shared between both the First Class and Business Class lounge guests.
However, First class passengers get a Thann amenity kit for the shower, which was very much appreciated. Once entering the shower rooms, they were very spacious with their own toilet and brightly lit. Definitely a comfortable place to shower and refresh oneself. The only design flaw was the toilet without any cover which kind of makes it cheap-looking like a public toilet. Though I have been to worse airport lounge showers, and this one was definitely one of the best. Again, I like airport lounges with spacious and clean shower rooms, and the personalized amenity kit makes ANA Suite Lounge shower rooms to be one of the best.
There was still some time before boarding so I went back to the lounge after the shower, and found it to be more packed than ever. Perhaps more ANA flights are departing later in the evening. From the buffet area, I got myself an ANA original roll cake and a chocolate cake, returned to the personal cubicle and just relaxed. The cubicles does make it look like office spaces, but the comfortable chair and ottoman makes for a quiet place to just lie back, and there is also a large Sony TV on the panel, so businessmen can really keep track on the indices while on the move! However one thing lacking was the range of international magazines and newspapers that cater to non-Japanese.
At around 4:36pm there was still no boarding announcement but with the excitement building for this flight I headed to the gate which is a short walk from the ANA lounge. As it turns out, boarding has yet to commence though the large windows provided a nice view of the 777 jet that will bring me across the Pacific. The beautiful sunset made for a nice backdrop to the picture of this airplane. The whole Suite lounge experience was just like this sunset, nice and comfortable if only I had more time to explore the other aspects of the lounge.