Innovative airlines 2011: #2 All Nippon Airways

Runner up on our list is Japanese airline All Nippon Airways (ANA), which has stepped up its international expansion and has been courting business passengers with an improved product at a time its major competitor JAL is in the middle of a restructuring. The opening of Tokyo Haneda’s new international terminal in October 2010 and the trans-Pacific joint venture with United/Continental also has given ANA an opportunity to capitalize on its large domestic network out of Haneda. 

Inspiration of Japan
In April 2010, ANA introduced a serious upgrade of its four loung-haul cabins as part of a new ‘Inspiration of Japan’ programme. The new interiors were originally meant for the airline’s B787s (ANA is the launch customer) but due to the delivery delays – ANA’s first 787 will now be delivered in the third quarter of 2011 – the new cabins have been installed on ANA’s B777-300ER fleet instead, and are currently available on services to New York, London and Frankfurt. 

ANA’s new first class, renamed ‘First Square,’ features a private suite with a full-flat bed, a 23-inch LCD touch screen and an individual coat closet. At both Tokyo Haneda and Narita airports, First Class passengers can also work or relax in their own private pod, dubbed ‘ANA Suite Lounge,’ as they get checked-in and wait for their flight. ANA’s new Business Class also offers a full-flat bed in a staggered 1:2:1 configuration which gives all seats unrestricted aisle access. Further raising the bar, ANA offers First and Business class passengers travelling round trip from Japan to North America or Europe a ‘welcome-home’ helicopter or limousine transfer to central Tokyo. 

ANA’s new Economy seats have a very generous 34″ pitch, USB and power ports, and the fixed back shell allows passengers to recline inside their seat, instead of into the lap of the passenger seated in the next row. In a nod to business travellers that have traded down to Economy Class, full-fare Economy passengers departing from Japan are eligible to ANA’s ‘Economy Class Pleasant-Trip’ service, which includes priority check-in, free lounge access and priority baggage arrival.

ANA, however, had to postpone the debut of its new Premium Economy seating, which feature a fixed back, double-wide armrests and dividers between seats to ensure more privacy due to certification issues at seat manufacturer Koito. Passengers in premium classes would also have the option to create their own menu from more than 30 a la carte choices and order it via the touchscreen of their IFE system, but this feature has not been rolled out yet. 

Innovative services
Being a Japanese airline, ANA offers a range of inventive services that enhance the travel experience. For example, ANA’s newly launched Haneda route to and from Los Angeles, Bangkok and Singapore has many late night departures, so the airline dims lights during boarding to create a calm atmosphere. Passengers in all classes are also given a ‘Sleep Support Kit’ that includes two types of aroma-therapy cards (‘Relax’ and ‘Refresh’) to help them to “get to sleep and wake up gently.” The cards emit a lavender or an ‘ANA Original Aroma’ scent when a small button is pressed

ANA operates B767-300ERs on intra-Asian routes with Business Class seats that do not have in-seat power ports. So the airline lends passengers an external laptop battery which is compatible with approximately 20 different manufacturers and provides 6 to 8 hours of extra laptop power. 

In February 2010, ANA introduced women-only lavatories on its long-haul flights which can be identified by a pink version of the universal sign for a ladies’ room on the door. Toilet etiquette appears to be an important part of ANA’s policy anyway. The airline has previously asked passengers to use the lavatories before they board flights so as to reduce the overall weight of the plane and save fuel. ANA’s new B787’s will also feature lavatories with TOTO ‘washlet’ bidets, a world’s first. 

On domestic routes ANA passengers can book the ‘ANA SkyPorter’ service to have their luggage picked up or delivered at their home or office for a small fee. At the airport, passengers can use their smart-chip enabled cell phone, credit or frequent flyer card (a common feature in Japan) to self-board on domestic flights. 

ANA My Choice
At the end of 2009, ANA introduced a new ancillary revenue program, called ‘MyChoice’. The idea behind the program is to offer Economy passengers on international flights paid access to premium amenities, such as lounge access and Business Class meals and beverages. On domestic routes ANA in April 2010 started to charge Economy passengers for all drinks other than water and green tea. Instead, passengers can purchase drinks from ANA’s ‘My Choice’ paid catering menu, which also includes fresh-tapped beer and Starbucks coffee. 

ANA low-cost and ANA Business Jet
In a further bid to battle competition from Japan’s extensive high-speed rail network as well as growing low-cost competition fom Korea and China, ANA will establish a low-cost airline in March 2011 at Osaka Kansai International Airport. The low-cost offshoot plans to operate 16 aircraft within four years on domestic routes and destinations in China. On the other end of the spectrum is the ‘ANA Business Jet’ service, a B737-800 with 24 business and16 economy seats, which ANA operates daily between Tokyo Narita and Mumbai. Similar to BA’s London City to New York JFK service, ANA’s westbound Narita to Mumbai flight has to make a stop for refueling.

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