In anticipation for the inaugural Flying Honu flight from Honolulu to Tokyo Narita, we set an early morning alarm for 5 am, to make sure we buffered time for any traffic delays. After checking out of our hotel, we hopped in an Uber and headed to Daniel K. Inouye International Airport, where we got dropped off at Terminal 2 by lobby 8, which is where United and ANA check-in counters are located. Check-in counters weren’t open yet by the time we got there, but there were already several eager passengers lining up. I guess we weren’t the only ones that were excited!
After waiting for another hour and a half, the counters opened just past 8:30 am and we quickly got our boarding passes, along with a map of the terminal with the lounge location.
The lounge and gate are actually located at the far end of the terminal at gate C4, which is about a 15-20 min walk from the check-in counters. The check-in staff advised us of a shuttle bus that runs on a schedule to the C gates, but we decided to just speed walk the entire way, which wasn’t too bad.
As we approached our gate, we could see many people on their phones and cameras taking pictures of the Flying Honu. I couldn’t resist myself and stopped by the window to take some photos as well!
Conveniently by the gate was a set of escalators that led up to the newly opened ANA lounge and ANA Suite Lounge. The two lounges share the same entrance, with Suite Lounge on the right and ANA Lounge on the left. I’m not sure if it’s the norm or if it’s due to the inaugural flight and grand opening of the lounge, but there were at least 10-15 staff greeting us by the escalator and entrance to the lounge.
I really appreciated the design of the lounge. The colours were vibrant and there was a lot of natural light throughout. I also liked the variety of seating options available, as well as the floor to ceiling windows lining the entire lounge which provided direct views of the Flying Honu. There were a lot of people standing by the windows taking photos of the beautiful aircraft. There were also two really cool looking pillars by the buffet station that resembled trees, reaching up into the ceiling where intricate leaf patterns were embedded. Really nice touch!
The food selection was decent with both hot and cold items in the buffet. Aside from my favourite, the vegetable curry rice, there were also fruits, cookies, pastries, salads and onigiri rice balls. There was also an open bar in the middle of the buffet section, which included a fridge with various beverages, as well as a coffee machine.
What’s unique about this lounge is that there is a dedicated kid’s play area that caters to travelling families.
At about 10:30 am we headed downstairs to the gate to watch the inaugural ceremony where the VP of ANA America gave a speech about the significance of the A380 in Honolulu. We also met Sam Chui there as well who recently got off his flight from Tokyo to Honolulu. After the ceremony concluded, I decided to just stay in the queue and board from the lower deck, since that might give me a chance to walk up the stairs and have a glimpse of the other cabins.
After a 30 min delay, boarding started off with families with children and people that required special assistance, followed by First Class and ANA Diamond Mileage Club members. Business Class would board after that, followed by Premium Economy and then Economy. As we were boarding, we were given a memorabilia gift box that contained three different blankets in the same colour as the three Flying Honus. As a Business Class passenger boarding downstairs, we were directed to the first jet bridge by door L1 and were given a Lani luggage tag when we were greeted at the door. Neat! I was able to take a quick peek of Economy Class and First Class as I made my way to the Business class cabin towards my seat 11A.
As this was only the second commercially operated flight for this aircraft, the cabin and seat felt really new and clean. Spotless. Although the colours might be a bit plain for some, I actually quite liked the modest style and preferred this over the glamorous style of Emirates.
The amenities were already placed on the seat and consisted of a comforter, pillow, slippers, mattress pad, and an amenity kit with the flight information printed on the kit.
Upon sitting down at my seat, I noticed that the seat width is actually quite generous and felt really spacious.
ANA decided to use the same staggered seating configuration found in all of their long haul planes. The one featured on the A380 is a refreshed version of the one found on their 787-10s. I personally prefer reverse herringbone seat types, but this staggered seat from ANA was up there in terms of spaciousness.
One thing that stood out to me the most was how big the TV screens were! The new IFE controller reminded me of an Apple TV remote and had a small trackpad to move the on-screen cursor, which is pretty convenient. The IFE touch screen and remote were both very snappy during use. I really liked how they customized the system for this Hawaiian route since the Hibiscus flower was prominent throughout the different screens. The TV screen was high quality, but I think I would have preferred a matte version since the glossy reflective surface made it a little hard to see when there was any stray light coming from the window.
As with other A380s, large storage bins lined the upper deck and each Business Class seat by the window had at least one. One thing I did notice was that window seat in row 8 and 9 have one locked bin compared to other seats – potentially due to some internal hardware stowage.
Reading materials, LED light, USB power ports and universal outlet are available in the side table. The large surface area of the side table is highly appreciated and allows you to put all the goodies they give you 😉
The flight attendants came around with a choice of orange juice and champagne for a pre-departure drink. About 28 mins after boarding started the doors were closed, which was amazing. Managing to board a fully-loaded A380 within 30mins is extremely efficient.
We pushed back right after the JAL Dreamliner beside us and had a long taxi to the offshore runway, 8R. As we crossed runway 8L, our plane received a water cannon salute to celebrate the first commercial A380 service out of Honolulu. That was the first time experiencing something like that for me, and was definitely a very special moment!
After another few mins of taxiing, we lined up for runway 8R and took off after a rather long and quiet takeoff. The A380 always amazes me how quiet it is during takeoff. On the one hand, it’s great for flying comfort. On the other hand, I do miss that engine buzz.
A while after takeoff, warm towels and menu were distributed in preparation for meal service. Thankfully, I pre-ordered my meal in advance through ANA’s “Manage My Booking” feature and didn’t have to wait for my meal order to be taken. Personally, I always go for the Japanese meal since I like the variety of small dishes that come with the Japanese meal.
ANA A380 Flying Honu Business Class Menu
Once orders were taken, FAs spent another 30-40 mins setting up the table cloth and serving drinks, but the Amuse Bouche didn’t arrive for another half hour.
Once the Amuse Bouche was cleared, the entree and fruits were served all together in one tray and were presented rather nicely. The appetizer plate was a good mix of flavours and really opened up my appetite while the miso halibut was perfect and tasted flavourful and tender.
Haagen Daaz ice cream was served for dessert, which I paired nicely with a coffee.
While the food tasted great, the meal service was noticeably slow. It was evident how busy the flight attendants were. Maybe it was due to the new plane type for ANA, as well as having a large number of passengers on board, but the entire meal service took at least two hours to complete. Hopefully, this is not the norm and the crew just need some time to iron out the inefficiencies.
After meal service, I requested to purchase the exclusive Flying Honu A380 model and Lani doll from the duty-free catalogue, but unfortunately, everything was sold out by the time I asked. Pro tip if you plan to purchase these items on board – ask right after boarding!
I did some exploring around the plane to check out the galleys, premium economy and economy class cabins.
About two and a half hours out of Tokyo, I decided to order a round of snacks to try out the “Light Dishes Anytime” menu. I ordered the Japanese udon noodles, a grilled chicken teriyaki sandwich, some rice cracker snacks, a creamy soup pasta, and some tomato snacks. Alright, that wasn’t very “light“, but I really wanted to try more things from the menu! The grilled chicken sandwich and creamy soup pasta were pretty mediocre, but the rest of the snacks were pretty good.
I didn’t actually sleep on this flight, but I set up my bed just for some lounging and to get a sense of how comfortable it was. In terms of bedding, ANA provides a pretty decent mattress pad, memory foam pillow and a light comforter. The presence of a mattress pad makes a huge difference to the comfort of the bed. The comforter is light and cool, but since ANA’s cabin tends to be a little on the warm side, I didn’t really use it. The width and legroom are both very generous.
I also used this time to check out the IFE. The interface was pretty simple and easy to use. From the main screen, you can click on “Aloha Channel” and jump directly to browse a diverse selection of both English and Japanese movies, TV shows and documentaries. Similarly, you can browse different magazines or music in a similar UI.
The flight details and flight map are very sleek and enjoyable to use as well.
Near the end of the flight, the crew distributed a special boarding certificate, which serves as proof we flew on a very special inaugural flight. I also asked for some post cards for keepsake as well.
Overall, it was a really enjoyable 8 hours with ANA on this really special flight. This was my first time experiencing an inaugural flight, so it felt very different from any flight I’ve taken before. There were celebrations at the gate and in the lounge, and even during the flight many people were taking photos and videos and exploring the aircraft. I could feel the excitement and passion from all the aviation geeks on board, myself included!
In terms of the aircraft itself, ANA has done a really good job with the A380. They really designed it with this Honolulu route in mind, catering to families or people travelling with younger children, and it is just a very fun aircraft.
As a passenger in the business class cabin, the seat was really spacious and comfortable, and since I was only the second passenger to have ever sat on the seat, it was spotless. The seat controls and IFE are intuitive to use. I would have liked the screen to be less reflective.
The quality of the food was great, as usual with ANA. However, I was a little underwhelmed at how it was served. I thought they should have done proper courses, served separately, instead of all on one tray. After all, it was a 7-hour flight, so there was plenty of time for that.
The crew were really friendly and genuine – a touch of typical Japanese hospitality. However I felt they were a little disorganized, and the service was pretty slow, especially with clearing trays or serving drinks (The meal service took a full two hours to finish). I also had to repeat my requests multiple times before they brought me the things I was asking for. Since it is just the second commercial flight of ANA’s A380, I’m going to attribute this to unfamiliarity with the aircraft, and I hope over time they will improve in this aspect.
Finally, this one is not so much criticism on the flight itself, but I can’t believe they didn’t stock more of the special Flying Honu duty-free items! Surely they could have anticipated the demand for such items, given the group of people who would book an inaugural flight. I was pretty bummed that I couldn’t get one of the exclusive Flying Honu Lani dolls, which can only be purchased on this flight.
With that aside, this was perhaps one of the most fun flights I’ve ever had. I’m definitely looking to book more inaugural flights in the future!
If you’re interested in a more visual experience for this flight, why not check out the trip report / Vlog I made?
What did you think about my inaugural ANA A380 flight? Will you consider flying on ANA’s A380 jets one day? Let me know in the comments! Make sure to subscribe to our newsletter for instant updates when we release a new post! Also, head over to our YouTube channel for our video trip reports. Thanks for reading!
Alvin is an aviation geek, enthusiast photographer, and software developer with a goal of exploring the world. He uses mileage programs to redeem premium flight travel, and shares his experiences here on OneMoreWeekToGo.