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All Nippon Airways - The "Step Up" from Japan Airlines

Updated on August 18, 2011

There was a time when I traveled to Japan quite a bit. I have recently started flying back there again, and when asked which airline I preferred, my answer was always “JAL (Japan Airlines).” A few people agreed with me, and a few didn’t. I always thought the world of JAL as the service was fantastic and the flight itself always impressed me. That is, until I rode on ANA (All Nippon Airways). A family member had commented I would like ANA better. The funny thing is, she was absolutely right.

There are 4 things that absolutely make a flight for me. 1) Service, 2) Space, 3) Seat Comfort, and 4) Peace and Quiet. Although JAL had always had 2 out of 4, for me there was still “room for improvement” (no pun intended). ANA, on the other hand, got a 4 out of 4.

1) Service – Equal : JAL & ANA

Once you’ve been to Japan and experienced what real customer service is like, you’ll never see any other customer service the same. The service they give you is incomparable (You have to experience it to understand). I had about the same service on ANA as I did with JAL. All of the stewardesses were cute, well-dressed, very presentable, smiling, overjoyed faces ready to cater to your every whim.

2) Space : ANA

I’m a fairly tall person (and not anorexic either, I might add), so trying to squeeze through the aisles to get to my seat is not an entirely pleasant thing to do. I usually carry a bag with all of my documents and paperwork so I could read up or do a little bit of work on the flight. The problem is, quite often I find myself trying to shuffle sideways or lift my bag over my head so as not to hit anyone sitting in their seat in the face. I have always had that problem with JAL.

On ANA, it was a different story. There was not a huge difference, but enough for me to notice. I didn’t need to shuffle sideways and I didn’t need to lift my bag over my head. As long as I kept my bag close to my body, I was able to make my way to my seat without worrying about taking anyone's eye out.

3) Seat Comfort – ANA

As I mentioned before, I’m a fairly tall person. There were many times while riding JAL that I spent hour after hour with my knees dug into the seat in front of me. As if I wasn’t already uncomfortable, there would be times when the person in front of me would recline his/her seat. It was not the most comfortable flight for either of us as I would eventually start to wiggle (thanks to my A.D.D., I fidget quite a bit) and kick the seat in front of me. I wouldn’t do it on purpose, but when you’re unable to move a centimeter or to even get up from your seat to use the restroom, it can be quite a miserable flight. There were times when the seat itself was so small that I was even more confined. It’s not hard to imagine how miserable I would be with absolutely no leg room and the seats armrests digging into my hip. There was even an experience I had with my hip constantly pressing the buttons of the remote for the screen in front of me. Could it get any more uncomfortable?

I was pleasantly surprised at the space on ANA. Not only was there more than enough room for my legs to stretch out, there was even room for me to put both of my bags under the seat in front of me. To my surprise, the seat itself was also wider (no more button pushing with my hip)! I was able to comfortably do a little bit of work, read, watch a movie, and relax without worrying about elbowing the person in the seat next to me, kicking the seat in front of me, or having any of my joints locking up on me.

4) Peace and Quiet – Equal : JAL & ANA
There are always going to be those flights with at least one baby screaming like crazy the entire flight. I cannot say it was better on any airline as they all have that problem. The one thing I can say about JAL and ANA is that they take care of their tiny passengers as well as they do their grown-up passengers. The stewardesses on both airlines offer a cot to parents with babies so that the baby can sleep semi-comfortably during nap time and the parent can also relax a bit. Still, babies scream, cry, and make a fuss no matter what kind of service they're getting. There’s just no stopping it.

ANA and JAL both have the same quality of service that you would expect from a Japanese company, but if space is very important to you as well, ANA is definitely the way to go. I never thought I would ever choose ANA over JAL, but comfort always rules in my book. Because of that, ANA is definitely the "step up" from JAL.

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