Airline review: ANA Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner economy, Sydney to Tokyo Haneda

THE ROUTE

Sydney to Tokyo (Haneda). Tokyo's city airport is much closer to central hotels than Narita Airport, just 15 kilometres from the CBD.

THE PLANE

Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. Following rapid expansion, ANA now has 28 of the 787-9s in its fleet, more than double the amount the airline had last February. There are plans to introduce the 787-10 Dreamliners in the future.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

ANA Mileage Club. Passengers can also earn points towards other Star Alliance membership programs. I accrued Thai Airways Royal Orchid Plus miles on this flight.

CLASS

Economy, middle seat 26J.

DURATION

Nine hours, 35 minutes.

FREQUENCY

The daily non-stop service to Tokyo's Haneda airport commenced in December 2015.

SEAT

With an overall capacity for 215 passengers on the aircraft, the Economy cabin has 146 seats. The two-aisle 3-3-3 configuration cabin feels reasonably spacious. Seat pitch is 34 inches (86.36 centimetres) and width is 17 inches (43.18 centimetres). My shorter-than-average legs have plenty of room to stretch out. Each seat features a USB connection (handy for charging smartphones mid-flight) and a power point.

BAGGAGE

Economy class passengers enjoy a generous ANA baggage allowance: two checked bags up to 23 kilograms each, plus one carry-on bag up to 10 kilograms and a personal item.

COMFORT

Much has been written about the wonders of the Dreamliner's superior design, and the accolades are deserved. The state-of-the-art long-haul aircraft are manufactured from a carbon fibre composite that delivers a faster, smoother, greener ride. The cabin is quieter and more humid than most, meaning passengers are less likely to arrive at their destination looking and feeling frazzled. An adjustable footrest provides extra comfort. A middle seat in economy on a long-haul overnight flight is never going to give cause for celebration, but I have certainly paid a lot more for a lot less on other airlines.

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ENTERTAINMENT

Seatback touch-sensitive screens offer SkyChannel programming, with a mix of movies, news, music and games in Japanese, English and several other languages. The program changes monthly, with up to 500 options available. Sky Live TV is streamed in real-time, offering a choice of CNN, Sport 24 and Japanese news.

Wi-Fi is available at a cost of $US6.95 for 30 minutes, $US16.95 for three hours or $US21.95 for the duration of the flight.

SERVICE

Like some demented mimic, I find myself smiling and nodding vigorously in mirrored response to every polite interaction with the delightful crew members. Dressed in elegant light grey and blue uniforms, the all-female cabin crew epitomise gracious, attentive and respectful Japanese service.

FOOD

Our 9.30pm departure from Sydney means a late dinner served at 10.30pm. I choose the salmon with rice, my seatmate opts for the Hungarian beef with pasta. Both are served with a smoked salmon and potato salad appetiser, vegetables, fresh fruit, and a snack mix we save for 'ron. As far as airline food goes, it hits the spot.

Breakfast snack is handed out after dinner in a plastic bag containing a Carman's muesli bar, Danish pastry scroll and chocolate cookie. No joy for the protein-seekers.

A second drinks service would have been appreciated on the nine-and-a-half hour flight, but we had to settle for pressing the call button when we needed water and green tea.

ONE MORE THING

Star Wars fans will feel the force of the four ANA specially decorated jets. The original Star Wars liveried jet is now joined by R2-D2, BB-8 and C-3PO (see gallery above). A Star Wars ANA Kids Lounge was recently unveiled at Tokyo Haneda Airport, Terminal 2. Check ana-sw.com for scheduled routes. Although previously a regular visitor to Sydney Airport, the R2-D2 plane is no longer scheduled to fly to Australia. May the force be with you.

THE VERDICT

The challenges of long-haul economy are made more bearable with Dreamliner features and charming Japanese hospitality and service.

OUR SCORE

★★★★

Tested by Kristie Kellahan, who flew courtesy of ILTM Japan (International Luxury Travel Market).

See also: 10 reasons the Boeing 787 Dreamliner lives up to the hype

See also: 20 things that will surprise first-time visitors to Japan

Airline reviews A to Z: Read all Traveller's Flight Tests

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