ANA triples down on Honolulu A380s with new lounge and gate complex

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Japanese airline ANA continues to impress with the passenger experience it’s designing for its new A380-branded Hawaiian products, complete with double-exclamation-point ANA HAWA!! tagline. Indeed, it was only last month that I was so impressed by the planned #PaxEx on board the flying sea-turtle A380s the Japanese airline is introducing next spring.

But if that was doubling down on the passenger experience, ANA’s new Honolulu lounge is a triple-down, with a fresh fusion concept and an extension of the airline’s contact time with passengers.

Unusually even for larger operators of Airbus A380 fleets, passengers will be able to board the upper deck of the superjumbo directly from the lounge. That’s beneficial for passengers for two reasons. Perhaps most obviously, it’s a nice perk to get private boarding away from the scrum in the main terminal. But more than that, it allows the airline to stretch the amount of time it has with the passenger, to design the whole experience, and to take care of passengers in the way the system was designed.

Direct boarding is a big PaxEx plus. Image: ANA

That’s an especially useful benefit for the Japanese market, where travellers show a strong preference for home carriers and their unique passenger experience — and, indeed, ōmotenashi.

The lounge is to sit above the newly renumbered gate C4 beyond security, and ANA staff will greet passengers from a welcome area featuring a fusion of Japanese coffered ceiling with Hawaiian wood.

HNL is renumbering its gates, and ANA’s lounge will sit above C4. Image: ANA

Within the main lounge, the design is “sea, sky, and trees symbolising Hawaiian nature”, the airline says, with a striking stylised wooden tree stretching to the ceiling and reflected in wooden surfaces.

ANA mixes fresh tropical colour and texture with its signature premium marble effect. Image: ANA

Lounges are liminal, transitional spaces, and ANA is smart to create a space where “the design of the lounge will reflect a fusion of Japanese and Hawaiian essences, so visiting passengers are able to immerse themselves in Hawaii’s relaxing reverberation before making their trip back home, while those who call Hawaii home will be able to relax in a familiar atmosphere that incorporates the warmth of Japanese hospitality, in preparation for their trip to Japan.”

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I’m impressed by the range of seating, including a mixture of armchair and table spaces, although the renderings don’t yet show power points that would qualify it for the #LoungeHolyGrail.

The first class Suite lounge is more sober and in keeping with the rest of the ANA first class lounge offerings elsewhere on the network, and is separated from the rest of the lounge. Yet even here the design is less formal than its other first class lounges, and the blended design works well.

Crucially for a holiday destination, there is a family area, with toys for children to play with and a tide pool motif. Kiddy spaces are a smart move for everyone in the lounge: children make a beeline for them, keeping them entertained and tiring them out before a long flight; adults travelling with them are less stressed and tired; the inevitable joyful racket of kids on holiday is concentrated in one space; and there’s a useful Nudge-type effect where, if a kid zone is clear, there’s a set of social norms that suggests noisy kids go there and work off steam.

A fun space for kids makes for a great lounge. Image: ANA

Cleverly, ANA has separated this section of the lounge with an architectural bottleneck, which both makes it easier for parents to keep an eye on the sproglets and also reduces the noise carryover to the rest of the lounge.

But with my fine-toothed #PaxEx comb in hand, I’m fascinated to be reminded just how leisure-focussed ANA is on this route when looking at the CGI renders and the photoshopped-in people in them. No suits here, even in first class: it’s family casual all the way, highlighting just how important the upmarket premium travel segment is for this airline — and for others.

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