So far this year there have been two trips to Japan (hoping there’s a third by March 🙂 ) and in those I’ve flown everything from Delta Comfort Plus to American Premium Economy and Business. The flight I was most excited about was my return from the last trip – Japan Airlines Business Class from Narita to Dallas. I’ll start simply with – JAL did not disappoint. If you’re looking for the best way to get to Japan, JAL is the only way to go. Sure you’ll pay a premium of about 10% over other airlines, in all classes, but the service and attention to detail can’t be overlooked. Read on to find out more …
Premium Economy and Business Class passengers on JAL get access to the Sakura lounges. Narita is the flagship of these and did not disappoint. Very typically Japanese minimalism and super quiet. So quiet I was unable to get many photos without getting in the way of people or generally being annoying. Let me just say it’s HUGE. Spans three floors and has literally everything you need for a short or long stay in the lounge. I did get some shots of the dining area where they have buffets set up and the best beer dispenser I’ve ever seen! The staff was awesome even holding my bags while I did some shopping.
JAL flies a very low density configuration on the 787 and it’s great. Over half the cabin is dedicated to Business and Premium Economy and Economy are some of the best in the business when it comes to everything measurable to your comfort. For example, even in Economy JAL has as much legroom as Delta does in Comfort Plus. Plus the food is so much better! As you would imagine they do a Japanese style meal better than anyone else. Premium Economy is more of a scaled down business with the same food and beverage offerings. Better blankets and the AirWeave pillow and amenity kits really set this cabin as the one I’d choose to fly all the time. More on that in a bit. Here’s the seat map for Biz and W class on the 787:
Don’t let the 2x2x2 in Business scare you off from the normal 1x2x1 layout. The window and aisle seats are staggered such that the window seats get a little “hallway” to exit the suite. So you still get direct aisle access and there is a large partition that raises to make it super private. If you’re traveling with someone, the middle seats are great for conversation, etc. I sat in 8K, a window in the second part of the cabin and it quickly became obvious I was going to really enjoy this flight.
After pre-departure drinks of champagne we took off right on time and climbed like a rocket to 40,000 feet for the journey to Dallas. Seat belt sign was off in 10 min and never came back on until final approach. I had ordered ahead of time the Japanese meal thinking it would run out but this is JAL – they always have the Japanese meal. When service started I was offered a hot towel with the signature JAL scent.
Here’s where US airlines can learn a thing or two: my flight to Tokyo was on American in Premium Economy. I always brings bags of chocolates when I fly on a US airline as you have to bribe Flight Attendants these days to deliver that famous American hit or miss service. With JAL however, I simply mentioned how much I loved the signature scent and 2 minutes later a full bottle of it appeared at my seat with the offer to put it in my duty free bag for me. Things like this and noticing I was a blogger and showing me around, chatting up in the galley and doting on my every need was what set JAL apart. It’ll be hard to fly any US airline, even in First after this.
The meal service was interesting in that only one formal meal is served. After that the FA’s come around to tell you when the kitchen closes, as everything you want after the main meal is made to order and you alert them to what you want on the IFE remote control. It’s honestly a better way of serving food as you can sleep right until landing, or eat until you pass out. Even though I ordered the Japanese meal, my starter was the Western choice. Hmmm…
The FA’s realized after the starter I had ordered the Japanese meal. No big deal in my book – that salmon was amazing! My thought was that they would just bring me the Japanese meal and go from there – I was so wrong. In typical Japanese culture I was apologized to by the 2 cabin crew working my area, and a visit from the lead cabin member to profusely apologize for the wrong meal. To top off all of the apologies, my table was fully cleared and re-set and they started my entire meal service from the starter. Wow. I can’t think of an airline I’ve ever flown that would go through all of that!
I ate the entree so fast I didn’t get a photo but it was an amazing Miso Glazed Salmon and Braised Beef Cheek. Here are some photos of the menu, along with the Anytime You Wish Dining…
I really enjoyed the JAL Sky Time Kiwi drink and they kept that and the champagne flowing the entire flight. During the flight I placed a few orders for food and my arrival meal…
Boarding and the lounge were amazing. Lots of amenities and orderly boarding.
Seat was a bit narrow in bed mode but the amenities, mattress and divider made up for that. I tried Premium Economy and could actually sleep better in those so that will be my next cabin I try.
Service and food was above and beyond. My glass was never empty. I was asked if I like the food and wanted anything else. When I changed my shirt was hung nicely for me. The bathroom were stocked with so many amenities I’m having a hard time remembering. The cabin crew was nothing but smiles and how can I help attitude.
The plane did not disappoint as well. It was only my second flight on a 787 but I do notice the higher humidity and lower altitude. Plus the way JAL uses the auto dimming shades – they leave you with most of the control and upon landing – we had the sun coming in on one side so they made those shades a light blue and it really helped with the ambient lighting. Good work of the planes features versus American which just turned them on or off.
I’ll round this out with a few window shots and this : if you’ve ever thought about going to Japan – do it now. If you want the best experience in getting there – not matter what class you pick – hit up Japan Airlines. Trust me, it’s worth every penny or mile you spend.