Japan Airlines #66: Narita, Japan to San Diego, CA

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January 20, 2016 (NRT to SAN)

I woke up this particular morning in Nagoya, Japan to it snowing outside. Long story short, my intended half day at work was dismissed by my boss’s blessings. Conveniently, he was in Japan too and happen to run into me in the hotel lobby as I was gathering up with my coworkers and recommended that I just not go into work because of potential travel delays due to the snow since my flight was in the early evening. I couldn’t help but oblige. I left early to board the bullet train to Narita. Despite being about 25 minutes late, I still made it to Narita without further delays and a few hours earlier than originally intended. Because I arrived early, I was able to decide that I should chronicle and review the lounge and flight experience.

I left Nagoya Station just past 9:00 AM and arrived at Narita Terminal 2 at about 12:30 PM. In previous trips, I’m always hesitant at arriving around this hour because I know American Airlines closes their counters from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM. Thankfully, I flew Japan Airlines this time, and their ticket counters had no one in the Business Class line. I checked in with the ultra-polite ticket agent, made my way through the priority security line (for Oneworld Emerald/Sapphire and first/business class travelers), and Japanese customs. I opted not to do any shopping this time, though the Pokémon Store upstairs before security seemed really tempting. Gotta buy ‘em all, ya know? In previous trips, I’ve often bought sweets as gifts to take back to my family, but I didn’t have room in my backpack this time. I usually hit up the Sakura Lounge in the main building, but since my gate was in the satellite building, I made my way to the satellite First Class Sakura Lounge.

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I recently discovered the satellite location on my trip before this one.

I was the only passenger in the whole First Class lounge for a good while. Wow. I was able to take some pictures around the lounge.

To me, this lounge seems a lot bigger than the First Class lounge in the main terminal. Perhaps there’s more natural light, more seating, and it seems like there is more square footage. Because it was lunch time, I was pretty hungry so the first priority was to go grab some food. What I like about the Sakura Lounge is their selection of actual food and simply not snacks and hors-d’oeuvres like I’ve seen in other lounges.

I settled with beef curry and steamed rice with a side of meatballs and croissant. A sweet soy-filled daifuku as a dessert finish. Asahi Super Dry to wash it all down.

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After lunch, I went to hide in a corner of the lounge and send off some work emails. I guess I was somewhat actually concealed because I saw a staff member peek around the corner. When I finished sending work emails, I gathered my stuff and moved to the part of the lounge close to the separate bar area. Here they have a selection of alcohols, juices, sodas, and snacks.

I’ve been working on establishing a process to manage all the pictures I take because I have a lot from previous events and trips. As I was working on that, I poured myself some 12-year Yamazaki whisky and grabbed a Kit Kat. Not sure they actually pair well, but I wasn’t complaining.

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I reached a good stopping point and wondered if this satellite lounge also offers some of the same amenities that the main building First Class lounge offers.

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Complimentary 15-minute massages? Upper body, feet, and scalp? Check. Upper body felt awesome after lugging around my carry ons.

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Shower facility? Check. It’s nice to get refreshed before a long flight. Also, the Japanese tend to keep interior locations on the warmer side year round so it’s pretty common for me to break into a sweat at the airport even though it’s just above freezing outside.

After showering, I worked on a blog post. Then I proceeded to my gate.

Japan Airlines #66 from Narita to San Diego is a Boeing 787. Because my company pays for business class, I was able to sit in business class on this flight. On this JAL 787 route, they use Shell Flat Neo business class seats. It’s strange to me because I think their Sky Suite on their 777-300’s is a better hard product and seat overall. But it was still a pleasant experience. Couldn’t complain.

Each seat comes stocked with a pillow, blanket, Sony noise cancelling headphones, and an amenity kit. I sat in seat 7H, which is a bulkhead seat. I didn’t mind because I haven’t really sat in a bulkhead seat on an international flight, and I was having fun deploying the video monitor arm. After takeoff, I watched the sole episode of How I Met Your Mother that was available on their IFE.

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Japan Airlines tends to be slower in terms of starting in-flight service. When we reached cruising altitude was when the flight attendants busted out the orange juices and champagne. Following that was a multi-course dinner. I opted for the Western style meal featuring an amuse-bouche of shrimp with mayonnaise and foie gras mousse with an hors-doerve of quiche lorraine. The main course I selected was the ‘Wagyu’ beef sirloin steak with endive accompanied by some bread. To finish it off was a dessert of tea pudding. Honestly, I had to keep looking at the menu to know exactly what I was eating. JAL enlists the help of pro chefs to design their meals. You can view the same menu I was looking at here.

All the while I was eating dinner, I was watching The Transporter: Refueled. JAL has a pretty excellent database of movies to watch with new releases, older Hollywood movies, and Japanese ones too. Likewise, for audio selections. Depending on the IFE system installed, manga may also be available to read for some e-reading.

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I actually started to read Naruto, but I hit the wall pretty hard between drinks, food, and traveling so I decided to ‘get ready for bed’. In the lavatory, I removed my contacts, brushed my teeth, and marveled at 787’s LED lighting. Upon returning to my seat, I engaged its sleeping mode. Now, Shell Flat Neo is an angle-flat seat. This means that when you’re going horizontal to sleep, you’re not actually lying flat but rather at a shallow downward angle. My only other experience with angle-flat seats is with American Airlines’ 777-200’s that I’ve taken to and from Japan in the past. I couldn’t decide which one is more comfortable. However, JAL 787 wins because the seats are newer and they actually work. It’s awkward when your seat doesn’t have a working video monitor or it doesn’t fully go into angle-flat mode.

I must have actually fallen asleep, albeit intermittently. Because the next thing I knew, there were 3 hours left in this 9 hour flight. If dinner took 2 hours, then I must have been “asleep” for 3-4 hours. Cool? I got up and checked out the mid-flight snacks available. I didn’t get anything, but it looked alright.

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I went back to my seat and ordered an udon noodle soup. For some reason I thought that I could order food on the IFE, but that didn’t turn out to be the case. No worries, because JAL flight attendants are pretty good about checking the cabin so I was able to order it. Oishi! Delicious!

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After consuming deliciousness, I decided to spend the rest of the flight staring at my screen and drafting the beginning of this blog post.

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Great flight, even though I asleep for a good chunk of it! While I personally like Business Class on JAL’s 777’s better due to those seats, these seats on JAL 787 are pretty nice, too. Japan Airlines offers a great experience from airport to airport, and this particular trip was really nice to escape the snow in Japan and arrive in sunny San Diego.

– JD

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