I recently flew home from a business trip to Japan. It just so happened that my administrator selected for me to fly home using Japan Airlines (JAL) on their direct route to and from Narita (NRT) and Dallas/Ft. Worth (DFW). JAL uses one of their 787-8’s to fly this route using the JAL Sky Suite in business class. This is one of my fav seat products out there! It was a nice treat after having spent about three months in Japan.
So uhh…I have the ridiculous advantage of being able to travel business class paid for by my company. If I were doing such a trip on my own, I would use flights.google.com to check prices, and explore using AAdvantage Miles to book business class award tickets. If I end up purchasing the ticket, I would use a travel credit card like the Chase Sapphire Reserve to maximize points earning for a travel purchase such as airfare.
Anyway, via my company and administrator booking this flight for me, I was able to select seat 8A, which is a window seat in the more aft business class section on the port side. JAL #12 departs at ~11:10AM daily.
Ok. So…I’ve been traveling to Japan many times over the past two years. Because of this, I’m currently Executive Platinum for American Airline’s AAdvantage program. This translates to oneworld Emerald status. And it’s because of being oneworld Emerald that I was able to gain access to the First Class Sakura Lounge at Narita International Airport. There are two locations, and I went to the one closer to immigration as it was closer to my gate. The other First Class Sakura Lounge is just to the right in the satellite section of Terminal 2.
To summarize my experience here, I enjoyed a lite breakfast buffet because I had already eaten at my hotel prior to leaving at the airport.
I enjoyed the services of the massage chair, the shower room, and massage with a masseuse.
Breakfast: The Sequel
The most ridiculous thing I did was get in line at the sushi bar to get some egg omelette and tuna sushi and wash it down with Suntory Yamazaki 12 year whiskey. At 9:30AM. For the blog. While waiting for my upper body care massage.
After my massage, food, shower, and lounging around, I felt loosey-goosey enough to head to my gate.
I don’t like waiting last minute to board, even as an elite, so I usually like heading to the gate a little early. I sat down and waited about 20 minutes before they called for boarding.
The flight didn’t seem so full based on how many people were sitting around at the gate. I think some youth group was also part of the flight based on a group leader’s constant inquiring about the whereabouts of one particular youth. I know the struggle having been a practically professional chaperone for youth events, haha.
Because I’m oneworld Emerald, I got in line in the appropriate late during pre-boarding lineup. Again, I always feel awkward when boarding because I’m usually the youngest and most dressed down (short-sleeve polo and gym shorts).
As I mentioned before, I sat in seat 8A. Window seats are great on JAL flights with their business class Sky Suites because you can get a lot of privacy.
There are some good amenities to this seat. The screen is fairly large, each seat is powered with normal plugs and USB, privacy divider between adjacent seats, the seat can lie flat, and they even provide an Airweave mattress.
The amenity kit is a Zero Halliburton bag with toothbrush, ear plugs, mask, lip balm, tissue, and moisture mask. I like the amenity kit bags that JAL usually provides, but I’m not often not too impressed with their contents.
In previous trips to Japan, I’ve gotten to ride business class on American’s 777-200 (old, angle-flat), 777-200 retrofit (new “Cirrus” AAL config, and Super Diamond), and 787-8 (new “Cirrus” AAL config). But! I think the JAL Sky Suite is still my favorite.
JAL provides a lot of a content on their in-flight entertainment systems that use Magic Suite. The content varies from Eastern to Western titles. I find that JAL doesn’t usually have a lot of Western TV shows, but they do have a good selection of recent movies and classics as well.
I didn’t peruse their music, but in the past I know it’s pretty varied. I also didn’t check if there was an e-reader function, but I know from a past trip that manga is available to read, if offered.
After takeoff, we were given a choice of either champagne, orange juice, or water. The flight attendant working my side as well as the head purser both personally introduced themselves, which is very nice touch.
I opted to go with the Wagyu Beef on the Western set menu for lunch. I paired this with a red pinot from South Africa.
The thing about business class meals is that they are multi-course style.
For amuse-bouche, I had sesame tofu with wasabi and a tuna confit. The tofu was squishy and spicy, and the confit was a weird combo of fishy taste with pesto, but still petty good.
The hors-d’oeuvre was grilled spear squid. Seafood, especially of cephalopod nature, are usually not my first choice of things to eat. The squid had a weird chewy texture and was kind of tasteless, but I still finished it all.
And then of course my main course: wagyu steak with eggplant caviar. It was delicious! The flight attendant also asked if I wanted a side of steamed rice, which being the Asian that I am, I obliged. The wagyu was juicy and easy to cut into, which is pretty impressive for airplane food, haha.
To finish it out, I had pomelo pudding. Bitter and sweet.
My only struggle with JAL flights in business class is that the main food service takes a long time. We weren’t given menus until 25 minutes after takeoff. And the entire meal service lasted a little over 2 hours. But! The flight attendants were attentive and really strived to do their best.
During the meal service, I had watched The Great Wall, but it finished before I received dessert, lol. I then started Star Wars: Rogue One, and I also decided to bust out my Nintendo Switch to make a little progress on The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. I did this for a little while until I felt tired.
I knew I needed to get as much sleep as I could on this flight knowing that I’d be arriving at 8:30AM in DFW and still have to go to work. Bummer.
In preparation, I got into the overhead compartment bin and unpackaged the Airweave mattress to lay it across my now-flat seat.
I kept tossing and turning because the cabin was too bright at the time. I was too lazy to grab my face mask, but I eventually did after while. I think I was able to fall asleep after a while, and I was probably “in bed” for about 4 hours.
At 6 hours into the flight, I used the lav. It looked pretty clean so I’m guessing the flight attendants had been attending to it.
You know you’re on a Japanese carrier when even the toilets in the lavs have spray functions.
Feeling a little hungry, I perused the snacks available at the galley. Honestly, I think American Airlines does this part better with a selection of savory snacks and plated foods. I grabbed a macaroon.
Still feeling hungry, I used my handset to order ramen. On JAL 777 and 787 business classes that have it, you can order food on demand with their “Anytime You Wish” menu.
The ramen was okay. It felt too pre-packaged, and the hardboiled egg were still a little cold. I washed it down with JAL’s specialty Skytime kiwi drink.
After this mid-flight meal, I played my Nintendo Switch some more and decided to take a short nap.
Upon waking, I turned on the new Beauty and the Beast. Halfway through the movie, the pre-landing meal service started. Again, I ordered the Western set, which was roasted lamb with bread. Delicious! Oishi! Not what I’d consider “breakfast” per se but then again, I did eat sushi and drink whiskey in the lounge the day before, haha.
Overall, it was a good flight. The flight attendants offer great service as to be expected from a Japanese carrier, but they’re always slow with the main meal service. I had good options to be entertained, and good opportunities to be comfortable in order to get some sleep (even if I was too lazy to actually make it more comfortable).
Here’s a cool timelapse I filmed of the landing at DFW:
I look forward to my next opportunities to fly JAL!