The flight to BOS, Japan Airlines (JAL) flight 8, was my first opportunity to fly internationally on a 787-9 and to experience Japan Airlines’ Sky Suite, which was named best business-class seat in the 2013 Skytrax Awards.  This post is a longer than usual because this was a new experience and I enjoyed the flight immensely.

Other posts so far about this trip from the US to Phuket, Thailand and return are:

Japan Airlines Business Class 787-8 Bangkok, Thailand (BKK) to Tokyo, Japan (NRT)

Japan Airlines First Class Lounge Tokyo, Japan (NRT) Main Building

Cathay Pacific Business Class 777-300ER Newark, NJ (EWR) to Hong Kong, SAR China (HKG)

Dragonair A321 Business Class – Hong Kong, SAR China (HKG) to Phuket, Thailand (HKT)

Bangkok Airways A320 Economy Class (My ‘Lie Flat’ Economy Seat) – Phuket, Thailand (HKT) to Bangkok (BKK)

JAL Flight 008 NRT – BOS

JAL 008 — I get a bit of a kick out of flights with double 0 flight numbers.  A double 0 flight number usually means that the flight is one of the oldest and most important flights an airline operates.  Plus the flight number is easy to remember.

Boarding

After leaving the Japan Airlines First Class Lounge, it was a short walk to Terminal 2 Gate 63 for departure.  On the way, I got a look at my 787-9 for this ride.

IMG_3640
Japan Airlines 787-9 at NRT Gate 63
IMG_3638
Gates in the Main Building of NRT Terminal 2 are atypically below the concourse level

I arrived at the gate just after 18:00.  Boarding for the scheduled 18:30 departure was slightly delayed.  There were no “gate lice” who often clog boarding gates in the U.S..  Boarding lanes were clearly identified.  Agents made sure passengers were in the proper lane.

IMG_3636

Boarding began shortly after my arrival.

Japan Airlines Sky Suite

Sky Suite Cabin

JAL 787-9s have 44 business-class suites in two cabins, 35 premium economy seats, and 116 economy seats.  My seat, 2A, was a window seat in the forward business-class section.  The suites are 25.5 inches wide.  Seat pitch is 74 inches.  On this aircraft, though, even the economy seats are roomy.  They are arranged 2-4-2.  Seat width is an incredible 18.9 inches, and pitch is 33 inches.

IMG_3645
JAL 787-9 forward business-class section

The Sky Suites are arranged 2-2-2.  Six across seemed undesirable for business class, but Japan Airlines pulls it off magnificently.

Sky Suite Features

The Sky Suite is  version of the BE Aerospace Apex Suite.  All seats face forward (not angled or rear facing), have direct aisle access, and convert to full-flat beds.

IMG_3643
Seat 2A

787 Windows

I was glad to have a window seat for the flight because (a) I like, correction, make that absolutely adore, the large, electronically dimable 787 windows, and (b) the window  seats on this plane afford amazing privacy.

IMG_3642
Entrance to Sky Suite 2A

As is evident in the photo above, suite 2A includes three of these fantastic windows for one’s viewing pleasure.  Plus the passageway to the suite has a ledge that can be handy for placing items before departure and during cruise.

Seating Options

The 2-2-2 seating gives passengers options.  If you are traveling as a couple reserve side-by-side seats and leave the privacy screen down.  It will be easy to converse with your partner next to you.IMG_3661.JPG

If you are a solo traveler, raise the screen and, in the window seat, you will be in your own private world completely isolated from traffic in the aisle and the activities of the passenger next door.  I consider these window seats as more of a true suite than the business-class “suites” on Delta Airlines’ new A350-900.

The Sky Suite is fabulous although not as nice as Korean Air’s version of the Apex Suite (Prestige Suite) on the 777-300.  The wider 777 gives the Prestige suites a little extra room and storage.  Strangely, this seat on a Korean Air A330-300 did not leave a positive impression.

Video Monitor

The 23-inch video monitor is positioned directly in front of the seat in a fixed position meaning it need not be stowed for taxi, takeoff and landing.  The monitor is as large as those many airlines provide in first class.  Viewing is available from boarding to disembarking. IMG_3722 (2)

The monitor table provides a convenient spot for personal items during cruise.

Video Controller, Ottoman and Tray Table

The audio/video controller is located at eye level on the wall next to the adjacent seat.  It is angled slightly so it can be seen and manipulated without leaning forward.  The controller can also be removed for hand-held operation.IMG_3656

A wide and comfortable ottoman is positioned under the video monitor.  There is no squeezing your feet under the console of the seat in front as happens with many business-class seats that are not angled.  The area under the ottoman can be used for a backpack or other items during flight.IMG_3729

The tray table is stored under the ledge beside the seat.  It can be easily removed and positioned.

IMG_3658
Tray table storage and power outlet

Privacy and Lighting Controls

Seat, lighting, and privacy screen controls are mounted by the armrest on the right.IMG_3649

Amenities

On this flight, Japan Airlines supplied the usual amenities of international business class travel.

IMG_3651
Quilt. slippers and noise-cancelling headset
IMG_3705
The headsets have an on/off switch.

The slippers came with a nifty shoe horn that I now carry with me on all flights.

The amenity kit is packaged by Zero Halliburton, the company that made the case Armstrong and Aldrin used to haul moon rocks on Apollo 11.IMG_3647

The kit includes, eye mask, moist face mask, lip balm, dental kit, ear plugs and tissues. Outbound flights from Japan are equipped with soft-sided amenity kits while inbound flights get the semi-rigid ones.

(Side Note:  Speaking of Apollo 11, about 20 years ago, as part of the duties of a job in Cincinnati, OH, I had the honor of working with Neil Armstrong from time to time!  He was great to work with and a very humble and private person.  Out of respect for his privacy, I never asked him how it felt to be the first human to set foot on a celestial object other than Earth.  But I can state that he was a very unpretentious, and paradoxically, “down to earth” guy.  For example, he told me the aircraft he enjoyed flying most was the Grumman F-8F Bearcat, the final version of the Wildcat/Hellcat line and a plane he flew in Navy flight training.  That is damned high praise for a piston-powered aircraft from a sierra hotel (shit hot) test pilot and astronaut.  Among other feats, he flew the X-15 to the edge of space at nearly 4,000 mph and avoided a boulder field and the ultimate “screw the pooch” moment to safely land the Eagle on the Sea of Tranquility with only about 25 seconds of fuel remaining.  He performed that landing in front of a worldwide TV audience of over 600 million.  Neil Armstrong was one cool customer and definitely had the “right stuff.”  Here’s a report on my encounters with Neil Armstrong.)

Pajamas were not provided.  Instead we were offered cardigan lounge wear that could be worn over clothes.IMG_3654

Taxi and Takeoff 

From Terminal 2, getting to the main runway at NRT, two-mile plus runway 16R/34L, requires a long taxi.  The runway designation 16R refers to the runway’s heading of approximately 160° magnetic and the fact that there is at least one other NRT runway to the left aligned on the same heading.

IMG_3675
Passing ANA gates in Terminal 1 (blue lights designate taxiways, white for runways)

There was a short wait before our turn to takeoff.

IMG_3677
ANA heavy at takeoff power and rolling on Runway 16R .

As soon as ANA rotated, the tower directed JAL 008 to “position and hold, Runway One Six Right.”

IMG_3683
Taking the active runway as ANA departs

A short time after positioning, we received takeoff clearance and began our roll.  Waiting a bit creates the proper separation for air traffic control and allows turbulent wingtip vortices generated by the previous aircraft to dissipate.

After about 35 seconds of full power, we were airborne.

IMG_3690
NRT cargo area east of runway 16R

We continued on the runway heading roughly until going “feet wet” over the Kujukuri Sea.

IMG_3694
Preparing to turn to the course to BOS
IMG_3696
The lights of Choshi frame the Tone River as it joins the Pacific Ocean (center right).  The Tone is Japan’s second longest river.  Here, it forms the northern border of Narita’s Chiba Prefecture.

Windows are great, and 787 windows are the best.  With all seats having direct aisle access, for me there is no aisle or window debate.  It mystifies me how some takeoff with the shades closed or windows dimmed in this case.

Service

The service began with the pre-departure beverage and a moist towel.

IMG_3652
Charles Heidsiek champagne

Menus

These were the beverages available on the flight.20170314_015713

 20170314_015823 

IMG_3707IMG_3708IMG_3706IMG_3709 (1)

First Meal Service

Meals can be pre-ordered on the website.  I ordered onboard.  For the first meal service I chose the Japanese meal since the plane had been catered in Japan.

IMG_3714

Sakizuke – Sesame tofu and wasabi & simmered egg and char-siu pork with Chivas Regal

Next was the Winter Calm bento box.

IMG_3715
Winter Calm seasonal delicacies
IMG_3718
(See diagram on menu)
IMG_3720
Sake

Dainomono – main course.

IMG_3721
Boiled eel, stewed beef tongue, miso soup and Koshihikari rice
IMG_3723
Dessert and green tea

Although the food was unfamiliar, it tasted great and the presentation was impressive as was the grace of the FA who served it.

Second Meal Service

For the second meal service, I tried Fumiko’s Western Set Plate.

IMG_3732
Marinated shrimp and scallop with sweet potato and spinach and yuzu petit bread
IMG_3735
AOC Riesling Reserve 2014

The western dish was good but not like the Japanese meal.

Arrival Meal

I’ve grown weary of the standard airline American breakfasts, so before landing I had noodles instead.

IMG_3737
Japanese hot udon noodles with wild plants

I’m not a big noodles fan, but can see how one could grow to like them a lot after acquiring the skill to eat them.  This dish certainly looks healthier than eggs and sausage and such.

Cruise

What’s there to do on a 12+hour flight most of which is spent at altitudes of 35,000 to 41,000 feet?  Some work if there is good WiFi.  Many sleep.  When travelling for leisure, save sleeping for economy flights, if you can, and sleep as little as possible in business class and first class.  These seats are expensive whether you’re talking dollars or points and miles.  I have a finite supply of both and want to enjoy the premium experience as much as possible rather than disturb my neighbors (snoring).

I’d already seen all of the films that looked interesting but tried Dr. Strange.  I couldn’t force myself to finish it however.  Sometimes checking out one of the “classic” movies is good.  On the second or third viewing, new incites or interpretations often appear.IMG_3736

Another option is flight following on the AV system.   As a former pilot, this can be as good as a movie sometimes especially if there is a good heads-up display (HUD).

IMG_3728
This flight had a nice HUD system but not as good as some.
img_3227
Cathay Pacific HUD in economy

Another option is looking out the window.  I won’t do that if it would disturb other passengers.  I love 787s because the electronic dimming allows continuous exterior views without disturbing anyone.  If I see something interesting I can reduce the dimming factor for a bit to get a better view.

IMG_3738
Moon over the Arctic Ocean. At 41,000 feet the Earth’s curvature is barely beginning to become apparent.
IMG_3727
Somewhere over northern Canada

I managed to sleep for a while also.IMG_3725

PJs and a mattress would have been nice although I admit I likely would have kept the pjs as a souvenir rather than wear them on the plane.

Descent and Landing

In preparation for landing the FAs distributed moist eye masks like the ones in the amenity kit.

IMG_3743
Eye refresher

Placing the cool, moist refresher on my eyes was instantly soothing, almost like the effect of taking a shower for the face.

The approach to BOS was from the northwest.IMG_3744

We initially flew north of Boston and then circled to the right to land from the south on Runway 33 Left.IMG_3758

There was a good view of the coast and Boston as we landed.

IMG_3747
North of Boston over Nahant
IMG_3750
Boston Harbor Islands south of BOS
IMG_3754
Feet dry and ready for touchdown on Runway 33L

Japan Airlines Flight 008 landed at 18:12 three minutes ahead of schedule, and, due to the international dateline, almost 30 minutes before our departure from NRT!

Overall Impression

Wow!  Other business class seats are fancier and offer more room like the Qatar A350-900 I flew from Philadelphia, PA to Doha, Qatar; however, the amount of privacy of the window seat on this Japan Airlines 787-9 is unparalleled in my experience.  In terms of privacy, the only seat I’ve experienced that tops it is the Etihad First Class Apartment on its A380s and that is a first class seat.  The Delta seat that it calls a “suite” is definitely not as private.

The food and service on Japan Airlines is also among the best.  The only improvement I would offer is adding a mattress and pjs.  I can’t wait to fly this aircraft again.

Advertisements