You may ask why a photo from Kansai International Airport is the featured image for a post about the Japan Airlines First Class Lounge at Tokyo Haneda Airport. The answer is I flew from Osaka to Tokyo to start the trip home and think it is a cool picture. It was definitely cool on the January morning when I made a short hike from the terminal to take the photo.
I was flying on Japan Airlines from Osaka to Tokyo to connect to a JAL flight to New York. My flight from Tokyo to Osaka landed at Osaka’s strictly domestic airport, which is confusingly named Osaka International (ITM). Japan Airlines routed the return flight out of Osaka’s Kansai International Airport (KIX), which is much farther than ITM from the city.
JAL Flight 220 was scheduled to depart at 06:40. Arriving at the airport a couple of hours in advance required leaving the city before public airport transportation began operating. Internet searches and consultation with the hotel concierge confirmed taxis were the only option. The pre-arranged taxi met me at the Osaka Hyatt Regency at about 04:00. With no traffic it took only 40 minutes to reach KIX. The taxi cost $140!!! That is highway robbery, literally.
I knew it would be costly. The first time I visited Osaka was with my wife and son in the early 90s. The taxi from the airport cost $60 which I thought was outrageous then. To catch the flight to Tokyo it would have been cheaper to get a room at an airport hotel for the previous night and I could have enjoyed more sleep. But one travel goal for 2020 was attaining Hyatt Globalist status that requires credit for 60 nights in Hyatt properties in a calendar year. One less Hyatt night now meant one more Hyatt night later. Still, in retrospect, an airport hotel was the better option. I took my taxi-ride medicine as stoically as possible even though it still pains me to think about it.
The terminal was practically deserted. When I arrived, there were maybe 30 people in the whole place. They looked like they had spent the night there after arriving on a flight the previous evening. I have done that before when an overnight connection is less than 10 – 12 hours. In those situations remaining at the airport is uncomfortable but makes sense because by the time I get to a hotel and get to sleep, it is almost time to get up and go back to the airport.
The security lines didn’t open until 05:30. That left an hour to wander the deserted terminal. A McDonalds on the arrivals level was the only thing open. I ate breakfast there. It was a pleasure to consume decadent American comfort food.
The only lounge outside security that was open was the KIX Airport Lounge which is open 24 hours. It is located next to McDonalds. It costs 610¥ (about $5.75) for one hour. Food, beverages and most other services cost extra. I skipped the lounge knowing I’d have access to the JAL first class lounge in Tokyo.
After security opened I waited at the gate. JAL Sakura lounges inside security don’t open until 07:00.
Flight to Tokyo
The equipment for JL Flight 22 was a 737-800, the same type of aircraft as the flight from Tokyo. This flight was nearly identical except in traveled in the opposite direction. It was packed with Monday morning commuters heading to Tokyo. Perhaps some of the same commuters who were on the Friday evening flight from Tokyo were on this flight. The flight went smoothly. I had an exit row economy seat with a vacant seat in the middle.
Japan Airlines Haneda First Class Lounge
At Haneda Airport, I found that the JAL First Class Lounge was closed for renovations. I had been looking forward to this lounge. JAL’s Main Terminal and Satellite Terminal first class lounges at Narita are gems. It stood to reason that the Haneda first class lounge would be the same or even nicer. After all, JAL couldn’t let itself be outdone by the outstanding ANA first class lounge at Haneda. Alas, the temporary lounge made do on this trip.
The lounge is located in Terminal 3 above the concourse level near Gate 114.
Temporary lounges are generally a let down. In this case, while not nearly as nice as the actual first class lounge, the temporary lounge exceeded my expectations.
Here is the lounge layout.
I presented my boarding pass with the Oneworld Emerald status displayed, and the receptionist welcomed me to the lounge even though I was flying to New York in premium economy. JAL and Oneworld first class passengers and certain JAL frequent flyers are eligible to enter in addition to Oneworld Emeralds.
Upon entering, dining areas and buffet, the most important part of a lounge, are to the right. Breakfast was being served. The date was January 27 when we were being told coronavirus presented no danger. Still all staff wore face masks. A few passengers did as well.
I had breakfast at McDonalds at KIX but couldn’t resist helping myself to eggs, fruit and juice while checking email and my WordPress stats. I missed the sushi chefs preparing raw fish delicacies on order that are one of the standout features at the Narita JAL first class lounge in the Main Terminal.
In lieu of a pre departure beverage on board, I also couldn’t resist a nip of single malt scotch before boarding. The selection of premium alcoholic beverages is the same as in the first class lounges at NRT.
Seating is spacious and comfortable although not as luxurious as in real JAL First Class lounges.
In addition to a nice buffet and decent seating, this lounge provides very good WiFi, bathrooms (no showers), a small business center, booths for phone calls, a shoe shine service (below), and a wall of windows overlooking the runway complex.
This lounge is temporary. Still, Japan Airlines did a great job of replicating the feel of a first class lounge. With the current travel hiatus, hopefully the next time you come through Tokyo Haneda Airport the renovations to the actual first class lounge will be complete.