The flight from Japan to the United States and the American Airlines Flagship Lounge at JFK are the last two parts of the Thailand series that I need to cover. This post starts with the much anticipated flight in business class from Tokyo to New York. I’d been looking forward to this flight because of the Sky Suite business class seat and the service of the Japan Airlines cabin crew that epitomizes Omotenashi, the Japanese mindset of hospitality.
Japan Airlines Flight JL006 Tokyo, Japan (NRT) to New York, NY (JFK)
Flight Date: November 19, 2021
Equipment: Boeing 777-300ER
Great Circle Distance: 6,745 statute miles (10, 854 km)
Scheduled Flight Time: 13 hours and 5 minutes
Class of Service: Business Class
The 777-300ER (extended range) is the flagship of the Japan Airlines (JAL) fleet. Seating on this aircraft is configured in four classes — first, business, premium economy and economy — accommodating 8, 49, 40, and 147 passengers, respectively. Economy class seats remain generously spaced (3-3-3) in a fashion that most airlines have abandoned in favor of a 3-4-3 “densified” rearrangement. I can say from personal experience with each type of seat that you will have a very comfortable ride on this plane no matter what class of service you fly.
Boarding for this flight was at Narita Terminal 2 Gate 68. This gate is located at the end of the concourse and is a good 10 – 15 minute hike from the JAL First Class Lounge in the main terminal.
Before boarding began at 10:35, a gate agent collected the health form I’d completed when staff had checked my Covid test and vaccine documentation after arriving at Narita.
Business Class Cabin and Seat
JAL sets up business class in a novel 2-3-2 configuration in which all seats have access to the aisle without having to step over anyone. JAL accomplishes this feat by offsetting side-by-side seats to create a narrow passageway to the aisle. JAL Sky Suites are B/E Aerospace Apex Suites and have been around for more than a decade.
My seat was 5K, a window seat on the starboard side. This seat probably offers the most privacy of any seat on the plane. Row 5 is a cabin unto itself. Row 5 is situated between the business class galley and the bulkhead behind first class. There is virtually no passenger traffic in this cabin and being several feet from the aisle affords more privacy than a business class seat with a door like the Delta One Suite.
The seat is about 20.5 in (52 cm) wide and reclines to a full-flat position with a bed length of 74 in. (188 cm).
The 23 inch (58 cm) video monitor is large for business class. A wide ottoman is ideal for stretching out and resting your feet. It beats the cubbyhole that is the standard option for feet with other business class seats. A divider between the window and aisle seats can be raised for privacy or lowered to communicate.
Controls for the seat position, massage function, suite lighting, and privacy divider are located just below a narrow ledge on the left. Unlike the seat on the KLM 787-10 on the flight from Amsterdam to Nairobi, this seat can be adjusted to any desired body position. Three positions are preset. Touch and release the preset buttons and the seat moves to the set position without further input. The dinning table ejects from a compartment under the ledge.
I’d been expecting a little more width on this seat compared to Sky Suites I’d experienced on JAL 787-9s because 777s are substantially wider than 787s. Unfortunately, JAL uses the 777s additional cabin width to add an extra seat (2-3-2 instead of 2-2-2). In contrast, Korean Airlines Apex Suites on 777-300ERs are 2-2-2. The extra width of those seats allows for abundant secured storage and a roomier feel.
The video controller and a/c outlet are mounted on the partition between seats.
Window Sky Suites could use more easily accessible storage and shelf space. There is a small storage compartment awkwardly positioned above and behind the headrest. The passage to the aisle has a shelf but it is hard to reach when seated. Aisle Sky Suites have a handy storage compartment by the seat.
Aisle Sky Suites have a handy storage compartment by the seat.
JAL’s BEAMS amenity kits are stocked with a dental kit, eye shades, ear plugs, moisture mask, lip balm and tissues. A duvet, pillow, bottled water, and sanitizing wipes were available as well. JAL noise-cancelling headphones delivered great sound quality while reducing ambient noise levels. And with JAL, slippers are a must on medium to long flights.
A moisture mask is a useful addition. I’ll show how it is used later.
Cabin crew performed the customary bow at the front of each cabin just before pushback from the gate at was five minutes early at 11:00. A welcome bow is a small but important part of the atmosphere of Omotenashi. The bow is a nice contrast with the “I’m in charge” attitude that some western flight attendants display. That attitude is partly the result of outrageous behavior by some passengers during the pandemic.
The Remarkable Case of Takao Shito
On the way to Runway 34L (Three Four Left), we passed an interesting sight I’ve mentioned here.
Narita International was constructed in the 1970s on traditional farmlands in Chiba Prefecture about 60 miles from Tokyo. Many area farmers strongly resisted efforts to compel them to move. At least one, Takao Shito, still lives on and farms land inside NRT.
Shito values carrying on the tradition of his ancestors. He turned down $1.7 million (180 million yen) for the property that his father and grandfather farmed. Runways, terminals and taxiways had to be built around his property. Litigation to force Shito to move continues.
JAL Flight 006 took off on Runway 34L at 11:15. About 20 minutes after takeoff a flight attendant came by to confirm the Japanese meal order I placed online. The first meal service began one hour after takeoff as is JAL’s custom on long, non-red-eye flights.
Here are the menus.
First Meal Service
Picking a Japanese meal was a tough decision versus Wagyu Beef Sirloin. because the flight was catered in Japan. That’s the rule of thumb, but I would have ordered a Japanese meal on Japan Airlines no matter the flights origin. I love all of the small dishes in Japanese cuisine. JAL food never disappoints. I actually look forward to dinning on 5-star airlines like JAL.
After a beverage service with packaged nuts, the honami course and sake was served at 12:35.
Honami was followed by dianamono, the hot course, at 12:55.
Soybean mousse was a tasty dessert.
I know little about Japanese food except that it is evident that much thought and care goes into the preparation of each dish. The abalone and black cod were outstanding. The balance of tastes, textures, and appearance served in the spirit of Omotenashi created an outstanding dining experience.
After the meal, I reclined and perused the inflight entertainment system (IFE). Compared to other airlines, JAL’s movie library is limited. I settled of Free Guy and Spectre.
After the movie I requested a seabream set meal from the Anytime You Wish menu.
After two meals and not sleeping much on the flight to Tokyo, it was time to hit the hay for a few hours. JAL provides mattresses in business class. Few airlines do that. Even a thin mattress enhances sleep comfort substantially. I forgot to ask for a mattress on this flight.
Business class has two dedicated lavatories aft of the second boarding doors. I like to show airline bathrooms because their cleanliness, condition, and the amenities, if any, seem to correlate with the general level of service.
Keeping bathrooms tidy is probably a flight attendant’s least favorite task. When bathrooms are tidy and stocked with amenities, it indicates that the crew will be on the ball with their other duties, too. These bathrooms were tidy every time I used one. JAL stocked business class lavs with dental kits, mouthwash, lotion, facial mist, and sanitizer.
Sky Suites are like first class seats in that your feet and lower legs don’t have to fit into a small space when the seat is reclined.
Compare the spacious ottoman to the tight quarters of the highly regarded Delta One Suite.
Which would you prefer?
About two hours from New York I requested a pork cutlet sandwich.
The sandwich is made with Sangenton pork, which is a cross between three hog breeds. Sangenton pork is a top brand of Japanese pork and is known for a uniformly smooth texture. The pork was indeed tasty and the cutlets were perfect in a sandwich.
Good weather and views were on tap for arrival. Passengers on the port side had views of the Manhattan skyline. My side overlooked New Jersey.
Flight JL006 landed at JFK exactly on time at 09:10. Through the miracle of the International Dateline and the time changes in jet travel, the flight landed on November 19 five minutes after the departure time at NRT.
Japan Airlines has a Skytrax five-star rating and is regarded as one of the world’s best commercial airlines. This flight supports those ratings in every respect. The flight also reinforced my view that the Sky Suite is one of the best business class seats.
Thanks for reading and I hope you are enjoying the weekend. I was having a good one until I was ready to publish and had to redo the last third of this lengthy post because WP hadn’t saved it. Grrr!