On a trip to Japan and Thailand in January 2020, several flights were on Japan Airlines, a Oneworld partner of American Airlines, the airline where I maintain my primary frequent flyer account. Over the course of several flights on Japan Airlines, I had the privilege of flying in business, premium economy, and economy classes on international and domestic flights.
I’ll cover some of those flights in no particular order over the next week or so. Even though discretionary travel is a thing of the past, hopefully this post and others upcoming might ease the travel withdrawal symptoms many, including myself, are experiencing. This post reviews a flight from Bangkok to Tokyo.
The trip began in the Japan Airlines (JAL) Sakura Lounge in Bangkok. This is a very good lounge with better than average food and beverages from Nippon-Tei restaurant.
Japan Airlines Flight JL32 Bangkok (BKK) to Tokyo Haneda (HND)
Equipment: Boeing 777-200ER
Distance: 2,852 statute miles (4,590 kilometers) (2,479 nautical miles)
Cruise Speed: .85 Mach
Scheduled Departure: 09:55
Scheduled Arrival: 17:30
Scheduled Flight Time: 5 hours 35 minutes
Class of Service: Business Class
Cost: 60,000 American Airlines miles roundtrip in business class
JL 32 boarded at Gate G4, a three-minute walk from the lounge. Boarding began at 09:30 and took just 17 minutes to complete. Flight attendants greeted passengers at the door and directed them to their seats. My seat was 7G.
Business Class Cabins
Business class consists of 42 Sky Suite III seats placed in a reverse herringbone fashion. There are 11 rows in two cabins. A 1-2-1 arrangement gives each seat direct access to the aisle.
Sky Suite III
These seats are Japan Airlines Sky Suite III business class seat. It is one of the newer seats in the fleet. My seat, 7G, is located in the last row of the forward cabin on the starboard side of the center section. The window seats I prefer were assigned when I selected a seat.
The seat is 20 inches wide and reclines to a bed that is 77 inches long. Seat controls are easy to operate and conveniently placed near the left armrest. The lumbar support is moveable and comes with a massage function. Push the “do not disturb” button to avoid interruptions to sleep or work.
Video remote, reading light, A/C and USB power outlets, and headphone connection are mounted on the console near eye level. A retractable divider provides some privacy from the adjoining seat.
Secure storage is found in a compartment above the console and in the aisle armrest, which can be lowered after takeoff.
The tray table arrangement is a bit awkward. The table is mounted on the back of the seat in front. It swivels and moves forward and back. Even so, it was difficult to line it up with the seat. It is also easy to knock over items that are set on the area from which the tables swivels.
Open this link to see a 360º panorama of the set from the JAL website.
Seatguru warns that passengers in Row 7 might be disturbed by the proximity to the galley and lavs. That wasn’t a big concern with noise-cancelling headphones.
Amenities and Pre-Departure Service
JAL supplied a blanket, pillow, slippers, noise-cancelling headphones, and an amenity kit. It was somewhat surprising to get an amenity kit and slippers on a relatively short international flight. These amenities were on the seat at boarding along with menus and Japan immigration forms.
JAL Wi-Fi is available for $10.15 per hour, $14.40 for three hours or $18.80 for 24 hours. Paying with a JAL credit card earns a 10% discount.
While at the gate, flight attendants offered a moist towel and a choice of alcoholic or nonalcoholic beverages.
The captain pushed back from the gate two minutes after boarding completed at 09:47. Everything to that point was more than satisfactory. I looked forward to a great flight, great food, and great service form the JAL cabin crew.
Takeoff occurred at 10:13 almost 20 minutes behind schedule. Nevertheless the captain predicted an on-time arrival with a estimated flight time of five hours.
The attendants took orders for beverages and meals 12 minutes after takeoff well before the pilots leveled at their initial cruise altitude. Drinks, packaged nuts, and a moist towel preceded the meal.
JAL offers a choice of Japanese and western meals. JAL employs chefs from restaurants in Japan and its corporate staff to construct its menus. The service is known as BEDD, or JAL’s restaurant in the sky. Japan Airlines is a Skytrax 5-star airline and widely regarded as one of the best airlines in the world. Much of that reputation comes from its food and onboard service.
Japan Airlines allows business class passengers to choose an entree online. I selected on board which is a little risky if there is one item I must have. I went with the Japanese meal even though roasted the Western chicken thigh entree is one of my favorites.
JAL also puts much care into the selection of beverages.
Thirty minutes after taking my order, a flight attendant began my lunch service with the first course and Japanese wine.
Dainomono, the main course, followed 15 minutes later.
Fifteen minutes after dainomono, an attendant concluded lunch with chocolate mousse and green tea.
The meal was excellent. I like the variety of items in a Japanese meal. Even though some of them are unfamiliar, they all look reasonably healthy and I enjoy the tastes.
In addition to the meal, JAL provided snacks on this five-hour flight.
I’ve tried JAL snack noodles on other flights. They are all wonderful, but avoiding making a mess requires skill I have yet to perfect.
I devoted the remainder of the flight to resting and perusing MAGIC, the JAL in-flight entertainment system. The system includes a large selection of movies, videos, and music from around the world as well as flight maps, games and manga comics on 787s only. Video content is displayed on a high-resolution, 17-inch monitor.
Business class has three bathrooms, one on the port side behind the cockpit, and two on either side of the galley between the business cabins. As expected on an airline this good, they were clean and stocked with additional personal amenities.
In keeping with Japanese standards of cleanliness and high tech, the toilet is equipped with bidet functions.
In lieu of a noodle snack, I enjoyed vanilla ice cream and a drink 90 minutes before arrival.
Forty minutes before touchdown the cabin crew distributed soothing eye masks as they began preparing for landing. The masks were very soothing.
There was plenty of time to to stow gear and tidy up before we landed at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport and parked at the gate at 17:18 twelve minutes ahead of schedule.
Japan Airlines is one of the best airlines in the world. This flight upheld that reputation in all respects. Service was very professional. The flight attendants spoke very good English. Food and beverages was excellent. The seat lacked a door (no biggie in my mind) but was otherwise state of the art. I am anxious for a successful and resolution of the coronavirus crisis so we can safely enjoy travel and flights on airlines like Japan Airlines.