To cap off my journey to Japan, we took a 10-hour flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles onboard considered one of my all-time favorite airline merchandise: Japan Airlines First Class.
This could be my third time flying Japan Airlines First Class, and the primary in a number of years’ time. Naturally, I used to be curious to see how the product fared in a post-pandemic world, and I used to be excited by the prospect of one other beautiful Japanese gastronomic expertise at 35,000 toes.
Japan Airlines First Class – Booking
I booked this flight utilizing one of the crucial precious award redemption candy spots obtainable on the time.
For simply 70,000 Alaska miles per individual, I secured a one-way First Class flight from Tokyo to Los Angeles. I made the reserving proper at 14 days previous to departure, which is when Japan Airlines usually releases its last-minute First Class availability.
This redemption is considered one of Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan’s closing remaining candy spots, and it’s fairly potential a devaluation could also be forthcoming in December 2022. With a devaluation trying doubtless, I used to be delighted to make one closing reserving utilizing my Alaska miles at such a beneficial charge.
Outside of Alaska miles, it’s additionally potential to ebook the identical route for 80,000 American AAdvantage miles, 103,000 British Airways Avios, or 115,000 Cathay Pacific Asia Miles, with various quantities of taxes and charges.
By reserving Japan Airlines First Class with Alaska miles, there have been minimal taxes and charges, as Alaska Mileage Plan doesn’t go alongside any carrier-imposed surcharges.
Japan Airlines First Class – Ground Experience
I arrived to a comparatively quiet JAL First Class Lounge Tokyo Haneda earlier than my flight. The lounge is elegant and spacious, with two flooring, however the second ground was closed on the time of my go to.
I spent my time right here attempting a number of of the à la carte gadgets, dividing my consideration between curry rice, sushi, and noodles.
Unfortunately, the JAL First Class Lounge lacks the top-quality noodle bar discovered within the ANA Suite Lounge. The spotlight of the JAL First Class Lounge is the limitless sushi and live-cooking station, the place you possibly can watch the chef put together your meal.
Nevertheless, I deliberate on saving my urge for food for onboard my First Class flight with Japan Airlines, so I solely dabbled just a little bit within the meals, after which spent the rest of my time trying out the Red Suite.
The aviation-themed Red Suite is one other spotlight of the lounge, and was undoubtedly the favorite a part of my go to. This area added an elevated sense of luxurious to the lounge with its aviation memorabilia, self-serve Laurent-Perrier Champagne, and premium sake.
After spending a while observing aviation maps and antiques, it was time to go to my gate and put together for a much-anticipated 10-hour jaunt throughout the Pacific.
Japan Airlines First Class – Cabin
Upon getting into the First Class cabin, I took notice of the extremely conventional and basic First Class cabin design that Japan Airlines is thought for.
A comfortable marble-patterned carpet leads the best way to the suites, that are adorned in subdued cream tones. The old-school cabin finishes are fairly obvious, proper right down to the brown leather-based seats and woodgrain panelling that travels alongside the sting of the aircraft.
The Japan Airlines First Class cabin on the Boeing 777 has simply eight suites in whole, organized throughout two rows in a 1-2-1 configuration.
My house within the sky for the subsequent 10 hours was Seat 1A on the entrance of the cabin, with virtually three full home windows to myself.
When it comes to picking a seat, window seats in both row can be best for these travelling solo, whereas the center seats can be greatest for these travelling collectively.
Should you end up within the center seat, there’s a central partition which could be raised for added privateness or lowered for conversing together with your seatmate.
The cabin was wearing a mild purple temper lighting upon boarding. I hadn’t but seen this temper lighting on Japan Airlines First Class earlier than, and I assumed it added some aptitude to the cabin’s in any other case odd look.
Although it’s in fact a really luxurious product, notice that Japan Airlines First Class doesn’t supply fairly as a lot privateness in comparison with most of the world’s newer First Class merchandise. After all, these cabins are over a decade previous, and haven’t been up to date since their introduction in 2008.
Japan Airlines First Class – Seat
As we ready for takeoff, I reacquainted myself with my environment within the Japan Airlines First Class seat.
First and foremost, whereas not probably the most trendy of First Class suites, the outsized leather-based chairs afford an exceptional quantity of area, together with ample floor area alongside the wood consoles.
There are two units of seat controls, that are conveniently situated on the left-hand aspect under the console. The first set of controls permits for customizing the seat recline up, down, or into lie-flat mode.
To the correct is a extra complete set of controls, which permit for the complete customization of the pinnacle, base, and footrest of the seat. Additionally, there’s a operate for adjusting lumbar assist and the footlight.
Just above this seat management is the leisure controller, hidden below the flap of the console.
There are ample storage compartments onboard Japan Airlines First Class. Near the bottom of the seat is a bigger storage unit, which is ideal for a laptop computer, pill, or one thing of an analogous dimension.
Just in entrance of the leisure controller’s compartment is the literature pocket, the place there’s additionally an indented floor area.
Turning my consideration to the entrance of the seat, I discovered a small storage unit, energy outlet, and USB port that have been revealed by the push of a button.
On the entrance wall of the suite is the leisure display screen, and stowed on the far finish of the suite, under the display screen, is the tray desk. By grabbing the deal with under, the tray desk unlatches, and may slide forwards and backwards.
Also nestled under here’s a multi-functional ottoman. With the tray desk in its eating place, the ottoman doubles as a buddy seat, with its personal seatbelt for eating with a fellow passenger. Meanwhile, when the seat is in lie-flat mode, the ottoman types a part of the mattress.
Under the ottoman, there’s further cupboard space, massive sufficient to stow a small carry-on merchandise.
The headphone jack and a studying gentle are situated on both aspect of the seat’s shoulder.
Compared to many different First Class merchandise, the Japan Airlines First Class seat is beginning to reveal its age, with some indicators of damage and tear.
Still, as we took off into the Tokyo sky whereas the solar started to set, I used to be elated to seek out myself ensconced inside these basic and comfy leather-based seats as soon as once more, trying ahead to the gastronomic procession that will quickly start.
Japan Airlines First Class – Amenities
We have been supplied a alternative of pre-departure beverage shortly after taking our seats, in addition to a packaged chilly towel.
Since it was solely the cheaper Delamotte Champagne being served previous to take off, we in the end caught to orange juice for our pre-departure drinks.
After all, I used to be eager to preserve my buzz for the elevated onboard beverage choice as soon as we hit the skies.
Two amenity kits have been handed out on this flight. The first was handed out pre-departure, after which a second, extra premium equipment was handed out shortly after takeoff.
The first equipment is a modest providing by Zero Halliburton, introduced in a comfortable blue case with black leather-based accents. Inside was the usual toothbrush, earplugs, and eye masks, together with an eye fixed masks, a hairbrush, pocket tissue, some lip balm, and hand lotion.
Later on, the extra elaborate amenity kits have been handed out. We have been introduced with a Shiseido males’s skincare equipment and a Clé de Peau Beauté girls’s with facemasks and lotions.
Lastly, the First Class suite got here with a set of Panasonic noise-cancelling headphones in a leather-based casing.
After departure, the crew got here by to supply a cushty set of trendy gray pajamas manufactured from natural cotton. Along with these got here a set of slippers and a blanket.
Japan Airlines First Class – Meal Service
For passengers departing from Tokyo, the First Class beverage menu contains among the most lavish and costly Champagne supplied within the sky: Salon Champagne 2007, which you received’t discover for lower than $1,000 (USD) per bottle lately.
Naturally, this was our drink of alternative on this flight, and we kicked off many hours of consuming and consuming with a number of glasses of Salon as quickly as we reached cruising altitude.
While sipping on the primary crisp glass of many, we started searching via the leather-bound in-flight menu.
I opted for the Japanese menu, because it’s at all times my favorite when flying Japan Airlines First Class. My associate Jessy selected the Western menu, feeling in want of a change after a two-week stint of continuous Japanese meals (and giving me the chance to steal a number of bites and pattern each menus).
The meals menu learn as follows:
And the beverage menu learn as follows:
Just a few extra sips of Salon, and the crew started bringing out the meals. Jessy came to visit to my seat to affix me for dinner, sitting within the buddy seat reverse me.
Note that the Japan Airlines First Class tray desk is a reasonably restricted dimension, and in contrast to, say, Cathay Pacific First Class, there’s no desk extension should you want to dine as a pair. Instead, the crew positioned our respective meals on the left and proper sides of the tray desk, in order that we’d each have ample area to dig in.
The Japanese meal kicked off with a starter of 5 seasonal vibrant delicacies. The presentation included deep-fried conger eel, horsehead snapper, matsutake mushroom, seared ise lobster, and Spanish mackerel with truffle sauce.
The seared ise lobster was juicy and tender, and was unquestionably the spotlight. The Spanish mackerel was a pleasant fusion-inspired contact, accompanied by a creamy and wealthy truffle sauce.
The Western menu started with an amuse bouche of goat cheese bavarois, which we discovered to be solely mediocre. It was creamy and had a barely fascinating flavour profile, however wasn’t amongst our favourites on this flight.
The first Western appetizer was one other fusion dish: sea urchin couscous. We loved this one a good bit, and up to now, each meal companies have been off to an excellent begin.
Note that there was no caviar course served as a part of the Western menu on this flight, though Japan Airlines First Class has been identified to serve caviar prior to now.
Following that, a marinated Sakhalin surf clam and vegetable dish was served because the second Western appetizer. It wasn’t fairly as distinctive because the earlier dish, however the pistachios served on the aspect have been tasty.
The Japanese meal service continued with a soup dish that was really a murals. Suspended within the broth was a chunk of egg tofu with Japanese crab cooked inside it. The crab had a scrumptious tender flavour, and the broth was savoury.
Lobster with mushroom fricassée was the primary course on the Western aspect. The dish had wealthy, savoury flavours, and was maybe a contact too salty, however we nonetheless loved sprucing it off.
Next up on the Japanese aspect was a extra experimental course made up of seared blowfish and boiled blowfish pores and skin accompanied by a ponzu sauce. Alongside this, a small bowl of tofu pores and skin topped with caviar and thickened broth jelly.
It was the tofu with caviar and ponzu jelly that stole the present, because of the sweetness and clean gelatinous texture of the ponzu jelly. On the opposite hand, the blowfish course was much less suited to my tastes.
Although not each dish was a home-run, these meal displays have been a major instance of how elaborate the meals onboard Japan Airlines First Class could be, which is one thing I at all times admire.
I then tried the Wagyu beef fillet from Jessy’s Western menu. The beef was tender and juicy, pairing nicely with a velvety pink wine sauce.
The showpiece of the Japanese meal got here subsequent: salmon roe with steamed rice and toasted seaweed. This was accompanied by simmered snapper, mushrooms, and greens; miso soup; and pickled veggies.
This could be my first time having salmon roe over rice on a aircraft, and it positive didn’t disappoint.
The dainty pearls popped with flavour in my mouth, mixing seamlessly with the simmered snapper and its silky sauce. I eagerly completed all the course, scraping up each final grain of rice from the bowl.
Concluding the Japanese meal service was persimmon yokan and sherbert with rum jelly for dessert, although not fairly hitting the identical excessive notes as earlier than.
The persimmon yokan was candy, however comparatively unmemorable, and the rum jelly was considerably higher, however nonetheless a little bit of a complicated mishmash of flavours.
On the opposite hand, the Western desserts have been excellent, consisting of a chestnut macaron served alongside a espresso granité.
The macaron had a pleasurable texture and tasted not too candy at first, however then subtly grew in sweetness with its aftertaste. Meanwhile, the espresso granité was merely pleasant. The dessert was extremely artistic and very good, manufactured from frozen espresso reworked into shaved ice.
Comparing the 2 meal sequences, I felt the Japanese menu was higher than the Western one general. Still, there have been some very robust showings from the Western menu, together with the revolutionary sea urchin couscous and the desserts.
After concluding a really fulsome and decadent meal service, I used to be prepared for one more glass of Salon 2007. Alas, at this stage, we realized that the final drop of Salon on the flight had already been poured.
It seems as if Japan Airlines solely shares two or three bottles of the great things, they usually can run out pretty rapidly if a number of passengers order a number of glasses (as we had achieved). That’s actually one thing to concentrate on should you’re flying Japan Airlines First Class out of Tokyo: order the Salon usually and early.
We switched to a different nice bottle of Champagne: Comtes Taittinger 2007.
Japan Airlines First Class – Bed
After concluding a profitable meal service, I went to the restroom to clean up and alter into the stylish First Class pajamas.
The restroom was small however had loads of area to manoeuvre about. Its interiors are smooth with jet-black partitions, and as you’d anticipate, there was a Japanese-style bathroom with a bidet.
Additionally, there are two hidden benches within the restroom. The first bench folds out and rests on the bottom in entrance of the bathroom, and the second folds out over the bathroom. These present a spot to face whereas becoming your pajamas, and a spot to position your gadgets whereas doing so.
As far as transpacific crossings go, this one was comparatively brief at 10 hours between Tokyo and Los Angeles. I opted to not sleep on this flight and as a substitute caught up on some work, however I nonetheless went forward and set the seat into lie-flat mode to strive it out.
When mendacity down, the Japan Airlines First Class mattress could be very huge and broad. Coupled with the thick and soft seat, this lie-flat mattress will surely make for a cushty place to relaxation if I wanted to.
Of course, similar to in upright mode, take into account that it’s not as non-public of a sleeping expertise as you’ll discover on another airways.
Japan Airlines First Class – Wi-Fi
Wi-Fi is complimentary onboard Japan Airlines First Class, which is a really welcome gesture for premium passengers. A code is handed out by the flight attendants, which permits entry to the Wi-Fi all through the flight.
The connection speeds have been quick, and I used to be capable of browse easily and add video content material to social media. Note that a number of gadgets are capable of entry the Wi-Fi service, although not concurrently on the identical session.
Japan Airlines First Class – Entertainment
The 23-inch leisure display screen in entrance of you is enough, however not probably the most cutting-edge show – particularly should you examine it to the 42-inch ultra-high-definition 4K monitor on Japan Airlines’s rival, ANA New First Class.
What’s extra, the leisure choice was modest, with a number of new releases, however undoubtedly not the widest vary of titles to select from.
It’s additionally value noting which you could’t navigate the in-flight leisure software program on the monitor in entrance of you. Instead, your decisions should be made on the distant management by your aspect, earlier than it performs on the bigger display screen.
As I principally spent my time utilizing the Wi-Fi getting work achieved, I wasn’t too fussed concerning the onboard leisure, although I’d mark it down as a relative weak level of this product.
Japan Airlines First Class – Snack Service
As the flight continued at cruising altitude, I handed the time by sampling as a lot of the onboard snack and drink choices as potential. To begin, I ordered a glass of Japan Airlines’s signature “Sky Time” peach and grape drink, in addition to some sencha inexperienced tea.
I then adopted up with a glass of hojicha (roasted inexperienced tea). This is often served in a small cup similar to the sencha, however I used to be as a substitute supplied a tall Japan Airlines First Class espresso mug resulting from some turbulence throughout the flight.
(What a phenomenal mug design, by the best way! I’m at all times very impressed by these mugs onboard Japan Airlines First Class. This time, I even requested the crew if there was a approach to purchase these mugs, however sadly they weren’t on the market.)
For snacks, I opted for the udon and deep-fried Junwakei rooster rice bowl. As one would anticipate with a deep-fried rooster dish, this one was sizzling, greasy, and scrumptious.
The snack menu on this specific flight didn’t embrace noodles, which I assumed was odd and unprecedented – the Japanese premium cabins I’ve flown earlier than have at all times had noodles on the snack menu.
Speaking to the crew, it looks like this flight was a one-off exception in that the everyday udon snack dish wasn’t stocked; nevertheless, there have been nonetheless cup noodles obtainable, which nonetheless counts as noodles in my books, so I went forward and ordered a cup.
Alongside these, I additionally sampled the Queen of the Blue Deluxe royal blue tea. This drink was served creatively in a Champagne glass to reinforce the aromas of fruit and honey, and I discovered it to be fairly an intriguing beverage with a whimsical aftertaste.
Following this, I indulged in some curry rice and Matsusaka beef. The curry rice was pretty modest, and whereas I loved the flavours, I’ve undoubtedly had higher prior to now.
I then sampled the marbled Matsusaka beef, which was served chilly and had an fascinating texture, however likewise didn’t precisely strike me as a world-class snack.
Lastly, after the premium royal blue tea, the sencha, and the hojicha, I ordered a glass of the iced inexperienced tea, concluding this memorable “tea flight” in all senses of the phrase.
Japan Airlines First Class – Second Meal Service
About 90 minutes earlier than touchdown, it was time for the ultimate meal of this 10-hour journey, which got here within the type of one other Teishoku Japanese set with seared vinegared mackerel, rice, miso soup, and some accompaniments. This set meal was corresponding to most of the meals I had eaten in Japan on my two-week journey.
I additionally elected to offer the Hibiki Suntory Blender’s Choice whisky a strive, which I need to say was quite a bit much less clean than the award-winning Hibiki 21 that’s served onboard Japan Airlines’s rival, ANA.
The flight got here to an finish with some complimentary Jean-Paul Hévin chocolate, wrapping up this journey on a candy notice as we approached LAX.
When I first flew Japan Airlines First Class in January 2018, I used to be a wide-eyed neophyte on the earth of premium cabins, and I’ll at all times maintain this product near my coronary heart because of the unbelievable flight I had loved again then.
Now, as a extra seasoned traveller on the entrance of the aircraft, I’d say that the Japan Airlines First Class onboard expertise stays wonderful, although there are some notable areas for enchancment that the airline would do nicely to think about within the coming years.
Of course, the gastronomic expertise continues to be top-notch, with ornate and decadent dishes that wouldn’t be misplaced at one of many many Michelin-starred venues in Tokyo. The Japanese dinner menu was the stronger one general, with artistic dishes and flavours that I hadn’t beforehand encountered.
The Western idea outperformed when it got here to desserts, although, and an impressed meal order on Japan Airlines First Class may nicely contain sampling gadgets from each side of the leather-bound menu.
The drink choice alone is nicely value exploring too, together with $1,000+ bottles of Salon 2007, although take into account that the variety of bottles could also be restricted.
However, Japan Airlines First Class is starting to lag behind its friends relating to the exhausting product. In an period of sliding doorways and 4K leisure screens, Japan Airlines’s old-school seats simply received’t reduce it for for much longer, and I’d actually anticipate to see the airline rolling out a new-and-improved First Class product within the subsequent few years if it needs to stay aggressive.
Still, with comparatively predictable award availability patterns and entry from a mess of Oneworld loyalty applications, Japan Airlines First Class continues to be considered one of my most well-liked methods to cross the Pacific, and I don’t think about that’ll change so long as the excellent foods and drinks stays in free move.