Posted on July 18, 2016
Flight Review: Japan Airlines First Class NRT-ORD
After a great stay at the Japan Airlines First Class Lounge it was time to take the final flight of the trip back to the USA!
I was pretty excited for this flight because I have such fond memories of our first JAL First Class experience when Joe and I flew it as our very first international First Class experience. I was hoping my wife would have just as good a time as Joe and I did.
Here is the trip so far!
After a short walk to our gate we got in line by the First Class boarding sign. The attendant looked at our tickets and asked us to please take a seat and that she would come get us when it was time to board. A few minutes later she came and got us. We entered through the door between the First and Business Class cabins and turned left to the First class section. We were the first ones on the plane!
Airline: Japan Airlines
Route: JL10 SFO-HND
Seats: 1D and 1G
Flight time: 12 hours
The Japan Airlines First Class cabin is set up in a 1-2-1 configuration with 8 totals seats in the cabin. We were in the front middle two together.
Upon arriving at our seats we were greeted and offered pre-departure beverages, a chocolate and a warm, refreshing towel!
After a drink I decided to get up and take a quick look at Japan Airlines’ great Business Class seat. They’re arranged 2-3-2 but all with direct aisle access and appear pretty private:
After our welcome drinks and checking out the business class we were given our slippers, pajamas and amenity kits for the flight. This amenity kit was actually different than my first JAL First Class flight although I believe the contents were mostly the same, I don’t think my last flight had a bottle of cologne. As you can see, the products are all from Loewe and you get cologne, lip balm, a dental kit, ear plugs, sleep mask, comb, facemask, kleenex and a refreshing towel.
I actually really like the pajamas from JAL! They are soft, a little oversized and baggy. They may be a little heavy for how warm they tend to keep the cabin, but they are one of the few pairs I will wear to bed at home in the winter.
Later in the flight we were given extra amenity kit type items. These included macaroons and some beauty items which you can see below:
After having some Salon champagne, changing into our PJs and a smooth, on-time take off, it was timing to explore the seat.
The Japan Airlines seat is all leather (probably faux leather actually) and very comfortable for lounging. It is 33 inches wide which is PLENTY wide, but if you are playing ‘track the first class seat width’ at home you will realize it is several inches smaller than Singapore and Cathay Pacific.
As you can see from the pictures above, it is a big comfy seat with some walls up around it but not fully enclosed like many of the other airlines we have flown on. When sitting in the seat you have the view of a pretty large 23 inch screen and your tray table which is locked under the screen but can be slid back towards you for dining. Under the tray table is an ottoman that also doubles as a companion seat with a seat belt if you want to dine with someone or just talk. Next to the screen there is a button on the right (or left depending on your seat) to raise the divided as well as a storage compartment which contains the power outlet.
Looking on the sides of the seat you will find a reading light on one side and a ledge with another storage compartment and seat controls on the other side. There is also another light on that side that actually has a hook to hang your head phones.
Now for the most important part of the seat, which is the recline! Like most first and business class seats these days, this seat lays back into a completely flat bed which can have either a firm or soft mattress pad placed over top as well as a blanket.
Katie and I have been lucky enough to sleep in a number of different first class seats/beds now and I actually did not sleep all that well on this flight. I believe I got 5 or so hours of sleep but it wasn’t very restful. I feel like I woke up a lot and was pretty hot most of the time as they keep the cabin pretty warm. Obviously much better than any coach or business class seat, but still a lot lower on my list now than a few other seats/beds.
The food and drinks were really the star of the show on this flight. This last time I flew with JAL it was a red-eye flight that left at 1am so they did not have the usual dining. I thought the food was great on that flight so I was looking forward to trying a full meal service. Pictures of the menus our below. Click to enlarge if interested.
As I mentioned earlier, our flight started with some glasses of champagne, which we filled many, many more times throughout the flight.
One pretty unique thing about Japan Airlines First Class is that they serve Salon 2002 Champagne which runs around $400 a bottle and is not served in any other first class cabin to my knowledge. Oh, and it’s EXCELLENT.
After taking off and getting in our PJs it was time to start eating! Since we were on a Japanese airline I wanted to try to the local cuisine and went with the Japanese menu, with one exception – I wanted the caviar off the western menu! Our starter consisted of cheeses, nuts and meats.
Then followed by caviar from the western menu that came with salmon and olive oil.
I had never eaten caviar with salmon before (usually with cracker or balinis) but it was actually really good!
This was followed by the “Seasonal five-color delicacies” which consisted of Egg cake, scallop and sea urchin, simmered taro with stir-fried duck, simmered conger eel roll and simmered yellowtail and radish, going clockwise from 12 o’clock.
Next was Japanese clear soup with prawns followed by more caviar!
Then for the main course of Wagyu beef fillet with white rice and miso soup.
Katie went with the western menu and her main dish was a roasted quail which she really liked.
Then it was time to try all the desserts!!
Then, later it was time for a midnight snack with the Petite Dessert tray which was awesome.
Again, the food and beverages were awesome and definitely the stars of the flight!
For the entertainment, as I talked about before, you have a pretty large 23 inch screen which allows you to watch movies, TV shows, track your flight, play video games, kids entertainment or look at maps to track your flight. You can even look at the menu and order food if you want.
All of this can be controlled by your touch screen controller found in your side compartment.
Although there were a lot of different things that could be done with the entertainment system as there is with most first class systems, I didn’t think the selection of movies and TV shows was nearly as extensive as some of the other airlines we had flown before and since.
There was also on-board WiFi on this JAL flight but you do have to pay for it and I didn’t see a lot of use for it on this particular flight for me so I really can’t speak to how fast it is. As you can see below, the full flight plan would definitely be the best value if you were to purchase it.
The service on this flight was excellent, as it was the last time I flew them. They were very respectful, soft spoken and we never had to wait more than a few minutes for anything. It’s hard to describe it and I don’t know if it is a language barrier or a cultural thing but they do seem a bit uncomfortable a lot of the time and apologize excessively. But they do a great job!
Not only that, but I again told them how much I love their coffee mugs (because I do!) and as we departed they handed us a bag which contained 2 wrapped up JAL coffee mugs!!
I really went back and forth about this flight. On one hand it really was a great flight with excellent service, fantastic food, an acceptable entertainment system, and a really good seat which turns into an OK bed.
The problem was that I had such amazing memories of my last JAL First Class flight and this one just didn’t live up to that. There were probably a few reasons for that. First, I have been on many more first class flights in what I would consider better cabins (even on this trip) since that original. Second, we were pretty tired by the time we made it to this flight, where on my first experience I was bit tired but it was just a late Saturday night really. Finally, the two flights probably can’t even be compared because nothing was going to live up to the excitement of that first ever international first class flight!
And when we finally landed in Chicago for our 3 hour drive home we quickly realized vacation was definitely over as I had to drive through a snow storm that added a couple hours to the journey!
So what do you think? Where does JAL rank when compared to the other big boys?