Review: Japan Airlines First Class 777-300ER Jakarta To Tokyo Narita

Introduction
British Airways Galleries First Class Lounge Chicago Airport
Cathay Pacific First Class 777-300ER Chicago To Hong Kong
Grand Hyatt Hong Kong
Cathay Pacific Business Class A330 Hong Kong To Jakarta
Transiting Jakarta Airport
Japan Airlines First Class 777-300ER Jakarta To Tokyo Narita
Japan Airlines First Class Lounge Tokyo Narita Airport
Japan Airlines First Class 777-300ER Tokyo Narita To New York JFK


Japan Airlines began rolling out their new first class product a couple of years ago, and I’ve really wanted to try it ever since. I’ve flown Japan Airlines’ old first class a couple of times, though was never all that impressed.

My experiences in ANA first class have always been exceptional, and I’ve kind of thought of them as the “premium” Japanese airline. I was curious if my impressions changed after flying Japan Airlines’ new first class.

Japan Airlines 726
Jakarta (CGK) – Tokyo Narita (NRT)
Sunday, February 15
Depart: 9:25PM
Arrive: 6:35AM (+1 day)
Duration: 7hr10min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 2A (First Class)

At the door I was welcomed aboard with a triple bow by the senior cabin attendant and two of the first class crew, who immediately directed me to my seat.

Japan Airlines’ new first class cabin consists of a total of eight seats, spread across two rows in a 1-2-1 configuration. While they’re not fully enclosed suites, each seat is spacious with a good amount of privacy.

I found the color palate in the cabin to be nice as well, with cream-colored finishes and dark brown leather. Certainly a bit less puke-inducing than how Asiana and Korean Air deck out their cabins.

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Japan Airlines first class cabin 777-300ER

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Japan Airlines first class cabin 777-300ER

I had been assigned seat 2D, which was a center-aisle seat on the left side of the plane. That’s what the agent assigned me in transit, and I figured I’d take care of a seat change once onboard.

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Japan Airlines first class 777-300ER, seat 2A

Each seat has a large ottoman, which was great for resting your feet even when the seat was in the upright position. Beyond that, there was a large tray table which was immediately below the personal television. It could be extended out as much as you like, so was very versatile.

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Japan Airlines first class 777-300ER, seat 2A

The seat controls were located along the side of the seat, and were simple to use. While I’m all for technology, personally I prefer “old fashion” buttons you can push to control your seat functions, rather than overly complicated computer screens.

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Japan Airlines first class seat controls

There were also simple seat pre-set functions, whereby you could turn the seat into “bed,” “relax,” or “upright” mode.

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Japan Airlines first class seat controls

Also to the side of the seat was a compartment with a handheld controller.

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Japan Airlines first class entertainment controls

Behind that was a large storage unit, which could easily fit headphones, glasses, a phone, etc.

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Japan Airlines first class storage compartment

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Japan Airlines first class cabin view

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Japan Airlines first class cabin view

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Japan Airlines first class ottoman

Once settled in the senior cabin attendant came by to introduce herself and wish me a pleasant flight. As is customary, there were no fewer than a dozen bows throughout the minute-long conversation. She also explained that the flight time would be 6hr30min, and that we were expecting some turbulence as we approached Japan, so breakfast would be served earlier than normal.

Literally within a minute the two other first class cabin attendants came to introduce themselves in a similar fashion.

This crew was fantastic. They couldn’t have been more friendly and… Japanese!

As a pre-departure beverage I was quite looking forward to a glass of champagne after the “exciting” transit. Good thing JAL serves Salon Blanc de Blancs 2002 in first class, which retails for $300+ per bottle. That’s roughly twice as much as Krug, for anyone that’s counting.

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Japan Airlines first class Salon 2002 champagne

The flight attendant poured the glass so delicately, it was actually kind of fun to watch, as it was a 30 second process. I don’t think I’ve ever seen champagne poured with such care.

So I’ll say the Salon was good, but I still prefer Krug. The Salon was a bit overbearing and not as well rounded as Krug, in my opinion… but it was still delicious. 😉

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Japan Airlines first class Salon 2002 champagne

After a glass of champagne I was offered some pajamas. Japan Airlines’ pajamas are awesome. They’re extremely high quality, have the JAL logo on them, and I love that the top and bottom are different colors.

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Japan Airlines first class pajamas

I was also offered some really sturdy slippers.

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Japan Airlines first class slippers

I was then presented with a Loewe amenity kit, Shiseido toiletries, the menu, wine list, and a bottle of water. Goodness, boarding JAL is like Christmas for an airline/amenity kit geek.

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Japan Airlines first class amenity kit & menu

The crew asked if I wanted to change into pajamas, which I said I did. A flight attendant “prepared” the lavatory for me, escorted me to it, and locked the door from the outside before I could even lock it from the inside. As I changed, she stood outside the lavatory waiting for me to emerge so she could hang my clothes. Now that’s service.

At around 9:15PM the captain came on the PA to add his welcome aboard. At least I assume that’s what he was saying. I couldn’t understand a word, but he seemed like a pleasant enough guy. 😉

At 9:20PM the door closed, and there were only two other passengers — an older Japanese couple — in first class.

At 9:25PM we commenced our pushback, at which point the show/safety video began to play. I say “show” because throughout the plane the cabin crew lined up for a bow.

There were three first class passengers and four crew allocated to bowing for the cabin. You know you’re in for a good flight when the bow to passenger ratio is more than 1:1.

Our taxi to the runway was quick, and at 9:35PM we were airborne.

As we passed through 10,000 feet the seatbelt sign was turned off and I logged onto JAL’s wifi network. Their wifi is offered by T-Mobile, and a 24 hour pass cost just $18.80. That’s extremely reasonable, especially since it was a 24 hour pass, meaning it was valid for my flight to New York as well. Woot!

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Japan Airlines wifi

Shortly thereafter the senior cabin attendant came by to explain the menu in greater detail. She explained that breakfast would be served before landing, and asked if I wanted anything to eat in the meantime, as there was an a la carte menu.

The menu read as follows:

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And the wine/drink menu read as follows:

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I was quite hungry since I didn’t eat much on my Cathay Pacific flight from Hong Kong, so I decided to have a full meal.

The service began with a hot towel.

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Japan Airlines first class hot towel

I was then offered some snack mix (it was served in a bag… and they didn’t turn the plane back to Jakarta over it). 😉

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Japan Airlines first class snacks

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Japan Airlines first class snacks

Then to start I had the sushi and steamed savory egg custard along with a glass of champagne. The sushi was perfect.

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Japan Airlines first class dinner — sushi and steamed savory egg custard

Then I had some caviar. Even though this was technically only a “snack” service, I love that JAL still offers caviar. I mean, if you just want a snack before sleeping, does it get better than caviar and a glass of champagne?

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Japan Airlines first class dinner — caviar

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Japan Airlines first class dinner — caviar

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Japan Airlines first class dinner — caviar

Then I had the vegetable curry with rice. It was simple and delicious… or simply delicious, I suppose!

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Japan Airlines first class dinner — Japanese vegetable curry

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Japan Airlines first class dinner — Japanese vegetable curry

To finish off the meal I had a cappuccino.

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Japan Airlines first class cappuccino

Absolutely perfect catering for a nighttime departure, and the service was impeccable. The two Japanese passengers went to sleep after takeoff, so it was literally three crew looking after me.

After the snack I headed to the lavatory, and noticed something that I missed the first time around. The toilet was a Japanese bidet toilet! Now, I’ve seen these a million times in airports and hotels, but have never actually tried to use the bidet function. I’m not sure why, exactly.

A few glasses in seemed like a good time to test it out (just out of intellectual curiosity, and not because there was a need). Goodness gracious was it fun — I don’t think my rear has ever felt that good! Unfortunately I giggled uncontrollably, much as I did the first time I flew Emirates A380 first class. Hopefully the crew didn’t hear.

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Japan Airlines first class toilet

As I went into the lavatory the cabin senior asked if she could make my bed for me in 2A — perfect! She also asked whether I wanted a soft or hard mattress. That’s the first time I’ve been asked if I have a mattress preference.

When I emerged from the lavatory I quickly tried out the bed, which was super comfortable. The bedding is provided by Tempur-Pedic, which is pretty awesome.

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Japan Airlines first class bed

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Japan Airlines first class bed

Now, while I tested out the bed, my strategy was to stay up on this flight. That’s because I was connecting to a Tokyo to New York flight which would land in the morning. If I slept on this flight I wouldn’t be able to sleep on the connection, and then would arrive in New York tired.

Instead I decided to get some work done. The wifi was super fast, among the fastest I’ve had on any airline. That’s probably because everyone else was asleep.

So I ordered some coffee with milk, which was served in the most beautiful coffee mug I’ve ever seen.

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Japan Airlines first class coffee mug

Seriously, is that gorgeous or what? I told the senior cabin attendant how much I loved the mug.

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Japan Airlines first class coffee mug

For the next couple of hours a crew member was through the cabin literally every five minutes to refill my coffee. I don’t even want to think how much coffee I had during that time.

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Japan Airlines airshow

About two hours before landing it was already breakfast time. While I wasn’t especially hungry, I figured I’d take one for the team. 😉

The breakfast menu read as follows:

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I ordered the western breakfast, which consisted of a fruit plate to start. I was also offered a selection from the bread basket, and I chose a croissant.

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Japan Airlines first class breakfast

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Japan Airlines first class breakfast — fruit starter

For the main course I had the pancakes with vanilla sauce.

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Japan Airlines first class breakfast — pancakes with vanilla sauce

The pancakes were in an interesting scone-like shape, and tasted delicious.

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Japan Airlines first class breakfast — pancakes with vanilla sauce

They were also served with a side of plain yogurt and honey, and a vegetable salad.

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Japan Airlines first class breakfast — yogurt and vegetable salad

I got some more work done after breakfast, and eventually we began our descent into Narita Airport. As we did, all three cabin crew came by to say thank you and goodbye, and the senior cabin attendant even presented me with a beautifully wrapped mug to take home, given how I commented about how much I loved the mug. Incredibly thoughtful!

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Japan Airlines airshow

I headed back to the lavatory to change, and once again a crew member was standing outside the door waiting for me to finish and take my pajamas. As I returned to my seat the senior cabin attendant asked if I wanted a fresh pair of pajamas. Ummm… yes please!

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Japan Airlines airshow

While I returned to my seat on the left side of the plane, the senior cabin attendant thoughtfully asked me if I wanted to switch to a seat on the right side of the airplane so that I could best enjoy the sunrise.

The views as we approached the coast were breathtaking.

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View approaching Japan

While the flight was mostly very smooth, we hit some pretty substantial chop on our final approach, as it seemed to be a windy morning. At 6:10AM we had a very firm touchdown on runway 34R.

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Approach into Tokyo Narita

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Touchdown Tokyo Narita

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Taxiing to gate Tokyo Narita

As we taxied to the gate the senior cabin attendant came on the PA to make her goodbye announcement, including my favorite quote — “please refrain from talking on your phone, because it may bother your neighbors.”

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Taxiing to gate Tokyo Narita

We had a super-long taxi to the gate, though the captain taxied with urgency.

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Taxiing to gate Tokyo Narita

We finally arrived at our gate at 6:25AM.

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Gate Tokyo Narita

I was really sad to say bye to the crew, as they were beyond lovely. I was hoping I’d have a crew half as awesome as them to New York.

Japan Airlines first class bottom line

This flight was perfect. Japan Airlines’ new first class hard product is top notch. The the crew on this flight was the highlight, though. They couldn’t have been friendlier or more sincere.

Add in the fact that JAL has fast and reasonably priced wifi, and they might just be my new favorite airline for flying to/from Asia (I love Cathay Pacific, but they don’t have wifi… grrr!).

What’s interesting is that on my Cathay Pacific flight from Chicago to Hong Kong I had an equally amazing crew, though ultimately the service culture between a Japanese airline and a Hong Kong-based airline are completely different. The JAL crew was friendly, reserved, and quietly observant, while the Cathay crew was talkative, attentive, and personable.

Two completely different styles, but I loved both of them.

If you’ve flown JAL’s new first class, what was your experience like?

Enjoy this review? Check out hundreds of other reports on airlines, hotels, and airport lounges worldwide!

Comments

  1. Nice review, Lucky. Seems like a great product.

    Did you happen to wander back to business class at all, and if so, any impressions of it? We’re doing HND-SFO in J in a few months, and I haven’t found all that many reviews yet (though the ones I have seen are very positive).

    Thanks

  2. Do their 787 have the same first class product? I see that JAL flies a 787 between NRT and BKK.

  3. I think the tray table design is the best in the sky – you can slide the whole thing as far forward as you like without disturbing anything – you’re never “trapped” at all! and the use of the row of little vertical slats to cover the rail-way is great design.

    I also thought the sevice was great -attentive (they must have brought me 10 or more hot towels during the flight) but never fawning, overbearing, or overenthusiastic – but always there to accommodate. I hope to fly JAL again soon.

  4. Apparently they Japanese learned about curry from the English, who had learned about it from India. So things got badly distorted along the way. Japanese curry is interesting enough to east on occasion, but it’s made with curry powder (or instant curry sauce) that tends to taste the same everywhere. In India no one uses pre-mixed curry powder…

  5. I also enjoyed my recent two JAL F flight so much – amazing flight attendants, after I had some caviar as a snack they came by to fill my champagne glass and asked me whether I want another can of caviar – yeah!

    When I asked about onboard wifi, she apologised that it will only be available a couple of hours after take-off and came back to bring me a complementary 24h wifi-pass.

    Guess I should have asked for a mug as well^^

  6. $18 for wifi would be reasonable…. in economy.
    In first class, it’s absolutely outrageous and practically robbery.

  7. >I headed back to the lavatory to change, and once again a crew member was standing outside the door waiting for me to finish and take my pajamas. As I returned to my seat the senior cabin attendant asked if I wanted a fresh pair of pajamas. Ummm… yes please!

    I like keeping airline pajamas and I’ve never been asked to return them. Does JL always collect pajamas and then give you a fresh pair?

  8. This review is a perfect example of why I love reading your blogs. People can’t understand how excited I get by this stuff but you most certainly do! Wonderful review. Can’t wait to try it. Thanks!

  9. F on this route is suspended after June 30th, to answer the person above about J only.
    Thai F has a similar tray system. I love it.

  10. Thanks for the JAL report and looking forward to reading the next installment on your report.

    I actually have a JAL flight in December from Tokyo-Honolulu. I’m really looking forward to it even though its in Business. I’m curious though if I get the same service in Business like I would get in First. Probably not but hey, the Japanese are really friendly right?! 😛 Hopefully pj’s and amenity kits will be on offer for the 8 hour hop to and from Hawaii. If not, not big deal.

    Great report once again and looking forward to the rest of the report.

    Cheers

  11. Lucky: As usual, a superb, thorough review. Arigato, just in time as I’ll fly JAL’s F 777-300 later this year. Glad to see the non Mao-collar work camp PJ, unlike like Cathay’s F. Wonder if CP will add a cap with red star (to symbolize their cynical slogan of ‘First Among Equals’) to complete the reactionary ensemble.

  12. I’m wondering the same thing as Tom – is dining w a companion possible? Wife and I have the two center seats JFK-NRT this fall

  13. Seriously can’t believe that in all of those travels, you have never used a bidet! I’ll seriously go out of my way in NRT to use one, and love hotels that have them. Really wish they’d become more popular in the States. Tempted to get one. So clean!

  14. @Travis,

    Especially since Ben has previously said he loves Japanese toilets. Did that mean he had only tried the warm seat?

  15. To those asking about dining together – the seats are set up in such a way that it’s possible (I.e. large ottoman), but that doesn’t mean it’s encouraged. When I asked about it two years ago, the flight attendant just gave me this dumb look, as if this was the first time they had gotten this request (and definitely not a part of their training script). Of course, they aren’t going to turn down a couple of F pax their crazy request, but it definitely made the meal service a bit awkward for them – at one point the FA said “the table too small,” which made us also feel pretty awkward. YMMV though – I also had a pretty mediocre crew that barely spoke any English (their demeanor was noticeably different when speaking Japanese) and forgot to include toiletries in the amenity kit.
    I’m flying them again tomorrow to see if my previous experience was just a fluke.

  16. The purser on my flight, in the reverse direction on JL725, was one helluva connoisseur and told me that she’d flown with the President of Salon, and that he told her to serve Salon only in white-wine glasses (think LH) as it is the truest way to enjoy its composition and texture. She then proceeded to serve me Salon in both the champagne flute as well as the white-wine glass so I’d see it for myself. Hot damn, I’d have to agree that she was right!

    Next time you’ll know better Lucky!

  17. Salon AND Clos des Goisses!!

    The best champagne offering in the air!! Trumps Krug MV and Dom 02 pairing on SQ.

    Since you are such a Krug fan, you need to try vintage Krug (88 or 96!) or even more rarefied Krug air, their Clos des Mensil!

  18. Astonishing wine list.. n alcoholic selects.. fantastic bed by tempur. Excellent amenities kit. Wow.

    It must be the best 777 F product in the world now. N u hv unlimited wifi!

    Btw, soft or hard tempur bedding? (Is hard too hard?)

    Looking forward to ur nrt F lounge review

  19. I checked the schedule on JAL.co.jp

    The F class from NRT-CGK-NRT is removed from JUL 1 onwards to October

    They haven’t put up any winter schedule from October onwards but seeing how I don’t see any Fs operated planes on ba.com (it’s likely it’s gone for good after Jul 1)

  20. Great review. Would be nice if they served Hibiki 21 year vs the 17 year. For comparison, ANA serves 21 in first and 17 in biz. Also, Asiana decor is “puke-inducing?” I thought it looked quite nice.

  21. Now recovered from bankruptcy, it looks like JAL is targeting ANA to become the Japanese airline of choice.

    Considering how much you enjoy bidet toilet seats, you should spend some time in Tokyo this spring reviewing hotels.

  22. Hey Lucky,

    for CGK-FRA which one do you prefer in J : JL, QR or CX ?

    Using AAdvantage Miles, can I book different airlines for each way ? For exampe, CGK-FRA with QR and FRA-CGK with JL ?

    Thanks !

  23. “I don’t think my rear has ever felt that good!”

    This has to be Lucky’s review comment/sentence of the year.

  24. @ Ryan — Yes, you can book different airlines in each direction. Really isn’t a right answer as to which airline is best. All depends on the aircraft operating the route, in my opinion. You can’t go wrong with the new products offered by any of those airlines.

  25. @ Gardner @ Tom — In theory it is indeed since the ottoman can double as a seat, though if you’re seated in the center seats you’re pretty close together anyway.

  26. @ MJ — Oh, she just wanted to put the pair I already had in the original pouch to give to me, in addition to a new set.

  27. @ C Diddy — I did briefly, though it was a redeye so I couldn’t see the seats too well. But based on what I could see, they looked fantastic.

  28. cool to see nice reviews on JL. GF is with ANA for 18 years and and i push papers for a US Carrier and our best flights are when we are on JL as revenue. Course it helps her dad is a JL pilot and her sister is also a JL Chief purser. hands down the best product coming out of japan right now. Like my GF says.. ANA is a japanese company that tries to be western. JAL is a japanese company that it proud to be Japanese. coming from a 3 cabin chief purser for ANA, it says alot.

  29. I love these reviews – I’ve been avoiding JAL since a series of poor reviews in the 1990’s, but now I am seriously considering taking them London-Tokyo-Sydney, in first. I think they fly to Sydney again, after dropping the destination for a decade or so. I’d love to have a stopover in Tokyo, one of my favourite places because it’s so different from anywhere else.

  30. We had an award booking booked for JFK>NRT in J for next Friday, and after reading this, I checked to see if award availability had opened up for the route in F…and low and behold, it did! Because of this review, we’re now flying JAL in F from JFK to NRT!

  31. Wow, I have to try JAL F sometime. It seems so lovely. Your enthusiasm is downright contagious!

    “I don’t think my rear has ever felt that good!” May I make a suggestion? 😉

  32. Modern vintage champagnes are crafted to be served in regular white wine stemware. Salon is $300 a bottle because of its small inventory. Market dictates prices.

    Is that a plastic spoon served with the caviar? Mon Dieu! I had just finished reading an article on how antibiotic resistant shigella is spreading in the US and then I saw the picture of the keema curry served to you. Followed by all the talk about bidet toilets.

    When service goes above and beyond, a handwritten thank you note or gift purchased from duty-free makes the crew feel the love in return.

  33. I just wanted to join the chorus. This was such an exuberant review! I truly enjoyed it and am so eager to read about the next leg on JAL.

  34. Most certainly can dine together in F — I saw elderly Japanese couple dine together on LAX-NRT receiving perfect service of Kaiseki dining option.

    Service on these flights is remarkable. Truly an extraordinary experience.

  35. @Lucky most of Japanese toilet should have a button playing music while you are dumping shit, so people outside cannot hear that awarkward sound but just music.
    Anyway, I think all ANA 787 toilets have that bidets too.

  36. “My experiences in ANA first class have always been exceptional, and I’ve kind of thought of them as the premium Japanese airline. I was curious if my impressions changed after flying Japan Airlines’ new first class.”

    What’s the final verdict?

    (P.S. Thanks for the great review as always)

  37. How did you end up booking this? When I try via ba.com, it tells me that the flight you were on: “Cabin not operated on this flight” for First Class. Business seems almost always available.

  38. Flew both ANA and JAL recently…

    I’d say I like ANA’s service more… JAL for it’s hard products/food/amenities

    I would find it hard to go wrong with either one of them

  39. Just had to say thanks for the report. I flew JAL 1 & 2 last week and had the same wonderful experience. Loved the Salon 2002, on way back just another guy and I so I had half the cabin. loved the PJs, Haneda 1st class lounge was wonderful, plus observation deck, flight attendant insisted I take the coffee cup 🙂 along with a bag of goodies

  40. I have to agree – 02 Salon and 04 Clos des Goisses has to rank as the best champagne selection in the sky. Like you, I actually prefer Krug to Salon but I’d take Clos des Goisses over either almost any year. Even in terrible vintages (I’m thinking 91) they make an exceptional bottle of wine. Clos des Goisses has a cult following among bubbleheads and I’m impressed that JAL has it.

  41. @ Tom C — Make sure you’re looking before July 1, as the plane switches to a plane without first class.

  42. @ Kneemuh — Ultimately they’re both fantastic, and I’d have a hard time choosing between them. Love them both.

  43. Hey Lucky – it’s seems like First class to/from Jakarta on JAL is only available until June 30, 2015. After this date, inventory is only showing business class. The BA site was only kicking back business availability, and it doesn’t even show the “First” column anymore (just Economy, Premium Eco, and Biz). I also tried booking a revenue ticket on JAL’s website and it errors out when I select First — no issues when Biz is selected. Do you know if they’re switching equipment and pulling the 777 from this route? I was going to burn Avios on a return to/Jakarta but alas I might be too late!

  44. Follow up:

    After some digging around – the 787 with a new Biz Sky Suite will operate the route beginning July 2015. https://www.jal.co.jp/en/787/ (have to read the red box to see!) — another intra-region first class bites the dust! Was hoping to try it as well!

  45. Hi Lucky, I’m currently seeing 2 flights daily from Jakarta to Narita operated by 787 and 777. Out of curiosity, I logged into BA.com and I was surprised to see wide open first class availability. From your previous article, you’ve mentioned that JAL canceled their first class on this route. Do you know whether this is just a glitch or are they once again flying 777 on this route.

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