Over the years, I have faithfully flown Japan Airlines whenever I traveled to Japan or any destination in Southeast Asia. JAL has one of the best services of any airline and the cleanest bathroom even after a 14-hour flight. I had opportunities to fly on their business class a few times and have finally sat down to write this review.
Value: Above Average
Japan Airlines’ round trip on business class from NY to Tokyo will run approximately $7,000 and prices go up from there. I did a price comparison to ANA’s business class and for the same dates, the fare was around $9,000. You can also buy a premium economy ticket and upgrade with points to business class as an alternative to the full fare.
Seat: Above average
JAL’s product is called Sky Suite, a fully flatbed seat with direct aisle access that is very spacious. The seat configuration on my recent flight was in a 2-3-2 layout with privacy partition between adjoining seats, so you do not have to see your neighbor except for take-off and landing. The most private seats are the window and middle seats, where once the privacy partition goes up, you are in your own “cabin”. There is a massive ottoman where you can place your feet with enough room for your bags underneath. Each seat has a panel with seat controls and an entertainment controller on the side making them easily accessible. The best part is the lie flat bed where you also can request an Airweave mattress topper making it even more comfortable. Each seat also has a 23-inch LCD monitor and a large swivel table for meals.
The official photos:
Priority Boarding: Above Average
Business class boards after first class quickly and efficiently. It’s a Japanese airline after all.
Lounge Access: Above Average
We had access to the Lufthansa’s business class lounge at JFK, which was a much needed upgrade from the overcrowded and basic Air France lounge that you get with JAL business class ticket. (Look out for our in-depth review of the Lufthansa’s lounge). On the flight back to NY, we had access to the Sakura lounge at Narita, which can be overcrowded during peak season. Overall, it’s still one of my favorite lounges as it has great food and amenities with very polite service. (See our review on JAL Sakura’s Lounge).
Amenities: Above Average
As soon as we were seated, we were served with champagne and given a hot towel before take-off. It was a nice touch to ease into the 14-hour flight. The amenity kit contains the conventional products plus the high-tech Japanese items like a “gentle steam eye mask” and a “moisture mask”. The gentle steam mask heats up your eye area to help get your circulation going while the moisture mask looks like a surgical mask with a moisture sheet insert. The moisture mask keeps your nose “moist” while in flight as the air up there can be extremely drying. As a bonus, I wore the mask straight out off the plane all the way to my hotel hiding my no make-up face. Since it’s normal for Japanese to wear mask in public…no one looked at me like I have SARS. Why can’t all my kits come with these?! Pajamas are not available; however, you can request a lightweight cardigan for the flight. There is also the standard noise cancelling headphones, which works fine. I usually bring my own Bose QC35 headphones, so I never use them.
In-flight dining: Excellent
This is where JAL really excels. The food is fresh and delicious, considering that you lose 30% of your taste sensitivity in-flight. For lunch, we were offered a Japanese menu or a Western menu. Both menus look like something you would get a very nice restaurant and it tasted really delicious.
If you are still hungry during the flight, there is an “Anytime You Wish” menu with a variety of hot and cold snacks or meals. I couldn’t resist and tried a few since the portions were small and they did not disappoint.
Before we landed, we were served a traditional Japanese breakfast set which was healthy and light on the stomach. I could have easily eaten any of the meals on land. It was that good.
One reason why I love flying with JAL is that the plane is very clean. The main thing for me is that the bathroom remained spotless throughout most of the flight. I constantly see the flight attendants clean the toilets. If you have been on long haul flights, the bathroom can become a toxic wasteland a few hours in and that is never the case with JAL. The bathrooms are on the smaller side and has a Japanese style toilet with a bidet if you are into that. They have additional Shiseido toiletries to make the flight pleasant for their guests.
Cabin Service: Exceptional
JAL is known for service and their flight crew does not disappoint. They check up on you as needed and are very quick to respond to requests. They also helped put up your luggage in the overhead bin, which I find increasingly rare among the different western airlines.
Overall, there is a reason why I consistently fly JAL to Asia even when it’s not within my Sky Team network and forgo the points accumulation. Their service offering continues to be one of the top in Asia and makes my 14+ flight actually enjoyable.