TRIP REPORT: Review of Japan Airlines (JAL) First Class JL61 LAX – NRT

TRIP REPORT: Review of Japan Airlines (JAL) First Class JL61 LAX – NRT

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As the weather changes and summer days are getting shorter, it’s time for us to take another trip to somewhere warm. Hmmm, but where to go?!? Oh yeah, our favorite place, Thailand!

After looking at many hotel resort options, we decided on The Naka Island Resort just outside of Phuket. Our routing to HKT would require a stop over and change of plane no matter which airline we choose so we booked our travel via Bangkok on JAL’s First Class Sky Suite.

I’ve always wanted to experience the Sky Suite and JAL’s trademark “Good Sleep Service” that travelers have been raving about. Let’s take a look at the 10+50 FT in First Class to NRT on JAL.

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Flight Details

Japan Airlines (JAL) flight  JL61
LAX-NRT Gate 132
Wednesday, 14 September 2016
Departure: 13:45
Arrival: 17:10 +1
Flight Time: 10h+50m
Aircraft: 777-300ER
Seats: 1K and 2K

 

We arrived at LAX about 3 hours before departure time, we wanted enough time to experience the Qantas / One World First Class lounge. At LAX, JAL check-in takes place at TBIT.

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The line moves fast, but then again, when you are the only one in line, there isn’t much to complain about.

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The check-in counter for JAL is located on the South side of the newly renovated TBIT at LAX and it opens 4 hours prior to departure.  “Jennifer” was our First Class check in agent who immediately assisted us with our luggage to her counter.

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As she was inputting our information, I informed her of a seat change request (the main reason why we wanted to arrive a bit early) however, the First Class cabin was full. Our original seats were 2A and 2K but we wanted to be on the same side of the aircraft, if possible. After a few seconds, she picked up the phone, called her colleagues and BAM! Our new seats were 1K and 2K.  Jennifer made it happen! The overall check-in process was smooth, fast and efficient. From the moment I walked up to the counter till our last bag was tagged and boarding card in hand took no more than six minutes. Before heading off through TSA, Jennifer asked if we required a VIP escort through TSA.  We declined, (a decision that I regretted after since there are no premium lines at TBIT).

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Its surprising to me, considering the departure time and the volume of travelers at TBIT, TSA does not have a designated line for premium travelers. After waiting in line for a few minutes, I started seeing the other First Class travelers being escorted to front and through TSA. That’s where my regrets for not taking Jennifer’s offer came in.

 

Once on the other side of TSA, we took the elevator on the left hand side to the 5th floor to spend some time at the Qantas First Class Lounge. Click here to read the review of Qantas First Class Lounge at LAX.

 

 

At exactly 13:15, an announcement was made over the P.A. in the lounge that our flight was ready for boarding.  Our gate was 132.

On our way to the gate, I’m so amazed at what TBIT has transformed into over the years. The Rodeo Drive shops, hip eateries, state of the art lighted sign displays a reflection of Los Angeles and its culture has truly put an international stamp and makes it a terminal Angelenos can be proud of.

 

Boarding process was efficient.

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At the end of the jet way by the boarding door, our Purser was waiting to greet us as we board through the 1L door. That’s definitely a nice, welcoming touch that I haven’t seen before.

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The cabin layout of this particular 77W is 1-2-1 seating. Since both of us were in the “K” seats, we were on the right side of the aircraft.  As you can see JAL seems to offer more premium type of seats on this aircraft than coach seats.

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As we boarded I noticed something cool!  A plaque with the flight info.

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Once we got to our seats, hot towels were brought out and champagne began to flow.

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In our cabin, there were 8 JAL First Class Suites all with direct aisle access, touch screen on demand entertainment system, 2 remote controls, a universal charging outlet, ample amount of in-seat storage space and a large sliding table for work or dining. Awaiting in our seats were air weave Dual Mode S-Line pillow,  a blanket and Bose noise cancellation headsets.  Here’s a 360 view.

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The JAL First Class Suite was quite roomy. The seats moved forward to accommodate those who are vertically challenged like me so we can reach the foot rest. The seat width is a generous 58 cm between the armrest however, once the seat turns into a bed, it becomes even wider at 84 cm. Now, for my tall friends out there the length of the bed is 199 cm with plenty of room to wiggle around. Every suite comes with a 23 cm personal monitor.  My favorite feature was the tray table that slides back and forth.  No fighting to pull it out from the side. Click here for more details about JAL First Class Suites and products.

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The storage space in the First Class cabin was quite limited. The two side bins on each side were used to store the foam mattresses. The first row middle bins were sealed off and unusable so this leaves 2 middle bins on each side one of which was used to house all of the extra pillows and blankets. This leaves very limited stowage area for larger roll on luggage. You can also stow your articles under the foot rest of your seat.

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As we were getting familiar with our seat functions, another flight attendant came by and introduced herself. She then offered us amenity kits, our complimentary WiFi password and our Shiseido products with zip-lock bags because we were transiting in NRT which I thought was really thoughtful. The male amenity kit case designed by Zero Halliburton came with eye mask, ear plugs, shea lip stick by Institut Karite, tissue and dental kit. In a separate hard white Shiseido case were the skin toner, eye cream and cleansing foam mouse.

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At this point, we were at departure time and promptly, an announcement was made apologizing for the late departure due to flight deck computer programming. Immediately, another flight attendant came over and introduced herself to us, then she personally apologized for any inconvenience due to the delay. Another genuine and personal touch that is rarely seen in air travel these days.  We pushed back about 15 minutes late.

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At exactly 10,000 feet the seat belt sign was switched off and we connected to the, complimentary for First Class, on-board WiFi.

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Connection speed was not bad and didn’t drop the entire flight.

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For those of you in other cabins the price for WiFi seemed VERY affordable.

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Soon after, small bites were brought out with a selection of beverages. A tasty bite size selection of goat cheese ball, smoked salmon and creamy dill and parma ham was offered.

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Followed by a delicious glass of Champagne Salon 2004.

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Their drink menu is pretty extensive.  So big in fact that they post everything online so it’s easy to make a selection before you arrive.  In fact, JAL has just started the ability to pre-order your dinner.  It’s not as easy as book the cook on Singapore airlines, however, still a nice feature.

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I won’t post the drink menu, but you can click here to view it.

I do want to share with you my favorite item from that drink menu, it’s the Royal Blue Tea “Queen of Blue”. I’m not gonna lie, I didn’t know what it was initially so I asked if it was alcoholic. I was told by Otsuka-san that if I like cold tea, then I should try this rare and expensive bottle of tea. So I did. What was it like? Well, the aroma from the very finest, hand-picked tea leaves is so elegant. The clear taste, lingering after note and its pinkish hue is reminiscent of a fine champagne. The tea sommeliers produce each bottle, one by one. The “Queen of Blue” is made with rare tea leaves that are picked once a year in the summertime. The refreshing, crisps taste pairs especially well with my delicately flavored Japanese cuisine that I pre-ordered.

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At this point we will show the two different meal service options as Mitch had the western meal and I had the Japanese.

Western Meal

First up was tray setup.

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Followed by Hor-d’œuvre of Chilled Granny Smith Apple Soup, Potato Blini and Smoked Salmon Tartar.

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Then Spicy Maine Lobster Hearts of Palm Borscht Chowder and Dill Oil.

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Then the main course of roasted milk-fed veal fillet braised endive black truffle sauce.

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Followed up by Mitch’s favorite Green Tea Mousse with Raspberry Jelly which he’s been looking forward to since we pre-booked our meals a few weeks prior. Also on the plate: Chocolate Orange Cake and Rosemary Cherry Tart.

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Finally he followed up with a nice cup of green tea!

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Japanese Meal

My Japanese “Kaiseki” Meal started with “Kozara” or Japanese Appetizers: Jellied Potato and Sea Urchin, Snow Crab Meat rolled with Radish, Steamed Fluke and Tofu Cake, Simmered Fried Sea-bass and Chicken Breast and Cucumber dressed with Mustard Vinegar Miso in a Lemon Cup

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Then comes “Owan” or the Soup course: Japanese Clear Soup with Grilled Sea -bream and Matsutake Mushroom.

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“Mukozuke” or the Sliced Dish of Sashimi course is Kelp Flavored Salmon “Sashimi” Style and Seared Scallop. It’s served alongside the “Azukebachi” or the Added Dish of Cold Steamed Savory Egg Custard with Corn.

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Finally, the “Dainomono” or the Main Dish of Lobster Cake with White Miso Sauce.” Hamono” (Steamed Rice), Tomewan (Miso Soup) and Japanese Pickles are served with the Dainomono.

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Who saved room for Kanmi or Dessert and Green Tea?

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After dinner service we were offered the latest in sleep wear.

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I realize that an on-board lavatory might not be of interest to most, but you’ve got to check out JAL’s first class lav.  Yes, it’s a Japanese toilet with the “bells and whistles”.

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Don’t want to stand on the floor to change your clothes?  No problem, the Japanese have a fix for that too with this handy pull down changing table?

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As I came out of the bathroom the FAs had set up a beautiful display of snacks by the L1 door.

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My bed was made for sleeping.

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We settle in and sleep for about four hours. My only complaint is like all Asian carriers, the cabin is kept pretty warm. With that said, between the thick blanket, the foam sleep pad and the pajamas, I was craving an ice bath after my nap.

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About half way though the flight we both wake up and are hungry.  JAL has some great mid-flight snack meals based on your departure city.  Since LA has a huge Mexican influence, the mid-flight meal was properly themed. But of course, there are some Asian favorites as well.

Mitch had the Beef Fajita with Spanish Rice and some ice cream to finish.

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I couldn’t resist the JAL Seafood Curry Rice.

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Dim Sum Set, anyone?

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Nice selection of Seasonal Fresh Fruits to round off the meal.

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Their IFE is pretty extensive and the control is top-notch.  It’s almost like an iPhone.  Very cool!

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I’m always eager to talk to the flight attendants and on this flight, I found out it was Otsuka-San’s final First Class training flight. It took her 4 years to work her way up to this cabin and she’s graciously proud.

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After a long conversation, I went back to my laptop to finish up some work. To my surprise, Otsuka-San came to my seat with a 767 airplane model and a very nice note. I’m very touched. It goes to show that good customer service goes hand in had with being a good customer as well.

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With JAL first class, dining is on demand.  So a pre-arrival meal is ordered whenever you please.  You can choose what they have or anything off the menu.

I ordered the Japanese option: Grilled Beef Miso Flavor with “Kobachi” Vinegared “Mozuku” Seaweed, Steamed Rice, Miso Soup and Japanese Pickles.

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Mitch had the Western option: French Dip Beef Sandwich and Greek Yogurt with Mango Sauce.

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Descent into NRT was fast without any major delay.

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However, we had the dreaded remote gate!  Ughh, ground time was even less! JAL was organized in having buses lined up to whisk customers to the main terminal so not really much to complain about.  We were off and through passenger in transit very FAST!

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Overall thoughts?

Overall JAL has an amazing first class product.  The seat was great, tons of room, over the top AMAZING FA service and the free WiFi was perfect!  Excellent on board amenities including Shiseido products and kits.  We really have to give some major recognition to this crew.  This has been by far the best Cabin Crew we’ve come across!  By far!  So genuine, kind, caring.  Just the total essence of Japan, JAL and kind human spirits!  Bravo to them all!

Our final grades of Japan Airlines (JAL) JL61

Qantas / One World Lounge @ LAX: B

Comfort of the Seat: B+

Cabin Space Seat Layout: A+

Food: A

Amenity kit: A+

Storage space: B

Inflight cabin crew service: A++++++++++++++++++++

Ground customer service: A+

JAL is a great airline with a focus on providing excellent customer service.  Have you flown on JAL? How was it?  Let us know in the comments!

 

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