Japan Airlines First Class LAX-NRT
I have traveled very little so far in 2018 due to increased demand from my masters degree program. So for my spring break, I really wanted to go big. Using Alaska Airlines miles I booked a trip to Tokyo and Seoul for the week. To get to Tokyo, I flew Japan Airlines First Class LAX-NRT.
As I was coming from Seattle, I needed to first get to a city that is serviced by Japan Airlines (JAL). On the West Coast that is Vancouver and San Diego (that both have 787 with no First Class), LAX and SFO (to Tokyo Haneda). Note that the rumor is that JAL will start flying to SEA later this year or in 2019. Alaska will allow you to position within the US on Alaska Airlines for no additional fee. They also allow you to continue on when going through an international partner hub. So I decided to also visit Seoul, South Korea on this strip. The total cost was 70,000 miles + $28 (or so) in taxes and fees. This included SEA-LAX in Alaska First, LAX-NRT in JAL First, and HND (Tokyo Haneda)-GMP (Seoul Gimpo) in JAL Business (as that flight does not have First Class). I booked a similar trip in reverse to get home.
At the time of booking, the cash price was $13,214, not including the Business Class flight from Tokyo to Seoul. Now, I would never spend that kind of cash on a ticket but still I think it is a pretty good miles to dollar redemption!
As I was starting in Seattle, I was able to check my bag through to Tokyo. However, I still needed to pick up my boarding pass. Fortunately the folks at the Qantas First Lounge were able to get it for me.
I arrived at the gate after boarding started, but was able to find the staff holding the First Class sign and get right on.
Japan Airlines operates a three class 777-300ER on this route that features the JAL Suite in First Class. The JAL Suite is only featured on seven routes. The First Class section is set up in a 1-2-1 configuration across two rows for eight seats total. JAL fits in eight seats to the same space (roughly) that Cathay Pacific fits in 6. However the seats and set up are comparable.
The total flight time was 11 hours and 33 minutes.
I selected seat 1K. The four window seats are more private than the four middle seats, though if traveling with a companion the middle seats might be more desirable as they have a roll down divider.
Unlike Singapore Suites or Emirates First Class, the JAL First Class seats do not have a door. While the concept of having a door on your suite is fun, it really doesn’t add too much. I didn’t miss the door. There is a “wall” separating you from the aisle and the seat behind/in front so you still feel like you have some privacy.
The seats are leather and recline as well as fold flat into a bed. There is no massage function but they do have an adjustable lumbar support.
Along side of the seat are three storage compartments. The main one (and one closest to the seat) has the old remote control, a spot for wallet or passport, and large storage.
The next storage is small with the current touch screen remote and a few small items. There is also a built in mirror in the door.
The third storage is next to the TV screen and has the power outlet in it (it is under the amenity case in the photo below).
In addition to the two overhead lights, there were two dimmable LED reading lights. One was next to the headphone jack. Unfortunately they use the two prong headphone jack, so you either need to bring an adapter or listen to movies in mono sound if you use your own headphones.
At each seat were a pair of slippers, Bose noise canceling headphones for use in flight, and the JAL amenity kit. JAL recently changed their kit to ETRO but apparently they had the older Porsche Design kits left over, that that is what I received on my flight.
The Porsche Design hard case is one of my favorites. It is great for reusing for future packing. A zipper around the outside is high quality and ensures nothing falls out. Inside there is netting on each side for organization.
Inside are the standard amenities. A unique item that I appreciate is the moisture mask for wearing during sleep. It is just a basic face mask you see people wear in Japan, but it is nice to keep your nose and mouth from drying out.
In addition, I received a Shiseido Men kit in a white plastic container.
Inside were some additional cosmetic items. I didn’t get a chance to see what female passengers received as there were only men in First Class on my flight.
Pajamas were also offered, I waited to get mine until I was actually ready to sleep. I didn’t snap a photo, but here is the stock picture from JAL’s website:
Japan Airlines keeps their cabins hot. While the pajamas are comfortable and higher quality than some, I found them to be too warm for the flight. The brown and red square fabric is the bag the pajamas come in.
When the flight attendants set up the bed, they add a memory foam mattress with “hard” and “soft” side, duvet and extra pillow. The bed is comfortable (but again, too hot of a cabin).
Each First Class passenger is handed a wifi code for free wifi for the duration of the flight. Typically wifi on the flight would be about $18.
While I liked the screen and remote, I found the selection of movies to be pretty standard. About 10 new releases and a catalogue of older films.
Prior to landing, each First Class passenger was given a pass for the quick route through immigration.
On my Japan Airlines First Class LAX-NRT flight, there was one meal service soon after boarding. In addition, at any time you could order off the a la carte menu. The menu is split in to Japanese and Western selections. You could order off of either one, but the menu was made to go through the entire courses based on the menu you picked.
After consulting the flight attendant, I picked the Japanese menu and added a course of caviar. I found all the dishes to be beautifully displayed.
First I was offered a class of Cristal, one of two Champagne brands they stock on the flight for First Class. It was followed by an amuse bouche of prosciutto wrapped fig with cream cheese and a slice of sturgeon on toast.
The first course was a selection of bite size plates. I thought it was a beautiful display and, though I may not have personally loved the taste of each item, I could tell it was a well made dish.
Next came the caviar with a cream cheese spread and another slice of sturgeon. At first they didn’t bring out blini, and when I asked for some, the flight attendant was so embarrassed that she had forgot it.
A clear soup was brought out next.
Next was all things “sea”: tuna, sea urchin, abalone, shrimp, salmon and scallop. I tried it all, though I have to say the sea urchin (I think) was a bit to tough for my western taste.
Next up (course six I suppose?) was the main course. Steak with steam rice (cooked on board) and seasoned rice (cooked on the ground). Miso soup and pickled vegetables.
The final course was dessert. Jellied fruit with mochi and a red bean bun.
After sleeping for about six hours it was time to eat again! It is hard to go hungry on this flight.
I had the fresh salad, ramen (delicious!) and fruit plate with caramel ice cream.
I am not a big seafood fan but I still wanted to try the Japanese menu. If nothing else, it was presented beautifully. I would guess someone with a more discerning palate would have found it all very tasty.
Here are pictures of the various menus.
The toilet was pretty typical except for one feature: it had a built in bidet! While it is no shower, I guess it is the next best thing for a plane restroom.
They did have cloth towels, toothbrushes and mouth wash available as well.
My Japan Airlines First Class LAX-NRT had just about the best service I have ever had on a plane (my return flight was not nearly as good). It probably helped that there was one empty seat in First Class, so they staff assigned to my section only had three passengers instead of four.
From the start of the flight, each attendant came and introduced herself to me. At the end of the flight, they all came together to ask how the flight went. It was a nice personal touch.
Between each use, the lavatory was cleaned and toilet paper folded in triangle for the next passenger.
The curtains around the kitchen were always drawn so passengers would not be distracted by what went on behind the scenes.
When it came time to change in to my pajamas, they had readied the lavatory by putting hangers for my regular clothes already tagged with my seat number.
When I changed back into my street clothes, they asked if I wanted to take my fresh pajamas with me. I said sure, not sure what she meant. Instead of giving me the pajamas I wore on the flight, she gave me a brand new pair still in their package. Definitely going above and beyond (though slightly wasteful).
The Japanese hospitality culture was in very fine form on my flight. It rates right up there with other First Class experiences on Asian airlines.