Japan Airlines (JAL) is one of the two main airlines of Japan, with ANA being the other. Along with its oneworld partners Cathay Pacific and Malaysia Airlines, JAL primarily operate flights throughout Asia.
While they do not fly to New Zealand, they are a high quality airline worth connecting via Australia for, especially if you are looking to spend points or miles via a oneworld frequent flyer programme like Qantas.
This guide reviews the JAL 787-9 Dreamliner Business Class.
Fleet & routes
Japan Airlines fleet of Boeing 787s offer includes 42 Business Class seats in a 2-2-2 configuration.
The airline has begun to fit out its fleet of 787-9s with the new Business Class Sky Suite III seats. JAL’s Sky Suite III operate to the following cities:
- Tokyo (Narita)
- Kuala Lumpur
The cabin & seats
Unlike most Dreamliner Business Class cabins, Japan Airlines’ unique Sky Suites (not to be confused with the Sky Suites III pictured above) includes provisions for two additional seats in a uniquely designed 2-2-2 configuration compared to the conventional 1-2-1 arrangement.
Despite the seemingly tight quarters of window seats (rows A and K), the Sky Suites have been cleverly designed to allow window passengers to slip in and out without impeding aisle guests. An added benefit for window passengers is greater privacy, giving a feeling of an enclosed cabin compared to those on the aisle.
Image courtesy of JAL
Image courtesy of JAL
The suite is made up of warm white accents with dark wood fixtures. Each suite is fitted with a USB port, video input and an AC power outlet.
Japan Airlines Business Class cabins look somewhat dull, outdated and lack the refined luxe aesthetics in comparison to its competitors. However, the Sky Suite makes up with its minimalistic design language, extensive menu and customer service.
A quick glance of the seats may have you thinking the cabins are narrow in length. Once settled, the observed space is comparable to the seats on Qantas’ A330. Despite seats being 3cm narrower and 10cm shy of the A330’s 2m flat-bed, space is comparably generous, providing ample leg room with sufficient space to stow your carry-on luggage beneath the footrest.
Passengers travelling together can lean over to chat with their travel partner by opening the automatic dividing panel.
On this particular flight, we were placed in seats 7D and 7G (due to our flight being cancelled), rows which I usually avoid due to the close proximity of the lavatory. Nevertheless, we didn’t experience any issues on the flight.
Food & drink
Personally, I prefer meals on Asian operated flights than Western airlines. Japan Airlines provides passengers with a unique dining experience, options include a Japanese, Western and a ‘Anytime you Wish’ menu. Further to this, I happily found the food on the return flight from Narita to Melbourne to be better.
A glass of Japanese plum wine and soda to compliment the Japanese Kaiseki multi-course menu
Irodori Gozen – a selection of seasonal delicacies
Grilled salmon with Japanese style tartar sauce and simmered chicken sukiyaki style, with rice and miso soup
Western menu: Roasted white fish with tomato coriander seed sauce
Chocolate cream pie for dessert
Passengers can order food from the ‘Anytime you Wish’ menu up to an hour prior to landing. Featured is the JAL Original “Japanese Soba Noodles Tsuta” Ramen Noodles in soy soup.
Here is the food and drinks menu for the Sydney – Narita route:
Here is the food and rinks menu for the Narita – Melbourne route:
Overall word of mouth and online reviews of Japan Airlines have been positive. Given this was my first experience with the airline, I was pleasantly surprised by the professionalism and willingness of the staff to accommodate and provide passengers with a memorable experience.
Case in point, after it was explained to JAL staff that I missed a connecting flight from Haneda to Sapporo (booked on a separate ticket) due to a cancelled flight, they personally attended the situation and successfully rescheduled the flight without additional cost, even arranging a staff member at the arrival gate in Haneda should the connecting flight be cancelled due to the snow storm.
The cabin design provides an immersive onboard entertainment experience, especially with the large 23-inch TV. Passengers can access a diverse library of movies, audio programs, games and digital books, including Manga.
The Sony noise-cancelling headphones provide are comfortable, even while sleeping.
Program selections are accessed via the LCD remote. To avoid the awkward pause mid-movie, passengers can order meals directly to their seat.
Japan Airlines provides inflight Wi-FI services at a cost to cabin class passengers. The service is complimentary for First Class passengers.
Japan Airlines’ amenity kits are collaboratively designed with ETRO and Tatsumura Textiles and come in two versions. One for flights arriving in Japan and another for flights departing Japan. Featured below is the amenity kit from Sydney to Japan which includes:
- Lip balm
- toothbrush set
- moisture mask
- steam eye mask
- pocket tissue
Flights from Japan include an eye mask
How to redeem points for this flight
At the time of writing this review, reward bookings for the flights cost 72,000 Qantas Frequent Flyer points and $313 in taxes per person and were redeemed 9 months prior to departure on the Qantas website.
If you are booking internal flights within Japan, I recommend securing flights through JAL’s Japan Explorer Pass or the All Nippon Airways (ANA) Experience Japan Fare. These airline programmes give passengers living outside Japan to fly between AU$66-133.
Airpoints members can also book good value flights with ANA on most routes in Japan.
Alternatively, the use of British Airways Avios is another option for internal flights in Japan. However, this type of redemption doesn’t offer the best value.
To avoid disappointment, I recommend researching and booking flights well in advance. For more information about the availability of award seats read when frequent flyer programmes release award space for redemptions.
Other Business Class overviews
Summing up: Why choose this flight?
Japan Airlines Business Class Sky Suites is comparable to a mini-experience of the country. A conservative sleeping capsule, designed to optimise the surrounding space and a decent variety of dining options ready and waiting for you.
Flying with JAL was overall a phenomenal experience. Individual cabins feel like your own private nook with a huge TV a few feet away from your sofa. Cabin staff are attentive without being too intrusive and I can not overlook the kindness and professionalism of JAL personnel from the check-in staff to the flight crew. Other than my wife’s declined request for a fourth serving of ice cream off the ‘Anytime time you Wish’, I heartily recommend flying with Japan Airlines.