Flight Date: 01Apr2013–After a fantastic week spent enjoying the cherry blossoms, great food and the company of friends I was wishing I could stay in Tokyo a few more days. Some ‘must attend’ meetings were scheduled the following day in New York though so I hopped into a taxi for what I thought was going to be a 45 minute ride to Narita Airport.
Twenty kilometers into my journey however all traffic came to an abrupt halt. A quick phone call by the cab driver to his dispatcher revealed a bad accident up ahead was the cause and it would take nearly two hours to reach Narita! At this stage it looked as if my wish for a few more days in Tokyo was going to come true after all. My road-savvy driver punched a few buttons on his GPS device, exited the expressway and got me to Narita via back roads with time to spare.
At Narita Airport’s terminal two, Japan Airlines has a large dedicated check-in counter for first class customers and premium JMB (JAL Mileage Bank) members. Check-in was quick and effortless and I was escorted to a special security check entrance as well. Immigration was quick too and I was at the JAL First Class Lounge in no time. Compared to JAL’s Honolulu lounge which I reviewed last month, the Narita lounge is the real deal.
Spacious and inviting with a nice selection of drinks and food, I found a seat and logged on to the free Wi-Fi to dispatch some last-minute emails . The JAL lounge is comfy and well-appointed but not quite in the same league as Singapore Airlines’ Silver Kris lounge at Changi or Cathay’s newly revamped ‘The Wing’ at Chek Lap Kok (which I will be reviewing later this month). Nevertheless, it was perfectly functional and not overly crowded. No complaints from me.
I boarded flight 006 early and snapped a few shots of the JAL first class cabin. At 194cm (6’4″) a comfortable seat is a must for me on a long-haul flight and the ‘Suite’, JAL’s first class product, was just right.
The seat controls were easy to use; everything you need is at your fingertips and the seat itself should please the most finicky of travelers.
The cabin attendant quickly came by to greet me while offering newspapers, magazines, menu and wine list. Soon thereafter she was back with a pair of pajamas and BOSE headsets.
For whatever reason JAL does not offer a welcome drink on any of their international flights prior to take-off. I guess they figure most passengers in business and first have visited the lounge prior to boarding and therefore a welcome drink is not crucial. This is not a show-stopper for me, but a quick round of bubbly and water would be a nice addition.
The menu on today’s flight was extensive. I had skipped eating anything at the lounge so my mouth started watering as I read through the wine and lunch menu. I chose the western course and requested the salmon as my main dish. The flight attendant apologized since they only had one salmon entree on board and someone else had beaten me to it. She quickly added that she would create something special for me though and I decided to take her word for it.
The meal service started out with a nice glass of Dom Perignon 2003 and a tasty amuse bouche of foie gras and seafood. For the appetizer I chose the caviar with a glass of the New Zealand Te Koko Sauvignon Blanc.
As mentioned, the salmon was not available so the head purser created a seafood extravaganza for me which included a specially prepared bouillibaise soup and a portion of the Steamed Rockfish from the Japanese menu. Along with the amuse bouche, caviar appetiser these special main dishes were delicious and I didn’t miss the salmon at all.
The dessert was, well ‘interesting’. I bit into the strawberry tarte and immediately understood what the menu meant by ‘fizzy’. It tasted like a handful of ‘Pop Rocks’ candy! It wasn’t bad just a bit odd.
I finished up with a cup of Guatemalan coffee and a glass of the Château Gruaud–Larose.
After all that food and wine I got a little sleepy and since only five of the eight first class suites were occupied the flight attendant offered to make up the bed in the empty seat in front of me.
JAL uses very comfortable Tempur-pedic mattresses and pillows along with a down feather duvet. I went out like a light and woke up two hours prior to landing at JFK.
Being based in Tokyo I’ve flown Japan Airlines many times and I have to say this was one of the best flights I’ve ever experienced with them. Check-in was smooth, courteous and fast. JAL’s First Class Lounge at Narita, while not the most luxurious these days, has all a business or leisure traveler needs. The flight attendants were helpful and professional without being overly fawning. The in-flight Wi-Fi service allowed me to catch up on some work (22USD for the duration of the flight). All the wines I tried were great and perfectly paired to both the Japanese and Western menus. In-flight meal choices were extensive and other than the “Pop Rocks” strawberry tarte, I thoroughly enjoyed everything I tried. JAL’s First Class ‘Suite’ is very comfortable although I did notice a few areas where the daily wear and tear was starting to show. JAL has just launched an upgrade to the their first class product called: “New Suite”; I’m scheduled to try this new product in early May, so please check back for that report. All-in-all I had a truly enjoyable flight and look forward to flying with them again.
For more information on Japan Airlines first class:
Japan Airlines B777-300 Narita-New York Photo Gallery