Flight Date: 22MAR2013–With Japan Airlines deciphering what seat you will get can be a bit tricky. JAL currently operate no less than five different business class products: Skyluxe, Sky Recliner, Shell Flat, Shell Flat Neo and Sky Suite. Checking out the JAL website, I noted the dreaded ‘Skyluxe’ product was my only option. These seats have been around for ages and while barely adequate for a short-haul flight they are, in my view, some of the most bum-numbing in commercial aviation on long haul flights. The price was right though and the evening departure time was perfect so ‘Skyluxe’ or not I decided to go with JAL anyway and ‘suffer’ the 8 1/2 hours to Tokyo.
Check-in was quick and efficient and the friendly check-in clerk kindly affixed my boarding pass with a “gold lane” sticker which allowed me to jump to the front of the line and I was through security in under three minutes. I made my way to the JAL Sakura Lounge located on the third floor.
JAL’s daily flight to Haneda departs Honolulu at 17:55 and this being their last flight of the day the lounge was only about half full. The lounge reminded me somewhat of a hospital cafeteria: clean and functional yet at the same time uninviting. Food choices were minimal: soup, spam musubi, mixed nuts and pastries. Large jugs of cheap wine, beer, soft drinks and juice rounded out the beverage choices. The wi-fi was free though and there was a nice selection of magazines and newspapers.
The flight was fully booked so I lined up before boarding was called in order to snap a few shots of the cabin without disturbing the other passengers. I was pleasantly surprised to find JAL’s Shell-Flat seats instead of the tired Skyluxe product.
Unlike most other carriers, JAL does not offer a drink service prior to take-off. Instead, the flight attendants use this time to take drink and dinner orders.
Along with Japan Airlines: All Nippon Airways, China Airlines, Delta Airlines, Korean Air and United Airlines currently operate daily flights on the popular Honolulu-Tokyo route. I’ve tried them all and JAL does have one of the better in-flight meal services. Nice wine, sake and beverage selection and three dinner options: Japanese, French and Hawaiian.
I ordered the ‘Hawaiian Local’ meal with a glass of the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Both the wine and the meal were tasty and lest I become the ‘flabflyer’ I decided to pass on dessert.
The Japan Airlines Shell Flat Seat was introduced in 2002 and while a slight improvement over the Skyluxe product, it is one of the least comfortable in the skies today. The seat is fine in the sitting position, however no amount of tossing or turning helped in finding a comfortable sleeping postion. It’s of the angled-flat variety and I wonder if the seat designer purposely intended to induce back injury or not?
I soon realized I wasn’t going to get any shut-eye on this trip so I decided to watch some movies instead. JAL had a fairly nice selection of movies, tv shows and games and the IFE monitor at 10.4 inches was adequate.
The Japan Airlines Honolulu-Haneda service was a bit of a let down in some aspects. The Sakura lounge at Honolulu for starters needs to be refurbished and better food and beverage choices implemented as well. The old Skyluxe and Shell Flat seat products are frankly some of the worst out there and JAL would be wise to replace them with at least their newer Shell Flat Neo product or even better the newly introduced Sky Suite. It wasn’t all bad though. The crew were friendly and professional, the in-flight meal was tasty and the plane itself was clean and tidy. I would not however, recommend this seat product to anyone on a flight of over four hours though. Make sure to check carefully when considering Japan Airlines and think long and hard if it’s either Skyluxe or the first generation Shell Flat type as you will most likely regret it.
More information on Japan Airlines Business Class