ZIPAIR 787 “Full Flat” Business Class: A Unique Experience

ZIPAIR 787 “Full Flat” Business Class: A Unique Experience

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Hello from Tokyo, as I’m in the middle of my current review trip! This trip just keeps getting more interesting, as I flew ZIPAIR’s Boeing 787-8 “Full Flat” business class on the short 1hr45min flight from Seoul Incheon to Tokyo Narita. For those not familiar, ZIPAIR is Japan Airlines’ ultra low cost subsidiary, which exclusively operates a fleet of Boeing 787s.

In this post I wanted to share my initial thoughts on the experience, and then I’ll have a full trip report soon.

ZIPAIR’s 787 business class is comfortable & basic

ZIPAIR is an ultra low cost carrier, so the airline includes very little with fares. What is unique about ZIPAIR is that the airline has a business class cabin with fully flat, reverse herringbone seats, referred to as “ZIP Full Flat.” The thing to understand is that this isn’t actually a separate class of service. Rather you’re just paying extra for the seat, and there are no other inclusions. There’s not even a curtain that’s closed between cabins.

Fortunately the premium for this product is shockingly reasonable. For example, for my flight, an economy ticket would have cost $177.75, while a reverse herringbone seat cost an extra ~$39.

ZIPAIR Full Flat pricing

ZIPAIR’s premium cabin is very comfortable. The reverse herringbones seats are well padded and spacious, and the cabin has 18 seats, in a 1-2-1 configuration.

ZIPAIR 787 “Full Flat” business class cabin
ZIPAIR 787 “Full Flat” business class cabin
ZIPAIR 787 “Full Flat” business class seat

Of course the immediate thing that stands out is the lack of personal televisions, as this is the first airline in the world to install reverse herringbone seats without personal entertainment. So instead, you’ll get a great view of the safety card for the entire flight!

ZIPAIR 787 “Full Flat” business class seat

Personal space is the greatest thing you can have on a plane, and in that sense, ZIPAIR offers phenomenal value, as basic as the product may be.

ZIPAIR’s free Wi-Fi, limited entertainment

While ZIPAIR might not have personal seat back entertainment, the airline does offer all passengers free Wi-Fi, and it worked reasonably well on my flight. It’s always funny to see the different approaches airlines take. On a full service airline you’ll typically pay for Wi-Fi, while on this ultra low cost carrier it’s free.

ZIPAIR 787 free Wi-Fi

Given the choice between free Wi-Fi or seat back entertainment, I’d most definitely choose the former!

Now, ZIPAIR does offer streaming entertainment, but manage your expectations, as there were a total of 10 movies to choose from.

ZIPAIR 787 inflight entertainment

ZIPAIR’s inflight service is very limited

ZIPAIR fares include nothing in terms of food or drinks, so if you want anything, you have to order it. You can either place an order in advance, or you can place an order through the Wi-Fi portal on your device.

What’s interesting is that unlike on other ultra low cost carriers, the crew doesn’t come through the cabin with carts, trying to tempt people to buy anything. I’ve never been on a flight where the crew was as invisible. The extent of the service was them bringing people bags with their orders, and picking up trash once. That was it. Let me be clear — I’m not knocking them, that’s totally fine, it’s just that I’ve never experienced this service flow before.

I decided to live it up and get the full ZIPAIR experience, so I had pre-ordered quite a few things, and they were all brought to me in bags maybe 15 minutes after takeoff.

ZIPAIR inflight service

For example, I ordered the amenity kit, consisting of a blanket, an inflatable pillow, slippers, eyeshades, and earplugs, which cost $18.

ZIPAIR amenity kit

I also ordered some white chocolate cookies, which will make a good gift back home, and which cost $6.

ZIPAIR white chocolate cookies

Then to eat on this flight, I ordered the sukeroku sushi set, which cost ~$10, plus a Coke Zero, which cost ~$3.

ZIPAIR inflight food
ZIPAIR inflight drinks

While this wasn’t close to a great business class experience, the value was phenomenal, and this was a perfectly edible meal for such a short flight.

Some other ZIPAIR musings

A couple of other random notes about ZIPAIR, which I can’t help but share. First of all, is there an airline startup with an uglier livery than ZIPAIR? I mean, this airline launched operations a few years ago, and the livery looks like it’s from decades ago. It almost looks like a retro livery. Now, in fairness, the airline used to have a more interesting tail design, but they had to change it because of Russia.

ZIPAIR Boeing 787

Next, as someone who loves airline boarding music, I appreciate how ZIPAIR has a dedicated boarding music track. The carrier’s boarding music is super fun fun that’s upbeat, and that’s great for the carrier’s vibe (you can hear the music below, the ignore the talking — if anyone knows of a better track available online, please let me know).

Here’s the thing — the song is only 75 seconds long. I really enjoyed it the first time. Maybe even the second time. And the third time. But by the 12th time… well… it was a different story…

Bottom line

ZIPAIR offers a pleasant experience, and the carrier’s “Full Flat” business class product is an exceptional value. While it doesn’t come with any service, you get a huge amount of space for a small premium, and for many travelers, that’s going to be a good deal. While there’s no seat back entertainment, I’d say the free Wi-Fi makes up for that.

Now, I probably wouldn’t fly ZIPAIR again, and that’s simply because I have access to miles and points, so I can usually fly in a “real” premium cabin product at a great value. However, if I didn’t have access to miles, this is something that I’d book again in a heartbeat, because there’s value for money.

What do you make of ZIPAIR “Full Flat” business class?

Conversations (41)
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  1. Steven E Guest

    And judging by their availability it’s an extremely popular product

  2. Steven M Guest

    "What’s interesting is that unlike on other ultra low cost carriers, the crew doesn’t come through the cabin with carts, trying to tempt people to buy anything. I’ve never been on a flight where the crew was as invisible."

    You know what? This level of peace and serenity actually sounds REALLY ENTICING

  3. Tom R Guest

    Insightful. I did not realise they were quite that basic, I spotted the cheap cost of their J product from west coast to Tokyo but in the end managed to use miles on JAL from the east coast (albeit in PE). Anyway, I'd be curious how the free WiFi holds up across the Pacific especially if a large proportion of the plane are needing to use it to steam things to their phone to keep...

    Insightful. I did not realise they were quite that basic, I spotted the cheap cost of their J product from west coast to Tokyo but in the end managed to use miles on JAL from the east coast (albeit in PE). Anyway, I'd be curious how the free WiFi holds up across the Pacific especially if a large proportion of the plane are needing to use it to steam things to their phone to keep them occupied given the lack of IFE. I suspect this J model could work quite well on some Transatlantic flights, I know to an extent it's tried with La Compangne etc but they are full J only. For the short hop from NE US to NW Eur the main appeal for the red eyes is the bed, not the IFE, food/drink, lounge etc

  4. DT Gold

    I’m totally in for this concept. I don’t need anything other than a flat bed on a long flight. They can keep all the other business class perks. Get me my bed and I’ll pay separately for anything else I need.

  5. neogucky Member

    Regarding the livery, it looks even worse than the "new livery" introduced in your earlier article. I actually liked the condensed lines in that design (alas the ugly font and weird center line on the fuselage still don't look nice).

  6. LEo Diamond

    ZIPair is certainly the first to go ptv-less in reverse herring bone, but CA's refurbished 777-200s once gotten parallel diamonds with a black plastic shield on the PTV space.

  7. LEo Diamond

    Even if you're solely renting it as a workspace, 20usd for an hour seems not bad for productive working.

  8. Jake Guest

    OMG! They don't even have a curtain separating the cabins.

  9. Ross Guest

    I can't help but wonder if it's possible for at least one post not to "can't help but wonder..."

  10. ImmortalSynn Guest

    Two questions.

    Are there electronic sockets in the Lie-Flat seats (and if so, what kind of plugs do they allow)?

    Does Zipair charge for seat assignment in the Lie-Flats?

    1. Ted New Member

      Yes, they charge for seat assignments. Have to pay a second time if you switch again.

    2. A_Japanese Gold

      They have universal AC plug and USB-A charging port for both full-flat and standard seat so you will have no problem charging your device unless you only have USB-C cable.

  11. Rod Guest

    Free WiFi on ZipAir on our entire flight over the Pacific! We will use them again, one other thing to know is that they are point to point, so we had to claim and recheck separately on our connection. But well worth it.

  12. UncleRonnie Guest

    Flying SIN to NRT in June. 7 hours long, so choice is Zipair Full Flat for £685 (plus about another £30 for the extras) or SIN PE for £832. Day flight at 9am, so probably don’t need to sleep. I think I prefer the drinks, food and entertainment of SIN in this case…..but if it was overnight I’d go with Zipair. Horses for courses and great to have the choice too. Bravo Zipair for doing something new.

    1. LEo Diamond

      Well, even if you're working and not sleeping, the additional of space really makes a difference, can have phone tablet and laptop out in the same time.

  13. RonD Guest

    I flew this configuration RT SFO-NRT...I'll never do it again. The wi-fi didn't work either direction, and they ran out of food very quickly. I don't sleep much on planes, but I want wi-fi or seat back entertainment. Also the flights don't land at NRT at good transit times.

  14. Pete Guest

    I might be in the minority here, but I wish this concept was vastly expanded. The lowest priority for me on a long haul flight is caviar and champagne and luxurious blankets and noise cancelling headphones. All I really want is a super comfortable seat that lies flat. Happy to bring my own water bottle (though, I suppose, for very long hauls, coming around with water refills would be nice), bring my own food, bring...

    I might be in the minority here, but I wish this concept was vastly expanded. The lowest priority for me on a long haul flight is caviar and champagne and luxurious blankets and noise cancelling headphones. All I really want is a super comfortable seat that lies flat. Happy to bring my own water bottle (though, I suppose, for very long hauls, coming around with water refills would be nice), bring my own food, bring my own travel pillow, bring my own headphones, and bring my own iPad filled with movies and books. If more longhaul carriers offered this I think it would be a smash hit.

    1. Fars maza Guest

      Check Air New Zealand- they introduced a lay flat option in their economy class for a little extra for couples, or to rent a bed for 4 hours during their flights in economy. I think this may become more mainstream

  15. A_Japanese Gold

    Unrelated to ZipAir, JAL announced summer 2024 schedule and they will deploy a350-1000 to DFW, another pair of JFK and LHR in FY 2024 (ending March 2025). It is interesting that usual suspects like SFO, LAX and ORD would not get a350 sooner than DFW. Also, it seems JAL will not retire 77W so quickly that some additional routes will have first class service - SYD will get first class from June, for example.

    https://press.jal.co.jp/en/release/202401/007881.html

    1. gideyup11 Member

      A friend of mine flies DFW-TYO-DFW monthly for business (he's very familiar with JAL/AA Business Class on this route LOL). He thinks why DFW-HND is getting the new A350-1000 before LAX/SFO/ORD is because Toyota has major operations in Dallas area, and now many Japanese auto suppliers also moved to Dallas area. Therefore, on most DFW flights he's on, >90% are Japanese business people probably paying top dollar (similar to my friend). LAX/SFO/ORD cannot compete with...

      A friend of mine flies DFW-TYO-DFW monthly for business (he's very familiar with JAL/AA Business Class on this route LOL). He thinks why DFW-HND is getting the new A350-1000 before LAX/SFO/ORD is because Toyota has major operations in Dallas area, and now many Japanese auto suppliers also moved to Dallas area. Therefore, on most DFW flights he's on, >90% are Japanese business people probably paying top dollar (similar to my friend). LAX/SFO/ORD cannot compete with that amount of paid Business Class cabin! JAL knows what they're doing IMO...

  16. Weekend Surfer Guest

    I wanted to fly this product from NRT to ICN this summer, but Zipair doesn't allow children <6 years old to be seated in the business class seat. Any other airlines like that?

  17. Tony Guest

    "Fortunately the premium for this product is shockingly reasonable. For example, for my flight, an economy ticket would have cost $177.75, while a reverse herringbone seat cost an extra ~$39."

    A lie-flat seat takes up the space of a few regular economy seats. The economics obviously doesn't work for ZipAir, even without ZipAir providing anything extra beyond those seats. Something is terribly wrong with their business model.

    1. Dominic Kivni Guest

      This is a short haul route where a lie flat is not that much more appealing, check the pricing delta on long haul routes where customers actually get value out of a lie flat, it’s usually 3x+

    2. S_LEE Gold

      This pricing is on short haul only. On long haul routes like NRT-LAX/SFO/SJC, it's normally $500-$800 more than an economy seat per one-way.

    3. Trey Guest

      I'd pay $39 for lie flat seat for anything greater than 1hr. For comparison, on a EWR-ORD flight (about the same distance) United charges $140 more to go from main cabin to first class and $230 more from main cabin to lie-flats on an old 757.

    4. Shaun Guest

      Tell me you don't understand their business model without telling me you don't understand their business model.

      The reason this seat was so cheap is because Zip Air uses a dynamic pricing model. Most people aren't going to pay a ton extra for a big seat on a one hour flight, but unlike carriers who leave those seats empty, Zip Air extracts what customers will pay.

      I flew this seat from SJC to NRT a...

      Tell me you don't understand their business model without telling me you don't understand their business model.

      The reason this seat was so cheap is because Zip Air uses a dynamic pricing model. Most people aren't going to pay a ton extra for a big seat on a one hour flight, but unlike carriers who leave those seats empty, Zip Air extracts what customers will pay.

      I flew this seat from SJC to NRT a year ago for $1,500. Pricing still goes as low as $1,750 round trip, versus basic pricing that dips under $520 on this route. But flights with more typical demand are usually over $2k for the lie flat seat, and at that point you could almost buy the points for a real business class fare.

      Zip Air has continued to expand their operations, and unlike domestic LCCs that deserve to die, Zip Air made a profit of $220 million in their most recent quarter.

    5. Bob Guest

      They are probably trying to get attention and customers in the same way a start up will sell something at a lost. I wouldn't expect the price to remain low.

  18. 305 Guest

    This is similar in a way to what AA and others do when flying widebodies domestically. I know it's not a lie-flat, but getting the same exact seat as F on a narrowbody for only MCE price is a no-brainer. I don't need the meh meal, and MCE even includes a drink or two

  19. Adam Guest

    I love love love this concept. I would happily fly "flat bed with the same service as economy" even on longhaul flights.

    I do enjoy business class service and food, but I could do without it. I can bring some food and drink, have my own device for entertainment, and I'm good!

    Though I wonder how much airlines would save without the extra flight attendants and catering that business class demands. Is the space and weight of those seats more of a cost driver?

    1. Shaun Guest

      Having done it, I do not love this concept that much.

      2 pax r/t SJC to NRT cost me $1,500 per ticket a year ago. Add baggage allowances and it was $3,350 for both tickets. You could buy the points for a similar flight from Avianca for about $900 more than the base fare (r/t for both pax) and get a standard business class baggage allowance, lounge access, and catering and beverage service, with a...

      Having done it, I do not love this concept that much.

      2 pax r/t SJC to NRT cost me $1,500 per ticket a year ago. Add baggage allowances and it was $3,350 for both tickets. You could buy the points for a similar flight from Avianca for about $900 more than the base fare (r/t for both pax) and get a standard business class baggage allowance, lounge access, and catering and beverage service, with a blanket and pillow and in-flight entertainment ... none of which is included in the fare from Zip Air. Meanwhile, Zip Air's pricing has increased and the base fare on that route would be at least $3,560, today. Add that baggage allowance and you're already in spitting distance of the cost of doing full business class with points. On top of that, those are non-refundable fares.

      It is, however, much easier to find availability at this price point on Zip Air, and you don't have to find a good deal on the miles, so it's a much less involved process to book these flights.

    2. Timo Diamond

      I will be flying ZipAir in May one-way NRT to MNL. I paid ~$450 pp. It's about 5 hours daytime flight but nice to have the lie-flat seat & extra space. I'll be sure to bring my own food & drink on-board. I have low expectations but it can't be worse than a US transcon in coach with no food.

  20. Marcus Guest

    I needed to book my wife and I to Tokyo. No award seats were available around November last year. The cash cost demanded for business was around $4700 one way per person! Not wanting to blow $20k I did book ZiPair and paid a bit less than $5000 for both round trip. Took my own food and water (post security from the Priority Pass lounge, helps to take an empty bottle through security).

    Incidentally you...

    I needed to book my wife and I to Tokyo. No award seats were available around November last year. The cash cost demanded for business was around $4700 one way per person! Not wanting to blow $20k I did book ZiPair and paid a bit less than $5000 for both round trip. Took my own food and water (post security from the Priority Pass lounge, helps to take an empty bottle through security).

    Incidentally you forgot to mention a key point for those booking ZipAir. There is no refunds ever regardless of reason! So be careful when you book!

    1. Shaun Guest

      Yeah, that refund policy is a big pain. I had to position before a flight from SJC and the only decent option involved flying to OAK and driving down 101 to SJC. Knowing $3,350 worth of tickets would vanish if my positioning flight didn't work out was a bit never wracking.

  21. Lukas Guest

    Instead of "foe" you cred to write "for".

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Lukas -- Fixed, thanks!

  22. Julia Guest

    Lucky, would you consider it a good value as well on one of their longer flights like flying to LAX or SFO? I imagine on shorter flights like the one you took the lack of IFE or reduced food options isn’t that bug of an issue.

    1. Ben Schlappig OMAAT

      @ Julia -- I'd definitely say it's a great value on long haul flights if you don't have access to miles (or can't find award availability). A one-way ticket from Los Angeles to Tokyo starts at around $1,000. That's less than you'll pay for premium economy on most other airlines.

      The flat bed is even more valuable on such a long flight. Just pack your own food, bedding, and entertainment, and it's a pretty unbeatable value, in my opinion.

  23. Super Diamond

    Wish we could get this in domestic US flights... I don't want some reheated sick for $1500. If I could get a lie-flat seat with my own entertainment and my own food for ~$250 across the country, sign me up!

    1. Jinxed_K Guest

      Agreed, it'll be like a souped up Spirit Big Front Seat but hopefully not with Spirit.
      I've had my share of Jetblue Mint and Delta One transcons, but I do wish for something simpler and slimmed down.

    2. Bob Guest

      I'm contemplating it for a short ride between Japan and Seoul but they only have 1 daily flight. I do have 2 concerns though. 1. One thing people never talks about especially with a low cost airline is how qualified are the pilots. It just takes 1 incident for you to be sorry. I have read some pretty horrifying stories from other low cost carriers and I do know that some of them will casually...

      I'm contemplating it for a short ride between Japan and Seoul but they only have 1 daily flight. I do have 2 concerns though. 1. One thing people never talks about especially with a low cost airline is how qualified are the pilots. It just takes 1 incident for you to be sorry. I have read some pretty horrifying stories from other low cost carriers and I do know that some of them will casually bypass rules and regulations when it suits them. 2. My problem with their model is that everything is extra which means it opens up abuse later on where you don't see a charge unless you read the fine print ala resort fee, alleged taxes at astronomical rates or a charge that doesn't show until after you fly. Clearly, the prices they offer right now is not sustainable so where are they going to get the money back from?

    3. AJO Member

      @Bob: let's not overreact; we're not exactly talking domestic flights in the Democratic Republic of Congo here.

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Ben Schlappig OMAAT

@ Julia -- I'd definitely say it's a great value on long haul flights if you don't have access to miles (or can't find award availability). A one-way ticket from Los Angeles to Tokyo starts at around $1,000. That's less than you'll pay for premium economy on most other airlines. The flat bed is even more valuable on such a long flight. Just pack your own food, bedding, and entertainment, and it's a pretty unbeatable value, in my opinion.

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Pete Guest

I might be in the minority here, but I wish this concept was vastly expanded. The lowest priority for me on a long haul flight is caviar and champagne and luxurious blankets and noise cancelling headphones. All I really want is a super comfortable seat that lies flat. Happy to bring my own water bottle (though, I suppose, for very long hauls, coming around with water refills would be nice), bring my own food, bring my own travel pillow, bring my own headphones, and bring my own iPad filled with movies and books. If more longhaul carriers offered this I think it would be a smash hit.

3
Marcus Guest

I needed to book my wife and I to Tokyo. No award seats were available around November last year. The cash cost demanded for business was around $4700 one way per person! Not wanting to blow $20k I did book ZiPair and paid a bit less than $5000 for both round trip. Took my own food and water (post security from the Priority Pass lounge, helps to take an empty bottle through security). Incidentally you forgot to mention a key point for those booking ZipAir. There is no refunds ever regardless of reason! So be careful when you book!

3
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