Impressions Of Japan Airlines 787 Business Class

Hello from Tokyo! i just took the 13 hour Japan Airlines flight from Dallas, and wanted to report back with my initial thoughts.

Japan Airlines 787 business class cabin & seats

Japan Airlines’ 787-9 business class consists of a total of 44 Apex Suites in a 2-2-2 configuration. Apex Suites are among my favorite business class seats out there.

On the 787-9 the forward business class cabin has 24 seats, while the rear cabin has 20 seats.

At first glance these seats may not look like much, but the window seats in this configuration are really spectacular. There’s a path that gives you direct access to the aisle, and then you can raise the shield between seats so you have full privacy. I also love that there’s no small footwell you have to place your feet in when in bed mode.

This seat is fantastic, whether you’re looking to sleep, relax, or eat.

Japan Airlines business class food

As you’d expect, Japan Airlines has both Western and Japanese options for all meals.

After takeoff lunch was served. Ford tried the Japanese and I tried the Western so we could get pictures of all of them, and they were mostly pretty good.

The Western starter consisted of chicken terrine, grilled sea scallops, and smoked salmon escabeche.

Then for the main course I selected what was simply described as sautéed white fish with mascarpone porcini mushroom sauce.

I’ll save the full details of the Japanese meal for the trip report, since that’s a lot to type out right now. 😉

Then dessert consisted of a sweet potato pudding.

After the main meal it was a dine on demand concept, and you could order from a (fairly limited) number of options until 90 minutes before landing.

I will say that the menu doesn’t have much variety. For example, for the main meal there’s no choice of appetizer for the Western option, there are only two main course choices, and both Western and Japanese meals only have one dessert option.

Japan Airlines business class amenities

All business class passengers receive an amenity kit, which had some unique contents.

While JAL doesn’t offer pajamas in business class, they do offer cardigans, which I’ve always found a bit… odd. Japan Airlines tends to keep their cabins really warm, so the last thing I need is a long sleeve shirt to put on. But I get that most Japanese guests have different temperature preferences than I do.

Japan Airlines also has pretty good bedding. There’s a blanket that’s comfortable but light, a mattress pad that makes the seat softer, and then a pillow.

Japan Airlines business class entertainment & wifi

JAL’s entertainment selection is limited, though perhaps even more annoying than the selection is that the monitor isn’t touchscreen. So you have to control everything off the small controller, which I find complicated to use.

On the plus side, JAL has wifi without data caps for $18 for the entire flight, which is an excellent deal. I will say that wifi on this flight was slower than on past JAL flights I’ve taken, though I’m guessing that’s just a function of the number of people using it.

Japan Airlines business class service

Let me start by saying that the crew was friendly and well intentioned. After all, we’re talking about Japan, a country where you get great service even at McDonald’s.

All that being said, I didn’t think the crew was that attentive. I didn’t really mind that they only very rarely came through the cabin after the initial meal, since they were always responsive to the call button.

But it would take them forever to clear things. For example, when I ordered a snack they’d only collect the tray about 30 minutes later. Furthermore, if they took an empty bottle away from my seat they didn’t ask if I wanted more water, but rather they just walked off with it.

Honestly the service was still very good, but we’re talking about Japan Airlines here, which usually has stellar service. So I’m pointing this out to say that if I’d usually rate JAL 10/10 on service, the service on this flight was 9/10.

Japan Airlines 787 business class bottom line

As usual, Japan Airlines has an exceptional business class hard product. I love the Apex Suite, as the window seats in this configuration are one of the most private products out there.

Overall Japan Airlines offers a very good product, and I’d fly them again in a heartbeat, and would also recommend them. However, I don’t think their business class soft product is as amazing as their first class soft product, as a relative matter.

I think airlines like Qatar and EVA are in a different league when it comes to business class service.

If you’ve flown Japan Airlines business class, what was your experience like?

Comments

  1. I’ve flown JAL business a number of times, and the service has always been quite good. JAL first class service is quite exceptional and it would be hard to replicate that.

    Overall, service times are slower, as they try to give each passenger a lot of attention.

    The drink selection they have is really good for business class. They don’t have Salon or Krug in business, but they do take great care in managing a great wine list. They also have a great sake, soju and japanese whiskey selection.

    In terms of service – there are cultural differences. The Japanese culture does have differences to other East Asian cultures even. You can always ask for a drink when they take away your drink, or just hit the call button. I usually just walk to the galley when I need to stretch my legs or use the bathroom, and they always insist on bringing the drink to my seat, without even asking for what seat i am.

    They also note your preferred language. Ben – it’s easy for them to guess that you want to speak English. But if you’re Asian, and traveling between Asian countries, they do a really good job in remembering when language you want to speak. Opening the menu to the right page for your language. All those soft things count – and actually quite contrast American carriers, which put an English first service culture.

  2. Any thoughts on the best seats in the J cabin? Traveling with someone, but the other person really likes a window so probably not looking for a pair in the middle.

  3. I rather JAL over ANA business class. ANA is somewhat a joke with their catering – for instance, I flew from Tokyo to Sydney in business class with ANA, they don’t have any first meal until we arrive into Sydney since they said it was “red-eye” flight. While JAL has the same departure time as ANA but they have FULL meals service. JAL is way much better than ANA!

  4. With respect to EVA I have to agree that the service level surpasses JAL. Did you miss the story from a few days ago about stewardess ablution services?

  5. So what’s the path from the window seat to the aisle? It’s rather an important detail!

    As to the cardigan maybe the idea is you take your shirt off and wear the cardy so you don’t get your shirt creased or spill your dinner over it.

  6. I am not seeing how there is a path from the window to the aisle, it looks like British Airways where there is only a path if the person ahead of you is sitting up, but if they lay down you have to step over them. I may not be understanding the photos though. 🙂

    The Japanese meal looks spectacular but I am not sure about such a heavy sauce on a fish dish for the western meal. Was it good?

  7. I’ve had wonderful experiences across the board with JAL. Everyone makes such a fuss over Cathay, which is lovely to fly in its own right, but between their Apex hard product and the service they provide, I’d take JAL over CX any day. That said, I’ve only been lucky enough to fly in J, never F, so I’m speaking solely about the business class experience.

  8. Have had various flights with JL to and intra Asia in all classes for the past 10+ years. In December, we flew JL65 SAN-NRT in business on a Boeing 787-8 and although it was good, there was nothing mind-boggling about the food, service, or the flight! In fact they did not have port wine on the flight and the attendant I asked, had no idea what I was talking about … lost in translation! https://www.flickr.com/photos/kalboz/albums/72157689269429804

    For the sake of comparison, on the way back we flew EVA Air BR 06 TPE-LAX also in Business. JL blew Eva out of the water in every category, even though Eva had good Port wine!

  9. I fly JAL J a few times a year for work, and it’s always wonderful. I’m looking forward to trying the new SEA-NRT service, although I do wish it was SEA-HND.

    My only real complaint is that the beds aren’t long enough, so I’m kind of curious what Lucky thinks. I don’t feel like I have enough room to comfortably bend my knees when I lay sideways, so I usually end up on my back with my head propped up on the back wall, and my feet elevated slightly in the footwell.

  10. The best J class is not some sort of herringbone or reverse herringbone because those designs try to gain space by chopping off room for your feet. British Airways’ J class is sometimes criticized but, like Japan Airlines, I like the window seat’s privacy and the footwell is not too small.

  11. @Lara S–in Lucky’s picture, it’s the separate corridor right in front of the aisle seat, right in front of the 8A and 8C seat sign.

    @Lucky–did you and Ford sit A/C or 2 different window seats?

  12. I like on JAL how there is a big gulf from Business to First. The food in Business is good but not great. While in First it is a gastronomic experience and worthy of many restaurants.

    With JAL F awards easy to score and only 33% more than J awards, I’d always go for F.

  13. Just flew J from JFK to NRT 777-300. I think we had a more extensive menu than you did out of DFW. I emailed you a picture of the delicious lobster roll I had as a snack. I’ve always said FAs can make or break a flight. Our were stellar! We brought them some chocolate and when we left we each had a goody bag or snacks and sake.

    Our next flight was to SIN in J with their new reverse herringbone product. Not much storage but an amazingly huge footwell! Service on this sector was good but did not match the long haul.

  14. Flew from Vancouver to hanoi, mostly all good, but could not believe more than an hour from destination, turned lights on, annoucementOcer intercom, effectively waking you up so that they could flog skymall products. Would have far preferred being left to sleep a bit more.

  15. I flew this NRT-DFW last May. One thing I did notice is that they were out of quite a few things on their “order anytime” list about 1/3 of the way into the flight.. don’t know if that’s normal or not. I loved their special melon JAL drink too (non-alcoholic), but every time I ordered it I got like 3 sips worth, and kept having to order it again…felt like I was being too needy. And they never actually collected my glass cup before landing and I had to put it down by my feet. Not sure if that is normal.

    Apart from those minor things though this flight was awesome all around. I slept very well, and the flight attendant was always making things great. Even when I just ordered a cup of green tea I got it with a couple of assorted Japanese sweets. And I’m a person who’s always freezing cold, so a warmer cabin helped me sleep too.

  16. Absolutely my favourite business class out there. Seat service and japanese meal are the best, along with a lovely sake selection. They often have four different Nihonshu loaded.

    I’ll take this over Qatar any day. Who needs choice when the one option is so good. I’m pretty bummed out that my flight back to Australia on Sunday is qantas not JAL.

  17. A few years ago I lived in Japan for three years and I loved every minute. I had the chance to fly both JAL and ANA on numerous long-haul, medium-haul and several times on domestic flights. Once, I even sat in the first row in the nose of a 747 from Sapporo to Haneda.

    I never had anything but exemplary service on all flights.

    However, Japanese airlines consistently overheat their cabins to such an extent that I finally had to ditch NH and change to UA on my regular DC to Tokyo flights.

    On the long-haul flights the warm cabins were literally dehydrating. Same thing from several colleagues. Imagine choosing UA over JL or NH.

  18. Flew as recently as last week on J from LHR and service was attentive and speedy. Have to say from experience it depends on the route. I find as a general rule of thumb outbound from Japan is better than inbound.

  19. I flew JAL from JFK to NRT in first last March. There was one other person in the cabin. The service was fine. Just fine. No matter if I had a glass of champagne or water, if I got up to use the bathroom, my empty glass was cleared and no one asked if I wanted a refill. I had to ask for everything after dinner was served. Compared to CX, SQ and BA, I though the first class service was poor.

  20. For those who are curious, both JAL and ANA upload their inflight-food menu as well as lounge dining menu. Lucky, you’ve mentioned that there were only 2 main courses available, but for long-haul flights there are always 3 options (2 Western and 1 Japanese) available, of which one of them ALWAYS being a steak.

    https://www.jal.co.jp/inter/service/menu/pdf/meal/dfw_nrt_c_m_201812_201902.pdf

    @Richard – unfortunately JAL is quite notorious when it comes to vegetarian options on board – it has to be requested as a special meal. Even on flights to India they sometime have two beef options (Western and Japanese)!

  21. I flew SYD-HND a few months ago. The J seats are nice. But I think JL has the worst OW food. While the presentation is lovely, I find the portions small. And the snacks are all carbohydrate rich, not appealing to me.

  22. I was very disappointed with my experience in business class after reading so many good reviews of JAL. The flight attendants barely noticed me (I was forced to ring the bell a couple of times to get their attention), the cabin was WAY overheated, and the food was mediocre to inedible. I requested the Japanese food for breakfast. After a long wait of about 45 minutes, the food was in many little trays (which was cute), but ALL of it was cold! I couldn’t sleep because it was so hot! Then I felt sick, due to the over heating, dehydration, lack of food and sleep, etc. I couldn’t flag down a flight attendant as they literally blew past me, so I had to ring the bell. When she finally appeared, I told her I felt sick and asked for a vomit bag. All of a sudden, 4 flight attendants appeared at the same time and gave me a huge plastic bag. I asked for a glass of water, and that’s all I got. After they took away the bag, I never saw any of them again. No one came to ask how I was feeling. So I haven’t flown JAL since. A pity I never got to experience the gracious Japanese service and hospitality that others have!

  23. Recently on an inter-Asia trip on JAL Apex Suite 787-8.

    Experience is pretty mixed like Lucky’s:
    Food choice is limited, and Japanese selection is just not very good for a Japanese food snob. (And I doubt non-Japanese enjoy burger patty as Western selection)
    FA is indifferent and slow, delivered lunch in at least one hour, also denied my request to wake me up exactly when the food arrives. Service lapse is uncomfortable and beyond language barrier (From the feedback page especially asking passengers to point out if they’re serviced by Japanese or others, I think JAL knows it too.)
    Also the forward lavatory on 787-8 does not have bidet.
    And I heard they didn’t provide any Champagne on some shorter route which is pretty unacceptable for a premium carrier.

    Apex Suite hands down winning though – and I don’t think touch screen on IFE is a deal – it’s pretty far from you, like a first class seat anyway.
    Still like JAL, won’t go out my way to fly them.

  24. @T. Sanderson Just choose two seats on the side, other than aisle one has to lean forward, everything is nice.

    Apex Suite hands down best seat catering (window loving) single and double travelers!

  25. ANA and JAL are both great, but I refuse to fly either anymore due to the unbearable high temperature in their planes. It is absolutely ridiculous.

  26. This tread is timely. I just flew DFW NRT JAL 3 weeks ago. Previous I had only flown them HKG NRT years ago. Overall I would not go out of my way to fly them again. Service was really poor. Food very little. Booze meh. The only thing good was the seat. I had 1st row J class window very private. The cabin was way too hot to sleep. WIFI worked about 75% of the time. I do love the 787. I was fine on landing not fatigued, flight time was 13 hours 22 minutes. I give JAL 3 out of 5.

  27. I refuse to fly JAL at any point from now until eternity due to their RIDICULOUS hot temperatures on board. 78 degrees Fahrenheit isn’t a temperature that is conducive to sleeping, relaxing, or doing anything but feeling sick and exasperated. The FA’s just make the “tee hee” face and walk away if you beg them to lower the boiling and sweltering cabin temperatures. I will never, ever, ever, ever fly them due to this ridiculous practice. It’s bad for your health (and dangerous for some people) to sit in near 80 degree temperatures for that many hours.

  28. It seems that nearly all forms of public transportation in Japan is overheated – it used to amuse me to see the condensation on commuter trains from Yokohama as they pulled into Shibuya. In winter, walking into a Japanese department store was like walking into a sauna.

    I distinctly remember flying ANA from HKG to HND in August a few years ago and the cabin temperature was typically high yet all the Japanese passengers requested extra blankets. My wife and I drank as much water as we could but still felt dehydrated throughout the flight. Requests to moderate the temperature were routinely ignored.

    As much as I loved living and working in Japan I eventuality moved my flying to UA TG and CX except for domestic flights as Japanese airlines are way overheated. Seems a lot of others are of the same opinion.

  29. Is there something wrong with Japanese people’s bodies that makes them cold unless it is 100 degrees?

  30. Interesting report, last July 2018 I flew JAL business from PVG to NRT then on to YVR; somehow they were a little underwhelming (also much more “japanese” than their more “continental” soft service of JAL was in the late 1980s); i am looking forward to your complete report

  31. “Japan Airlines has mattress pads in business class, which really help in terms of comfort.”

    “Japan Airlines has Apex Suites in business class, which are phenomenal seats”

    I appreciate the review but my own research shows these blanket statements to be overly broad. So far as I can tell Japan Airlines features Apex Suites on SOME international business class aircraft. Japan Airlines also features mattress pads on SOME international business class routes. Japan Airlines seems to have a number of different business class experiences depending on aircraft and route. SS1, SS2, SS3, SFN, etc.

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