This report will cover the 14-hour flight from Boston to Narita on JL. Since I flew BOS-HKG on CX earlier this summer (http://flight-report.com/en/report-12199.html), this will be a good opportunity to compare the offerings of these fierce Asian OW competitors.
The travel agent gave me the most direct routing for this segment since I didn’t have time to do a BOS-JFK or BOS-ORD flight in order to get onto a different JL TPAC flight. When given J tickets, I don’t complain because regardless of the product J > Y, but it was a little disheartening when I pulled up my JL record online and saw this:
Those not familiar with JL, there are two different B788 configurations. One has 6 rows of J and one has 7 rows of J. The difference: flatbed versus angle lie-flat. Yes, JL continues to install angle lie-flat seats on their long-haul aircraft. NRT-BOS and NRT-SAN are two of those lucky routes that get stuck with angle lie-flat B788s. So this report will cover the B788s installed with the JAL Shell Flat Neo seat.
My day started early, catching the 7:00am Amtrak Acela Express in New London, CT for the trip back to Boston.
Arriving at Boston South Station, I switched to the Silver Line to the airport. Terminal E is the last stop and I was deposited in front of the terminal at 10:40am (the JL counters open at 10:30am). Stepping inside the international terminal, very quiet midday.
Both business class agents are busy so I have to wait 5 minutes to get checked-in. The agent was chatty; he was asking me about Nagoya since he was going there on vacation in November.
He handed me my boarding passes and reminded me that we will be using the BA Terraces Lounge.
FIDS. PD dominates the daytime activities.
Security is a ghost town; they even closed off the priority lane since there is no one in sight.
Clearing security, I’m dumped into a familiar drab Terminal E.
My gate today will be E7.
Our bird today (JA843J) is of course present since she spent the night in BOS last night.
A reminder of the mileage haul to come.
Since I still have 2 hours before boarding starts, I decide to do some spotting before heading to the lounge. PD is the only other carrier operating midday from Terminal E. The little PD Dash8 is hiding behind the jetbridge, but the EK B772 is proudly on display across the way at Terminal D. I decide to spot from this window since there was a line of sight to an active runway, but the weather was a little troublesome.
B6 E190 lifting up.
AA B738 in tin can livery taxing to the runway as a DL ERJ-175 lands.
A rare spotting! A little 9K (Nantucket Airlines) Cessna 402 taxing to the runway before taxing off, it used about 30% of the runway.
DL B738 in SkyTeam special livery.
US ERJ-190, B6 ERJ-190, and DL B717.
B6 ERJ-190 and AA B752 with winglets. Then the AA B752 lifting off, I agree with Kevin, the B752s look great in the new livery.
PD Dash8 and B6 ERJ-190.
With that, I packed up and went to the lounge. The lounges at BOS are located downstairs.
After walking down the long dark hallway, we reach the BA Terraces Lounge adorned with our JL FA cutout. There was a BA agent working the front desk, she took my boarding pass, marked my name off her list and then pointed me in the direction of the dining room.
JL B788 model on display at the check-in desk.
When I went to the buffet area, there was a crowd so no photos, but the options were poor. It was salad and one hot item (rice and curry). The curry didn’t look very good, so I just prepared a salad with a bowl of fruit. The salad at least looked to be of good quality and I washed it down with a Samuel Adams. While I was eating, I booked my SK ticket that will be covered in the next series.
The rest of the seating area and the meager snack/drink options.
About 5 minutes before the boarding time I packed up my stuff and headed to the gate.
Japan Airlines, JL 7 Equipment: Boeing B787-800 [JA843J, delivered June 2013] Departure: 13:30 (ATD: 13:41) Arrival: 16:25 (ATA: 16:16) Flight time: 13:35
Boarding was called right on time. Special assistance boarding was followed by JL/OW elites and business class. My boarding pass was scanned by the same agent that checked me in. He wished me a safe trip home. Reaching the mouth of the beast, the purser and 2 FAs are there to greet me with big smiles and a konnichiwa.
The purser welcomes me on board, checks my boarding pass, then hands me off to one of the FAs who walks me to my seat. She took my backpack and placed in the overhead bin, introduced herself, and then asked me if I needed anything. Preplaced on the seats are pillow/duvet and amenity kit. The headphones are preplaced in the side storage compartment.
Taking my seat, the pitch in the bulkhead is very generous and it allows enough space for me to get out without disturbing my seatmate when the seat is in bed mode. No need for acrobatics today.
The pocket contains coat hangar and slippers.
The FA returns and brings me a The Japan Times and then fans out some magazines for me to choose from. I take a National Geographic to peruse during boarding.
The JL dolls in the galley during boarding. Wish I had noticed them while I was walking by earlier. ?????
Great view from my seat.
So the biggest complaint about JL is that they do not offer a pre-departure beverage or oshibori. I don’t know why, but that is their service protocol and it really does start the trip with a real negative feeling. If you don’t want to offer alcohol for tax reasons, fine, but you should at least offer something to drink. It’s almost a 30-45 minute wait from boarding to pushback.
We eventually close the front door, the FAs bow, the safety video fires up, and we begin our push back.
We taxi past a DL B764 on our short taxi to the runway.
Turning on to the runway.
The GE90s wind up and we are off. Breathtaking aerial shots of Boston on departure.
We make a sharp left-turn towards the Atlantic Ocean before looping around towards New Hampshire in a 270-degree turn.
The packed duvet (really nice) and the pillow. The pillow was the thinnest J pillow I have ever seen before. This was thinner than a Y pillow and provided no padding.
TUMI amenity kit. Nice bag that I’ll repurpose, but completely void of any contents.
Sony noise-cancelling headphones.
Arrival documents were distributed once the FAs were released as they prepared the galley for service.
This is when the FAs came through with the pre-departure, I mean POST-departure drink tray (water, orange juice, champagne). I grabbed champagne.
This was followed by an oshibori on a platter.
Crossing over the Fall foliage in New Hampshire.
There is one big disadvantage of the bulkhead seats, and that is the IFE. The IFE for the bulkhead seats (10.6”) is smaller than all the other seats (15.4”) and the resolution is not as good. I find Magic-V to offer a pretty poor selection. Very limited movie and TV show selections.
The IFE is controlled by this little guy or you can just use the touch screen.
Standard Airshow offering.
I was intrigued by the “eBooks” listing on the home screen. Opening up that option, we find manga, manga, manga! I guess JL knows who their customers are and don’t want to deprive them of their late night manga reading in the conbinis.
Menus were distributed by the purser as the champagne glasses were cleared. The purser introduced herself and welcomed me on-board. JL caters this flight in their typical fashion. They do one meal service after takeoff and then the rest of the flight is on-demand catering. The purse personally took my order for the meal; I obviously requested the Japanese meal, which I will accompany with imo shochu.
The FAs then come through the cabin and offered sweaters. JL and NH are the only carriers that I’ve ever flown that offer sweaters to premium cabin passengers. I always get cold on the plane, so I happily took the JL-branded Mr. Rodger’s sweater.
Cabin shot pre-meal.
The wing as we cruise towards Canada.
Linens are laid.
The amuse bouche is presented along with some otsumami, a glass of water, and a glass of shochu.
The amuse bouche is nicely presented and both tasted good, but I preferred the mushroom flan with feta cheese and truffle oil. That was very tasty. The crab, avocado, and grapefruit dish was also good. The grapefruit was thankfully not too sour.
The otsumami. Mmm, natt?!
After the amuse bouche was cleared, the FA brought out my bento box. A delicious seafood filled offering. The presentation is superb, but the inclusion of a packaged little plastic bottle of soy sauce is not so attractive. I know this is standard protocol for Asian carriers, but it would be nicer if it were served in a small dish.
My water and shochu glasses were promptly refilled.
I like the crane-shaped hashioki, a nice homage to the JL logo.
It was completely inedible…
After clearing my bento box, the FA then returned with my Chilean sea bass main that was served on a tray with rice, miso soup, and pickled vegetables. I really like the rice bowl. The presentation of the main was a little average, but the fish was good and cooked well as were the tofu and shrimp.
Napkin details, and yes it had a buttonhole.
JL has had an identity crisis in the past 10-15 years and the remnants are still present with these two different glasses. Thankfully they have returned to their tsuru logo.
As my tray was cleared, the FA took my after dinner drink orders. Coffee with the really good panna cotta. It was so nice to get a real dessert on an Asian carrier instead of the standard ice cream offering (which will make a cameo later).
Meal service concluded with oshibori on platters.
After meal service the cabin lights were dimmed. What really angered me is that when JL turns off the cabin lights they also lock the windows! And since this is a B787 with the dimming windows it means that I was forced into darkness until the cabin was prepared for landing. No chance to crack the shade and snap some wing shots. Marathon would not be a happy camper.
A coffee as I finish my movie.
Water bottles were distributed.
As we were leaving the Hudson Bay, I got ready for a nap.
The lavatories were pretty standard issue for a B787. At least JL opted for the bidet toilets, but no heated seat :(
Toothbrushes and mouthwash were available in the lavatory.
Before we nap, a quick seat tour. The seat guide.
The seat tour starts with the controls located on the armrest.
The IFE folds out from inside of the sliding middle console.
The privacy divider between the two seats is not very large, but there is a reading light. When upright there is not a lot of privacy, but once you go into bed mode, the seat sinks down and you are hidden from your neighbor.
There is a storage compartment under the armrest for small personal items.
A blurry shot of the seat fully reclined. It was pretty flat and I didn’t get any wedgie effect so it wasn’t that steep (I’m also not heavy enough to slide).
There was an additional panel to control the seat that was more accessible when in bed mode.
I slept for about 4 hours as we crossed Canada and were soon approaching Alaska.
Wing shot through the dimmed glass.
I pressed the call button in order to get some food. I ordered magurotatakidon and hot tea. The FA returned about 5 minutes later with my tray and an oshibori on a platter. This was delicious, I can’t really say much more about it. I almost ordered another bowl it was that good.
After I finished my donburi, I decided to order ice cream and a fruit plate for dessert. I at least got a laugh when she brought the ice cream. It was “Stephen Colbert’s Americone Dream” flavored Ben & Jerry's.
After my ice cream, my fruit plate was served along with a cup of coffee. More scrambling of the JL logos on the cutlery.
Another water bottle and an eye refresher were given to me as the FA cleared my tray table.
On to the seat back contents.
The safety card for this B788.
I napped again until we were leaving Russia.
I wandered into the galley, here is a cell-phone shot of the bar area.
I was grabbing a truffle when an FA came up and started talking to me. She was asking me if I wanted a cheese plate since I already had the fruit plate. I don’t normally eat cheese plates, but why not. She brought out my cheese plate along with a glass of port wine, water, and another oshibori. A decent offering.
The movie selection was so poor that I ended up watching Austin Powers. As we were crossing Hokkaido, the FAs came through the cabin announcing that it was last order. I wasn’t really hungry, but I had seen my seatmate get a curry earlier in the flight that looked good so I decided to try that.
The seafood curry was served with a glass of orange juice, garnishes, and yet another oshibori (JL must have a really high laundry bill). The curry was very good.
As meal service on this flight concluded, we were given water bottles for arrival. They must have finally run out of the Crystal Geyser bottles because I was given an Asahi bottle.
We approached Narita from the eastern coast of Honsh?.
Japan is almost always cloudy.
Finally, the lock on the window dimming was removed and I can take real shots of the wing.
Crossing into Chiba-ken.
Beautiful wing at dusk.
Sunset arrival into Narita a little bit ahead of schedule.
The FA that was making the announcements during the taxi didn’t sound right, her voice kept cracking. Something suspicious was going on…
GK A320 with sharklets.
We pull into Gate 74 in between the AA B788 and a CX A333.
As we are waiting in the galley to deplane, I see the same FA that was doing the cabin announcements during the taxi. I ask her if she is alright and she just starts crying. Another FA tells me that this is her last flight. On carriers like JL, we take their service for granted, but it is a touching moment when you see how much their job means to them. I give her an otsukaresamadeshita as we deplane.
On the way to immigration, a shot of the CX A333.
Immigration was very quick (there is almost never anyone in line for special re-entry). It’s a 15-minute wait for bags. The lines for customs were long; there are always a handful of people that didn’t fill out the customs form before deplaning that causes a traffic jam. No questions today. I find that when you show the residence card to the customs officers, they just wave you through like any Japanese passport holder. That concludes this report and tune into the final part of this series for a look at the domestic JL Sakura Lounge at NRT and the return to NGO.
Cabin crew 10.0
British Airways Club World Lounge
Boston - BOS
Tokyo - NRT
As is often the case with JL: a mediocre hard-product and a great soft-product. Angle lie-flat seats on a 14-hour flight is far from ideal. What the seat and IFE lacked, the crew and catering made up for. Having completed both BOS-HKG on CX and BOS-NRT on JL, my conclusion is that CX has the better hard-product and JL has the better soft-product. Pick your poison.
Cabin comfort: A 1-year-old B788 with a >5-year-old cabin, what is JL thinking? Not only that, but why on earth are you putting B788s with flatbed seats on regional routes like NGO-BKK, but angle lie-flat seats on ultra long-haul NRT-BOS routes? The flight was 100% full and the 2-2-2 does feel tight. Being in the bulkhead, I was not trapped in my window seat. Window dimming is locked during the flight.
Crew: Wonderful JL crew. Not incredible chatty (as is customary for Japanese carriers). They purser was omnipresent throughout the flight personally welcoming passengers and handing out menus. The FAs were very attentive even with the full cabin. No complaints and no negative interactions with any crewmembers.
Meal and catering: No pre-departure drink, shame on you JL. The Japanese meal was excellent and was capped with the best dessert I’ve had this year. I like the on-demand catering concept and there was a quite thorough menu to choose from. I pretty much grazed for the rest of the flight. The donburi was fantastic and the curry was also really good.
Entertainment: Newspapers and magazines distributed. The screen for bulkhead seats is small for current standards (other seats get 15.4” screens). The content of [i]Magic-V[/i] was weak unless you are a huge manga fan. Lots of room for improvement in this area for JL.
On-time performance: Perfect: left on time and landed a little bit early.
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