Greetings Flight-Report Community. Thanks for stopping by and having a look at this report, the sixth and final report in the series.
For this report series I will be sharing a delightful and frivolous RTW journey that is highlighted by my first trips on Emirates and Japan Airlines. Spoiler alert: I was positively floored by both experiences.
Here's an image of the entire route courtesy of Great Circle Mapper (gcmap.com)
After a lovely but too brief stay in Tokyo I boarded a Keisei Skyliner #3 at Ueno bound for Narita.
JAL is in Terminal 2 but my first stop was Terminal 1 to have a look at the observation deck. I prefer the view here to the Terminal 2 observation deck. Unfortunately on this day the rain was rather persistent so my visit was curtailed.
I located the bus to Terminal 2 and was off for the +/- 5 minute ride.
The check in for JAL First Class set the tone for the level of service they aim to provide. There were at least 5 staff waiting at the entry to greet customers and escort you the 10 feet to the check in counter. If there is such a thing as love at first sight with an airline it may have happened for me here. I knew right away that JAL is serious about First Class service and their way of providing it would fit well with my sensibilities.
Check in was quick and I received boarding passed for the 3 flights. I was then escorted to a small security screening area for premium passengers and thanked. Several bows later I was off and through security and immigration.
My first stop was the First Class Lounge.
I was welcomed and sent to the first class section and took the opportunity to look around as this was my first visit.
There are a variety of comfortable seating areas.
I was keen to have something to eat so I had a look at the offerings. There was a manned sushi and sake bar and also a buffet with a variety of options.
Of course you will also find adult beverages on offer.
I was drawn to the sushi straight away and the offering did not disappoint. The tuna was especially lovely in texture/temp/flavor. I enjoyed them with a nice taste of chilled dry sake.
I also decided to try some of the buffet offerings along with a glass of champagne.
I was impressed with the quality, variety, and presentation of the food.
While dining I spotted the 777 that would take me to Chicago.
First Class passengers are entitled to a message type treatment as a guest in the lounge. I proceeded tot he Relaxation Corner and opted for a foot massage.
The young man doing the treatment was excellent. Powerful hands did wonders for my sore feet.
In practicing one of my favorite hobbies, lounge hopping, I decided to reconnoiter the alternate JAL First Class lounge in the T2 satellite area.
Again a bevy of lovely smiles on arrival. I was told that there was a First Class lounge nearer to my gate and I replied that I had just come from there but wanted to explore this lounge too. I don't know if any of that information was received but I was welcomed in none the less.
This seemed to be a more compact space and also less crowded.
Good views of the ramp and looking back at T2.
There was a message chair.
Also, the house champagne was LP in this lounge rather than the Heidsieck offering in the other.
There was a dining area with similar buffet offerings. I did not see a sushi and sake island as in the main First Class lounge.
I enjoyed a sample of the famous JAL beef curry, assorted pickles, and cod roe.
Finally a glass of the LP and a bite of cheese to go with the ramp viewing.
The time came to leave this quiet sanctuary and make the journey to the gate. Here's a look at the machine I will board.
I've always liked Narita's slogan.
Boarding had yet to begin when I arrived at the gate however there was a clear area for First Class passengers to queue.
Boarding began shortly. Signage in the jet way directing passengers.
I was greeted at the door by one of the First Class flight attendants and shown to seat 2K.
The cabin is arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration and while the seats are not fully enclosed I found the seat to be plenty private and well appointed. The cabin has an understated elegance about it that I appreciate.
A look at the seat and IFE controls.
At the seat were noise canceling headphones and slippers.
I was offered a beverage during boarding and opted for champagne. An oshibori was also delivered. I also experienced love at first taste with this wine. The 2002 Salon is a magnificent blanc de blancs.
Additionally an amenity kit and pajamas were offered and accepted.
The flight attendant asked if I wished to change clothes at this time and I agreed that I would like to. She escorted me to the larger F/C lav and propped the door open while she lowered a shelf for me to stand on while changing so as to not have to stand on the bathroom floor. She also waited outside the door, hangar in hand, to hang my street clothes upon my exit. Exquisite service.
I snapped a couple of pics of the J seat. It looks very nice where although there is a 2-2-2 config there is still direct aisle access.
So after the shower of gifts, wardrobe change, and exceptional champagne it was time to depart for ORD. We were pushed form the gate and sent off by the customary bow of the ground handlers. They could work on synchronization…
There is a good distance to 34L and taxi was about 10 min.
Soon it was out turn and we were off into the overcast skies.
When it was deemed safe to move about the flight attendant distributed the menu and wine list in a nice portfolio.
Wine and beverage options. At least some of them. It appears I didn't capture the entire list.
Offered my choice of beverages I opted to resume my affair with the Salon. An amuse-bouche was also delivered.
The amuse were all tasty bites but I would have appreciated some variation in texture.
The flight attendant attending to me could not have been more lovely. After my request that I might have a photograph of the Salon bottle she not only obliged but also took an interest in posing all further bottles for photo. She even turned on the reading light by the headrest for one shot and positioned the each bottle just so. It's the kind of service that is so personal and specific that I don't even know if you can teach this in any sort of training. I was absolutely floored that she was apparently making sure that EVERY SINGLE detail was perfect.
After the amuse was cleared a basket of snacks was offered. I couldn't pass up these dried prawns.
Next, the table was set for lunch.
Bread is offered.
Another amuse type dish was delivered but I have forgotten what it was. Great flavor and silky texture here.
I was drawn to the caviar and it did not disappoint. Lovely presentation but lacking the traditional garnishes.
Floating above the clouds.
In the interest of wine science I asked for a glass of the alternative champagne. While the Bollinger was very nice I preferred the Salon and backtracked.
For the main I selected the Kuroge Wagyu and it was a stunning piece of cow. The marble, texture, flavor and cookery were all very much to my liking.
For a wine to enjoy with the beef I opted for the 2012 Kenzo Estate rindo. This was a fantastic choice. A very well crafted wine.
To compare I also opted for a glass of the 2011 Langoa Barton Saint-Julien but the rindo was my preference here by a mile.
The dessert was next for me and it was perfect. Not overly rich but very satisfying and of course the presentation was perfect.
Some dry Riesling paired nicely.
The omnipresent oshibori was delivered after I waived the white flag on this most impressive meal.
This being an 11am departure I wasn't immediately ready for sleep so I enjoyed a digestif in the form of the Hibiki 17 and some IFE.
After a movie or two I decided to have a go at the snack menu. I requested the Western Appetizer which consisted of cumin flavored eggplant with curried potato salad, foie gras flan, and salmon tartare, guacamole & mango salsa. Perhaps this was the J class appetizer? At any rate it was colorful but not very flavorful.
I then opted for the cheese and some port. Of course the cheese is arranged to perfection.
At this point I requested the bed be made up and I went off to the lav. I noticed this placard with aircraft details.
Also this snack area with a handmade sign.
I returned to the bed with firm mattress pad and luxurious bedding. I managed to sleep for several hours.
I returned to consciousness about 90 minutes out of ORD. Not drawn to any of the second set meal offerings I opted to stay on the snack menu for a pre-arrival bite. First up the ramen noodles in soy sauce flavored soup. This was nice and I appreciated the marinated egg and fresh toppings.
I also requested a glass of Queen of Blue Royal Blue Tea. This was unlike anything I have ever tasted. It's apparent that your drinking tea but the complexity and mouth feel are not tea like. Don't miss this if you fly with JAL in F.
After the ramen I enjoyed the salad with bacon and poached egg with green goddess dressing. This was stellar as well. The egg perfectly poached and lettuces crisp.
Just when I didn't think a service could get any more over the top with perfection and precision I ordered coffee. I was presented with this beautiful mug, a french press, and a timer to indicate when to plunge. My goodness.
The cabin was cleaned up and we were nearing completion of the flight.
After arrival at he gate the first class passengers were escorted through the mini J cabin and positioned to be the first off the airplane as apparently only door L2 was to be used. I noted this art display in the proximity to the door.
A brief pass by the Global Entry kiosk and a hand off of paper to the customs agent and I was quickly on the train and in the ORD flagship lounge. I was off to DFW and then LAX but I did not document those legs in enough detail to present a report.
Thank you for reading this long report. It was an amazing experience traveling with JAL.
JAL First Lounge
Tokyo - NRT
Chicago - ORD
I have had the privilege of riding in the international first class cabins of SQ, CX, NH, EK, MH, KE, OZ, UA, and LH. All present unique strengths and weaknesses to their products. It is impossible for me to say which is best but I'm hard pressed to put any of them above this experience with Japan Airlines. Service is such a subjective notion with many components but based on my preferences and sensibilities JAL is well above expectation on all facets.
Thank you very much for stopping by and reading this report. Happy flying.
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