As most of us heading to Asia I originally wanted to fly Cathay Pacific but they donâ€™t release as many award seats as they used to,so I just locked in two seats on JAL first class.I thought that Iâ€™ll just check back periodically if anything opens up.At one point I just stopped searching(and hoping) and decided to try something new.Man,it was a good decisionâ€¦.
We arrived at JFKâ€™s T1 around 10AM for our 12:05PM departure. There was no one at check-in so after swiping our passports and showing our visas we were given our boarding passes.
JAL permanently closed their lounge last year so now passengers are using Air Franceâ€™s lounge right after security check. It was recently renovated to look more like the CDG one so I was excited to check it out. I had high hopes since Air Franceâ€™s flagship lounge in Paris offers a phenomenal experience for its La Premiere (first class) passengers. Once they scanned our boarding passes I was invited to use the 2nd floor of the lounge which is reserved for first class and elite passengers.Unfortunately the â€œexperienceâ€ was rather underwhelming since it was exactly the same as the business class section on the lower level.It didnâ€™t feel that private and it was full by 11AM. Food selection was literally nonexistent with only snacks and cookies.Or maybe Air France is trying to live up to the American lounge standards ?ðŸ˜‰
New York JFK to Tokyo Narita Seats: 1D/G Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER JAL new(ish) first class is beautiful . I loved the colors ,the finishes, everything . The cabin had a 2 row, 1-2-1 layout for a total of 8 first class seats. While far from the privacy that you get on fully enclosed suites I never felt too exposed to my neighbors.The middle seats are perfect for couples but they can be easily isolated with the divider in the center if traveling solo.
Once in our seats, Nakamura ,the chief purser, came over to introduce herself and welcomed us on board.As well she highlighted how much she likes my wifeâ€™s selfie stick,#thatswhenyouknowyoureonaflighttoasia. At the same time we were given our PJs and amenity kits by another flight attendant. While the amenity kit is in a rather underwhelming Loewe bag I loved the Shiseido kit that came with it. As for the PJs ,they were one of my all time favorites.The pants run somewhat large so Iâ€™d recommend a medium one if youâ€™re around 6â€™1â€³.
Menus were left in the main compartment right next to the seat.They feature its so called BEDD menu which apparently stands for Dine,Delicious,Dreamsâ€¦ Still donâ€™t get it why (itâ€™s not called DDD then) so please if you know,share it with me!!! Anyways the menu reads as follow:
After a short taxi we were airborne in no time at all. We both wanted the Japanese menu but didnâ€™t want to miss the caviar so we asked for that together with our appetizers. Naturally they had no problems with it. I never have issues mixing menus(in first class) but of course that doesnâ€™t mean you can go crazy.Just be reasonable,show some class and donâ€™t try to eat more than the rest of the cabin combined. Before meal service began we received a couple of amuse-bouches and mixed nuts to accompany our glasses of Salon Champagne.
Appetizers showed up about 10 minutes later and consisted of (clockwise starting from the top): Crabmeat,Herring Roe & Zucchini dressed with grated radish sauce ; Seared scallop,squid &asparagus with egg yolk vinegar sauce ; Vinegared vegetables julienne with kelp ; Simmered turnip & potato with soybean milk sauce ; Japanese noodles â€œSobaâ€ in sushi roll style.
After the first course I wanted to change from champagne to sake for what Nakamura came over to recommend a special off-the-menu one which they rarely have on board, and itâ€™s actually pretty hard to find anywhere.Naturally I took upon her suggestion.
The next two courses consisted of a lighter Japanese soup with shrimp mousse followed by a couple of small bites foie gras in jelly, grilled halibut,an egg cake and a fluke&shrimp sashimi.
Main course was lobster with a crabmeat rice and miso soup:
As for dessert I picked the fruit tart from the western menu while my wife sticked to the Japanese option,the black sesame pudding. To accompany it I asked for a glass of Queen of Blue,a very fancy â€œiced teaâ€(no disrespect!) I read on Flyertalk many months before. I am pretty good with wines but guess I still have to work on my tea palate.ðŸ˜‰
I have to say JAL surprised me with this lunch.I was expecting a mediocre to good meal but that was UNBELIEVABLE!!! The flavors were right on spot,the quantity was sufficient and the service was excellent. I might even say that it was the best meal I had on any Asian carrier. After finishing my tea/coffee I asked the FA to prepare my bed.JAL offers both a soft and hard mattress depending on which you prefer.We both opted for the latter one and found it plenty comfortable.
Once in my bed I watched Lucy which was plenty boring but at least it helped me falling asleep.The IFE can be controlled on a touchscreen console located in the storage compartment next to the seat. I do have to mention that the movie/show selections leave a lot to desire.It only had a handful of decent movies and fell short on newer â€œblockbustersâ€ too.
I woke up 5-6 hours later ready for another movie and some snacks. There is a small buffet in the alley in case you get thirsty/hungry and want to nibble on something .Those truffles were amazing btw!
Prior to landing I asked for a soba with some more sake and watched Letâ€™s Be Cops.
45 minuted before landing the captain came on the PA announcing that we started our descend to Tokyo Narita.I quickly changed back from my pajamas and watched what was remaining of the movie. Our landing was smooth and in no time we found ourselves in NRTâ€™s hallway heading to the transfer area.
Air France Lounge
New York - JFK
Tokyo - NRT
All in all this flight was FANTASTIC! In the shadow of Asian megaairlines like Cathay Pacific,Singapore Airlines,Asiana,Thai and Korean I never felt the need to venture out and try JAL . In my opinion , not only the were on pair with those but in some aspects they even surpass them. Food was phenomenal and we enjoyed more than Asiana’s which has the reputation of having the best catering over the Pacific. Service was warm and friendly still very efficient . We never had empty glasses and food courses were perfectly paced. The hard product:As I mentioned earlier JAL sticked to its open suites when retrofitting first class.I found the seat to be plenty comfortable and gave just enough privacy . The “cubicles” are pretty high so it’s hard to look over them once seated. The only negative I can highlight is the IFE,I’d love to see a bigger selection but that’s an easy “fix” which requires only software update. I’m happy we flew Japan Airlines ,not only they exceeded expectations and impressed me but they became one of my preferred airline if heading that direction!
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