Review of Japan Airlines flight Tokyo San Francisco in First

Airline Japan Airlines
Flight JL002
Class First
Seat 2K
Aircraft Boeing 777-300ER
Flight time 09:20
Take-off 22 Mar 16, 00:05
Arrival at 22 Mar 16, 17:25
JL   #13 out of 142 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 143 reviews
socalnow
By GOLD 2247
Published on 6th June 2016
Greetings Flight Report community and welcome to this series of flights.

Star Alliance Lounges LAX and Singapore Airlines LAX-NRT (A380) (Suites)
ANA Suite Lounge NRT and Singapore Airlines NRT-SIN (A380) (Suites) SQ "Arrivals" Lounge
The Private Room and T2 First Class Lounge SIN and Singapore Airlines SIN-KUL-SIN (A350) (Business)
DNATA and SATS Lounges SIN and Qatar Airways SIN-DOH (A350) (Business)
Al Safwa First CLass Lounge DOH and Qatar Airways DOH-AUH (A320) (First)
Etihad Premium Lounge(s) T1 and T3 and Etihad Airways AUH-NRT (A340-600) (First)
JAL First Class Lounge HND and Japan Airlines HND-SFO (777-300ER) (First) (This Report)
Admirals Club SFO and American Airlines SFO-LAX (737-800) (First) (No Report)

Welcome back. The last installment concluded with my arrival into Tokyo's Narita Airport. After a day of sakura hunting (not much action yet, too early) I made my way over to Tokyo International Airport via JR and Tokyo Monorail. The airport was starting to gather momentum for the late night departure bank.



I paid a quick visit to the observation deck.



I descended back down to the ticketing counter area to gather my boarding pass for HND-SFO. The transaction is handled with elegance, care, and efficiency…the hallmarks of JAL.

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With boarding passes in hand for the last two flights of this adventure I was quickly through security and immigration and off the JAL First Class Lounge.

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I received the grand welcome by a fleet of stunning women in their smart looking cream colored uniforms. I think there was a sakura theme to some of the uniforms with embroidered cherry blossoms but I couldn't get a picture. I proceeded into the lounge. My leisurely pace in town left me here later than I expected and all of the spa treatments for the day were booked. I was offered a massage chair as a consolation.



I am always excited to return to this lovely lounge. To my sensibilities there is a fantastic mix of form, function, and luxury in this space.



I start with a review of the food offerings as there is bound to be something to tempt me.

Disclaimer.

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Soups.

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Small plates.

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Salad bar.

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Hot options.

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Udon and garniture.

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A look at some of the beverage offerings. Suntory time.



Having visited this lounge before I know to visit the "Red Suite" for a glass of LP as I prefer it to the Duval Leroy at the main bars. Let's go take a peek over there. I still can't get over how lovely this space is. It captures the romance of air travel perfectly.



The champagne and sake room is beautiful as well. I procured a glass of the rose to enjoy with some bites from the buffet.

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Overwhelmed with the choices I started with some udon and fried vegetable. This was not exactly to my liking in that the veg lost some texture while waiting. The udon broth was nice and hot and had the subtle flavor of smoked bonito.



Tempted by the Chef's station I abandoned the udon and wondered over.

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Yes, please! What an interesting cut and tender as anything I can remember. I opted for the JAL Original Japanese-Style Grill Sauce. I wasn't asked for my preferred temperature but the final product was perfect.

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For "dessert" I topped up on some champagne and sampled the small bites. The sardine and octopus were quite nice but the mayo/salmon didn't connect.



The time to board the aircraft arrived and despite the late hour my excitement for being on board with JAL, in First, sent me practically hopping to the gate. There is a separate lane for First Class so I didn't have to participate in a boarding scrum. Not that they have those in Japan, but still, a dedicated line queue is welcome.

Once on board the enthusiastic crew make it known straight away that they are happy to have you there and they will go to great lengths to make it a memorable encounter. The 4/8 LF in First makes service more punctual and personal.

The cabin is elegant and spacious.

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I took up residence in 2K where I found an amenity kit with male supplement, slippers, and noise cancelling headphones.



One of the highlights of flying F with JAL is the Salon. I think the crew is also quite proud to serve it. I just have practice my patience and let them finish the sentence offering something to drink before I blurt out "Salon pelase"! as though I suffer from tourettes .

The salon and oshi bori.

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A quick peek into what looks like an excellent J product.

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Sleep suits are offered and if you desire to change while still on the ground you are led the lavatory by a helpful flight attendant, the door is opened for you, and the changing platform is lowered. Once you emerge she is there with a coat hanger to hang your street clothes and store them for you until the reverse is procedure is performed prior to arrival. Little touches like this make you really feel well taken care of on JAL.

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The slippers are also quite plush and sturdy.

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Through the course of boarding both First Class Flight Attendants came by for introductions as well as the in charge Flight Attendant. All spoke English. The wine list and menu were also distributed. The menu consisted of a variety of al la carte items that can be enjoyed whenever you may like as well as a Japanese and Western set breakfast menus. For a flight leaving at midnight I find the variety of the menu to be very good. Is there an inappropriate time to enjoy Salon and caviar? I'm not aware of one.



I realize I am not representative of most users of this flight as I am here for the experience rather than merely to be transported across the vast Pacific Ocean. I subrogate sleep to food and wine. To my surprise I was not alone and most of the cabin stayed awake for a good while and enjoyed something to eat and the IFE.

After take off service began promptly and I requested champagne to drink. To refer to it simply as champange of course is absurd. It's the 2004 Salon Cuvee 'S' Le Mesnil Blanc de Blancs, Champagne, France. It's like saying the flight was on an airplane.

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The young lady taking care of my side of the aircraft was truly exceptional in every way I could measure. She was friendly, had a good command of English, she was fun yet proper and precise, and she was a treat to behold with a smile to make your knees weak. As a point of reference she noticed my picture taking and from then on she would plave a dish or bottle for photograph and even adjust the reading light attached to the seat to minimize shadows. I had an instant crush.

To start the festivities I requested the "Late Night Snack", the smoked scallop, and, of course, the caviar. The dishes were presented together, per my preference. The caviar was a wonderful treat, as always. The trio of canapes was void of any standout flavours. I really enjoyed the lightly smoked scallops.



In the interest of oenology I requested the Bollinger. Not sure why as I had just come off Etihad and enjoyed the same wine in abundance. I suppose to taste the two side by side. I like the Bollinger a great deal but stayed with the Salon for the duration.

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The next course would be the cheese. JAL does up a really visually enjoyable cheese experience even if the cheeses are a bit ordinary. You know what they say, "We eat with our mouths." Or something like that… The lavender honey is an interesting component.

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Not wanting my new girlfriend to have a moment of rest I went on to a sweet after the cheese. High quality ice cream and decadent chocolate were right on the money.

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Conquering time zones in rapid succession meant that it was soon Suntory time. The lovely blend of the Hibiki 17 performed admirably.

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It was at this time that I succumbed to the need for sleep and requested the turndown service. A trip to the lav to reluctantly remove the Hibiki form my teeth and off to sleep. The bed was made in an adjacent seat and I don't recall if I was offered a mattress firmness choice as I have in the past.



The spacious bed, comfortable bedding, and quiet dark cabin all made for a nice rest. I awoke 90 minutes prior to arrival. The cabin crew are constantly monitoring the cabin so one has to be awake for a few moments to be approached and offered service. Sparkling water with lemon came first.

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I wasn't wild about any of the set breakfast menus so I requested a couple of items from the a la carte menu. It wasn't until after I ordered and received the meal that I noticed the disclaimer on the menu that these items were available until breakfast service. Despite this qualifier the items were served without hesitation. It was me that felt silly as I despise the perception of being someone who "the rules don't apply to." Perhaps the light load on the flight made this mistake on my part less burdensome on the crew.

I started with a glass of the Queen of Blue.

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For the meal I requested the ramen and the tonkatsu sandwich.



Both items were very satisfying Japanese comfort foods. Not necessarily associated with First Class but I very much enjoyed them.

Having flown JAL F previously I know the coffee service is a great treat in the presentation so I very excitedly requested a cup of black coffee. It was served with the substantial mug, French press, and timer. I love it in every way.

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I shared my affection for the entire coffee presentation and beautiful "hardware" with the flight attendant. After my coffee was cleared and the cabin was being prepared for landing I was presented with a beautifully wrapped JAL First Class coffee mug. It was such a beautiful gesture. She was beaming with pride to present this gift and to behold my delight in accepting it. I was truly moved by this thoughtful act of generosity. The mug sits at my work desk and delivers warm emotions with every cup of tea I enjoy.

This dreamscape flight was nearing the destination. The cabin was made bright again and we dropped below the clouds hanging over the San Francisco Bay area.



A smooth touchdown and look at a gaggle of UA heavies awaiting their next assignment.

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From here is was a quick journey through Global Entry and on to the Air Train to T2. I didn't' have the energy to clear security at T3 and visit the Centurion Lounge at this point, as is my usual pattern. I enjoyed some water and a brief chair nap at the Admirals Club before an uneventful flight to LAX on AA. Uneventful is the nicest compliment I can pay AA these days as I have have had a run of bad luck with all levels of their "service". The staff at the SFO Admirals Club do seem to be friendly and somewhat interested in their jobs, however.
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Verdict

Japan Airlines

9.1/10
Cabin9.0
Cabin crew9.5
Entertainment/wifi9.0
Meal/catering9.0

JAL First Class Lounge

9.0/10
Comfort9.0
Meal/catering9.0
Entertainment/wifi9.0
Services9.0

Tokyo - HND

9.0/10
Efficiency9.0
Access9.0
Services9.0
Cleanliness9.0

San Francisco - SFO

7.9/10
Efficiency8.0
Access8.0
Services8.5
Cleanliness7.0

Conclusion

Thank you for joining me for the final installment in this grand journey. My apologies for the delay in finishing up the series.

The Ground Service: Rather sparse for JAL F passengers. There is a cadre of staffs waiting to happily greet you at the F check in positions and there has never been a wait for me. The process for me, with no checked luggage, and including one onward connection was very fast. At times there has been an escort for the 30m or so to the fast track security line but then you are on your own. No buggy rides, no Porsche or Peugeot on the tarmac. It's OK by me, fast, very friendly, and competent.

The Lounge: Like the F check in the lounge is restrained but very elegant. There are complimentary spa treatments however I was too late this time. I adore the Red Suite and find that it really speaks to my sensibilities in design and aesthetics. I also quite enjoy the food and beverage options. The chef stations seems to always have an interesting option and the buffet items are also top notch.

The Cabin: The through line on he JAL F experience is understated elegance and the cabin is no exception. I enjoy the cream colored panels and burgundy seating surfaces. The seat is wide and easily adjusted to a variety of positions. The IFE screen is quite large and the touch screen remote is reasonably responsive. I also enjoy the option of using the remote as an extra screen to map display. The bed is spacious and well padded. The bedding is also sufficient.

The Crew: Exceptional is a good word, extraordinary is another. The warmth of the service seems so sincere. It was a whirlwind romance. ;)

The Food and Beverage: Pretty perfect to my tastes, for an overnight flight. There is caviar on offer, as I believe there should be in F. The variety of Japanese comfort foods and drinking snacks round out a well thought out menu. The breakfast sets are good for some passengers, I'm sure, and I've enjoyed them in the past. The beverage selections are thorough as well.

Overall: I've had the decadent pleasure of sampling a wide range of premium cabins in recent months and none of them exceed the JAL offering. It remains a preferred way to travel as there is never anything average about the experience.

Information on the route Tokyo (HND) San Francisco (SFO)

14 Comments

  • Comment 351962 by
    KévinDC TEAM SILVER 5257 Comments

    Thanks for sharing this last installment in the series! Awesome night shorts from the observation deck! I love me some night-spotting!

    Sorry you didn't get to see any Sakura in Japan--next time come here to DC, we've got plenty :-)

    "I am always excited to return to this lovely lounge"
    - The JAL F lounge in HND is much nicer than in NRT, although I only went to the smalled F lounge in the satellite in NRT. It's so nice and empty--makes it feel so exclusive. Nice selection of champagnes as well, though, of course, it doesn't compare to the Salon or Bolly on board.

    The onboard experience is practically flawless. I notice an Austrian and Japanese wine on the wine list--very exotic (not sure if I'd have the courage to try them though, haha).

    "A smooth touchdown and look at a gaggle of UA heavies awaiting their next assignment."
    - Must hurts your eyes to see all that Unitental ugliness after such a lovely luxurious flight, lol

    Thanks for a wonderfully entertaining and well written report as always!

    • Comment 352777 by
      socalnow GOLD AUTHOR 980 Comments

      Greetings Kevin and thank you very much for reading and leaving a note.

      "Awesome night shorts from the observation deck! "
      -The "light pollution" from Central Tokyo and the skyline (such as it is) is very cool to see.

      " The JAL F lounge in HND is much nicer than in NRT.."
      -It does feel as if more effort is being put into the HND products. The sushi bar at NRT is very nice however...

      "Must hurts your eyes to see all that Unitental ugliness after such a lovely luxurious flight, lol"
      -Hilarious, and sadly laced with truth. I can still find beauty in the queen despite her hideous frock. ;)

      Thanks again and happy flying.

  • Comment 351997 by
    Rewardflying GOLD 494 Comments

    Great report, probably the best I've read anywhere. Thanks.

  • Comment 352011 by
    indianocean GOLD 6818 Comments

    The Red Suite is such a lovely place indeed. And the JAL Sakura lounge is much nicer than its competitor's.

    Very nice champagnes in the lounge and onboard. I love Bollinger but I trust you about the Salon.

    "To my surprise I was not alone and most of the cabin stayed awake for a good while and enjoyed something to eat"--> after reading the menu, I would have done exactly the same.

    A truly great experience.

    Thank you so much for sharing

    • Comment 352782 by
      socalnow GOLD AUTHOR 980 Comments

      Greetings indianocean and thank you for reading and leaving a note.

      "The Red Suite is such a lovely place indeed. "
      -I believe there is special appeal to people like us who are passionate about commercial aviation. And champagne.

      "A truly great experience."
      -It is so satisfying when you encounter professionals who take great pride in their work.

      Thanks again indianocean and happy flying.

  • Comment 352040 by
    Anton Suwandi 7 Comments

    JAL looks so great. Every flight report about JAL always amazes me even though I never fly with them. Their seat (all classes) looks so comfortable. Great catering in all classes as well. Great lounge offering. They definitely deserved 5 star rating.

  • Comment 352042 by
    Anton Suwandi 7 Comments

    JAL looks great. Every reports about JAL always amazes me. Their seats, their products looks great in all classes although I never fly with them. Great catering in all classes. Their lounge looks great and the offerings as well. They should be 5 star rated airline. Thanks for your great report. I really enjoyed it.

  • Comment 352071 by
    757Fan 585 Comments

    Awesome report! JAL F looks amazing, and the food and presentation looks incredible in every way. Wow. I would love to fly JAL sometime.

    Thank you for sharing.

    • Comment 352786 by
      socalnow GOLD AUTHOR 980 Comments

      Greetings 757Fan and thanks for reading my report and leaving a note.

      You probably could have guessed but I'll state it anyway, I fully recommend a trip with Japan Airlines!

      Thanks again and happy flying.

  • Comment 352296 by
    jetsetpanda 2294 Comments

    Thank you Christian for sharing this awesome final report.

    I'm really looking forward to visiting the JAL F lounge @ HND later this year, especially after seeing your pics. The "teppanyaki" set up seems to be quite an experience. I understand and it is only available during certain times and not throughout the day. There is also the CX lounge that I plan to visit as well. In general, I get the feeling that the catering at the lounge could be more impressive compared to other F lounges.

    Flying JL is a special treat, even more so in F. The offering of the mug was a special touch that left a lasting impression on you. Talk about effective marketing.

  • Comment 353160 by
    socalnow GOLD AUTHOR 980 Comments

    Hello Jetsetpanda and thank you for reading and leaving a comment.

    "There is also the CX lounge that I plan to visit as well. "
    I always forget to go over to the CX lounge. I feel derelict in my duties as a flight reporter. I'm already looking forward to your reviews!

    "In general, I get the feeling that the catering at the lounge could be more impressive compared to other F lounges."
    -It seems the standard is a sit down dining room with table service and an a la carte menu. JAL doesn't offer this so I suppose they are not up to standard in this area.

    Thank you again and happy flying.

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