Greetings Flight Report community and welcome to a series of reports covering a quick trip to Hong Kong on Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific. This was a bit of a last minute affair and a sort of Father's Day gift. I had been pining for some JAL F time and when I saw a seat on LAX-NRT leaving on Father's Day I signed up. I was very indecisive about whether to stay in Tokyo or travel beyond. In the end I decided to continue to HKG. The return was up in the air until the last minute. I thought about Delta HKG-SEA but that is a tough one on us NRSAs. I figured HND was a good option in terms of connection and a morning arrival. With the Delta HND-LAX departure in mind I booked HKG-HND via Cathay Pacific. Never one to leave well enough alone I was considering CX all the way to LAX when I stumbled on to JAL HND-SFO F space. Yes, I would get home later but I would have a nice 5 hour stay at HND to enjoy the observation deck and lounges. Very tempting. Add in the access to the lovely CX F lounges in HKG due to the onward connection to Oneworld F at HND. I decided to use JAL on the way back too.
Carrier, route, equipment, class, lounge, and procurement method:
Japan Airlines - LAX-NRT - 777-300ER - First - Qantas First Class Lounge - Alaska Mileage Plan (This Report) Japan Airlines - NRT-HKG - 787-8 - Business - JAL First Lounge Satellite - Alaska Mileage Plan Cathay Pacific - HKG-HND - 777-300ER - Business - The Wing and The Pier - BA Avios (Coming Eventually) Japan Airlines - HND-SFO - 777-300ER - First- JAL First Lounge - Alaska Mileage Plan (Coming Eventually) Alaska Airlines (Skywest) - SFO-SNA - ERJ-170 - First - Air France Salon Lounge - Alaska Mileage Plan (No Report)
Check In and Qantas First Lounge LAX
I arrived at LAX via Uber approximately 3.5 hours before departure and the check in lines for JAL were already open. Of course online check in was available but I was hoping to adjust my seat assignment and this must be done at the airport. Japan Airlines protects seats 1A and 1K for their top elites. The phone agents will tell you these seats remain under airport control the entire time the flight is on the schedule but this is probably not the case. I'm sure if I had sufficient status I could reserve them in advance. I'm a nobody though and by the time I booked seats 2A and 2K were occupied so my only chance at a window was airport lottery.
JAL's website says they open the ticket counter 3 hours before departure but I found the ticket counter open 200 minutes before departure. I presented my passport and as the female agent was pulling up my reservation I inquired about seat assignment. The replied, " I see you are interested in a window seat." The JAL phone agent said she would notate the reservation to this effect, and apparently actually did. The agent before me then picked up the phone and had a 45 second conversation with presumably a supervisor and I was issued seat 1K. Hooray for me! Even the absurd LAX TSA process couldn't wipe the smile off of my face. Off to visit my mates at the Jolly Qantas F lounge.
I've recently reviewed this lounge so I will not go into to much detail here but it remains a very high quality experience. Certainly the liberal Oneworld access policies take the shine off to some extent, and that's unfortunate, but the service has held up. I am aware that the lunch service isn't offered until noon but I did not enjoy a morning meal at home specifically to enjoy the offerings here so I assume a spot at the bar. To my surprise the server that was so fantastic last moth drops by to say hello and exchange pleasantries. To me, that's the epitome of high level service. She wasn't working in my area and had no obligation to wish me well.
The breakfast offerings are the same as last month. 1
Needing something to eat but not particularly inspired by any of the options I repeated last months visit and requested the croque monsieur. I found it satisfying enough again, the few bites I enjoyed. The Bloody Mary was a bit disappointing. It's a cocktail that can be an interesting palate for the creative. This one was not.
After snacking I poked around the lounge a bit and the only real deficiency of the room becomes evident. No ramp views!
To remedy this I shall go on walkabout. This is my SOP almost every time I fly so i shouldn't blame the orientation of the lounge on my habit of wandering to observe aircraft movements. First I like to reconnoiter the departure gate. The inbound flight arrived on time, that's a step in the right direction. Oh look it's JA734J Japan Airlines Sky Eco Livery!
The gate is not quite setup yet.
This is my first visit to LAX since Delta's move to T2/T3 and it's jarring to see the tails parked over there. My entire lifetime (43 years and counting) I have been flying out of T5/T6. My first flight, at age 6 days, was on Western Airlines in the waning days of 1973. Mom was hired by Western in 1962 as a flight attendant so naturally after my birth we had to fly north to the Bay Area so that I may be introduced to extended family. I remember, as a child, seeing the Delta tails, Tristars and DC8 mostly, at T6. I can still remember the excitement in 1986 when the merger was consummated between Western and Delta. The whole world opened up to us. Mexico and Hawaii were nice (and London briefly) but Delta was big time. It wasn't long before we made our first trip to Atlanta and then on to London, Germany, etc. We rode the PDX hub flights to Asia, in addition to LAX-HKG and LAX-NRT. All so exciting. It wasn't until after Mom had retired (the events of 9/11/2001 changed the industry remarkably - she hung it up in 2002) that the Delta Northwest merger opened yet another door of fantastic flying possibilities. Anyhow, not sure how I got off on this tangent, but I did notice that the DL7 to HND was operating out of TBIT (late I may add) so again, a new site for me.
ANA's offering to NRT, departing about the same time as JAL. Just this week ANA has announced another LAX-NRT frequency leaving about an hour before this existing flight. LAX-TYO is up to 9 trips a day.
After an enjoyable stroll I returned to the lounge to sample a couple of items from the lunch offerings. The menu is also unchanged from last month (I'm not implying that it should change).
This time I take a table and again am treated to excellent service, this time from a polished Frenchman.
A glass of the Pommery Brut Royal.
For nibbles I requested the chili tuna and the prosciutto and peaches. The tuna, while lovely in texture, was lost in all the salty olives, chili and caper. The ham and fruit is always a winner in my book.
An espresso to wrap up this lovely interlude.
Soon it was time for the headlining act. The F queue at the gate, like the lounge, is quite diluted by Oneworld "elites."
It has been over a year since I have had the pleasure of staking out a spot in this cabin and I was quite tickled to be back. This is a spacious throne fit for a first class journey across a massive ocean.
Amenities have been placed at the seat.
Towel and refreshment are offered. It's not the Salon on the ground.
Both of my carry on bags were decorated at check in.
The flight service coordinator was a very engaging and lovely presence. She toted her three flight attendants around with her to speak with each passenger, introduce all of them, and wish a pleasant flight. They could not have been more sweet.
The view out the window. I believe the construction is a part of the Midfield Satellite Concourse (MSC) project and will be the underground tunnel/connector. It has taken out a gate here in an already gate constrained environment.
Our push from the gate was timely and we are bid bon voyage.
This is going to take a lot of getting used to on the north side. Did I mention it's has been a lifetime of south side ops?
Patiently waiting for our turn on 24L and then the off.
Time to don the slippers and make the trip to the lav and change into the lounge wear. I was offered a choice between the old style lounge wear or the new Porsche Design version. I was led to believe that the older model would be a better fit so I opted for those. The have the JAL logo so they are better anyway.
Love this feature on JAL birds.
The display area that served as an amenities display during boarding before being turned into a snack and beverage display.
Service at eye level.
Soon after returning to my seat a hot towel was presented with the wine list. In my previous few JAL F experiences the wine list was presented with menu in a leather folio.
The beverage selection is thorough.
Hmmmm…what to choose? Joking, there is but one choice!
Canapes to accompany.
While enjoying the wine a menu was presented. 1
While I enjoy the beauty of the Japanese meal the more familiar flavors of the Western path will be my choice today. The stage is set and the view couldn't be better.
The amuse was a hit right out of the gate. The foie cut with the sour leaning rhubarb was perfect. Eel, beets, and cheese…who knew? Sublime.
I opted for the caviar. Always a unique twist with JAL and the addition of the chilled apple soup and the blini of potato.
An enjoyable Bordeaux from Pauillac with wonderful concentration of flavors and excellent textures.
In a sign of my complete trust and devotion to JAL I oped for the beef main. I was rewarded with a perfectly cooked fillet.
I pressed pause on the meal so an oshibori was offered. I was very content to sip the wine and simply revel in the atmosphere.
Eventually I opted to try the Pinot Noir as it is somewhat of a "local" wine for me (Santa Barbara County - Sta. Rita Hills AVA). I've traveled may times to this area and keep a collection of somewhat "cult" Pinots from the area. This wine was a great expression of the region and was enjoyed with the always stunning JAL cheese offering.
Sleep is not going to be a big part of this flight. The mid-day departure combined with the kid-like wonder that I have for this experience I'm not able to rest. I enjoy the IFE but soon my attention is drawn to the food menu again. Let's have a few more tastes of the JAP offerings.
The Japanese Delicacies. Not all to my liking but the presentation is appreciated.
The vegetable "Kyushu Jangara". This was fantastic. I am baffled by the depth of flavor that is obtained from a vegetable broth. I do love MSG, though.
There will be no rest before Suntory time. The Hibiki 17 is beautiful.
I retire to the lav for the bed to be setup. Firm mattress please.
A take a nice nap and wake with a couple of hours remaining.
My bed is retracted and a final offer of food and beverage is made. Oh, why not. I would be remiss without a serving of Queen of Blue.
If you are offered a "Rossini Style" foie gras slider, say yes.
Only 2/3 remained of the dessert that was offered with the first meal. A strawberry was used to round out the presentation. The pine nut tart was best in show here.
The reverse of our welcome ensued where all four flight attendants made the rounds as a group to bid us farewell.
Always an emotional and magnificent site for me.
Oddly enough we turn and head off shore again only to line up for 34R. At least we're headed for T2 so the taxi isn't as too lengthy.
Somewhat ironically we part next to TN. When we departed LAX both their Papeete and Paris 340s were at the terminal. I have spotted most of their fleet today 3/5 A340s.
Qantas First Class Lounge - TBIT
Los Angeles - LAX
Tokyo - NRT
The Ground Service: Nothing special for F is offered. Check in was efficient and I was granted a window seat. :)
The Lounge: Despite the lack of exclusivity a high level of service is offered.
The Cabin: These seats are comfortable in all configurations. I do not for one second lament the privacy a suite affords.
The Crew: Japanese hospitality is on superb display. Grace, style and deference is in abundance.
The Food and Beverage: Perhaps the highlight of the F offering with JAL. The quality, selection, and presentation of the food and beverage is as good as I've found.
Overall: These are special experiences that are worth the wait and deliver on the build up. JAL is in the conversation of top airline F products.
Thank you for coming along and please feel free to follow @theonlywaytofly on Instagram for previews of upcoming Flight Reports.
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