Review of Japan Airlines flight Tokyo San Francisco in First

Airline Japan Airlines
Flight JL002
Class First
Seat 2G
Aircraft Boeing 777-300ER
Flight time 09:20
Take-off 20 Jun 17, 19:50
Arrival at 21 Jun 17, 13:10
JL 157 reviews
By 2216
Published on 12th July 2017
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
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
Japan Airlines - HND-SFO - 777-300ER - First- JAL First Lounge - Alaska Mileage Plan (This Report)
Alaska Airlines (Skywest) - SFO-SNA - ERJ-170 - First - Air France Salon Lounge - Alaska Mileage Plan (No Report)

Haneda Airport and Observation Deck

Our flight arrived on time and a good distance from the immigration checkpoint or transit security screening point. This was good because it gave me more time for my internal debate. rush through transit security and try to make the Delta flight to LAX or go enjoy Japan for a few hours and fly home with JAL. I paused by the international transfers turn off but in the end the cost of redepositing my AS miles and paying for the Delta yield fare was too much…only for the privilege to NOT fly JAL F.

Immigration and customs were busy but I was through in about 20 minutes. I decided to walk upstairs and check in for my flight later that night to SFO.

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Unfortunately no window seats were available so it was a center/aisle seat for me. First time I can remember in F and not by the window. Boo hoo.

The terminal is decorated with Hydrangea.

Next it was off into the warm afternoon Tokyo air. I really enjoy the observation decks at Japanese airports. Not only for my own avgeek passions but I get a lot of joy watching others enjoy the deck. Families, small children, couples. It seems interest in commercial aviation is strong in Japan.

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It was warm out but not overly punitive. I watched the movements on the ramp and taxi ways for some time.

The enjoyment is reflected inside too.

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After a lovely couple of hours watching the traffic, shopping and walking about the terminal, it was time to enjoy the inside of the airport. The premium security and immigration were low traffic.

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JAL First Class Lounge

The walk to the lounge was brief and it's right across the way from the departure gate.

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I'm enamored of this lounge aesthetic and layout. The color palate is elegant and soothing.

Good views of the ramp too.

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The RED Suite is like a fantasy with the travel themed rooms, Champagne and Sake room, and game room.

Funny aside about the aircraft instruments on display in the RED Suite. Another guest (turns out it was the gentleman sitting directly in front of me on the flight to SFO) was admiring them and remarked to me that he wanted them for his desk. He added that he was going to find out if could purchase them. Later in the visit he let me know that he was unable to close the deal.

Beverages taste better when presented as such.

Shall we rustle up a bite for lunch? There is an abundance of choice from the buffet as well as a teppan station.

Teppan menu.

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Sauce choices.

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I place my order with the teppan chef and am presented a buzzer that will alert me when the dish is prepared. In the interim I prepare a small portion of the Original JAL Beef Curry and some pickles. Enjoyed with a glass of the LP. The smell and subtle warmth of Japanese curry is very pleasant.

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Lights flash and the buzzer jumps about the table so I return to the chef's station.

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The dish is quite nice with crisp vegetables and well seasoned sauce. The beef is reasonably tender for an inexpensive cut. I take a couple of bites but have to save myself for the main event on board.

In the balance of my time in the lounge I avail myself of the massage service and enjoy a 10 min. neck and back treatment. The strong handed Japanese woman straddled that line between pleasure and discomfort admirably.

Before I know it boarding time is upon me and an announcement is made in the lounge. Off I go.


I encounter the Oneworld typical "no one is priority if we're all priority" line and boarding commences shortly.

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The cabin will be 7/8 today with the open seat to my left. When i arrive at 2G there is an ample spread of amenity present.

There were an abundance of greetings and introductions. In traditional fashion i opted for champagne before takeoff. As is common practice it wasn't the good stuff.

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Seat and cabin views.

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The cabin was buttoned up and we were off for a lengthy taxi and takeoff. Not sitting by a window conbined with night time leaves me feeling detached from the sequence. Eventually power is applied and we're airborne.

Service started with an oshibori.

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Lounge wear is presented. On this flight I am given a set of each style of pajamas. I snapped a pic of the Porsche Design but donned the JAL logo set.

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Aircraft and crew information plaque.

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One of the 4 crew in F tonight.

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The wine menu is identical to the trip over.
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There is a long list but only 1 choice.
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The menu for tonight is as follows.
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Canapes are such an appreciated tradition in F. Beautiful and flavorful bites with delicious wine. I could do this all day.

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The bar service was excellent in that it was impossible to have an empty champagne class. Additional "drinking snacks" were passed after the cancpes and before the table was set for dinner.
The seafood was a little dry.

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The table was prepared for the main event.

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Up first was the hair crab cocktail. Rich and opulent texture. Lovely.

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We hit some turbulence. I guess that bar service was too good. Still an enjoyable wine.

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I ordered a jar of eggs. The egg yolk cream was very rich.

The Wagyu is absolutely stunning. The textrue, marble, flavor, everything to perfection.

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The same Bordeaux from the outbound. It did good work here.

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The Ruby Red Peach Melba was a perfect light dessert. The service throughout the meal was, as expected, brilliant. Courses times well, topping up of beverages, and just general making sure everything is enjoyed.

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No quite ready to succumb to sleep I requested the cheese service. It's probably the best I've had in the sky.

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Time to wash up.

I request a glass of the Hibiki 17 and it is presented with some beautiful macarons.

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A beautiful bed is laid and I sleep for a few hours. These east bound flights are too short. I awake as other passengers are enjoying an arrival meal. I opt for a couple of items form the snack menu vs. a set meal.

The yakitori and the pork cutlet sandwich. Both are really quite good Japanese comfort / drinking foods.

Finally some window shades are opened in preparation for arrival and just like that we're on the ground.

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Japan Airlines

Cabin crew9.0

JAL First Class Lounge - International


Tokyo - HND


San Francisco - SFO



The Ground Service: The premium security lane is very nice and speedy. Unfortunately you're dumped into the general immigration queue.

The Lounge: I'm very happy with the service there. The staff is friendly, the food offers wide variety and high quality. The beverage selection is ample. The RED Suite is stunning and the regular lounge has excellent ramp views. The massage service is welcome too. Everything I need and nothing I don't.

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. My ignorance of Japanese language probably limits the amount of enjoyment I can extract from my crew encounters but they make great effort to communicate in my language.

The Food and Beverage: The Salon emergency was unfortunate. The 2 bottles stocked went fast. I don't think there was any issue of preferred passengers receiving the Salon while others didn't given that all drinks are poured at the seat. The steak was among the best examples of cow I have ever enjoyed.

Overall: I'm a fan of JAL, no doubt. The Japanese hospitality combined with quality hard and soft products makes for a very attractive package. It'll be a couple of years (to build the points up) before I'm back but I do plan to be back.

Thank you for coming along and please feel free to follow @theonlywaytofly on Instagram for previews of upcoming Flight Reports.

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


If you liked this review or if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to post a comment below !
  • Comment 403831 by
    Rewardflying 493 Comments

    Another awesome JL experience. This time I won't be posting another, although I had a seat on JL10 last week from NRT-ORD which I cancelled and flew UA new 777-300 with Polaris. I know, but I still have the AS points!

    The Haneda lounge looks incredible. I believe you've been to JAL's in Narita. Is this one nicer?

    Two of my favorite aircraft on your observations deck photos, LH 748i HND to FRA (have you taken this one? 110K UA including back to the states, often available!) and SQ A350. Haneda is such a nice airport.

    It's hard to say the best beef ever! Yet I would have opted for the Sukiyaki. What is the saying, When in Japan be like Japan? :)

    Awesome report, too bad on the avatar however. JL best first class out there?

    • Comment 403832 by
      socalnow AUTHOR 978 Comments

      Greetings Rewardflying and thank you for the note.

      "This time I won't be posting another, although I had a seat on JL10 last week from NRT-ORD which I cancelled and flew UA new 777-300 with Polaris. "
      -You did WHAT? ;)

      "The Haneda lounge looks incredible. I believe you've been to JAL's in Narita. Is this one nicer? "
      - HND>NRT on the balance. I do love the sushi in the main NRT lounge though...

      " LH 748i HND to FRA (have you taken this one? 110K UA including back to the states, often available!) "
      -It is absolutely on my radar and I am arriving in Tokyo on August 26th with no plan to get home yet... Fingers crossed. The overnight in FRA is a bit of a drag but more LH FCT and Porsche time!

      "JL best first class out there?"
      -The question of our time. Hard one for me to answer. It might be my favorite. What say you?

      Thanks Rewardflying and happy flying.

  • Comment 403833 by
    Rewardflying 493 Comments

    "You did WHAT?"
    -Figured that would get a rise out of you. Simply a point inventory decision. Abundance of UA points and fewer AS points along with just flying JL in May. Glad I did Polaris. Will post in time.

    Another option is hop over to ICN (DL/BA 15K points) and take OZ A380 to FRA and LH back to states. You'll still get the FCT and Porsche. Had a superior OZ over LH experience last week. LH was really, really disappointing.

    For me JL is on the top but I haven't flown SQ first yet. JL is my favorite airline I think. But I like Japanese food. Plus the new 787-9 are getting reverse herringbone seats. No first but better than the Apex seat imo.

    The real question is why didn't you take the Porsche Design PJ's??

    • Comment 403836 by
      socalnow AUTHOR 978 Comments

      "Simply a point inventory decision."
      -I understand. However, I can't imagine ever using a single point to fly on UA long haul but I know your situation is different wanting to cover many different products, etc.

      "Another option is hop over to ICN (DL/BA 15K points) and take OZ A380 to FRA and LH back to states." prices at 120k on UA v. 110k from HND.

      "Had a superior OZ over LH experience last week. LH was really, really disappointing. "
      -Nein, this is not possible. I'm sorry to hear this. LH is very high on my list of F experiences. I've only done OZ once and it was very nice in the air but the ground service and lounges were terrible.

      "For me JL is on the top but I haven't flown SQ first yet."
      - It's best you remedy that.

      "The real question is why didn't you take the Porsche Design PJ's??"
      -Generic design with no JAL logo, of course.

  • Comment 404112 by
    nico83et13 2112 Comments

    Thank you for The FR.

    JAL is the best company in the world in First class for me.
    The RED lounge is Berry good. I will test it in November with my flights Qatar Airways.
    Vers good Catering On this flight.

  • Comment 404131 by
    indianocean SILVER 7236 Comments

    Wow, I dream to experience JAL First class inflight service but I'm scared about the fares.
    I've been told that JAL First Class fares might be a little bit scary.

    Thank you Christian

    • Comment 404467 by
      socalnow AUTHOR 978 Comments

      Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment Indianocean. I can't imagine the cash fare for this flight. Certainly only attainable for me by using miles and points. I hope you have an opportunity to fly with JAL in F. Happy flying.

  • Comment 405369 by
    Thurya 78 Comments

    Hi socalnow,

    Thanks for the nice trip report. Wow, what a service by JAL, simply awesome. Wagyu in sky! what can you ask more? :D

    Thanks again!

    • Comment 405397 by
      socalnow AUTHOR 978 Comments

      Greetings Thurya and thank you for the feedback. JAL has very high catering standards in my experience. The Wagyu is sinfully marbled and tender. It's quite remarkable at 36,000'. Thank you again for stopping by and happy flying.

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