Welcome back to the final installment to my trip to Japan. The previous reports have been building up to this climax and I am really glad to be sharing this report with you. Frankly its still hard to believe that there is not more reports on this airline. In case you missed the the previous reports, fret not, here they are
The final flight back to SIN will not be reported due to the similarity with the outbound.
Narita airport is nearly 80km away from downtown Tokyo which took an hour and a half to travel with the airport limousine. Some fancy chauffeur you say? No, for those in the know, you will definitely keep your expectations mellowed down.
JL departs from NRT terminal 2 together with its OW accomplices. The terminal itself no doubt old, is very well up-kept and all nook and crannies clean with no obvious defects. Nevertheless the low ceiling is still a giveaway that it came from the 80s.
No dedicated check in area for J class passengers, only a special row which serves that minimal purpose. I retrieved my boarding passes in no time and was advised to head towards to the main JAL Sakura Lounge instead of the Satellite one due to crowding.
Crowds are a persistent problem in Japanese airports and it is no different here. The security queue would have taken at least an hour to navigate
However the intelligent minds of the Japanese would have thought of that anyway. Definitely worth shelling the minimal premium for J.
A quick verification with the FIDS confirms Japanese efficiency hasn't changed, we are bang on schedule for departure.
Which means I would have to descent to the lounge promptly to enable myself to extract the fullest of its hospitality.
Turn from the main entrance and you will be lead down a flight of escalators towards the Business Class area.
The J class lounge consist of 2 floors, with the bottom floor where you enter serving drinks and light snacks while dining is strictly confined to the top floor. The lounge is visually impressive, striking the right balance of vinyl and marble. It literally epitomizes modern Japanese architecture. The layout was in a L shape with one end focused on having conference area and phone booths (speaking on the phone in public is viewed negatively in Japan, so do yourself a favour and behave while in the land of the rising sun, your culture can wait till you reach home). The other end had rest areas and seating for avgeeks facing the tarmac and those preferring more privacy. All in a good use of space that caters to most needs.
Drinks on offer were pretty impressive too considering the hour.
Food gets serious as your make your way upstairs. The myriad assortment of food really perks your day up, from various Japanese delicacies to standard western offerings, the selection is wide enough to please most tastebuds and yeah, JAL's famous beef curry is on offer as well. I shall let the pictures do the talking.
A restraint hand still amounted to a decent haul.
Whats a breakfast without the works, bring on the pièce de résistance.
I even mustered a shot of the lav, though the showers had a queue so I had other plans in mind.
There was time for a second destination. Lets see if this legend is as foretold.
Food situation looks quite decent actually, and booze does not come with a check too.
The lounge decor however does lack behind JAL Sakura Lounge a little, though nevertheless very functional.
The showers however threw a surprise. They were key card operated and each had its own AC system. The decor was simply amazing, emphasizing architectural tones of its host land.
Views out of this lounge doesn't disappoint as well.
Good times does pass pretty quickly and boarding time eventually approached. Time to head out from the main terminal towards the satellite. A reminder of who's boss en-route.
Gate 88 is where the flight to KUL departs. Boarding begins bang on time, not surprising for the Japanese. Despite priorities being strictly enforced, it seemed like half the passengers boarding had status, exacerbating the line.
JL723 KUL-NRT JA862J Boeing 787-9 Delivered October 30,2015 J44 W35 Y116
The plane was new and it definitely felt so. The Japanese has a knack of keeping things in immaculate condition, and this was no different. 2 friendly FAs stood at the entrance welcoming passengers on board. While we were not escorted to our seats, there were 2 more FAs in the vicinity of the J class seats ready to assist passengers with luggage. JL is one of the only 3 airlines that outfit their J class with the acclaimed Rockwell Collins Apex seat and the seat is definitely worthy of its accolades.
The seat had 26" width and 74" pitch which was more than sufficient for this 7 hour flight. In fact this seat was so comfortable that I wouldn't have mind a 15 hour 'marathon' in it. It had all the hallmarks of a great seat, direct aisle access for all despite having a 2-2-2 configuration and the ottoman ran the full width of the seat, negating the need to adopt a Houdini orietation for sleep. The seat switches were at arms length and easily accessible without inadvertently touching them. Above which housed the IFE controller.
Ports where located forward of the seat near the storage platform above the ottoman which was also where the 22" HD screen was located.
At the seat, a simple amenity kit, noise cancelling headphones and a quality pair of slippers with shoehorn was provisioned for.
Continuing the JL tradition, no PDBs were offered, which was a strange practice. The purser, Ban, came down the aisle with 2 FAs with another 2 walking the adjacent aisle to greet each passenger by name. Without the manifest mind you. They all had that sincere smile and genuine talk that really make you feel at home with them. "Mr. JW19, Welcome onboard Japan Airlines, its an honour having you onboard with us today and my duty to ensure that all your needs are taken care of." I notified my preference for a Japanese meal to which she had to confirm availability due to its popularity. Sign of things to come. Menus and oshibori was handed out at the same time.
Another look at the generosity of real estate offered by this product, with a cameo of my feet while i peruse the menu
Departure announcement was made 5 minutes before actual departure time and we pushed back on the dot. I was unable to score a window seat hence the lack of take off photos. We were held back a bit by the departures vying for a slot of the runway. The captain came on the PA no less than 4 times to apologise about the delay, which in honesty wasn't his fault. The captain gunned the thrust levers at 45 minutes delay and into the heavens we went.
The seat belt sign stayed on for almost half an hour, afterwhich bar service commenced with a trolley. Ban came about to request for my drink of preference with the Japanese meal that she had reserved for me as well as what I would like to start. Well its 12pm local time, bring out the bubbles. A snack of Japanese rice crackers was offered with it.
If I were to nitpick, I would say the pace of service was the only let down. I was almost an hour after the bar service before meals were distributed. However first glimpse of the offering, all was forgiven.
The interlude of flavours was definitely playing a harmonious melody on my taste buds. Each dish were unique on their own yet came together with such balance that I wouldn't have mind should it come from a michelin start establishment. In English, the catering was unbelievably good, especially the shashimi which i did not think was possible in the air. JL though wasn't done with their assault, those were only the starters. The mains only solidified the notion that great food was indeed possible 35,000 ft above ground.
The beef tongue vapourises in your mouth while the cod flaked as it should. I am still salivating as I type. Dessert was a simple affair of a soft adzuki bean jelly pair with a graciously poured sencha.
The closing play was enacted with oshiboris afterwhich Ban came by each passenger on my side of the aisle to gather feedback and comments on the meal. The practice was mimicked on the other aisle by her assistants.
My wife took the western meal which was equally stellar as well, I shall let the pictures speak.
With the meal service done, we are 4.5 hours out of KUL. Time to settle in for some rest. The crew came about to help set up the bedding. Snacks were also set up in the galley for those who still feel peckish.
I checked out the lav before tucking in for a nap. They were sparsely equipped though still had the essentials. Also present was the Japanese bidet toilet.
As I could hardly fall into deep sleep on a plane, I feel in and out of sleep, noticing that the FAs were proactively offering service to those awake and also covering blankets others. About an hour out of KUL, pre-landing snacks were offered and I took up Ban on her offer of cheese and ice cream even though lunch was still making its way down my bowels. A pretty dry sherry was recommended with it as well.
With the final service done, the captain came on the PA to announce for preparations of descent and yet another apology for the delay. Ban, the purser and 4 other FAs again made their way through the entire cabin to thank us for flying JL. All in we touched down almost half an hour later than planned.
And with that my excursion to Japan draws to a close, and what a way to close it indeed.
JAL Sakura Lounge
Tokyo - NRT
Kuala Lumpur - KUL
The JL Sakura Lounge in Narita is definitely a place that I will return to and won't mind spending hours in. Catering was good enough and the ambiance and seat comfort excellent.
Japan Airlines already had a good reputation for service and catering. I went into this flight expecting perfection and yet they still managed to surprise me. The service was friendly, warm and non-pretentious and executed with such grace that only they could pull it off. The catering was also top notch and worthy of any praise given. The glutton in me was thoroughly satisfied. There is no other way to put it, Japan Airlines, is to date hands down the best airline I have flown.
I can't believe I am saying this, having been an SQ loyal for such a long time. If Singapore Airlines was good, then you have not tried Japan Airlines and still have no idea why they are not a Skytrax 5 star airline.
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