Greetings Flight Report community and thanks for stopping by. This is the remnants of a trip that was mangled by “Super Typhoon” Mangkhut, cancelled, and then resurrected on a whim. I'll spare you the details of my fretting and weather watching in the days leading up to departure but suffice it to say they were abundant. I canceled my original award ticket and the entire trip for that matter. Until I resurrected it the next day.
Carrier, route, equipment, class, lounge, and procurement method:
The inbound flight from PVG parked at the "satellite" portion of T2 so I decided to visit the closest lounge first. If lounge hopping is available and I have time I go hopping. The JAL First Class Lounge and Sakura Lounge share a reception desk here and passengers are directed left for FIrst and right to Sakura (Business) Lounge.
JL872 from PVG arrives a couple of hours before most of JAL's regional back of flights so the lounge was completely empty. Here's a quick tour. As you enter there is a small business center with a computer and a couple of workstations. and then a couple of massage chair cubicles.
The lounge is long and narrow and has windows along the length that provide ramp and alley views.
There is a wide range of seating options as well.
There is a beverage station in the main portion of the lounge with some light snacks on offer.
The balance of the food offerings is in a separate room labeled The Dining. The room has a variety of seating for dining and a self serve buffet.
An overview of the food offerings.
For my visit I was only interested in liquid refreshment and a seat with a view as the early afternoon bank of regional arrivals started to pour in.
This lounge is a fine place to spend some time and the food an beverage selection are satisfactory to me. The lounge was very warm on this visit so that made me head for the exit prematurely. That and the sushi bar from the main First Class lounge was beckoning. It's a 10 minute walk back to the main terminal. The First Class Lounge and Sakura Lounge are just past immigration.
This lounge, being the first one a local passenger would encounter, is a bit busier than the previous. Here's a look around the seating options and business center.
The food and beverage setup is similar in that there is a beverage station and separate food buffet.
The buffet items are identical.
The centerpiece of this lounge is the made to order nigiri sushi and sake bar.
I make 2 visits, one for flounder and one for Ebi. I pass on the rolled sushi. Each is a lovely bite and of perfectly acceptable quality.
I catch the arrival of the aircraft for LAX inbound from JFK.
In part out of curiosity and part out of fatigue I inquire at the First Class Lounge desk if there are nap/sleeping rooms available in the lounge. I have never seen any but thought it wouldn't hurt to inquire. It's a feature that I really value in a premium lounge. The answer is yes and after some calls on a radio I am escorted out of the F lounge and downstairs to the Sakura lounge.
The Sakura lounge is massive and I don't take the time on this visit to do a full look around. I am passed off to an attendant monitoring the showers and nap rooms and I am lead to Relaxing Room 2. It's a nice space with a rock hard mattress and it was perfect for a quick power nap. I'm glad to know this is here for future visits.
The Sakura lounge is one floor below the F lounge and provides a better view of the aircraft at gate 61.
Gate 61 was crowded at boarding time but I managed to find my way to the correct queue. Boarding was delayed slightly and ample apologies were issued.
Once on board I was met at the door and warmly welcomed aboard. The, borderline debilitating, excitement of boarding a long haul jet for a trip over a vast ocean in First Class is unlike anything else for me. The cabin is familiar and rather plain in design but oh so functional. I much prefer this cabin to ANA, the main Japanese competitor. I will exchange the privacy ANA provides with their Suite Square for a good view out the window.
My seat, 2A, is provisioned with amenity kit, headphones, and slippers. There is also a memory foam pillow and light blanket.
The food and beverage on offer today is impressive in variety and quality.The menu and wine lists are presented in an attractive leatherette folder. Maybe it's the same material as the seats ;)…
I accept the offer of a pre-departure beverage in the form of Champagne. The pour on the ground is different from what is on offer in the air. Something would be amiss for me if this decadent journey didn't start with Champagne.
Lounge wear is distributed and I accept the offer to change whilst boarding is being finalized. The larger of the two F lavs features a platform you can lower to not set foot on the floor when changing. I like the quality, fit and look of the traditional JAL lounge wear.
I really enjoy the tradition on JAL aircraft of identifying the registration and aircraft type. There used to be slots for the captain's name and the purser's name but that appears to have changed recently.
Almost every time I returned to my seat on this flight I found the seat belt had been positioned just so.
We make it off the gate and embark on a long taxi to 16R for departure. About 45 minutes later the seat belt sign is off and our excellent crew is passing oshibori and beverages. Canapes are also presented with the wine. While the Salon days with JAL are missed, if only for the novelty and exclusivity, the Louis Roederer is no slouch. The Cristal label carries with it so much baggage (pun intended) but in the end it's a lovely wine and absolute pleasure to enjoy.
After enjoying a couple of glasses of the wine and slowly nibbling on the canapes the table was set for dinner. The cultured butter, Maldon salts, and fruity olive oil all set the stage for a beautiful meal.
I decided to watch LBJ during dinner and it was an enjoyable film. I really enjoy biopics in general as the historical value appeals to me. I thought Woody Harrelson was a fantastic LBJ and couldn't help but be amazed that Woody from Cheers came all this way. I need to see the Bryan Cranston LBJ now to compare. Cranston is a powerhouse so I expect only the best.
In the interest of a side by side comparison I ask for a glass of the "other" Champagne on the list, the 2007 Bollinger La Grande Annee. The Bollinger is similar in style to the Roederer but to me it was not quite a luscious and alive as the Cristal. That and I'm probably just a sucker for the cache and price on the Cristal.
The amuse bouche was a riette of Pacific Saury and it was phenomenal. The flight attendant was so cute she pulled up a picture on her iPad of the Pacific Saury fish and explained the popularity in Japan for grilling. It was a very thoughtful gesture and added to my enjoyment of the dish. Of course eating this Japanese fish in a French preparation accompanied by two marquee Champagne labels is surreal and fantastic we could end here and it would be a very memorable meal but that's not how First Class works. There's always more.
Similar to the ritual of a glass of Champagne during boarding Caviar is a major First Class experience for me. All of the starters have appeal but I cannot break with tradition. The presentation complete mop spoon is fantastic. The creamy whipped egg yolk with shallot and chive is a fine accompaniment, heck, it's tasty by itself, like a deviled egg.
The beef in First Class on Japanese airlines is as good or better than anything I have experienced on earth. The price point of Wagyu is likely the reason for this. So, I cannot refuse. I won't goa s far as to say that I choose a main based ont eh wine i wish to enjoy but it plays a role. A well marbled piece of beef and a good quality Bordeaux style blend is so special. The 2012 Chateau Roc de Cambes, Cotes de Bourg is the selection today. The perfectly medium rare beef is to die for. An extraordinary blend of beef flavor and melt in you mouth tenderness. A small herby salad is served as well but is rather lost in the wake of the big beef experience.
It's not possible to finish everything I'm served (caviar is an exception) and the stunning beef dish was also left unfinished. My ideal experience is to have a taste of all of the courses on offer so I'm careful with pacing. I don't have command of the Japanese language to express this so there is always the assumption that I am not satisfied with a dish. When I had my fill of the beef I let the flight attendant know and she took the plate away. Some moments later the other FA who had been working the galley position, essentially the cook, came to inquire if there was something wrong with the cookery. She seemed genuinely concerned that I didn't enjoy the dish. I tried my best to explain that it was perfect and absolutely delightful in every way and that I only wish to save room to enjoy some of the other aspects of the meal. I do wonder, with the language barrier and cultural differences, if I have managed to assuage her feeling of concern for my not finishing the dish.
Cheese after a meal is a pleasure. The selection, accompaniments, and plating are all exquisite. The flight attendant shared with me, of her own accord, what I assume are the plating instructions and notes for the crew on the cheese service as it wasn't otherwise specified in the menu. It was of limited utility to me but it sure was a sweet gesture and a fun interaction not to mention how the served product looked exactly like the plating guide.
Finally the dessert. The title is rather fancy: Compote, Jelly, Granita of Kyoho Grape with Dried Fruit Ice Cream (12 year aged balsamic vinegar). Well the final product lived up to the wordy title and it was fantastically flavorful and complex.
After the impressive meal service concludes I request a pour of the Hibiki 17.
Soon it becomes time to turn in. I request the firm side of the mattress pad and the bed is assembled. Lights out somewhere near the Aleutian Islands.
A full belly and ample alcohol consumption don't make for the best sleep. I cannot fault the spacious bed and plush duvet. I slept off and on for a few hours and decided to get up when I could hear breakfast service in full swing in business class. Once awake I was approached immediately and offered service. I indicated I was finished with the bed and I requested a glass of the incomparable Queen of Blue tea that is a must have on any JAL First Class experience.
I have no need for food but I am also sickly drawn to the Japanese snack foods on offer and opt to enjoy a couple of those treats rather than a set arrival meal menu. I request the "Assorted Japanese Brochettes and the "Sangenton" pork cutlet sandwich. The yakitori is served with a nice jar of togarashi and a cool bamboo spoon. Both treats are tasty.
After the meal is cleared I request a cup of coffee. I had forgotten what an event this is with french press and timer. I love it. A fruit plate is also served.
All that's left to do is organize my personal items, change clothes, and enjoy the views as we make our way down the California coast. The formal goodbyes tot eh crew are made and I do my best to express my gratitude for the exemplary service and kindness displayed in our time together today.
Soon we are over the LA sprawl and on the way in to 24R.
Qantas First Lounge LAX
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One of my favorite US lounges is the Qantas First Lounge at LAX. Mainly I value the restaurant portion and usually enjoy interesting food and good service.
I used T4 for the TSA precheck line and walked over to TBIT.
The lounge is aesthetically pleasing enough however the carpet makes me a bit dizzy. Also, there are no views to the outside aircraft or ramp.
I was seated quickly and offered a beverage. I was also presented with a menu.
I asked for a glass of the PJ and it was poured at the bar and delivered to the table. The lounge is rather quiet at this hour.
I ordered the salt and pepper squid and prawn and soba noodle salad. Both were very good with the noodle salad being the real star.
A fantastic sticky date pudding and espresso to finish.
JAL First Lounge
Tokyo - NRT
Los Angeles - LAX
The Ground Service: No service for transit passengers.
The Lounge: JAL F lounges are sensible and elegant with good quality food and beverage. The sushi option at the main F lounge is a welcome touch. I don't find the FIrst Class lounges up to the same level as regional peers CX and SQ for example.
The Cabin: The seat is spacious and comfortable with excellent storage. The entertainment screen is large with good resolution. Programming selection is a bit lacking for an English speaking guest when compared to regional peers. The bed is fantastic with space to achieve almost any sleeping position.
The Crew: Kind, generous, and gracious service was in abundance as had been my experience flying with Japan Airlines. Extra touches like explaining the fish in the amuse dish and sharing the cheese information were great examples of small touches that increase my enjoyment and invoke a connection with the crew.
The Food and Beverage: It's really rather stunning the quality of the food and beverage on board. This is where JAL really shines.
Overall: Japan Airlines is very consistent in offering a high quality experience in their premium cabins. It's an absolute joy and privilege to fly with them in First Class.
Thank you for reading and happy flying.
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