Greetings Flight Report community and thanks for stopping by. There are two factors that emerge to cause me wanderlust and prompt me to start mulling around award availability: A small window of free time and/or a points balance that reached the amount needed for a preferred redemption. Both of these circumstances converged in early October of 2018. Circumstances at home and work were such that being away for a few days would be acceptable and my United Mileageplus balance hit the magical mark where I could book what I call the "LH F Double-dip" where one can route to Asia via Europe. My criteria for executing this trip was simple: I'm only going if I can find LH F from LAX (either MUC or FRA would be excellent). I really wanted to enjoy LH from my home airport for the first time and also have a longer transatlantic sector to both enjoy LH and have better sleep. To this point I have flown mostly short ORD or JFK routes (with SEA and IAH as exceptions). I was successful, for the most part, and off we go.
Carrier, route, equipment, class, lounge, and procurement method:
I reported on this flight sector a couple of months ago and you can find that report HERE. This time I used a different lounge so I will focus more there and less on the in flight portion.
I was really torn about whether to venture into Beijing or just rest at the airport. In the end I decided that a good nap at PEK would allow me to enjoy the flight to Tokyo and also go out and enjoy the Ueno nightlife a bit on arrival so I opted to stay at Beijing Capitol Airport.
I made it to the JAL check in counter while the moring flight to NRT was still checking in so I was able to get a boarding pass by virtue of not having any checked luggage. If I had been checking bags I was given the impression I would have to wait until the counters were open for JL22 check in. I received my boarding pass and was through immigration and security in a quick (by PEK standards) 20 minutes.
Beijing Capitol Airport (PEK) isn't exactly know for the selection of Airline Lounges. Well, perhaps that's not true, it's know to have a very poor selection. I was familiar with the JAL contract lounge on a trip in July so I had no interest to revisit there. My plan "B" was to use Priority Pass to utilize the Air China First Class lounge and try to have a nap. I have visited several times before and while it's not a great lounge it is very spacious and never seems crowded.
Beverages and snacks are dispersed at several locations throughout the lounge, including a nice area for hosted tea service.
The dining area consists of a buffet area with table seating. There is also an a la carte menu available.
I visited the noodle bar for a beef noodle and it was very satisfying.
There is a variety of seating including some apparent VIP rooms that were empty.
The lounge even has nap rooms, of a sort, which I was not aware of until this visit. This was the amenity I was in the most need of after back to back long haul overnight flights. I really wanted to get some sleep and enjoy a bit of Tokyo in arrival. The nap rooms are rather odd cubicles that are open on top and on one side, although there is a curtain. The open side is to a window so it's not as if someone will walk by on that side. Anyhow, with an eye mask and ear plugs I was out for a several hour nap.
I could view my aircraft from bed.
I asked for a shower room after I woke up but after a quick look at the facility I decided against it. It was very cramped and mildew infested. I decided to take a long stroll around the terminal and I arrived at my gate as boarding was underway. I spotted a Air China MAX8 on the way down to my aircraft. This was before the MCAS system and AOA sensors were known terms to us nerds…
Boarding was through door L1 where I was greeted by the purser and directed to cross to the far aisle. This 787-8 is equipped with JAL's excellent Apex Suite J seat. I selected 9K at time of booking but the cabin was so empty I was given permission to sit anywhere and I chose 7K for a better engine/wing view. I think I counted 6 or 7 other passengers in all of J.
The window seats have this extra storage bin behind the seat.
A look at the nicely appointed lav.
Menus were in the literature pocket for review. I neglected to snap a picture of the Western offering.
We made it off the gate on time and had a 20 minute taxi for takeoff mainly due to traffic.
Service started with an oshibori and offer of a beverage. I asked the flight attendant for a chilled saki recommendation noting that I prefer the Junmai Daiginjo style. She said she had two in mind and would bring them both.
I opted for the Japanese selection for dinner service with Salmon as the main this month. The presentation is lovely and I had a taste of everything. The salmon was perfectly moist.
I accepted the offer of ice cream after the meal and requested the Hakushu single malt as well.
It was after dinner that I took a look around the cabin and realized how light the load really was.
Soon we were making the turn to line up with Haneda and arived about 15 minutes ahead of schedule. Immigration was a breeze and I was on the monorail in quick fashion.
Air China First Class Lounge - 3
Beijing - PEK
Tokyo - HND
The Ground Service: Nothing to speak of here.
The Lounge: The lounge was exactly what I needed in the form of a sleeping area amenity. All other aspects are rather average and I think the First Class Lounge title is somewhat misleading.
The Cabin: The Apex suite is one of the best out there. The privacy, direct aisle access, huge entertainment screen, and large foot area for sleeping all make it tough to beat.
The Crew: Precise and generous in the JAL tradition. There were only 8 of us to look after so...
The Food and Beverage: A variety of Japanese flavors and textures made for a nice meal. The sake was good and well chilled and some Japanese single malt to finish was great.
Overall: JAL is focused and consistent in providing a quality experience.
Thank you for reading and happy flying.
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