Review of Japan Airlines flight Manila Tokyo in Business

Airline Japan Airlines
Flight JL742
Class Business
Seat 9K
Aircraft Boeing 787-8
Flight time 03:53
Take-off 20 Sep 18, 14:36
Arrival at 20 Sep 18, 19:29
JL   #13 out of 131 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 134 reviews
hometoyyz
By SILVER 1482
Published on 4th January 2019

Introduction



Hello, Flight-Report.com community, and welcome to my latest whirlwind adventure to Asia, featuring a healthy dose of Cathay Pacific First Class, a bit of Business Class and First Class with JAL, and brief experiments with Porter Airlines economy class and Delta regional jet.

The Rundown



Routing



photo 60

Author’s Note



My apologies for the long delay in getting this series of flight-reports done. I'm going to try to get caught up over the next week or so, and then stay on top of things for 2019. But you know how New Year's Resolutions tend to go.

Background & Booking



This part of the trip saw a lot of changes, to put it mildly.

My initial plans were to find my way home using SkyMiles, as I have quite a stash. But the only options showing up on Delta’s Web site for MNL-YYZ were coming in at 300,000 for Delta One Suites — way more than I have and way more than I wanted to spend.

Then the site started showing various options on CZ and MU. But when I tried to book them, it would error out. I played around with origin and destination, but couldn’t get anything to actually book until I found a China Eastern MNL-PVG-YVR that would book. It didn’t thrill me since the fuel surcharges were more than they could be, and the PVG-YVR flight is on a 2-2-2 “old style” A330-200 business class product, but it worked. So I booked it for 85,000 miles and something over $200 in taxes, fees and surcharges.

Then I remembered one of the most significant quirks of Delta’s online booking system. Delta.com, you see, hates to connect in Taipei. It refuses to do it. End of story. So I could find MNL-TPE on CI on an A330, and TPE-YVR on A350, with a nice little four-hour layover between them, but I could not get it to book on the site. Not an option. No way, no how.

So I called in, and with the help of a characteristically friendly and competent phone agent, found the segments, added them to a booking and got it done. She had to go to the international awards desk for help a few times, but that’s par for the course. There was plenty of award availability on Westjet for YVR-YYZ after my scheduled arrival into Toronto, but even the agent’s system refused to let THAT happen. After trying everything she could, she said it must be because of the YVR-YYZ segment being in economy. Which makes no sense, since the site frequently offers Westjet connections in economy on otherwise business class bookings. In fact, when I looked up TPE-YYZ, it provided the option of TPE-YVR-YYZ in CI J and WS Y. Oh, delta.com.

But I was happy with it, since the hard and soft products are quite an upgrade from MU to CI, and the difference between fees on the award ($200-something Canadian for MU, $13 for CI) is more than adding on a revenue WestJet flight back home, for which I’ll earn a handful of SkyMiles and MQMs as well. So that’s sorta a win. I made the exchange and called it booked.

But then I started wondering about other options. I kept looking, and eventually, about nine days out, I found availability on HND-JFK in JAL First Class on the Friday morning of my trip. I was sold! Even better, there was Thursday afternoon availability in J on MNL-NRT on JAL, on a 787 that was showing 1-2-1 seating on ExpertFlyer.

Let’s do it! I was able to book this online pretty simply because Alaska’s site rocks on searching multi-city trips. Another 75,000 Alaska miles gone, and about $50 in USD charges. And I get to once again abuse the Delta Medallion benefit of free cancellation and refund on award tickets.

The overnight connection gives me plenty of time to make the short trip from Narita to Haneda. Now if only JAL was kind enough to offer F service on MNL-NRT!

When last we saw our intrepid flight-reporter….



I had made my way across the street to the Belmont Manila, conveniently attached to Terminal 3 by a bridge.

Unfortunately, though, JAL operates out of Terminal 1 in Manila, and Ninoy Aquino is configured much more like a loose confederation of facilities that share some runways than a more centrally laid-out airport — getting from terminal to terminal is not necessarily easy.

Fortunately, The Belmont is part of Resort World Manila, a hotel-and-casino-and-restaurant complex next to MNL, and it offers hourly shuttle buses between the Belmont and all the terminals of MNL. So I grabbed one of those at about 11:50 am.

The Belmont is one of the first stops on the tour of Resort World, so don’t plan on it being a quick trip. All in all, between various stops within Resort World — all of which had extensive security and guards with heavy weaponry — and a stop at Terminal 2 first, the trip took almost an hour.

Check-in and security



Once I made it to the terminal, there was a quick x-ray on the way through the door, much like I’d experienced at Clark earlier this year. The JAL check-in was easy to find.

photo 1

There was no one in line in front of me for business class check-in, so I was served pretty quickly. The agent informed me there’d been an aircraft change, which left me wondering what product I would end up with. She said it was a 2-2-2 layout, and I asked if there were any window seats available, and she said yes, 9A was open, and 9B was unoccupied and would remain that way. Good enough for me!

She handed over my boarding pass for MNL-NRT and noted my flight the next day from HND-JFK. She then proceeded to remind me a total of three times that I was not yet checked in for my flight out of Haneda, and that Haneda was, in fact, a different airport than Narita, and that I would have to find my way between the two. I suppose she was just making sure I understood my situation, but after the second time around, it seemed just a little condescending.

Nevertheless, I made my way to immigration and security, which were kind of busy and a little bit disorganized, but all in, it took me only about 15 minutes to get from arrival at the terminal to airside.

photo 2

From there, it was a short walk towards the lounge. T3 at Manila oddly has a bunch of cordons in hallways between sections which were guarded and clearly signed as “Passengers Only,” although they were airside (so passengers only by default?) and there was no effort to check boarding passes. A little bit odd.

JAL Sakura Lounge MNL



JAL’s lounge was fortunately enough towards my gate for this afternoon’s departure. Inside, my invitation was taken, and I was welcomed inside.

photo 3

The Sakura Lounge looks new and is nicely equipped, but it is small, and it was quite packed at this hour before a flight with a rather premium-heavy configuration.

These three pictures captured just about all the seating available in the lounge.



Aside from the seating, there was a small buffet and bar, and a cooler for soft drinks and beer.



I was quite hungry by the time I reached the lounge, having last eaten on the Cathay flight down from Hong Kong the evening before. I was happy to see the JAL curry, which is always good and decided to try the chicken soup with bacon bits — a bit of an odd combination, but tasty enough.

photo 14

WiFi existed, and was easy to connect to, but was either very slow by default or struggling under the load as the lounge was close to capacity. It was barely usable. It was useful enough to confirm that the plane had been downgauged from a 787-9 to a 787-8, hence the new seat assignment. From what I could tell, the flight would at least feature the Apex Suite, a much better option than the angle-flat seats offered on some JAL 788s used on shorthaul routes.

photo 15

At some point during my stay, I heard them call for someone who sounded vaguely like my last name over the PA, but I thought nothing of it.

On a return to the buffet for another round of pineapple juice, there was an additional hot dish, these tasty little “hamburgers” which were more accurately described as meatballs.

photo 16

After puttering for a while, boarding time was approaching, so I made my way towards the gate. Yep, that sure appears to be a 787-8.

photo 17

Boarding time



The gate area for the JAL flight was tightly controlled, with two segmented-off seating sections, one for business and priority passengers, and a second for economy pax. To get in, one had one’s boarding pass examined by an agent, who was keeping track of who had shown up and who had not.

photo 18

When I handed over my boarding pass, I was handed back a different boarding pass. I’d been moved to 9C. Assuming this was because someone had been given 9A over me, I was a little miffed but politely asked if there were any other window seats available. One of the agents staffing the check-in kindly offered to go investigate on my behalf and motioned for me to sit down while she approached the agents at the gate proper.

She returned a few minutes later, explaining that I’d been moved from 9A because the IFE in that seat was not operable. In 9C, I’d have the empty 9A next to me. But if I wanted a window seat, I was welcome to 9K, although there would be someone next to me in that case.

Okay, so that makes a little more sense. I accepted 9C, figuring it would be easy enough to move over to 9A for takeoff and landing to get some quality time with those big, beautiful 787 windows.

A few minutes after that was all squared away, priority boarding started with JAL top-tiers, and then business class. Off to Tokyo we go!

The Flight Report



Flight: JL742
From: Manila (MNL)
To: Tokyo Narita (NRT)
Date: 9/20/2018
Aircraft: Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner
Registration: JA840J
Seat: 9A…. errrr… 9C …. uhhhh… 9K
ATD (STD): 14:36 (14:25)
ATA ( STA): 19:29 (19:55)

I was greeted at the door, and shown to the right, towards the last row of business class, aft of door L2. This is my first time in the Apex seats on anything other than a Korean 747-8, so I’m curious to see how they compare on the comparatively storage bin-free 787. 9C is the left aisle seat in the last row before premium economy, and it’s in quite an attractive colour scheme.

photo 19

The seat comes loaded with a decent pillow, a light blanket, slippers, and headphones.

photo 20

The aisle seats (obviously) don’t get a window, but they do benefit from a bit of extra storage space, with this little nook in the area next to the seat on the side towards the window. Note also USB, power, and headphone jack locations.

photo 21

A little ahead of it, the modern wired remote for the entertainment screen — a necessity given how far in front of you the IFE screen is in this forward-facing lay-flat configuration.

photo 22

Immediately below that, seat controls, including the privacy riser between the window and aisle seats.

photo 23

Legroom shot — and it shows one of the weak points of the Apex seat — it’s a relatively narrow “suite.”

photo 24

There’s a bit of a “footwell” effect, but not as bad as on some planes, as the seat in bed mode flattens down under a little ledge underneath the IFE screen.

photo 25

With 9A unoccupied and the divider down, I have a good view out the window. But privacy wouldn’t be too bad even if it were occupied, other than I suppose I’d be able to snoop on 9A’s screen. If it were working, that is.

photo 26

However, the screen in front of me isn’t working right now either. I presume this is an “IFE will be enabled after we take off” kind of situation. But since I know 9A will remain unoccupied, I figure I might as well get a better look before taking off. Here’s a look at Ninoy Aquino Airport, after I’ve lightened the window up.

photo 27

And here’s the reason 9A is remaining unoccupied for this flight. On the plus side, it’s a beautiful big screen.

photo 28

The window seat “footwell” is a little bit less encased, if you’re concerned by those kinds of things.

photo 30

And of course, it has the little alley, so you do have aisle access. Note also the location of USB and power ports in the aisle seat, which is a bit awkward, but at least they’re there.

photo 31

Loading is quick, and we push back right on time at 2:25 pm.

photo 29

As we taxi, a Singapore Airlines 77W in Star Alliance colours.

photo 32

Saudia and the hometown heroes as we taxi.

photo 33

And after a ten-minute taxi, we’re off and on our way up to Tokyo.



Once we’re released from our seats, a quick trip to the lav, which is a pretty standard affair for a Japanese plane.

photo 37photo 38

Back at my seat, I return to 9C and seek to see what’s on the IFE screen. But I’m having trouble getting that screen to work too. One of the flight attendants notices me struggling, and gets involved in helping me. She first tries to turn on the screen in 9C, and then ultimately resetting the display.

Still no love. So she asks apologizes for the inconvenience and asks me to wait for a moment, disappearing towards the front of the plane. When she returns, she asks if I’d mind sitting across the aisle in 9K, where she’s verified that the screen does work. That’s not a problem for me, so I continue to my tour of Row 9 on this plane, settling into the window seat on the starboard side of the aircraft. The aisle seat is occupied by a 50-something Japanese man, but with the privacy divider up, I don’t even notice him.

So in the end, I’m over in 9K, and at least I’ve got this great view of the mighty 787 wing.

photo 39

Once I’m settled in there, a flight attendant appears with a menu for my reference, and takes my drink and dinner order — which is as simple as “Japanese” or “Western.” The menu is not left with me for reference, which is a shame. Japanese airlines really shouldn’t take service notices from Chinese airlines. Fortunately, it is available on JAL’s website, so I am able to capture it for posterity. I, of course, choose Japanese.

photo 58photo 59

The screen in 9K is nice and big too. And even better, it’s working. Third time’s the charm.

photo 40

Service starts with a hot towel.

photo 41

Meanwhile, I choose a movie to watch. A little bit of a disappointment, but not too bad.

photo 42

A little water, some snacks, and a delightful glass of Heidsieck is an excellent way to kick things off.

photo 43

The meal service is an all-at-once affair, on a tray. At least it’s accompanied by a refill of the champagne. It is a beautifully-presented affair through, aside from the tray. Unusual presentation of the white rice in the little paper package on the left side of the tray.

photo 44

The miso soup is a different presentation of the dish, but quite lovely.

photo 45

As usual, the Japanese meal contains a variety of small bites as starters. The mincemeat and the egg tofu are my favourites here.

photo 47

The main course is also quite delicious — the pork is a delight, although I wish there were more of it. And the fish is a little isn’t the most flavourful, but is quite delicate both in taste and texture, and stands up for itself quite well. I ended up not bothering with the rice, as I was quite full by this point.

photo 46

The dessert didn’t grab me much, so I just gave it a quick taste, but I did enjoy the green tea along with it.

photo 48

Meal service ends with a nice chilled bottle of water, and when I request a whiskey, I am offered The Hakushuru — I’ve not tried this whiskey before, and I’d say I prefer Hibiki, but that can wait for tomorrow. For today, Hakushuru does quite nicely. And once again, I remind you — for relaxing times, make it Suntory time.

photo 49

With my drink done and the movie over, I decided to try getting a little sleep. The suite may be a bit narrow, but I find it quite comfortable in bed mode, and quickly drift off to sleep, waking up about a half-hour later, as we’re approaching Japan.

photo 50

Service items are gathered up quickly, and soon we’re on our way into a rainy evening at Narita.

photo 51

About 15 minutes after touchdown, we come to a stop at the terminal, and this little hop is over.

photo 53

Arrival into NRT and transfer to HND



Immigration and customs feel like they take forever, with lots of lining up and waiting, but although the lines are long, I’m through them in about half an hour and released into the wilds of a packed arrival hall at Narita.

photo 54

I quickly buy a ticket for the bus over to Haneda, where I’ll be overnighting before heading back to North America. I’m impressed by how efficiently these buses are loaded.

photo 55

After about 90 minutes of driving, we arrive at Haneda, and I head off to find my home for the night, the First Cabin hotel at Haneda. This will be my first time staying at a capsule hotel, and I approach it with a combination of fascination and trepidation. Check in is quick and painless.

photo 56

And finally, my home for the night, my capsule. It’s a surprisingly adequate place to sleep, and sleep comes easy with my Bose noise-cancellers on.

photo 57

We’ll pick the story up from here in the morning.

Thanks for joining me on this short leg of my big journey.
See more

Verdict

Japan Airlines

7.5/10
Cabin7.0
Cabin crew8.0
Entertainment/wifi7.0
Meal/catering8.0

JAL Sakura Lounge

5.5/10
Comfort4.5
Meal/catering6.0
Entertainment/wifi5.5
Services6.0

Manila - MNL

6.3/10
Efficiency4.0
Access6.5
Services7.0
Cleanliness7.5

Tokyo - NRT

7.5/10
Efficiency6.5
Access7.0
Services7.5
Cleanliness9.0

Conclusion

With this flight, the list of airlines on which I have only flown in International First Class shrinks to exactly one — Cathay Pacific. The seat shuffle added a bit of comedy to the experience, but aside from that, it was a perfectly good regional business class flight, with an excellent seat, and decent service.

Related

8 Comments

  • Comment 482691 by
    socalnow GOLD 864 Comments

    Greetings Hometoyyz and thank you for picking this series up and taking us home.

    "Unfortunately, though, JAL operates out of Terminal 1 in Manila, and Ninoy Aquino is configured much more like a loose confederation of facilities that share some runways than a more centrally laid-out airport — getting from terminal to terminal is not necessarily easy."
    -Yikes I didn't know T1 was still in use. It was in rough shape the last time i was there yet it has an odd charm. Maybe that's just the charm of people who work there. Your pictures seem to indicate some sort of rehabilitation has taken place.

    "The Sakura Lounge looks new and is nicely equipped, but it is small, and it was quite packed at this hour before a flight with a rather premium-heavy configuration. "
    - Nice fresh looking lounge indeed. Mmmm the curry.

    "It was useful enough to confirm that the plane had been downgauged from a 787-9 to a 787-8, hence the new seat assignment. From what I could tell, the flight would at least feature the Apex Suite, a much better option than the angle-flat seats offered on some JAL 788s used on shorthaul routes."
    -I might go so far as to say that the Apex is an upgrade over the reverse herringbone J seat. The foot well is larger and better for sleeping, IMHO.

    "So in the end, I’m over in 9K, and at least I’ve got this great view of the mighty 787 wing."
    -Great shot of the wing flex.

    "Meal service ends with a nice chilled bottle of water, and when I request a whiskey, I am offered The Hakushuru — I’ve not tried this whiskey before, and I’d say I prefer Hibiki, but that can wait for tomorrow."
    -Alas the Hibiki is almost gone. ANA First is down to Hibiki 17 (from 21) . The 17 is the JAL F standard as well.

    "And finally, my home for the night, my capsule. It’s a surprisingly adequate place to sleep, and sleep comes easy with my Bose noise-cancellers on. "
    -Good to know it's a viable option for a night of sleep. I've been tempted but have never.

    Thanks again Hometoyyz. Looking forward to JAL F to JFK! Happy flying.

    • Comment 483080 by
      hometoyyz SILVER AUTHOR 498 Comments

      Thanks for stopping by, Socal, and offering your thoughts.

      "I might go so far as to say that the Apex is an upgrade over the reverse herringbone J seat. The foot well is larger and better for sleeping, IMHO."
      - I'm not sure my feelings on the whole revherring vs. Apex debate -- both have advantages over the others. I think I'd choose revherringbone over Apex Suite, 787 version, but I'd put the Apex 747 window version (as seen on KE) ahead of the reverse herringbone due to it solving -- quite spectacularly -- the biggest shortcoming of the Apex, the storage space available.

      "Alas the Hibiki is almost gone. ANA First is down to Hibiki 17 (from 21) . The 17 is the JAL F standard as well."
      - This is somewhat sad news. Alas, I'm not enough of a whisky connoisseur to really differentiate "super high-end" from mere "really high-end," which I think is pretty much the comparison here.

      "Good to know it's a viable option for a night of sleep. I've been tempted but have never."
      - I would do it again, given similar requirements or circumstances. And I think it's worth doing for at least one night, in order to have "checked" that particular experience box. But that's just me.

      Thanks again for your thoughts!

  • Comment 483002 by
    YGeorgeW SILVER 83 Comments

    Thanks for the flight report Hometoyyz!

    “There was no one in line in front of me for business class check-in, so I was served pretty quickly. The agent informed me there’d been an aircraft change, which left me wondering what product I would end up with. She said it was a 2-2-2 layout, and I asked if there were any window seats available, and she said yes, 9A was open, and 9B was unoccupied and would remain that way. Good enough for me!”

    -A lot of bloggers seem to think the Apex Suites window seats are wayyy better than other window seats, such as a reverse herringbone layout (not including Qsuites of course). I’m not sure why the obsession of trading space for what seems to be marginally more privacy. What are you thoughts on this?

    “She returned a few minutes later, explaining that I’d been moved from 9A because the IFE in that seat was not operable. In 9C, I’d have the empty 9A next to me. But if I wanted a window seat, I was welcome to 9K, although there would be someone next to me in that case.”

    -Honestly, I feel like I wouldn’t care too much for a regional flight – it would be annoying, but I’d prefer the window (so long as I have aisle access).

    “With my drink done and the movie over, I decided to try getting a little sleep. The suite may be a bit narrow, but I find it quite comfortable in bed mode, and quickly drift off to sleep, waking up about a half-hour later, as we’re approaching Japan.”

    -Always nice to get some sleep in. I can never sleep well on airplanes, even in first class.

    “And finally, my home for the night, my capsule. It’s a surprisingly adequate place to sleep, and sleep comes easy with my Bose noise-cancellers on.”

    -I’ve been wanting to fly from China to the US via Japan for a while now, but haven’t because the connection times for the dates I was looking at were so inconvenient. I considered a capsule hotel but ultimately decided they were probably too uncomfortable – what did you think of them? Would you recommend them to anyone with a overnight layover?

    • Comment 483086 by
      hometoyyz SILVER AUTHOR 498 Comments

      Hi George,

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      "A lot of bloggers seem to think the Apex Suites window seats are wayyy better than other window seats, such as a reverse herringbone layout (not including Qsuites of course). I’m not sure why the obsession of trading space for what seems to be marginally more privacy. What are you thoughts on this?"
      - See my comments to SoCal on this subject. I'd put the KE Apex 747 window seat above any reverse herringbone product, because it offers both storage space and privacy. But I'd probably rank a good reverse herringbone product ahead of the 787 Apex as seen on JAL, due to the rather serious lack of storage space on JL.

      "-Honestly, I feel like I wouldn’t care too much for a regional flight – it would be annoying, but I’d prefer the window (so long as I have aisle access)."
      In fact, you bring out a good point I probably didn't highlight enough regarding privacy. The aisle seat next to me was occupied, but with the partition up, I didn't even really notice he was there. Granted, he slept almost the whole flight, but still.... I did not see or hear anything from my window seat. So I'd say even if the seat next to you is occupied, privacy is very solid.

      "Always nice to get some sleep in. I can never sleep well on airplanes, even in first class."
      Oh man... that would really impact one's long-haul flying enjoyment. I used to have trouble sleeping, but now I can generally even get a (garbage) night of sleep on a redeye in Y, and can sleep well in most F and J situations with flat beds, except for the rare occasion when I have trouble, usually attributable to my caffeine intake, my own periodic bouts of insomnia, and/or the fact that my body clock is thrown off by longhaul travel. (Although, that more often results in sleep coming easier than expected....)

      "-I’ve been wanting to fly from China to the US via Japan for a while now, but haven’t because the connection times for the dates I was looking at were so inconvenient. I considered a capsule hotel but ultimately decided they were probably too uncomfortable – what did you think of them? Would you recommend them to anyone with a overnight layover?"
      I enjoyed being able to have the experience, and got a pretty good night's sleep, with my headphones (and my favourite sleep-inducing podcast) on. It's pretty no-frills, obviously, but I'd do it again it again given an overnight layover in Japan, or even the need to be at HND early morning for a flight leaving Japan. It's a bit cheaper than one can find Narita-area hotels, generally speaking, and it has the benefit of being right in the airport and not requiring a shuttle. While I can't guarantee it'll be everyone's cup of tea -- light sleepers may have challenges if you can't sleep with headphones on -- I wouldn't have any reservations over doing it again.

      Thanks again for stopping by, and thanks for your comments and questions!

  • Comment 483606 by
    atco SILVER 112 Comments

    So glad to see you back again Hometoyyz. Your flight reports are absolutely superb, such a comfortable and easy writing style with excellent photography to boot.
    Even better coming from a fellow YYZ-er :)
    Look forward to reading many more reports and you've inspired me to have a go at writing a few of my own too at some point!

    • Comment 483892 by
      hometoyyz SILVER AUTHOR 498 Comments

      Hi Atco,

      Thanks for the effusive compliments, and excited to see you post some very interesting reports to the site already. I look forward to checking them out. There are a few of us YYZ-based folks around here -- hope you'll stick around and continue to educate the world about the Toronto aviation scene.

      Thanks again for your thoughts.

  • Comment 483771 by
    ThomasDutch SILVER 335 Comments

    Hi bud,
    That was yet another good read of yours and continue to do so. I am surprised how helpful staff has been to you for your journey with a valid reason to move you from seat A to C to make your flight as pleasant as possible due to entertainment. Food looks good too, though that lounge doesn't really look that inviting to arrive early. Quite crowded and compact with little privacy.

    • Comment 483894 by
      hometoyyz SILVER AUTHOR 498 Comments

      Hi Thomas,

      Yeah, it was good service on their part to move me. And here I was thihking they'd bumped me from the window for a VIP or something. Guess it goes to show cynicism doesn't always pay off. As always, the food was very good, But the lounge -- while new and refresh -- was small and pretty crowded. Oh well. At least it was there.

      Thanks again for stopping by.

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