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.
JL742 - Business - Manila → Tokyo - Boeing 787-9You are here
JL6 - First Class - Tokyo → New York - Boeing 777-300ERComing soon
DL5366 - First Class - New York → Toronto - Bombardier CRJ-900Not available
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The seat comes loaded with a decent pillow, a light blanket, slippers, and headphones.
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.
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.
Immediately below that, seat controls, including the privacy riser between the window and aisle seats.
Legroom shot — and it shows one of the weak points of the Apex seat — it’s a relatively narrow “suite.”
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.
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.
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.
And here’s the reason 9A is remaining unoccupied for this flight. On the plus side, it’s a beautiful big screen.
The window seat “footwell” is a little bit less encased, if you’re concerned by those kinds of things.
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.
Loading is quick, and we push back right on time at 2:25 pm.
As we taxi, a Singapore Airlines 77W in Star Alliance colours.
Saudia and the hometown heroes as we taxi.
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.
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.
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.
The screen in 9K is nice and big too. And even better, it’s working. Third time’s the charm.
Service starts with a hot towel.
Meanwhile, I choose a movie to watch. A little bit of a disappointment, but not too bad.
A little water, some snacks, and a delightful glass of Heidsieck is an excellent way to kick things off.
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.
The miso soup is a different presentation of the dish, but quite lovely.
As usual, the Japanese meal contains a variety of small bites as starters. The mincemeat and the egg tofu are my favourites here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Service items are gathered up quickly, and soon we’re on our way into a rainy evening at Narita.
About 15 minutes after touchdown, we come to a stop at the terminal, and this little hop is over.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We’ll pick the story up from here in the morning.
Thanks for joining me on this short leg of my big journey.
JAL Sakura Lounge
Manila - MNL
Tokyo - NRT
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.
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