We live in Iceland and we decided to travel to Japan with my son who is a big fan of this country. I didn't want to travel economy but I didn't want to pay for the regular business class fares which are usually quite expensive from Europe to Japan. The best option I found was a premium economy flight at a very competitive rate of 850 € return with the following itinerary:
I choose this option because of Japan Airline's premium economy excellent reputation and the direct flight on the way back from Tokyo to London. Other options with a similar price included LOT and SAS but neither of them seemed to offer a better service than Japan Airlines and they would have meant an additional stop on the way back.
My flight from Oslo to Helsinki was operated by an E195. Although my long-haul flight was in premium economy this short feeder flight was in economy in a 2+2 configuration. Water, coffee and tea were provided free of charge and some other items were available as buy-on-board options. The flight left and arrived on time.
I flew through Helsinki Airport quite a few times some years ago and I usually had a positive experience. This time was however different: the bus from the inbound flight was dirty and run-down and all parts of the airport were overcrowded. Yes, there were quite a lot of flights departing in the afternoon:
Helsinki is the shortest way to fly from Europe to China, Korea or Japan and I find it very good that the signs include these languages as well (plus Russian).
Japan Airline's premium economy includes lounge access. I'm also a British Airways' Executive Club silver member which should also have included lounge access. I first tried my luck at the lounge called almost@home but I was denied access.
This sign was posted at the Finnair Lounge:
We were however offered meal/shopping vouchers for a value of 30 € per person which I found was a fair compensation.
I spent 10 € on a capuccino and a pain au chocolat at Starbucks…
…and the remaining vouchers on this watch!
Boarding was quick with boarding order clearly signposted, although not followed by everybody
Our aircraft today was a Dreamliner B787, registration number JA868J, only two years old.
Japan Airllines' long-haul aircrafts have a premium configuration. This plane has a huge business cabin split into two parts, a fairly large premium economy cabin and a comparatively small economy cabin.
My first impression of the premium economy cabin was extremely positive: it clearly exceeded my expectations. I found it stunning.
Premium economy has five rows in a 2+3+2 configuration. Load was 21/35 on this flight.
Note that the first three rows in premium economy are over the wings and have therefore limited views.
Seats have huge legroom, similar to business class on some other airlines (think business seats on narrow-body aircrafts such as Aeroflot, Icelandair or Turkish). Seats 17GED are bulkhead seats and have an especially huge legroom.
Seat width is good and the armrest is large enough. The seatbelts have however a built-in airbag which I cannot imagine will ever save lives or prevent an injury (unlike in cars where they're really useful) but they reduce the available space.
The seats have a large table, USB ports to charge your phone and individual reading lamps.
These are Japan Airlines' premium economy seats A and C
These are the three seats in the middle
I like the colors of the seats
A lot of goodies were waiting at the seats including water
Amenity kit with face mask, tooth brash, eye mask and ear plugs
A brochure describing seat functions…
…which were actually not too complicated
Newspapers were offered, including a mildly interesting English-language newspaper
A brochure about how to use in-flight wi-fi (I didn't try)
A printed brochure about the in-flight entertainment
Immigration and customs form were also distributed
The safety video shown on the built-in screens and was really nothing original.
An expected flight time of 8 hours and 55 was announced for a scheduled flight time of 9 hours and 35 minutes.
Push-back was at 17.20 and take-off at 17.30 for a scheduled departure time of 17.25.
Yes, departure was from Helsinki, home of Finnair
I followed our climbing on the map
An oshibori and the the menu were distributed 15 minutes after take off
Drinks and snack were offered shortly later
Dinner arrived about half an hour later. This paper was put on the table to help to choose. I find it very useful both for the crew and the passengers and it reminds me how the restaurants promote their meals in Japan
The entire meal was served on a tray
Plastic plates but metal cutlery
The feta salad was small but good
I had beef as a main. It tasted OK but it was industrial and definitely was more economy than business. Sorry about the quality of this photo
The green salad was unassuming
The soba noodles were quite good
The fruit salad was OK if small and nothing special
Häagen-Dazs Vanilla ice cream was offered at the end
I had some red wine with the main course - it won't win any competitions
I found altogether that the meal was fair for a premium economy but was much closer to a good economy meal than to a business one.
It was time to check out the IFE now. You can sort the content by language
This is how the content is categorised
The system shows it has 107 movies in English but some of them are listed twice in the list so the actual number is about 60. This Also includes tv programs such as sport, music, sitcoms and short tv shows about Japan. Some of the movies are current highlights:
This is the movie I watched even if I had already seen it in the movie in Iceland
A total of 53 movies and tv programs can also be selected in French, 40 in German and 20 in Spanish.
There's a huge choice of Japanese music but the choice of international music is very limited. Category Rock/Pop has audio tracks such as "Hits of 1960s and 1970s", "Hits of the 80s" and a few albums from bands such as Aerosmith, Abba, Kiss, U2, and the soundtrack of Bohemian Rhapsody
A few games are also available
I checked the map after I finished watching Bohemian Rhapsody: we were over Russia east of Norilsk, the world's northernmost city with more than 100,000 inhabitants
I tried to sleep but despite the relatively comfortable seat I managed to snooze only for a short time. As most flights leave Europe in the afternoon and arrive to Japan in the morning local time (which is the middle of the night in your departure time zone) it's never easy to sleep enough during these flights.
A cabin crew member came later with some orange juice. Our position was at this time:
Three hours before landing the cabin crew asked one by one all passengers who were not sleeping if they wanted some noodle soup
We were near the Russian-Chinese border at this time
Lights were turned on and an oshibori was offered two and a half hours before landing. Breakfast was served a short time later
It included a small portion of salmon with rice which was good
It also included a small fruit salad and yogurt from Finland
We were approaching Japan one hour before landing
Twenty-eight minutes before landing
The shortest route between two points is…
We had heavy turbulences in the last 25 minutes or so with thick fog.
We had a heavy landing in the rain at 09.25 for a scheduled arrival time of 10.00.
We had a very slow taxi, overtaken by smaller jets but we were told that "The control tower informed us that our assigned parking position is not open".
We were at the gate only at 09.42.
We had some walk through the airport but passport control was quick with a lot of staff around directing passengers. The luggage were already on the belt and the customs control was also quick.
Some useful information for your arrival: you can exchange currency at good rates at the arrival area and there are also a lot of companies that sell mobile internet connection.
Thank you for reading my flight report on the flight where I reached 1,000,000 miles flown in life.
Helsinki - HEL
Tokyo - NRT
I've previously flown premium economy with Air France, Alitalia and British Airways and my impression has always been that this was much closer to economy than to business. Japan Airlines' premium economy is however, at least regarding the seat, the legroom and the general appearance of the cabin closer to business class than to economy. Meal service was quite exactly what I expected from premium economy: an enhanced economy meal. The cabin crew was friendly, helpful and visible throughout the flight, so they provided a great although not an outstanding service. Moreover the price I paid for this flight was absolutely reasonable and also allowed to me earn quite a lot of Avios. So to conclude the conclusion: it was a great experience.
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