Review of Japan Airlines flight Tokyo San Francisco in First

Airline Japan Airlines
Flight JL2
Class First
Seat 2K
Aircraft Boeing 777-300ER
Flight time 09:45
Take-off 22 Jan 19, 19:45
Arrival at 23 Jan 19, 12:10
JL   #12 out of 132 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 135 reviews
socalnow
By GOLD 1736
Published on 8th July 2019

Greetings Flight Report community and welcome aboard.

The genesis for this trip was actually a trip in July. My pal Mark and I had a spectacular Lufthansa First Class extravaganza that left us in Tokyo with a need for a ride home. Enter Virgin Atlantic and their unbelievable redemption of 110k Flying Club points for a round trip in ANA First Class. In the miles and points world that's the preferred way to get between the US West Coast and Tokyo. The gods of mileage redemption smiled on us and we found two F seats from Tokyo to LAX on the July day we needed. His was HND-LAX and mine NRT-LAX but it was good enough. Flying Club require a round trip redemption so we had to park the return segment somewhere. I scoured Expertflyer and found two First Class seats on LAX-NRT for January 17th, 2019. Darn it all we'd have to plan a second trip around that segment. If we must. So then, you're up to speed on how we and why we presented ourselves at LAX on this date and time.

As for building out a trip around this flight to Tokyo it was easy. Mark loved eating around Singapore on a previous trip so I told him if we ever get a chance to go back to that part of the world I think he would really enjoy Kuala Lumpur, for many of the same reasons he enjoyed Singapore. Amazing cuisines as a result cultural diversity chief among them. I added the KL is a lot like a less polished version of SIN. Also, it's a much less expensive hotel town so we could stay in luxury for a fraction of the price. So it was settled, we'd make our way down to KUL and, since we were in the neighborhood, we'd swing by Hong Kong on the way home. Mark hasn't had the pleasure of visiting HK either.

In the 6 months between trips I planed and schemed and fleshed out all of the segments on points (some his but mostly mine) so that we would travel in relative comfort. We would rely on Delta to non-rev home on the last T-Pac segment, which likely meant economy class for Mark. Can't win them all.

Spoiler alert: Things didn't go to plan for either of us. The first installment contains the unfortunate circumstances.



Tokyo International Airport - Observation Deck and Check In


It's a joy to have an extended transit at Haneda. When the weather is pleasant, as it was on this day, the observation deck is an Av geek's happy place. Upon arrival I entered Japan in what amounted to a 40 minute process from exiting the aircraft to heading upstairs to get some fresh air and walk about.

Taking the escalator up to the 4th floor.


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Edo-koji on the 4th floor is a charming recreation of past times with a good selection of restaurants and shopping.


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It's a cool winter afternoon with the sun shining bright. I snapped a few pictures of the aircraft movements.


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Construction is underway to lengthen the 5th level of the terminal.


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The mega sprawl of Tokyo is off in the distance.


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CZ pushing for Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport (CAN).


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PR resting before returning to Manila's Ninoy Aquino International Airport - NAIA (MNL). With the LH beauty in the background.



SQ arrives from Changi (SIN).


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A reminder is posted at the entries/exits tothe observation terrace.


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Having spent the week in southeast Asia I was not dressed for the cold Tokyo winter so I retreated to the terminal to warm up and do some shopping. Now I need a cat.


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Nihonbashi replica.


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After a stroll I decide to head downstairs and check in for my flight.


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The JAL First Class check in is rather ordinary with no special room or lounge in which to complete the formalities.


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At least the red carpet was rolled out.


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The process was polite and quick. I was walked over to a priority security screening line and was quickly processed. There is no priority immigration queue that I could detect but the wait was minimal.


JAL First Class Lounge



The always gracious greeting and admission complete I am directed right to the First Class Lounge.


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[div]A brief tour of the lounge to get the lay of the land. I'ts a beautiful space with soft tones and a Sakura theme in the carpets and room dividers.[/div][div]
[/div][div]A work are is on your left as you enter.[/div]


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Beautiful carpet and Sakura lattice.


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The buffet, live cooking station, and dining area is central to the lounge.



A variety of seating with excellent airport views.


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The 777-300ER that delivered me here is taxiing for departure to HKG.


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A look at some of the food and drink options.



A fun translation moment for those familiar with Spanish. Chili con carne is chili with meat.


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I opt to take advantage of the chef station and request "The Fish of Today" which is a Bouillabaisse-style of gurnard. A tablet with a video of the fisherman presumably catching gurnard is amusing.


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I am issued a buzzer that will sound when my fish is ready. I help myself to a tray, some miso soup, and some pickles while I wait.



The fish is simply prepared and the presentation is lovely.


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After the pleasant fish interlude I took a stroll to my favorite part of the lounge,  Red Suite.


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First stop is the Champagne and Sake area featuring Laurent-Perrier and a variety of chilled sake. The stemware is Riedel and there are different stems for the Champagne vs. sake.



There were two other guests in The Red Suite who appeared to be waiting for the shoe shine service.



The design and décor is very appealing to me. An excellent mix of JAL history and an air of adventure.



JL2 HND-SFO


My perception of time is confounded when I'm blissfully content and boarding is well under way when I turn up at the gate. There is a separate jet bridge for First Class.


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[div]I was greeted at the door of the 777 by the Senior Cabin Attendant, Wagasugi, and shown to my seat by Yamada. The cabin was full, as I expected form the seat map, and I was still surprised that I was able to select 2K considering my late booking.[/div][div]
I won't go into detail about the seat and features as I have reviewed this product several times. Waiting at the seat was a leather folio containing the menu, drinks list, duty free shopping brochure, and Customs form. Also positioned were slippers, noise canceling headphones, amenities kit, and men's skincare kit.
[/div]



Yamanaki, the other F/A in First, offered a beverage and I requested Champagne and water with ice. These were presented with a cold towel and a wifi card, "Please use this coupon for wifi."


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[div]The menu and wine list are extensive and I will post the details for those that are interested.[/div][div]
First, the Champagne, wine, skae, soju, and spirits.[/div]



The dining.


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[div]There was a delay in departing and the apologies were profuse.  This gave me ample time to don the in flight lounge wear.[/div][div]
While the top is a bit thick I do swoon for the embroidered JAL logo and find the quality to be exceptional. Pockets in the pants score points for me as well.[/div]



The lav itself is stocked with basic amenities and prestige skin care products.



I like to know who's driving.


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In the end we pushed from the gate at 19:46, a 56 minute delay. More time to soak up the ambiance and reflect on the good fortunes of traveling in this manner.


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The dinner service started with oshibori and an offer of a beverage. The prestige Champagne labels on the list were both evocative. I started with the Roederer Cristal and water with ice.


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The wine was served with a striking trio of canapés. I'm a fool for duck prosciutto. I appreciate that ANA lists the canapés on the menu where JAL does not.


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Sipping and savoring in airborne bliss I setup my IFE for a film on the main screen and map on the hand held.


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[div]Service was slower than I am accustomed to perhaps on account of the full cabin. No bother to me, I have no where I need to be.[/div][div]
The table was precisely laid after a couple of refills of the Cristal. The salt and pepper provision is a bit silly but I really only use a pinch to flavor the olive oil. The butter is outstanding, I could eat it alone.[/div]



I select a ciabatta and pain au levain from the bread offering. The Japanese take their bread seriously and the quality is top notch, especially the sourdough.


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The amuse bouche of a cod stuffed pepper is offered. The dish presents well with a striking pepper and a condiment bowl  with toasted galic and togarashi. The pipette with the sauce smacks of Japanese precision to me.



The non-traditional caviar presentation of JAL. It's beautiful to behold and to consume. The mother of pearl spoon is appreciated. The egg yolk mousse with shallot and chive captures the essence of  deconstructed egg in a more standard presentation.



Steamed lobster, foie gras and winter vegetables caught my eye on the menu, what luxurious ingredients. I wasn't sure how it would be presented but was surprised it was in a bag! I suspect this should have been removed in the galley? Anyhow it was a decadent yet light dish with large slices of truffle just to guild the lily.



With dinner I stayed with the Cristal and Bollinger. The cheese course was a perfect excuse to dip into the red side of the list with the Tiano & Nareno from the Mendoza region of Argentina. The cuvee of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot was rich and satisfying.


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The cheeses were presented with beautiful precision.


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The dessert on JAL is not to be missed. Light, vibrant and still decadent the "Macedonia of citrus fruits from Shikoku Region with herb sorbet" did not disappoint. Dried citrus, gold leaf and pipette of glaze for good measure. I can't express enough how much I appreciate this approach to finishing a meal. Adding the locally sourced fruits, it's a beautiful expression of Japanese sensibility.


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As dessert was being cleared I requested some herbal tea. Somehow through the cabin noise, language barrier, and my demonstrated tendency to consume alcohol the request for "tea" was interpreted as "mar-tea-ni." I was very tickled by this and enjoyed the cocktail and then ordered the tea with a visual cue of pointing to the menu.


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Nailed it on the second attempt.


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After the 'tini and tea time it was bed time. Yamanaki fit out the bed for me and I enjoyed a few hours of rest. It's such a short flight in this direction after the elaborate dinner there isn't much time for sleep.


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I awoke to the sounds of cabin enjoying breakfast. Even though we were only about an hour out from SFO I was offered food an beverage. I was in no need of food but because my commitment to the craft of flight reporting is strong I requested the Western Set Plate. I was intrigued by royale of mushroom & comte with white maitake mushroom veloute and a thick bacon salad. A glass of Queen of Blue was lovely as well.


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This dish didn't really connect with me. Probably partially on account of not being in need of a meal. The thick pork belly was a bit chewy but points were scored for a creamy rich veloute. Also worth noting was the excellent bread again. Chestnut bread and carrot bread were both unique and well executed.


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A cappuccino to close out the festivities.


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A beautiful afternoon in the Bay Area.


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Directly over SFO on the downwind leg.


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Turned upwind for the "quiet bridge visual" for 28L.


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San Mateo - Hayward Bridge.


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See more

Verdict

Japan Airlines

8.6/10
Cabin8.5
Cabin crew8.5
Entertainment/wifi8.5
Meal/catering9.0

JAL First Class Lounge

8.4/10
Comfort9.0
Meal/catering8.5
Entertainment/wifi8.0
Services8.0

Tokyo - HND

9.1/10
Efficiency9.0
Access9.5
Services9.0
Cleanliness9.0

San Francisco - SFO

8.1/10
Efficiency7.5
Access8.5
Services8.5
Cleanliness8.0

Conclusion

The Ground Service: Efficient check in but low on the pageantry. The expedited security screening is welcome.

The Lounge: Red Suite is beautiful and comfortable. The décor is evocative of grad age in transcontinental commercial aviation and I love it. The food an beverage side of the lounge is ample and the chef station, when available, is a nice addition. Other First Class lounges offer a more extensive a la carte dining program.

The Cabin: While dated and traditional the seat does provide comfort in seated, reclined, and bed modes. I'm not a fan of the leatherette surface and would prefer a cloth seat or at least a more plush leather surface. The bed being a perfect rectangle makes virtually any sleeping position possible.

The Crew: The crew perfectly competent and attentive. There were no above and beyond moments that I've come to expect with ANA and JAL. Simply high quality attentive service.

The Food and Beverage: Outstanding. JAL is truly exceptional in quality selection, and innovation. Both the main dish for the dinner service and pre-arrival dish were interesting and thoughtful offerings. The apparent Japanese infatuation with all things French is a wonderful marriage of cultures.

Overall: An absolutely glorious way to traverse Earth's largest body of water.

Thank you for reading and happy flying.

Information on the route Tokyo (HND) San Francisco (SFO)

7 Comments

  • Comment 510707 by
    757Fan 532 Comments

    Great report. As usual, JAL looks amazing in F. The food looks decadent and delicious! Thank you for sharing.

  • Comment 510732 by
    dreamweaver888 72 Comments

    Bravo, an absolute delight to read and view! Thank you!

  • Comment 511013 by
    KévinDC TEAM GOLD 4858 Comments

    It sure was a beautiful crisp day for planespotting! Always a good way to start a report IMO 😊

    "Chillicone Carnet"
    - Dying! I'm Dying! 🤣🤣🤣🤣
    Obviously a phonetic translation hahaha

    Although I love a chillicone as much as the next guy...it's not very First class. I would have definitely gone for the "Fish of Today" instead 😂
    Dying, I tell ya!

    The design and décor is very appealing to me. An excellent mix of JAL history and an air of adventure.

    I like those shelves...makes me think of a gigantic Bento box...yum

    Steamed lobster, foie gras and winter vegetables caught my eye on the menu, what luxurious ingredients.

    Luxurious indeed and what you're expect in Intl F, but the bag is weird...maybe they were going for that New Orleans/Cajun steam bag look...who knows.

    Everything else is beautifully presented as always with JAL...even the cheese plate is so immaculate and definitely presented in a Japanese style.

    Overall: An absolutely glorious way to traverse Earth's largest body of water.

    Well said!

    Thanks for another awesome TPAC F report!

    • Comment 511145 by
      socalnow GOLD AUTHOR 888 Comments

      Thanks al ot Kevin for leaving a note. I'm running out of superlatives for JAl . it's such a fantastic experience. In my mind JAL had been ahead of ANA by a slight margin but after seeing the new ANA cabins revealed today I'm not sure if that will remain the case. I'm excited to do the research! Thanks again and happy flying.

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