It is now January and time to go back home. I will work hard and earn money for my future trip.
Welcome to this report series of my winter vacation trip to the Kansai region of Japan. This is part 2 of the trip where I will be flying home from Osaka Kansai to LAX on Japan Airline's Boeing 787-9. I bought the roundtrip tickets for $920 USD back in early July wanting to try the JAL 787. Please read the outbound trip report for the full story of my ticket purchasing experience.
The 2.5 weeks trip to Japan was an amazing and an unforgettable one. I travelled to many different cities like Nagoya, Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, and Kagoshima. With how sophisticated the train system is in Japan, it was very easy to get around and go wherever you want. Even in the winter, the country was bustling with tourists travelling to all sorts of temples, gardens, shopping streets, and restaurants. However, all good things eventually do come to an end and it is time for me to head home. My outbound flight was filled with so much excitement not knowing what to expect from this airline and aircraft. Going home now, I am just as excited to be flying with them.
Back before I left for Japan, I was able to select my seat for this return flight. I was able to get a window seat on the right side of the aircraft. Looking at the seat selection map, I thought the flight was not going to be full. However, on the actual day, the plane was 100% filled up even for mid Jan.
*NOTE: I'm not sure if this is universal on the 787s, but on JAL 787-9, Row 56 does not have a window on either side of the aircraft as seen by the red slash on the seat selection map.
Seat 50K for the flight to Los Angeles
Arrival at KIX
On the day of the flight, I was actually in Kagoshima, which is a city at the southern most tip of Japan's 4 main islands. My plan was to ride the Shinkansen (Bullet Train) to Osaka and then catch the airport train to Kansai Airport. While the departure for JL60 was scheduled for 1740 in the evening, my day started at 0800 at Kagoshima-Chuo station. I got onboard the bullet train for the long ride through scenic mountains and green plains of Japan on the way to Osaka. The trip to Osaka took approximately 4 hours and the train to Kansai took another 1 hour.
Shinkansen from Kagoshima to Osaka
After the 4 hour trip to Osaka, I took the JR Haruka to Kansai Airport. This train sported a special Hello Kitty livery. It's not as beautiful as EVA Hello Kitty but better than nothing.
Once I got off the Haruka at the airport station, it was already filled with massive amounts of people. Many of which wre flying to other parts of Asia. There weren't that many long haul overseas flights in the late afternoon/evening. The departure hall of KIX was very well lit and modern. It was a completely different look compared to their pink arrivals hall. I don't quite understand the logic in painting the halls in two different colors. The whole roof of KIX is in the shape of an airfoil which, as an engineer myself, thought was very cool.
Check-In and Security
Check-in was completed and paper boarding pass was printed via kiosks just outside the JAL counters. The counters were only open for luggage drop off. Nevertheless, the whole process was done very fast. It took no more than 10 mins. Since the check-in process took a lot less time than I had expected, I went to find some chairs to sit down and relax. The time to get an open chair was longer than my entire check-in process. Every seats were taken and there were massive amounts of people moving things around with the luggages and trying to get their bags within the limits. It was pretty chaotic. Eventually I found a seat and sat there for a good hour before deciding to head over to airside. Before I did that I had to drop off my wifi-egg in one of the red postal boxes at the airport.
Security was decently quick and I was in airside in no time.
The flight was departing from gate 39, which was on the southern side of the terminal. To reach the gate, passengers had to take a people mover across the terminal. In the mean time, the northern part of Kansai terminal was filled with duty free shops selling everything from medicines to chocolates to expensive fashion items.
I went into a couple of duty free shops hoping to find some last minute souvenirs and Japanese medicines that my mother had asked me to bring home. In each store, there were at least 20-30 people already waiting in line to pay and more looking around in the shop. It was very hard to move in there and I gave up after going to 2 duty free shops. I had already done some souvie shopping when I was in Hiroshima, but I wanted to see if I could find anything special at the airport. Nope!
After 20 mins or so, I decided to take the people mover and go to our gate. I have to say Kansai is not really a spotter friendly airport. The shops made the corridor very crowded and the gates were often hidden behind walls and columns.
Gate 39 was secluded off into one small area with Gate 38. It was like a little room for two gates. I got to Gate 39 about 1.5 hrs before departure time and our 787-9 was still inbound from Honolulu. In the meantime, Gate 38 passengers were waiting for their inbound as well. Their flight was a China Southern 777-300ER from Shanghai Pudong. The CZ was leaving back to Shanghai 30 mins before us so many of their passengers were crowding into the area of 39.
Soon our inbound aircraft pulled into the gate. interestingly, this 787-9 was the exact same one I flew on from LAX to KIX.
JA877J, the plane that brought me to Osaka and now taking me back to Los Angeles.
Flight: JL60 from KIX - LAX
Airline: Japan Airlines (JL)
Aircraft: Boeing 787-9
Delivered: Jan 2019 (1 year)
Route: Osaka Kansai (KIX) - Los Angeles (LAX)
Departure Gate: 39
Departing Runway: 24L
Scheduled Departure Time: 17:40PM
Actual Departure Time: 18:02PM
Scheduled Arrival Time: 10:50AM
Actual Arrival Time: 10:24AM
Landing Runway: 24R
Arrival Gate: 153
Scheduled Flight Time: 10 hours 10 mins
Actual Flight Time: 9 hours 22 mins
Boarding started after the sun went down. Per the usual boarding process, economy class passengers were boarded last starting from the rear of the aircraft. This time, I sat in row 50 and was the first group in economy to get on the plane. The aircraft was completely full by the time boarding finished.
As mentioned in the first part of this series, JAL offers a very spacious and comfortable seat because of the 2-4-2 configuration. The 18 inch seat width combined with the 33 in seat pitch made economy felt like premium economy. JAL 787-9 long haul actually doesn't have a premium economy class. Or can you can say they don't have an economy class. Interesting thought…
Window view from my seat
First officer came over the PA just before pushback and told us the flight time to Los Angeles would be a blistering 9 hours 20 minutes. The route would take us along the coast of Japan before heading northeast across the Pacific and turning right to fly towards the California coast onto Los Angeles.
JL60 route from FlightRadar24
Pushback was just about on time and there weren't that much traffic at this time of the day. We had a short taxi down to runway 24L. The lights were dimmed for takeoff. At first I thought the lights were going to stay on as my flight into KIX, the lights were on for approach and landing.
We took off from runway 24L, made a left turn to follow the coast of Japan before heading out to the Pacific.
The sun hasn't quite completely drop below the horizon yet and I was able to see orange tint of the sky and the dark sea below.
After reaching an initial altitude of 37,000 feet, I noticed some light was flickering outside the aircraft. At first I thought it was just the wing light doing its thing, but then i looked outside and saw that it wasn't the wing light that was flickering. It was actually a thunderstorm. It was producing massive amounts of lightning and we were just flying to the side of it. This was my first time seeing a CB from inside the plane. I quickly grabbed my phone and filmed a video of the lightning show as well as taking some screenshots. The cabin lights were turned on in preparation for snacks/drinks and dinner services, hence the reflection from the window.
Cabin crew came by to hand each passenger a customary Oshibori (hot towel) before passing out red bags of rice crackers. The crew asked me what drink I would like to have and, as usual, I gladly answered with a Sky Time Kiwi. Yes, it was definitely my favorite drink.
Dinner service had begun and the cabin crew came by, starting from the front of the cabin section, asking us what dish we would like to have. From the previous flight, the food wasn't the greatest and had plenty of room for improvements. However, flights originating from Japan had catering that was nothing compared to the ones from US.
JAL is an official partner of the "RED U-35" chef competition, RED stands for Ryorin's Emerging Dream, and the 6 winners of that competition were invited to develop and supervise meals for all JAL international flights. Each season, the menus of 2 different chefs will on JAL's long haul routes. The RED U-35 meals for tonight's flight were designed by the Gold Egg 2018 Finalist and Second Place chefs. The finalist chef's main dish was a Sukiyaki Sauteed Beef and Tofu with Rice. The second place chef's main dish was a Yellow Chicken Curry, Asian Style. The side dishes were created by both Gold Egg 2018 chefs.
I apologize in advance for forgetting to take a picture after opening the main dish. The meal was way too tasty.
The side dishes included a Tuna and Cheese Salad Accented with "Okara" Tofu Lees, Steamed Chicken, Mimosa Style, and "Tataki Gobo" (Pounded Burdock Root) Tossed with Grated Apple. A bowl of salad and miso soup were also provided along with a bottle of water. The cabin crew also asked what drink I would like to have with my dinner. For the first time on JAL, I did not pick the Sky Time Kiwi and went with a regular cup of Coca-Cola.
Boy, dare I to say this was the best airplane meal I have ever eaten. I enjoyed every bite of the main dish and side dishes. Nothing was left on the food tray as usual, but this time I was tempting myself to ask for seconds.
On meal tray, a little brochure was given to explain and promote the creation of the meal. I took this brochure home with me because I have never experienced this high class of a service in economy.
Let me tell you that this wouldn't be the only wow-ing meal I had on this flight.
Soon after dinner was over, a JAL limited Milk Classic flavored ice cream from Haagen Dazs wwas distributed by the crew. It didn't taste anything different than regular ice cream. Maybe because I'm not really a fan of milk or vanilla flavor. If it was chocolate flavor, maybe it'll taste better.
After all the food and ice cream were finished, the cabin lights were switched off for passengers to rest. As the flight was scheduled to land in Los Angeles at 1050 in the morning, I had to sleep to adjust to the time. I watched about 2 movies before sleeping for 3 hours or so. When I woke up, the sky was starting to turn bright from the sunrise.
After a further 1 hour, the cabin lights were switched on in preparation for breakfast service. In the mean time, I got my phone and took some wonderful photos of the cloud covered Pacific and morning lit sky.
Breakfast service started from the front of the cabin section as usual. Just like the second meal on the flight to KIX, there were only one choice available for all passengers. The special meals on this flight didn't just end with dinner. It continued with this breakfast dish. This time, we had a "Taste of New York". JAL selected Dean & Deluca from places around the around to prepare this NYC Style Cajun Chicken Over Turmeric Butter Rice.
Funny enough, we were flying to LA but was served NY style food.
The food tray was very well put together with a small brochure explaining and promoting the dish. It also included instructions on how to enjoy this Chicken Over Rice. Side dish for this meal was Coffee Jelly with Milk Syrup. The crew politely asked what drink I would like to have with my meal. As it was morning hours, I simply asked for a cup of hot green tea.
The method to enjoying this meal, as explained in the little brochure, was to take out the Cajun Chicken box and put it on the tray, cover the rice with Cole slaw, and then put the cajun chicken on top. I followed the instructions and then mixed everything together. Everything was just super tasty and I was still hungry after this meal. Topping it off with the green tea to balance out the cajun and coffee milk jelly was a perfect end to this meal service.
Just as quickly as we have taken off from Osaka, the flight was nearing its final hour as we cross into California and prepared for arrival into Los Angeles. There were some moderate turbulence while flying over Central California. It was a slight bump into what had been a smooth short hop across the Pacific.
The flight at this time was cruising at 39,000 feet and we approached from the north over Malibu before turning left for an approach to runway 24R. LAX could be spotted just to the right in this beautiful January weather.
The 787 made two right turns while passing downtown LA before lining up for touchdown.
Final look at the inflight map to see our entire flight path back to the West Coast.
A little left input here, right input there, and we soon found ourselves flying over the famous LAX In-n-Out. The touchdown onto runway 24R was very smooth and we landed 26 minutes ahead of schedule. The aircraft rolled down the entire length of the runway before vacating.
The captain came on the PA to inform us that our gate was still occupied and we would have to sit on the taxiway. It was about 20 minutes before the gate opened up and we taxied in for parking at Gate 153.
I gathered my belongings and exited out the aircraft. When will be the next time I fly on this beautiful bird again?
The arrival corridor to customs and baggage claim at TBIT was built a level above departures. While walking, you can see all the passengers at the gate waiting for their flight. Looking down, I can see myself being there at the same spot 2.5 weeks ago waiting to board the same plane to Kansai. It is always a sad feeling to come to the end of a fantastic vacation.
Customs and baggage claim was quick. I found myself out on the curbside waiting for my ride back home where I will patiently work my way to the next exciting trip.
Fresh from the first flight on JAL, I knew what to expect of the hard products. However, JAL still had a surprise for me and that was with the catering service. While their food on the LAX-KIX flight had much to improve on, the returning flight was everything to boast about. Truly this was not just your regular economy experience. In addition to the generous seat configuration, the high quality meals and JAL services made this a economy priced premium economy flight. The only thing that could have made this flight better was if it was longer. While my next trip will mostly likely not be on JAL, they are a wonderful, top quality airline that everyone should give themselves a chance to fly with.
See you all on the next flight report and thank you very much for reading!