Hello! Thank you so much for your attention to my first series of post into this community. I wanted to show you what it was like to fly Japan Airlines for both domestic and international legs; Osaka to Tokyo Haneda, and then to New York JFK; also back from JFK to Tokyo, in the end of Apr and early May 2022.
This portion of the report introduces you the first class experience with Japan Airlines in its inbound flight, New York JFK to Tokyo HND.
Early morning view of Manhattan from Port Imperial, NJ. I stayed at Envue (a Marriott group), which was a great choice for its point redemption rate (30000 per night) as well as the generous free breakfast for Platinum holders and above, where they allow us to choose anything from the menu.
Envue is located right in front of the ferry terminal; however after some ferry rides to and from Manhattan I realized that buses to Port Authority were more reliable and convenient, though of course not as fun as ferry rides.
After arriving at Port Authority which was a huge bus terminal in the middle of Manhattan, I went up by subway, and had some souvenior search at Zabar's.
Then, after a few walk down Manhattan I took E train and Air Train to JFK. With this option of transportation, I had to pay only USD10.75 to get to T1 of JFK! Given fewer luggage in this trip, this was a right choice especially now that JPY has abruptly become very weak against most of the currencies over the past couple of months.
It was 10am when I arrived at the check-in counter of JAL at T1. A kind staff quickly let me know that the counter would open in 15 minutes.
In order to be allowed on board in this inbound flight, I prepared my negative PCR test result and 3rd vaccination certificate, as well as a pre-answered questionnaire and a declaration, all put together in the must-have app MySOS. With all these requirements set before check in, I was granted a QR code displayed on the app, and the check-in staff only needed to scan it in order to confirm that I was allowed to go back to my country. It was a simple yet decisive moment.
Although there was a little queue in the counter for economy class, I do not think there was that long waiting time, apparently because of fewer passengers to board today.
The lounge was by Air France. The second floor of the lounge was dedicated to JAL passengers, both Oneworld Sapphire/business class, and Oneworld Emerald/first class passengers.
There were not too many seats in this sectioin of Air France lounge. Nevertheless, it was not overloaded with stuffs and therefore the atmosphere was very relaxing.
In terms of food options, to be honest there was not too much to be surprised at. For a meal, there were some cold sandwiches. I guess these fewer selections in this JAL-dedicated section of the lounge were partly due to the departure time of our flight (13:25) where the meal on board would probably be a lunch, and also that the time passengers would spend in the lounge was in between breakfast and lunch. Nevertheless, it would be good to have at least 1 hot meal option, which was the case back in 2019 when JAL used Lufthansa lounge where they had soup and some meat.
Clearly premium options in this lounge were 2 champagne brands, which was generous.
They also had white, red, and rose wines.
Also available were these spirits as well as beer and flavored soda with alcohol.
Coffee was great, and other non-alcoholic options were also just as good.
There were also 2 shower siutes with a toilet in it. Needless to say it was great to be able to freshen up before boarding today's 14-hours flight.
The 2 pictures above are from another lounge, Primeclass Lounge. This Priority Pass-accessible lounge was actually much better in terms of the food options, with hot selections and fresh fruits. However, the location was a little far from the departure gate, and I guess this was the reason JAL did not prompt passengers to this lounge, even though they did have this lounge listed on their website, as being accessible by both Sapphire and Emerald.
Today's gate was 3. I was not sure why, but the automated gates (I guess face recognition in place) were not used and we simply had our boarding pass scanned by the staff at the counter when boarding.
At this timing I looked around and was pretty sure that today's passengers were less than 100. One clear background was that this was still at the first half of Gloden Week (Japan's holiday season in end Apr to early May), meaning travellers from Japan were mostly still staying in NY. Also, I later knew from a CA that the fares went abruptly high compared to those in pre-Golden Week, which caused the connection passengers to and from Southeast Asian countries to wait to fly until the holiday season was over.
A fulfilling moment to go through the boarding gate into an international flight, especially on first class!
In fact, I stayed in NY so short (2 nights) that the CAs on board were exactly the same in this inbound leg as those in the outbound. This ended up myself being face-recognized by the chief CA standing at the door of the airplane, welcomed back by name, and escorted to my seat without even showing my boarding pass. Today's passengers on first class were only 2 including myself, and yet JAL assigned 3 incredibly experienced and friendly CAs to this sectioin of the fleet. 2 of them were serving first class in the outbound flight too, so I also knew them by name.
I am not sure if this is something people from other countries would feel great about, but I personally was impressed: The first CA to greet me had a casual conversation with me like what I did in NY. I answered a few things I did there. Then, when the second CA came to greet me, she already knew all of these. To me this felt like I resumed the topic into further details but with another person. I thought this was a great way to greet a passenger by each CA without having the passenger to talk about the same topic each and every time greeted. Let me be clear that I am totally OK if I am asked same questions by different persons, simply because this is what it is to talk with different persons. It was only that JAL went above what it usually was.
It was in fact still a stormy weather outside, with lots of thunders and lightnings in the morning. Into a few minutes after take off, we were cleared out to the blue sky.
Then it was time for the great lunch! I chose Western menu over Japanese, since I had a very good experience last time with this option.
Amuse Bouche (not on the menu list): Duck ham with orange, and cream cheese over mushroom (I guess).
Here came the signature champaigne selection in the inbound flight: Cristal.
Another amuse bouche (this is on the list): Petit Green Pea Veloute & Iberico Ham Chips
Also offered at this timing were warmed breads, including garlic bread. CA let me know that the garlic bread was many passengers' favorite. Echire butter, salt, and olive oil were offered to go with bread.
Hors-d'oeuvre: Cariar, Egg Yolk, Masarpone Cheese Cream, Yukon Potato Blini, Salmon Tatare Sauce. Continuation of fancy tastes. Yum!
Another hors-d'oeuvre: Poached Chicken Breast, Prosciutto Salad, Mustard Champagne Vinaigrette
They did list two dishes as hors-d'oeuvre; I believed that these were options to choose one from. No, it turned out both of these were in the course. How generous…
After finishing Cristal, I had the premium non-alcoholic option of Royal Blue Tea.
I had to admit that I was almost full already at this moment, thanks to the great American-style breakfast at Envue. Yet, CA confirmed me that they still had both fish and meat as the main courses. How could I miss these great dishes just because I was full. So I continued on.
Main Dish: Sauteed Chilean Sea Bass, Fennel Puree, Sauce Verjus
The light taste of the seabass and the rich taste of the red wine sauce matched very well. The sauce was surprisingly and pleasantly sour in a refreshing way, which was another great addition to the overall taste.
Another main dish: USDA Prime Beef Tenderloin, Seasonal Baby Vegetables, Stracchino Cheese Fondue
This was an exceptionally tender cut of beef, served to your preference of cooking; in my case medium rare. The cheese to dip was melty, creamy and fresh.
I still had NY cheesecake for dessert, but I was already too full to enjoy it in a way it was supposed to be, so I had a glass of iced water, and had a sleep.
In this inbound flight, CA generously gave me a separate bed in the seat behind mine, ending up with 2 first class seats and 7 windows in a row occupied by myself. Impossible experience!
I had a few hours of good sleep, and then when I went to the bathroom, CA noticed me and supposedly had kind of an idea of what I would like to have now. She asked me if she would bring a cup of wake-up coffee and a piece of chocolate, which was a great starter for me to get some work done. Wow…
For me the best entertainment on board is always the views outside the windows. Given that I was in the first class and there was only one passenger in the other end of the cabin, I knew it would not be disturbing to the other passenger even if I opened the sunshade of one of the windows. So I did, and it was all the stunning views of northern Canada and Alaska, thanks to a rare case where the routing for today was quite more on the northern side compared to the ones I had experienced in the past. Thus I had one thing on my bucket list checked: seeing Yukon River by my eyes (in what a way!).
I had some space back available in my stomach, so had a great moment of another glass of Cristal and NY cheesecake.
Had another cup of coffee to sum up the sweet taste of the cheesecake. By the way this mug was only seen in the first class.
After some time into Bering Sea, I was able to locate St. Laurence Island, which is a part of Alaska.
Still after some time, I had this beautifully-decorated fresh fruit.
The watermelon was especially sweet, so I had some more.
Then it was time for breakfast. Following CA's recommendation, I chose Beyond Burger (plant based meat burger). This has not yet been introduced to Japan, so I could not miss it.
After a bite I knew that, as CA explained, this was just the same as something one would expect as a meet patty. It was impossible to believe that the main ingredient was soy bean. If there was a way to know it, I would think it would be that the after-taste of the patty was very fresh in a good way.
To finish any meal, or to go with any sweets, I really recommend this sencha (brewed green tea) in JAL's first class. I believe they are following best rules to brew this cup of sencha.
Knowing that I liked Royal Blue Tea, CA recommended another glass just before the order-cut time for landing.
As we approached HND, the views gradually changed from moutains to cities.
In the final approach, I had the luck to fly in parallel with ANA's (I think) B767 on its domestic route.
Now we landed, after the 14-hours of great flight.
After arrival, passengers were directed to a series of quarantine checks, with the final one being the PCR test. I hear that usually this process takes 3 hours, but in my particular case, due to fewer passengers in my flight as well as other flights, it took only 30 minutes to go through everything and clear customs. I hope this quarantine process would not be necessary before long; nevertheless, I can assure that the operations by each staff was very efficient, kind, and attentive, probably knowing any trouble arrival passengers would experience.
Thank you very much for reading this report! This is the end of my first international trip after the pandemic. I will have some domestic flights both with JAL and ANA, so I hope I can review some of these and let this community know what it is like in Japan now.
On the next day of my arrival, Primie Minister of Japan announced opening up of Japan borders to international tourists in June 2022 to the extent where G7 countries are. I hope I will be able to welcome those people in Japan again soon.
If this report was some good to you, I appreciate you hitting like button!