Since Japan Airlines unveiled their new first class product not too long ago, I’ve been itching to test it for myself. My wife and I spent Christmas and New Year’s in China last month and this was the perfect opportunity to check this off of my “to review” list. I booked us to fly from Tokyo, NRT to Chicago, ORD on Japan Airline’s 777-300ER.
As I approached the front of the plane, the senior attendant greeted me (smiled and bowed at a 47 degree angle) and escorted me to my seat, 1A.
First Class Cabin
The first class cabin is made up of 8 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration–pretty standard. Though Japan Airlines labels them as suites, they are open suites unlike the fully-enclosed ones we have experienced on Singapore, Etihad, and Emirates. The suites are 78.5″ in length and 33″ in width. Not the best in the industry, but still pretty generous and comfortable.
As soon as I sat down, an attendant introduced herself and offered me a pre-departure beverage with hot towels to refresh. “Mr. Tang, may I offer you a drink–perhaps a glass of champagne or mimosa?” Champagne it is! More to come on the champagne, as it gets much better.
I felt I had plenty of space and nice hidden compartments for knick-knacks and my pre-departure beverage. The suites had a good TV size and the table was easy to maneuver. A touch pad operated the TV and other functions. The seats were easily adjusted. I noticed that the usual amenities were in my seat and ready for use–Bose noise-canceling head set, pajamas, and an amenity kit with toothbrush, lotion, etc.
Fast forward an hour and the plane was cruising at 40,000 feet and meal service was about to begin. I was offered a dinner menu and a wine menu. One thing to call out is that unlike other elite first class products, I was not given the option to dine at my convenience. The entire cabin was served at the same time. For a one-way ticket that priced out at $12,000, one should be able to enjoy meals on one’s own schedule.
The menu had a selection of Japanese and Western 4-course meals, created by celebrity Japanese chefs, one being a Michelin Star rated chef. I chose the Japanese course and eagerly ordered another glass of champagne along with my Amuse Bouche. I was very much looking forward to it because [drum roll] it was Salon 2004!
While I’m not a wine or champagne connoisseur I knew Salon is considered to be more prestigious than Dom Perignon and Krug, so I didn’t pass up the chance to try it. Salon will run $350 – $400 per bottle (triple that in restaurants), so the fact that Japan Airlines serves it (free flowing) is pretty amazing! Maybe I could drink enough to offset my ticket? I noticed that the Salon was served in a larger white wine glass verses the flute that was previously used for the pre-departure champagne. Fine champagne in flutes is considered to be served in poor taste as it does not allow the proper amount of oxygen exposure, denying a fuller appreciation of the wine’s complexity. Needless to say, I was impressed when the attendant pro-actively suggested to serve the Salon in a white wine glass. Kudos!
While the Japanese course did not include caviar service, I politely expressed that I’m a fan of caviar. Three minutes later, my wish was granted! My main course was Japanese Wagyu beef–my main reason for selecting the Japanese route. The beef was fairly tender and cooked slightly above medium (it should have been medium rare). The beef was dipped in the egg yokes and tasted pretty solid, for airline food. Dessert was offered but I politely declined it as I was stuffed (I also had tons of sushi at the lounge’s sushi bar just prior to the flight).
At this point, I requested a turndown service and to have my bed made. Time to catch up on movies and TV shows! The bed is plenty long/tall and can comfortably accommodate anyone under 6’6″. A mattress is placed during turndown service. You can select a hard or soft comfort level.
After about three movies, I was in the mood for a snack and ordered Udon Noodles. The noodles were really good, I almost ordered a second round but decided to have ice-cream instead.
Ten hours had flown by (See what I did there?) when we started to approach the Chicago airport.
While it wasn’t “top notch” like Singapore, Cathay, or Etihad, I still thought it was a really pleasant experience. The hard and soft mattress products are both solid and communication wasn’t an issue as the attendants spoke decent English. We landed in Chicago refreshed and without complaints. I would have no hesitation in booking my clients on Japan Airlines’ first class product.
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