Airline: Japan Airlines | Aircraft: 777-200ER | Class: Business | Flight: JL36 (SIN-HND)
Since Japan Airlines do not have their very own dedicated lounge in Changi Airport, passengers traveling in Business Class as well as First Class have the option of using either the Dnata Lounge, British Airways Lounge or The Qantas Lounge in Terminal 1 of Changi Airport. Since I typically travel e.g. 80% of my premium cabin travels) on Singapore Airlines, I did not want to miss out on using The Qantas Lounge since I have had great memories from my last visit - that laksa alone warrants a revisit!
After pigging out in the lounge (the laksa was as good as I remember it to be!), I went straight to the boarding gate for my Japan Airlines flight to Haneda. The flight was operated on a 15-year old 777-200ER plane that has been retrofitted with the latest Business Class product - the SKY SUITE III. Since this flight did not have a First Class cabin, top-tier members of the JAL Mileage program were the first to board - this includes top-tier elite passengers who are traveling in Economy Class (much like how PPS Club Solitaire passengers are invited to board before Business Class passengers even if they are traveling in cattle class).
It is definitely worth noting that JL36 is a sleeper-service and as such, the F&B offerings are limited (as compared to a long-haul day flight) and the photos that I have taken are going to be terrible since the cabin is almost always dark throughout the flight. I have pre-selected Seat 2K for this flight and upon boarding the aircraft, I was shown to my seat before my jacket was promptly taken away from me for storage. I also noticed that a bottle of Evian has been placed in my seat - you might remember that only First Class and Suites get to enjoy Evian on Singapore Airlines (not a dealbreaker obviously but nevertheless interesting to mention).
More importantly, I noticed that a red plastic bag as well as a small amenity kit has been placed on my seat - the cheap-looking trash bag lookalike turned out to be the headphones for the flight. Considering how JAL places so much attention to details on the food, it is strange that they have decided that this is the right way to display their headphones for their Business Class passengers. Slippers as well as a blanket can also be found on the seat - these are of great quality though!
The amenity kit that JAL provided on this flight had very limited items - it is worth noting that these amenity kits are only distributed on short-haul Business Class flights. If you are flying from Tokyo to New York in Business Class, you will be getting a full amenity kit which is not the one photographed above. Since the flight from Singapore to Tokyo is slightly under 6 hours, the amenity kit included a moisture mask (which is really more like a surgical mask), a toothbrush, eye mask as well as ear plugs. If you require additional toothbrushes, the lavatories on the plane actually stock up both mouthwash as well as toothbrush in Business Class.
JAL provides a co-branded Panasonic headphone (RP-HC150 in case anyone is interested) for all Business Class passengers and even though they feel slightly flimsy, they are actually quite comfortable as I sat through an entire movie without feeling much discomfort.
The handset utilised on the flight was also quite interesting and I can't say that I have seen them onboard before - it even has a full keyboard on the back for you to type.
As mentioned earlier, JL36 from Singapore to Haneda is a sleeper service and as such, a late night snack (instead of a full meal) was served after takeoff. Some rice crackers as well as my choice of drink was first served before the late night snack. The 'snack' consisted on a Steamed Savoury Egg Custard as well as a Smoked Scallop Bean Salad - they were both pretty tasty but fairly forgettable (the scallops were delicious though!). I washed all of that down with a glass of Charles Heidsieck Brut Reservé N.V. (exactly what Singapore Airlines served in Business Class as well) before deciding to check out the in-flight entertainment (IFE) system.
The MAGIC-VI IFE on the SKY SUITE III product is the latest system that JAL has and with that being said, it looks extremely simple. Clicking on the 'OK' button on the controller brings up a simple screen with four options - Entertainment, Kids, Flight Map and Information. If you do not wish to use the handset, you may also pick your movie or show of choice via the touchscreen. I ended up watching Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri for this flight which turned out to be quite decent.
The seat controls on JAL's SKY SUITE III are limited and they look a little intimidating to be honest. While they are in no way as extensive as the controls on Singapore Airlines' A350 Business Class, they do have options that are not immediately obvious as to what do they do. The top two big buttons are fairly straight-forward - they adjust the seat front and back - and pushing the top left button returns your seat back to the original position while holding on to the top right button long enough reclines your seat all the way into a flatbed. The one that is slightly confusing (at least for me) was the multi-directional option - this is actually the lumbar support. Pushing the middle button activates the lower-back cushion which starts to swell with time; pushing it again will stop it from 'growing'. There is obviously a limit as to how much this will 'swell' and once you have gotten the right magnitude of support, you can then move it around to target your lower back using the directional buttons.
Since I am am completely addicted to my iPhone, having a USB port next to the seat is extremely handy for me - I left my iPhone to charge before reclining my seat into a flatbed and when I woke up approximately two hours later, my phone was already fully-charged. There is also a universal power outlet located next to the USB port if you need to work on your laptop (like me right now on the flight). The seat itself was alright for sleeping but I did find them to be a little bit hard. The pillow provided is extremely soft and I wish a firmer or fluffier one was provided.
Approximately two hours before landing, the cabin lights were switched on before breakfast service started. I actually got up about 30 minutes prior to this so I could wash up and use the bathroom before everyone else in Business Class got up. As I walked past the galley, I noticed that bottles of drinking water as well as snacks have been placed there in case passengers got hungry during the night. I personally drink quite a bit of water on the plane (also one of the reasons why I do not like to fly on a low-cost carrier) so being able to grab a bottle where required without having to bother one of the cabin crews is a huge plus in my book.
Passengers in Business Class were given the option of having either the Japanese or Western breakfast - I opted for the former since I was traveling on JAL and it did not disappoint. The breakfast consisted of an 'appetiser' which was already sufficient as a full-meal, as well as a Dainomono. The appetiser consisted of (from top-left in a clock-wise direction):
- Assorted Fresh Fruits
- Egg Cake and Stir-fried Burdock Julienne
- Japanese Pickles
- Yam Jelly with Salmon Roe
- Poached Mushroom & Leafy Green Vegetables
As if the appetisers were not enough, I was served another course of Dainomono following that which consisted of Simmered Chicken & Vegetables as well as a side of steamed Japanese Rice (Koshihikari) and miso soup.
The coffee selection on JAL's Business Class is fairly limited - you may opt for coffee, coffee with milk or decaffeinated coffee. I love my coffee in the form of an espresso so Singapore Airlines clearly win in this aspect since they offer freshly-extracted illy coffee (you can even pick the intensity!) in Business Class. With all that being said, the coffee is actually quite decent where Japanese coffee is concerned.
The overnight flight from Singapore to Haneda ln JAL's SKY SUITE III was fairly unimpressive - it was good but I guess it pales in comparison to Singapore Airlines' A350 product which serves the same route. Perhaps because it was an overnight flight, the cabin crew did not seem to leave an impression for me. The food was alright and the seat could have been more comfortable. Flying from SIN-HND on Singapore Airlines requires 43,000 KrisFlyer miles one-way on Business Class (more if you redeem for an Advantage ticket) but flying on JAL only requires 25,000 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles - in fact, if you do not mind adding a stopover to your journey, you are looking at effectively 12,500 Airlines Mileage Plan miles only for this segment in Business Class! I am definitely interested to see how JAL fares in a daytime flight which I will be taking fairly soon from Tokyo to Bangkok.