Airline: Japan Airlines | Aircraft: 777-200ER | Class: Business | Flight: JL37 (HND-SIN)
When I visited Tokyo back in May, I travelled back to Singapore on Japan Airlines - I have been flying JAL rather frequently (this was my fourth Business Class flight) this year since it costs a lot less to redeem my miles on it than on Singapore Airlines. More importantly, I have found the food served in Business Class on day flights to be comparatively better than Singapore Airlines (if you are picking the Japanese meal). While I did not do anything particularly fun on this trip like traveling out to Hakone for a day-trip or visiting a luxury ryokan in Nikko, I am convinced that I have found the best hotel in Shinjuku (at least where the value-proposition is concerned) and I have also managed to check out various restaurants in areas that I have never been to.
While I was thoroughly impressed by the quality of the Cathay Pacific Lounge here at Haneda Airport (HND) on my last visit, I decided to spend some time in the Japan Airlines Sakura Lounge SkyView on this trip. I think it is safe to say that the Cathay Pacific Lounge is comparatively better between the two lounges (click HERE if you are interested to check out the ANA Lounge here as well) - the design is a lot nicer, there is an actual bar at the end of the lounge and the food is delicious - but having said that, the Sakura Lounge over at Haneda Airport is a pretty solid airport lounge as well.
When I flew from Singapore to Tokyo via Kuala Lumpur on this very same trip, I also missed my connecting flight from Kuala Lumpur due to an equipment fault on Malaysia Airlines. Fortunately, I did not encounter any mishaps on my return trip - the flight was scheduled to depart HND at 11:30AM and boarding began promptly at approximately 11:05AM with the top-tier flyers from the JAL Mileage Bank programme boarding first. Since there was no First Class cabin on this flight, Business Class passengers were the second group invited to board. As soon as I got to Seat 1A, I realised that the amenity kit and headphones (in that ugly red plastic bag) have already been placed on my seat.
As you may remember from my previous trip reports, the amenity kit given out in Business Class on medium-haul flights are not typical of the ones that you may get on longer-haul routes - it is a condensed version of bare essentials like a toothbrush, toothpaste, moisture mask (essentially a face mask), sleeping mask and a pair of earplugs. If you are really curious to see the contents of the amenity kit, check out my previous trip report from Singapore to Haneda. Slippers are given out on this flight (shame on you, Emirates) and a shoehorn is also provided within the same package.
As some of you may know, Japan Airlines offer a cardigan lending service on some routes and even though I have flown between Singapore and Haneda on a number of occasions, this was the first time that I was actually offered one. Officially this service is only offered on routes between Japan and Europe, Canada, Australia and America (excluding Hawaii and Guam). This cardigan will have to be returned at the end of the flight and you will not be able to take it along with you unfortunately - they should make this available as one of the in-flight sale items!
After the plane has taken-off and the seatbelt sign has been switched off, the captain made an announcement to inform all passengers that the famous Mt. Fuji can be seen from the starboard side of the aircraft. Since I was sitting in Seat 1A, I was unfortunately unable to see it from my seat but one of the excited cabin crew actually came by to ask if I wanted to see it from the window near the galley - I politely declined her offer (which she appeared to be slightly taken aback) since I have actually seen it from my flight out from Haneda to Bangkok earlier this year. In any case, I was really amused at how enthusiastic the cabin crew and Japanese passengers were with the whole situation.
While the rest of the plane were trying to catch a glimpse of the elusive Mt. Fuji, I decided to make myself comfortable by reclining my chair into a lounging position. The seat controls on Japan Airlines' Business Class SKY SUITE III are fairly basic and the two main buttons that move your seat are on top in maroon. There is also the option to adjust the lumbar support for the seat but I have never quite been able to get it exactly the way I want. In all honesty, there was very little motivation for me to do so as well since the flight time between Haneda and Singapore is only slightly over six hours (and this was a day flight!).
There is plenty of legroom in the SKY SUITE III product and while I am not an incredibly-tall person by far, there is still some space even after my seat has been fully reclined into a full-flat bed. That being said, I did find that the legroom in bulkhead seats on the 787-9 Dreamliner is relatively larger. The moon button on the seat control panel toggles a light in the leg rest area in case you ever need to find something that you have knowingly (or unintentionally) stuffed in during the flight.
Once everyone has gotten over the initial excitement over Mt. Fuji, the cabin crew made their way around the Business Class cabin to set the table for meal service. Shortly after that, I received a glass of Champagne (Charles Heidsieck Brut Reservé N.V. in case anyone is interested) as requested as well as a packet of rice crackers. In my opinion, Singapore Airlines serves Champagne at the right temperature - Japan Airlines (as well as a number of other airlines) seem to pour it at a higher-than-ideal temperature.
I have mentioned this on multiple occasions but I have to once again - day flights on Japan Airlines is always so much better than redeye flights. In fact, I guess it is safe to generalise that day flights are typically better than overnight flights for all airlines (correct me if I am wrong). Passengers in Business Class are given a choice between the Japanese and Western menu - personally, the Japanese menu is the only choice but do note that it can be quite popular so sitting in front of the Business Class cabin means you get your meal choice first. On this flight from Haneda to Singapore, I was served a selection of seasonal colourful delicacies. Japan Airlines calls it Spring Haze (whatever that means) but apparently it has been curated by Chef Jun Kurogi.
This is what the first course consisted of (from top-left in a clockwise direction):
- Deep-fried Tofu in Japanese Broth Simmered Abalone
- Egg Roll & Simmered Prawn
- Simmered Chicken & Vegetables with Soy Sauce
- Tuna "Sashimi" Style
- Vinegared Lotus Root "Konnyaku" Jelly with Miso Sauce Simmered Octopus
Seeing how much I was enjoying my meal, one of the cabin crew actually suggested that I try the Dassai 50 Junmai Daiginjō with my meal. Now I do not wish to be rude (especially since I have already declined the opportunity to see Mt. Fuji earlier on) so I gladly obliged this time and boy was that a great decision. While this was not the first time that I have actually tasted sake from this famous Yamaguchi-based brewery, the Dassai 50 went amazingly with the seafood. I love how fragrant and light it was and it was incredible to enjoy this delicious sake in the air.
As if the first course was not enough, I was served a second course of Dainomono which consisted of Braised Beef "Sukiyaki" Style with Slow Cooked Egg as well as a yuzu-flavoured Grilled Salmon. Honestly, I have flown in Suites on Singapore Airlines where freshly-cracked eggs are prepared during breakfast and my latest experience with poached eggs with Emirates has been fairly disappointing - the one served onboard Japan Airlines was not perfect but it was definitely the best one that I have gotten thus far (at least the egg yolk was still runny). If you would really like to see a thing of beauty and do not mind leaving this page to check out my Instagram Highlights for this trip, click HERE to check out the incredible poached egg served to me during breakfast at the Hyatt Regency Tokyo! Enjoying authentic Japanese rice, a hot bowl of miso soup as well as the hot dishes while being in the air is truly a phenomenal experience (especially when you love Japanese food as much as I do).
Desserts on Japan Airlines have always been a little strange to me - I always think that it is a missed opportunity. For this flight, I was served with some rice wafers with Azuki Bean Jam on the side. Strangely enough, I have always needed to assemble my own dessert whenever I fly on Japan Airlines. To be blatantly honest, these desserts feel inferior to what is typically served on competing airlines. Another thing that I feel that Japan Airlines can do better is in regards to coffee. While the brewed coffee served on the flight is pretty good (as far as brewed coffee goes), I would really like it if espresso-based coffee is offered on the flight instead. To put things into perspective, ANA (as well as most of JAL's competitors) offers espresso-based coffee on a similar flight out of Japan.
With all that being said, the cabin crew on this flight did a fantastic job and this had to be my favourite flight with Japan Airlines so far. Once my table has been cleared, I was offered another bottle of water since I have already finished the previous one. In case you need more water during the flight, you can always ask one of the cabin crews to bring you a bottle or simply walk down to the galley where you will find a selection of snacks and drinks on the side (this is also where you will get your immigration documents if they are required at your destination).
After the meal service has concluded, I decided that it was time to check out the inflight entertainment system. The most prominent difference that you will notice with the 777-200ER is the IFE Remote - the one utilised on these retrofitted planes are comparatively dated to the ones offered on the newer 787-9 Dreamliners. The remotes do not come with a touchscreen but they are still functional and in any case, you can always choose to navigate the menu via the massive touchscreen instead.
On the back of the IFE Remote is a keyboard which is only useful if you are planning on finding a particular movie or show on the IFE. If you are traveling with children and they would like to play some games, this is also where you will find the controls for the games - I did not try them out since I was not particularly excited to play chess, sudoku or tetris (amongst other games) in the air.
Another thing you will notice with the IFE System on JAL is the duplication of movie titles. In the photo above, you should be able to see that most movies are listed at least twice - the reason for this is fairly simple: one of it is dubbed in Japanese and one in the native language (subtitles are available for most movies). I tried to watch The Post since Meryl Streep is a great actress but I got bored about 15 minutes in so I ended up working on my laptop instead.
The headphones provided on this flight was also different from the ones I got on my previous flight from Kuala Lumpur to Tokyo on the 787-9 Dreamliner. As you would expect, there is a small switch that you can turn on and off for the noise-cancelling feature and these Panasonic headphones do a mediocre job at blocking out white noise. Since I typically travel with my own headphones, I decided to use them instead - just make sure you have a headphone adaptor for the flight because this is not provided.
If you are planning to work on the flight like me, you would be pleased to know that every single SKY SUITE III Business Class seat comes with its own USB charging port as well as a universal power outlet (which is angled to fit most if not all chargers). There is also a small storage compartment above this where you can put small personal items like your mobile phone and wallet - there is also a mirror in this for you to make sure that you are ready to face the world after the flight.
Shortly before landing, the cabin crew went around the Business Class cabin to offer passengers a choice of either a warm onigiri or an ice-cream. I opted for the former since I really wanted to prolong 'the Japan experience' and the salmon onigiri was delicious! Probably because of how quickly I have wolfed down my onigiri, one of the cabin crew then asked if I would be interested in an ice-cream (of course!).
The Business Class experience on Japan Airlines is once again spectacular and I love how efficient but yet at the same time, how genuine everything is. The Japanese meal served on this flight was delicious and I cannot find any fault with it at all (apart from the dessert but that's a legacy problem). With that being said, I really need to try the Western meals someday just to experience something different but declining a good Japanese meal is really not an easy feat. Considering how much I have actually paid for this flight (just 25,000 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles for KUL-NRT and this), I have to say that this is definitely the best flight redemption that I have made in recent years and to be very honest, I am just not too certain how long more this arrangement will last so get in quick!