Airline: Japan Airlines | Aircraft: 777-200ER | Class: Business | Flight: JL38 (SIN-HND)
Traveling to Japan using Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles is a great way to fly on Business Class for cheap (and I mean, really cheap). I have been on Japan Airlines' SKY SUITE III Business Class product on multiple occasions and while it certainly isn't the most comfortable seat, it definitely is the 'cheapest' way to get to Japan in this cabin class. On my last visit to Japan (yes, the very same trip where I checked out the amazing HOSHINOYA Fuji), I decided to book myself in to JL38 which was scheduled to depart Singapore at 1:50AM.
If you are traveling on the same flight as I did, your boarding pass will most likely show an invitation to the dnata Lounge in Terminal 1 (Changi Airport). Now seriously, forget this and head down to The Qantas Singapore Lounge or the British Airways Lounge and Concorde Bar instead. The dnata Lounge is not terrible - the space is actually quite nice - but the food selection pales in comparison to the aforementioned lounges. The only caveat is this - both lounges close at 11:00PM officially so you will have to get in the airport slightly earlier if you wish to enjoy the food and drinks.
JL38 was only scheduled to depart Singapore Changi Airport at 1:50AM so the timing isn't great unfortunately. In fact, the relatively short flight-time makes it difficult to get decent amount of sleep even if you were to skip the supper meal service. Diamond members of the JAL Global Club were invited first to board (regardless of cabin class) before Business Class passengers as well as emerald members of the oneworld alliance were called upon.
There are 42 SKY SUITE III Business Class seats on JAL's 777-200ER and there is a mini-cabin (rows 8-11) located behind the first. I personally prefer the mini-cabins where possible since they are more private and they are typically quieter as well (unless you are stuck with a crying baby unfortunately) which is great for a red-eye flight that departs at close to 2:00AM in the morning. The very first thing that I noticed when I got to my seat is that the ridiculously light pillows have finally been replaced with something more substantial. Honestly, they used to be terrible and I really dreaded using one of theirs since they used to provide close to no support for your back and your neck. Thankfully, the new pillows that are offered on the SKY SUITE III product are much better in comparison. Oh, and of course the ugly red plastic bag containing headphones can also be found in your seat.
Since I was already feeling extremely sleepy by the time the plane took off, I have decided to skip the supper meal service altogether and try to clock in as much rest as I could for the duration of the flight. According to the menu on the flight, supper included a Rolled Chicken & Egg Noodle as well as Sicilian-style Seared Tuna Sashimi. With the comparatively-substantial pillow that is now offered in Business Class, I was able to get approximately four hours of sleep in which is great for a 6.5-hour flight. As you can see in the photo above, there is plenty of space in the footwell so the flatbed (while being on the hard side) is actually quite comfortable. The 77" seat pitch and 20" seat width is also sufficient for a relatively short flight from Singapore to Tokyo.
Knowing that breakfast service starts roughly 2 hours prior to arrival, I got up slightly ahead of time to use the lavatories before everyone else. I cannot stress how important it is for you to get up just 5 minutes earlier (before everyone) to use the lavatories - this is when you will not have to queue! While I do find that airlines in Asia typically keep their lavatories relatively clean, it is always great to be one of the first to use it (especially when you plan on brushing your teeth). JAL does provide a small overnight kit for Business Class passengers containing the bare essentials but if you do need a second toothbrush (or you would like to keep your kit as a gift for someone else), you will be able to find them in the drawers located in the lavatories.
Business Class passengers have the option of having either the Western breakfast or a more traditional Japanese one - I always opt for the latter since it looks a lot better for photos and nothing beats having Japanese rice as well as hot miso soup on the plane! The menu change significantly on a quarterly basis (e.g. March to May will have a similar menu) so if you travel quite often on JAL, you might find yourself eating the same dish (in which case, you should probably alternate between the Western and Japanese breakfast). Some people do not realise this but the menu actually show you exactly what is in your Japanese bento box - seasonal fruits are at the top left corner of the box (as shown in the menu) while the sweet corn tofu with okra can be found in the bottom right corner of the bento box.
Apart from the bento box, a grilled seasoned ocean perch was also served with some delicious steamed rice as well as miso soup. In case anyone is a fan of Japanese rice, the rice offered on my flight was cultivated by Koshihikari.
I also took the opportunity to check out the in-flight entertainment system (MAGIC-VI) but was relatively unimpressed with it. Even though the IFE system version was the same one as the one I had back on my flight from Kuala Lumpur to Narita, the earlier flight had a much better IFE controller that is touchscreen enabled.
As I finished up on my meal, I noticed that certain passengers (I believe they are likely to be top-tier Diamond members of the JAL Global Club) were given the privilege of having their breakfast an hour later (and have more time for sleep). This is a nice gesture and obviously they are unable to offer this benefit to every single Business Class passenger since it would put a lot of pressure on meal service but it is always nice to see the little touches for an airline's top-tier passengers.
According to schedule, JL38 arrived into the international terminal of Haneda Airport at approximately 9:50AM. Overnight flights on JAL is never quite as fun and fulfilling as daytime flight but it is still a relatively comfortable way to get into Tokyo (especially when you consider how much I am paying for this flight). Getting from Haneda Airport to my hotel (I stayed at the Hyatt Regency Tokyo again on this trip since hotel rates were through the roof considering how it was sakura season) was extremely easy with the use of the Airport Limousine Bus.