Note: I took this flight about two weeks before they rolled out their new amenity kits. Besides that, everything on the flight is relevant. See below for the link to see the new kits.
Japan Airlines has one of the best first class soft products I have ever experienced. The quality of (most) of the food surpassed that of other first class airlines, such as Etihad and British Airways. The hard product, although worn and not the most private, was good enough for the flight.
The Good: Food was excellent. This was the friendliest and most attentive crew I have ever had on a flight.
The Bad: The seat felt worn, and they were not very private.
The Noteworthy: I had gold leaf on an airline meal, this blew me out of the park. Like, WOW!
Gate and Boarding
When I arrived at the gate from the JAL First class lounge, there were very few people waiting. For a while, I expected the flight to be mostly empty. About 15 minutes before boarding, the gate was suddenly crowded. By the time we took off, every seat in economy and business class was full, a handful of seats in First and P/E were still empty.
Boarding began an hour before departure, with agents calling for First Class and OneWorld Emeralds to board first. When I reached the aircraft door, I was greeted by the purser who personally showed me to my seat. I was the first passenger to board, and I was able to take a few quick pics of the First Class cabin before other people showed up.
Airline: Japan Airlines
Cabin Class: First Class
Route: Tokyo NRT to Chicago ORD
On Time: Yes
Cabin & Seat
The cabin itself consists of 8 seats in a 1x2x1 configuration. The seats themselves are a brown color with reddish wood paneling on the side console. At my seat there was a blanket and a pillow waiting for me.
The IFE screen was fixed in front of the seat, and had a small table below it where I could store things without fear of knocking them over. This table doubled as the main tray table, which you pulled a lever and it slid towards the seat. Below the screen was the footwell, which was ample and wide.
Next to the seat there are the seat controls, as well as buttons to open the various compartments along the side console. There are two main storage bins, one has a small mirror, and the other one holds the IFE control.
There are also two personal lights, beyond the above seat light, one at each side of the seat. There is also a seat manual, that explains the use of the open suite.
I took this flight last February, when they still handed out the Porsche Design amenity kits in first class. For the new kits, see think link to their website.
The kit was very well stocked, with all the basics and some creams and lotions by Porsche Design. The kit itself was very sturdy, not as nice as Rimowa kits, but up there as one of the best I’ve seen. JAL also offers a Shiseido Men kit, which has some lotions and other things I didn’t really figure out, but that kit is also very sturdy looks stylish.
When I was at the JAL First lounge, I had asked the agents if it would be possible to get a model airplane (as I know that JAL stocks them for children). The agent had said she would phone the FAs and they would try to get it for me. Imagine my surprise when the purser comes over with what looked like a gift bag. In it, there was the cutest set of gifts: a model airplane, a plush backpack keychain plane, and a set of kids cutlery adorned with JAL motifs. I had not expected them to get me the model plane, let alone all these things. This was the first sign of the amazing service I would get on this flight.
Before takeoff, I was also offered slippers and a pair of Bose QC35 headphones, which are the same ones I use and the best ones offered by airlines so far. FAs also came by to offer the other First class passengers (total of 5 of us) a free wifi voucher.
Departure and Take Off
After getting giddy with the gift bag, and settling into my seat, the flight attendants came by offering a choice of beverage and a hot towel. I ordered orange juice, and it was promptly served. We departed on time, and the ground crew gave us a salute as we were readying for departure, one of my favorite customs when flying on a flight departing Japan. I got to see a lot of different airlines as we taxied to the runway.
The one place were JAL shined was on food (except for the mid flight snack, but more on that later). The main meal gets a 12/10 in my book, and the pre arrival snack a solid 9/10. The mid flight snack gets a 2/10. (Average 8/10, but I am going to focus on the main two meals).
For the main meal, I requested to have the Japanese option early on. First there was an amuse bouche, which consisted of a radish/mushroom mash, and a pistachio mash as well with a side of hard ham. For those who like caviar, there was a caviar course on the Western option, but I passed.
The Japanese appetizer consisted of a beautifully set up group of small plates, complete with the Japanese flag. It was incredibly flavorful, and simple at the same time.
Followed by a soup course with prawn cake and grated turnip. The one thing that blew me away was the fact that IT HAD GOLD LEAF. I had never had gold leaf before, and the last place I thought I would get to try it was on an airplane. I was SHOOK to my core.
There was then a seafood course, which somewhat confused me as I thought I was done with appetizers. It consisted of snow crab and scallop with shrimp and caviar.
The Dainomono (or main course) was stunning. Simple but perfectly cooked Wagyu beef fillet, with steamed rice and miso soup.
For dessert, I ordered the whole set. It’s hard to explain what it was, but there was another set of pistachio cake and other Japanese delicacies. By this time I was stuffed, I had never eaten that much on an airplane ever.
For the mid flight snack, I opted for the beef curry. This was a mistake. As much as I loved the first meal, this meal was downright vile. The curry was lukewarm, and tasted funny. The accompanying vegetables were still congealed. I don’t say frozen, because it wasn’t ice, it was more like a very cold gelatin. If anyone knows what it is let me know, but I saw it and was completely grossed out. The flight attendants immediately noticed and apologized profusely, and said they would mention it to the caterer as soon as we landed in Chicago.
For my pre arrival meal, I decided (hesitantly) to try the Japanese Brochettes. These were thoroughly cooked, and were every bit as good as the first meal. I also ordered French press coffee, which came with a JAL First branded cup (that I really wanted to take home).
Sleeping on Board
The time I didn’t spend eating and using social media with the free wifi, I spent sleeping. JAL First offers you an option of mattress pads, a soft and a firm version. I opted for the firm one, and I was not disappointed. It was one of the most comfortable sleeping seats I have been on. The only issue was the cabin was kept a bit warm for my taste. The flight attendants would make my bed every time I got up from my seat, which goes to show how attentive they were.
A Few Extra Notes
There was free wifi, as I previously mentioned, and it was surprisingly fast. I was able to use Snapchat and browse my email with ease.
There is also a Sky Gallery of photographs in the galley. It is a nice touch, as it shows beautiful landscapes of Japan.
Finally, there was a placar display that named the aircraft, crew and flight number. This is a gesture that every flight should have, it looks cool and feeds the passion for aviation.
This was the best aspect of my JAL flight. The crew was hands down the best I have ever had. They were polite, proactive, friendly and even conversational. The purser was always on top of things, making sure that every passenger in First was well attended to. The main FA working my aisle was a sweetheart. She was about 3-4 years older than me, and was extremely kind and attentive, without being intrusive. When the purser came by, the FA and the purser decided to talk with me about JAL, Japanese culture and life in general. They were genuinely friendly, and they were trying to give me advice on the best way to cook Japanese food. I felt like I was truly appreciated.
Landing and Arrival
About 35 minutes before arrival, the captain came on the PA to announce that we would be landing soon. The FAs and the purser came over to thank me for flying with JAL, and wish me luck in preparing sushi (which I have since made, and does not do justice the advice tehy gave me). They also handed me two chocolates in a hard case with JAL branding and Jean Paul Hevin chocolates.
We landed early in Chicago, and I got through immigration and Customs very quickly, as no other Asia flight had arrived yet.
This was as close to a perfect flight as I have ever had. The crew was genuine, attentive and proactive. The food was mostly amazing, except for the one mistake. I take that mistake as an outlier, because all other flights I have had with JAL were excellently catered. The main meal is one of the best airline meals I have ever had. Although the seat is not the most private, it is very wide and quite comfortable. The sleeping surface was excellent and I slept like a baby. I would 100% recommend flying JAL first class, and I plan on flying them again soon.
What do you think? How has your experience on JAL First class been? Did you experience anything different? Let us know!
Here is a list of all my flight reviews: The Millennial Traveler Flight Reviews
Here is a list of all my lounge reviews: The Millennial Traveler Lounge Reviews
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