Japan Airlines B787-9Back to Forum
AnonymousGuest24 Apr 2016
I travelled from Frankfurt to Tokyo Narita in April 2016 on JL0408 in premium economy class. This was a connecting flight from London Heathrow, which I have reviewed separately. The scheduled flight departure time was 19:20.
I arrived at the Japan Airlines Sakura lounge at about 18:15. There was a warm welcome on arrival and I explained that I didn't have my boarding pass, which was promptly printed. The lounge is quite basic but there were plenty of drinks available including soft drinks, German beers, wines and various spirits. I made myself a (sort of) Kir Royale using prosecco and Creme de Cassis and tried some of the white wine which wasn't amazing but was very nicely chilled. The food selection comprised (amongst other things): crisps, nuts, salads, olives, a couple of hot options including German sausages and meatballs, various types of sandwiches and asparagus soup in a vat with slices of white and brown bread. The soup was a good 'gap filler' (!) between afternoon tea from my previous and forthcoming dinner on JAL. The devour of the lounge is basic although I liked the fact there are seats and small tables arranged for solo travellers. I couldn't access the lounge wifi, although I was in the lounge for less than 30 minutes, there were plenty of plugs to charge devices and various English language newspapers. CNN was playing quite loudly on a large TV nearby.
Departure was from gate D5. The gate is almost opposite the lounge although you have to pass through security first. I was eligible to use the priority lane, although this was still a long line. It took about 7 minutes to get through. The gate was immediately in front of me and, again, there was a clear priority lane. There was an airbridge to the aircraft which was a 787-900. I think for the first time ever there was no cabin crew on boarding and I was well through the business class cabin before I saw anyone. I did find that a little odd and I can only assume it was accidental. There was a Korean Air 747-800 at the next gate which looked very majestic. The cabin was very impressive. It was light, open and spacious. The first thing that struck me about my seat (20K) was the additional space – even when compared to other PE cabins. There were five rows of PE seats and I was in the fourth row. I think this a decent seat as the last row is directly in front of the toilets and the galley. It is worth flagging that the second, third and fourth rows are directly over the wing so don't have the best view. There was a blanket and pillow on my seat with earphones in a side pocket. A member of crew soon came round with a selection of amenity items including wipes, earplugs and toothbrushes. Slippers and a shoe horn were provided in the seat pocket in a separate packet. A further member of crew then came round with immigration and customs forms. Pushback was at 19:25. Take off was at just after 19:40 and it was a smooth ascent.
I thought the hard product was great: plenty of legroom and space, large inflight entertainment screen, plenty of overhead baggage space, a plug that charged my iPhone from 50% to 100% in about an hour, a stretchy side lamp built into my seat, a privacy partition and two large windows in my seat area with the electro chromatic buttons found on the 787. For those that aren't familiar with JAL Premium Economy the seat is designed to slide forward so the recline is within your own space rather into the space of the person behind you. The person sitting next to me decided to move to a quieter row which made the journey even more private and comfortable. Hot towels were given out just before 8pm and menus followed shortly afterwards.
The dinner selection comprised the following:
Main course: choice of either (I) braised pork with spicy Demi-Glacé sauce; and (ii) fried chicken with cashew nut.
A drinks service started at about 20:15. I had a Gardet champagne and a glass of water, which was served with small packets of fermented soybeans and with rice crackers. The thing that struck me was how genuine and polite the service was and how even serving drinks was a miniature event. A few minutes later I was given a tray which contained: shrimp and ratatouille salad; a small salad and French dressing; Japanese noodles with noodle sauce and a Milka chocolate bar. There was also a small bottle of water. The flight attendant showed pictures of both main courses and I opted for the stir fried chicken (which was described by the flight attendant as the Japanese rather than the Western option). The food was decent and plentiful but I think it was the same as economy, albeit served with a menu.
The choice of alcoholic drinks was: champagne; red and white wine; various beers; Sake; Japanese Shochu; whisky; gin; vodka; brandy and plum wine. I tried some of the plum wine served over ice – really tasty and different.
The non alcoholic drinks available were the usual range of sodas and juices but also included the 'JAL Original Drink' (which is kiwi flavoured) and cold green tea. Hot green tea and coffee followed the meal service. After the meal service JAL branded bags were distributed containing a few snacks including a small cake and a small packet of white German chocolate.
After the meal service ended, I went to sleep almost straight away. Whilst I briefly woke up a couple of times (partially because the cabin seemed very warm) I managed to have between 5-6 hours rest. The premium economy seat was very comfortable to sleep on.
The lights came on just over 2 hours before the scheduled arrival time. Drinks were served at the same time the tray was provided and I just went for a mineral water and orange juice (although the top of the cart was well stocked with plenty of champagne and wine for those that wanted it). The main course (there was no option) was steamed soya sauce rice with roasted salmon and with egg cake. On the tray was a small salad, a small pot of fruit and a strawberry yoghurt. This was followed by tea and coffee. I also went to the galley shortly afterwards and was served another coffee. The flight attendant was very polite and was providing tips on seeing the end of the Cherry blossom in Shinjuku, where I was staying.
I never visited the galley during the night but the menu referred to assorted various snacks being available as well as snack noodles – 'Udon de Sky'. The rest of the flight was uneventful – I just made sure I had completed my landing and customs cards and watched the 3D map as we descended over Japan.
The pilot made a short arrival announcement at 12:25pm local time, when we were about an hour out of Narita. Landing was just before 1:30pm. Taxi took about 10 minutes and disembarkation was through 1L. I walked straight up to an immigration counter and my bags was on the carousel within a couple of minutes. My suitcase had a JAL First Class tag on it – no idea why but I assume it was because of my short connection in Frankfurt. I was on the airport bus within less than 30 minutes of landing so I was really impressed with the efficiency of Narita Airport.
In summary, this was a very good flight. I fly fairly often, I can be critical of other airlines but I'm not sure how I'd improve the hard product or the service for this cabin. The seat was well ahead of PE experiences on BA, Virgin and possibly even Cathay. I'd be interested to see how SQ compares. If I'd make some constructive criticisms: I felt the IFE was fairly limited with English language options and it would be good if the main meal was differentiated more from what is served in economy. I would definitely fly with JAL again and look forward to my return trip in about 2 weeks.24 Apr 2016
Good review, thank you.
I first flew with JAL in 1989 and on all international and domestic sectors I have taken with them since, the service has been ‘top notch’ and put so many European carriers crew to shame, where there ‘hangdog’ expressions are something to behold.
The cabin crew whose grasp of English can be a little basic on some domestic flights are unfailingly polite and you actually feel they are pleased to see you on board and are always patrolling the cabin looking for a lit call button.
I do like the idea of the PE seat being contained within a shell, it does prevent that moment of dread when the seat in front comes right into your space!
Keep it up JAL.26 Apr 2016
I flew Premium Economy on the B787-8 recently on NRT-JFK and will be flying the B787-9 on BOS-NRT next month.
It’s definitely a nice product and I was actually able to sleep on the plane for 6 hours straight.20 May 2016