Tried & Tested

Flight review: Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class

23 Sep 2019 by Michael Allen
Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class / photo by Michael Allen

Background

Japan Airlines’ JAL Shell Flat Neo seat is now more than a decade old, having first been introduced on the Tokyo to New York route on August 1, 2008, according to a press release from the airline. The seat was released as an upgrade to the JAL Shell Flat Seat, with the Neo reclining further to an angle of 171 degrees and offering increased seat pitch and width. The Neo also got a slip-proof cover, seat controls were refined and stowage areas were increased.

Since I was flying to Tokyo Narita in order to connect to another JAL flight to Los Angeles, I thought it would be interesting to see how this product fares as a regional business class seat in 2019.

Check-in

I arrived at Terminal 1 of Hong Kong International Airport smoothly with the Airport Express from Hong Kong station. I arrived about three hours before departure, as I was nervous about any potential protests disrupting the airport operations, as has happened recently. Indeed, when we exited the train, all passengers had to show their boarding passes or e-tickets, as well as travel documents, to security guards before being allowed access into the terminal – something I have never seen in three-and-a-half years of flying out of Hong Kong.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class / photo by Michael Allen

I checked in at area ‘G’. There was no wait for the business class check-in desk. I was served by a polite and friendly female staff member, who was able to secure my desired window seat on my connecting Narita-Los Angeles flight, though she could not get me a window seat on this flight to Narita.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class / photo by Michael Allen

Even from the check-in desk, I could immediately tell I was flying with a Japanese airline; there was a notice about what time to proceed to the gate by for my flight accompanied by a cutesy image of a JAL plane with a cat’s face – something that could only have been thought up by a Japanese artist.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class / photo by Michael Allen

I recommend you go through the North security checkpoint rather than the south, as the North is closer to the lounge that JAL uses at Hong Kong airport.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class / photo by Michael Allen

Obtaining my boarding pass, I proceeded through security without issue, scanning my passport and boarding pass at the E-Security Gates before security, and then my Hong Kong Identity Card at the e-gates after security.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class / photo by Michael Allen

The lounge

Japan Airlines uses the Qantas Business Lounge at Hong Kong International Airport. You can read my review of this lounge here.

Boarding

Boarding at Gate 25 through the business class line was effortless.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class / photo by Michael Allen

I arrived at the gate when boarding had already started and I was quickly onto the airbridge.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class / photo by Michael Allen

Other passengers who could use the business class queue are JAL Global Club member, as well as Fly On Crystal and Fly On Sapphire members. Oneworld Sapphire and Ruby members can also use this boarding area.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class / photo by Michael Allen

We had to board through the economy class airbridge as the business class one was cordoned off. I was directed by cabin crew to turn right upon entering the plane and found myself in a business class section with rows 7-8 and a total of 12 seats in a 2-2-2 configuration. If you can, I would recommend trying to book a seat in the first business class section (to the left when you board) because then you won’t be disturbed by economy class passengers when boarding as I was.

The seat

I was in seat 8G, an aisle seat. I had requested a window seat but there was not one available.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class / photo by Michael Allen

The seat does not offer as much privacy as some business class products, though I was impressed by the functionality of the seat. It can easily be adjusted to three pre-set positions — Upright Position, Relax Position and Bed Position — and you can also adjust various parts of the seat as you can see from the controller image below. There is even a lumbar massage function.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class / photo by Michael Allen

There is a snake-shaped adjustable reading light. Storage features include a spectacles storage compartment, which will definitely be appreciated by bespectacled travellers such as myself. There is additional storage in the armrest.

In between the seats, you can find a three-pin plug socket. This is described as “PC Power Supply”, but I suppose you could also use it to charge your phone or other device.

There is storage space in the seatback pocket. In the middle of the seats in front, there is also storage space, though this is labelled as being for literature only. Below this, there is a plastic bottle holder.

Next to the 15.4-inch IFE monitor there is a hook for your coat. You need to press a button to release the coat hangar.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class / photo by Michael Allen

Which seat to choose?

Definitely choose the front business class cabin (rows 1-3) rather than the rear one (rows 7-8), for the reasons described above. Also, if you are in a front row seat, your IFE monitor shrinks to 10.4 inches instead of 15.4 inches, a significant downsizing.

I would go for any of the window seats 1-K, 2-K, 3-K, 7-K and 8-K or 1-A, 2-A, 3-A, 7-A and 8-A. It’s worth noting that window seats don’t enjoy direct aisle access, so if you anticipate needing to get up more than once during the flight you may wish to choose an aisle seat instead. I would suggest 1-H, 2-H and 3-H or 1-C, 2-C and 3-C. It’s best to avoid the middle seats.

The flight

Shortly after boarding, I was offered a selection of amenities including toothbrushes, eyeshades, earplugs, as well as a landing card for Japan (which I didn’t need as I was transferring to another flight to the United States).

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class / photo by Michael Allen

I was also offered a selection of newspapers, both English and Japanese. I selected the South China Morning Post and The New York Times.

On the seat, I found a pair of JAL-branded slippers, a black blanket, a pair of JAL-branded headphones in a red plastic bag. The seat also came with a very comfortable beige cushion.

The slippers, which have some kind of gel padding in the heels to make them more comfortable, even come with a shoe horn.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class / photo by Michael Allen

Before takeoff, I got to watch JAL’s new safety video, which was released on September 1. Click here to watch the video for yourself if you can’t wait until your next JAL flight.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class / photo by Michael Allen

There is wi-fi available on this flight, though you need to pay for it. One hour will cost US$10.15, three hours US$14.40, or you can pay US$18.80 for the whole flight. I didn’t use the wifi on this flight.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class / photo by Michael Allen

Cabin crew bowed to passengers before takeoff (a Japanese custom), which I thought boded well for the service to come.

During takeoff, the curtain between the business class cabin and the economy class cabin has to remain open. The baby bassinet was directly behind me and I could hear the baby – another reason to sit in the front business class cabin rather than the rear one where I sat.

We pushed back from the gate at 10.47am Hong Kong time and took off at around 11.15am.

At 11.28am I was offered a hot towel that was lemon scented. The towel was collected at 11.32am. At 11.47am a stewardess came to set up my table.

“Excuse me, sir, may I set up your table?” she asked politely, before I gave my assent.

Being on a Japanese airline, I couldn’t resist ordering a sake, which turned out to be delicious. This came with a packet of rice crackers.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class / photo by Michael Allen

For the lunch, you can choose between a Japanese menu and a western menu.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class / photo by Michael Allen

I went for the Japanese, which was beautifully presented. The dishes were:

  • Boiled spinach and garland chysanthemum with crabmeat
  • Braised duck breast with mustard sauce
  • Braised mixed mushrooms dressed with sesame pate
  • Steamed savoury egg custard with maitake mushroom and salmon roe
  • Pork roll with vegetables
  • Pacific saury sushi
  • Salmon rolled with radish
  • Fish cake with yam bulbil
  • Chestnut egg cake
  • Shrimp and konjac jelly on skewer

For the main dishes, they change every month. Since I was flying in September, I got simmered black cod in yuzu sauce, as well as stir-fried pork belly ginger flavour. This came with steamed rice and miso soup.

Guests flying in October can look forward to grilled red snapper miso flavour, as well as braised beef and burdock in Japanese pepper soy sauce. Guests flying in November will get frilled halibut with red miso, as well as braised pork belly in grated radish sauce.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class / photo by Michael Allen

Dessert was Haagen-Daas vanilla ice cream (there was no alternative flavour choice). I also had a coffee with this, which was served in a cup typically found in Japanese coffeeshops.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class / photo by Michael Allen

After the meal, I visited the bathroom, which was clean.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class / photo by Michael Allen

The toilet comes equipped with a bidet function, which you don’t often see on aircraft.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class / photo by Michael Allen

You can also find disposable toothbrushes and mouthwash there.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class / photo by Michael Allen

Returning from the bathroom, I reclined the seat and took a short nap wearing the eye mask provided by JAL.

Arrival

We touched down smoothly at around 4.10pm Narita time. We had to transfer to the terminal on a bus.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Hong Kong to Tokyo Narita business class / photo by Michael Allen

Verdict

A comfortable product for a flight of this distance with an excellent F&B offering. You would not want to be in this seat for a long-haul flight, but for a four hour daytime flight it was perfectly comfortable. JAL’s business class Sky Suite product, available on some long-haul flights, will serve your needs on longer segments.

Fact file

  • Price Mid-week roundtrip flights in October start from US$1,570
  • Flight No. JL062
  • Configuration 2-2-2
  • Seat width 19.2 inch
  • Seat pitch 60 inch
  • Seat recline 171 degrees
  • Departure 1040
  • Flight duration Four hours and 20 minutes
  • Contact jal.co.jp
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