Check-in I arrived at Narita Terminal 2 at 0915 for my 1115 departure on flight JL401 and, after queuing for about five minutes to check in and drop off my bag, went through security and immigration.
The lounge JAL has lounges both in the main and satellite terminals – my flight was from gate 63 in the main terminal. It has separate business and first class sections. Since I have Emerald Oneworld status, I went into the first class lounge, though after peering into the business one, there didn’t seem to be much difference. It has lots of sofas, a work zone and a couple of food and drink areas.
Boarding At 1100 I went to the gate, where boarding was just starting, with business and first class passengers given priority. Once on board, my jacket was taken and I was offered a cardigan.
The seat This is JAL’s new fully flat business product. There are two business cabins, though the front one has only one row (row five). A galley separates it from the main cabin (rows seven to 12) – I was in seat 10D. The configuration is 2-3-2 (A-C, D-E-G, H-K), and all seats have direct aisle access. The main cabin has washrooms at the front and back, though the ones at the back are also used by premium economy passengers.
Each seat is set in its own cubicle, and centre seats have a privacy screen on either side. There are several pre-set positions, massage and legrest adjustment functions, power sockets (US and EU), video inputs and USB ports. There is also a recessed step in the side of the seat, allowing you to step up to reach into the overhead locker. The 23-inch IFE screen is huge. Window and aisle seats have a storage compartment behind the headrest and the space under the ottoman is useful for storing a laptop bag. The table swivels to allow you to get out – it vibrated as I typed, though.
Which seat to choose? Window and centre seats have more privacy than aisle ones. I’d avoid front row seven because of galley noise and, perhaps, back row 12 by the washrooms – window seats in eight to 11 would be best. JAL maintains that the single-row front cabin is popular – perhaps it is, but it would be too close to the galley for my liking on a night flight.
The flight JAL’s sophisticated meal service includes Japanese and Western options. The Western menu started with an amuse-bouche of foie gras, beetroot and Pedro Ximenez wine, or anglerfish liver, crabmeat and lily bulb in Japanese starch sauce (delicious). I then tried the Japanese menu of nine dishes in kobachi bowls, including sand borer and yam with laver vinegar jelly and olive flounder rolled with kelp steamed fish mousse with black bean. The main course, grilled sablefish yuzu miso and deep-fried scallop mousse, was lovely. I think it’s admirable of JAL to go for food like this, and I’d urge you to try it. Whatever I asked for was quickly brought, but preparing such delicate dishes takes time and the dessert didn’t appear until 3pm – worth bearing in mind if you want to sleep. Wines included Champagne Duval-Leroy, Chanson Viré-Clessé 2010 or 2011, Errazuriz Estate Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2011, and Sileni Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2012.
After eating, I reclined the seat and, helped by the flight attendant, placed the blanket – almost another mattress topper – on the flat bed and slept for five hours.
Arrival We arrived on time at Heathrow and my bags were waiting after immigration.
Verdict The seat is comfortable, the IFE state-of-the-art and the service good, but the food made this flight truly special – probably the best I have tasted in business.
Flight time: 11 hours 30 minutes
Seat width: 26in/66cm
Seat length: 74in/188cm
Seat recline: 180 degrees