Tried & Tested

Japan Airlines (JAL) B767-300ER business class

31 May 2014 by Clement Huang
CHECK-IN I arrived at Hong Kong International Airport’s (HKIA) Terminal 1 at 1345 for the 1515 departure of flight JL026 to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. Since 2012 JAL, national competitor All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Cathay Pacific Airways have rescheduled some of their daily departures from Hong Kong to arrive at Haneda Airport rather than Narita. The journey into downtown Tokyo from Haneda is only about 20 minutes by taxi – much quicker than from Narita. BOARDING When I reached the boarding gate at 1455 there were no lines and I was aboard the aircraft within seconds to take up my seat, 2A. The crew did not make a visible effort to show passengers to their seats, offer pre-departure drinks, or help with coats. I asked for newspapers but they only had a selection of Japanese publications. THE SEAT The business class cabin on this configuration of the B767-300ER, known as A41 on JAL’s website and reservation system, has five rows. In front of it there are a large galley and two toilets, behind it the economy cabin screened off by a bulkhead and curtains. There are no magazine racks in the business cabin. The seating is six-across in a 2-2-2 configuration and the seat type is the JAL Skyrecliner. Seat pitch on this configuration of the B767-300ER is 47 inches, not enough for getting in and out of the window seats without bothering the passenger next to you. The seat is 20 inches wide, more than adequate for a person of regular build. The JAL Skyrecliner reclines 132 degrees only at the touch of manual buttons, something I’d not seen in many years of automated control panels. When fully reclined, the seat was comfortable but not suitable for sleeping for longer periods. The footrest is designed with a 60-degree upswing, which worked fine on my neighbour’s seat but would consistently snap back down on mine. I asked the cabin crew for pillows to jam under the footrest to keep it in place. The 10.6-inch fold-out PTVs were grainy and tilted. There was AVOD but most choices were available in Japanese only. WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? While I’m not usually keen on sitting in the first row due to the proximity to galleys and toilets, in this case it would have made a big difference with regards to space and privacy as the first row offered substantially more legroom. Service is from the front galley so sitting closer to the front means you will get served sooner. THE FLIGHT We pushed back at 1515 sharp and were airborne some ten minutes later. The announcements from both the cockpit and cabin crew were inaudible. The first 30 minutes of the flight were uneventful with the cabin crew remaining in the galley. I was surprised that no drinks were offered. At close to 1600 the cabin crew made their first appearance after take-off to ask what I would like to have for dinner. Confused, I asked what the choices were to which I was told to check the menu in the seatback pocket. It would have been nice to have been advised of this earlier but perhaps it had been part of the announcements I was unable to catch. I opted for the Western menu but strangely was told it was already sold out. Asking how that was possible, as I was the third person to be served, the flight attendant said that there was only a certain number of Western meals available on every flight, depending on the number of Western passengers. That did not make sense either, as I was the only Western passenger in the cabin. Having said that, the Japanese menu was tasty and plentiful. The appetiser selection was nicely presented and the seafood options fresh and flavourful. The main course was a small tray with one half taken up by a fish dish and the other by a beef dish. I think it would be better to serve either or but perhaps this way of serving appeals to Japanese customers. There was a good selection of international wines and spirits to go with the meal, plus two varieties each of Japanese sake and shochu. ARRIVAL We landed at Haneda 30 minutes ahead of schedule at 2015 local time. The bags came out quickly and I was landside waiting for a taxi to take me to the city centre by 2035. VERDICT Flying the same route regularly on Cathay Pacific I could not help but feel disappointed with JAL. The seat was old and malfunctioning and the service was – in surprisingly un-Japanese fashion – slow and indifferent. The lack of meal choice, reading materials, any pre-departure service and crew communications only added to the underwhelming experience.   FACT FILE
  • Plane type B767-300ER
  • Configuration 2-2-2
  • Seat width 20 inches (51 cm)
  • Seat pitch 47 inches (119 cm)
  • Seat recline 132 degrees
  • Price Internet rates for a return business class flight from Hong Kong to Haneda in June start from JPY254,714 (US$2,517)
  • Contact www.jal.co.jp
Dominic Sebastian Lalk
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