Japan Airlines Business Class just became my new favorite Business Class product. My friend Matt and I were flying back to San Francisco from Asia on New Year’s Eve after a nice vacation in Hong Kong. Although I usually try to book Cathay Pacific First Class whenever I can, Japan Airlines offered a late evening flight that let us enjoy almost a full day exploring the amazing lounges in Hong Kong and Tokyo.
Japan Airlines operates one daily flight from Tokyo’s Haneda airport to San Francisco, departing at 5 minutes past midnight. We hopped over from Hong Kong in Cathay Pacific Business Class, then spent three hours exploring Japan Airlines’ First Class lounge in Haneda, which I had access to as an American Airlines Executive Platinum frequent flyer.
As soon as we arrived at Tokyo Haneda airport (a beautiful gem in itself), we made a beeline for the JAL First Class lounge on the second floor where we were greeted by immaculately shiny floors and a smiling staff.
The Japan Airlines Haneda First Class Lounge is gorgeous. It’s beautifully decorated with nooks and crannies to explore if you’re there for a while. I didn’t find the food selection to be the most inspiring, and certainly nothing compared to the culinary concoctions JAL is known for in their First Class cabins. But the food was more than adequate, and if you’re arriving with an empty stomach you most likely won’t be disappointed.
One thing you might like to do is pre-book a massage online if you want one because when we got there around 9pm the entire night was booked up, which was a letdown to say the least. As a consolation, there were some highly quality massage chairs we could chill in.
Japan Airlines Haneda First Class Lounge Dining Room
The Entertainment and Shoe Shining Rooms
Massage Chair and Shower
Hey, wait a minute. What about the Business Class Lounge? Unless you’re flying Japan Airlines First Class or you’re a Oneworld Emerald elite, you’ll have to use the Business Class lounge if you’re flying Business Class. We did check out the business class side of the lounge, which although lacking an entertainment room and shoe shining service, was perfectly adequate in its own right, complete with a massage service.
We were reluctant to leave the lounge but excited to check out the Japan Airlines Business Class cabin. I had to reassure Matt, who felt guilty about using the priority lane to skip the queue. I mean, come on – we’re in Business Class 😉
The Japan Airlines Business Class Cabin is a giant bento box. Every seat is neatly organized in its own little walled compartment, with plenty of privacy. The cabin is in a 2-3-2 arrangement, but due to the staggered configuration, everyone has aisle access. And yes, all the seats transform into fully lie-flat beds.
If you’re traveling with a companion, I’d recommend taking the two seats by the window if you can get them. We took an aisle and middle seat in the middle group of 3, which was the only thing available when we booked. Matt found the middle seat perfectly adequate and cozy, but I’d probably find it a bit claustrophobic myself. The middle seat lacks storage except for a little mesh compartment behind the headrest, but it does have aisle access on both sides.
The Middle Seat
The Food Menu
Japan Airlines professes to be “your exclusive restaurant in the sky.” And while I struggle to understand what’s so exclusive about a restaurant shared by 50 other people, I do have to say the food is well thought out, and if you’re into Japanese food, you should always go with that option.
The Tokyo Haneda-San Francisco flight takes off at midnight so the initial meal is a skimpy snack. And this is the main reason I wouldn’t redeem miles for First Class on this leg – it’s too late at night for a grandiose meal service, which is the main differentiating factor between First and Business Class (for me, at least).
The Japanese breakfast was a delight, both in its aesthetics and taste. If you’re one of those people who must know exactly what you’re eating before putting it in your mouth, the positioning of the items exactly matches the diagram in the menu 😉
Service and Amenities
I found the service on board to be friendly, with an adequate number of flight attendants for the size of the cabin. But some of the flight attendants struggled with English, as I had trouble getting them to understand that I wanted my meal saved for later because I wanted to sleep first.
Between meals there was a small selection of snacks in the galley, although they weren’t replenished and I was only able to squirrel one macaroon away for Matt while he slept. Of course, there’s a whole snack menu you can order from if you’re so inclined.
As you’d expect from a Japanese airline, Japan Airlines Business Class passengers get slippers and an amenity kit, and the toilets are equipped with bidets to ensure you’re squeaky clean. And although we didn’t get a full set of pajamas, we were each given a “cardigan” to keep us warm, which frankly, looked ridiculous and in any event the cabin was kept warm enough to roast a small turkey so it wasn’t necessary.
The entertainment system was top-notch, with plenty of new and old releases. The screen was the biggest I’ve seen in an airplane cabin.
Babies are allowed in Japan Airlines Business Class
About five hours into the flight, a baby in the middle of the Business Class cabin started crying and screaming, and didn’t stop for at least an hour, waking up anyone within ear shot. Matt peered at me with bloodshot eyes, probably wishing he could pull the baby’s vocal chords out. I really think babies should be kept out of Business Class, but failing that, they should be placed in a corner where all but an unlucky few could be spared their wrath.
Still, it’s my new favorite Business Class
I have to say I’m impressed. The seat is gorgeous, well-designed and private. Service was very good by Business Class standards and the Japanese breakfast was excellent – I’d love to try a longer flight in Japan Airlines Business Class to see the whole gamut of food offerings. Business Class cabins tend to be more utilitarian than sexy but Japan Airlines comes pretty close to the latter.