Japan Airlines Business Class Review – ORD to NRT
Last December 2013, my cousin and I burned 90,000 US Airways miles and went to Thailand for 2 weeks.
I really enjoyed Thailand but didn’t have enough time to explore so with winter approaching in Chicago, I decided that January 2015 would be a perfect time to explore Southeast Asia for a couple weeks (which turned into a couple months).
This time a friend from school joined me and we decided to explore the famed “Banana Pancake Trail” starting in Hanoi, Vietnam and then basically making our way south to Ho Chi Min City, then cut over to Cambodia to see Angkor Wat, and then hopefully make our way to Southern Thailand.
This was the first trip I’ve ever taken where everything (logistics, lodging, transportation) hadn’t been explicitly laid out in advance. The only thing we had planned was the general direction of where we were going after landing in Hanoi, which was SOUTH!
To get to Hanoi, I opted to burn my large bank of AA miles that I had stockpiled over the years.
The business class award was 50,000 one way on Japan Airlines, with a 5,000 rebate thanks to having a Citi AA card.
So in reality, the award only cost 45,000 miles!
I found the award by searching on British Airways.
Our itinerary ended up being:
- ORD-NRT on JAL 777-300ER
- NRT-HAN on JAL 787 Dreamliner
JAL 777-300ER Business Class Review
On our day of departure in January 2015, the weather in Chicago was about -20F so we were extremely lucky to not have our flight canceled or severely delayed due to icing issues.
By sheer coincidence, another blogger The Points Jock was also on our exact same plane and cabin, which has never happened to me before.
The Points Jock said that JAL was his favorite business class so the expectations were set high. Outside of Thai Airways last year, I have not flown any other Asian carriers, so I was excited to try JAL out.
For me the funniest part of the flight was right before pulling back, I looked out the window and there was someone who didn’t look like a worker who was just taking photos of the plane like an AVgeek. Very strange!
Soft Product – 9/10 Points
After boarding, the flight attendant came by to personally introduce herself, which was a nice touch.
We were offered a cup of green tea, along with our choice of orange juice or champagne.
The FA then brought us a Tumi amenity kit.
Of course, only Asian carriers would include a facemask in the amenity kit…
To my surprise, we were also offered a pajama top (but no bottoms), which you normally don’t receive in business class. I wasn’t sure if you were allowed to keep it and it was too small so I didn’t take it with me.
After take off, we received dining menus, which as other people have noted is oddly named JAL BEDD SKY AUBERGE.
The menu had both a Western and Japanese option, as well as an on-demand menu.
We both opted for the Japanese option, which was pretty good.
Dining started with an Amuse Bouche of Prosciutto di Parma & Bocconcini Mozzarella along with Marinated Vegetables.
That was followed by a “bento box” of 9 different kobachi bowls along with some sake.
For the main course, there was sesame-crusted grilled salmon & stewed pork belly, along with steamed rice, miso soup, and Japanese pickles.
For dessert, we were served sabayon with fresh berries.
Overall, the Japanese menu was probably one of the most unique meals I have had on a plane and was overall pretty good.
Halfway through the 14 hour flight, I was hungry again so I decided to check out the on-demand menu which was surprisingly thorough and quite delicious.
I opted to try the ramen while my friend got the gnocchi. Both were quite tasty and possibly some of the best ramen I have had (on the ground or on a plane).
I slept for most of the flight but my friend ended up staying up the entire flight and the service he received was top notch.
His drink was never empty and someone came to visually check on us every 10 minutes. If we ever needed anything, we simply had to flag them down.
I’ve never had service like that before and overall it was exceptional.
Hard Product – 9/10 Points
JAL has an interesting configuration for business class which I now think is one of the best mixes of privacy and convenience.
The configuration is 2-3-2 but each person basically has a semi-enclosed suite.
Although we were sitting near the window, due to the configuration every single person has direct access to the aisle. Even people sitting in the middle 3 seats.
Although lack of storage was an issue, everything about the seat was phenomenal.
Not only was the suite spacious but also had a large television and a privacy divider if you really wanted a fully private suite.
Since I was traveling with a friend, in our case it was nice to have the divider that could go up and down.
The Points Jock informed me that in the luggage bins there were free mattress pads which I used when I slept and it really made a significant difference.
Outside of first class, JAL is probably the best seat I have ever flown.
Overall – 9/10 Points
Personally, JAL was one of the best flying experiences I have ever had.
Not only was the service impeccable but also the seat and food was fantastic.
For some reason JAL definitely gets overshadowed by the other Asian carriers like Singapore, ANA, and Cathay (personally I have never flown any of those yet) but if you are going to Asia on AA miles, I would highly recommend trying out JAL because it is absolutely phenomenal.