Sorry for the lateness of this report! This question, OZ F vs. JL F, has frequently been asked, especially flyertalk.com. So I will attempt to give you my perspective and despite this sample may not be fully neutral, such as my OZ flight departs from a non-home base or my JL flight does not cover the latest JAL SUITES, only the classic Skysleeper solo, comparing two transpacific segments to and from Los Angeles is not completely inaccurate. Be warned that it is a long report, so please feel free to skip the words and just go straight to the photo links and view the pictures.
December 5, 2008
OZ 201 LAX-ICN Lv1210 Arr1830+1 Boeing 747-400 (Full PAX) HL7428
December 15, 2008
JL 62 NRT-LAX Lv1720 Arr0950 Boeing 747-400 JA8922 (Skysleeper Solo & Shell Flat)
OZ 201 - http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8QbNHDNy5bqLwQ
JL F Lounge lower floor – http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8QbNHDNy5bqL-o
JL F Lounge upper floor – http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8QbNHDNy5bqMKA
JL F Skysleeper Solo - http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8QbNHDNy5bqMCg
JL 62 - http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8QbNHDNy5bqMGw
JL F Amenities - http://share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8QbNHDNy5bqMII
OZ: Asiana uses Tom Bradley International Terminal in LAX and the flight was obviously quite busy judging from the lines in travel (economy in OZ) class, but first class line has only one passenger in front of me. The concierge, a Korean middle-aged woman, immediately spotted me and got my passport and waved to the porter to help with my three heavy bags. (As a Star Gold passenger, I can check-in three pieces of bags.) A folder has already been pre-printed with my boarding pass, bag tags (all the way to HKG despite an overnight layover at ICN), and lounge invitation, which is similar to the arrangement at Incheon. However, since I have a third piece of bag, the agent had to print out another tag and also had problems adding my passport information. Despite of all these problems, check-in was fairly efficient and I was on my way to the lounge soon. However, escort service to the gate was no longer provided as happened previously, but TBIT has also finally set up a priority lane for premium passengers. So no problem here!
JL: I came in from another flight, so not much to say. I arrived at a relatively quiet time and there was no line at the JAL transit desk. However, I noticed that there was still a lack of separate first and business class line at the Japan Airlines satellite/midfield transit area. I had used JAL First class check-in at NRT before, and staffs were efficient and polite and my bags were taken care quickly, but also no personal escort service. There is a priority security lane for first class passengers at NRT too, but not at the transit area. So both performed fairly well here in terms of queue management, baggage treatment, and OZ has a slight advantage by having an additional concierge at LAX.
OZ: Star Alliance first class lounge at TBIT has frequently been discussed and I have nothing to add. The food selection still has a good selection of cold cuts, fruits, cheese, sushi and salad, as well as a choice of two soups – tomato soup or five-grain porridge, as well as some fried rice. I think it can used more hot food, as well as more Asian oriented food in the morning hours, where most flights are Asian bound. On my next report here (just a short F ICN-HKG flight but on new three-class 777), there will be report on OZ brand new first class lounge at ICN, definitely impressive though, and comparable to JAL First Class lounge. However, I think the OZ F lounge at ICN can use more natural light and I know it is more a personal taste issue.
JL: Well there is no comparison to JAL own signature first class lounge at its home base, Tokyo Narita. The lounge is not as busy as before, as a new fourth floor lounge has opened. I have visited both lounges and took pictures and you can compare both of them. They are basically very similar in terms of layout, décor, and services. The differences are relatively minor. First, the lower floor has a proper bar, as well as bar tender service from 3pm onward, but the upper floor only has a self-service beverage station with similar beverage offering. Second, the upper floor food buffet has few additional food items, such as sushi, but really nothing dramatic – same entrée and choices of soups. The upper floor is basically there to relief the busy traffic during daytime. I like the lower floor a bit because I like the view over the apron, but the upper floor can feel a bit cooler during summer times.
On time performance:
I don’t think my two flights are fair comparison because TBIT at LAX has always been a bit difficult in terms of operation, such as the tow gate arrangement, busy alley, and limited gate. My OZ flight was delayed a bit due to the late arrival of the aircraft from Seoul. Boarding did not occur till 12:23pm, which was thirteen minutes behind the original departure time. Door was closed at 12:50pm, which was remarkable for a full load of passengers. We pushed back two minutes later since we were at gate 101, the furthest point of the pier. We took off at 1:10pm, after the departure of a Delta’s ex-TWA Boeing 757-200 winglet N717TW. We landed at ICN the day after at 6:37pm, which was seven minutes behind schedule. So we were able to catch up some time. My return JL flight was on time both on departure and arrival. Boarding was slightly late at 5:03pm due to the security clearance, but was completed at 5:18pm due to light load. Pushed back at 5:25pm, and we took off from R/W16R at 5:48pm. Descent began at 9:12am LA local time, and we landed on R/W24R at 9:41am, nine minutes early. We were parked at gate 104 at 9:56am.
Plane-spotting at LAX on December 3, 2008:
ANA Boeing 777-300ER JA733A
Lan Chile Boeing 767-300ER CC-CWN as LA 601 to Lima and Santiago
China Eastern Airbus A340-600 B-6051
Qantas Boeing 747-300 VH-EBV from Auckland
Air New Zealand Boeing 777-200ER ZK-OKF towing back to remote parking spot
Cathay Pacific Boeing 747-400 B-HKT as CX 882, and later as CX 881
Lufthansa Boeing 747-400 D-ABVK to Frankfurt
Plane-spotting at NRT on December 15, 2008:
JAL Boeing 777-300ER JA732J to Frankfurt
JL’s Boeing 747-400 JA8089 to Singapore
Malaysia Airlines’ Boeing 777-200ER 9M-MRH
Sri Lankan’s Airbus A340-300 4R-ADC to Male and Colombo
Pakistan’s Airbus A310-300 AP-PGO to Beijing and Lahore
Cathay Pacific’s Boeing 747-400 B-HUJ as CX 504 from HKG and return as CX 451 to Taipei
Cathay Pacific’s Boeing 747-400 B-HKE as CX 450 from TPE and return as CX 505 to HKG
Cathay Pacific’s Airbus A340-300 B-HXF as CX 548 and 549
Air New Zealand’s Boeing 777-200ER ZK-OKD to AKL
Air Pacific’s Boeing 767-300ER DQ-FJC to Nadi
JAL Boeing 777-200 JA701J to BKK
JAL Boeing 747-400 JA8916 YOKOSO as JL 9 from ORD and return to JFK as JL 8
JAL Boeing 747-400 JA8072 to Denpasar
JAL Boeing 747-400 JA8085 from HKG and return to HKG as JL735
JAL Boeing 777-300ER JA734J from LHR and towing to remote area later
JAL Boeing 747-400 JA8072 from TPE (10am flight) and return as 4:30pm flight back to TPE
Flying time for OZ 201 was twelve hours and twenty-seven minutes. Our routing was typical over SBA at 32,000feet, cruising along the California coast until Monterrey and then heading to the Kodiak Islands at Alaska, and climbing to 34,000feet, and then 36,000feet before crossing the city of Iwaki, Japan, and leaving Japan by corssing Maebashi, and then Korean cities of Pohang and Yecheon.
Flying for JL 62 was eight hours and fifty-three minutes. Our routing is simply a direct crossing the Pacific routing. We were at 36,000feet most of the time, until closing to the US at 38,000feet, and then descending to 37,000feet as we entered the Bay Area.
OZ used gate 101, which was one of the A380 gates, but they still only used one jetbridge for boarding. The gate area was crowded, despite clear sign of separate premium lines. OZ sent a concierge to pick us all up and squeezed us all the way to the front, which was a pretty tough task. However, I really did not know how to make boarding an easier ordeal at LAX TBIT. At other gates, Premium and economy lines are separated at two different ends, and that tends to make things better.
JL used gate 81 for JL 62 and there was a separate premium and economy lines, and people are very orderly like most Japanese, and there were enough gate agents to patrol the area. No personal escort to the gate, but I was very impressed when the gate agents spotted my mom and me with the first class boarding pass. She immediately pulled us out from the line and placed us on the other side of the gate. Because the boarding was delayed a few times, she actually opened the gate and brought us inside the secure area and let us sitting in the benches by the windows. That was very impressive and I had to give her high marks for ensuring F passengers getting to board first. I also want to report that there are still random baggage check right after you board, and if you are in F and J, remember not to rush and let two people go in front of you first. There were two agents doing secondary bag check.
OZ offers a full pre-takeoff service – newspapers, amenity kits and pajamas were immediately distributed, as well as hanging coats and taking order for pre-takeoff beverages. Slippers were already pre-place at the seat as well a pair of headsets. A bowl of mixed nuts was also offered at the same time. The F/As were friendly and polite, just like your typical Asiana experience.
JL was not permitted to offer pre-takeoff beverages and snack service, as the Japanese aviation authority prohibited its own state airline from providing those services, so they can concentrate more on security checks. Newspapers and magazines were offered and the F/As would bring your English or Japanese selection, and they also passed out the new pajama/relaxing wear and the new leather folder containing wine list and menus, as well as a personally signed card by the three F/As serving the F cabin. BOSE headsets as well as slippers were already inside the magazine drawer. Unfortunately OZ got the full marks here by providing a proper pre-takeoff service for premium cabin. NRT often had long takeoff queues and it was often that you would not receive a beverage till at least 60 to 90 minutes after boarding.
Asiana has gone with a golden and yellowish theme for its seat covers and blankets, while the hardware is a typical grayish theme. Its pajama also reflects the same theme of gray color with a subtle golden stripe pattern. The new layout for its Boeing 747-400 is 1X1 for the first three rows and then 1X2X1 in the fourth row.
Japan Airlines has gone with a mainly white colored seat fabric with cream-colored headrest cover and a light green color carpet. The cabin is very modern and stylish. The solo seat has gone with a 1X1 seating in the first four rows, and 1X1X1 seating in the last row. The mattress uses a cream colored pad, and the duvet cover has a very nice grey (two shades) checkered pattern. I personally like JL’s more modern and stylish tick in terms of its color scheme, compared to the traditional golden pattern selected by Asiana. However, that is just a personal preference and it is obvious that both airlines have spent much time designing their respective first class cabin and products.
OZ has already updated most of its Boeing 747-400 with the new F solo seats. The seats of course are way better than before with ample space for magazines, computers, and personal belonging. The television is much larger and individual power outlets and USB drive are all available if you need to work. For couple, the middle seat 4E and 4F are still available. But the leg console on the 747 seats cannot be used as a neighbor seat, so two people cannot dine together. There are headrests, legrests with extension too while on a non-bed recline positions, and lumbar supports. As you can see from the pictures, there are many lumbar functions. The seat is also very wide while in bed situation or sitting. My only problem is the tray table, which can only move forward and backward, and it does not have the swirl function. So during meals, it is not easy to get out of the seat, because the armrest cannot be lowered. The seats are actually more comfortable than Boeing 777 F solo seats especially in sitting positions.
JL’s Skysleeper solo seats have widely been discussed, and compared to OZ F solo seats, JL seats are a bit out-dated. The white leather is very nice to look at and the seats are full with gadgets and good functions. I don’t know what to add here, but have included pictures from my previous flight (a daytime flight) so you can review the seat functions again. I don’t think I am going to compare OZ new F with JL slightly older F solo seats. It is not fair. However, both F seats are comfortable and acceptable, except JL F can use more personal lights and more user-friendly. Both airlines offer a full bed turndown service – mattress over the seat and a proper duvet blanket. I like JL color better than the OZ golden color scheme, but that is very personal.
Food & Beverage:
Both airlines have definitely spent much time in terms of its food and wine selection. They are both at the top of the games, and even better than Cathay Pacific in many ways. Its focus tends to be more Asian oriented, which is expected, and the taste of the food is catered towards an Asian clientele, but their Western food selection is acceptable. For non-beef eaters, Asiana will be a bit weak, as beef is considered a luxurious item in Korea, and therefore featured a bit more often on its premium menus, and for entrees, it is not uncommon to see two beef entrée and one seafood entrée. Non-beef eaters should considered ordering either seafood meals, and vegetarians should order vegetarian meals for sure. Asiana has also abandoned the old traditional silver bowl/trolley service, and uses a more conventional individual style service now. There are plus and minus, and I assume service can be more personalized and more efficient for the evening service/late night services.
Japan Airlines has also gone to a more personalized dining service, and the menu is a bit more flexible than Asiana. The main meal service is similar for both OZ and JL, and they feature similar courses. But JAL has a more extensive a la carte snack menu items and breakfast is more flexible, as you can mix and match as you please. The F/As will make adjustment to the tray service, as they actually note what kind of food you have during the flight. Asiana, on the other hand, has a relatively small refreshment on demand selection, just noodles, fruit or sandwiches, and the final meal is more structured (but more extensive) and served in various courses. I personally like Asiana more extravagant meal services, but JAL this time has improved much and the F/As are more flexible, and you can have as much food as you want. I like their full refreshment menu and their flexibility concerning the second meal service.
Here is their full menu and wine list:
Asiana First Class Wine List
Medium Dry Sherry Sandeman
Scotch Whiskey Johnnie Walker Blue Label
Bourbon Whiskey Jack Daniel
Canadian Whiskey Canadian Club
Korean Traditional Liqueurs
“HWARANG” Made from Rice and Herbs
“MAE CHUY SOON” Made from Plum
Taittinger Comtes de Champagne 1998
Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve
Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2004
Artesa Chardonnay Carneros Estate 2004
Gewurztraminer Herrenweg de Turckheim 2004
Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte, Grand Cru Classe, Graves 2004
Charmes Chambertin Grand Cru 2004
Ridgeline Cabernet Sauvignon Alexander Valley 2003
Blandy’s 10 Years Old Maimsey Madeira
Port Sanderman 20 Years Old Tawny Porto
Jackson-Triggs Vidal VQA Ice Wine 2006
Cognac & Liqueurs
Baileys Irish Cream
Los Angeles to Seoul
Hot Canape of Coconut Shrimp
Appetizer of Lobster, Prosciutto Ham and Smoked Salmon
Served with Melba Toast and Condiments
Served with bread sticks
Mixed Garden Salad
Thousand Island Dressing
Herb Vinegar Dressing
Beef Tenderloin Steak (396kcal)
Served with Red Wine Sauce
Accompanied by Squash, Red Pepper and Potato
“Mixing and Harmonizing”
Korean Royal Cuisine “Bi-Bim-Bap”
Steamed rice, various kinds of vegetables and minced beef
Accompanied by hot pepper paste, sesame oil, assorted side dishes and soup
Grilled Lobster (243kcal)
Served with Saffron Sauce
Accompanied by Mixed vegetables and pasta
Selection of Cheese & Fresh Fruit
Coffee & Tea
Assorted Petits Fours
Assorted Fresh Fruits
Appetizer of Sliced beef and grilled scallop
Korean Royal Cuisine “Sulrung-Tang” (321 kcal)
Korean Traditional Beef soup with Steamed rice
Served with various kinds of side dishes
Beef Brochette (395kcal)
Served with Teriyaki Sauce
Accompanied by Fried rice and asparagus
Herb Crusted Orange Roughy (213 kcal)
Served with Mustard Cream Sauce
Accompanied by Sauteed Shrimp and Mixed vegetables
Wine List (AMR-LSE)
Tio Pepe, Dry Sherry
Martini Rosso, Sweet Vermouth
Martini Extra Dry, Sweet Vermouth
Crème de Cassis
Suntory The Yamazaki 12 Years Old (Single Malt)
The Macallan 12 Years Old (Single Malt)
Chivas Regal Royal Salute
Bombay Sapphire Gin
Remy Martin X.O. Premier Cru
Bailey’s Irish Cream
Graham’s Tawny Port 30 Years Old
Champagne Bollinger La Grande Annee 1999
Champagne Palmes d’Or 1997 Nicolas Feuillatte
Demesscy Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru Morgeout 2001
Clos du Bois: Chardonnay 2006
Von Schuert’schen 2003 Maximin Grunhauser Herrenberg Riesling Spatlese
Rubaiyat Koshu Barrel Aged 2006
Chateau Smith Haut-Lafitte 2004 Pessac Leognan
Vosne Romanee 2004 Domaine Daniel Rion & Fils
Artesa Merlot 2004 Sonoma Valley
Haras de Pirque: Albis 2003 Maipo Valley
High Quality Japanese Sake Gingyoshu
Japanese Premium Shochu
Welcome to JAL First Class
We thank you very much for flying with Japan Airlines today.
We promise our customers on first class to deliver you the delightful and comfortable time for rest, beyond clouds which meets your expectations and requests with heartfelt services.
When dining onboard, we will serve you, whatever you like, whenever you like, as often as you like from the course menu and a la carte on the menu.
Exclusively selected wines and Japanese sake are available.
Your cabin attendant will be delighted to help you of good choice of wine for the menu you have selected, or other recommendations.
We hope you spend wonderful time in JAL First Class.
Tokyo to Los Angeles
Terrine of Foie Gras & Jerusalem Artichoke Mousse Gateau Style
Northern Shrimp Cocktail
Tuna with “Guacamole” Sauce with Marinated Eggplant
Hors d’Oeuvre (Choice)
Saffron Flavor Jelly with Poireau Bavarois
Fresh Salad Appetizer with Iberico Pork Raw Ham
JAL Healthy menu selection
Main Dish (Choice)
Fillet of “Iwate” Beef Steak with Red Wine Sauce
Please let cabin crew know if you enjoy the beef steak with pure salt instead of sauce
Assorted Roasted Lamb Steak Combination
Sauteed Fillet of Alfonsino & Angler-fish with Porcini sauce
JAL Healthy Menu Selection (275kcal)
Grand Dessert from Escoffier
Raspberry Chocolate Cake
Vanilla Ice Cream
Coffee, Espresso, Cappuccino, Tea, Herbal Tea
Winter Taste of Japan
Dried-salted Mullet Roe/Sweet Black Bean/Miso Flavored Stem lettuce
Fillet of Flounder “Sashimi” Style
Salmon Roe with Grated Radish Sauce
Salmon “Sushi”/ Rolled Cod Roe with Kelp/Simmered Whelk Shell
Braised Squid & Japanese Radish
Deep-simmered Taro & Shrimp in Sweet Soy Sauce
Boiled Crabmeat with Soy Vinegar Jelly “Salad Style”
Poached Large Surf Clam & Squid with Miso Mustard sauce
Simmered Spiny Lobster & Fried Lotus Root Mousse in White Miso Sauce
Soy sauce Seasoned Rice with Sea Urchin or Steamed Rice
We are pleased to offer freshly steamed Koshihikari rice.
Japanese Clear Soup
A la Carte
Seasoned Sea Tngle with Herring Roe
Rolled Roast Beef with Soy Vinegar Jelly
Simmered Oyster with “Yuba” Crepe
“Yakitori” Skewered Chicken Grill
Japanese A la Carte
Korean Spicy Vegetable & Beef on Steamed Rice
Steamed Rice and Sea-Bream with Japanese Tea “Ochazuke”
Gizzard Shad, Crabmeat & Sea-bream Sushi Logs
Vegetable Curry Japanese Style
Western A la Carte
Japanese Beef Hamburger Steak with Chasseur Sauce
Omelet Rice with Hashed Beef Sauce
Chinese “Ramen” Noodles in Soup with “Kagoshima” Pork Fillet
Healthy Menu Selection
Prepared Fresh Fruits
Simmered Tofu & Seasonal Vegetable with “Yuba” Crepe Sauce
Sesame Soybean Milk Custard
White Sauce Crepe with Scrambled Eggs
OZ offers a Bulgari amenity kit and different versions for men and women, a pair of terry cotton slippers, and a pajama. JL offers a separate Shiseido amenity kit for men and women. (Shiseido for men, Shiseido's Cle de Peau line for women!) A pair of terry cotton slippers, as well as relaxing wear is offered. Both offer additional amenities such as eye masks, mouthwash, toothbrush sets, and combs in the restroom. JAL is more interesting with eye cooling masks and various cosmetic products. Both are fairly generous with its offering and use luxurious brand. However, I really don’t like the brown color that goes with JAL amenity kits. I hope it can change it to another color soon.
Asiana’s flight attendants are almost flawless from boarding to landing. Smiles are always kept and they don’t seem to be tired. On this particular trip, I notice the F/As made more efforts in communicating with passengers and the pursuer made her appearance in the cabin more often. They were also more proactive in terms of asking if you want something to drink and eat. They patrolled the cabin more often than other airlines, including CX, SQ and JAL on long-haul flights.
Japan Airlines also strives to improve the quality of its F/As now, and they made more efforts in talking to passengers. My mom reported that the F/A talked to her for a while, since she was the only one awake at that time. They are definitely more personable, but my experiences with JL F/As are still mixed. They are always polite and friendly, but sometimes they lack personable skills. They can come across as a bit cold. However, this particular flight impresses me much.
Both airlines are really good and you know you are not flying American or United. The F/As are friendly and polite, and always try to please. They are efficient and always spotted your needs. They will open the bathroom door for you. If they see you walking in with your pajama, they will offer you a hangar. They are quick on their feet and hang up my coat almost immediately. They both patrolled the cabin frequently and answered to call buttons very quickly. I still think their English competency level can still be raised and that is the only hindrance to their raising to a higher international standard. Singapore Airlines will never have this English competency issues and they can make easy conversations. I think I am still leaning towards Asiana F/As a bit more because they are really well trained and younger and inspired. JAL has shown improvement but some of my previous experiences are not so positive. So OZ definitely has a slight advantage here.
Both airlines do not offer personal escort service on arrival, but both airlines try to reinforce the fact that first class passengers always left first. Baggage service is second to none, and the first class bags will always come out first. I am impressed with the first class tag on my transit bag (I arrived Tokyo on another airline). Asian airlines are flawless when it comes to priority deplaning and priority bags. Just a note, for the first time, there is a dual jetbridge arrangement at LAX. We arrived at gate 104 and to the crew’s surprise, door one got their own jetbridge too. It must be part of the improvement project and makes traveling so much easier.
I have to say it is really difficult to say Asiana Airlines or Japan Airlines are better. Both airlines provide excellent service on both flights, and their products have been updated. Yes, both airlines have cutback, in particular the quantity of entrée. JAL has only two pieces of lobster chunk on my dinner main course, and Asiana has smaller entrée portion, and its lobster entrée no longer comes with the original shell. Those are relatively minor points, but both have updated their menus, amenities and seats. I still like Asiana Airlines a tiny bit more because their ground service and concierges are more personable, which actually make boarding a bit less hassle. Their F/As are also more consistent and less cold. However both airlines are really recommendable.
Feel free to ask questions!