As promised, I will do a better and more detailed return report on Japan Airlinesâ€™ Skysleeper solo seats and meal services on my way back to Asia. The last flight was a disaster, as some of you recalled and the F/As were pretty occupied with the VIP guest, a certain American singer with visibility problems, and therefore, I set my expectation pretty low in the return flight. So how did the return flight go?
It actually went pretty well and many factors combined for a rather pleasant experience, such as Tom Bradley was really quiet and there was no wait at JL F/C/Y lines at all, and even security was a breeze. The in flight service was fine and the F/As were more attentive but English proficiency remained problematic at times, and I just felt service towards Japanese passengers were better simply due to this communication problem, but all three first class F/As, they were really hospitable and did lots of check. There was one particular F/A (sorry no name), who was really nice and she was the one, who folded origami as bathroom decorations and would fold my duvet as I headed to the bathroom. Food was really nice and the Kaiseki meal is pretty good, as well as the noodles. The pre-arrival Western tray was average, at least better than what UA passed as their pre-arrival meal in first class. Here it goes the full report!
April 27, 2007
JL 61 LAX-NRT Lv1320 Arr1640+1 Boeing 747-400 JA8914
Check-in was a breeze today because Tom Bradley was fairly quiet with most airlines, and it was also the early hours. I arrived around 10am and had more than sufficient time. As I said earlier, a ground staff spotted me as I approached the counters, and once he found out I was a first class passenger, he immediately brought me to the counter and the friendly staff immediately processed the check-in. As expected, bags were checked through to Hong Kong, but JL still could not print out CX boarding passes. Also the bag situation has changed once again and now you had to bring your bags to the x-ray after check-in, which made more sense. Also an agent will bring your bags over to the x-ray machines in first class, but you still had to follow the bags and wait till the bags went through the x-ray. I was told that there was no escort agent today, but a premium lane card was given to me, and I was indeed directed to the staff line once I went to the checkpoint.
The lounge itself was okay and it was temporary measure, as LA renovated all the lounges and divided them according to their respective alliances. I hope the new lounges will be ready by June, as the peak travel season would arrive soon and the lounge did not seem capable to handle the large groups of people. The lounge has lots of staffs roaming around, but nothing much is offered in terms of food, and I also saw the staffs taking advantage of the food as well, which was a big no-no in my book. Well wifi costs money, but the four computer terminals were free now, which were a good thing, but folks, please be courteous and used them for around 20-30 minutes, unless you were working on some important stuff!
Plane-spotting: All Nipponâ€™s 77W JA777A, KEâ€™s 772ER HL7575, Asianaâ€™s Boeing 747-400Combi HL7417, Air New Zealandâ€™s 747-400 ZK-SUI, CIâ€™s 747-400 B-18211, Air Franceâ€™s Boeing 777-200ER F-GSPH, and Aer Lingusâ€™ Airbus A330-200 EI-LAX
I arrived at the gate around 12:20pm, and lots of constructions were going on at our concourse, and only 120 and 121 were opened for business. The nearby All Nipponâ€™s flight seemed to be going out full, but our flight looked a bit sparse. It really said much about how ANA really takes over JALâ€™s reputation as a good career for the past decade. Anyway, JAL had a separate first and business class line for boarding, but in reality, boarding just took place for F and J together. Boarding began at 12:42pm and this time, the F/As were a bit warmer as they greeted us. Cabin wear was offered (and no one said a work when I packed them home at the end of the flight), and BOSE headsets as well. Newspapers were self-served, or you had to ask for them. No pre-takeoff beverage was offered as all Japanese airlines for unknown safely and security reasons. The purser went around and said the formal hi, and most passengers just read papers and waited for pushback. Door was closed at 1:10pm (ten minutes early), but due to congestion, we did not push back till 1:17pm, which was not bad for LAX standard. Then we headed towards R/W24L and this time, there was a line of planes, and we did not takeoff till 1:40pm.
Flying time was estimated to be ten hours and forty minutes, but turned out to be eleven hours and forty-eight minutes, which I would explain why later. Our routing was the typical transpacific route, with us first at 32,000feet and passing San Francisco before climbing further to 34,000feet and then 35,000feet before reaching Kodiak and the Alaska Peninsula, and then up to 36,000feet, and 37,000feet before reaching the Japanese water.
For Japan Airlines, everything went well after takeoff, as a round of champagne to start the flight, and then wine list was passed out, so the F/As could take beverage orders with a plate of canapÃ©s, which feature a toast topped with fish roes, a smoked fish and cucumber canapÃ©, and a cream cheese and fig tart. Then menus were passed out and meal orders were taken. Lunch was served in a leisurely pace, which should be the way for this daytime flight. Nothing destroys the service as F/As rush through meals especially during daytime, which United F/As and even some Taiwanese airlines really rush through in their first and business class cabin. I sort of understand the quicken base for late night departures, but or a ten hours noon departure, what is the rush? Here is the full wine list and menu:
Champagne Veuve Cliquot La Grand Dame 1993
Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte Cuvee 225, 1998
Louis Latour Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 2004
Simi, Chardonnay 2005, Sonoma County
Trittenheimer Altarchen Riesling Auslese 2004
Aruga Branca Pipa, Katsunuma Japan 2003
Chateau Canon 2003 Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
Louis Latour Chateau Corton Grancey 1998
Silkwood Wines: Syrah 2001 Stanislaus County
Vina Errazuriz: Don Maximiano Founderâ€™s Reserve 2003
Solaris, Shinshu Komoro Merlot 2004
High Quality Japanese Sake
Isojiman, Junmai Dai-Ginjyo
Japanese Premium Shochu
Napoleon of Crabmeat Salad with Roasted Bell Pepper Sauce
Mustard Crusted Breast of Duck
Velvoute of Asparagus
Main Dish (choices)
Five Spice Seasoned Fillet of Beef with Brandy Sauce (572kcal)
Stuffed Chicken Breast with Mustard Demi-Galce Sauce (562 kcal)
Sauteed Red Snapper Asian style with ginger soy vinegar sauce (334 kcal)
Fresh Vegteable Salad
Fruits in Season
Brazilian Chocolate Cake
Coffee, tea herbal tea, espresso, or cappuccino
Spring Taste of Japan
Mixed Vegetable with Bean Curd Less
King Crab meat
Prawn Mousse with Salmon Roe
Grilled chicken with vegetables
Rolled Conger Eel with Burdock
Asparagus with Egg Yolk Vinegar dressing
Japanese Clear Soup with Sea Urchin Mousse
Sea-bream & s quid â€œSashimiâ€™ Style
Yuba Crepe with Steamed Sea Urchin
â€œSakuraâ€ flavored steaned fillet of Sea-bream & Grilled Spanish Mackerel
Japanese Steamed rice
Fruits in season
For lunch, I had the Japanese meal, which was served course by course, and beautifully done. I donâ€™t need to say much, as you can tell from the pictures. The F/As were attentive and I enjoyed the service tremendously. I also had a piece of Mango cake for dessert, and it was a really good meal.
Entertainment is weak, and Magic I is definitely not on par with most Asian airlines. There were twelve channels of on demand movies and short subjects, and the movies were okay, but the short subjects were all in Japanese. The system was also not user friendly, and it took me a while to figure out how to work, and â€œgamesâ€ are not available too. Well I watched the sky map and nose view most of the times and listened to my own IPOD and read too.
After lunch, I asked for my PJ and the F/As made up my bed, which were basically placing a mattress pad over the seat and brought out the comfortable duvet. (CX is the weakest in this department because they only offer a duvet, not the full turn down service.) Bottled waters were passed out, and the seat console was filled with assorted Japanese snacks and wines, and more bottled water. I tried to take a nap but was not too successful, so I just closed my eyes and listened to music before returning to reading. Around mid-flight, I asked for a bowl of udon noodles, which were brought out with a smile. The udon was average, but not as good as the Chinese ramen soup (Tonkotus/Pork flavor)! Nothing was too much. Here is the full snack menu!
Lobser Bisque with Seafood Pasta
California Fruit in a lime champagne Jelly
Marinated Mountain Vegetables
Grilled Sea-Bream Miso Flavor
Steamed Rice or Japanese Porridge
Japanese A La Carte
Steamed Rice and Vegetables with Japanese Tea â€œOchazukeâ€
Vegetable Curry Japanese Style
Simmered Eel in Sweet Soya Sauce
Braised Icefish with egg yolk on Steamed rice
Japanese â€œUdonâ€ Noodles in Soup with Fried Bean Curd
Chinese â€œRamenâ€ Noodles in Soup with â€œKagoshimaâ€ Pork Fillet
(Soy Sauce Flavor Soup or â€œTonkotsuâ€ soup
Western a la carte
Shrimp Fajatas with Tomato Salsa
Hot Crepe â€œPatissereâ€
Open face sandwich
Prepared Fresh Fruits
Oragnic Fruit Sherbet or Vanilla ice cream
The lights were turned back on around 11pm PST/3pm Tokyo time, and the F/As were going around to take snack orders, and I decided to go with the Western tray, which were okay. Much better than Unitedâ€™s various versions of disgusting pies and hot food, but SQ is a bit better with presentations and served them in three courses, but I guess Japanese is used to serve food in one course. Around 4:08pm, we began our descent towards 28,000feet, but seat belt sign was not turned on till 4:38pm, and I just assumed the usual heavy NRT afternoon traffic, but soon the wait was a bit too long even for NRT standard, and then I saw our planes going in circles in Sea of Japan, and the F/As told each F passenger individually that we were placed on hold due to weather, and there was also an emergency landing situation, and we were told that we would be on hold for additional thirty minutes. Then the pilot came on the P/A, but I always appreciate the F/Asâ€™ personal touch and telling us before hearing from the P/A system. Around 5pm, there were signs for heading back to NRT, and at 5:22pm, the landing gears came down, and we landed on a very wet NRTâ€™s R/W34L at 5:28pm, and parked at gate 62 at 5:40pm (almost an hour late). Most folksâ€™ connections were fine, except JLâ€™s own Hong Kong flight JL735, as they cancelled JL739, the later flight. Our plane would continue on a domestic connector to Nagoya. Of course, knowing NRT, I know my CX flight would delay again, which happened second time. It seems that CX450 has to divert to somewhere whenever I flew them in first class. Last time I was on CX505, I hit the Tokyoâ€™s snowstorm and CX 505 was diverted to HND, and this time, it was the rain and emergency landing, and CX 450 was diverted to Nagoya and our departure time was almost 9pm. Anyway, I am not going to write about CX, but to comment on the much better NRT lounge now, but the food selection is still weak, especially ANA really enhances their food offerings and even NWA has a new lounge and serves real food too. CX needs to work on enhancing the food on out-stations like BKK and NRT.
Well the return flight was much better, but I have to say I still rated CX and SQ better, and most importantly, All Nippon is also a bit better, as the F/As were less reserved and with more energy and willing to communicate with passengers and better English speaking ability and entertainment. I also like NHâ€™s First seats a bit better too. Anyway, I will rate Japan Airlines as an above average first class airline, not better than CX or SQ or NH or OZ (of course JL seats are better, but not service), but better than BR, CI, and all the US airlines.
I hope you enjoy this report. My next report would possibly on the SQâ€™s 777-300ER from SIN to ICN.