Finally I found the free time to put this report together. It covers both carriers active between Amsterdam and Tokyo: Japan Airlines and KLM. Both carriers operate the route once daily. While KLM uses a mix of B772 and B744, JAL flies with a mix of B772, B77W and B744, although mainly with the B772.
Since I had to attend some business at our headquarter office, I applied for an onward flight on JL, and back on KLM, since they offer a better IFE for me. E-tickets were arranged by my colleagues from the administration department and send to my email.
After saying goodbye to my partner, I took the bus to the airport. I’ve a convenient exclusive buslane all the way, so I arrived about 20 minutes after I left my house. Check-In just opened. JAL is handled at the West terminal (Departure Hall 3). Three desks were open to Economy Class, One for Business Class and higher level Frequent Flyers. I was greeted by the friendly staff and was assigned to my pre-selected seat located on the Upper Deck. The seat next to me was blocked off on request.
Blue Executive Class boardingpass (in Y you will get a Green one)
JA8080 waiting at the gate
I passed passport control without trouble, and went to our gate, E08. Boarding started at 19:55 hours. The load on this flight was really low, and the need to send the B747-400 down to Amsterdam was hardly to understand for many. I boarded as first, was greeted by the very friendly female Cabin Supervisor and I helped myself upstairs. I stored my belongings in the overhead bin, and my other bag in the sidelockers (the very convenient bins in between the seats and sidepanel). After this, I immediately went upfront to the flightdeck to get some route familiarisation. This is an advantage of my employment and area of work. I cannot, and will not go into further details on this subject. I closed the secured door, took my seat and had a chat with the crew, who did the final pre-flight preparations and necessary checks. Meanwhile, the other passengers boarded.
We received route clearance by ATC, with runway 24 assigned and a ‘SPY 1S’ departure.
Flight No.: JL412 Date: 22OCT08
STD: 2015 ATD: 2015
STA: 1430 ATA: 1351
A/C: Boeing 747-400 Reg No.: JA8080
Seat: 21K – Business Class
This was the first flight on this machine, and my 10th Boeing 747 flight (of which 2 on Boeing 747-freighters). Load on this flight was 28% only.
Photo © Jakub Sulima
We got a short taxiroute to runway 24, and entered at S6. Takeoff clearance was received immediately, while other traffic was holding short. The 4 engines were spooled up and a very short and powerful roll was needed to bring this machine into the air. ATC cleared us to FL140, when we did the right turn over the town of Hoofddorp. Soon we changed frequency to Amsterdam Radar who directed us further up to FL250. The climb was smooth and without difficulties and/or other issues. Amsterdam Radar said goodbye and we transferred to Eurocontrol Maastricht , got clearance to FL330. We requested FL340 instead, and got this acknowledged as well. Everybody happy, and the 10 hour cruise to Japan started. I was getting hungry, so said wished the crew a good night and I went back to my seat. Mealservice just started.
View from my seat. Boeing 747-400 Upperdeck cabin
The Japanese female cabin attendant gave me ‘oshibori’ (wet hand towel) and prepared my table and put cloth on it. She offered the drink service and I made my choice out of the white wines. I was served a French Bourgogne: “Abbaye des Fontenay 2005 Les Truites Macon Villages”. It was a very tasty and fruity wine, which I pleasantly enjoyed during mealservice. The wine was served with some pickles.
Some pickles and wine…
My starter came and looked good. It was Foie Gras, Prosciutto with Melon and Consomme Soup with Cabbage & Tomato. There was also a green salad, but no dressing!
Maindish choices were the Beef or Chicken. Instead you could also request a full Japanese menu, but then also the starter would’ve been different.
My choice was Chicken & Parma Ham Roll with Red Pepper Sauce. It came accompanied by risotto and asparagus, and some bread. I also ordered a bowl of freshly steamed Koshihikari rice.
Main course (Western choice / Chicken)
Meanwhile my wine had two refills, until dessert came. A large choice was available: Cheese Plate, Fresh Fruits, Apple Pie and Mocha Mousse. I had the mousse and the fruits. The crew prepared the plate on the spot which resulted in some dripping of vanilla sause on the floor.
I finished this dessert with a coffee.
Dessert & Coffee
When everything finished, the table got cleaned up. I was offered whisky or baileys, and some Belgium chocolates. I took the baileys and some white chocolate, and listened to some music of the IFE system.
We meanwhile flew roughly over Copenhagen, Stockholm and St. Petersburg into Russian airspace.
The crew closed the windowshades and prepared the cabin for the night. Everybody got a bottle of Evian water (500ml). After this, the crew disappeared for a long time into the galley and was very quiet.
I also slept for about 5 hours.
I must say that JAL’s Executive Class/Seasons Shell Flat seats are pretty comfortable for some rest. The also feature a build-in massage function.
I’m also positive on the new type of Panasonic noise reduction headphones in C class on JAL.
Less positive I was about the IFE system, which is a bit outdated and not on par with many other airline companies. There is not enough choice for the international passenger, and the system is mainly focussing on the Japanese passenger. So I decided for a chat in the galley, and stayed with the crew for about 45 minutes. When I returned to my seat, I got a warmed ham/cheese sandwich. I found the looks not very good, and the sandwich got very moisty while heated in the oven.
Not the best midnight snack I’ve seen …
While over Russia we further climbed to flightlevel FL365, and had a smooth cruise.
Siberian cruising …
When we started reaching Eastern Siberia and got closer to the Sea of Japan, the crew asked me at what time I wanted to return to the cockpit in order to prepare the breakfast timely for me. I said that I would have it now, so within 10 minutes later, the crew came with a full tray of western breakfast. It had 2 sandwiches, Scrambled Eggs, bacon, Spinach, Potatoes, fruits and yogurt on it. I also got an English tea. Taste was rather bland, so I used quite some salt.
After I finished, I took some belongings with me and went to the front office again. We flew over the Sea of Japan and just entered Fukuoka FIR, while on initial descend from FL390. A lot of other traffic was visible on the TCAS system, mainly traffic going out to Europe, or traffic with us originating from Europe, or traffic crossing North/South on Japanese domestic sectors (mainly to/from Hokkaido). We crossed waypoint Milky at FL150 and lowered further for a runway 16R approach at NRT.
The latest weather was a bit hazy, and not the best visibility. Final descend was also a bit bumpy.
The actual landing was smooth though. Another longhaul flight was completed. We taxied slowly to gate 93 on the satellite building and parked. After the crew completed a few checklists, I said goodbye and thanked them for the good flight.
Immigration was done quickly. The entry card was filled out already on the aircraft, so I was able to pass the checkpoint quickly. Japan does take also a picture of your face and 2 fingerprints upon entry of the country. This only applies for foreigners though. Anyway, it went friendly as always in this country.
My checked luggage was also on the carrousel and therefore also no time to wait here.
I was back in Japan again. My last visit was back in late 2006.
During the 9 days spend in Japan, I mainly had my work to do. I was able to take one day off and went by plane to Fukuoka. This report will follow separately. My return flight (NRT-AMS) will come in a separate report as well.
So, to conclude this report. Flying JAL is always a good option to Japan and further into Asia. JAL is the largest airline in Asia and provide a reliable service. They operate ontime and use modern equipment. Food is ok, although I think the dinnerservice for Business Class was below the average level. For some reason I still don’t like the presentation of the meals. And how can they forget the dressing for the salad…, this shouldn’t happen in C class.
Drinks are refilled without asking, which is a good thing. But crew should be aware that they don’t provide to much alcohols to the passengers. Anyway, this is the Japanese hospitality I think!
Seats are very good. They are comfortable and offer enough pitch. The seats are spotless and don’t show much signs of usage. The seats also have a powerport enabling you to charge equipment or to work on the notebook.
IFE is below par. Choice of movies on the Boeing 747-400 entertainment system is not enough (for me), and also music channels are not my style. Although everything is ‘on demand’, there is too much Japanese talking in between the songs, and therefore mainly focussed on again, the Japanese passenger.
The crew is very friendly, but not too personal. They work quietly and don’t disturb you in mid-flight. Therefore, sleeping on the JAL aircraft is easy. Also the other (Japanese) passengers won’t bother you.
So afterall, no big complaints on JAL. Some items should be reviewed though. I introduced some of my opinions to the companies management lately and they will hopefully be discussed.
Thank for reading!