I had to bring another visit to my headoffice for some business, therefore another trip to the land of the rising sun was on my programm. As always, I had to fly on JAL outbound, at least to perform a cockpit observation during takeoff and approach/landing. This is part of my job, and there is no need to explain much more about it.
This was my first flight during the 2008-2009 winter schedule on JAL, with a revised (earlier) departure time out of Amsterdam. Departure was set 75 minutes forward during this winter, meaning departure at 19.00 hours at night.
Checkin was done in a breeze. Friendly staff took my 16kgs heavy suitcase for loading in the lower holds. My pre-requested seat (aisle, 10D) was not possible anymore due to some upgraded passenger. I had to take a windowseat somewhere, so I opted for 02A in the forward cabin.
The assigned gate was, as usual, E08. On my way there, I spend my last Euro’s and got my hands on a Dutch weekly magazine. I always have to bring my own language down to Japan, since I still can’t understand the Japanese language, and English is not widely spread accross this country.
At the gate I had some final talking with one of my best collegues. She went to Moscow lately and had thousands of stories about it. Although time was short, she was able to tell me that Moscow is a very nice city to visit.
My ride for this night: JA707J parked at gate E08
Flight No.: JL412 Date: 28NOV08
STD: 19.00 ATD: 18.54
STA: 14.30 ATA: 13.48
A/C: Boeing 777-246(ER) Reg No.: JA707J
Seat: 03H – Business/Executive Class
Photo © Wongwei
My first ride on this particular aircraft.
Boarding was starting from 18.30 hours. Business Class passengers were first, but the total amount of passengers was very light on todays flight, so it went all together and very smoothly. I was boarding almost at last, stored my bagpack in the overhead locker at row 2, and went to the front office. I met the crew already in advance, and I attended their briefing as well, so it was quickly done. Pre takeoff checklists were done, enroute clearance was requested. ATC gave us a runway 24 – ANDIK1S – departure today. This means a left turn after takeoff.
Doors were closed early enough to enable a early pushback. Pushback was abeam gate D47. We taxied out using taxiway A12 onto Alpha, entering runway 24 at Sierra 7, the beginning of the runway. Traffic was very low and we got an immediate clearance for takeoff. We rotated at a speed of 160 knots. ‘Schiphol Departure’ cleared us further to 14,000 feet, direct ANDIK.
Meanwhile we switched to ‘Amsterdam Radar’, who cleared us further to 25,000 feet height. An Acars message warned us for some moderate turbulence over Denmark at FL350. Therefore the captain decided to request FL330 only when we were transferred to Eurocontrol. From this moment the cruise started. I went back to my seat at this time,
Back in the cabin, the cabin supervisor asked if I was able to change seat to 03K, sitting next to a deadheading crewmember. I couldn’t complain, so I grabbed my luggage and went to the righthand side. Although, this crew was already on 03K, so I found myself too lucky to take 03H, the aisle seat I wanted in the first plance
The seat was the Shell Flat type, made of grey/black fabric material. The IFE system was the newer Magic-III system, offering lots more movies and audio then the older systems (e.g. B744 uses Magic-II).
Business Class was nearly full (total 56 seats offered), Economy was at an all time low. This route also takes the other side of the worldwide economic condition. The general public refrains from travelling abroad.
Once I was seated, the crew started delivering appetizers, prior to the dinner service. It was a nice cup of sweet and sour pickles. I got a glass of champagne (Piper Heidsieck) with it. The champagne was tasting very well. As said by JAL: “Piper Heidsieck is fruity champagne which offers light and yet gorgeous atmosphere suitable for aperitif. It will lead you to the entertainment over the table in the air!”
And they were right. This champagne was a good start! Together with the pickles, also some soy beans and Japanese crisps were served.
The appetizer tasted very well. When I finished, the table was cleaned immediately again. Another crewmember came and asked about the meal choice. As promised in my previous report on this route, I took the Japanese dinner. It was still available, so I was lucky, as well are you..., since I’m able to share this meal with you.
Assorted Sushi (Salmon / Sea-bass / Shrimp)
Steamed mashed potato & Yam with crabmeat
Mini Skewered Ox-tongue & Pepper
Roasted Duck with Black Vinegar Sauce
Cold Egg Custard
Poached Sea-bass & Scallop Roll with Yam Paste Sauce
Steamed Koshihikari Rice, Japanese Pickles & Miso Soup
Cheese & Fresh Fruits
The meal was delivered about 10 minutes later. It came on a black coloured tray. The dish itself was presented very well. Although also here again, the main course faced some difficulties for the crew. They forgot so serve me the miso soup and the rice! They also forgot my neighbour. He complained about it, and the crew came immediately with these items. They apologized sincerely for it. Although, this is a terrible mistake, since people expect something and don’t get it at once. These items just can’t be forgotten in the business class cabin...
At this moment, I got the steamed rice and miso soup
After dinner, I got my usual Baileys, and a Belgium chocolate. The crew also came around with taxfree goods. And I had to purchase something, kindly requested by one of my collegues. JAL had a new necklase on sale, and he requested it as a present for his girlfriend for December. It was still on stock, so I had to get the creditcard and I had to spend about 150 Euro’s for it The crew was very nice, and I told them the story. Since it was a present, they wrapped it very nicely. For sure that he will impress on his girlfriend!
My usual drink …
Cabin view (sorry for the quality)
Icecream, always welcome at night!
I also had to fill out the neccesary documents for entry to Japan, as the immigration form as well the customs declaration form. It always takes some time to answer these questions correctly. After all of this finished, I ordered a Japanese beer, and took the laptop to start writing this tripreport. At the moment I wrote this, we flew above mid Russia at FL330, 3534 miles from our destination and I was the only person still awake in the forward cabin section. But it was time for some sleep for me as well, therefore, from now, the remaining of this report is written at home.
After about 2 hours, I woke up again. I started to listen to some music on the JEN – JAL Entertainment Network audio channels. But it was a bit boring in the dark cabin, so I decided to take a look on the midnight snack menu for some more food.
Several options are available for the hungry ones, e.g. curry, noodles, rice balls, fish cake, Spaghetti Carbonara, Sandwiches etc. Since I knew that the sandwich is not good, I decided to try a ‘Vegetable Curry Japanese style’. A crewmember kindly took my order and she returned about 10 minutes later with a tray, including a coke.
After I finished the meal, I decided to stretch my legs and walked towards the galley. I returned my own tray. This was my own decision to do so, and once in the galley, the crewmember kindly took it from me. We started a quick chat and looked outside the window onto the icy Siberian landscape below us. Such a facinating sight that was! Here are some pictures of Russia, which became visible in the new daylight.
Selfservice Galley. Di I miss some bottles ??
The crew made efforts to present it nicely …
The huge wing
Winter landscape of Siberia below!
The huge GE94 engine still going on !
Not much later, other passengers also woke up, one by one, and started ordering food or went to the lavatory. NHK news channel came on the main screens in the cabin and lights were put on a bit. This usually means that we were coming closer to the area around Khabarovsk in the Far East of Siberia. So I checked the map, and it was indeed the case. We already passed over this last large city in Russia, and were heading towards the Sea of Japan. I decided to check out some more music channels on the IFE system and relaxed a bit.
A while after, I noticed the first breakfasts got distributed on demand of some passengers. I also wanted mine now, because not much time was left for me. I ordered the Western breakfast tray, which was presented a few minutes later. The looks and taste of this dish is always a pleasure. But, I was so irritated by the fact that they just forgot to serve bread with it!! What to do with my butter and jam now?? Come on JAL, how can you ever become the ‘best airline in the world’?! I wasn’t that hungry and didn’t ask for the bread, but hey; this is a real bad thing.
Western Breakfast (no bread…)
I finished the meal quickly and packed my stuff in my handluggage. Took my laptop and camera with me and requested entrance to the flightdeck to enjoy the approach and landing at NRT. Once I came in, we still flew at 37,000 ft but soon started descend. Some towering clouds around, but generally nice weather. Interesting to see a lot of traffic crossing from South to North and visaversa in Japan at several flightlevels around us. The TCAS monitor shows it all, but still sometimes hard to find the actual aircraft in the air. Waypoint MILKY was flown over at FL150 followed by some direct headings towards the airport. An ANA B767-300 was on simultaneous approach for runway 16L, the crew had to confirm ‘insight’ to ATC. We were no 1 on final for 16R and followed a company B744. We heard on the frequency that a Fedex MD11F had to hold short and we got landing clearance. A smooth landing was performed soon after at sunny Narita. Yokoso! Japan.
OK, this one is a gift. One picture from the frontoffice. On final RW16R.
Some alternative taxiway instructions were given due to some work in progress on several taxiways at the airport, but just a few minutes after landing, we reached the most perfect parkinggate, gate 61. This gate offers the shortest walk towards immigration and the exit!
All passengers left, crew finished their duties and logbook. I said goodbye and left the flightdeck. A friendly stewardess already prepared my bag and jacket, while she was waiting for me. She also gave me an extra new pair own slippers from Business Class, to use on my hotel room. I thanked her and left.
Immigration was a breeze again. We arrived early and were ahead of some other European arrivals. Passport was stamped, VISA permitted, picture and fingerprints taken and there I was again. Another week in Japan…
So, that brings this report to an end. What can I say. JAL is basically a good company. You can rely on them. Operation is mostly on a punctual schedule. The aircraft cabins are very well maintained, offer good space in Business Class. IFE system on the B777-200ER/300ER fleet is nice but still, I miss some more modern music and items for the Western traveller. Catering was basically good, but the crew forgot some very important items. This is a major leak in their service on this flight. Also my previous flight report here, lacked on the catering service.
Travelling on the B777 is still a good experience and especially in the forward section of Business Class. Crew is helping wherever they can, although they miss some personality. They do their best to be friendly but having a talk with them remains difficult due to the language barrier.
I hope this airline will change some items when it comes to the service level. Some catering items are not of good quality (they need another type of orange juice, and they need to present the meals correclty). On the other hand, I really like the option to take a midnight snack in between the both meals for the hungry ones among us.
Thanks for reading. When time permits, I hope to post the return flight soon as well