It has been a while ago, but time now for another tripreport on JAL Japan Airlines.
The flight covered is a leg from Amsterdam to Tokyo Narita Airport. Amsterdam is served for over 40 years now by JAL. And still the route is served daily. Since a few years most of the flights are operated by Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, although several times a year the longer Boeing 777-300ER shows up, or a Boeing 747-400 in case the operation require this.
Next to the daily passenger service, JAL serves Amsterdam by a 3 weekly Boeing 747-400 Freighter service. These flight usually operates in the middle of the night, so nowadays these aircraft are hard to see.
My previous flight on this route was a bit disappointing regarding the catering offered, and especially the items which were simply forgotten by the cabin crew. I complained about their mistakes, which are of course not accepted in JAL’s Premium cabin. Let’s see if this flight would offer something better.
The flights would be packed in Business Class tonight. I knew that I would not have the best opportunities for a good seat on this flight. Of course I would travel in front, since it was duty trip again. But I could not secure my seat of choice. A phonecall with my colleagues from the passenger section helped me out and me, and my colleague joining me on this trip, got a 2-seater on the right side of the plane. We were really happy with it.
Since we have the opportunity to observe the flightcrew of their duties in the cockpit, one of us would be on the flightdeck during takeoff, and the other during landing. Of course, we were afraid that somebody else would take our seat during the time were would be away. It worked all out well tonight, and my collegue joined the front office during takeoff and climb, and I entered the flightdeck at 41,000 feet for descent, approach and landing in Narita. A sight to remember, even after doing it for so many times before now.
We checked in our suitcases in departure hall 3, desk 20. Friendly JAL staff is always present for assistance. Groundhandling company Menzies provides dedicated staff who do the actual check-in.
It was all done in a minute. The famous blue boardingpass for ‘JAL Seasons Class’ was issued. I got 03H, my collegue 03K. These seats are usually blocked for JAL’s codeshare partner Iberia on this flight, but this time they did not provide any passengers in Business, hence we got these seats!
We attended the necessary crew briefing in my own office, explained the enroute weather, expected turbulent areas and about wind and temperature changes at the higher flightlevels. It was expected to be a silent and smooth flight though. Flighttime was expected to be 10 hours and 45 minutes, rather quickly on this route.
The E-pier, on my way to E08.
Flight No.: JL412 Date: 30JAN09
STD: 19.00 ATD: 19.12
STA: 14.30 ATA: 14.30
A/C: Boeing 777-246(ER) Reg No.: JA705J
Seat: 03H - Business/Executive Class
Photo © Laszlo Daniel
We entered the clean area/terminal by use of the passport control in terminal 2. This immediately leads to the entrance to the E-gates. Departure gate for JAL in Amsterdam is usually E08. That gate is situated halfway the E-pier, conveniently located near lavatories, a bar and a large taxfree shop with a large variety of goods and souvenirs. Exactly suited to the needs of the Japanese traveller!
This Boeing 777 would bring me to Japan tonight…
Boarding started 30 minutes before departure time and was basically done on time, despite the fact that a large group of passengers from Italy was slightly delayed, and had to transfer from the Schengen/EU area into the non-Schengen area. It took about 10 minutes longer to accept all of them, a departure delay which could be absorbed by the shorter flighttime.
JAL’s Business Class seat (this is 03K)
Forward section of the Business Class cabin (rows 1 - 4)
My Panasonic noise cancelling headphones
Brakes released 12 minutes late and we’re on the way. Pushback on taxiway A10 abeam gate D47. Taxiout via A13 and taxiway B , C and V to runway 36L. Taxiing too about 20 minutes.
The powerful engine rating on the GE94’s and the flap settings resulted in a good rate of climb. The roaring sound of the B777 GE engines is a great sound and one of a kind!
Takeoff Video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_dPeSkuywCY
Following the so called “Spykerboor 1 V” departure, flying towards the Northeast of the country, brought us to upper levels. A direct heading to CDA VOR was instructed. Meanwhile we reached 31,000 feet, the initial flightlevel. My colleague also returned and once he was seated, cabin crew came to set up the table for dinner.
The menu was given, as well offerings of champagne, wine and anything else. A small cup of pickles were given, together with some nuts.
Snacks, Pickles & Champangne
After a while, also the starter came, a good plate with some fish and vegetables, vegetable soup, salad and bread. Of course, my glass was now filled with a very good white wine.
My main dish was salmon, with carrots, cooked potatoes in cream sauce. I must say, the portion was rather small, but it tasted great.
Dessert offered several choices of cake, cheese, fruit. I asked for lemon cake with strawberry sauce, and some fruits. I also wanted some coffee to finish my meal. It was all delivered from the cart next to my seat. The cake was really nice!
After the table was cleaned up, I ordered my usual Baileys, and started to play on my PSP for a while, but got tired pretty soon. I think the mix of champagne, wine and Baileys make me sleepy!
Time to walk around the cabin, which was set up for the night already. And make the necessary stopover at the lavatory, before I went for some hours rest in my, not lie-flat, seat.
JAL’s Premium Economy Cabin
JAL’s standard Economy Class
Somewhere in Russian airspace
When I woke up in the still dark cabin, the day came already outside. I walked to the galleys to stretch my legs, and to look out of the window. It always keeps amazing to me to see the Siberian landscape below us. It seems that ‘nothing’ is living there, it’s so big, and so cold and covered with snow everywhere.
Selfservice bar for Business Class
View on the right
A cabincrew member talked with me for a while, and asked if she could serve me some midnight snack. I decided to take some Udon Noodles, and a coke. It was brought to me seat just a few minutes later. I must admit that this was almost a real meal. It filled up my stomach pretty much.
Udon Noodle midnight snack
Since quite some hours were left before landing, I decided to close my eyes a bit more, listening to some music on my phone. I must say that JAL’s entertainment network is not my style. The choice of music is rather limited, and often Japanese discjockies talk in between the songs. After a while, this Japanese talking is really annoying to me. They offer a good amount of new and older movies too, but I didn’t feel to be in the mood to watch a movie without subtitles. Maybe I was just too tired at that moment.
About 2 hours before arrival the cabin lights were switched on a bit. Many passengers woke up and used the lavatories. Mouth wash and toothbrushes/paste was provided now in baskets, located in the lavatory. I also noticed the smell of breakfast, which came into the cabin. It was delivered some 15 minutes later on my request. The crew waits till passengers seems to be ready to have the breakfast, and they come along the aisle to ask if you want the Western or the Japanese breakfast. I got the European one.
Western style breakfast
Breakfast were pancakes with hot apple sauce, mushrooms and bacon, tomato, yogurt and a fruit salad. The croissant was like a stone. Really bad! Tea and coffee was served several times.
Breakfast with a great view. You don’t have that every morning!
Announcement of the last possible opportunity to buy taxfree, at 41,000ft
After I finished the tray, most of my inflight experience was over. Time to move to the front and say hello to the flightcrew. I order the cabin supervisor to get the flightdeck entrance unlocked for me to enter. The crew was still relaxed, cruising at 41,000 feet, but nearing the point of descent already. We flew in Fukuoka FIR already by that moment, and on ATC we heard many other European arrivals, as well the aircraft who just left Japan and were on their way to Europe.
Cleared to descent to FL280.
We flew over the Sado Islands and Niigata towards Japans eastcoast. On the right climbing traffic out of HND was visible when the aircraft came above the clouds. Narita weather showed misty and wet weather. Light rain, quite strong winds with some gusty conditions. Windshear below 2,000 feet was reported by a NW Boeing 757 not far in front of us. We had to approach for runway 34L, the longest of both runways available. This runway was also the one were the FedEx MD11 crashed a few weeks later. Runway 34L is famous for gusty conditions, extra violent because the buildings in the vicinity of the runway and the elevation of the terrain.
For our B777 no problem today. A bumpy final approach was followed by a manual landing. The captain touched the plane on one hand, the other hand on the throttles. It was a very smooth touchdown.
After vacating the runway and towards our stand 94 on the satellite building at terminal 2, we watched the rough landing of a Continental B772 from the USA. The captains really enjoyed these conditions.
We blocked in exactly on schedule, so despite the delayed departure a good performance. Passengers was disembarking and I waited till the cabin was empty. My colleague got my bag and jacket already and waited for me in the bridge. I thanked the crew for the good service and said goodbye.
Overall I would conclude that JAL is offering a better service on this flight then what I expected. The meal was very good, crew was helpful and attentive. The snack and breakfast were nice, but the bread should be of better quality. I hope that JAL will look into this matter. Japanese people might not eat this bread aboard, but the western part of their customers would prefer something better. Let’s see if the catering changed this issue on my next flight.
The seat is comfortable enough, not lie-flat. But compared to the only other competitor on the route, KLM, JAL’s seat is the winner for sure.
JAL’s IFE can be better. The variety of music/CD’s can be enlarged and maybe made more suited for the non-Japanese traveller.
I think that JAL needs to change in such a way that also the non-Japanese can accept this airline more and more. The airline is on the changing way, but, it’s still a long way to go.
I can’t rate JAL among the best carriers in the world. It’s very well ok, but I miss also something. Don’t know exactly what, but it’s a maybe the feeling of warmness and personality.
Thanks for reading and comments. Hope you enjoyed the story!
[Edited 2009-07-19 09:23:29]
[Edited 2009-07-19 09:24:02]