On our latest flight to Japan, we decided to fly with Japan Airlines (JAL). In the past, we have mostly flown with Air Canada. Since the prices were more reasonable with JAL, we gave up trying to book with a Star Alliance airline. We did not get to earn Aeroplan miles, but I have heard many good things about JAL, so I was excited.
Check-in and boarding was smooth. They allowed for web check-in so we had just loaded our boarding passes on our phone. At the gate, however, they printed out the boarding passes for us anyway. So much for trying to save paper.
The aircraft for this flight had the seating arrangement in Economy as 2-4-2. I was pleasantly surprised when booking! We were able to select our 2 seats at the time of booking (unlike Air Canada, where extra fees apply for advanced seat selection). The seats were comfortable with a headrest with bumpers, a coat hook, foot rests and lots of seat back pocket compartments for your in-flight storage needs. The entertainment system is touch screen as well as an attached handset on the arm rests. They had a good selection Hollywood as well as “World” movies and tv shows. My only complaint would be that the audio system requires a 2-prong headphone. They provided headphones for use but I preferred to use my own noise-cancelling ones. If you have a 2-prong to 1-prong adaptor, remember to bring it!
I was very impressed with their pillows which were actually comfortable neck pillows, instead of the usual flimsy ones. Similarly, the blanket is a nice fleece blanket instead of the usual paper thin ones. The washroom facilities are very spacious and clean as well thanks to the flight attendants checking and cleaning them often.
The service on JAL was definitely one of the best. The flight attendants were always polite and smiling. They were constantly walking up and down the aisles to serve food, drinks, collecting garbage, and selling duty free goods.
On the way to Japan, the food itself was not as good as I had expected. For our first meal, we had the choice between butter chicken or seafood with rice. I had chosen the seafood with rice but it smelled like formaldehyde. This reminded me of anatomy lab, so I couldn’t finish it. The sides of soba, apple/celery salad and fruit were good. The western salad was nothing special.
On the other hand, the drink selection was very good. Don’t forget to try their proprietary Sky Time drink, which was more like a juice than a soft drink. I had the cold green tea to start as well as the plum wine with my meal. Cold green tea is one of my favourite drinks to get in Japan so I was very happy to get a head start. I realize that plum wine is a little too sweet for my liking so I will probably not order this again the future.
On our flight back from Japan to Canada, the quality of the meals were a lot better and definitely surpassed my expectations. For our first meal, we both had the beef pasta and it was very tasty. It was the first time I wanted seconds of an airplane meal. Then we had our second meal, AKA “breakfast”. My body really didn’t know what time it was and why I was eating my fourth full meal in 24-hours time. My eyes were so wide they almost popped out of their sockets when I recognized the logo was for Tsuta. So I guess we’re having Michelin-star noodles for breakfast! It had the signature truffle oil taste but it was served with chicken instead of the usual charsiu. It was amazing. The chicken was properly the best cooked chicken I’ve ever had on a plane. Again, I wish I had seconds of this. The main shone so brightly, the sides became unremarkable. However, for dessert they served a mind-glowingly good cream cheese tart flavoured Haagen-Daaz which ended the meal on a sweet note.
We also took a JAL flight from Narita to Fukuoka. We decided to splurge a little (~$10 CAD) to get Class J seats. What this means is that we get wider seats, with more leg room, and a recliner-type seat with leg rests. We also were offered a specialty drink from a Class J menu. Of course I had to get their Sky Time. There was no priority boarding and no food service for Class J. There was, however, complimentary wifi for the entire cabin. The only thing was that it required a complicated registration process. Seeing that the page was in Japanese, our friendly neighbour walked Aaron step-by-step through the process, including figuring out how to type Aaron’s name in Katakana. We only later found out we could’ve easily converted the page to English with the click of a button. It was nice, though, to see such friendly people willing to help. Again, the service on this flight was much better than what I would expect on a North American airline.
I had very positive experiences flying with JAL. I found that Economy class with JAL is comparable to Premium Economy class for Air Canada. From their excellent service, to more comfortable seats and amenities, better drinks menu as well as overall better food, I am now inclined to book more flights with JAL in the future.