After much anticipation and an amazing trip to Mabul, Malaysia I was finally going to experience the 787-800 for the first time on a long haul flight. I had already flown United’s 787 between Houston and Chicago, and LAN’s 787 between Madrid and Frankfurt, but never before had I actually been able to experience the 787 on a long haul flight. As a true aviation nerd, my nerves were shaken with excitement and after a long 15 hour layover in Tokyo which included enough time to run around and explore the city, I was ready to kick back, relax, and enjoy the new plane smell! My flight was scheduled to board at 450pm and sure enough, five minutes before boarding was scheduled to begin, the monitor in the JAL lounge switched from on time to boarding. With this indication I made the short trek to the gate and boarded the newer plane to enjoy my 787 experience from Narita to San Diego.
Boarding & Preflight
By the time I arrived at the gate, general boarding had already begun but was being done through the general boarding lane, meanwhile the boarding line for OneWorld Elite and business class fliers was completely empty. I walked up to the agent and was greeted immediately and welcomed aboard. The plane used a single jet bridge so business class passenger and economy class passengers entered through door 2L, in the middle of the business class cabin. Business class passengers in the forward cabin turned left, while those in the rear cabin turned right, along with all economy class passengers. I was in the rear bulkhead middle seat, so I turned right along with the rest of the crowd. Upon arriving at my seat, my seat mate had yet to arrive nor had most of the business class cabin. With the cabin only appearing half full, I anxiously hoped for a window seat to open up so I could peer out at the landscape upon take off. Yet, I also thought to myself, that I wouldn’t take a window seat if there was someone in the aisle as I didn’t want to have to climb over someone in the middle of the flight. As I was patiently watching the seats fill up in the forward cabin, when I was greeted by an older flight attendant who offered me a drink—the standard business class offering of champagne, water, or orange juice. I was surprised I wasn’t presented something more typical Japanese, but gladly accepted the champagne and went back to seat stalking. Shortly before takeoff, almost every business class seat filled up and the FA came over to tell me I was not going to be able to move. This was alright, as I was very happy with my aisle access seat in the middle of the plane, which meant I would not have to crawl over anyone and no one would have to crawl over me.
Before we pushed back from the gate, a hot towel service was provided for business class passengers and dinner menus were passed out. Business class passengers were also provided with a dark blue cotton cardigan, but no pajama bottoms. We taxied towards the runway and the long day and lack of sleep got the best of me and I passed out while we cued for our turn to take off.
Somewhere over the Pacific and as we were starting to level off, I woke up and the flight attendants were in the aisle taking meal orders. Everyone around me already had drinks and peanuts. The FA noticed me wake up when I started to recline my seat and hurried over to take my order. I ordered my dinner and also asked for a drink, she continued to take orders from the rear rows after taking my order. After she was done I expected I was going to get beverages, but instead the FA went to work prepping dinner entrees. Another FA passed by and I stopped her and reordered. She disappeared in the galley, but after 5 minutes she never returned. I was parched and really wanting my water, so I got up and walked to the galley. The same two FAs were in the galley and I asked for a cup of water, without skipping a beat in their conversation one walked over and poured me a glass of water. No apologizes for forgetting, but actually handed it to me with force, and acted as though I interrupted their conversation. I returned to my seat and waited for dinner.
Before dinner was served, FAs walked through the cabin with a cart full of individual amenities. Instead of giving passengers an amenity kit, JAL takes a very cheap route and provide passengers only with items that are requested. Passengers can request Toothbrush set, earplugs, eye mask, eye refresher, moisturizing mask and slippers are served during the flight. The eye refresher and moisturizing masks are a bit of a joke, as they are wet clothes that go under the eye mask. I found it to make my face feel damp and gross, not refreshing as they claim. I asked for hand lotion, as I have a nasty motorcycle wound/burn (I won’t show pictures as I don’t want to gross people out) on my ankle and I just happen to run out before the flight. The FAs apologized and told me they didn’t have any. I was shocked by this as there was none in the bathroom either. Even AA has full size lotion bottles in business class! I was quite shocked!
Shortly after drinks were refilled and amenity kits—items—were distributed, dinner service began. By this point we were about 90 minutes into the flight. Dinner was served in four courses over about an hour and a half. Meal service was great and beverages were free flowing and drinks were kept full without the need to ask FAs to refill them. Everything I had was delicious up to the dessert! After dinner was cleaned up, I reclined my seat and watched a movie. About 30 minutes later, the FAs walked through the cabin and took order for meals that would be served 90 minutes before landing. I placed my meal order and then actually feel asleep shortly after.
Traditional Japanese meal option
Throughout the rest of the flight I slept, sleeping for a good 6 hours. Despite the angle flat seat, I was still able to sleep; I just happened to wake up in the fetal position, primarily on the foot rest—one’s got to love gravity! Yet when I woke up, I didn’t wake up because I wanted to, but because it was 90 minutes before landing and the FA wanted to bring me my lunch. Instead of waking me up with a simple light touch, I woke up to the woman violently shaking my shoulder. She shook me so hard, if I didn’t have my seat belt on I would have hit my head on the fuselage, as I jumped so high from being startled. I was certain the plane was crashing and the FA was telling me to brace for impact, not waking me up to eat.
very unimpressive cheese plate served mid flight. I’ve seen better options in coach!
A few minutes later the woman returned with my food in one hand and a napkin on the other. I retrieved my tray table from the cozy and she placed the napkin with one hand and placed the tray of food in front of me with the other. She quickly turned and walked away. Looking at the food, I knew immediately that it wasn’t what I had ordered. I waited a few minutes, hoping she would return, but after about 5 minutes of waiting I pressed the call light to get the FAs attention. It took another 2-3 minutes before anyone responded as they too busy in the galley. When the FA who brought me my food initially returned, I explained to her the issue, she said to me without hesitation that they ran out of the other option so this was my only choice and walked away without even apologizing. How odd I thought, didn’t they perform a count of items earlier in the flight? If she knew, why didn’t she tell me when she delivered the food initially? Overall I was very unimpressed with the service and probably will choose a different carrier next time.
About 30 minutes before landing, the FAs started to clean up the cabin and prepare for arrival. They cleared the remaining food items and woke passengers up who were still sleeping. What surprised me most though was when they were cleaning up the cabin they also collected cardigans that they had given out at the beginning of the flight. I still had mine on, so they did not ask for mine back, but anyone who was not wearing it at that time or had not stored it in their carryon had it confiscated. This made me wonder if the airlines is washing and reusing them or if the crew cleaned them up at a curtsey.
Once I landed in SAN, I was able to clear customs quickly thanks to global entry and then not even within 5 minutes of waiting for my baggage I was approached by an agent and asked if I was Mr. Horan. When I confirmed, she told me my bag had missed its connection in Tokyo (how that was possible baffles me as I had nearly a 16 hour layover), and was told my bag was on the AA flight from Narita to Los Angeles, and then would be on the next shuttle flight and that I should have my bag by 6pm that afternoon. I easily cleared customs as I had nothing but my laptop bag, filled out the required paperwork and was on my way back to my beach front apartment. I was exhausted from my 40+ hours of travel, yet overly content with the amazing vacation that I had just had to Mabul, Hong Kong, and Tokyo.
I was initially extremely excited to fly JAL for the first time and on their 787. I booked this flight knowing that JAL had the dated angled flat business class seat, but wanted to fly the 787 long haul as all my other flights on the 787 have been 3 hours or less. Also being that JAL offers the ONLY transpacific flight from SAN, the convenience couldn’t be beat! Yet as I read about the new business class skysuite on JALs 777 and 767 and additional amenities offered on flights to LAX, I quickly realized that my decision might have been the wrong one. Don’t get me wrong, business class is business class and I’ll fly a dated product over economy any day, however if I can fly something newer and better for the same price, I might as well! The seat was comfortable, but being angled flat causes the issue of sliding down in one’s sleep and not being able to comfortable sleep. Furthermore the 2x2x2 configuration on the 787 requires window seat passengers to crawl over their neighbors—not so bad for couples, but horrible for strangers. The large IFE screens are nice, but having a bulk head seat, I found my screen to be smaller than those who were not in the bulkhead, in addition I couldn’t watch the movies during takeoff and landing, as I had to store my monitor, while those in non-bulkhead seats were able to watch movies during takeoff and landing. Finally, I will say the service was extremely underwhelming. I have never received such poor service in business class! From being ignored at the beginning of the flight to being violently shaken to be woken up to being served the wrong dish without an apology, I find JALs service to be far from professional or elegant. I would expect more from a Japanese carrier and a skytrax 4 star airline. After all service on skytrax 3 star airlines such as Delta and American blow JAL service out of the sky! And don’t even get me started on their lack of amenity kits or even lotion on board! What airline doesn’t have lotion in their amenity kits (or in this case their amenity piles) or at least in their bathrooms? Even Aeromexico offers this, and Aeromexico had probably the worst business class product and service that I ever flown! JAL was remarkably underwhelming and when flying business class I will consider my options before choosing them, after all if flying to Asia, Cathay service was spot on and they fly from right up the road in LA several times a day. The 787 though, awesome plane! But come on JAL, if you’re going to fly the world’s newest airframe, at least put a modern hard product on board!