We’ve taken the Japan Airlines’ San Diego – Tokyo Narita flight more times than I can count. It’s our only direct flight to Asia and we use it to visit Tokyo, Shanghai, Beijing, and occasionally Hong Kong.
It’s a Boeing 787 and since this post was originally written, I believe the business class (formerly known as Executive Class) cabins have just (finally) been updated to the Sky Suite seats instead of the Shell Flat NEO (angled seats) which you’ll see in this post.
Two Class Configuration
Contrary to most long haul flights, including those on Japan Airlines’ LAX-NRT flights on either a 777 or 747, the new Dreamliner lacks a first class cabin.
Cabins include economy class and about 80 or so business class seats. Therefore, if you need to connect on a flight in first class on a three-cabin airplane (first class, business class, and economy class) you’ll need to redeem miles for an entirely first class flight.
A Light and Bright Interior
Larger windows in the Boeing 787 make the cabin a lot lighter and brighter than other aircraft.
My daughter pointed to the other side of the plane where two little girls had turned their window a dark blue color. Manual shades be gone, as with the touch of a button you can darken the window color to your preferred tint.
This method doesn’t allow the plane to go completely dark in daylight, which I like on long haul flights. It’s certainly is cool though.
Dreamliner = Better Air Circulation
My daughter has always hated that stale air smell that almost all airplanes have, which the Dreamliner usually lacks (for the most part). She doesn’t complain about the air on this flight.
In fact, since we had plenty of space in business class bulkhead seats, I sort of felt like I was in my living room. (It was a totally rude awakening to board our connecting flight to Hong Kong on one of their older planes.)
Perks At the Seat
Japan Airlines has a massager in each business class seat that used to keep my daughter entertained on long haul flights when she was a toddler.
I’d catch her turning it on and shaking wildly from its vibrations while watching TV. It wasn’t nearly as intense on the Dreamliner as it is on older planes. The seats, at the time of this writing, do not recline fully-flat (I thought this was an odd choice on a brand new plane) but they are comfortable enough.
Each Dreamliner seat has a plug suitable for various voltages and a USB port along with improved entertainment options. Provided noise-canceling headphones plug into the entertainment system the plug is such that you’d not be able to use them on personal devices.
The amenity kit has varied over the years. For a while, they didn’t hand one out but rather presented each passenger with items in a basket to chose from including eye masks, earplugs, toothbrushes and toothpaste and more. Slippers are at each seat for guest use. On a recent flight, we were handed a proper pre-packaged amenity kit.
Choose Between Japanese and Western Food
Japan Airlines business class serves beautiful food, in flawless Japanese style.
There’s always a choice between a Japanese meal and a Western meal but I’m telling you, order the Japanese meal if you like Japanese food. Business-class passengers receive a beverage after take-off.
Once the first round of drinks are served after take-off, everyone receives the same amuse-bouche. A recent Japanese meal set was as follows.
Carrot Mousse & Sea Urchin with Bread Sticks
Selection of Nine Seasonal Colorful Delicacies in “Kobachi” Bowls
(from left to right by row)
Summer Vegetables in Japanese Jelly, Simmered Eggplant & Sablefish, Braised Pork
Grilled Seabass, Tomato Red Wine Compote, Somked Salmon & Sliced Yam
Sea-bream Roll with Welsh Onion, Braised Yuba, Simmered Potato & Chicken
Dainomono (Main Course)
Braised Beef with Sweet Soy Sauce
Coconut Pudding with Passion Fruit Sauce
Anytime between the first meal service and 90 minutes prior to landing, we could choose:
- Steamed rice topped with seafood in Japanese tea
- Japanese vegetable keema curry with steamed rice served with fresh celery soup
- Japanese udon noodles in soup with seaweed
- Deep-fried chicken cutlet sandwich
- Assorted cheese
- Ice cream
- Fresh fruit
My daughter loves the noodles on Japan Airlines. On this route, we often sleep through the second meal.
Japan Airlines also tries to step up food service in economy class. Earlier in the year, they offered Yoshinoya beef bowl as an option, which is our favorite Japanese fast food.
Landing At Tokyo Narita Airport
Just an FYI—once you land the taxi time to the gate much is longer than at most airports. I’ve never timed it but it’s at least 10 minutes or so which feels like a lifetime after a long haul flight.
The flight lands at Terminal 2 where our connecting flight to Hong Kong is usually located, but there’s an easy tram between terminals if you need to change.
If you’re headed to another country, you’ll need to pass through security again (no need to remove shoes and separate the iPad here) and the lines can be long. Don’t make your layover at Narita tight.
Japan Airlines also offers a family service and stroller rentals for family travelers but you will need to arrange this through the airline in advance.
The Japan Airlines Sakura Lounge is nicer in Terminal 2 (the main building) with a salad buffet an amazing beef curry. The Terminal 2 Satellite building Sakura Lounge has a little bit of sushi, snacks, muffins, plenty of booze, juice, salad.
You can access both lounges by flying business class or with oneworld Alliance Emerald status. Both have fancy Japanese bathrooms and massage chairs.
However, we love the Japan Airlines first class lounge here and have written about its glorious sushi bar and other amenities.
Don’t even think twice about flying to Tokyo if you can swing a ticket, because the journey is much easier than it used to be. It gives San Diego a gateway to Asia.
I will say that boarding a connecting flight in Tokyo was hard as JAL’s regional business class isn’t great. Clearing customs in San Diego is so much easier than at LAX, too.