This is exciting: San Diego’s first DIRECT flight to Tokyo begins on December 2. It’s our first direct flight to Asia and on a brand new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Narita International Airport (NRT) is one airport in the world that I’ve been to most. I’ll tell you about it along with Japan Airlines (JAL) how to get to Tokyo from NRT and why the 787 Dreamliner is a big deal.
About The SAN-NRT Flight
Note that this schedule changes frequently.
Both outbound and return Japan Airlines direct flights to San Diego International Airport (SAN) will operate on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday until March 1 when it will operate daily. Flight time is approximately 12 hours. It is a codeshare with American Airlines which means you’ll receive AAdvantage miles, if you like. The flight numbers are:
- Outbound: JL065 and AA5907, departs at 11:30am and arrives NRT at 4:30pm (+1 day)
- Inbound: JL066 and AA5906, departs at 5:10pm and arrives SAN at 9:45am (same day)
I tried to look up the flights on the American Airlines website, but was unable to at this time. I believe the flight will leave from SAN Terminal 2.
The Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Not only is this a sleek looking airplane; it’s more fuel efficient, emits less Co2 and offers passengers more legroom. The windows are much larger and the ceiling appears higher. Who doesn’t love a new airplane? LED colored lights help maintain a pleasant environment–the change of colors really does promote sleep on a long haul flight and help you wake up before landing. There is also more room in the overhead bins so that carry-on suitcases can actually lay on their sides. Here’s a photo of the JAL Executive Class (business class) interior.
Have a look at other photos inside JAL’s Dreamliner. The inflight entertainment is said to be improved, with larger TVs.
About Narita International Airport
Once you land, be prepared to sit tight as the taxi time is usually longer than at most airports. I am not sure if this flight is arriving at Terminal 1 or 2, but there is a tram between the two.
The truth is–NRT needs a facelift. It pains me to say this as I have had good experiences there, with the exception of a few long waits at security. Speaking of security, if you are taking connecting flight, you’ll need your carry-on bags screened again. These lines can be quite long so between this, the taxi and potentially changing terminals, make sure you have a long enough layover. You can easily connect to the rest of Asia from here.
Narita International Airport also has strollers for rent, should you need one, and duty-free shopping. If you’re lost or need help, don’t hesitate to ask. The staff is unbelievably helpful and nice.
Japan Airlines Lounges In Narita International Airport
There are two Sakura lounges, one in the main building and another in the satellite building. I’ve been to both on the business class side. Both have the fancy heated toilets, massage chairs, a selection of sushi, plenty of plugs for electronics and WiFi.
This picture is from the Satellite Sakura Lounge (it’s since been renovated) where there’s a great bathroom for parents. A highchair-type seat is on the wall in the bathroom that you can plop little kids in while you use the restroom or whatever. There’s also a changing table. My daughter in the photo below is almost 2 years old here and had just nabbed some cucumber rolls off the buffet.
The Sakura Lounge in the main building has a much more modern look. The food is slightly better with a salad bar and some really amazing beef curry. The beef curry is always there. Bottom line: the JAL lounges are nice so take advantage of them.
To ease congestion, right now, eligible Japan Airlines guests can use the American Airlines Admirals Club in Terminal 2 during certain hours. JAL staff will serve the usual menu. I’ve been to this Admiral’s Club and it’s nice. American Airlines fare includes complimentary limited sushi, nigiri, usual snacks and a menu to order off of (at your cost), if necessary.
About Japan Airlines
It sounds funny, but they do hold a special place in my heart as I flew them almost exclusively, in combination with Cathay Pacific, from Hong Kong to LAX with my daughter from the time she was a baby until she was 2. I can’t speak highly enough of the flight attendants who helped with my gazillion carry-on bags, brought me whatever I needed, played with my daughter a little, and more.
Back then, we flew a Boeing 747 in business class with shell lie almost-flat seats. The entertainment was ok, but the food was out of this world. On long haul flights there is a choice between Western and Japanese meals–I always choose Japanese. Sure, some of the items are non-recognizable to Westerners, but it’s really delicious plane food, especially in business class. Japan Airlines is a member of the oneworld Alliance.
Japan Airlines offers a family service to help parents flying solo with kids, elderly flyers, and kids flying alone. Staff will help you check in and get to your gate and assist you upon arrival. This service is not available for most code-share flights and does have some restrictions, but it’s very helpful if you remember to reserve it (two days in advance).
If you’re flying with kids, do not forget to order them a kids meal, though it will have some sweets on it. If the kids meal is not to their taste, ask for some soba noodles. A pack of diapers and fun toys for the kids is available onboard. The service on Japan Airlines is top notch.
Getting from Narita International Airport to Central Tokyo
Like most international airports, Narita is not in Tokyo. In fact, it’s an hour away by Narita Express train, a part of JR East Rail and also sometimes referred to as NEX. Signs inside the airport will guide you to the ticket booth. You have two options (prices are one-way to Tokyo Station):
- Ordinary Car
- Green Car (first class)
It doesn’t look like there is much difference between the Ordinary Car and the Green Car other than reserved seating and a little more legroom. Last time, we opted for the Green car, because I wanted assigned seating.
Once you arrive at Tokyo Station, if this is your final destination, take a deep breath–it’s enormous, hectic and very confusing. We stayed at Four Seasons Tokyo at Marunouchi. A staff member met our train at the platform. I called from Narita International Airport after purchasing our tickets and gave them our car number and seat number. The train is long so the car number really matters. I can’t tell you how valuable this platform service is, so if you’re traveling with kids or a Tokyo first-timer, consider this.
We love Tokyo so I encourage you to take this flight. I will. More about Tokyo with kids to come!
*Dreamliner interior photo credit: Japan Airlines