While I reviewed a JAL economy class flight from Tokyo to Seoul before, I still decided to write about this flight for two reasons.
First, this time the flight was operated by a 777-200ER instead of a 767-300ER meaning the cabin was different.
Second, I was lucky to be able to take the flight in a premium economy class seat. To learn why, as well as to see what the flight was like overall – including the meal and the in-flight entertainment system – continue reading this article.
Check-in, Lounge & Boarding at Tokyo Haneda
It wasn’t until 3:45PM that the flight was scheduled to depart. However, I arrived at the airport shortly after 10AM as I was traveling with Hirofumi (an occasional contributor to this blog) and we wanted to check out a couple of lounges before getting onboard.
Dropping my bag off at the JAL Global Club priority counter – and the subsequent security check and immigration – were a breeze. As such, it took just a few minutes to get to the Cathay Pacific lounge, one of the main “targets” of this trip.
Hirofumi joined me in the Cathay Pacific lounge and after spending a few hours there, we headed one floor down to the recently refurbished JAL Sakura Lounge Skyview. While I didn’t like it nowhere near as much as the Cathay lounge, it was still a nice place to visit.
We left the lounge at 3PM and headed to the nearby gate 112 where the flight started boarding at 3:15PM – just as shown on the boarding pass.
Here, I have to give credit to JAL. Many airlines put “fake” boarding times on their boarding passes – and rarely start boarding on time. For a change, it was nice not to have to wait around the gate wondering when the boarding will actually start.
JAL 777-200ER Cabin & Premium Economy Class Seat
Currently, JAL operates 11 Boeing 777-200ERs. They come equipped with two different cabin configurations:
- Two-class (312 seats): 26 reverse herringbone business class seats and 286 economy class seats
- Three-class (236 seats): 42 reverse herringbone business class seats, 40 premium economy class seats, and 154 economy class seats
While the Seoul flight is generally operated by the higher-density two-class configuration, we were lucky since a few weeks before departure, our flight was changed to an aircraft in a three-class configuration.
Since JAL doesn’t offer premium economy service on its flights to Seoul, the aircraft change meant that we could choose a premium economy seat with our economy class tickets. The actual service – i.e. everything other than the seat – was economy class, of course.
The cabin was – as indicated above – equipped with 40 recliner seats in a 2-4-2 configuration.
For comparison, the regular economy class cabin has two more seats in each row. Rather than the standard 3-4-3, however, JAL’s 777-200ERs feature the more interesting and versatile 3-4-2 configuration, though. ANA uses the configuration on some of its 777s as well.
Going back to premium economy class, the seat was very comfortable to sit in – I certainly wouldn’t mind flying in it for much longer than the two hours it took to get to Seoul. While the seat itself wasn’t that different from other premium economy class seats, the seat pitch was great.
The seat back in front was equipped with a decent size in-flight entertainment screen, a coat hook, a large tray table, a small compartment ideal for storing phone or glasses, and a regular seat pocket with the in-flight magazine and other printed materials.
There was also a USB port under the screen and a footrest under the seat.
Between each pair of seats there was a console with a small drink table, the seat controls (one button for reclining and one for leg rest), the IFE controller, and a small storage compartment. A universal power outlet could be found in the console as well.
Interestingly, the seat belt was equipped with an airbag. While I’ve seen that in business class before, I had no idea there were premium economy class seats with such seatbelts too.
Upon boarding, a pair of headphones was waiting on the seat.
Seeing Mt. Fuji After Departure
Not long after settling in my seat, one of the cabin crew member went around the cabin introducing herself to every passenger. While that’s fairly common in business class, I was pleasantly surprised to see it in economy. It was also nice to see blankets being proactively offered in spite of the flight being short.
At 3:39PM, with everyone onboard, the cabin crew armed the doors and we were ready to go. We were pushed back at 3:41PM – four minutes ahead of schedule – and as we were making our way to the departure runway, the safety video was played.
It took just a few minutes to get to runway 34R end. We let an aircraft – which turned out to be JAL’s fourth A350 on its delivery flight – land and then it was our turn.
We took off at 3:56PM, just as the sun was setting, and we were offered excellent views of Tokyo – including of Tokyo Skytree – shortly after take off.
About ten minutes after take-off, we were also offered excellent views of Mt. Fuji. Unfortunately, I couldn’t fully enjoy the, as the engine and wing were in the way, but it was still a great sight.
At this time, the seatbelt signs were already off.
JAL Short-Haul International Economy Class Meal
Not long after passing by Mt. Fuji, the cabin crew started the meal service which consisted of an egg salad, chicken curry rice, and a shortcake. In addition to that, I had a cup of Coke Zero.
While there were no options to choose from, it was great to see that JAL continues to offer a hot meal on its short-haul international flights unlike most airlines from other parts of the world. It’s worth noting here that on domestic flights of similar length, only drinks are offered.
About half-an-hour after distributing the meals, the cabin crew went through the cabin once again, collecting the trays and offering hot drinks.
By this time, we were flying over the coast of Japan and about to cross the Sea of Japan.
JAL 777-200ER In-Flight Entertainment System
For the longest time, one of my biggest complaints when flying with JAL (and ANA for that matter) was the in-flight entertainment system. The user interface was hard to navigate, the system was slow to respond, and the content selection was quite poor.
The way the content is organized – as well as the amount of content – could be better, though. The biggest issue is that the same piece of content appears in the menu multiple times (each entry corresponding to a different language) so it can get confusing.
That said, since this was just a short two-hour intra-Asian flight, that wasn’t a big deal.
One thing worth noting is that besides movies, TV shows, the flight map, and some games, there were also two live TV channels – NHK Daily News and BBC World News.
Arrival at Seoul Gimpo
At 5:26PM, we commenced descent, and around the same time, the cabin crew announced that there were immigration forms in seat pockets. Twenty minutes later, the seatbelt signs were switched back on.
The cockpit crew lowered the landing gear at 5:54PM, and four minutes later – at 5:58PM – we landed at Seoul Gimpo airport.
Just a few minutes of taxiing later and eleven minutes ahead of schedule – at 6:04PM – the flight was brought to an end as we parked at the airport’s international terminal.
JAL 777-200ER Economy Class Summary
Having scored a premium economy class seat on this flight, it was about as good as a two-hour intra-Asian economy class flight can get. Even that aside, though, JAL offered solid service – including friendly cabin crew, decent meal, and on-time performance.
In fact, having flown on the same aircraft type in “proper” economy class seat to Bangkok last year, I can report that even that one is comfortable enough – and offers more leg room than many of JAL’s competitors.
As such, I can only recommend flying with JAL on a similar flight if you get a chance to do so. That said, if you are planning to be paying in cash (I used miles) then you might want to just go with whatever the cheapest option is for your dates.