Most JAL’s domestic flights offer two classes of service – economy and Class J. However, on some flights on its busiest routes like Tokyo to Sapporo and Tokyo to Fukuoka, the airline also offers first class.
The only notable difference between economy class and Class J is the seat. First class, on the other hand, offers not only considerably larger seat but also more extensive onboard service and airport lounge access.
Below is a review of my recent JAL first class flight from Tokyo to Fukuoka on the company’s A350.
Check-in, Lounge & Boarding at Tokyo Haneda
I got to the airport around 8:45AM with enough time to spare before my flight’s 11:05AM departure. Since I had an economy class ticket, I headed to a ticket counter where I asked whether there was any space in first class.
With there being “plenty of empty seats” (I took the flights around the time that COVID-19 started to impact domestic travel here in Japan), I paid the 8,000 yen (about 80 dollars) upgrade fee and received my first class boarding pass.
Then, I headed to the security check dedicated to first class passengers and top-tier status holders which led directly to the escalators leading to JAL’s Diamond Premier Lounge.
I left the lounge around 10:30AM and headed to gate 12 which was just a short walk away. Outside, JA03XJ, one of JAL’s five A350s, was being prepared for the flight.
Boarding started at 10:42AM with passengers requiring assistance being invited to board first, followed by first class passengers and elite status holders.
JAL Airbus A350 Cabin & First Class Seat
All of JAL’s A350s are, as indicated earlier, in a three-class configuration – economy, Class J, and first.
While later on, JAL plans to introduce denser A350s into its fleet, currently, all of them are equipped with 369 seats. Namely, they have 12 first class seats in a 2-2-2 layout, 94 Class J seats in a 2-4-2 layout, and 263 economy class seats in a 3-3-3 layout onboard.
As for the first class seat itself, it was very comfortable. Especially so considering that the seat can be seen on is Tokyo – Naha which takes about two hours.
I was in seat 2A, a left hand side window seat in the second and last row of the cabin.
On my seat’s left side, there was a simple armrest. On its right side, there was a console which had a small drink table on its top and the larger tray table stored inside. The console also included a small storage compartment, a universal power outlet and a USB port, the in-flight entertainment controller, and the seat controls.
Above the console, between each pair of seats, there was a privacy partition.
Finally, the seat back in front of me housed the in-flight entertainment screen, a coat hook, a laptop compartment, a magazine rack, and a slipper compartment.
I was especially glad to see the well-padded laptop compartment. I certainly wish other airlines would equip their business and first class seats with something similar.
Before I go back to the flight itself, I should mention that JAL’s A350 offers power outlets and in-flight entertainment screens in all three classes, not just first class.
JAL Domestic First Class Pre-Flight Service & Departure
Upon boarding, a blanket, a back support cushion, and a noise-cancelling headset were waiting on the seat. The flight’s menu was placed on the center console, and a pair of slippers was ready in the slipper compartment under the seat in front of me.
Shortly after settling in my seat, one of the cabin crew members came to introduce herself and to explain the flight’s simple menu. She also took my drink order at that time.
Not long after that, another flight attendant went around the cabin handing out “oshibori” – wet towels. While they were disposable ones, they were large and thick.
The aircraft doors were armed at 11:02AM at which point the first class cabin was about half full. I was lucky enough to have an empty seat next to me.
We were pushed back at 11:05AM at which point an announcement about the precautions JAL is taking to prevent the spread of coronavirus as well as an explanation of how the aircraft air filtering system works was made.
That was followed by a safety video.
We taxied for a few minutes before reaching runway 05 from which we took off at 11:19AM.
Right after take-off, we were offered amazing views of Haneda airport as well as the Tokyo metropolitan area.
A nice view of Yokohama’s Minato Mirai area followed a few minutes later.
JAL Domestic First Class Lunch
The seatbelt sign was switched off about ten minutes after take-off at which point the chief purser came to introduce herself. A minute later, another cabin crew member came to prepare the table for lunch.
Before continuing, below is the menu for this flight. Note that there was no choice of main dish – instead, everyone was served the same items.
The lunch service itself started at 11:40AM.
Not being a pork fan, I did not eat the meat. However, the rest of the meal including the side dishes and the appetizers were tasty and enjoyable.
About ten minutes after lunch was served, the first officer welcomed us onboard and mentioned that we were flying at 40,000 feet. He also mentioned that we were expecting a bumpy descent followed by landing at Fukuoka airport at 12:50PM.
Once I was finished with the meal, one of the flight attendants came to pick the tray and to ask if I wanted anything else to drink. I asked for a cup of tea.
Later on, I asked for some water to keep me hydrated for the rest of the flight. I was provided with a small bottle right away.
JAL A350 In-Flight Entertainment System
Even though this was a short, one-and-a-half-hour flight, JAL still provided noise-cancelling headphones of decent quality.
The in-flight entertainment system was responsive and offered good resolution as well.
As for the content, it was quite limited. Considering that this aircraft is only used on one- to two-hour domestic flights, though, that was understandable.
There were two movies – Frozen II and a Japanese one, some Japanese TV programs, a selection of music channels and eBooks, and two live TV channels. There were also text news.
Finally, there was a flight map.
The aircraft was also equipped with tail and landing gear cameras.
Separately from the above, JAL also offers free in-flight wi-fi on most of its domestic aircraft, and the A350 is no exception.
Arrival at Fukuoka Airport
After looking around the in-flight entertainment system, I switched to getting some work done. With the flight being quite short, though, there was not much time left.
We started descending at 12:20PM, and ten minutes or so later, the seatbelt signs were switched back on.
Soon after, Fukuoka airport appeared on our left side.
After flying by it and making a 180-degree turn low over the city, we landed on the airport’s runway 34 at 12:51PM.
Just a couple of minutes of taxiing later – at 12:55PM – we came to a full stop at gate 7. With that, my first flight in JAL’s domestic first class was over, exactly on time.
JAL A350 Domestic First Class Summary
Overall, I can only recommend flying in JAL’s domestic first class. Especially so considering that the upgrade cost at the airport – assuming there is a seat available – is reasonable. For 80 dollars, you can get access to priority security and lounge, as well as a more comfortable seat and a meal onboard.
That said, if you do not need the lounge access – or if you are an elite status holder and would be able to access a lounge anyways – then you might want to consider upgrading to Class J instead.