Date: May 8, 2017
Flight No.: JL720
Route: Jakarta Soekarno-Hatta to Tokyo Narita
Airline: JAL Japan Airlines
Type: Boeing 767-300ER
The last flight of my “Golden Week 2017” trip was a flight on a Japan Airlines (JAL) 767-300ER from Jakarta to Tokyo Narita in business class. Until my Finnair A350 upgrade cleared, this was the flight of the trip that I was looking forward to the most.
Are you interested in trying business or first class for the price of economy?
If so, you might want to check out Four Ways to Try Business Class Without Breaking the Bank - a free guide that I put together detailing some of the ways I was able to do so - and experiment with some of the methods mentioned in it.
Booking JAL Business Class Using Alaska Miles
I booked the flight with Alaska miles I purchased at 2.11 cents per mile earlier in the year when they had a 40% bonus promotion.
Using 25,000 of those miles, I booked a one-way ticket from Jakarta to Bangkok with a stopover in Tokyo. I will use the Tokyo to Bangkok leg later in January next year.
Accounting for the cost of the miles and additional taxes (less than $50), the “roundtrip” (Jakarta-Tokyo-Bangkok) in JAL’s business class cost less than $600. Just for comparison, a “real” return ticket – Jakarta to Tokyo and back or Bangkok to Tokyo and back – bought the same way would be double the miles and thus about $1,200.
Boarding Japan Airlines Flight 720 at Jakarta Airport
Fast forward to the day of departure…
I checked out at 3AM from the d’prima Hotel at Jakarta airport’s terminal 1. Just a few minutes later, I was on the shuttle bus to terminal 2 where the flight was departing from.
Once in the terminal, I went through the luggage check that leads to the check-in area.
When I got to JAL’s check-in counters, the staff was in the middle of a briefing. Soon after – at around 3:45AM – the check-in opened and I was one of the first passengers to check-in.
Within a couple of minutes, I had my boarding pass and lounge invitation. As such, I proceeded through the immigration and into the Premier Lounge. You can see the lounge review here.
I left the lounge about ten minutes before six, cleared security, and headed towards gate D6. Similar to other parts of terminal 2, terminal 2D has a central waiting area with walkways to waiting areas for each gate.
Once I reached the end of the walkway leading to gate D6, I handed over my boarding pass and got directed to the priority boarding waiting area.
The boarding itself started around 6:25AM with passengers requiring assistance. Around the same time, an ANA 787 departed bound for Narita from the adjacent gate.
Exploring the JAL 767-300ER SKY SUITE II Seat
A couple of minutes after the boarding process started, business class passengers were invited to board. I walked down the jetway, and after taking a couple of pictures of the business class cabin, I settled into my seat.
JAL’s international 767-300ER fleet comes in three configurations. While two of them feature recliner seats (JAL SKYLUXE and JAL SKYRECLAINER), the one operating the Jakarta flight features 24 lie-flat JAL SKY SUITE II staggered seats.
The seats themselves are covered in burgundy cloth which is complemented by light and dark grey plastic parts and faux wood touches.
My seat, 6A, was the left-hand side window seat in the last row. Unlike the other window seats, it only had one window as opposed to two.
The first impression I had was – “this looks like a scale model of the Emirates A380 seat!” In reality, even though the seat was a bit narrow due to the fuselage width of the 767, it was perfectly comfortable for the 7 hour flight.
When I boarded, a blanket, a pillow, slippers and a shoehorn, as well as a Sony noise cancelling headset were already waiting on my seat.
To the right of the seat, there was a console covered in faux-wood. It housed the seat controls – not only letting passengers adjust the angle of the seat, but also use its massage function. The IFE remote control could be found here as well.
On the back of the seat in front of me, there was the IFE screen, a universal power outlet and a USB charging port.
Behind the console was a raised part which served as a storage compartment. The reading light could be found on the outside of the compartment, while the headset socket was inside.
On the back of the seat in front of me, there was the IFE screen, a table, and a couple of storage compartments.
The table was great – rather than flipping out of the armrest, it slid in and out of a compartment in front of the seat. As such, it could be adjusted to be as close to or as far from you as you wished.
In terms of the storage compartments, there was a large one in the foot space, a small one for shoes, a pocket-style one ideal for laptop, and the “seat pocket” with all the usual reading materials.
Those included wi-fi and seat guides, in-flight shopping and entertainment guides, the in-flight magazine, a safety card, and a waste bag.
Ground Service: No Welcome Drink
With the passengers onboard, the crew distributed hot towels on a nice tray. This was followed by a bottle of water and by the Japanese immigration and customs forms. Surprisingly, no welcome drink was offered.
The cabin crew closed the door at 6:47AM, and we were ready to go with three out of the 24 business class seats open. A welcome announcement and a safety demonstration screening followed.
Interestingly, the safety demo instructed the passengers to locate TWO of their nearest emergency exits. While it makes total sense – in case one cannot be used due to fire, etc., I don’t think I’ve heard it explicitly mentioned in any other safety video I’ve seen.
Taking-Off Bound for Tokyo Narita
While the passengers were watching the safety video, the cockpit crew fired up the engines.
At 6:57AM we started taxiing to join the queue of aircraft waiting to take-off. Ten minutes later, it was announced that we needed about ten more minutes until it would be our turn.
In the meantime, a couple of aircraft including Garuda Indonesia and Batik Air 737s departed and landed.
After several minutes of slowly getting towards the runway end, it was finally our turn. At 7:20AM we took off from runway 25R after quite a bumpy take-off run. Luckily, the Jakarta runways are undergoing reconstruction now, and so, once its finished they should be smoother!
Leaving Jakarta airport behind, we rocketed into the Indonesian skies.
Seatbelts were switched just five minutes after take-off, and soon after, the cabin crew passed through the cabin offering sheets.
Exploring the MAGIC V In-Flight Entertainment System
Soon after, it was time for me to browse through the MAGIC V in-flight entertainment system a bit.
The IFE system offered a choice of five languages. Once I selected English, I was welcomed with the main menu which featured six options.
First, there was the “Movies/Videos” section. It contained further subcategories such as Hollywood movies, Japanese movies, etc. While it was no Emirates ICE, there was plenty to choose from – both in terms of Hollywood movies and other programming.
Then, there was the news section which included the day’s news by BBC and NHK (Japanese national television).
The audio section had several “radio stations” as well as albums to choose from.
Finally, the there were about ten games.
As for the in-flight map, first there was an explanation screen that showed how to use the map and what functions it offered. Rather than going further with describing the airshow, see the explanation screen below.
What I have to note here is that the touch screen was far from being responsive and so, throughout the whole exercise above, I preferred to use the remote control.
Meal Service: Breakfast
While I was playing with the IFE system, the cabin crew first distributed the meal menus and then setup the table cloth in preparation for the meal service.
The actual services started a couple of minutes later around 8AM. It started with a drink (ginger ale for me) and a light snack (a pack of dry fermented soy beans and a pack of rice crackers).
For reference, below is the complete drink menu.
Then, about 20 minutes later, the main followed. The Japanese and Western options on offer were as described in the menu below.
I opted for the Japanese meal which came on a single tray. However, as one would expect from a Japanese meal on Japan Airlines, it was very nicely presented. All the way to the last detail – to the crane-shaped chop stick holder.
After finishing the whole meal except for the “chawanmushi” (egg custard) which I don’t eat, the crew came by to clear the tray. At the same time I was offered a choice of chocolate and vanilla ice cream.
Once I finished the vanilla ice cream, the crew came by once again to clear the cup and to give me a salmon sandwich in plastic wrap. That was the one listed under “snack” in the menu above.
By this point, it was about 9AM Jakarta time (11AM Tokyo time).
Cruising Towards Tokyo
Shortly after the meal service, the crew went by the cabin offering a selection of amenities. While it is unfortunate for collectors, in general, I like this “wasteless” approach.
At that point, I was so tired that I fell asleep with the seat in a cradle position without even bothering to make it fully flat. In spite of that, I slept for about four hours very comfortably.
When I woke up at about 3PM Japan time, we were already off the coast of Honshu.
Within a couple of minutes, one of the flight attendants came by to ask if I wanted to have noodles. I opted for udon which was brought to me in the original “instant cup” within a couple of minutes together with a glass of Coke Zero.
Around the same time, the captain announced that we were flying by Wakayama, that our estimated arrival time was 4:20PM, that it was 27 degrees and sunny Tokyo, and that we would be starting our descent in about 20 minutes.
Approaching Tokyo Narita Airport
Sure enough, at 3:50PM, the aircraft started descending. Less then ten minutes later, the seatbelt sign was switched on, and we started turning towards the land.
Another ten or so minutes later, at 4:17PM, the cockpit crew lowered the landing gear. At this point, we were already flying above the rural landscapes of Chiba.
Finally, at 4:20PM, we touched down on runway 16L of Tokyo Narita airport bringing the nice flight close to an end.
The real end of the flight came five minutes later when we reached our arrival gate and it was time to get off the aircraft.
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No, I am not going to tell you how to fly in first class and sip Dom Perignon for free…But, I am going to introduce you to a couple of ways you can experiment with to try a business class flight without having to spend thousands of dollars.