Date: December 20, 2017
Flight No.: JL749
Route: Tokyo Narita to Delhi Indira Gandhi International
Airline: JAL Japan Airlines
Type: Boeing 787-8
As I am posting this, I am at Ibis London Heathrow slowly making my way back to Japan (I still have five flights ahead of me) from my Christmas trip to Slovakia. The trip started a couple of weeks ago with a flight from Tokyo to Delhi onboard a Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8.
Below, you can read a review of the flight during which I was lucky enough to experience JAL’s excellent “Apex Suite” business class seats.
Checking-in at Tokyo Narita Airport & JAL Sakura Lounge
I arrived at Narita airport shortly before 9AM, and headed to JAL’s business class check-in counters. With no one in line, it was my turn to check-in in no time.
The check-in agent wanted to see my travel plans onwards from Delhi, and after showing her my KLM ticket to Amsterdam – and answering her question of which country Amsterdam was in – I asked whether it might be possible to check my bag through all the way to Vienna.
Since she was only able to check my bag through to Amsterdam, where I only had a 2 hour transfer time, I asked her to only check my bag to Delhi instead.
In no time, I had my boarding passes – even for the two KLM flights – in my hand.
I headed through the fairly empty security and immigration, and headed to JAL’s Sakura Lounge which was located right after immigration.
Boarding Japan Airlines Flight 749 to Delhi
Since the flight was scheduled to board at 11:10AM for its 11:30AM departure, I left the lounge at 11AM and headed towards the departure gate.
Shortly after I got there, the boarding started.
First, a wheelchair passenger was taken onboard, followed by families with children. Then, JAL Global Club Premier, JAL Mileage Bank Diamond, and oneworld Emerald members followed.
Finally, at 11:16AM, the gate agent announced:
Japan Airlines flight 749 to Jakar… Delhi, excuse me, is now welcoming passengers traveling in business class to board.
And so, I headed down the jetway and onto the aircraft where Christmas songs – including Oh, Christmas Tree – were already welcoming passengers.
While JAL has two different configurations of the 787-8, the aircraft I flew on featured 38 Apex Suites business class seats in two cabins, 35 premium economy class seats, and 88 economy class seats.
Japan Airlines (Apex) Sky Suite Business Class Seat
My seat – 1K – was a window seat in the first row of the first business class cabin, and because it was a bulkhead seat, it was slightly different from the other rows. On a separate note, because the pairs of seats on the window sides were slightly staggered, each of the seats offered direct aisle access.
And, in the “aisle” leading to each of the window seats, there was a coat hanger with the seat number on it.
Going inside the suite, there was the seat which converted into a fully flat bed. On the seat, a pillow, a blanket, a pair of slippers with a shoehorn, as well as a noise-cancelling headset were already waiting.
Across from the seat, there was a large in-flight entertainment touch screen that could also be controlled using the touchscreen controller located in the wall of the suite.
Under the screen, there was a console where a simple amenity kit was waiting upon boarding. Under the console, there was the ottoman which turned into part of the bed when the seat was put into full flat position. And, under the ottoman was a storage space that fit my camera backpack perfectly.
Next to the screen, there was a “seat pocket” with all the usual reading materials, as well as a guide on how to use the seat.
Continuing with the tour of the seat, on the left side there was a wall separating my seat from the aisle seat (which remained empty).
Along the wall, there was a narrow shelf which was ideal for storing a cell phone or a small camera.
The only downside of that was that the table was stowed under the shelf – meaning that I had to get my belongings out of the way each time I wanted to take the table out or stow it. Luckily, the table swiveled to the side, and so it wasn’t necessary to stow it each time when going to the restroom, and so on.
Besides that, the wall featured a reading light, the seat controls, the headset port, as well as a USB and universal power outlets.
Finally, there was a privacy partition that had to be down for take-off and landing, but that could be raised to provide extra privacy during the rest of the flight.
Later during (and after) the flight, I found out about two more storage areas.
The first was a small storage area above the headrest of every window seat which I thought was quite impractical. The second was a small cubby on the side of each of the window-side aisle seats. That one, I thought, was much more useful.
Departing Tokyo Narita Onboard a JAL Boeing 787-8
Going back to the flight itself, shortly after settling in my seat and putting my jacket on the coat hanger, one of the cabin crew members came to pick it up.
Just a couple of minutes later, she returned with a hot towel, and then the cabin crew came around the cabin offering cardigans.
With everyone onboard, the cabin crew closed the door at 11:32AM, and we were pushed back at 11:35AM – just five minutes behind schedule.
During the push back, the crew made a welcome announcement mentioning that the flight was codeshared with SriLankan Airlines and the expected flight time of 9 hours and 35 minutes.
After that – just as we taxied out – the safety video was played.
Interestingly, we taxied behind Air India’s flight to Delhi that had the exact same departure time as the flight I was on.
Some minutes later, we reached the end of runway 34L, and we took-off at 11:56AM leaving Narita airport behind.
Enjoying the Japan Airlines Business Class Lunch
Less than ten minutes after departure, an announcement was made allowing passengers to recline their seats, use tray tables, and so on. During the announcement, the crew also mentioned that a lunch would be served right away followed by a dinner shortly before arrival.
Once the seatbelt signs were switched off at 12:08PM, the Chief Purser came around each of the seats to introduce herself. While welcoming me onboard, she also kindly mentioned:
Mount Fuji will soon be visible on the other side of the aircraft. If you wish to do so, feel free to go there to see it.
While I thought it was a very nice touch, I decided to stay on my side and start working on the preview article for this trip.
About ten minutes after the Purser came to introduce herself, another member of the cabin crew came by to bring the flight’s menu.
Shortly after handing me the menu, the cabin crew came back to take my order – pasta and ginger ale.
Around the same time, some great views of the Japanese Alps could be had.
The actual meal service started at about half past noon when the ginger ale and a pack of rice crackers were brought.
Then, some fifteen minutes later, the appetizer as well as a plate with two pieces of bread was served was served on a tray. While I wasn’t too impressed with the appetizer, one of the two bread rolls which contained yuzu was excellent.
After the appetizer plate was cleared, I was brought another drink – this time Coke Zero.
And, soon after, the main followed.
While the dish was delicious, I wouldn’t have minded if the portion was slightly larger.
Finally, I had the dessert – hojicha tea pudding – together with a cup of English tea. Even though I am not a big fan of hojicha or pudding and the dessert didn’t look appetizing at first sight, I actually enjoyed the dessert.
Once the meal service was over, the cabin crew brought everyone a bottle of water.
Cruising to Delhi and Testing Out the Wi-Fi & Flatbed
Since I wasn’t tired yet (it was still just early afternoon after all), I decided to work a bit and test out the wi-fi. JAL offers three plans as follows:
- 1 hour for $10.15 (or $9.15 for JAL credit card holders)
- 3 hours for $14.40 ($12.95)
- 24 hours for $18.8 ($16.80)
I went with the 24-hour plan which I got for $16.80 using my JAL card. Just like the other two plans, there was no limit on the amount of data usage. However, a data limit likely wouldn’t have made much difference given how slow the connection was.
About halfway through the flight, the cabin crew distributed Indian immigration form. Besides that, they also kept going around the cabin offering drinks – one of which was brought to me together with some chocolates.
After a couple of hours of working, I decided to take a nap. Before that, though, I went to the restroom which featured the Japanese-style toilet. Separately, there were some dental kits and packs of mouth wash.
When I got back to my seat, I turned it into a bed and went to sleep. Only a simple blanket and a small pillow were offered during this – mostly daylight – flight, and no bedding was provided.
The seat itself was comfortable though, and I was surprised that it didn’t feel as narrow and claustrophobic as I was expecting it to be.
JAL Udon de Sky & Pre-Landing Dinner
I woke up after about one hour of sleep or about three hours before landing. As the lunch wasn’t exactly filling, I was a bit hungry – and so I went for one of the three things in the “anytime menu,” udon noodles.
After the noodles, I worked on organizing and editing some photos, filling out the immigration form, etc., until it was time to eat the pre-landing dinner.
At 4PM Delhi time (7:30PM Japan time), hot towels were distributed from a basket rather than on individual trays like during boarding. And then, the cabin crew came by to ask about my dinner preference.
As I had the Western choice for lunch, I decided to go with the Japanese option – simmered duck with sweet soy sauce. The meal was mediocre at best – the portion was very small and the carrot in the meal was extremely overcooked.
Even though the meal wasn’t the best out there, I finished it, and then did some more work.
Landing at Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport
At 4:48PM, the cabin crew announced that we would be landing in about an hour and fifteen minutes and that duty free sales would be ending soon. Then, at 5:26PM, the Captain announced that we would be starting our descent soon and that the seatbelt signs would be switching back on in about twenty minutes.
Around the same time, the Chief Purser came around the cabin thanking each of the passengers and handing out some more chocolates, as well as an eye refresher (that I didn’t end up using).
Then, another cabin crew member brought my jacket back and hung it on the hanger next to the IFE screen.
At 6:02PM, the Captain asked the cabin crew to prepare for landing, and also addressed the passengers saying that we would have to wait in a holding pattern for a bit. And, at the same time, just as we reached the altitude of 10,000 feet, the wi-fi was switched off.
Five minutes later, the cabin lights were switched off, and then at 6:21PM we landed in extremely foggy and smoggy Delhi. A welcome announcement mentioning the outside temperature of 18 degrees and the local time of (6:52PM which was later fixed to) 6:22PM followed.
After taxiing for several minutes around the fairly dark Delhi airport, we reached our arrival gate at 6:36PM – 16 minutes behind schedule.
I gathered my belongings, thanked the cabin crew and was the first one off the aircraft to enter the terminal where Indian music was playing and where – quite surprisingly – I was welcomed by a Santa Claus.
After clearing the immigration and picking up my suitcase, I met with Hirofumi who gave me a quick tour of Delhi before dropping me off back at the airport so that I could catch my 3AM flight to Amsterdam.
But, more about that in the next instalment of the trip report.
JAL 787-8 Apex Suite Business Class Tokyo – Delhi Summary
I found JAL’s Apex Suite business class seat to be excellent. In fact, it exceeded my expectations since I imagined it would feel narrower and more claustrophobic than it actually did. At the same time, though, I would have welcomed a larger pillow.
As for the meals, the lunch was delicious while the dinner was mediocre. However, it was still good to have the dinner – given that only one meal is offered on all of other JAL’s intra-Asian flights.
Overall, the flight was a great experience – especially given that it cost me just a couple of hundred dollars thanks to the Alaska Airlines mileage sale.