Date: February 28, 2018
Flight No.: JL503
Route: Tokyo Haneda to Sapporo New Chitose
Airline: JAL Japan Airlines
Type: Boeing 777-300
My spotting trip to Sapporo at the end of February begun with a flight from Tokyo Haneda to New Chitose airport with Japan Airlines. The flight was operated by one of JAL’s Boeing 777-300s, and I booked it using Avios miles.
Before departure, I was able to upgrade the flight into Class J – Japan Airlines’ domestic business class product, and so I’m bringing you a review below. To see what JAL’s domestic economy flights are like, check this or this review.
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.
Upgrading a JAL Domestic Flight to Class J
I got to Haneda airport shortly after 6AM for the flight’s early 7:30AM departure. While I booked my flight in economy class using Avios, I was hoping to upgrade into Class J, Japan Airlines’ domestic business class product and so I went directly to one of the ticketing desks.
Luckily, there were still seats available, and so, after paying an upgrade fee of 1,000 yen (a bit less than $10), I had a boarding pass with a “Class J” title and an exit row seat number on it in my hand.
Not long after that, I met up with Yukihiro, and after dropping off our bags, we went through the deserted JAL Global Club security lane thanks to my British Airways Silver status. Airside, we briefly visited JAL’s business class lounge which I won’t be writing about separately this time, since I reviewed it relatively recently.
Class J: Japan Airlines’ Domestic Business Class
Since the gate was just outside the lounge, we didn’t leave the lounge until about 15 minutes before departure. Along the way, we could see our aircraft parked at the gate looking ready to depart.
And, indeed, when we got to the gate around 7:20AM, we were one of the last passengers to board.
JAL’s 777-300s are configured densely with a total of 500 seats – 78 in Class J and 422 in economy class. Class J onboard the type is split into two cabins with nine rows between the first and second pairs of doors, and additional two rows behind the second pair of doors.
My seat, 11C was located in the second cabin. And, since it was an emergency exit row seat, it featured extremely generous leg room.
As for the seat itself, it was quite comfortable, and – for an upgrade fee of less than $10 – it presents excellent value. Besides having an increased leg room (even in non-emergency exit row seats), the seat is also wider since Class J on the 777-300 comes in “2-4-2” configuration rather than the “3-4-3” of economy class.
Between each pair of seats, there was a small drink table. And, on the inside of the inner armrest, there were the IFE (audio program) controls. Finally, on the outer armrest, there were two seat controls – one for the seat back and another for the leg rest.
Unfortunately, the seats didn’t feature any power ports.
Departing Tokyo Haneda Bound for Sapporo New Chitose
The cabin crew closed the doors four minutes before our scheduled departure time, and right after that, the welcome speech was made. Interestingly, the eight or so prefectures that the crew came from were mentioned as well. Likely so that JAL’s prefecture sticker collectors would know.
We were pushed back exactly on time at 7:30AM, and taxied to our departure runway, 16R from which we took off at 7:43AM. During the taxiing and take-off, nose gear camera feed was screened on the old-school overhead screens.
While excellent views of Tokyo could be had right after take-off, it wasn’t until the seatbelt signs went off four minutes after take-off that I could get a photo.
JAL Class J In-Flight Service
Right after the seatbelt signs were turned off by the cockpit crew, the cabin crew stood up, bowed to the customers and started the in-flight service. The one thing to note here is that while Class J offers an improved seat as compared to economy class, the service is basically the same – except for a “Class J-only” soft drink.
As usual for me when flying JAL, I asked for a cup of Skytime, JAL’s signature kiwi drink. And, at the same time my drink was served I also asked if I could get the prefecture stickers of all crew members. Those were brought later in the flight.
During the drink service, the crew placed stickers on seats of passengers that were sleeping saying that they should feel free to ask the crew for a drink when they wake up. This kind of attention detail is what I love about flying with Japanese airlines!
Another thing that makes flying with JAL a pleasure is that on domestic flights they offer free wi-fi. And, unlike the paid one on my Tokyo – Delhi flight, this one was actually usable. To be fair, though, I have to mention that nowadays also ANA offers free wi-fi on domestic flights.
Landing at Sapporo New Chitose Airport
For the rest of the flights, I worked a bit, and enjoyed the great scenery that we were flying above.
The seatbelt signs were switched back on at 8:43AM, and less than ten minutes later, we flew by Sapporo New Chitose airport.
Then, we made a 180 degree left turn, and at 8:54AM, the cockpit crew lowered the landing gear. Another three minutes later, at 8:57AM, we landed in Sapporo where the outside temperature was minus 10 degrees. And, not long after that we reached our arrival gate, gate 10.
I reunited with Yukihiro (he was seated in the front cabin), we collected our bags, then dropped them off in Super Lounge, and we headed out to do some spotting. But, more on that in the next instalment!
JAL 777-300 Class J Tokyo – Sapporo Summary
This was my first time flying Class J, and it certainly wasn’t my last time (even setting aside the fact that I also upgraded the return flight). While Class J offers nothing in terms of extra service onboard, the larger seat is still more than worth it for the extra ten dollars.
Especially so on longer flights like between Tokyo and Sapporo or Tokyo and Okinawa.