In this review, we will fly Japan Airlines (JAL) in the ‘Sky Suite’ business class on the Boeing 787-8 from Jakarta to Tokyo Narita.
After a long Jakarta Airport layover in which I visited both the Premium Plaza Lounge as well as the Garuda Indonesia Business Lounge, it was finally time to board a flight I had looked forward to for quite some weeks.
It would be my first time flying Japan Airlines and also my first time in an Apex Suite business class seat, which is widely considered to be one of the best business class seats in the world. Heck, it would also be my first time visiting Japan – a country I long wanted to visit – so I was all fired up for this particular flight!
Jakarta (CGK) to Tokyo Narita (NRT) on Japan Airlines
Flight JL726 – Boeing 787-8 – Business class, seat 2C
Departure: 9.25pm – Arrival: 6.45am
Flight time: 7h20m – Distance: 3,620 miles
Costs: 57,500 Flying Blue miles + 115.03 EUR in taxes for a BKK-CGK-NRT award
As you would expect for a Japanese airline, boarding was done in the most organised and calm way possible. There were five different queues at the boarding gate – one for each boarding group.
The first boarding group was for the top JAL elites only, while business class passengers and the top elites of other Oneworld alliance carriers were relegated to the second boarding group.
I was quite surprised that there were more than a dozen passengers – all Japanese businessmen by what it looked like – in the first boarding group. Despite being the first in the queue of the second boarding group, more than a third of the business class cabin was already occupied by the time I was finally allowed to board the plane.
Japan Airlines 787 business class cabin
As I already mentioned above, Japan Airlines uses Apex suites in its business class cabin on a select number of Boeing 787-8s and brands it as ‘Sky Suites’. On paper, the 2-2-2 layout doesn’t sound great at all, as there are plenty of airlines which for example use reversed herringbone seats in a 1-2-1 layout with all-aisle access.
However, these Apex suites are quite ingenious in their design, as even the window seats still have direct aisle access thanks to a (narrow) path leading from the aisle to the seat as you can see on the pictures below. As there is a divider screen between each pair of seats they still offer a vast amount of privacy.
The pair of window seats are slightly staggered, while the center pair of seats are right next to each other. When travelling as a couple, you are best of selecting the middle pair of seats as talking with each other will be much easier.
When travelling alone, the window seats are arguably the best as you have both a window view and still direct aisle access. They are by far the most private as well. That said, even in the other seats you have quite a lot of privacy as you are still shielded from your seatmate thanks to the divider screen, as well as from the aisle thanks to the pane next to the headrest.
On my particular aeroplane, the forward business class cabin existed of 18 business class seats. There is a second business class cabin after the 2nd pair of doors on the plane containing another 18 Apex suites, making this a very premium-heavy plane (given that there is also a substantial premium economy cabin, economy class only exists out of 11 rows!)
JAL Sky Suite
Unfortunately, I did not manage to snag a window seat as I only booked my flight on a short notice when I decided to shelve my original itinerary through China because of COVID-19 and opted to travel back home via Japan instead. By that time, all of the window seats were already taken – and none opened up a later point despite checking the seat map daily.
Although this was a bit unfortunate, at least it gave me the opportunity to review the aisle seat, given that this is the seat most business class passengers will be seated in and thus much more relevant for reviewing purposes.
I had assigned myself seat 2C in the forward business class cabin. Upon arriving at my seat, a lot of stuff was already laying on my seat. On it was a pair of headphones, a pillow and blanket, slippers and an amenity kit. On a small shelf in front of the TV screen a small bottle of water could be found.
The menu of today’s flight could already found at the seat as well as it was stored together with the in-flight magazine in a storage compartment at the side of the seat.
A closer look of the JAL Sky Suite
Although the Sky Suite looks perhaps a bit on the narrow side, in reality this is absolutely not the case. I found the seat to be spacious and comfortable. What is most noteworthy is how unrestricted the foot space is. A big complaint of a lot of other business class seats is the small size of the foot cubicle – but this is certainly not an issue with the Apex suites.
The seat buttons of the JAL Sky Suite are easy to operate. Within one click you can turn your seat fully flat or raise the divider shield between your seat and the neighbour.
Even though this was only allowed after take-off due to safety and evacuation reasons, I found that even with the divider screen still down these seats have a lot of privacy due to the slightly staggered layout. I barely noticed having a neighbour at all when seated fully back as to see him I had to lean all the way forward to be able to look through the gap.
I was also impressed with the amount of storage space at the seat. In the side storage area in which you can find the in-flight magazine and menu you can easily store your laptop, tablet or a book. As this is basically located right next to your shoulder, you have your personal stuff within easy reach.
However, this side-storage space seems to be only available at the aisle seats (C and H) as this storage compartment is basically located directly behind the window seat thanks to the staggered seat configuration. There are a number of online reviews of passengers in an Apex window seat complaining about the lack of storage space – so this marks perhaps the only area in which seats C and H are better than the A and K window seats.
Power sockets and WiFi
At the side-storage compartment you can also find an USB outlet and power socket to charge your electronic devices. These Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8s are all equipped with WiFi. Data packages are reasonably priced, with a package with no caps for the entire flight costing around 20 USD.
As this was a relatively short overnight flight in which I planned to drink a nightcap, watch a film and sleep, I did not test out the speed and reliability of the on-board internet, although online reports say it generally works great.
Another aspect which makes the Japan Airlines Sky Suite such a great business class seat are the large TV screens, which has a good high definition resolution and is easy to control with the remote control found at the side of your seat.
I thought the selection of films and series was quite good and there were also some relatively new film releases added into the system. Even though the in-flight entertainment selection is not as extensive as you can find for example on some of the Middle Eastern carriers such as Emirates, you will certainly be able to find at least something to your liking.
Amenity kits were already distributed on every seat in business class. I thought the amenity kit itself was slightly disappointing as it was a flimsy throwaway bag instead of the more durable pouches you normally receive.
The contents of the amenity kit were decent enough as it had the usual standards (ear plugs, toothbrush kit) and some rather unconventional products such as a moisture mask. At each seat were also a pair of good quality slippers.
During the boarding process, one of the flight attendants also distributed beige pyjama tops to all passengers, which I thought was an extremely nice touch as normally these are only handed out in first class. These cardigans are however a big thing in Japanese culture and many of the other passengers ended up wearing them.
To me, it made for a great little souvenir of the flight as the cardigan had a cool JAL logo on the chest.
Shortly before departure, refreshment towels were handed out to all business class passengers. These were nicely presented on a small holder.
Although bottled water was placed at each seat, there was no pre-departure beverage service, which was slightly disappointing. I’m not sure if this might have to do with Indonesia’s strict laws regarding alcohol, as I gathered from other Japan Airlines reviews that usually the airline does serve full open bar pre-departure beverages?
Before departure, the flight attendants also came by to collect breakfast cards, in which I could fill out whether I wanted to be waken up for breakfast service before landing and what my preferred choice of meal was. As I didn’t think the Western breakfast set sounded very exciting and I was highly curious to try out some Japanese food, I naturally went with the Japanese set.
Japan Airlines business class menu
I thought Japan Airlines had an interesting menu with a quite extensive drinks list. On today’s relatively short overnight flight, there would be a small snack served right after departure, with the main meal being breakfast in the morning before arrival.
The drinks list contained a fairly good wine list, with Ayala being served as champagne. Naturally, there were also different sake types available, as well as plum wine, Japanese teas and three different types of whiskey among which a Japanese choice.
For those interested in the tiny details, I photographed every page of the menu, which you can find back below (my apologies in advance for the poor photography, as my phone camera did not like the dark cabin environs).
Today’s flight to Tokyo Narita was completely full in business class and what I gathered also fully packed in the back of the plane. It would be a relatively short overnight flight of just over seven hours in flight time.
Take-off was smooth and uneventful. As I did not have a window seat there wasn’t much of it that I could see it being pitch dark outside.
Once we reached cruising altitude, the flight crew jumped into action. A flight attendant came over to my seat and inquired what I wanted to drink. Naturally, I opted for some champagne, which was served soon after together with the small snack.
The snack basically was a series of three Japanese bites: steamed seaweed and crab omelette with a fish cake, boiled shrimp with citrus jelly, and finally a caprese salad. The texture of the food was perhaps the most interesting, as I found to my great surprise the snack a bit bland and tasteless.
I was quite happy that I decided to eat a bit in the lounge as the snack was also not very substantial. That said, Japan Airlines does have a snack selection which you can order at anytime during the flight if you get peckish.
As I decided to watch a film before going to sleep, I thought I might as well drink a nightcap or two. I first opted for some sweet plum wine, which was served with a bag of nuts.
Shortly before going to sleep, I also opted for the Japanese whiskey, which turned out to be a great Yamazaki single malt.
I managed to have an uninterrupted sleep of just under three hours, which was more than I thought I would have given the relatively short flight time. In fully flat bed mode, these seats are also highly comfortable. If you want, Japan Airlines even has mattress pads to make the surface even more soft.
To my great surprise, I also found the aisle seat to be perfectly private as well as I did not notice any traffic or noise from the aisle or other seats as due to the seat design the position of your head is still slightly shielded away from everything.
For breakfast I ordered the Japanese set meal, which was beautifully presented on a tray. I am a complete novice when it comes to Japanese food and I have no clue to what was exactly what. Most of it however tasted absolutely great!
After the meal I ordered a coffee, which was presented with the dessert of milk vanilla jelly with blueberry compote.
Throughout the flight service has been excellent by the all-female crew serving business class. The two flight attendants who would end up serving my aisle spoke perfect English and were eager to help out with any request.
When I told them it was my first time flying Japan Airlines and visiting Japan, they seemed to be genuinely delighted that I made the effort to come to their country. In the same way, they seemed to be equally pleased that I ordered the Japanese set and did not go for the Western set being the only Westerner in business class on board this flight.
During the flight, they would occasionally walk through the aisle to see if there were any passengers who might need something. When pressing the call button, they would also immediately come over to my seat.
Shortly before we set in the final approach, all plates, glasses and items were cleared from our seats and the cabin was prepared for landing. As a goodbye gift and ‘thank you’ for flying Japan Airlines, we were also given a ‘gentle steam eye mask’.
It seemed to be a beautiful morning in Japan and I thought it was a pity I did not have a window seat to get my first glimpses of the country on arrival.
We landed safely and on time at Narita Airport and after a short taxi ride parked at a jet bridge. It was a fairly long walk to immigration, where there were fortunately no queues at all. Within seconds I was stamped into Japan.
Japan Airlines does not have an arrival lounge at Tokyo Narita Airport. However, first and business class passengers arriving on a Japan Airlines flight (as well as JAL’s own elite members) are entitled to use the shower facilities of ‘ninehours’.
Ninehours (9h) is located just outside of Terminal 2. You basically cross the railway station, head outside to the central square in front of the terminal, and Nine Hours Narita Airport is located right in front of you.
As I only had a short sleep on my flight, I gladly made use of the offer for a refreshing shower in order to fully wake up and be able to navigate through Tokyo. You simply hand over your boarding pass at the Nine Hours reception desk, and you are let into the facility.
I had a great flight on Japan Airlines and wished it would have lasted a bit longer as the seven hours on board went by too fast. Even though the Apex suites in their 2-2-2 layout might not seem to be a good business class product at first sight – in reality it is a groundbreaking, great seat, offering a lot of comfort, privacy and direct aisle access to every passenger.
Japan Airlines, which call the cabin the ‘Sky Suite’, managed to make a great and comfortable business class product out of it. In day-mode the seat is extremely comfortable, and at nighttime you will have a great sleep.
I found the soft product on Japan Airlines to be great as well, with an extensive drinks list full of quality wines and whiskeys, a tasty and beautifully presented Japanese meal, and a polished, pro-active and friendly service by the entire crew.
There are really no major negatives I can think of, which says something about the quality of the Japan Airlines business class product. The airline really lived up to its reputation of being one of the world’s top quality airlines. I would love to fly Japan Airlines again and try them out on a longer flight to be able to savour more of the in-flight service!
Trip report index
This article is part of the ‘Lazing in Laos and Gallivanting a Wee Bit Around Asia‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:
1. Review: Aegean Airlines Business Class Bucharest to Athens (Airbus A320)
2. Review: Goldair Handling Lounge (Non-Schengen) Athens Airport
3. Review: Saudia Business Class Athens to Jeddah (Airbus A320)
4. Review: Saudia Alfursan Lounge Jeddah Airport South Terminal
5. Review: Review: Saudia Business Class Jeddah to Kuala Lumpur (Boeing 787)
6. Review: CitizenM Hotel Kuala Lumpur Bukit Bintang
7. Kuala Lumpur in One Day: What to See and Do in 24 Hours
8. A Batu Caves Half Day Trip From Kuala Lumpur By Public Transport
9. Review: Plaza Premium Lounge Private Resting Suite Gateway KLIA2
10. Review: Air Asia Kuala Lumpur to Vientiane (Airbus A320)
11. Review: Hotel Khamvongsa, Vientiane, Laos
12. Destination Trip Report: A Day in Vientiane, Laos
13. Guide: Domestic Bus Travel in Laos and How to Book a Ticket
14. Review: Simon Riverside Hotel, Vang Vieng, Laos
15. Trip Report: Vang Vieng – Worth a Stop on Your Laos Itinerary?
16. Review: Villa Ban Phanluang, Luang Prabang, Laos
17. Luang Prabang: The Stunning Pearl of Indochina
18. Guide: Luang Prabang Morning, Food and Night Markets
19. Kuang Si Falls: A Gorgeous Luang Prabang Day Trip
20. Review: Thai Smile Economy Class Luang Prabang to Bangkok (Airbus A320)
21. Review: Ibis Styles Bangkok Sukhumvit 4
22. Review: Air France/KLM Business Lounge Bangkok Airport
23. Review: Garuda Indonesia Business Class Bangkok to Jakarta (Boeing 737-800)
24. Review: Sapphire Plaza Premium Lounge Terminal 3 Jakarta Airport
25. Review: Garuda Business Lounge Terminal 3 Jakarta Airport
26. Review: Review: Japan Airlines Business Class (Boeing 787-8) Jakarta to Tokyo Narita (current chapter)
27. Review: Capsule Hotel Transit Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan
28. Tokyo Stopover: What to See and Do in the Capital of Japan for a Day
29. Review: ANA Business Lounge Tokyo Narita Airport
30. Review: United Club Tokyo Narita Airport
31. Review: Turkish Airlines Economy Class Tokyo Narita to Istanbul (Boeing 777)
32. Review: Turkish Airlines Miles&Smiles Lounge Istanbul Airport
33. Review: Turkish Airlines Economy Class Istanbul to Bucharest (Airbus A330)