When I arrived at Gate 84 from the Sakura lounge to catch flight JL 723 back to Kuala Lumpur, I noticed there were already a large group of people congregating at the boarding gates in a very orderly manner. The gate agents were putting everyone into specific pre boarding lines, and I thought that was brilliant. Japan Airlines has a very stringent boarding process based on flight class, and status as listed on their website which you can find here. I suppose that is how they’ve maintained their coveted title for an airline with the most punctual on time performance. Once boarding commenced, I was half expecting to be trampled on based on the amount of people, but thankfully no stampede.
Down the aerobridge we went! I got extremely excited at the sight of the Boeing 787-900 gleaming in the sun parked at the gates. It would be my first time on the -900 variant. I suppose it won’t differ much from the 787-800 series, but hey new plane! Prior to booking this flight, I was actually really excited to be trying out their JAL Sky Suite Apex Suites, but after a couple of months Japan Airlines decided to launch their new Boeing 787-900 with the JAL Sky Suite III reverse herringbone seats installed to Kuala Lumpur instead, which flies daily to and from Narita as JL 724/723.
Once I boarded, we were greeted so every graciously by the crew, and I was shown to my seat. Right at the front of my assigned seat 1K, there was a flight attendant guiding everyone into their seats. I got a little too excited and she noticed the shutterbug in me and offered to snap a few pictures of me with the plane. She smiled and asked “you look so excited! Is this your first time flying with us in our 787?” I laughed and said yes. She replied “ahhhhh, good seat 1K, right in front of the plane”, and proceeded to ask if I needed help in storing my luggage in the overhead bins.
There I felt it again, the feeling when you know it’s going to be a really awesome flight, based on how friendly the crew was. After storing my backpack, I was still super excited, and continued taking pictures all around.
On every single seat in business class, there was a fluffy pillow, a little amenity kit, Sony noise cancelling headphones, slippers, and a blanket waiting. I still am not sure why JAL chooses to store their premium headphones in disposable thin red plastic bags. For an airline that focuses so much on aesthetics, that was the only odd thing out, perhaps it’s for hygienic purposes, to shown it’s been sanitised.
The crew then started distributing cold towels in the midst of boarding. The mark of Japanese hospitality, to start any service with a nice cooling oshibori. Surprisingly no welcome drinks were given out, thought the crew did come to take my drink order, and said that it’ll will be served once we’re airborne. She suggested some champagne to go along with my order of water. Sure thing!
Like clockwork, the pilot soon announced that boarding has been completed right on time, and that the journey back home to Kuala Lumpur would take about 7.5 hours. I’m so ready for this adventure, now take to the skies!
Right after take off, it was time to explore the seat and the contents of the cute little drawstring amenity kit that was given out. The large tray table was very forward to use. Just peel it off the side of the seat panel, and it folds down nicely. It also rotates once it’s deployed down to give you the best angle suited for dining, or if you need to pivot it out-of-the-way to get up when the table is down. The seat controls are also located on the front side of the seat panel underneath the literature pocket, probably at hip height when seated to give you better access to control your desired seat position, or when you want to deploy it to bed mode. It also comes with a very strong massage function. The touch screen remote control for operating the 17 inch IFE is located just right next to your head, right below the personal reading light. Oh, one thing that I found really useful was also there was a pretty large mirror located inside of the storage area by the windows. Also the power plugs, USB port and headphone sockets were located underneath the storage area by the window where it’s easily seen and accessible.
The contents of the little amenity kit drawstring bag were quite cute, not a full-sized kit with lotions and potions, but one with things you’d probably use for the 7 hour medium haul flight. There were a pair of earplugs, an eye mask, moisture mask, and a dental kit.
When the seatbelt signs were switched off, the purser immediately came to introduce herself to everyone on board. She came by with the most kindest smile and said “Mr Khoo, so good to have you with us today, how is everything so far? Please take a look at the menu for lunch, while I get your drink order” She was a little older than the rest of the crew, but she was just oozing so much love and warmth, it was like catching up with your favourite aunt you haven’t seen in ages.
Japan Airlines menu is named BEDD Sky Auberge by JAL. Not really sure if that’s the full name, but they have a website dedicated just for explaining their dining concepts, history of their chefs and the food on the website are a visual treat for the eyes. Click here to find out more. One thing I love about Japan Airlines is that the menu is updated every few months on their website, so I already knew what I wanted to have. Both Japanese and western option are listed on their website for all their routes, and it can be found here. The 10 course Japanese meal for me please! The obvious choice to go with, since we’re departing from Japan.
The purser came back to dress my tray table alongside with a bottle of Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve Champagne and poured a glass for me, and said “your glass will never be empty on this flight” and smiled. I just wanted a taste, but she insisted on filling the glass, she’s going to get me drunk, and I’m a cheap drunk. Also she brought along a glass of water and a packet of rice crackers, which were delicious!
Soon lunch would be served, and I couldn’t wait to dig in the 10 course meal. It was beautifully presented in a wooden bento box on a tray together with a cute red crane chopstick rest, the logo of Japan Airlines.
Contents of the first 5 dishes, clockwise from the upper left corner.
- Simmered chicken & vegetables with soy sauce
- Crabmeat with soy starch sauce
- Poached potherb mustard, garland chrysanthemum & mushroom in Japanese broth with herring roe & abalone
- Soy simmered beef ginger flavour burdock seasoned with sesame, broiled sardine sweet soy sauce flavour, slow cooked egg, vinegared turnip wrapped with smoked salmon & namafu
- Seared yellowtail fish with grated radish
Prior to this flight on Japan Airlines, I had the joy of flying to Haneda from Singapore with Singapore Airlines, and thought their Hanakoireki Japanese bento meal was pretty good, but this Japanese meal by JAL takes it to a whole new level. The presentation, the flavours, the colours, all well executed and beautifully prepared. Excuse me while I devour this gorgeous bento set.
Contents of the next 4 dishes, clockwise from the upper left corner.
- Freshly steamed Yukigura Imazurimai Koshihikari rice (aka delicious magic rice)
- Miso soup
- Japanese pickles
- Japanese styled stewed beef tongue & broiled eel sweet soy sauce flavour
Needless to say, I devoured everything that was served next. The broiled eel was divine. Even the pickles were all gone. The dessert that was served next was probably the most underwhelming one out of the lot. I think my expectations were set too high, it was alright, just not mind-blowing as what I expected it to be.
- Castella cake with citrus hyuganatsu jam
After that satisfying meal, the crew cleared my tray table and distributed bottled water to everyone in the cabin. It’s now time to get comfy and test out the flat-bed and watch some movies. The cubby hole that you slide your feet into during bed mode was very spacious. I tried to reach the end of it, but I couldn’t, plus the flight attendant saw me trying to wiggle my lower body into the cubby hole and just smiled. Probably asking herself what did she do to deserve seeing that. The seat was a little on the narrow side, although it was very long, but still very comfortable. To get a little more width space you can also lower the arm rest so that it sits flush with the bed, which is a pretty good option if you want more wiggle room.
I managed to get a 2 hour nap before waking up, and the flight attendant was all smiles when she saw me groggily awakening, and asked “did you have a good rest Mr Khoo?” “Yes I did!” Without asking she came by with the menu and asked if I would like a drink. “Some iced tea would be nice please”. She came back in a couple of minutes with some iced oolong, rice crackers, and handed me a couple of french Jean-Paul Héin chocolates, how fancy!
I resumed watching some tv shows and in the next hour the crew came back and started distributing pre landing snacks. We had a choice of Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream or an onigiri. I asked if the she’d recommend the onigiri over the ice cream, she replied “why not have both Mr Khoo?” Sweet! I’m wishing this flight would never end, there seems to be a never-ending supply of food and goodies on board.
The purser soon came back to distribute fast track immigration slips to all passengers in business class and asked “would you like some souvenirs Mr Khoo?” In the midst of ice cream shoving I replied “oh sure!” She came back with some Japan Airlines branded postcards and pens. If this is the level of attentiveness and service is like on business class, I can only wonder what flying first class with JAL would be like. I bet they have an on board yakitori chef & magician in first class. I’ve been throughly spoiled by the superb service provided on this flight.
When the plane touched down back home in Kuala Lumpur International Airport, I felt a little sad that the awesome flight was about to come to an end. As everyone packed up their belongings and started exiting the aircraft I took a few last shots of the cabin, and started saying goodbye to seat 1K. Hah. Japan Airlines certainly excelled in all aspects from the moment I entered the aircraft, right to when I had to exit it. With a friendly goodbye bow from the crew, the magical journey with Japan Airlines had come to an end. Till the next time JAL, thank you for the hospitality and warmth in making this such a fantastic flight.
Just when I thought that was the last I’d see of the crew, while waiting for our bags at the carousel I soon heard a very exasperated voice yelling “sumimasen”, one of the JAL crew came running to the baggage claims area waving something in her hands. Someone had dropped their scarf in the aircraft, once the owner, an elderly Japanese man claimed it, he got into a bowing battle with the crew as they both tried to say outdo each others’ thank you with a deeper bow. How is it possible that Japan Airlines is just rated a 4 star airline? You’re certainly a 5 star airline in my eyes.