After a short time in the VIP Airlines Lounge, I headed towards the gate to take my first international flight in economy class in nearly a year. I will be honest, I was not terribly excited about that fact as I greatly appreciate my leg room on international flights. Unfortunately, JAL operates a 767-300 with the old configuration on the Taipei (TPE) to Tokyo-Narita (NRT) route, which meant very limited leg room.
Introduction: Taipei Mileage Running Extravaganza
Review – American Airlines 767-300 Business Class – MIA-JFK
Review – British Airways Galleries Lounge – JFK
Review – Cathay Pacific 777-300ER Business Class – JFK-HKG
Review – Dragon Air G16 Lounge – HKG
Review – Cathay Pacific The Bridge Lounge – HKG
Review – Cathay Pacific The Cabin Lounge – HKG
Review – Cathay Pacific 777-200 Business Class – HKG-TPE
Review – Sheraton Grande Taipei Hotel
Review – The More Lounge – TPE
Review – The Premium Plaza Lounge – TPE
Review – The VIP Airlines Lounge (JAL Contract Lounge) – TPE
Review – JAL 767-300 Economy Class – TPE-NRT/NRT-TPE
Review – JAL Sakura Lounge (Near Gate 61) – NRT
Review – JAL Sakura Lounge (Near Gate 92) – NRT
Review – JAL 777-300ER Economy Class – NRT-LAX
Review – The Club At DFW Lounge (JAL Contract Lounge) – DFW
Review – JAL 787-8 Economy Class – DFW-NRT
As I mentioned in my Introduction post, this was a mileage/status run on paid tickets. If you wanted to redeem American Airlines AAdvantage miles, a flight in economy from Taipei (TPE) to the United States would cost you 37,500 miles. In the interests of not posting multiple reviews of the same flights, I will consolidate all of my flights on the route into this one review.
Japan Airlines 802/809
Taipei Taoyuan (TPE) to Tokyo-Narita (NRT) & Vice Versa
Depart: 10:00 AM/5:55 PM
Arrive: 2:20 PM/8:55 PM
Duration: 3 hours, 20 minutes/3 hours
Aircraft: Boeing 767-300
Seat: 16K, 16H, 15C, 45H & 46H (Economy Class)
I got to the gate about 45 minutes prior to departure and made my way down the stairs to the departure lounge area. JAL shares their gates with China Airlines, so when I arrived I was a bit confused by all the China Airlines signs and uniformed personnel. There were also JAL signs being put up and JAL personnel, so I knew I was in the right place. Shortly after arriving at the departure lounge an announcement was made that boarding would be delayed by 10 minutes. That then turned into 15 minutes. This happened on all 3 departure flights on this route, as well as each flight on the route from Tokyo-Narita (TPE).
It is worth noting that JAL’s boarding procedure is a bit odd. There are two lines – one for economy class passengers, and one for business class, JAL elite and OneWorld elite passengers. There is no boarding by zone, it is entirely by line starting with the business class/JAL elite/OneWorld elite passengers. People start lining up early as well so if you are really concerned over securing overhead space, I would definitely recommend getting to the gate about 5-10 minutes prior to the scheduled boarding time.
I jumped in line early and was surprised by how many Americans were in the line with me on each of the segments. I guess Taipei is a pretty big manufacturing and banking hub, so it does make some sense – but I was still surprised.
Boarding was announced via the PA system and was quick and efficient. For all flights I boarded through door 1L and made a right past the business class cabin and into the main cabin.
As I mentioned earlier, JAL operates their old 767-300s on this route. The old 767-300s feature a dense 2-3-2 configuration in the economy class cabin.
I made my way through the cabin to find my various seats on these flights. My seats were as follows:
- 16K – A window seat in the second row of the economy class cabin
- 16H – An aisle seat in the second row of the economy class cabin
- 15C – A bulkhead aisle seat in the middle section of seats in the first row of the economy class cabin
- 45H – An exit row aisle seat in the first row of the second half of the economy class cabin
- 46H – An aisle seat in the second row of the second half of the economy class cabin
The cabin itself was pretty dated and was showing its age with the boring neutral color tones.
SeatGuru lists the pitch for these seats at 34 inches.
However, I can all but guarantee that the seat pitch is closer to 31 on these aircraft as it was uncomfortable as hell for my 6’4″ frame.
There literally was not a single way I could sit that was even remotely comfortable for these flights unless I secured a bulkhead or exit row seat. Making leg room matters worse, there is a little foot rest that swings down and takes up the much needed shin space.
When you couple this with the fact that when you recline your seat, the bottom cushion of the seat slides out, you get one hell of an uncomfortable way to spend 3-3 1/2 hours!
Waiting at the seat was a pair of cheap headphones tucked into the seat pocket. Each seat featured its own in-flight entertainment (IFE) system – though it was very dated.
The selection was decent, though the resolution was so poor with wavy lines through it that it actually hurt my eyes to watch for any extended period of time. The screen was a touchscreen, but it could also be controlled via the remote located in the armrest.
While I appreciate the remote, the armrest was cutout to showcase the remote (or possibly to use it without needing to open the armrest?). On top of being uncomfortable with the cutout, my elbow had a tendency to slip into the cutout area on a regular basis which was extremely annoying.
As far as individual seat selections go, I would strongly recommend trying to secure a bulkhead or exit row seat on these flights. While you give up a little seat width due to the IFE screen/tray table being stored in the side of the seat, you gain leg room in spades. My flights while I was in 15C and 45H were exponentially better than any of the other flights. If you are tall, opt for an aisle seat over a window seat. The aisle seats at least offer you some flexibility to place your feet in the aisles and stretch out a bit more. The window seat (16K) was the most confining seat I encountered on this aircraft.
While the IFE was a bit outdated, they did have a nose camera, which I absolutely love! As I am sure you can guess, I spent a good bit of time glued to the nose camera during my flights.
The flight started with a pre-departure beverage selec….oh wait, never mind. This is economy and there was none. Old habits die hard I guess, huh?
Each flight featured a meal service, which consisted of the same dish for each flight. There was no option to choose between dishes and I could never get the flight attendants to tell me exactly what was on offer. Best I can tell, it was a fried pork with vegetables and rice, a salad with sliced salmon and a creamy ginger dressing, pickled vegetables, soba noodles and a puff pastry dessert that was filled with cream.
The meal was also served with some rice crackers and a selection from the beverage cart. One thing I really liked about JAL economy class was that alcoholic beverages were complimentary. I am a big fan of Asahi, so being able to order one for free in the economy cabin was an extremely nice treat.
Overall, the meal was pretty disappointing. The soba noodles and dessert were great, while the fish on the salad was questionable and the main dish was just inedible. The pork was like chewing on a deep fried rubber band. It was so bad that I actually turned down the meal service several times as I did not want to waste food.
Thankfully the flights were relatively short at around 3 hours. I watched a few movies, played a ton of Bejeweled and tried to catch some sleep while I could.
Oddly, we had hard landings on a majority of the landings even though the weather was good. With that said, all of the flights were uneventful and decent for what they were – a cheap mileage/status run opportunity. It also amazed me how quickly the Asian airlines are able to deplane a widebody aircraft like this. While each flight was pretty close to, if not completely full, we were always off the aircraft within 5 minutes or so of parking at the gate. Contrast that with my last flight on American where it took nearly 10 minutes from the 15th row of a narrowbody!
As a whole, I love Japan Airlines. Their service is fantastic, the food is usually pretty good (though not on this particular route) and they have hands down the best flight attendants in the sky. But that seat! The seat on their older 767-300s really leaves a lot to be desired. If you are over 6 foot tall, where you sit on this plane is really going to make or break your flight experience. I would highly recommend trying to check-in as early as possible to secure on the bulkhead/exit row seats if you can as it makes a world of difference!
What is your seat on JAL’s 767-300?
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