Review – JAL 777-300ER First Class – SFO-HND

After a brief stay in the mediocre JAL Sakura Lounge, we decided to head for the gate a bit early. I am a through and through airplane geek so if the lounge does not have a view of the tarmac, I would usually rather sit at the gate area. Right from the time we arrived at the gate, I could tell this was going to be an excellent flight!

Introduction
Review – JAL Sakura Lounge – SFO
Review – JAL 777-300ER First Class – SFO-HND
Review – Tokyo Hilton
Review – Cathay Pacific Lounge – HND
Review – Cathay Pacific 747-400 Business Class – HND-HKG
Review – Sheraton Hong Kong Towers
Review – Dragon Air A320 Business Class – HKG-CKG
Review – Sofitel Forebase Chongqing
Review – Hong Kong Airlines Lounge – CKG
Review – Hong Kong Airlines A320 Business Class – CKG-HKG
Review – Cathay Pacific 777-200 Business Class – HKG-SIN
Review – Conrad Centennial Singapore
Review – Qantas Lounge – SIN
Review – British Airways Lounge – SIN
Review – Dnata (Cathay Pacific) Contract Lounge – SIN
Review – Cathay Pacific 777-200 Business Class – SIN-HKG
Review – Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge The Pier – HKG
Review – Cathay Pacific First Class Lounge The Wing – HKG
Review – Cathay Pacific 777-300ER First Class – HKG-ORD

For this flight we opted to redeem American Airlines miles which cost us 62,500 miles + $5.60 in taxes and fees per person. I earned the miles through the sign-up bonus on my Citi AAdvantage Platinum Select card. This really offers some truly exceptional value when you consider most one-way first class tickets to Tokyo go for ~$10,000 per ticket!

As we were already through security, it was a short walk to the gate from the Sakura Lounge. Since JAL’s flight to Haneda departs so late, the terminal was pretty empty. As we rounded the corner to the upper level of our gate, I saw the magnificent 777-300ER being prepped.

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Japan Airlines 1
San Francisco (SFO) – Tokyo-Haneda (HND)
Depart: 12:45 AM
Arrive: 5:05 AM
Duration: 12 hours, 20 minutes
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 2D (First Class)

SFO’s international terminal is set up with two floors. One above the gate with seating, and one on the boarding door level with seating as well. We grabbed some seats on the second floor as it had better views and fewer people. Once boarding was announced, we made our way down the escalators to the boarding door level where multiple JAL agents were waiting with signs inviting First Class passengers to board. While walking the gauntlet of agents I had no less than 5 agents offer to wheel my bag down the jet bridge for me – now that’s service! It also kind of made me feel like a celebrity in a weird sort of way since so many people were doting on me.

Once down the jet bridge we turned left at the first bridge for the business class and first class cabins. We boarded through door 2L and made a left passing through the mini-business class cabin before seeing our home for the next 12+ hours.

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The First Class cabin is configured with 8 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration. If you are traveling with someone else and wish to speak with them during the flight, I would recommend you take the two middle seats. While you can talk across the aisle, it is a bit difficult/awkward.

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If you are seated in the middle seat and do not know the other person in the seat next to you, there is a nice little motorized divider that you can put up for total privacy.

Although the First Class suites are not fully enclosed, they do feel exceptionally private. Not as private as seats 1A and 2A on Cathay Pacific, but still very private none-the-less.

Waiting at the seat was a pillow, an amenity kit, a blanket, a pair of slippers and a pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones.

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Also waiting at the seat was the menu for the flight which was contained in a rich brown colored leather folder with the JAL First Class ‘F’ emblazoned on the front. It was quite striking.

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Upon putting my bag in the overhead, our flight attendants came by to introduce themselves, welcome us aboard and offer us a pre-departure beverage with a warm towel. I selected a glass of orange juice and was a bit disappointed it was clearly from concentrate juice. You can see the divider I mentioned above in the picture.

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While sipping my orange juice, I perused the menu for the flight. Since the flight departs so late, there would be no dinner service, but only a caviar course and light snack. The menu read as follows:

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I am not entirely sure how clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl qualifies as a “Western Breakfast”, but who am I to judge?

After checking out the meal choices, I perused the drinks selection. If you are in to champagne (it is really not my thing), JAL serves Salon in their First Class cabin. I was more excited about the Hibiki 17 year old they had though – and it did not disappoint!

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After reviewing the menu, I started checking out the seat controls and the screen. The seat controls are conveniently located on the arm rest next to your seat and even feature a massage function.

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The JAL First Class seats feature a 23″ LCD screen which was perfect for the seat. Not so large that it hurts your eyes, but also not so small that you have to strain to see whatever you are watching. The table underneath the screen slides forward to you for your meal service, desk, etc.

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The LCD screen is controlled via a controller in the armrest console area. It was a bit difficult to use at first, but once I got the hang of it, it offered a lot of features – including in-seat ordering!

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We had a quick departure and before I knew it we were airborne. I always love watching the airshow, so I of course had that on while the snack course began.

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Although I am not the biggest fan of champagne, I also had never had caviar before, so decided to order both to see if the combination may somehow sway my tastes.

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JAL serves Salon champagne in their First Class cabin, which is better than most other champagnes I have had before, but still not my thing. As much as I love to travel in extreme luxury, I am more of a cold beer and street food kind of guy in most every other aspect of my life. And I have to say, I just really do not have the palate for caviar and champagne.

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After I finished the caviar, I ordered the sushi. It was excellent. I do not just mean for airplane food either. I mean it was excellent, restaurant quality, sushi and exactly what I had a taste for.

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Shortly after finishing the snack, I was presented with a pair of JAL pajamas and asked if I would like to change and have my bed made. The pajamas JAL offers are as soft and comfortable as can be (ignore the wrinkles as I took the pictures after I arrived home from the trip). As an aviation nerd, I also love that they include the JAL logo on the shirt. Be aware though, the sizes seemed to run one size bigger than you would normally wear (i.e., I normally wear a large, but a medium fit me better).

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After coming back from changing, I noticed that the flight attendants had set up a little bar with champagne, waters and some light snacks. I grabbed a bottle of water and headed back to my seat.

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JAL offers both soft and firm mattress pads. While I normally like a firm mattress, I opted for the soft mattress pad. I forgot to snap a picture of the bed made up, but man was it comfortable! I settled in and started to browse the entertainment selection and eventually settled on the movie The Intern with Robert DeNiro. It was decent, but it did put me right to sleep.

I tend to not sleep very well on airplanes and true to form, after a few hours of sleep, I was wide awake. The cabin temperature seemed to fluctuate from stifling hot, to freezing cold during the flight, so it is something to be aware of.

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Since I was up, I fired up my laptop to do some work and ordered a cup of coffee which was brought out in a French press with a little hourglass to tell me when it was ready to drink.

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Not only was the coffee excellent, but the JAL coffee mugs with the First Class logo on them are probably the coolest I have ever seen. I mentioned this to both of the flight attendants working the cabin and they seemed to take great pride in the product they were putting out.

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After my coffee I decided to order some fresh fruit and champagne. I do not know why, but it just sounded good to me. And it really hit the spot!

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I thought it was a nice touch that they offered toothbrushes with mini tubes of toothpaste in the lavatory so I took the opportunity to brush my teeth. At that point I was wide awake and knew I would not be sleeping anymore so I had my bed put away.

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After working for a few hours, the flight attendants came around to take orders for breakfast. I opted for the Japanese style breakfast and it was delicious. The smoothie that came with it was excellent as well. The only thing that missed the mark for me was the miso soup – though I think that was more a cultural thing than anything else.

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My girlfriend opted for the fresh fruit with a poached egg and a smoothie, and she said it was delicious as well.

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After breakfast, I had a slight sweet tooth and decided to order another cup of coffee with some ice cream. They only had vanilla, which I figured would be bland, but still ordered it. It came out beautifully presented with a waffle wafer.

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For vanilla ice cream, it was probably the best I have ever had. It was so good that my girlfriend ordered one for herself after tasting it.

After my ice cream we were about an hour outside of Tokyo, so I went and changed out of my pajamas. When I got back to my seat, one of the flight attendants handed me a JAL bag.

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I was unsure what it was and asked. She said that because I had mentioned that I loved the JAL coffee mugs, that the purser had wanted me to have a set for myself! I thanked her profusely for them and let both her and the purser know that I would be throwing out all of my coffee mugs once I got home as these are the only two I will ever need again. I mean seriously, how awesome are these mugs!?

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We had a smooth landing at Tokyo-Haneda, thanked the fantastic crew for their great job and then it was off to immigration before catching a bus to the Tokyo Hilton.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I was very impressed with both the hard and the soft product. The seat was comfortable, the service was beyond exceptional and the food was excellent. I think my only complaint about the flight was that it was not longer!

What is your favorite JAL flight to Japan?

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