Review – JAL 787-8 Economy Class – DFW-NRT

Despite being a huge aviation nerd, these flights were actually the first time I had stepped foot on the new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. I was actually pretty excited about this flight because I was curious to see how the enhancements like increased cabin pressure and higher humidity helped with my jet lag. While I did not really notice any difference, I will say the Dreamliner is one hell of a fantastic aircraft!


 

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 11
Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) to Tokyo-Narita (NRT)
Depart:  12:00 PM
Arrive:  3:20 PM
Duration:  13 hours, 20 minutes
Aircraft:  Boeing 787-8
Seat: 46H & 53H (Economy Class)

I got to the gate about 40 minutes prior to departure and stood on the far wall by the gate. As was the constant on literally every JAL operated flight I took, the flight was delayed. As usual, once the boarding process was close to beginning, we started to line up. I was pretty excited to check out the Dreamliner as this was my first flight on the aircraft. It really did not disappoint!

Boarding finally started about 20 minutes prior to departure, so I knew we were going to be delayed. We boarded through door 1L and made a right passing through the two business class cabins and then past the premium economy cabin before reaching the relatively small economy class cabin. The cabin is spaced out in a 2-4-2 configuration, which is surprisingly spacious.

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It is worth noting that row 52 oddly does not have a window at it. I could not really figure out why, but there were no windows present at this row, so I would avoid this row if you need a window.

As the 787 is a smaller aircraft than the 777-300ER, the seats have slightly less pitch and width at 33 inches of pitch and 18.9 inches of width.

JL 2

My first flight I selected seat 53H, an aisle seat near the back of the cabin. As luck would have it, I ended up with no one next to me on that flight so I had both seats to myself. This was great as I was able to stretch out quite a bit and switch up my seating.

My second flight I selected seat 46H, an aisle seat in the second row of the economy class cabin. My luck ran out unfortunately and I got stuck next to a 350+ pound man for a 13 hour flight that was delayed. Unfortunately this flight was completely full so there was nowhere I could move. This was easily the most uncomfortable flight I have ever been on as my seatmate took up 1/4 of my seat. I ended up spending most of that flight up walking around the cabin and talking with the flight attendants to get tips on some great places to go the next time I am in Hong Kong and Tokyo.

Anyways, waiting at my seat was a pillow with a cut out for your neck, as well as a package blanket.

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The leg room was just the slightest bit tighter than on the 777-3ooER, though after hour 3 that would actually become pretty apparent.

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As with the 777-300ER, each seat had its own in-flight entertainment (IFE) system that offered a touchscreen.

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These are identical to what American Airlines put in their 737-800s. The downside is that there is no remote control for these IFE screens, which means if the person behind you is playing a game or browsing selections, you are going to have a LOT of constant pushing on the back of your seat. The television, movie, music and game selection was identical however.

Each seat also had its own 110V power plug and USB power port.

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Due to the composite nature of the 787’s fuselage, the windows are much larger on the 787 than on traditional aircraft.

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Even cooler, each window features a self-dimming feature controlled by a button on the window. This eliminates the window shade entirely.

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When you select to darken the window, the window is tinted a dark blue. As you can see, the darkened window does not filter out all of the light, but dims it significantly. The window on the left is fully dimmed while the window on the right is fully “open.”

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Our departure was delayed by 20 minutes and 30 minutes, respectively. As is traditional, the ground crew bowed and waved to the plane as we were departing which was a cool touch.

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After we pushed back from the gate, our taxi took nearly a half hour before we were airborne. The first thing I noticed during the takeoff was how noticeably more quiet the 787 was over other aircraft. It was almost like a whisper taking off.

About 15 minutes after we were airborne, the fasten seatbelt sign was turned off and the meal service was started. It began with a hot towel, which I again thought was a nice touch for economy class.

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The meal service started with a selection from the drinks cart and some rice crackers. I opted for a glass of water, though it is worth noting that JAL offers complimentary beer, wine and spirits in the economy cabin.

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After that, the main meal cart was rolled around and I was offered a choice between a Mongolian beef dish with rice, or a lemon pepper salmon with rice.

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Although neither dish looks particularly appetizing in the pictures, these two dishes were the two single best economy class meals I have ever eaten! The beef was tender, flavorful and moist, while the fish was also moist and flaky and flavorful with the sauce. These dishes easily topped some meals I have had in business class on international flights!

Each meal was served with a chicken and cucumber combination, eggplant, a side salad with creamy Italian dressing, soba noodles and miso soup.

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I am a big fan of Asahi so I ordered an Asahi with both meals and everything was seriously fantastic. As in, I ate every bite of it.

For dessert the crew came around with vanilla Haagen-Dazs ice cream, hot coffee and hot green tea. I opted for some coffee and it was actually really good for airplane coffee.

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After the meal service the crew dimmed the cabin lights and I ended up watching 2 seasons worth of Prison Break. I ended up completely addicted to this show after these flights, so thanks for that JAL!

I got up to change into my JAL pajama top that I got when I flew JAL first earlier this year and that ended up causing quite the stir among the flight attendants. They all wanted to know what I was doing in economy wearing a first class pajama top on a flight with no first class cabin. When I told them that I bring it with me on all my flights because it is so comfortable, they all beamed with pride. It is clear that the JAL employees really do take great pride in their airline.

There are 3 lavatories on the 787 in the economy cabin and I would recommend using the one in between the economy and premium economy cabin on the left side of the aircraft as it is much more spacious.

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A few cool things about the lavatories on JAL’s 787s – they feature a touchless flush where you just wave your hand over a sensor and the toilet flushes.

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Also interesting was the toilets feature a spray feature. I have never seen this on any other plane and it does not surprise me in the least that a Japanese airline was the one to do this first!

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In the galley that separated the economy and premium economy cabins was a snack tray and a selection of drinks that you could grab if you felt hungry or thirsty.

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Try the chocolate chip cookies – they are insanely good!

About 6 hours out of Tokyo, the cabin lights were turned on and the crew came through the cabin with a beverage service and a chocolate croissant. I opted for a cup of coffee and a glass of water to go with my chocolate croissant which was quite tasty!

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While I appreciated the extra service, pretty much the entire cabin was asleep when they did this so I think it would have made more sense to pass through the aisles with the service for anyone who was awake and wanted a snack.

Approximately 2 1/2 hours out of Tokyo, the cabin lights were again turned up and the second meal service started. The second meal service consisted of fruit, cheese and crackers, strawberry yogurt and pasta with broccoli. It was seriously one of the weird combinations I have ever seen. I opted for an Asahi to go with my meal again.

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While I am not usually a huge pasta fan, I have to say, this pasta was delicious!

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JAL really knocked it out of the park with the meal service on my flights heading to Tokyo.

We had a smooth descent into Tokyo on both flights and ended up arriving right on time.

I would also like to give a special shout out to the fantastic crew on my first flight – Iwasaki, Eva and Crystal. You ladies were hands down the absolute best flight crew I have ever had! I e-mailed JAL to let them know how awesome you were as a crew and I sincerely hope that you all get the kudos you deserve for being rock stars!

Final Thoughts

As a whole, I love Japan Airlines. Their service is fantastic, the food is usually pretty good (though not the first meal on this particular route) and they have hands down the best flight attendants in the sky. While I really did not feel any of the claimed benefits of the Dreamliner, I would definitely go out of my way to fly it again from purely a comfort standpoint. Overall, I really cannot say enough good things about JAL’s economy class though. I never expected the service to be just as good in economy as it was in first, but it absolutely was!

What are your thoughts on JAL’s 787 economy class?

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