Photos

Transport : Airlines

JAL is an airline we have wanted to fly for some time, so when we found space on the direct Frankfurt to Narita 777-300ER flight in first class whilst planning our last US Airways redemption hurrah, we were delighted. Flying out of a non-hub airport is never ideal, but check-in at Frankfurt was excellent with staff who remembered our names when we next saw them at the lounge and at the gate. The lounge itself was ok – food and drink options were limited but it was a quiet and relaxing place to sit before boarding. We were invited to board around 5 minutes before other passengers and greeted at the aircraft door with wide smiles.

Seat
JAL First class is understated and sophisticated with none of Emirates’ bling but plenty of style and function. The seat itself is wide, clad in brown leather and offers plenty of storage space. Comfortable in all positions and the best bed we’ve had in the sky (and we have flown Lufthansa new first with a separate bed) we had no trepidation about spending 11 hours here! Whilst not enclosed in suites, the seats are very private and there is a buddy seat to dine opposite a companion if you wish.

As there was only one other first class seat occupied on our flight, the crew kindly made our beds in 2D/2G (we were seated in row 1). The mattress topper and totally lie-flat seat provided a most comfortable bed and for once, the cabin wasn’t too hot. In contrast to BA, seats were wide enough for 2, although after a short cuddle, we were informed that it wasn’t allowed to have a couple on one seat! (a reminder that you’re on your way to Japan).

Dining
Having read other trip reports, we were excited to try JAL’s food and both chose the Japanese menu. Without a doubt, this was the best food we have had at FL400. After a trio amuse bouche, we were offered caviar from the Western menu to accompany our champagne – the Salon 2002 was wonderfully rich and nutty. Our multi course Kaiseki menu then proceeded with Kozara (five tastes – scallop with cream cheese, crabmeat with caviar, simmered spring vegetables, grilled sea bream, soybean milk jelly). After this delightful beginning, we were served a clear soup with shrimp dumpling (Owan) and the next two courses together: Shiizakana (squid and potato sushi, skewered shrimp with vegetables, duck roll, smoked salmon roll, grilled yam) and Mukozuke (tilapia sashimi). The main of simmered sablefish, rice and miso soup was delicious – perfectly cooked and delicately seasoned. We skipped the Japanese dessert (not to our taste) but enjoyed a green tea and dark chocolate to finish. After such a large dinner, fresh fruit provided a welcome breakfast but we didn’t try anything else.

JAL’s First class drink menu was impressive: the Champagnes (Salon 2002 and Philipponnat Clos des Gooses 2004) were really good top-end choices and ones not usually seen in-flight. Other wines were equally fine and the choice of teas including the exclusive Royal Blue (enjoyed cold as you would white wine) was exceptional. A truly first class dining experience.

Overall Impression
Wow – JAL offers a world-leading First class. In-flight, this was the best we have experienced. Service throughout was faultless – smiling faces, polite, professional and anticipatory. We loved the food and the drinks menu was the best we have seen. The seat was oh so comfortable, especially in bed mode and the amenity kit was great – soft, snuggly pyjamas, a useful unisex kit plus gender-specific Shiseido face care kits – why don’t more airlines provide the latter with cleanser, toner and moisturiser, which is definitely needed in the drying atmosphere of a plane? A wonderful experience that we can’t wait to repeat. This is how long-haul travel should be.

For comparison, you can read my other Japan Airways Business Class flight reviews.

Review by my friend Andrew Price at Driven2Travel.