When flying on Japan Airlines Airlines, which is part of the Oneworld Alliance, is it worth paying to upgrade to Premium Economy from Economy seats on long-haul flights?
Japan Airlines Airlines is one of the best Premium Economy airlines in the world with exclusive and spacious cabins. Seats are wider with generous recline. Legroom is increased, and you also have your own adjustable footrests.
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1. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Price
If the price is your biggest factor when making the decision on which class to fly in, you should probably choose to fly Economy. After all, the entire plane will get to its destination, whichever class you are sitting in.
The problem is, for overnight flights, being stuffed in a sardine-tin, with little space to move and next-to-no recline, means that sleep is difficult.
Certainly, when I have flown in Economy, if I do manage to nod off, the fact that my head then drops to one side because of the lack of seat recline means that I almost always wake myself up.
The result is that you can feel pretty grotty after an Economy flight when you get to your destination. This means that you are potentially ruining the first day of your trip because you have not spent the extra on upgrading your flight.
So even if the price IS your biggest factor, Premium Economy can mean that you avoid wasting a day of your holiday, which may ultimately be worth more than the price difference.
Premium Economy is also significantly cheaper than flying in Business Class, usually 65% less expensive than a Business Class fare.
How much extra is Premium Economy on Japan Airlines? Premium Economy is typically 30%-90% more expensive than flying in Economy. Expect to pay up to double the price to fly in Premium Economy.
2. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Loyalty Program
In terms of loyalty programs, Japan Airlines operates JAL Mileage Bank (JMB), JAL’s mileage Frequent Flyer loyalty program.
You can earn Avios and BA tier points on Japan Airlines (JAL) instead of their own mileage reward currency. This is because both airlines belong to the Oneworld alliance. When you book your flights with Japan Airlines, you will be able to add your British Airways Executive Club number. Upon completion of your flights, you will automatically be credited with the correct Avios.
3. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Check-in & Hold Baggage
From dedicated check-in to priority boarding, enjoy priority treatment throughout your journey if you are flying in Premium Economy, which is a major advantage over flying Economy.
Premium Economy Class passengers on international flights may check two 23 kg (50 lbs) bags, free of charge compared to one in Economy, which is a big bonus.
You also get priority baggage service. Premium Economy Class passengers will have their bags delivered swiftly after First Class and Business Class.
4. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Lounges
Japan Airlines offers excellent lounges. As with most airlines, lounge access isn’t included with a Japan Airlines Premium Economy ticket unless you have SkyTeam status.
You can also use your Priority Pass or pay to access to airport lounges, but they won’t necessarily be the same Japan Airlines Airlines lounges that Business Class passengers access. There is no advantage to flying Premium Economy in this respect. Neither Economy nor Premium Economy passengers get access to the excellent Japan Airlines Business and First Class airport lounges.
5. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Toilets
Unusually, Premium Economy passengers share the same lavatories as Economy class passengers. Not on Japan Airlines. There are two toilets at the front of the Premium Economy cabin on their 787, exclusive for Premium passengers, although they aren’t noteworthy lavatories.
6. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Seat
Japan Airlines has two different Premium Economy seats, the JAL Sky Premium Seat and the JAL Sky Shell Seat. The JAL Sky Premium Seat is good because the seatbacks in front of you do not recline backward, which means that when you recline, you don’t recline into the personal space of the person behind you.
Front-to-back seat width is approximately 10cm greater than with standard seats, seat slide (recline) is increased to approximately 7cm. There is also a large leg rest, 3-step adjustable footrest, 12.1-inch touch-panel monitor, a spacious table for an A4-size laptop, a center divider for added privacy, a USB port, video input, and AC power outlet.
The JAL Sky Shell Seat is slightly different, with a seat pitch of 97cm. Again, seatbacks don’t fall backward when reclining, ensuring your personal space never shrinks, and neither does the personal space of the person behind you. These seats are also equipped with leg rests in addition to footrests (except for bulkhead rows). Large 9-inch screens provide your inflight entertainment, and there’s a large table that can accommodate drinks and A4-size laptops, plus there is an adjustable reading light.
Headrests on JAL have bendable wings that you can bend outwards to support your head or neck while sleeping, which is very helpful to stop head-droop! The armrests are 5 inches wide but are not movable.
At boarding, each premium economy seat is given a pillow, a plastic-wrapped blanket, an amenity kit in a plastic drawstring bag, and plastic-wrapped noise-canceling headphones.
For me, the extra elbow room in the Premium Economy seats enables me to work more comfortably on my laptop, making the width worth paying for. The bulkhead rows on JAL planes tend to have unlimited legroom. They are worth selecting if you are tall.
7. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Seat Recline
The Japan Airlines Premium Economy seat reclines up to an average of 7 inches. Some Premium Economy airline seats recline to 8 inches, which is great, so this recline is only average for the industry. By comparison, most Economy seats have a recline of 4-6 inches, so this is a great advantage if you fly in Premium Economy.
8. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Entertainment
In Premium Economy, the monitor for entertainment is larger. In JAL, a large 9-inch screen offers a catalog of movies and TV that is usually the same with a mix of Western and Asian programming, including a variety of new movies.
You do get noise-canceling headphones in Premium Economy on JAL (you do on most airlines in Premium Economy, but not all).
9. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Flight Attendants
Japan Airlines flight attendants serving the Premium Economy cabin have more time for you than those serving in the Economy cabin, so Premium Economy wins.
10. Economy vs. Premium Economy: Food
You get free drinks and free food in Japan Airlines Premium Economy. The menu offering is the same as in economy, but with three additional drink options (sparkling wine, shochu, and sparkling water).
Expect meal choices like chicken or fish and rice bowl. Reports suggest these meals are good and tasty but not high quality. You will also get a dessert.
Small cartons of vanilla ice cream are served after dinner. Green tea, black tea, and coffee is served after the ice cream.
In a galley between the two economy sections, a drink and snack station is set up for Premium Economy customers. You can choose from a JAL-branded kiwi drink, apple juice, and water, plus chocolate, crisps, and other snacks.
I would say that the Japan Airlines Premium Economy is a good product and worth paying the extra if you can afford it. Japan Airlines’ Premium Economy increased 41.25 pitch, and increased recline and a world apart from Economy for sleeping or working.
Below you will find my most recent flight reviews on Japan Airlines in Business Class:
After a stop in Tokyo following my flight on Japan Airlines in their JAL Sky Suites Bangkok to Tokyo, I continued my journey on Japan Airlines to New York. Once again, my review is describing the Business Class JAL Sky… Read More.
In early August 2018, I was able to review my flight on JAL Japan Airlines in their Business Class Sky Suites, from Southeast Asia, Bangkok (BKK) to the US via Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT). I broke the trip by having… Read More.
On a recent work trip in June, I took Japan Airlines Business Class from Hong Kong to Narita International Airport at Tokyo. The short 4 hour 30 minute flight took place in the late afternoon, and Japan Airlines used a… Read More.
In December 2017, I took Japan Airlines from Tokyo Haneda to Shanghai Pudong. The flight, JL 85, was on a Boeing 777-200ER and featured Japan Airlines’ latest business class seat, the Sky Suites III. Japan Airlines is a bit peculiar… Read More.
I flew Business Class in a Boeing 777-300ER on Japan Airlines (JAL) from London’s Heathrow Airport (LHR) to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport (HND) in Japan in June 2016. The airport lounge I was given access to was the British Airways Galleries… Read More.
Following my review of the Business Class Sky Suite on the Japan Airlines B777-300ER, I thought I would review the new Business Class product on Japan Airlines’ Boeing 777-200ERs. These planes are mainly used for mid-range flights (including within Asia… Read More.
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