Japan Airlines Business Class Review: Tokyo to New York

Elina GellerApril 9, 2020
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After two weeks in Thailand, I embarked on a multi-leg journey to return to the U.S. in early January following the holiday season. This review is about my experience flying in business class from Tokyo to New York with Japan Airlines on the Boeing 777-300ER. You can also read my review about my earlier flight: Singapore to Tokyo in business class with Japan Airlines on the Boeing 777-200ER.

I was very excited for this flight for a few reasons:

  1. It was the last leg of my long trip from Thailand to New York.

  2. I slept on the earlier flight from Singapore to Tokyo, so I wasn’t tired.

  3. I was going to stay awake the entire 12+ hour flight, get some work done (yay Wi-Fi), watch movies and generally enjoy the business class experience.

Award search

I paid 65,000 Alaska miles plus $81 in taxes for a business class seat on Japan Airlines from Singapore to New York via Tokyo. The award search was pretty straightforward since Alaska shows JAL availability on its website, so I didn’t need to call customer service.

JAL business class review

Since this was a connecting flight, I didn’t have to deal with picking up my luggage. As soon as I arrived in Tokyo, I was excited to spend my three-hour layover in the JAL Sakura Lounge. After the layover, I would be boarding my final flight: Tokyo to New York.

JAL Sakura Lounge

View from the lounge of the runway at golden hour.

The lounge actually has two separate sections: the JAL First Class Lounge and the Sakura Lounge, which is for business class, premium economy and full fare economy passengers. Since I was flying in business class, I was directed to the Sakura lounge. The facility has two floors, with the main floor consisting of the dining, seating and working areas. The upstairs has additional seating, as well as some snacks and great views of the runway.

After a slightly lackluster dining experience on the prior flight, I was hungry and excited to check out the options in the lounge. The food looked tasty and was a variety of Western and Asian cuisines. I had some pasta with tomato sauce as well as some Asian beef soup, veggie spring rolls and a Diet Coke. I sat on the top floor and ate my food while enjoying beautiful views of the runway at golden hour. After eating, it was time to get work done.

The lounge has a great workspace on the main floor. The area consists of long tables, with tons of outlets, ergonomic chairs and personal desk lamps for each seat. The vibe reminded me of a coworking space. I situated myself at a desk and spent the remainder of the layover being productive.

About 30 minutes before departure, I made my way over to the gate, which was only about a five-minute walk.

Boarding

The flight from Tokyo to New York was on the Boeing 777-300ER, which includes first class, business class, premium economy and economy seats. When I arrived at the gate, boarding had already commenced with first class passengers. I boarded with business class about five minutes later and was surprised to see how many people were flying in business. It looked like there would be a full business class cabin.

Business class cabin configuration

Once I boarded my flight, I was excited to check out the seating configuration for the business class cabin. It features 49 JAL Sky Suite seats in an innovative 2-3-2 configuration.

The seats are positioned slightly offset to one another so that even if you’re sitting in the middle seat or by the window, you have direct aisle access and do not need to step over your neighbor. I love this configuration and think it would be an excellent solution for all airlines to implement to make the dreaded middle seat in economy class more appealing.

I sat in seat 11H on the aisle, so sadly I didn’t have window access. Otherwise, the seat location was great with minimal traffic given that it was in the back of the cabin.

Flight experience

I wanted to spend the majority of the flight working, but the Wi-Fi was very unreliable. I spent $18 on Wi-Fi for the entire flight but could not get even the simplest websites to load. I’m not sure if it was the route, the plane or just that day, but the Wi-Fi signal was not adequate for working online. Luckily, I had a bunch of work saved offline so I was able to be productive nonetheless.

The flight was over 12 hours long, so after finishing my work, I spent the rest of the flight eating, relaxing and watching movies. The food looked more interesting than it was delicious. The selection of Japanese seasonal delicacies had a few tasty appetizers, but the others were too creamy for my taste. Although I’m a pretty adventurous foodie, I didn’t love the options. I also would have preferred some traditional snacks to choose from.

I watched a couple of movies and two episodes of "Arrested Development." It had been a while since I watched so many movies and shows back to back, so it felt nice to just hang out and relax. I didn’t have any wine, which was a bummer because the wine list looked great. Although I usually have a drink on flights, I was hoping to avoid jet lag so I steered clear of alcohol.

We arrived a half hour early. However, when waiting for my luggage, one of my bags (although tagged priority) came out with the bags from economy, which took an extra 20 minutes. Normally I wouldn’t complain about something so minor, but after spending 12 hours on a plane, I just wanted to leave the airport and get home.

Flight video summary

The bottom line

This was a long flight, and I’m glad that I was able to experience it in business class. Although the Wi-Fi wasn’t reliable and the food wasn’t the best I’ve had in business class, I enjoyed myself. The added privacy of the JAL Sky Suite was great, and it was nice to just watch movies, unwind and get work done. I also liked hanging out in the Sakura Lounge before boarding and would definitely recommend visiting the lounge if you’re ever in Narita. While the trip was solid, it doesn’t compare to Cathay Pacific and KLM, which are the best business class experiences I’ve had so far.

Have you seen the new Sky Suite seats? Do you like flying in business class with Japan Airlines? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Seating chart courtesy of SeatGuru.

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