The Guide to Japan Airlines Premium Economy

You won't find many premium economy fares that include lounge access, and that's just one of many perks.
JT Genter
By JT Genter 

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Japan Airlines premium economy is rated as one of the best premium economy products in the world. Seats provide ample legroom, plus passengers get unique perks like airport lounge access. In all, Japan Airlines premium economy can make a long flight across the Pacific much more comfortable than flying in economy.

But is Japan Airlines, or JAL, premium economy worth the extra cost? Let's look at what you can expect on board so you can determine that for yourself.

Japan Airlines premium economy seats

(Photo by JT Genter)

The seats in Japan Airlines premium economy are some of the most spacious premium economy seats available. Seats have 42 inches of seat pitch, which is the distance from the back of your seat to the back of the seat in front of you.

That's compared with the de facto industry standard of 38 inches of pitch and at least 8 inches more than the already-generous 33 to 34 inches of pitch in Japan Airlines long-haul economy.

Even better, you don't have to worry about the seat in front of you reclining into your space: Japan Airlines premium economy seats slide forward, allowing the seatback to recline without encroaching into the space of the seat behind it.

So each passenger stays within their own space — and doesn't have to worry about the ethics of reclining their seat.

Japan Airlines premium economy seats also have a large adjustable headrest, large leg rest and adjustable footrest to make it even easier to relax when reclined.

Seats are arranged as 2-4-2 on Japan Airlines Boeing 777 aircraft and 2-3-2 in Japan Airlines 787 premium economy. Either way, couples traveling together have plenty of two-seat window-aisle seat pairs from which to choose.

(Photo by JT Genter)

JAL premium economy seats have several aspects to provide a sense of privacy. In addition to a large seatback shell, each seat pair has a small privacy divider between seats. Next to that privacy divider, passengers have an adjustable reading light.

(Photo by JT Genter)

Each seatback has a 12.1-inch touch-controlled personal inflight monitor. That's large, but ANA premium economy bests that with up to a 15.6-inch screen.

Below the seatback screen is a large and sturdy fold-down tray table. And between seats you'll find a small mesh pocket that's the right size for a phone or water bottle.

(Photo by JT Genter)

One downside of Japan Airlines premium economy seats is the lack of underseat storage for large bags. Between support bars and the center console, underseat storage is chopped into spaces that might be too small to store larger items.

Food and drink in Japan Airlines premium economy

We haven't found a noticeable difference between the meals in Japan Airlines premium economy and Japan Airlines economy meals. With that said, Japan Airlines economy meals are some of the best in the sky. So, hopefully you won't be disappointed.

(Photo by JT Genter)

Japan Airlines premium economy meals consist of a main dish and several sides served on one tray. Meals are typically served with metal cutlery and wooden chopsticks for those who prefer to eat in a more traditional Japanese way.

As with meals, the Japan Airlines premium economy beverage menu is mostly based off the impressive drink selection served in Japan Airlines economy class. Passengers have a choice among:

  • Soft drinks.

  • Juices.

  • Coffee.

  • Teas.

  • The "JAL original drink."

  • Wine.

  • Beer.

  • Sake.

  • Plum wine.

  • A wide selection of spirits. 

In addition, Japan Airlines premium economy passengers can enjoy a mini-bottle of Champagne or Japanese shochu.

Amenities and other perks of Japan Airlines premium economy

Japan Airlines lounge access

One of the unique features of Japan Airlines premium economy is lounge access before your flight. Premium economy passengers can access Japan Airlines Sakura lounges in airports where they are available, including:

  • Tokyo-Narita.

  • Tokyo-Haneda.

  • Nagoya.

  • Osaka.

  • Honolulu.

  • San Francisco. 

In airports where Japan Airlines doesn't have a lounge, premium economy passengers may still be able to access a partner lounge.

Onboard amenities

(Photo by JT Genter)

Japan Airlines premium economy seats are stocked with an almost overwhelming number of amenities at boarding. Each passenger gets:

  • A pillow.

  • A blanket.

  • Slippers.

  • Noise-canceling headphones.

  • A small amenity kit that includes a toothbrush set, eye mask, earplugs and a moisture mask.

Dedicated check-in lines

(Photo by JT Genter)

Japan Airlines premium economy passengers can check in at dedicated JAL premium economy check-in desks in eligible airports — or business class check-in lines when the premium economy check-in line is closed. Note that Oneworld elite passengers can check in through the even more premium first class or business class check-in lines.

Other perks of Japan Airlines premium economy

  • Priority checked baggage: Japan Airlines premium economy passenger bags get priority baggage handling — behind first class and business class.

  • Over-the-counter medicines: Although some airlines are hesitant to hand out medicines, Japan Airlines will provide passengers with items including painkillers and motion sickness meds.

  • Postcards and pens: Passengers can request postcards and a pen.

Is JAL premium economy worth it?

Japan Airlines premium economy offers bigger seats with much more legroom and extra perks — such as lounge access. Plus, you'll generally earn more miles than booking economy tickets.

However, price is the key to whether Japan Airlines premium economy is worth it for you. If you can snag a deal — such as a $1,309 round trip from Los Angeles to Bangkok through the AmEx International Airline Program — then upgrading to premium economy can make the long flights much more comfortable and may be worth the extra cost.

(Photo by JT Genter)

Also, it might be worth upgrading to premium economy at the airport if the economy class cabin looks full or you're stuck in a middle seat. I've found that Japan Airlines premium economy is available for an upgrade of $350 on flights out of Los Angeles to Tokyo or Osaka and cheaper on intra-Asia routes.

Japan Airlines premium economy, recapped

Japan Airlines premium economy is considered one of the best premium economy products in the world. That's thanks to spacious seats, amenities like slippers and noise-canceling headphones and premium perks like dedicated airport check-in and lounge access.

With that said, Japan Airlines premium economy lacks in a few areas. Meals are typically just an economy meal with better drink options, and some passengers may not like the seat recline design. Still, Japan Airlines premium economy is one of the best ways to cross the Pacific Ocean besides flying in a lie-flat seat.

(Top photo by JT Genter)

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