Japan Airlines Business Class Flight Review JAL SKY SUITE III: JL711 Tokyo (Narita) to Singapore
JAL SKY SUITE III Business Class seat is Japan Airlines newest Business Class product, which I was fortunate to experience onboard flight JL711 from Tokyo (Narita International Airport) to Singapore.
Operator: Japan Airlines
Route: Tokyo (Narita) to Singapore
Departure from Tokyo Narita International Airport Terminal 2: 5.55pm / 6.44pm*
Arrival in Singapore Changi Airport Terminal 1: 12.45am / 1.09am*
Flight Duration: 7 hours and 50 minutes / 7 hours and 25 minutes*
Operating Aircraft: Boeing 777-246/ER
(* denotes actual timings)
My day started with a comfortable limousine bus ride to Narita International Airport Terminal 2 (free Wi-Fi onboard inclusive - yay!). Upon arrival at the airport, it was a quick and seamless check-in at the Business Class counter at Row K.
Security screening was just as quick thanks to the Priority Lane for Business Class passengers.
It was then straight to Japan Airlines' signature lounge, Sakura Lounge, which shares the same entrance as the First Class Lounge.
The lounge looks very welcoming - very spacious and quiet, and stylishly furnished in earthly tones. Seating is plentiful, as are the power outlets.
An interesting observation is that there are dedicated booths for using mobile phones, which safeguards the peaceful ambiance of the lounge.
The massive lounge is divided into two floors: a dining floor with the hot food selection (aptly named THE DINING floor), and a lounging floor with dedicated beverage corners.
THE DINING floor offers a buffet-style set-up of Western-style and Japanese-style dishes, which includes Udon and even Raw Salmon Sushi! The limited spread of items were made up for by their excellent taste. I particularly enjoyed the JAL Beef Curry - with a glass of red wine, of course.
Tofu and Minced Meat with Chilli Sauce
Macaroni au Gratin
Herb Grilled Chicken
Sushi with Raw Salmon
My bowl of JAL Beef Curry and Tofu and Minced Meat with Chili Sauce
Proceeding down to the lounging floor, I managed to find a comfortable seat facing the apron where I could watch the aircraft whilst sipping on flutes of Michel Tissot & Fils Fête D'Or Blanc De Blancs Brut. What pre-flight bliss!
Beverage corner - one of several at the lounging floor, where guests may help themselves to alcoholic drinks (including draft beer on tap), soft drinks, juices, hot coffee and tea, and snacks.
At gate 81 for boarding, two orderly lines formed for the Business Class boarding and with a synchronized bow from the ground agents, boarding commenced and I was welcomed onboard and directed to my seat onboard this refurbished Boeing 777-200.
What immediately catches my attention about the seat are its plentiful stowage compartments - definitely plenty of space for anything and everything!
The seat itself converts into a fully flat bed (198cm in length), and even features a massage function!
The tray table, stowable in the high privacy partition, is massive, making it well-suited to work on the laptop during the flight.
A variety of creature comfort amenities such as an amenity kit, disposable slippers, blanket, small pillow, and headphones are set on the seat.
The headset is a Japan Airlines-branded Panasonic RP-HC150 noise-cancelling headphones, which sound quality I appreciate.
The simple amenity kit comprised: toothbrush, ear plugs, moisture mask and eye mask.
The seat is equipped with an 17-inch entertainment screen featuring the MAGIC-VI entertainment. The touchscreen entertainment is easy to navigate, though there is an entertainment controller within close reach if you don't fancy reaching out to the screen.
Flight map (inclusive of several view angles and rotating map function) is available.
USB port and AC power port are also strategically located within arm's reach for convenient charging of gadgets.
Four-level reading light
The cabin attendants, led by a matronly and gentle flight purser, were welcoming, offering to hang coats and offering magazines and cardigans. In typical Japanese hospitality, oshibori was served, in a very stylish dish.
Quite surprisingly, instead of a flute of champagne, water bottles were distributed in lieu of the welcome drink.
Boarding took a while, as the flight waited for some late passengers, and announcements were made to update passengers of the boarding progress. During the waiting time, I started on hilarious Japanese romance-comedy, "Tornado Girl". Eventually, flight JL711 took off close to an hour late.
A dazzling blue LED lighting in the cabin that is in line with the prevailing winter season and is meant to evoke a feeling of Japan.
The large side table next to the window was an obstacle in looking out of the window - though I appreciate it for its convenience in placing all my personal articles within sight. Not wanting to strain my neck for the window view, I was glued to my entertainment screen instead.
After the take off, the flight purser personally came to each passenger to ask if they were okay and is everything alright? I think it was a really nice gesture to start the flight.
Menus were then distributed.
The menu introduces BEDD (SKY AUBERGE by JAL) dining concept, which promises an "exclusive restaurant in the sky" experience for the passenger.
In addition to Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve champagne, three white wines (French, Italian, and South African) and two red wines (Chilean, and Californian) were offered onboard. As a Japanese airline, two types of Sake are also available.
For the dining menu, a Japanese menu and a Western menu were offered, each complete with its own hors d'oeuvres and desserts (I believe this is the same for all JAL flights).
Both menus were created by renowned chefs, and were equally attractive, but I made up my mind to try the Japanese option, as I have heard what delicacy beef tongue is in Japan, and for that full Japanese service experience onboard Japan's flag carrier!
Prior to arrival, Japanese Delicacies "Onigiri" or Haagen-Dazs ice cream would be served. At any time, passengers may enjoy a cheese selection of cup noodles should they be feeling peckish.
After the menu orders were taken, a chic black table cloth is laid on the table before an aperitif was served. Missing out on my bubbly before take off, I opted for a Charles Heidsieck. A packet of Japanese rice crackers was served, and boy, were they good!
Enjoying my movie while munching on the crackers
This was followed by a bento box of hors d'oeuvres: "Winter Calm ~Selection of seasonal colorful delicacies~.
How beautifully the dishes were presented! I almost felt bad to eat them!
Simmered Chicken & Vegetables with Soy Sauce
Crabmeat with Soy Starch Sauce
Poached Potherb Mustard, Garland Chrysanthemum & Mushroom in Japanese Broth with Herring Roe & Abalone
Seared Yellowtail with Grated Radish
Soy-simmered Beef Ginger Flavor
Burdock seasoned with Sesame
Broiled Sardine Sweet Soy Sauce Flavor
Slow Cooked Egg
Vinegared Turnip wrapped with Smoked Salmon
Soy sauce and wasabi condiments
Got to love the exquisite origami paper crane chopstick holder
Sampling each dish, I was quite astounded by the unique flavours each dish presented, yet they seemingly complemented each other perfectly! I also appreciate how gentle they all were on the tastebuds so that none of the dishes were at all too rich or overwhelming.
This superb course was followed by the Dainomono course, again, as rich as the stewed beef tongue looked, it was surprisingly light on the palate. All two tiny pieces of the coveted beef tongue, hidden like a pair of gems in the thick gravy, were so soft and tender and almost creamy. Like precious stones, you can never have enough of them! Making a short work of the bovine offal, I turned my attention to the broiled eel. I have always enjoyed unagi, so it was no surprise I savoured the sweet soy sauce flavoured eel. The soft tiny eel bones did not stand in my way of my enjoyment of this dish.
Freshly steamed "Yukigura Imazurimai" Koshihikari rice was served - characterized by its freshness, stickiness and sweetness.
Miso Soup and Japanese Pickles complemented the meal.
As a finale, Kanmi was served in the form of a Japanese Sponge Cake "Castella" with Citrus Hyuganatsu Jam. As with the previous courses, the sponge cake had a delicate mild flavor, accented by the sweet citrus jam that paired perfectly in symmetry with the cake. A selection of hot beverages were available, and of course, I opted for green tea to complete my meal.
The dining service was very well-paced and the cabin attendants were very polite and served with bright smiles. Service was very attentive and my champagne was topped up whenever the glass was empty. At the end of the meal, the flight purser even enquired how was my meal. What excellent dining experience!
Oshibori to mark the end of the exquisite dining experience
After a quick duty-free sales service, the cabin lights were turned down for passengers to relax. I continued to enjoy the inflight entertainment in the darkness.
Settling into my cosy seat while I watched my inflight movies, I noted how much privacy the seat offers. The high partitions and staggered seat layout meant optimum privacy for every passenger. The direct aisle access from every seat also further enhance the privacy!
Inflight Wi-Fi was available on this flight, with the option of 1 hour, 3 hour or Flight plan (24 hours connection commencing with initial log-in, and can be continued on connecting flights). I could survive a few hours without internet access (though probably not much more!) so I skipped the Wi-Fi service.
I requested for a glass of Domaine Trouillet Pouilly-Fuisse (French white wine) to enjoy the entertainment with, and the cabin attendant presented the bottle and served the wine in front of me. What fine service, indeed.
Outside of the meal service though, the cabin attendants seemed extremely busy in the galleys and their presence in the cabin was very limited. Disappointing to divulge, they were a lot less attentive than during the meal service and were not at all proactive in serving drinks or asking passengers (most of whom were awake and enjoying the entertainment) if they required anything - in fact, in the few hours of lull time until the snack service before landing, nothing was offered at all to passengers. I am unsure if the lack of cabin service was deliberate to maintain the high level of privacy for passengers in line with what the seat design offers but for me, that was the damper part of the service aspect onboard this flight. I am certain they would oblige any requests should the passenger press the call button but I would be very much appreciative of some proactiveness in service.
In lieu of the lack of cabin service after dinner, I thought a snack bar might have been set up for passengers to help themselves to should they like a drink or a snack but there were none.
Here's a look at the lavatory which looked like a step back in time - probably with its worn interior and ancient harsh yellow lighting. Though I didn't try it, the warm-water ToTo Washlet (what a cute name!) is such a nice uniquely Japanese feature!
There were toothbrushes and mouthwash stocked in the lavatory but towards the end of the flight, they ran out and were not replenished.
Hours past quickly as I focused on my inflight entertainment and the Prior to Arrival service commenced with an oshibori.
Cup noodles, Haagen-Dazs ice cream, and Japanese delicacies "Onigiri" were offered with a hot drink.
I had the salmon onigiri, which somehow exploded as I unwrapped it. It was pretty much a challenge to grapple with loose falling sticky rice as I wrestled with the defiant rice ball. As containment of the exploding rice-grenade seemed bleak, I decided the only way of defeating the rebellious delicacy was by tossing the entire onigiri straight into my mouth. The surprisingly good taste made up for the struggle.