What a shocking title, sorry about that.
Recently I was looking for some flights to head off to Japan to treat my girlfriend and decided to spend some airline miles to get there. The best availability for us was to fly with JAL and using miles allowed us to fly in business class for practically free, otherwise we'd have been sitting in the back. So my review is based purely on the experience of JAL in business class.
Well I booked our flights on the telephone with American Airlines, so can't say much about the booking process direct with the airline themselves.
I did however call JAL as I was unable to view my booking on their site (different booking system to AA) and the very helpful staff were able to provide me with a booking reference and some guidance for the website so that I could pick seats in advance. The hours are limited for calling their office in the UK but the staff are very helpful. Booking can also be done online of course.
Check in for our outbound flights was easy as we did it before a connecting flight and simply changed planes at Heathrow. For the return trip we used the self service machine at the airport and despite missing the 'English' option we were eventually able to get our boarding passes. There is a bag drop for those with stuff to check in. Each time we got our seats that we'd requested so I would say that the check in process was easy.
There is also the online check in option, but you still need to pick up boarding passes at the airport.
JAL operate their own lounge in Terminal 3 at Heathrow and it's nicer than most lounges you will come across. There's a wide variety of drinks, plenty of newspapers and magazines in English and Japanese and the usual snacks you'll find in a lounge like cakes, biscuits and alike.
Boarding announcements are made for every flight, there aren't so many so it's not a lot of work for them I imagine. The lounge wasn't crowded but our flight was really rather empty so it's possible the lounge would be much busier at peak times.
Coming back from Narita was a lot more pleasant than Heathrow, security was less of a hassle although the shopping opportunities are just as bad for a cheapskate like me.
There are a number of large lounges at Narita providing free internet access and snacks and drinks as before. Things were a lot busier but the lounges had adequate room. I suspect things were busy as the previous day had seen all flights suspended due to an accident so more people would have been at the airport.
The lounges were very very clean indeed, both at Heathrow and Narita.
Service is certainly with a smile on JAL, everybody was extremely pleasant and requests from passengers were dealt with promptly and without making people feel as if they were bothering the staff (many airlines have some shocking staff attitude).
The first meal was served soon after departure with a choice of Western or Japanese options for every meal. Personally I went for the Japanese meals every time and wasn't disappointed with the quality. The second meal was served on request, so I left it as late as possible. Despite a large number of choices I found that there was nothing that suited my tastes on the return flight with only evening meals available after waking up from a 5 hours sleep. I really wanted some kind of breakfast and on this flight it just wasn't there. I realise it was a midday departure arriving in London in the afternoon, but I still wanted breakfast :-)
The Japanese menu has a lot of fish in it as you would expect, but the quality was excellent. The Japanese breakfast on the outbound flight was also very nice indeed.
There were lots of drinks options, I'm happy with coffee and water when flying but I did try a couple of the wines and they were very nice indeed.
Entertainment is provided via an on demand system with a wide number of movies. The choice of language options is wide and some movies are not in English or with English subtitles, so there will be a few you can't watch. I counted more than 20 movies to choose from. What was missing for me was some good TV comedy. The TV shows consisted of a single episode each of Planet Earth, House and CSi. I think there is some room for improvement here, I'd like something to laugh at! I only watched one movie going each way.
The screen is 10 inches in size, more than large enough in my opinion. Panasonic noise cancelling headphones were provided. You won't be able to use these with your iPod however as the connector has two prongs, just to be awkward.
The cabin was spotlessly clean, even the toilets were shiny. There's no amenity kit, these have been declining in size over the years anyway but JAL just come around with a basket offering a few items for you to take. I only bothered with the toothbrush.
The seat was impressive, it was the 'Shell Flat Seat'. It's not fully horizontal, but that suits me fine. Most 'fully flat' seats just go horizontal but maintain the contours of a seat so are really quite bumpy, although there are a couple that don't have this annoying feature.
In the upright position it's just about possible to touch the back of the seat in front with your toes. The seat reclines into the space behind but it is all enclosed in a plastic shell, so the seat in front will never bother you, regardless of how it is positioned. When fully reclined it's like trying to sleep on a slight incline, quite comfortable in my opinion.
The seat area lacks a bit of storage. You're not allowed to store anything on the floor for take-off and landing, so you would hope to have somewhere to put your book, mp3 player or whatever else you may consider essential. There's a tiny little storage area in the back of the seat in front, but when it has the provided noise cancelling headphones and slippers there isn't much room. There is also a magazine area, but there's no room in there for the magazine you brought with you.
It's not all bad about the storage, you'll have almost 2 overhead lockers to each pair of seats, you won't be fighting for space. There might be a fight if the aisle seat is reclined and you're trying to squeeze out though, there will still be a bit of climbing involved.
Despite the couple of problems I have described I'm still giving the JAL business class experience a 5 rating. I really thought the experience was impressive from start to finish and I did feel a lot happier than when using business class on other airlines. If the price was competitive I'd choose them ahead of BA but I think Virgin would still be preferable on flights to Japan.
(also posted on ciao)
I recently had a return flight to Australia with JAL. My first flight without my parents and also my longest flight.
My boyfriend and I sat in economy seats - however, the seats were surprisingly roomy and comfortable. The on-flight entertainment system (magic III) was fantastic, it kept me amused literally for hours. It had hundreds of games and the latest movies. The headphones included were also comfortable.
Having travelled on planes with bad food previously I was weary of what we would be getting. However - we got a choice of a Japanese menu or a Western menu which I thought was great. I ended up having pasta and shepherds pie! it was fantastic.
The flight crew were very polite and friendly and made me feel safe which to me is an important factor. Just before each meal we would get a hot flannel to clean up with and this was refreshing and helpful.
On our way into Japan for re-fueling, the flight attendants were very helpful in showing us which way to go and telling us where we could find the toilets, etc. After our second flight, we landed in Australia feeling refreshed and ready for our holiday!
The return flight was just as nice with equally yummy food. When stopping for re-fueling in Tokyo, we stayed at the Tokyo Narita Hotel just outside of Tokyo's main city centre. The airline made sure that we were on the correct bus to the hotel and made sure we got to our room safely. In the morning we were given free breakfast vouchers for the hotel breakfast, and the food was amazing - a choice of Japanese and Western food of which i really enjoyed.
After this, the hotel staff made sure we were ready for our bus to the airport, just ten minutes away. Yet again on our flight bound for the UK, the flight was calm and the staff very helpful. The seats were comfortable and the entertainment system very good.
All in all I will definitely use JAL to fly to Australia again. With such a long flight ahead of you its nice to know the airline you are with come highly recommended.
General service on Japan Airlines (JAL) is good. There is generally a choice of western or japanese food and the food is pretty good.
Seats are also quite roomy with plenty of legroom. The inflight entertainment is reasonable with a range of Japanese and English films and music.
The major problem is supply of soft drinks - stingy to say the least and quite possibly health threatening. If you ask for a cola then you only get part of a can poured into a small plastic glass. However if you want an alcoholic mixer then you get the spirits plus a full can of can of soft drink to mix. Similarly you get a full can of beer.
With meals a bottle of wine or a full can of beer is provided but no soft drink option. There is not even a water option.
So if you don't want to drink alcohol then you have to make your pre-dinner small plastic glass last quite a while.
If you don't plan on drinking alcohol on a JAL flight my advice would be to bring your own 2 litre bottle of water onboard as their provision of non-alcoholic drinks is entirely inadequate.
It might even be worth asking for spirits just so that you can get a full can of cola!
JAL has everything going for it. When there are so many options for long haul travel, price soon becomes less important becuase in the end most airlines charge about the same. That said, JAL have always been the cheapest for flights from London to Sydney that I have found. The kind of things which I don't think are considered often include quality of aircraft, where you stop off, or which airports that airline uses if a city has two. I have flown JAL 3 times to Sydney and back from London, and every flight has been early. Not only that, the planes have always been spotlessly clean, and the inflight entertainment could not be bettered. In Economy on the majority of flights to Japan, you have a tv in the back of the seat infront, on which they show documentries, films and you can play games. Due to the system having channels, you can have your pick of film or programme, as they are cycled so there is always something to watch, and you are not lumbered with something in which you have no interest. I am 6"1, and the leg room is not at all bad. I think about 34inches. I wasn't at all uncomfortable, when traditionally I have been in agony! The ground staff as well as flight attendents are always great, and aside from one flight where the English spoken was a little unclear, generally they could not be faulted. The food is about as good as airline food gets, and having the Japanese option can make a nice change. They have kiwi fruit drink called Skytai (apologies for approximate spelling)which is delicious, try it! Should you be stopping over, the airports at both Osaka and Narita Tokyo are really very nice. Good proximity to the airport, good food, and a room about which you really can't moan at all. Osaka and Tokyo airports are both quite a way from the centre of their cities, but then given population densities, I am not surprised, and they really aren't that much further out of town than Heathrow and Gatwick
are to London. To sum up, JAL is the best airline on which I have ever flown, and due to a code share agreement with Air France, you can use your flyer points on either. Due to the fact that if you are flying JAL, you are most probably going a long way, these soon mount up, and since Air France operates in Europe, you get a free flight to Europe almost instantly, which is worth taking into account. I don't enjoy flying, and find very few things more boring, but JAL are great, and I cannot recommend them more highly.
There are several options for travel between the UK and Japan. For lower prices (usually), or the convenience of travelling from an airport outside of London, it is often best to use European carriers connecting in hub airports on the continent. If Heathrow is in easy reach, however, flying direct is the easist mode. It is possible to fly non-stop between London and Tokyo (Narita) with Japan Airlines (JAL), All Nippon Airlines (ANA), British Airways and Virgin Atlantic. Between London and Osaka Kansai (the route I flew on), there is just one direct option, JAL. JAL are also the only airline to fly between London and Nagoya. PRICES With the football World Cup this summer, flights between the UK and Japan will be in huge demand. Prices tend to fluctuate enormously. Booking well in advance, you can normally get a return ticket for under £500, with prices going well above £1000 (economy class tickets). My return ticket cost £1200 for flights in July. Luckily, I didn't have to pay for the ticket, it was part of an exchange which was fully funded by sponsors. Good sites for tickets are www.expedia.co.uk and www.travelocity.co.uk. The official site is www.jal-europe.com but this returns generally expensive fares. It does, however, have contact information on Youth fares, available to those under 25, which offer massive savings. AIRPORTS As with most major international carriers, JAL fly from London's Heathrow airport (terminal 3). Travelling from Suffolk by train, we changed at Cambridge and took the tube from King's Cross straight to Heathrow. Despite the rush hour, the journey was surprisingly easy and straightforward. Check-in at Heathrow was simple enough, with no queues or hassle. Heathrow is the kind of place that you just put up with. As far as airports go, it isn't great, but it isn't really that bad either. At the other end, things are very different. The relatively new Kansai International Airport, situa
ted in Osaka Bay, is a fantastic construction built on an island of reclaimed land, connected to the main island of Honshu and Japan's infrastructure by bridges. The spacious, modern, Italian-designed terminal building is an absolute delight to arrive in. Disembarkation was very easy, and bags were off the plane in a matte of minutes. A 40 minute train ride and we were in Osaka's main station. FLIGHTS The legroom on JAL was fairly impressive, and I found the flight reasonably comfortable. However, I am quite short and I was in the company of close friends, so it was easy for me to spread out without too much worry! According to statistics, JAL's economy class legroom ranges from 31 to 34 inches, in-line with other carriers. The seats were very comfortable, and very easy to relax and fall asleep in! As for in-flight entertainment, we weren't lucky on either leg to get an aircraft with personal TVs (PTVs). JAL use only Boeing 747-400 aircraft on this route, and PTVs are being introduced across the fleet. There were three screens per section of aircraft, offering a reasonable level of view from most seats (I moved about a bit!). Three movies were offered in both directions, a reasonable selection of latest releases. When there wasn't a film on, it was either a Japanese news station or the route map, which I found interesting (although for a full 12 hours might have become a bit boring!). It was nice to know when we were flying over Helsinki and St. Petersburg. Most of the light is over Siberia, which is absolutely fantastic from the air. There is a very clear choice as far as food on the flight is concerned. It can be either Western or Japanese. In both directions I opted for Japanese, being the brave soul that I am! It was, it has to be said, pretty decent for airline food. The sushi on the way there was nice, but on the way back couldn't compete with the stuff I'd eaten in the previous three weeks! Drinks were
plentiful, and I highly reccommend their unique JAL 'Sky Time' drink, made with kiwi fruit juice - it's amazing! The cabin crew were a mixture of native Japanese and Western staff. All very friendly and attentive. We could've done with their attention of the 14 hour train journey that followed the flight! CONCLUSION It's hard to fault my experience with JAL. They got us from where we were to where we wanted to be with brilliant service in between. The ticket was expensive, but I didn't pay for it. Had I done, I think my opinion would be much the same. If anyone plans on visitng Japan (and I sincerely hope they do), then I can highly reccommend Japan Airlines,
Now I don't know about you but I'm pretty damned picky about the airline that I choose whether I'm flying for thirty minutes or thirty hours. So when I decided to do a working holiday in the UK and brave the unimaginable pain of a two day flight I began to explore my options. Like any normal twenty year old I wasn't exactly flushed with cash so I was going to have to choose wisely if I was to be comfortable - physically and financially. The first thing I did was attend a travel expo here in Brisbane so I had all possible options available to me in the one place. I wandered from stall to stall picking up brochrues and asking questions till eventually I had decided on the one airline and that was Japan airlines. Of course you never know about an airline and it's service fully until you have been up in the air and shared a confined space with the hostesses for twenty or so hours but I was happy with the price and I was assured that JAL was reputable and reliable. I flew to London for the first time on that ticket and since then I have flown back to Australia (for a two months holiday I might add) and I am about to once again make that long journey back to the UK - all with Japan Airlines. Now I will tell you why in two simple words....no hassle! From the time you step onto the plane the staff are friendly, helpful and always concerned by any problems you might have. Althought most are Japanese, all speak english so there is no language barrier when you have any questions. The planes themselves are comfortable, althought economy space is quite small like all planes these days. Blankets and a pillow are provided for you on your seat and if you are lucky enought to be on a relatively empty flight the arm rests are retractable so that you can make yourself a makeshift bed. The food is rather unexpected for an airline meal and it gave me a chance to mix it up a little and try a bit of Japanese c
uisine. If you are vegetarian or even if you just prefer those meals they are very happy to accommodate you. Beverages are served with every meal (including alcohol) and juices or spring water are offered constantly throughout the entire flight to avoid dehydration. The entertainment varies depending on which aircraft you are flying on. If you are lucky you will be able to access the Magic system which means you will have a personal television in front of you where you can either play your choice of movie (many up-to-date films are offered) or indulge in a few of your favourite video games. If you are not on one of these flights there is a big screen at the front of every section in the plane, on which a feature presentation is played midway through the flight. I found it very difficult to see the screen when I was seated halfway down the aisle. Dutyfree shopping is also offered to you twice throughout the flight. JAL also provides overnight accommodation if your connecting flight is the next day. If this is the case you will be provided with an accommodation ticket and a set of instructions as to where to catch the hotel bus from the airport. I found this guide easy to use and had no problems finding where I needed to be. Again, if you have any questions or problems staff at the airport are able to direct you. The hotel itself exceeded expectation and I found myself able to enjoy a decent nights sleep after being cramped in an airline seat. At the hotel the next morning, Breakfast is provided for you as well as a check-in facility for your flight, meaning less hassles at the airport. A bus will then take you to the airport where you continue your flight to your destination. I have found no problems with the baggage system JAL employs, each time I have travelled my bags have been checked through from departure to arrival destination and all have been present and accounted for. Ultimately it has been a p
leasant experience flying with JAL and I will be continuing to use their service whenever I fly. I enjoy being able to travel with no stress and arrive at the other end a happy camper rather than a blubbering mess. A bonus with JAL is that they offer free membership to their frequent flyer promotion. The best part about this is that these points can be redeemed not only with JAL but with a whole list of other airlines. I know this has been a one sided argument but I really have nothing to complain about. I have had absolutely no negative experience of this airline and I hope, if you choose to use them, you enjoy travelling as much as me!
I flew JAL from Sydney to London and it was the best flight I ever experienced. To start it all of the price was only beaten by Garuda - but then I'd rather do the journey by rowing boat than to fly with them! Since JAL did not have a direct flight to London we got a free nights accomodation at their own Tokyo Nikko hotel (4-star) including breakfast. The planes (both legs of the flight) were clean, the staff were very friendly and (since I am a smoker) I was particularly happy that they offer a smoking area in the plane. Mind you - my wife does not smoke and still she had no probs with the plane being overly smokey. There were personal TV's with some great movies to watch (they even had 4! newly released blockbusters eg. "As good as it gets", which came out just shortly before our flight). The food was pretty much the best airline food I have ever tasted - and they offer both traditional japanese and western style food. Also the ground staff were very friendly and efficient which also extended to the transfers between airport and hotel. All in all, JAL will definitely be my first choice for any future lang-haul flights and I'd recommend it to anyone.
We flew JAL from Sydney to London last year. The fare was very competitive (flights are more expensive from Aus in general), and we got to stay in Japan. However, the flight was very long and tiring, and the stay in Japan was very confusing for 2 confused non-Japanese speaking tourists. We got off the plane in Narita after around 10 hours of travel, with only an overnight bag (our bags had been sent direct to London on our request), wanderede around the airport going through customs, and finally found our hotel bus. This took a while to get to the hitel, where there was a fair queue to check in, as a large number of ppl off our plane were doing the same thing (surprise, surprise). The room was fine, dinner was hard to find due to languauge problems and expensive food, but we managaed. The next day we explored Narita via the free hotel bus. This was an experience as it was our firts time in such a non-English speaking city (very hard to get landmarks when you acn't read the signs!!!!) All in all. It was an experience I was glad of but I don't know if I will do it again. The best part was that even with economy seats, we managed to have a seat upstairs in the plane. Not sure how this happened
Flying JAL to Australia has REALLY good points, and also, some unfortunately bad ones! The flight itself is as good as a flight can be! The stewards are attentive and friendly, there is usually a choice of foods (Western or Japanese style), and the entertainment is fair (or great if you're fortunate enough to have a plane with MAGIC 1 or 2 which allow you to play video games, choose which movie to see, view a map of the planes progress etc). The fact that you have to stop in Japan can be problematic. If you make your connection later that day you may find yourself in very dull surroundings at Tokyo airport for eight hours or so. On the other hand, if you can only get a flight to your final destination the next day, you are put up for the night free of charge in an exellent hotel (you have to pay for dinner, breakfast is included). I'd really reccomend this airline, its cheaper than flying direct, you get to sample kiwi juice, its comfortable, and firendly! Be warned however, immigration queues at Tokyo airport are LONG, you will be there for a while!
It may not sound the most likely choice, but Japan Air is an excellent way to get cheaply to Australia and New Zealand, provided you don't mind changing planes in Japan. On the way home, the flights do not connect properly, so they put you up (free) in a 4 star hotel in Tokyo for the night! Where is the best place to buy tickets on JAL? This is my best advice based upon 10 years experience of selling discounted airline tickets - but if you think you already know everything, and just want to find out the cheapest place to buy it for this airline, then skip to the last paragraph! Lets face it, all airlines can get you from A to B, sometimes you have to change at C, sometimes you have to hang around at C, but if price is your main concern, read on .... First, as an ex-travel agent, let me explain how the system works. Nearly all airlines belong to a cartel known as IATA, which amongst other duties, helps to regulate the official prices between each pair of worldwide destinations. My first piece of advice is, never phone the airline for the official fare, except as a last resort - their staff are trained to extract the highest fare they can get away with, and they are never going to tell you that one of their competitors has a better deal, or that you can save money going the next or previous day. Furthermore, they can only sell at the officially agreed price. Luckily for us consumers, and unluckily for the airlines, they cannot sell all their seats at the official price, especially if a much better, more direct airline has the same price. For example, if the official fare to, say, Bangkok is £600 from airline A (non-stop in 12 hours) and the same price from airline B (19 hours with a 7 hour wait changing planes in Karachi airport) then it is obvious which will sell out first. In order to generate market share, less popular airlines will unofficially discount their fares through whol
esalers known as "consolidators" - these can sometimes save you more than half of the official fare. These consolidators appoint specialised agents, and sometimes you can even save more money if the consolidator will deal with you direct. You may be surprised to learn that, depending on the length of the journey, the consolidator is only charging you £10 - £40 more than the "factory" price given to them by the airline. Contrary to popular misconception, it is not risky to deal with these so called "bucket shops" - If they let you down, they can be heavily fined or even jailed - everything is covered by the government ATOL scheme, so it is a lot safer than, for example, paying for a three-piece suite in advance to a High Street furniture chain. To summarise, these are my recommendations: Contact the airline for their best official price, on 0345 747700. Call the consolidator on 0207 495 1775 (JALtours, ATOL 2834). You have got to book very early for the peak dates - but if they are full, don't despair, send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org) as I know another firm who have almost always got seats - they won't be so cheap, but they will still be a lot lower than the alternatives if it is a busy period.