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By: Frank – @dugup46 – If somebody asked me to sum up our experience flying business class on Japan Airline’s brand new 788 in one word, it would be “theater.” From the moment you step on board and take your seat, until the curtain call 13 hours later, you will be dazzled by not only the Japan Airline’s flawless performers, but also the jet’s brand new interior and design. Join me on this emotional roller coaster review on our flight from Dallas to Tokyo Narita International!
“We’re going to Japan?” That was the rhetorical question my fiance and I asked each other about twice a day during the week leading up to this moment, and the day was finally here! We could not have been more excited, and after reading some trip reports on Reddit’s /r/AwardTravel community, our expectations were very high. After our short flight riding first class from Pittsburgh to Dallas on American Airlines, we were ready for the first long haul flight of our lives. We could not have picked a better airline for the experience.
Business class was finally called to board, and we single filed ourselves in line. A few moments later we’re stepping on board. I’m not going to do a full review of the seat itself – you can find that on just about every other travel blog out there. Instead, I want to touch on our emotional state, the things that really stood out to us, and why exactly I think this is the best business class flight I may ever take in my life.
When we saw the Japan Airlines flight crew standing at the door, we instantly felt excited. “What will I see when I make that turn and see the actual cabin?” I asked myself. I’ve never been on a long haul flight, let alone JAL business class. We turned the corner and saw a huge airline cabin with LED lighting that was not only welcoming, but almost tranquil. Instant “WOW!” factor for sure. I could have just stood there and taken in the beauty of the cabin; however, the people behind me wanted to get to Japan, so I proceeded down the aisle and found our seats.
The business cabin itself is a 2-2-2 staggered configuration, so everybody has aisle access. It’s really brilliant the way it works. The aircraft has overhead storage on the left, right, and middle of the overhead area. In between the storage containers is LED lighting that changes depending on the time, day, and mood of the flight. It’s beautiful. It’s overwhelming. As we made our way back a few rows, we found our seats and sat down. Amenity kits, slippers, a blanket, and noise cancelling headphones!
I looked over and there is my fiance… crying. That pretty much sums up our initial feelings of this jet. The show hadn’t even started, and we’re both overwhelmed with the experience. Japan had been a dream for her since she was a kid, and we were finally making that dream a reality. After the initial feels, we were able to fully take in our home for the next 13 hours. The window seat provided entire privacy, and it’s by and far the best seat on the plane. It does have direct aisle access, but the gap is a tight one if you’re a bigger person. Although I am pushing 190, I had no issue getting in and out. The seat is much more private than JAL First class, and everybody talks about how great the privacy is there. The aisle seat… not quite as much. I will say that when you lean back you still feel like you have a good deal of privacy though!
After take-off, flight attendants came by and offered up some champagne or orange juice. I chose the obligatory champagne. Minutes later they dropped off the menu for the flight. The menu was broken into two main sections. There was a Japanese menu or a Western menu. The Japanese menu consisted of a number (9, I believe) of smaller bites with a few starter courses, whereas the Western menu was (I want to say…) a five course meal with three separate main courses options. We both went with the Western menu’s filet, and that was an incredible experience. It’s a 13 hour flight and the first 3 hours of it was just being catered to nonstop with meal service taking up a good hour and a half to two hours.
Using our personal touchscreen remotes, we were able to watch a plethora of movies and even order additional drinks or “A La Carte” menu items. Wait time was under five minutes for most items. The ONLY complaint I have is that I wish, when ordering something, there was some type of confirmation. Even the flight attendant button on the remote had no indicator it was actually pressed. It’s a silly complaint, I guess, considering the staff is constantly walking the aisles to check on people. Still, I was able to order a glass of 17-year-old Suntory Hibiki before doing my best Bill Murray impression and laying down for a bit.
After a 6 hour nap, we were only a few hours away from Tokyo. I picked up my remote and promptly ordered some udon noodles which were served quickly and very hot. I flipped on Men in Black III and settled in for the remainder of the trip. I know the movie is dumb, but I watch movies constantly and have seen everything else offered. In saying that, they had some great blockbusters like the new Star Wars movie and Revenant. Before I knew it, the entire flight was over. If I wasn’t landing in Tokyo for the first time in my life, I would have hoped to stay on the plane another 2 or 5 hours.
To wrap it all up, the experience is incredible. Although my personal long haul flight experience is underwhelming, I have to rank JAL Business Class Sky Suites on the 788 as one of the best flights you can possibly take in the sky today based on all the reading I do. Although costs have gone up from 50,000 to 60,000 AA miles, it’s a small increase for the product you are getting. If we return to Tokyo, we will certainly be flying business class and passing on the 20k extra for first class, and I say that with no hesitation… it’s that good!
After landing, we took the bullet train from Tokyo down to Kyoto, where we checked into our new favorite hotel in the entire world, the Ritz Carlton Kyoto. We hope to convince anyone with the financial or award means possible to follow in our foot steps and visit one of the most unique, historical, and kind countries in the world. Be sure to check back frequently for our future articles detailing our trip to Japan!