Review: Japan Airlines First Class, Tokyo Narita to New York (NRT-JFK)

Japan Airlines First Class, Tokyo Narita view of JAL 777s
JAL 777s

Read more from this trip – Spring Break in the Maldives and Tokyo:

Introduction

Flight Details:

  • Date of flight: March 24, 2019
  • Where: Tokyo Narita (“NRT”) to New York (“JFK”)
  • Flight time: 13 hours
  • Flight #: JL4
  • Seat: 2D
  • Paid flight / points: Points

This ticket was booked with 72,500 American Airlines Aadvantage miles. Read more about that here.

Cabin

First Class Giraffe in JAL First Class

The cabin is split up in a 1-2-1 configuration. There’s just 2 rows of first class suites on the Boeing 777-300ER. The suites don’t feature sliding doors like on some other first class products.

Recommended Seats

JAL 777 First Class cabin layout
Layout from Expertflyer.com

There really isn’t a bad seat in JAL First Class. If you’re traveling with someone the center seats (1D/G or 2D/G) are most suitable as they’ll allow you to easily talk with your companion. If you’re seated next to a stranger there’s a divider that can be raised that offers a good deal of privacy. If you’re traveling solo the window seats (1A/K or 2A/K) are your best option.

The first thing you’ll notice about the seats is the size, they’re huge! The seats are 33″ wide. Compare this to the 17″ you’ll get on Ryanair.

JAL First Class seat
Seat 2D
First Class Giraffe in JAL First Class seat
More than enough room for this giraffe

The seats are covered in brown leather and are accented by a wood grain interior. It’s kind of drab in comparison to other carriers like Cathay Pacific and is perhaps better suited for a cigar lounge than First Class cabin.

There’s a panel next to seat that controls the recline and massage functions. I found the massage was barely noticeable.

JAL First Class electronic seat controls
Seat Control Panel

The suites feature a respectable 23″ in flight entertainment (“IFE”) system. JAL has very interesting branding on their flights. They’ve branded their IFE “MAGIC.” I’m not sure if I’d describe it as magical, but it does offer a wide variety of English language programming and some local treats like  rakugo (comic storytelling).

JAL first class in-flight entertainment screen
IFE

At your request the flight attendant will convert your seat into a bed. They have an Airweave DUAL MODE mattress topper (in both firm and soft options) and airweave pillow S-LINE specially designed for JAL. The bed was very comfortable and I slept like a baby giraffe for over 6-hours.

JAL First Class bedding
Mattress topper and blanket

Amenity Kit

JAL First Class amenity kit
JAL First Class Amenity Kit

JAL’s amenity kit was designed by ETRO, the Italian luxury brand. They contain a Toothbrush set, mouth wash, earplugs, eye mask, steam eye mask, hand & body cream, perfume, lip balm, brush, moisture mask and pocket tissue.

The scent of the lotion was very strong and floral. Giraffes have an excellent sense of smell and the scent of these products was not to my liking.

Service

The service on this flight was excellent. There were 2 flight attendants serving First Class and they were on their feet almost the entire flight.

The service started with a choice of pre-departure beverage and hot towel. JAL serves Salon 2007, which retails for $580 a bottle. The 2007 Vintage features fresh citrus with sprightly mineral nuances, such as white pepper and lime. It’s delicious!

JAL First Class Salon 2007 champagne
Salon 2007

Food and Beverage

Menus are distributed in a leather covered binder branded with JAL’s First Class logo.

JAL First Class menu binder
JAL First Class Binder

In addition to the Salon JAL serves Louis Roederer Cristal Brut 2009, which retails for $230 a bottle and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blancs 2007, which retails for $200 a bottle. This is a serious champagne lineup!

JAL First Class beverage menu
JAL Beverage Menu

Pro tip: You can check to see what’s on your menu ahead of your flight by doing a search here.

JAL has an extensive wine list, which you can find online here. Following what seems like endless pages of alcoholic beverages you’ll find the food menu.

There’s a Japanese option:

JAL First Class Japanese menu
Japanese Menu

Followed by a Western option:

JAL First Class Western menu

After much deliberation I chose the western option and my table was set. The flight attendant made sure that my glass of Salon never went empty.

JAL First Class table setup
Table setup

The flight attendant brought around some canapés, which weren’t particularly tasty.

JAL First Class canapés
amuse bouche

The meal service began with an amuse bouche- a tartare of pen shell, scallop, bamboo shoots and white asparagus. Pen Shells or Tairagi in Japanese are clams that resemble scallops. It was very tasty.

JAL First Class amuse bouche - a tartare of pen shell, scallop, bamboo shoots and white asparagus
Amuse bouche

Shortly after the caviar course was served accompanied by egg cream and crispy rice wafers. JAL offers a proper mother of pearl spoon with their caviar service. This giraffe wouldn’t be caught dead eating caviar with a metal spoon.

JAL First Class caviar service
Caviar service

For my main I ordered the poached kichiji rockfish with spring cabbage in a tomato and olive oil broth. It was the best fish dish I’ve had on an airplane.

JAL First Class poached kichiji rockfish with spring cabbage in a tomato and olive oil broth
Main course

For dessert I had the “Kotoka” strawberry mille-feuille. I was very full by this point in the meal, but managed to clean the plate.

JAL First Class "Kotoka" strawberry mille-feuille
Dessert

About 2 hours before landing I got hungry and decided to order more food. JAL has an a la carte food menu, which can be ordered on demand.

JAL First Class a la carte food menu
A la carte food menu

At the recommendation of the flight attendant I ordered the JAL original “Japanese soba noodles tsuta” ramen noodles in soy sauce soup. They use truffle oil, which giraffes find especially delicious. It was a good choice.

JAL original "Japanese soba noodles tsuta" ramen noodles in soy sauce soup
Ramen noodles

I ordered a cheese plate to finish the meal.

JAL First Class cheese plate
Cheese plate

The flight attendant then brought out a chocolate from Jean-Paul Hevin. He’s a world famous chocolatier that spent some time in Japan and is a member of Relais Desserts. It was so good.

chocolate from Jean-Paul Hevin

Overall Verdict

First Class Giraffe Approved

Everything about this flight was amazing from the service to the food and beverage. I’ll have fond memories of sipping Salon 2007 while eating caviar. I highly recommend JAL First Class to both humans and giraffe friends.

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