Prior to boarding what I think is my new favorite business class cabin, I checked out the JAL Sakura Lounge at Tokyo (NRT). This is part five of a six part trip picture report from my travels to Japan:

As I was in business and not first, I was directed downstairs to the Sakura Lounge.

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The lounge is quite large, but it was packed for the late morning / early afternoon rush. There are multiple seating areas and a full dining area upstairs.

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The staircase up to the dining area had a sign in front of it when I first arrived – “the dining areas is now crowded. We may not arrange your table soon”. People headed upstairs anyway but I figured I’d wait for a little more space to open up. I detoured to the spa / shower area and returned later. For the late breakfast time period there were both Japanese and western options.

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The larger tables were still packed but there were empty two person tables as well as seats along the bar with great views out to the tarmac.

There are multiple complimentary body care services in the spa (only one available per boarding pass). Options included upper body care (neck, shoulder, upper/lower back), foot care, and scalp care, each lasting 10 minutes. This is also the area where you can obtain your shower access…

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Quiet areas – “please ask to the lounge staff when you a sleeping bed”!

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Overall, it was a nice visit to the Sakura Lounge, though I thought the food options at lunch / dinner during my visit a few years ago were much more exciting and impressive. Speaking of, the lounge hasn’t changed much since that time, though it’s still a solid offering with ample seating (even when packed), complimentary spa services, nice showers, and hot food options.

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I really liked the JAL SKY SUITE and JAL service that much, despite a 2-3-2 layout, it was hands-down the most comfortable and spacious business class I’ve ever flown. I haven’t flown Cathay’s new business product yet, but in my opinion this beats out their old business as well as Singapore’s current business offering (hard product). I originally opted for an aisle, but after reading some reviews, decided to go for the window seat which was extremely private thanks to the divider screen yet still maintains a direct aisle path. I’m really happy that I choose the JAL SKY SUITE over ANA’s staggered business which is a standard business product on many airlines.

This is the final part of a six part trip report from my travels to Japan:

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Upon boarding view – pillow, duvet, slippers, PJ sweater top, Panasonic noise canceling headphones. The PJ top is not yours to keep and is washed after you use it.

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Even though they were closed, the flight attendants lightly touched each overhead compartment to ensure they were fully shut…

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OK, let’s start with everyone’s biggest concern with JAL’s SKY SUITE business class – the 2-3-2 layout and being “too close to your neighbor”. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I loved my spacious window seat with a direct aisle access cut-out and large 23 inch TV (same as in First). The suite set-up reminded me of similar first class set-ups on several airlines. Forget about being too close, you have a ton of privacy (even in the window seat). In fact, if you don’t like the privacy you might even get a little claustrophobic…but I loved it.

I had window seat 12A and my neighbor was in 12C, here’s how it looked from my vantage point:

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You can see that with the privacy screen up (for takeoff) my neighbor was right there and you can even see her book in the second photo…granted a little strange at first.  Here’s the view from in front of our row – my seat is the unoccupied window seat:

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Divider down:

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A few more 777 cabin pics to provide perspective:

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Later in the post you’ll see that when it was time to use the bed, the suite became even more private.

JAL now with 2 JFK flights per day, in-flight Wifi and pricing…

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These pictures don’t do justice to the clarity of both the 23″ LCD tv and the companion MAGIC-V remote. The remote allows multiple functions including browsing the media titles, reading news (updated throughout the flight), playing games, listening to music, shopping, viewing the flight path and maps, ordering food, and of course controlling your TV. Crisp as a new iPad and you could zoom in and out on the remote using common gestures. I caught multiple movies on this flight: Gravity, Escape Plan, Jobs, and Captain Phillips.

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Outlet, USB input, and TV connectors / seat controls:

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Most comfortable headphones ever, these felt great – soft, comfortable, and noise canceling…

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JAL BEDD – “A luxurious flying restaurant in the Sky”. Essentially you order your first meal from an extensive menu (multiple chefs create their own dishes that you can choose from – Western and Japanese). You can then order multiple snacks with your remote throughout the flight up to two hours before landing (orders were accepted on our flight up to 45 minutes before landing). You can also order water, juices, cocktails, coffee, tea, and dessert from your remote.

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Instead of bread that’s normally reheated and hard, the JAL selections were soft and fresh. Also interesting to note, there were three separate flight attendants assisting with meal service just in my business sub-section. Look how perfectly cooked the steak is…medium rare in-flight! Related – Trip Report – SWISS Business JFK-Zurich(ZRH) A330 – Best Fillet In-Flight?

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Hmm…I didn’t realize how many snacks I ordered from the convenience of my seat until I went through the pictures in preparation for this report. I guess I got very hungry! Note the out of stock message that appears if you select something which is no longer available.

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Time for some sleep…fully flat, extremely comfortable with a  great duvet and pillow:

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A note on the amazing service – there was always a flight attendant walking the aisles. In fact, since I was up and not sleeping, they constantly kept asking me if I needed anything. At one point during the flight I asked a flight attendant in the galley for an additional bottle of water upon walking back from the bathroom. I asked “Do you need my seat number?” and received the response “I know your seat Mr. Adam”!

Toto toilets…

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Sky Gallery, magazines, and more snacks…

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I really do think this is my favorite business class flight…and I’ve flown almost all the major carriers in business. Again, I loved the privacy and the roominess of my suite, the huge tv, touchscreen food and snack ordering, and of course the amazing service. Needless to say, JAL’s SKY SUITE was 100x better than AA’s soft and hard First Class product on the outbound (and even cost fewer miles). It was also much nicer than my last JAL business trip in 2010 with their SHELL FLAT (not really flat) NEO product. For those of you looking to book your own flight, note that this was a 777. JAL currently operates one 777 and one 787 (completely different cabin and not as nice in my opinion) per day to JFK.

Need help booking an award flight? Consider Juicy Miles for all your award booking needs.

A few business class trip reports:

…or maybe you’re just into First – 3 Extravagant Flights You’ll Never Be Able to Afford…Unless You Have Miles with full reviews

Posted by Adam | 16 Comments

A JAL Boeing 787 Dreamliner landed at JFK on Sunday afternoon even-though all other flights from Tokyo to JFK had been canceled due to snow in Japan. On board were only six passengers – new Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, his pop star wife, a personal manager, and a toy poodle named Haru. Tanaka spent an estimated $200,000 to rent the plane from JAL…but don’t worry, despite his $155 million contract, he will be reimbursed for the price a first class ticket from NRT-JFK. From the New York Times:

The unusual flight manifest was not a joke, but the grand entrance of Masahiro Tanaka, the Yankees’ flamboyant Japanese pitcher who put his newfound dollars to immediate use. Eager to avoid a snowstorm and arrive in New York in time for his introductory news conference Tuesday, Tanaka rented the plane from JAL for an estimated $200,000. Not even Reggie Jackson made such a colorful entrance to New York when he signed as a free agent with the Yankees in November 1976. It is unclear whether Haru had his own seat, but there were nearly 200 empty ones from which to choose. But the Yankees did not participate in Tanaka’s decision to charter a commercial jet, and their most affluent players tend to use private jets rather than fly on commercial airlines. Tanaka’s new $155 million contract calls for a certain number of first-class tickets between Japan and the United States a year, so he will be reimbursed the equivalent of the price of the first-class ticket. Carol Anderson, a spokeswoman for JAL, confirmed that a flight was chartered from Tokyo to J.F.K. on Sunday, but would not reveal the cost of the flight. She said the plane returned to Tokyo as a ferry flight, meaning it refueled, turned around and flew back empty, perhaps with a few extra dog hairs. Tanaka’s commute to Narita Airport from his hotel in downtown Tokyo — usually a two-hour journey — took eight and a half hours. Trains were not running and the highways were impassable, according to reports in Japan, and Tanaka’s driver was forced to use tiny, snow-covered surface roads to reach the airport.

Tanaka News Conf

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I really liked the JAL SKY SUITE and JAL service that much, despite a 2-3-2 layout, it was hands-down the most comfortable and spacious business class I’ve ever flown. I haven’t flown Cathay’s new business product yet, but in my opinion this beats out their old business as well as Singapore’s current business offering (hard product). I originally opted for an aisle, but after reading some reviews, decided to go for the window seat which was extremely private thanks to the divider screen yet still maintains a direct aisle path. I’m really happy that I choose the JAL SKY SUITE over ANA’s staggered business which is a standard business product on many airlines. I’ll have a full review in the coming weeks, but in the meantime, check out a few pictures:

Spacious window seat with direct aisle access cut-out and large 23 inch TV (same as in First). The suite set-up reminded me of similar first class set-ups on several airlines (see pic 3)

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Privacy screen

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Bed

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Amenities included Panasonic noise canceling headphones, mattress pad, satellite wi-fi, JAL PJ top, in-flight art gallery, and of course TOTO toilets.

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In addition to the standard dinner (first two pics), there is anytime ordering all flight long until 1.5 hours prior to landing. All orders are placed on your handset and mine were always delivered within 3-5 minutes…impressive!

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Again, I loved the privacy and the roominess of my suite, the huge tv, touchscreen food and snack ordering, and the amazing service. Full review coming soon. Needless to say, JAL’s SKY SUITE was 100x better than AA’s soft and hard First Class product on the outbound. It was also much nicer than my last JAL business trip in 2010 with their SHELL FLAT (not really flat) NEO product.

Related –

Posted by Adam | 17 Comments

I’m currently in the Sakura Lounge in Tokyo getting ready to board my JAL SKY SUITE flight back to JFK. I was actually supposed to experience the SKY SUITE on my outbound flight but I unfortunately had to be rebooked on AA metal due to weather in Chicago. That flight didn’t go so well, even with an upgrade to First – No TV and Poor Service on AA 777 Dallas (DFW) – Tokyo (NRT) in First.

This will be my first time flying JAL’s newest business class product and I’m pretty psyched for the suite and other first class style amenities in business. Check this previous post for full details on the SKY SUITE and expect a full trip report soon – Reader Choice – Flight to Japan – New JAL or ANA Business?.

JAL BP

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Yesterday, an Ethiopian Airlines 787 became the first passenger Dreamliner to take to the skies since the entire fleet was grounded back in January. The flight was operated on the relatively short route from Addis Abada (ADD) – Nairobi (NBO). At a press conference following the landing in Kenya, Boeing announced that 787 deliveries would resume in early May.

So, when can you expect other airlines to re-launch their 787s? Here’s a tentative schedule compiled by reader and 787 enthusiast Mark in SFO:

Air India -> DEL-FRA, DEL-LHR, DEL-CDG May 16th, DEL-BLR & DEL-MAA May 17th, DEL-CCU May 22nd
Ethiopian -> ADD-FRA April 28th, ADD-HRE-LUN May 1st, ADD-DXB May 2nd/May 3rd, ADD-IAD May 4th, ADD-BOM May 16th
JAL -> TBD, likely early-mid June
LAN -> June 1st SCL-LIM-LAX & June 30th SCL-MAD-FRA
LOT -> June 5th WAW-ORD & June 7th WAW-YYZ
NH -> TBD, likely end of May
Qatar -> DOH-LHR May 15th, DOH-MUC May 20th, DOH-FRA May 25th,
United -> IAH-DEN May 31st, DEN-NRT June 10th

Unfortunately, if your planning on redeeming miles for the UA IAH-DEN or DEN-NRT flights, the grounding hasn’t exactly increased award availability. I couldn’t find any business class availability on DEN-NRT for the better part of the year, though economy was quite open.


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Busy week in aircraft updates…

First, Delta’s new flat-bed refurbished A330:

JAL’s touchscreen Anytime You Wish on-demand meal service – Boeing 777-300ER Sky Suite:

Alaska’s planned cabin upgrades with power outlets and new enhanced seats:

More on those DL A330 upgrades from Delta’s blog:

Say Hello to the Reinvented A330!

 If you have experienced our recently upgraded 747 BusinessElite cabin, you may be in for some deja-vu. We are proud to show off a few of the enhancements of the first flat-bed A330-300 to enter service, ship 3301.  This development means that we now have flat-beds flying on every wide-body fleet type. Our 777s, 747s, and 767-400ERs have been completed and our 767-300ERs are well underway. Our entire A330 fleet will be completed by summer 2014. While flat-beds often get the spotlight, there are a whole host of improvements and upgrades to look forward to throughout the aircraft:

BusinessElite

  • 34 seats in a 1 x 2 x 1configuration
  • Seats are angled toward the windows at outboard locations and toward each other in the center
  • New seats are wider than those they replace
  • 180? fully flat bed (bed length is 78-80”)
  • Direct aisle access with no rear-facing or middle seats
  • Electronic seat controls with adjustable lumbar support
  • 110v AC in-seat power + USB power
  • Adjustable personal LED reading light

Economy Comfort

  • 32 seats at 35” pitch & 6” recline in a 2 x 4 x 2 layout
  • “Slim-line” seat provides more personal space
  • 6-way adjustable headrests
  • 110v AC in-seat power + USB power

Economy

  • 227 seats at 31-32” pitch and 4” recline in 2 x 4 x 2 layout
  • “Slim-line” seat provides more personal space
  • 6-way adjustable headrests
  • USB power

Personal On Demand Entertainment

  • 15.4” screens in BusinessElite; 9” screens in Economy Comfort & Economy
  • 350 films
  • 130 hours of TV
  • 95 hours of premium programming from HBO & Showtime
  • 5,000 digital songs
  • 27 games
  • Moving map

Cabin Enhancements

  • New BusinessElite lavatories
  • Updated carpet color – a darker, richer shade of blue
  • New bulkhead “Sky Diamond” laminates reminiscent of the Sky Club backwall
  • Redesigned Economy Comfort & Economy seat covers with additional comfort padding
  • New placards and signage.

Posted by Adam | 2 Comments

In response to my post last week, Why the British Airways Card Offer Still Makes Sense,  I’ve received several emails asking for recommendations on uses of Avios points for long-haul flights, unfortunately there aren’t many of value!  Again, I’d take a look back at that post for short and medium haul options that present a much higher return on your points.  However, in this post we’ll take a look at a few of the long-haul options.

Given the outrageous surcharges on flights to Europe, redemptions from North America to South America are a great value with no fuel surcharges on any LAN or American operated flights.

JFK – EZE (Buenos Aires, Argentina) or GRU (Sao Paulo, Brazil) or GIG (Rio, Brazil) on American-> 25,000 each way in coach (2X in Business and 3X in first) and $23.70 in charges.

JFK – LIM (Lima, Peru) on LAN -> 20,000 each way in coach (2X in Business and 3X in first) and $45.70 in charges

JFK – SCL (Santiago, Chile) on LAN -> 25,000 each way in coach (2X in Business and 3X in first) and $23.70 in charges

Another decent value proposition are Cathay and JAL awards to Asia.  On these redemptions it’s important to keep in mind that  AA awards normally require fewer miles on these routes and BA charges surcharges on both carriers.

YVR – HKG (Hong Kong) on Cathay -> 30,000 each way in coach or 60,000 in Business and $186.39 in charges

These same one-way flights on the exact date were $5130 in Business and $2989 in Coach.  If purchasing round-trip the flights were $8297 in Business and $5960 in Coach.

YVR – NRT (Tokyo, Japan) on JAL -> 25,000 each way in coach or 50,000 in Business and $337.29 in charges 

These same one-way flights on the exact date are $4989 in Business and $1029 in Coach.  If purchasing round-trip the flights were $5067 in Business and $1649 in Coach. While neither the HKG or NRT option are the best use of your points, they do present a significant savings if you were to outright purchase a business class fare. As stated in the short-haul post, it’s also important to set a value for the BA Avios points you’ve received. One should keep in mind that essentially only a $95 annual fee was paid for the 100,000 Avios points.

Now, it seems that almost all of the emails I received want to know better ways to redeem their points to Europe for a summer holiday.  Take a look back in the short-haul post for the Aer Lingus redemption options, which are by far the best value for your Avios points when redeeming for Europe, thanks to One Mile at a Time for the info.  However, let’s see just how bad the BA redemptions are…

BOS – VCE (Venice, Italy) flying on BA or Iberia -> 55,000 each way in business + $439.48 or 27,500 each way in Coach and $290.67 in charges

These same ROUND-TRIP flights on the exact same mid summer dates are $3780 in Business and $1366 in Coach.  At the one way prices above, you’d be using your miles AND paying $878.96 in Business and $581.34 for Coach.  A savings of $2901.04 in Business but only $784.66 in Coach.  At these levels I’d definitely advise against coach, however business is not a horrible deal.  Yes, you are spending $878 for a ticket but the same ticket would cost almost $4000 on these dates.  For those of you really wanting to fly business to Europe this summer, it’s not a horrible value. Keep in mind the value proposition changes based on the city you are flying into.  Venice is one of the most popular tourist destinations.  Let’s take a look at Rome…

JFK  – FCO (Rome, Italy) flying on BA or Iberia-> 55,000 each way in business + $456.40 or 27,500 each way in Coach and $301.40 in charges

These same ROUND-TRIP flights on the exact same mid summer dates are $2841 in Business and $1359 in Coach.  At the one way prices above, you’d be using your miles AND paying $912.80 in Business and $602.80 for Coach.  A savings of $1928.20 in Business but only $756.20 in Coach.  At these levels I’d probably forgo both options, however similar to what I mentioned above, for those set on flying business to Europe this summer it isn’t horrible.  You will be paying $912.80 for a business class round-trip ticket to Europe during the prime tourist season.  Again, if you accumulated these points by signing up for the BA card, you’ve only spent $95 out of pocket.

To conclude, I’ll continue to use my Avios points for the short hops to the Caribbean and Hawaii as well as to South America (and potentially Asia).  However, when redeeming for business tickets on select routes, you can certainly make a European trip this summer work for you.

Does anyone have any other enticing long-haul options using Avios?

Posted by Adam | 19 Comments

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