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REVIEW: JAL Business Class 787-9 Dreamliner: NRT (TOKYO) - SYD

KARRYON Founder Matt Leedham recently got to try out the award-winning Japan Airlines (JAL) Business Class ‘Sky Suite’ on a 787-9 Dreamliner night flight from Narita, Tokyo home to Sydney.

KARRYON Founder Matt Leedham recently got to try out the award-winning Japan Airlines (JAL) Business Class ‘Sky Suite’ on a 787-9 Dreamliner night flight from Narita, Tokyo home to Sydney.

Having not flown JAL for a few years, I’d heard a lot of great things about the evolving Japan Airlines and especially their ‘Sky Suite’ Business Class product on the Dreamliner 787-9 which was awarded Skytrax ‘Best Business Class Seat’ in 2013.

Here’s what I discovered.


Checking in and beyond


The Sakura Business Class Lounge

Whilst Narita Airport gets a lot less love these days than Haneda Airport due to its considerably closer proximity to the centre of Tokyo, it is still as efficient as ever and after a smooth check-in, I was quickly through immigration and on my way towards the quiet enclave of the Sakura (Business) Lounge.

The Sakura Lounge is a classy affair, split over two simple but stylish levels with a quiet zone on the lower level including sleep pods and a restaurant on the top floor.

The whole lounge is roomy, quiet and comfy, with buffet style dining options upstairs, two well stocked, self-serve bars and best of all – the legendary ‘automatic beer pourer machine’ which is an invention that most beer lovers could only dream (and drool) about.

It’s quite possibly the finest invention known to man.


The cabin and seat


Tastefully decorated and with LED mood lighting and dimmable windows, stepping onboard the JAL Dreamliner 787-9 (especially at night) gives you a warm welcome.

There are 44 Business Sky Suites on this aircraft in a 2-2-2 layout with all seats having aisle access and window seats that look especially private as they are in a staggered layout and appear to have even more room – plus of course – the oversized Dreamliner window view.

I was in an aisle seat (7D) at the front of the second cabin (not feeling envious at all of the people in window seats – honestly). The seat was comfortably padded and reclines to a fully flat 1.88-metre bed with a 23 inch LCD video screen (one of the largest in its class) and over 300 channels to tune out to.


There’s a privacy screen between all adjoining seats that can be raised but thankfully it was the flight attendant that popped it up for my adjacent flier and I. It’s always an awkward decision – who puts up the screen first? It’s a social dilemma that I was glad had been taken care of this time.

The seat also has a massage function, a USB port and a universal AC power point with a nifty tray table that swivels from the side which is a cool design, making it easy to get in or out when you’re still eating or working without having to move things around. Nice.

There’s also a decent sized shelf in front of the TV to put all your devices and stuff on which is handy and an ottoman underneath the screen to put your feet up. Everything is controlled by an in-seat touchpad which is nice and high in the seat – unlike on other aircraft that are lower and end up getting bumped by yours truly and switched on and off unnecessarily.

It’s the little things.


the In-seat touchpad

WI-FI is available on the flight if you need it (I didn’t) for a reasonable fee (US$14.40 for 3 hours or 24 hours for US$18.80 payable by credit card).

There was a Zero Halliburton amenity kit with all of the usual inclusions, a pair of Sony noise cancelling headphones (which were excellent), a pair of slippers and a cardigan to borrow not keep to sleep in.

There’s also an ‘airweave’ mattress you can put down to give you an extra layer of comfort when you decide it’s time to go to sleep. And it works a treat. Given my sector was a night flight I ended up getting about 4 hours of shut-eye and slept relatively well.


Food and Service


As expected, the crew were overly courteous and attentive throughout the flight, making sure my flight was a pleasant one from take-off to landing.

Call me anal, but I always like to press the call button a few times to test out the crew’s response time as part of my review and the service on this flight was prompt every time.

The seasonal ‘BEDD – Sky auberge by JAL’ dining menu was varied and interesting and there was a large selection of drinks on offer including a premium range of Australian, French, Californian and South African wine plus two types of sake and Japanese beers.


According to JAL, The last D of JAL BEDD, the name of their “flying restaurant that is enjoyed all over the world”, refers to the concepts of care-free dining with delicious foods and dream-like comfort.

After the crew had taken my order for dinner, the meal service got underway around 60 minutes later and after that, you could order from a smaller, ‘on-demand’ menu up until 90 minutes before landing.

There’s the easy choice of a Japanese or Western menu in Business Class with both consisting of a generous, four courses for grazing lovers.

I wasn’t feeling too adventurous so chose the Western menu which began with the tasty ‘Amuse Bouche’ (Don’t you just love that name?) consisting of Sesame Tofu with wasabi and smoky simmered egg & char siu Pork.

Next up was a little Hors-d’œuvre mouthful of ‘Brandade Mille-feuille’ which translates to a ‘Provençal dish consisting of salt cod mixed into a puree with olive oil and milk in puff pastry’.

Then the main event and a tasty Wagyu Beef Sirloin Steak with Green pepper Sauce. Always a tough one to pull off at high altitude but pull it off they did. My meal finished with a “Hojicha” tea pudding and some black tea.

Ramen Noodles for breakfast

Ramen Noodles for breakfast

There is no breakfast service on this flight and instead, you get to choose from the on-demand dining menu.

Whilst the menu is relatively substantial, it doesn’t really feature what you might call ‘traditional breakfast fare’ as we know it so I ended up choosing a juice, a steaming hot bowl of ramen noodles and a coffee from the ‘JAL cafe Lines’ selection by Yoshiaki Kawashima.

According to the menu, Kawashima is a world-famous coffee master who has “painstakingly selected” the brew. Hopefully, the selection process wasn’t too painful for Mr Kawashima. I appreciated his efforts anyway because the coffee was good and just what I needed at 0430am on a Sunday morning at 35,000 feet.


Summing up


Ultra polite, efficient service that’s uniquely Japanese and a quality Business Class product as you’d expect at this price tag. The suite is great and I absolutely love flying the Dreamliner for its ‘anti jetlag’ qualities in terms of increased cabin pressure and better airflow.


The details


Flight: JL771, Tokyo Narita (T2) – Sydney
Class: Business Class, Seat 7D
Aircraft: Dreamliner 787-9
Timing: 9.45 hours, departing 1855, arriving Sydney time (next day) 0640

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Have you flown with Japan Airlines (JAL) before? Share your thoughts below.