The next stop on my 11-day trip around the world was Jakarta, so naturally, as an avgeek, I chose to route through Tokyo instead of flying direct in order to sample two of Japan Airlines premium products – The Skysuite business class on the Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner from Delhi to Tokyo and the first class Skysuite on the Boeing 777-300 from Tokyo to Jakarta. I’m glad I booked when I did, as Japan Airlines has recently removed first class from their Tokyo to Jakarta route. These two segments cost only 30,000 Alaska miles plus minimal taxes and fees, which is a heck of a sweet spot!
I checked out of the JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity shortly after 4:00pm, thanks to my Gold Elite status with Marriott Rewards. The late checkout was fantastic, though I was still going to be roughly 4 hours early for my flight to Tokyo. I had read underwhelming reviews of the contract lounge at DEL for Japan Airlines passengers, and I really wasn’t looking forward to the evening, especially since I had barely slept the night before. Luckily for me, I had the best driver in the world, who asked if I would like to ‘detour’ en-route to the airport and check out some of Delhi. Hmmm, let me think…. a private chauffeured Mercedes Benz S-Class tour of Delhi? Sure!
The tour took a couple of hours, which included the Qutb Complex – a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as some local shops.
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The gesture from the hotel employee was greatly appreciated and I made sure to follow-up with hotel management to offer some praise. This was my first stay at a JW Marriott and certainly won’t be my last. The driver dropped me off at approximately 6:30pm and I proceeded to the Japan Airlines check-in counter, where there was nobody waiting for business class. The agent was friendly enough, but maybe new to the job. When I asked her about my boarding pass from Tokyo to Jakarta she insisted I would pick it up in Japan, which didn’t seem right. As I was walking away her supervisor followed and handed me the boarding pass I had asked about. Apparently it had printed but she just didn’t see it….
Security and immigration was chaotic, as I find is the norm in India. The security officers aren’t very friendly and don’t seem to mind people cutting in line. Regardless, I was through in about 20 minutes and had a chance to get a drink in the Plaza Premium Lounge prior to departure, which was nice enough but certainly no frills, and very crowded.
Japan Airlines 740
New Delhi (DEL) – Tokyo (NRT)
Tuesday, January, 31
Arrive: 6:55am (+1 day)
Aircraft: Boeing 787-900 Dreamliner
Seat: 8A (Business Class)
I was really excited for this flight initially when I booked, but by the time we boarded I desperately just wanted to sleep. My crazy itinerary was starting to catch up to me, and although the business class cabin was perfectly nice and felt very new, it was no Cathay Pacific First Class, and I really just wanted to sleep. The cabin is configured in a 2-2-2 layout with a total of 44 fully-flat seats, each with direct aisle access.
I had selected seat 8a, which was a window seat in the rear business cabin. The flight was nearly full and boarding seemed somewhat disorganized. The layout of the cabin is quite unique with every seat having direct aisle access. Essentially there is a small pathway between the window seat and aisle ahead of the slightly staggered neighbouring seat. While the easy access is nice, larger people should be cautioned that the path is narrow, and the window seat feels a bit on the tight side. The seats are separated by an electronically controlled partition, which must be down during taxi, takeoff, and landing. Even with the partition down I found the seats to be quite private, given they are slightly staggered.
Waiting at my seat were headphones, a blanket, and some slippers. I was surprised and disappointed that no amenity kit or pyjamas were offered on an overnight flight, especially since I had spent the afternoon exploring the city and would have appreciated those little extras. Apart from being introduced to some of the flight crew, there was absolutely no service on the ground. No welcome beverage, snack, offer to hang jacket, etc, which I found odd. There did seem to be a very important person in the front business cabin who was drawing a lot of attention, though I didn’t recognize him. I took the opportunity to explore a little more of the seat uninterrupted.
Seat controls were very intuitive and easy to use. The seat had generous lumbar support and could be converted into a fully-flat bed. The panel also had controls for the privacy partition and reading light.
The in-flight entertainment screen was very large for business class and had a great resolution. The remote was located just next to the privacy partition and very responsive, unlike some dated equipment on other carriers. I browsed the selection of movies and television shows, which were good, but not best. There seemed to be a lot more international options with many of the Hollywood selection repeated from all of my previous flights. The quality of the headphones provided were not great, and didn’t fit especially well. I did like the placement of the headphone jack beside the seat, which some airlines just can’t seem to get right.
I eventually just settled on the moving map, knowing I would be sleeping not long after meal service.
Seat storage is very limited with this configuration, with the window seats having even less than aisle seats. There was actually no storage to speak of, save for a small pocket for literature, which was taken up by the safety card, in-flight magazine, etc. While there is a space under the foot rest to store bags, they must be stowed in the overhead compartment for taxi, takeoff, and landing.
We pushed back on time at 8:30pm and slowly made our way to the runway for departure. I don’t know if I’ve just had bad luck with gate location, but I find the taxi at Delhi to be painfully long. About 15 minutes after takeoff the captain turned off the seatbelt sign, at which point there was a mad rush to the lavatory by about half a dozen passengers. It seems some people were offered a pre-departure beverage…
I waited for the rush, and decided to check-out the bathroom myself, since I wasn’t sure there was going to be a meal service at this point. It had been about an hour since I boarded and I still hadn’t been offered anything to drink. The bathroom was on the small side but spotlessly clean. It was obvious the flight crew were servicing them after each use, which seems the norm on Japanese carriers. Amenities were sparse but functional.
My absolute favourite part of the flight was the built in bidet. I just love Japanese bathroom culture!
I returned to my seat where a flight attendant was waiting with a hanger. I didn’t have anything to hang, so she left it for later if I changed my mind. The crew on this flight didn’t have the strongest English skills, and I think something may have been lost in translation.
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She quickly returned with a menu and asked if I would like anything to drink. Uhmm yes please! It had been roughly 90 minutes since boarding, which is completely unacceptable in business class, and totally unexpected on an Asian carrier. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever waited so long for a drink, even on domestic economy. It took me awhile to find the tray table, which was stowed inside the wall between me and the neighbouring seat.
The design of the tray table was smart, as it could be flipped vertical if you needed to get out of your seat during dinner service. Similar to the aisle access, space was tight, and larger people may have a very difficult time getting around in a window seat.
The champagne was ice cold, and served with some bagged treats.
The menu was fairly simple, though I didn’t expect much more on an overnight flight. At this point we were nearly 2 hours into the flight and dinner service had just started. So much for sleep…
I went with the western option, which was very tasty. The appetizer was delicious, and the steak was well-cooked.
Meal service took about an hour, at which point we were about 4 hours outside of Tokyo. The service on this flight was really lacking, especially compared to Cathay Pacific business class, and I can’t understand why meal service would take so long when most people likely want to sleep. I decided I would attempt to get some sleep, as I was exhausted at this point. Thankfully the bed was very comfortable, and the light blanket was just enough to keep me comfortable. It should be noted that the cabin was extremely warm, which seems to be the norm on a lot of Asian carriers. I was too tired to care, but did wake up with a fair amount of sweat, which would have been better in pyjamas than my street clothes.
Before I fell asleep the flight attendent came around with a basket of Japanese trinkets, none of which looked especially useful. I chose a ‘moisture mask’ which I thought was some sort of face cream. It ended up being a surgical mask to keep your airways hydrated…
I woke up with about 50 minutes until landing, at which point the crew was going around offering last call for snacks. I was feeling quite gross, and the steak was still sitting heavy, so I opted for water instead. The views approaching Tokyo were fantastic with the sun rising over the coast.
We touched down at roughly 6:30am and made our short taxi to the gate. I was really happy for this flight to be over and was looking forward to some rest in the Japan Airlines first class lounge before my onward journey to Jakarta.
This flight was a real letdown. I found the service to be mediocre at best, which generally isn’t my experience with Japanese carriers. The food was ok, but it took way too long for an overnight flight which really impacted sleep time. On a positive note, the seat was very comfortable (and felt new) and was one of the most private business class seats I’ve flown (although larger people may find the window seat too tight and should opt for a true aisle seat).
Using Alaska miles for a flight on Japan Airlines is great value, as surcharges are minimal and mileage requirements are competitive. I’ve heard really good things about Japan Airlines business class and am willing to conclude this was an unusual experience, and would like to try them again before I write them off. Being my first time with the airline, I would be hesitant to fly them again based solely on this experience, though thankfully my first class flight from Tokyo to Jakarta later that morning was nothing short of phenomenal, which partially made up for this lacklustre flight.