Japan Airlines Business Class SKY SUITE Review (777-300) San Francisco (SFO) to Tokyo (HND) and SFO Centurion, Sakura and Air France-KLM Lounge Reviews
While I have been on Japan Airlines a number of times (e.g. in economy from Tokyo to San Francisco), it has been a long time since I have flown them in business class. This changed last week with my flight from San Francisco to Tokyo (Haneda) in business class on the SKY SUITE product.
Japan Airlines departs from the ‘right’ section of the San Francisco International Terminal. We arrived plenty early and check-in wasn’t yet open. Luckily, I was able to get online boarding passes (Japan Airlines does not participate in TSA Pre) and we made our way to United security, toward the SFO American Express Centurion Lounge. After several dishes of a healthy and delicious lunch and a glass of rosé, we felt properly prepared for Japan Airlines.
As it is, you will need to exit security and line up on the other side again and this was an extra busy Sunday for SFO Airport. Thankfully the Priority lane wasn’t as crowded but my protein powder would get much scrutiny.
Japan Airlines has its own lounge – the Sakura Lounge at San Francisco Airport.
Most of the airline lounges in that wing of the airport aren’t worth your time – including this lounge, which has rather miserable snacks and just a few drinks.
I’ve said it before – most airlines would be better off giving passengers a $30 voucher for the airport restaurants (there is a yummy sushi restaurant on that side) and close down these ugly lounges.
We vacated to the Air France-KLM Lounge, which often has a good spread in the evening but on this day, the late lunch buffet was pretty miserable too.
As you’d expect with Japan Airlines, boarding would be on time and quick, as it seemed everyone was rushing to get into a departing subway. Boarding started 30 minutes before take-off and was done in less than 15 minutes for a whole 777 filled to the brim.
Japan Airlines uses a 777-300 for this flight, with big Oneworld branding; it is a different aircraft from the 777-300ER that is usually used for the route but seemingly has the same interior in a four-class configuration. Economy and premium economy were full to the last seat and there were just a few seats left in business and first.
Given the boarding speed, I found it tricky to photograph enough empty seats but you can still see the rather quirky cabin layout. It is similar to the business class on Etihad but the seats are wider and the walkways even smaller. I consider myself rather athletic but getting to your seat isn’t easy, especially once you make it a bed later on in the flight. It requires superior coordination (definitely not one of my life skills).
Hot towels and pre-departure drinks came through quickly and I wasn’t sure whether I’d like my seat or not. It was somewhat private but felt cramped and not functional at first. The screen was enormous (think Singapore Airlines First Class seats) and the entertainment system could only be used via a flunky remote that just never wanted to do what I wanted.
After a long taxi wait, we took off into the strong winds that day. Our pilot seemed to like the take-off, with maximum speed and angle of attack. It felt like we were going to space for a while!
We eventually leveled off and headed straight for the Aleutian Islands in the Bering Sea.
Food service started quickly and the flight attendants impressed me with friendliness (not a surprise!) but also with good English skills (that was a surprise). They seemed efficient, friendly and ready to smile – a great combination!
I opted for the Japanese meal and although I was the last person in the business class cabin to be asked, it was still available!
The appetizer and main course seemed very similar to me but both were finger-licking delicious – some of the best airplane food ever.
I even thought the miso soup was perfectly flavored. I did not like the dessert much but it wasn’t really necessary after this feast.
I also tried the Riesling wine, which was equally delicious.
After lunch, I tried out the entertainment system and the fiddly remote kept annoying me. Yes, it is possible to select a movie but it is hard work and it shouldn’t be.
There were a number of recent movies and a decent selection of older movies available but the TV selection wasn’t exhaustive. I always feel that once you install these big screen entertainment systems, why not add a few more hard drives for more streaming access? Is content that expensive?
There is satellite-based WiFi on these 777 (strangely not available over Alaska though) but it seemed too expensive and I wasn’t in the mood for serious work. There are USB and power outlets to charge your devices.
After the first movie, I had the flight attendant make my bed and while I still had trouble getting into my suite, I started to really like the feel of it once I was in it.
The bed only gets small mattress-like padding but the seat goes fully flat and forms an excellent, very wide bed.
Once the privacy screen was rolled up, this felt like a proper first class bed even though it wasn’t!
The headphones weren’t ideal but they worked to watch the movies. After the initial lunch service, you can order from the on-demand menu or even the second dinner menu. That is just what I did – I ordered more of that yummy fish I’d had earlier and it was equally good.
It was now almost midnight and on this flight without turbulence, I fell asleep right away until we were readying for our descent into Tokyo Haneda.
We had a very long taxiing and it took a while to get our gate to work but we still got in on time.
In sum, this was a lovely flight! I was positively surprised by the comfort of the suite once it was all set to go. The flight attendants were stellar and the food was impressive. The huge display drove home the theme of a movie theater on a plane.
However, the fiddly remote was a nuisance and the lounge was dreadful. I would not rate Japan Airlines as highly as Qatar but they can get there if they push harder.
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About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]
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