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My general philosophy when it comes to award redemptions is that if I can accrue enough miles for a business class ticket, then I can also afford two economy class tickets and share the trip with someone. While the Japan Airlines business class ticket was quite tempting, I stuck with my philosophy and went for the sharing route. Plus, I’ll be honest, I don’t want to get my expectations too high as I value award flight frequency over award flight quality.
- Introduction and Trip Planning
- Japan Airlines Economy From ORD to NRT
- Westin Miyako Kyoto
- Exploring Kyoto
- Day trips from Kyoto
- Park Hyatt Tokyo – Part I
- Park Hyatt Tokyo – Part II
- Exploring Tokyo
- Final Thoughts
Japan Airlines by Comparison
I am not big on taking photos of my seat or the food while I am flying coach. I fly ‘steerage’ by choice so there is not too much to see anyway. Instead, I will rank my experience on Japan Airlines against my most recent long haul flights. In 2011, I went on 6 Long Haul flights which I define as an 8+ hour non-stop flight. As comparison to those flights, this is how my flights to and from Tokyo on Japan Airlines stacks up.
- Cathay Pacific ORD to HKG
- Cathay Pacific HKG to ORD
- South African Airways IAD to JNB
- Japan Airlines ORD to NRT
- Japan Airlines NRT to ORD
- South African Airways JNB to LHR
- United Airlines LHR to IAD
- American Airlines HNL to ORD
The flight itself was completely uneventful. There was enough entertainment to keep me busy and the food was more than tolerable. The flight reminded me a lot of what I’ve seen on Cathay Pacific with the standout negative being the seat comfort. At 6’1”, the seat would have given me enough space to stretch out except the entertainment console underneath the seat made it very uncomfortable for someone of my height. I would argue I’ve had an easier time stretching out to sleep on a Southwest Flight!
- Great entertainment system and movie selection (only surpassed by Cathay Pacific’s)
- Good selection of Martinis
- Prompt and respectful service
- Cool overhead camera running during taxi, takeoff and landing
- Entertainment console underneath seat made it very uncomfortable for my height
- 3x3x3 seat arrangements not as enjoyable traveling as a pair
- No amenity kit handed out for economy class
- Additional ‘Premium Economy Class’ not redeemable on AA miles/ no complimentary upgrades with OW status
The Bottom Line
I would fly Japan Airlines again in a heartbeat. It surely beats what I’ve seen on the U.S.-based carriers on international flights but lags the 5 star airlines like Cathay Pacific. As a disclaimer, I don’t derive the same enjoyment from an upgraded seat as I do an upgraded hotel room. Generally the sheer excitement of my next destination is enough to make me put up with the most uncomfortable of flights. Even on the longest of flights, I will continue my policy of two economy tickets are better than one business class.
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