Konnichiwa Japan Trip Report – Japan Airlines Economy Class from ORD to NRT

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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.

Trip Report

  1. Introduction and Trip Planning
  2. Japan Airlines Economy From ORD to NRT
  3. Westin Miyako Kyoto
  4. Exploring Kyoto
  5. Day trips from Kyoto
  6. Park Hyatt Tokyo – Part I
  7. Park Hyatt Tokyo – Part II
  8. Exploring Tokyo
  9. 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.

  1. Cathay Pacific ORD to HKG
  2. Cathay Pacific HKG to ORD
  3. South African Airways IAD to JNB
  4. Japan Airlines ORD to NRT
  5. Japan Airlines NRT to ORD
  6. South African Airways JNB to LHR
  7. United Airlines LHR to IAD
  8. 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.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or suggestions expressed on this site are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed.

About alex

Alex loves to travel and does so a lot. Logging 100,000 flight miles each year over the past 4 years, Alex uses points and miles to power his passion. Alex is continuously striving to experience the far reaches of the globe. In his day job, Alex is a Management Consultant frequently on the road advising Technology organizations. I love thinking about, reading about, and talking about all things travel. Feel free to reach me at pmmalex@gmail.com

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  1. Hooray! I like this attitude towards flying in coach – I feel the same way and I think so many of the points-bloggers have miles and miles and miles and can always fly in 1st/business that their trip reports from ‘up-front’ aren’t as interesting to me.

    As a tall lady (5’11”, but all in my legs!), I appreciate reviews of leg room in economy cabins.

    If I can save up enough miles to get to Japan, I’m sure my husband will insist on coming with me 🙂

  2. The very things that make Economy uncomfortable, such as entertainment consoles and 3×3 seating, are the very same things that keep me from getting any sleep on long hauls. No sleep equals a ruined first day of my vacation. I know many people can sleep in the back, but I can’t.

    Somehow I saved enough miles to take my family of 5 to SE Asia sitting in Business later this year, I glad to be able to do so.

  3. @Lindsay – Glad to have another on the Aggressive Earn, Frugal Burn team!

    @Mike – I most certainly understand your perspective. That’s an impressive collection. SE Asia continues to be a top travel target of mine. Enjoy your trip!

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