JAL First Class Routes, Seats, Service & Other Things to Know

Japan Airlines remains one of the few airlines to still offer a distinct international first class product. While JAL’s first class is not the best in the world (at least until the new A350-1000 flies to more destinations), it is still a solid product.

Continue reading to learn more about JAL first class including what routes it is offered on, which aircraft feature first class seats, and what the service is like. Keep in mind that this article focuses on international first class rather than domestic first class.

JAL First Class
JAL offers international first class mainly on flights to select US and European destinations.

International Routes with JAL First Class

Nowadays, JAL offers international first class exclusively out of Tokyo Haneda Airport. While first class is mostly available on long-haul flights to premium destinations in the United States and Europe, JAL also resumed intra-Asian first class service recently.

Currently, JAL international first class is available on flights to/from the following seven destinations out of Tokyo Haneda (all operated by the 777-300ER unless otherwise noted):

  • Bangkok Suvarnabhumi: One of two daily rotations (JL31/JL34)
  • Dallas Ft. Worth: Sole daily rotation (JL11/JL12); will switch to the A350-1000 every other day once JAL receives its third A350-1000 and daily once it receives its fourth
  • London Heathrow: One of two daily rotations (JL43/JL44)
  • Los Angeles: Sole daily rotation (JL16/JL15)
  • New York JFK: Both daily rotations (JL4/JL3 and JL6/JL5); JL6/JL5 currently operated by the A350-1000 every other day from January 24, 2024, and daily from February 2, 202
  • Paris Charles de Gaulle: Sole daily rotation (JL45/JL46)
  • San Francisco: Sole daily rotation (JL2/JL1)

Additionally, as reported by Executive Traveller, JAL will also start offering first class on its sole daily rotation from Tokyo Haneda to Sydney (JL51/JL52) from May 31, 2024.

JAL International First Class Network
JAL routes offering international first class. (Generated using Great Circle Mapper)

JAL Aircraft Equipped with First Class Seats

Until recently, the Boeing 777-300ER was the only aircraft type in JAL’s fleet featuring international first class. At the end of 2023, however, the first of JAL’s new flagship A350-1000 joined the airline’s fleet. As the A350-1000s will, over time, replace the 777-300ERs, they feature first class seats too.

On all the other aircraft (787-8s, 787-9s, 767-300ERs, and 737-800s) that JAL uses on international flights, business class is the highest class of service.

JAL 777-300ER
Most of JAL’s routes with first class are operated by the 777-300ER.

Boeing 777-300ER

Currently, JAL operates 13 777-300ERs (registered JA731J through JA743J). All of these are in the same configuration, featuring 244 seats including eight in first class, 49 in business class, 40 in premium economy class, and 147 in economy class. The first class cabin at the front of the aircraft consists of two rows in a 1-2-1 layout.

At this point, the first class seats used on JAL’s 777-300ERs are not exactly cutting edge and are starting to show their age. While the airline named them JAL SUITE, they do not feature doors (to be fair, the naming was done before doors on aircraft seats were commonplace).

That said, the seats are still very comfortable. They are large, turn into a comfortable bed, and despite lacking doors offer more than enough privacy.

JAL 777-300ER First Class Seat
The outdated but still excellent JAL 777-300ER first class seat.

Airbus A350-1000

At this point, JAL only has two A350-1000s in its fleet (JA01WJ and JA02WJ) but it has an additional 11 on order. Like the 777-300ERs, all of JAL’s A350-1000s will be in the same configuration. The JAL A350-1000s seat a total of 239 passengers including 6 in first class, 54 in business class, 24 in premium economy class, and 155 in economy class.

Given the 777 seat’s age, JAL decided to equip its A350-1000s with brand new seat types in all classes. In first class, the airline opted for a spacious 1-1-1 layout.

The new JAL first class seats are equipped with all the latest technology one would expect (wireless charging) and perhaps not expect (speakers built into the headrest and communication with flight attendants via a tablet). They also turn into a considerably larger bed than the 777 seat does (not that that bed wasn’t large enough). Last but not least, they feature doors.

JAL A350-1000 First Class Seat
JAL’s new international first class seat. (Credit: JAL)

JAL International First Class Service

When traveling in JAL international first class, you can expect great service throughout your journey – both on the ground and in the air. While JAL lacks some of the bells and whistles offered by the likes of Emirates first class, it still offers a solid product.

Below, I give you a brief overview of what you can expect. For a better idea, though, I recommend reading a detailed review of my JAL first class flight from Tokyo to New York.

Ground Service

At your departure airport, you can expect the usual perks like priority check-in, security (where available), and boarding.

Your checked baggage will also be handled with priority, appearing on the belt at your destination faster than economy class passengers’ baggage (how much or if at all faster will depend on how well the service gets executed which can vary greatly).

JAL First Class Check-in
First class passengers (and select frequent flyers) can use dedicated check-in counters.

Additionally, as per JAL’s lounge access policy, you will have access to (mostly first class) lounges at your departure airport.

If you are departing from Tokyo Haneda, you can use the JAL First Class Lounge. On flights to Haneda, JAL first class passengers are provided access to mostly other oneworld members’ lounges such as:

  • American Airlines/British Airways Soho Lounge at New York JFK Airport
  • American Airlines Flagship First Dining at San Francisco Airport (I reviewed the one at New York JFK here)
  • British Airways Galleries First Lounge at London Heathrow Airport
  • Qantas First Lounge at Los Angeles Airport

In Paris, JAL first class passengers can use the Air France Business Class Lounge while in Bangkok, the airline operates its own JAL Sakura Lounge.

JAL First Class Lounge Tokyo Haneda RED Suite
RED Suite – my favorite part of the JAL First Class Lounge at Haneda Airport due to being decorated with travel and aviation memorabilia.
American Airlines Flagship First Dining at JFK Bagel
Bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese in American Flagship First Dining.

Meals and Drinks

Unfortunately, full-on dine-on-demand is not available in JAL first class. Instead, the airline offers a choice of a Western and a Japanese course meal for the two main meals.

The one thing that I found unfortunate (although others might welcome it) was that rather than offering regular caviar service on flights out of Japan, the airline offers a more “creative” caviar dish. The quality of the food is great and the volume is more than sufficient.

JAL First Class Lunch Appetizer
Sea urchin appetizer served in lieu of caviar on my flight to New York.
JAL 777-300ER First Class Lunch
Steak for the main course.

If you find the volume of the main meals insufficient or get hungry during the flight, JAL also has an a la carte mid-flight dining menu. That menu consists of items ranging from a rice bowl all the way to lighter items like sandwiches.

JAL First Class Mid-Flight Meal
Mid-flight meal.

JAL also offers an extensive drink menu in first class. As a non-drinker, I appreciated that in addition to premium alcoholic drinks, JAL first class also has a premium non-alcoholic option – Queen of Blue ice tea, which the airline serves in wine glasses.

JAL First Class Queen of Blue Tea
Queen of Blue tea.

Other In-Flight Service

JAL first class passengers get complimentary wi-fi access throughout the flight (otherwise the wi-fi costs about 20 dollars). You will also be provided with a decent pair of noise-canceling headphones to use with the in-flight entertainment system. While the in-flight entertainment selection is not great (especially if you do not speak Japanese), it is better than it used to be.

Lastly, you will also get pajamas (I took them home and wear them to this day) and a well-stocked amenity kit.

JAL 777-300ER First Class Pajamas

JAL First vs. Business Class: How Do They Compare?

Unsurprisingly, JAL’s first class is considerably better than its business class in all aspects. JAL first class’s main benefits compared to its business class are:

  • Considerably larger seat: While JAL uses the excellent Apex Suites which do not have tight foot cubbies in business class on its 777-300ERs, the first class seats offer considerably more space and comfort. On the A350-1000s, the difference will be even more pronounced as business class leg space will be restricted in the new seat’s bed position.
  • Better lounge: On the ground in Tokyo and at some outstations, the lounge you will be invited to as a first class passenger will be considerably nicer than its business class counterpart. Unfortunately, JAL doesn’t offer things like airport transfers, private transfers to aircraft, etc. to its first class passengers.
  • Better in-flight service: While JAL’s business class meals are good, its first class meals are even better. The same applies to the drink menu. JAL first class amenity kits are also better stocked than business class ones (although the latter contain pretty much everything one would need even on the longest flights). Business class passengers do not get pajamas, though.
JAL Business Class Apex Suites
While not as spacious as the first class seats, JAL’s Apex Suites business class is still fantastic.


Currently, JAL offers international first class on flights to seven destinations in the United States, Europe, and Thailand. Additionally, it will add first class on flights to Sydney from the end of May 2024.

Two types in the airline’s fleet – 777-300ER and A350-1000 – are equipped with first class seats. JAL is currently in the (years-long) process of replacing the former with the latter. While the 777s feature fairly outdated open seats, the A350s will feature large suites with doors.

In terms of onboard service, JAL first class lacks dine-on-demand at this point. Still, its meals – and other in-flight and ground services – are competitive.

First published on 2024/01/25. Updated on 2024/01/29 with information about Sydney route.

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