Overall Rating (4.0/5.0)
Regardless of whether you are traveling long-haul or on a short hop within Asian, JAL Japan Airlines is a great option to do so.
I wouldn’t go out of my way – i.e. pay a considerable premium – to fly with the airline in economy or premium economy class. That said, on many flights, its business and first class is considerably better than that of its competitors.
Seat Comfort (4.5/5.0)
JAL’s economy and premium economy class seats are generally comparable with those of its competitors. However, it’s worth noting that on its 777-300ERs and 787s, JAL opted for “3-3-3” and “2-4-2.” Those feature one less seat per row than most other airlines do on the same types and thus the seats are noticeably wider.
On most international business class flights, JAL operates aircraft with reverse herringbone seats that might feel a little tight as their screen cannot be stowed. Its 777-300ERs and some of its 787 feature the excellent Apex Suites. The airline’s international first class uses open suites that allow for face-to-face dining.
The one thing worth noting about domestic flights is that JAL offers upgrades to Class J (similar to US domestic first class) seats for about $10. Some of its aircraft are also equipped with proper domestic first class.
Food & Beverage (4.0/5.0)
On international flights, JAL offers proper meals even in short-haul economy class (such as on flights between Japan and Korea or China).
While I believe the airline could improve its meal service on medium-haul business class flights, passengers who used JAL on long-haul business and first class flights generally liked the airline’s catering.
In domestic economy class and Class J, JAL only offers a selection of cold and hot drinks. In domestic first class, the airline serves proper meals.
IFE & Wi-Fi (3.5/5.0)
Depending on the aircraft type, you can find various generations of JAL’s MAGIC in-flight entertainment system onboard. There are slight differences between them but overall, I found the systemto be a bit sluggish and unresponsive. The content selection is fairly limited – especially for a non-Japanese – as well.
JAL offers paid in-flight wi-fi on most international flights and free in-flight wi-fi on domestic flights. While the latter works fine, when I tried the paid one on an international flight, it was almost unusably slow.
Ground Experience (4.0/5.0)
JAL’s domestic lounges are comparable with those of its competitors in Japan and they are available at many of the airports it operates out of. That said, no free food (other than some light packaged snacks) – unlike in the domestic lounges of some foreign airlines – is offered.
On the other hand, JAL’s international business class lounges are comfortable and offer a decent selection of refreshments. And, its first class lounges are – reportedly – excellent.
If you don’t have lounge access and happen to be flying through one of the airline’s hubs – Tokyo Haneda or Narita – you have nothing to be worried about either. Both of the airports offer smooth transfer and plenty of facilities to keep you busy while waiting for your connecting flight.
About JAL Japan Airlines
JAL Japan Airlines is, together with ANA All Nippon Airways, one of the two major Japanese airlines. It’s a member of the oneworld airline alliance, and it operates an extensive route of domestic flights within Japan as well as international flights connecting Japan – mainly Tokyo – with other cities in Asia and elsewhere around the world.
The airline operates a fleet of more than 150 aircraft with Boeing 737-800 being the most common narrow body and 767-300ER being the most common wide body type in its fleet. JAL also operates a considerable number of 787s.
JAL also operates a mileage program – Mileage Bank – for its customers. And, it runs lounges at many airports around Japan, as well as several airports in other countries – including Thailand, Germany, and the United States – for use by its first and business class and elite passengers.
JAL Japan Airlines Group Flight Reviews
Besides flights on JAL itself, I flew also with some of its subsidiaries including RAC Ryukyu Air Commuter – an airline operating flights within Okinawa. Listed below are reviews of some of those flights.
JAL Boeing 737-800 Domestic Economy Class (Tokyo – Nagoya)
Even though traveling between Tokyo and Nagoya is often more convenient using the bullet train, flying is oftentimes cheaper. JAL operates two flights a day between Haneda and Centrair airports using Boeing 737-800 aircraft. Some of the flights – including the one I took and reviewed – are operated with aircraft in international rather than domestic cabin configuration. Unfortunately, that means that free onboard wi-fi is not available.
On the other hand, if you are flying in Class J – the domestic business class product – you might be able to enjoy a slightly spacier “2-2” international business class configuration rather than the “2-3” Class J configuration the 737-800s usually come in.
JAL Boeing 737-800 International Business Class (Busan – Tokyo)
Besides domestic flights, JAL also operates a fleet of 737-800s on international flights connecting Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya with other Asian cities. I had a chance to try the aircraft in business class on a fairly short hop from Busan in South Korea to Tokyo Narita.
The aircraft was equipped with fairly comfortable recliner seats, and the crew was friendly. While the meal was – understandably given the length of the flight – served on a single tray, it was tasty and filling.
JAL Boeing 767-300ER International Business Class (Jakarta – Tokyo)
One of the aircraft types that can often be found on JAL’s regional flights is the Boeing 767-300ER. The airline operates the type in three different configurations featuring three different types of business class seats.
My flight from Jakarta to Tokyo was operated using one with staggered lie-flat seats, supposedly the most comfortable of the three configurations. Even then, though, given the fairly narrow 767 fuselage, the seat wasn’t as comfortable as some other staggered seats out there.
JAL Boeing 767-300ER International Economy Class (Tokyo – Seoul)
Most airlines, rather than connecting Tokyo Haneda airport with the larger Seoul Incheon airport, fly to the more convenient Gimpo airport. That’s the case with the numerous daily flights JAL operates between the two cities as well.
My flight on the 767-300ER in economy class was quite comfortable. And, while the in-flight entertainment system wasn’t worth using in my opinion, that was not a big deal given that it was just a 2-hour long flight. I have to give JAL credit for the meal though which was excellent – especially considering how short the flight was.
JAL Boeing 777-300ER Class J (Tokyo – Sapporo)
JAL offers three classes of service on domestic flights – economy class, Class J, and first class. While I didn’t have a chance to fly its domestic first class yet, I flew Class J a couple of times. One of those was on a flight from Tokyo to Sapporo.
Unlike first class which gets significantly improved service, Class J is essentially economy class with a larger seat. The only difference in service is an extra soft drink type on the drink menu. Nonetheless, given that it costs just 1,000 yen (less than 10 dollars) to upgrade from economy class to Class J, it is well worth the cost – especially on the longer flights from Tokyo to Sapporo, Fukuoka, Okinawa, and so on.
JAL Boeing 787-8 Apex Suite Business Class (Tokyo – Delhi)
While Japan Airlines operates 787s with a couple of different types of business class seats, by far my favorite ones are those equipped with the Apex Suites – a fairly uncommon but very comfortable product. I had a chance to fly one of those on a quite long flight from Tokyo to Delhi.
My window seat was comfortable both for working as it offered a lot of privacy, as well as for sleeping as it offered a full-length bed without a tiny foot cubby to put my feet in. That said, I would not rank the seat as highly if I wasn’t able to get one by the window since the aisle seats offer much less privacy.
JTA Boeing 737-400 Economy Class (Osaka – Naha)
JTA, or Japan TransOcean Air, is a subsidiary of JAL that focuses on connecting the islands of Okinawa with the rest of Japan. Currently, it operates a fleet of Boeing 737-800s prior to which it operated 737-400s. While I haven’t flown on its new aircraft type yet, I flew on the “-400” before.
The service that JTA offers onboard is more or less the same as the service that can be experienced on regular JAL domestic flights. The drinks are the same and the cabin crew wears the same uniform. JTA even offers Class J just like JAL does.
RAC Bombardier Q400CC Economy Class (Naha – Kumejima)
RAC, or Ryukyu Air Commuter, is a subsidiary of JAL that operates flights within the islands of Okinawa. While in the past it used Dash 8-100s and -300s, currently, it operates a single-type fleet of five Bombardier Q400CCs. In fact, it was the launch customer of the type.
I had a chance to be on the inaugural flight which took me from Naha to Kumejima (and then back after a 20-minute turnaround). Given that it was a very short flight, there was not much in terms of service, however, the crew was very friendly and the flight – especially the views – were enjoyable.
JAL Japan Airlines Airport Lounge Reviews
JAL operates both First Class and Sakura (Business Class) Lounges at its main international hubs – Tokyo Haneda and Narita airports. It also operates international Sakura Lounges at Nagoya Centrair and Osaka Kansai airports.
Besides the above, the airline offers its domestic passengers access to lounges at airports throughout Japan. And, it offers Sakura Lounges at five of its international destinations. In Frankfurt, it even offers a First Class Lounge.
Below are reviews of the JAL lounges that I had the chance to visit to date.
JAL Sakura Lounge Kagoshima
JAL has significant presence at Kagoshima airport in Kyushu at the south of Japan, mostly thanks to the fact that one of its subsidiaries – JAC (Japan Air Commuter) is based there. Because of that, the airline operates a small, recently refurbished lounge in the airport’s domestic terminal.
While, just like other JAL’s (and ANA’s for that matter) domestic business class lounges, the refreshments offered in the lounge are quite limited, the lounge still provided a comfortable and quiet place to get some work done.
JAL Sakura Lounge Osaka Kansai Airport (International)
Osaka Kansai is one of the four airports in Japan where JAL operates its international Sakura Lounges. The lounge offers a variety of different seating options – including even massage chairs – and a buffet spread that easily rivals those at its Haneda and Narita lounges since it includes some local food.
With all the above said, though, depending on the time of the day, the JAL Sakura Lounge at Kansai airport can get fairly crowded, and so, you might be better off relaxing in the nice and airy terminal itself.
JAL Sakura Lounge Sapporo New Chitose
Being the main airport on the island of Hokkaido, Sapporo New Chitose gets a large number of daily flights by Japan Airlines – both from Tokyo, as well as from many other cities all over Japan. To provide comfort to its premium class and elite passengers departing from the airport, JAL runs a fairly small Sakura Lounge there.
The lounge offers all the facilities one would expect from a domestic lounge in Japan – plenty of seating, power outlets, and even phone booths where visitors can make calls without disturbing their fellow passengers. The only downside of the lounge is the almost non-existent selection of things to eat – but that is the case with all domestic lounges (except for the first class ones) in Japan.
JAL Sakura Lounge Tokyo Haneda (Domestic)
At Tokyo Haneda airport, its domestic (and now international) hub, JAL operates three lounges – two in Terminal 1 where all its domestic flights depart from, and one in the International Terminal.
While I had a chance to visit both the “North” and “South” lounges in the domestic terminal, I only reviewed one of them given that they are largely the same. They feature plenty of seats in a variety of styles, as well as a decent selection of soft drinks and some alcohol. Like with other domestic lounges, though, there are almost no things to eat other than some packaged snacks.
JAL Sakura Lounge Tokyo Haneda (International)
Currently, Haneda airport is – as mentioned above – not only JAL’s main domestic hub, but also its international hub. The airline operates flights to other cities in Asia, as well as to Europe and the United States from there, and so it runs a fairly large JAL Sakura Lounge in the airport’s international terminal.
The lounge offers plenty of seating spread across two floors – with the upper floor serving as a dining area – as well as other facilities. The buffet spread at the lounge is decent, and offers JAL’s signature dish – curry – just like the airline’s other international lounges do.
JAL Sakura Lounge Tokyo Narita (International)
Until Haneda airport opened for international flights, Narita airport was the main hub for JAL’s international flights. In fact, even today, JAL has a significant presence at the airport with flights to destinations around the world. And so, the airline operates a pair of Sakura Lounges at Narita – one in the main part of terminal 2 and another one in its satellite building.
I had a chance to visit the one in the main terminal on numerous occasions. Just like the international JAL Sakura Lounge at Haneda airport, the Narita one is spread across two floors with the upper floor being reserved for dining. The two lounges are also very similar in terms of the seating options and buffet spread.
Frequently Asked Questions
While the reviews above should give you a good idea about what it is like to fly with JAL, I am sure you are still left with some questions. Below, I try to answer some of the more commonly asked ones.
Does JAL offer in-flight wi-fi?
Yes, the airline offers in-flight wi-fi on most of its domestic and international flights. It’s free on domestic flights. On international flights, JAL offers the following packages: one hour for $10.15, three hours for $14.40, and entire flight for $18.80.
Can JAL flights be booked using miles?
Yes, you can use miles of its Mileage Bank program as well as miles of its partners to book JAL flights. Its partners include, among others, oneworld airlines and Alaska Airlines.
How do I book a flight with JAL?
You can use all of the major flight search engines like Google Flights, Skyscanner, Expedia, and so on to find cheap JAL flights. You can, of course, also book flights with the airline directly on its website.
Does JAL offer discounted domestic flights for foreigners?
Yes, as long as you reside in a foreign country and are flying internationally into and from Japan before and after using your ticket. You can learn more about these flights which are sold as the Japan Explorer Pass here.
Is JAL a safe airline?
Yes, it is. While JAL has been in the news recently for one of their pilot being arrested in London for trying to fly drunk, the airline has been implementing procedures to avoid that kind of issues going forwards. It also had no major fatal accident since 1985.
Is JAL better than ANA?
Both JAL and ANA are very good airlines. That said, on medium-haul business class flights, I prefer ANA. On domestic and short-haul flights, as well as in long-haul business and first class, they are fairly comparable.
JAL Official Website: Visit this website to book JAL flights, create a JAL Mileage Bank account, and so on.
Expedia: Visit this website to find the cheap flights on JAL as well as other airlines for your trip.
SeatGuru: Visit this website to find what the best seats on different aircraft types operated by JAL are.
Where to Credit: Visit this website to learn about which programs you can credit the miles for your JAL flights to, and what the accrual rate is for each of the booking class and program combinations.
Wikipedia: Visit this website to learn about JAL’s history, fleet, and so on.