While there are many ways airlines can differentiate their premium class – whether through the ground experience or in-flight experience – it is a bit more difficult to do so in the confined space of economy class, especially on shorter segments.
That said, I think some airlines manage to provide an unforgettable experience even in those cases – especially through expecting the customers’ needs and adding a “human touch.”
From the tens of airlines I have flown to date, I can’t recall any of them managing to do it as well as the Japanese carriers.
…and I am not saying that just because I am half Japanese.
Below, I take a look at four examples of how – with seemingly simple “hacks” – Japanese airlines made my travel more convenient and more unforgettable. Even on 90 minute domestic flights, even without a flat-bed seat and a five-course meal…
Example #1: ‘Senobi” Packaging
When going to Sapporo back in January for some spotting, I had a foldable step (“senobi” in Japanese) with me. I was thinking of just taking it onboard with me as I didn’t have anything to put it in.
At check-in, the agent asked me if I would like to check it in. When I said that unfortunately I didn’t have anything to put it in, she offered to package it.
Great, I thought.
But what I think was an even nicer touch on top of the already excellent service was that rather than making me wait until she packaged it, she just printed the luggage tag first, gave me the receipt, and sent me off to the gate, wishing me a good trip.
When I arrived at Sapporo, the “senobi” arrived on the baggage carousel as pictured above…
Example #2: Spill-Proof Drinks
Another example of Japanese airlines going one step beyond what would normally be expected is when serving drinks.
When serving drinks to children, they provide them with straws and cup covers so that they do not spill them.
What I find even more thoughtful than that, though, is that they offer those covers and straws to people using laptops as well.
So on a Japanese airline you do not have to worry about your drink getting spilt on your laptop if an unexpected turbulence comes…
Example #3: An “On-Demand” Meal Service in Economy
While the above two examples are from domestic flights, this one is from a medium-haul redeye flight from Bangkok to Tokyo with Japan Airlines.
I wrote the whole story in the To Eat or Not to Eat: The Five-Hour Redeye Meal Dilemma article. But just to give you a quick version of it…
I fell asleep right after take-off.
Rather than waking me or leaving me asleep, or having me choose one of them through a “Do Not Disturb” sticker, JAL took a different approach.
They did not wake me up. That did not mean I missed the meal, though.
Instead, I found a sticker saying “as you were sleeping, you missed the meal service. If you need anything, please do not hesitate to let the crew know” on my seat.
What is more, before I even had a chance to press the “call” button, the flight attendant noticed I woke up, and approached me if I wanted to have the meal that I missed.
Example #4: More Than Just Log Book Entries
While this one is more “avgeeky” than the above three, it still shows how much effort Japanese cabin crews are willing to put in not only getting a customer from point A to point B, but in making sure the customer feels welcome and “understood.”
All I will say here is that Japanese log book entries can be crazy!
Not only do the Japanese crews write long pieces of texts and even draw in your log book.
They also often give out memorabilia – post cards, stickers, and so on.
…even hand-stuffed candy bags like the one on the picture which I got on Solaseed Air last year!
As you can see above, Japanese airlines and their crews really go beyond what one could experience in most cases in other parts of the world.
That is not to say that there are no other great airlines or great crews out there. But the consistency with which I experienced this kind of “nice touches” has been the highest with Japanese airlines.
Have you had similar experiences with Japanese airlines?
Have you experienced similar things with non-Japanese airlines? If so, what airline was it and what kind of “nice touch” did you experience?