I recently had the wonderful honor of being a repeat flyer of Japan Airlines first class. And although I’ve flown in some spectacular first class seats like Emirates first class, Etihad first class, Korean Air first class, and Cathay Pacific first class, Japan Airlines has a special place in my heart because it was the first-ever international first class product I had ever flown.
Plus, Japan is one of my favorite countries in the world — after all, what better way to arrive in style than Japan Airlines first class? The only thing that might trump this Japan Airlines first class is snagging one of the best post pandemic first class flight deals by spending just 110,000 miles to fly first class with its competitor, ANA!
Japan Airlines (JL) 61
Los Angeles (LAX) – Tokyo-Narita (NRT)
Tuesday, Dec 3
Depart: 11:50 a.m.
Arrive: 4:45 p.m. (next day)
Duration: 11 hr 55 min
Aircraft: Boeing 777-300ER
Seat: 1A and 2A (window seats)
Miles Used: 80,000 American AAdvantage miles per person
Taxes & Fees Paid: $5.60 per person
Typical Retail Cost: $12,800-$14,300 per person
Typical Economy Cost: $407-$680 per person
Booking Japan Airlines First Class
This first class flight was the first long-haul flight on a grand itinerary to visit Japan for some rural country life excursions, the U.A.E., and the Maldives. Booking a trip involving Dubai and the Maldives is a great idea because you can experience exotic places and enjoy family-friendly vacations at the same time.
Typically, Japan Airlines will release a sparse amount of first class flight availability 11 months before departure and much more availability around 2 weeks before departure. It’s possible to plan far out in advance, but you’ll have better luck planning closer to departure. This isn’t that unusual — Lufthansa first class is pretty much unbookable using points unless it’s less than 2 weeks before departure!
Japan Airlines first class availability is also highly route-dependent. For example, the Chicago to Tokyo route will see first class seats released differently than New York-JFK to Tokyo. We flew out of Los Angeles, which is arguably the best U.S. airport for Oneworld departures, thanks to the abundance of spectacular first class lounges.
This entire trip was planned using points — I redeemed 80,000 American AAdvantage miles plus $5.60 in taxes and fees per person for this flight in first class, which is about as close to a free flight as you can get! This $10,000+ flight can be booked for less than a cup of coffee — we show all of our students how at The Points University.
Considering these tickets routinely sell for $12,800-$14,300 each, this was a phenomenal value using points. In fact, booking this same flight through Amex Travel would cost at least 10 times as many points! You’d have to redeem a whopping 837,000-935,000 Amex points per person just to book this one first class flight!
Are you a business owner racking up lots of points faster than you can spend them? Read this guide on the top tips to make sure you can fly first class using points from your business!
By following the mantras of travel hacking, we achieved 16-18 cents per mile in value on this first class ticket! For context, our Etihad business class flight hovered around 6-10 cents per mile and our $4,000 St. Regis New York suite floated around 5 cents per point in value.
Our first class flight was scheduled to depart 10 minutes before noon, so we headed to the airport at around 8 a.m.
Security was straightforward — because we were booked in first class, we proceeded directly to the appropriate check-in line. The entire security process took around 15 minutes from the curbside drop-off to our trek to the lounge.
Qantas First Class Lounge at Los Angeles International Airport
Japan Airlines is in the Oneworld alliance, which means that it shares privileges with many other airlines. And one of the perks of being in the alliance is you can access a slew of airport lounges, including the legendary Qantas First Class Lounge at LAX. And that’s exactly what we did.
The Qantas First Class Lounge at LAX is one of the most luxurious first class lounges out there, and certainly one of the best airport lounges in the U.S.
You can access this only if you’re a:
- Platinum One or Platinum frequent flyer with Qantas on a Qantas or Oneworld flight (1 guest on the same flight)
- Oneworld Emerald frequent flyer on a Oneworld flight (1 guest on the same flight)
- Qantas first class passenger (1 guest on the same flight)
- Oneworld international first class passenger (1 guest on the same flight)
We fell into bucket #4, Oneworld international first class passengers traveling on Japan Airlines.
Upon entering through the automatic glass doors, you’ll check in with the front desk and enter an atrium after presenting your boarding pass and passport.
After entering the lounge to the left, you’ll walk into a long, open space featuring armchairs, loungers, couches, and various types of seating within the lounge.
The most comfortable chairs are the velvet red lounge chairs with the matching ottoman, which are located along the large glass windows in the center of the lounge.
There are many other seating options dispersed throughout the lounge. However, because of how exclusive this lounge is, you’ll rarely see it even a quarter full.
One of the walls overlooks the security line for Tom Bradley International Airport, offering a perfect view for people-watching.
There are also several literature aisles dispersed throughout the space.
Once you walk further into the lounge, you’ll see a large dining room and bar.
The long bar offers tons of cocktails, espresso beverages, and is fully staffed.
There was also an espresso menu, featuring Australia’s incredible coffee company, Vittoria.
There are additional dining areas on the furthest end of the lounge, along with an open kitchen, where all the à la carte options are prepared.
The Qantas first class lounge is a cut above everybody else. Why? Instead of buffet-style dining, you’ll enjoy freshly prepared à la carte dining from a seasonal menu! In almost every sense, this dining experience is reminiscent of what you’d get at a fine dining restaurant in Los Angeles, with waitstaff, a full bar, and delicious eats.
We started with the croque monsieur with ham and Gruyère cheese. The sandwich was the perfect medley of crispness, richness from the cheese, and umami from the ham.
Then, we enjoyed an avocado toast, which was generously dolloped on seeded toast and adorned with crispy applewood bacon and infused with balsamic tomatoes.
We also ordered the light breakfast, which came with fluffy scrambled eggs, smooth smoked salmon, kale, parsley, and toast!
The food and beverage options were excellent here, and one of the main reasons why you come to the Qantas First Class Lounge at LAX is because of the level of quality and service you enjoy at the lounge.
We ended up globbing everything down, saving the rest of our stomachs, and exploring the rest of the lounge. Along one end of the lounge, there was also a self-serve coffee station, though it’s hard to imagine you’d want a drink prepared by a machine when you have a skilled barista at the bar!
There was also a printer and compact paper shredder next to the conference rooms.
Although we didn’t get a chance to make use of some of the facilities, there are shower suites with ASPAR amenities available to help you freshen up before or after a long flight.
After a relaxing couple of hours in the Qantas First Class lounge, it was time to board our flight. Thanks to this lounge, we were able to enjoy a gourmet breakfast, and most importantly, get away from the chaos and commotion of LAX.
We left the lounge just 5 minutes before our scheduling boarding time, and we essentially walked onto our flight as soon as we arrived to get gate.
The first class seat aboard Japan Airlines is a massive upgrade over its business class seat. On the 777-300ER, there are just 8 first class seats, compared to 49 business class seats.
With just 2 rows in a 1-2-1 configuration (1 window seat on each side and 2 middle seats per row), there’s a lot to love with these seats. The first class seats are oversized leather armchairs measuring an astounding 33 inches wide and 79 inches in pitch (legroom) and bed-mode. That’s long enough for someone 6’7″ to stretch out completely!
However, we couldn’t reserve the middle seats because of how last-minute we booked our trip.
These gigantic, open first class suites have plenty of storage. Next to the seat, there’s a storage compartment, which also houses the in-flight phone, which you can use to make phone calls!
There’s also a variety of seat controls to help you get in the most comfortable position possible.
Your in-flight monitor as well as a small mirror is located just next to the large storage compartment,
There are also charging ports just next to the in-flight television. The in-flight touchscreen television is 23 inches large, and there’s also an ottoman to rest your feet and also use as a buddy seat to dine with your companion!
The gigantic first class seats are long enough so that each window seat passenger can lay claim to 3 windows during the flight.
This first class seat is a phenomenal product, with so much room to relax that you won’t know what to do with all of it! While these seats aren’t enclosed with sliding doors like Etihad first class, the shell of the seat offers a decent bit of privacy.
Already awaiting at my seat was a set of Bose noise cancellation headphones, which are pretty much the best headphones you’ll see on an airline.
I was also given a light blanket, as well as a shoe bag with slippers and a shoe horn (not pictured).
Japan Airlines offers superb amenities in first class, and it’s no question that they offer some of the best of all the airlines in the world. The main amenity kit was Etro branded, an Italian luxury fashion brand.
The amenity kit was fully loaded with an eye mask, a moisture mask, a toothbrush, ear plugs, mouthwash, a comb, a pocket tissue bag, and Etro amenities.
The Etro amenities consisted of body lotion, lip balm, and perfume.
In addition to this, Japan Airlines offers a gender-specific amenity kit — for men, this is a Shiseido Men Skincare Essentials Kit containing a trio of cleansing foam, hydrating lotion, and total revitalizer.
I was surprised to see that Japan Airlines first class offers 2 sets of amenities, just like Emirates first class does with its luxury Byredo and Bvlgari amenities!
In-flight Wi-Fi is also complimentary via the in-flight voucher for all international flights in first class. Incredibly, this free Wi-Fi also has no caps on data!
Japan Airlines offers some of the best bedding in the business. First of all, you’ll change into your comfy pajamas (not pictured). Then, you’ll select your mattress pad (firm or soft). After that, the crew will make your bed with a duvet and 2 cozy pillows. Then, you can relax and enjoy your slumber in your own spacious bed aboard an airplane!
Food and Beverage
The food and beverage program at Japan Airlines has long been heralded as one of the best in the sky. Japan Airlines crafts its in-flight offerings so meticulously; you’ll truly feel like you’re savoring a multi-course arrangement of the freshest food out there!
First, we enjoyed a welcome glass of Champagne. And Japan Airlines spares no effort in making the first class experience special. Japan Airlines offers Salon Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil 2007 Champagne, which routinely sells for ~$500-$700 per bottle! This incredible Champagne is incredibly fresh with citrus notes, taking you on a remarkable sensory experience.
As we enjoyed our free-flow of Champagne, our purser offered us a welcome towel.
After completely settling into our seats, our delightful flight attendant presented a sophisticated leather binder containing the wine menu, the food menu, a duty-free card, as well as customs and immigration forms.
Japan Airlines refers to the food and beverage program as JAL BEDD SKY AUBERGE, which is simply the name of your exclusive restaurant in the sky.
There were 2 choices of Champagne, 3 choices of whisky, 4 choices of red wine, 4 choices of white wine, 2 choices of sake, 2 choices of shochu, and much more.
And here’s the food menu:
Japan Airlines offers so many courses in first class that they actually provide you with a diagram to help you keep track of what dishes are in front of you.
We started with our amuse bouche.
Then, we savored a splendid caviar course, complete with egg yolk mascarpone cheese cream, smoked sturgeon caviar, and potato blinis.
Then, I opted for the Japanese menu, which started with 5 courses:
- Steamed tofu and egg custard (bottom left)
- Red wine braised duck breast (left)
- Sweet-simmered chestnut paste fluke rolled with thin omelette (top)
- Radish and carrot in vinegar sauce with simmered abalone (right)
- Steamed sea bass and grated turnip (bottom right)
Each one of these dishes was absolutely exceptional. Although small in size, the flavors, textures, and temperatures alike were marvelous.
Then, I sipped the Japanese clear soup with scallop cake. The broth was light, aromatic, and had strong hints of dashi.
The next set of courses was twofold:
- Northern shrimp and tuna sashimi with sea urchin soy sauce (left)
- Steamed layered sea bream with citrus soy jelly and caviar (right)
And finally, the main course was presented, a Japanese style braised beef short ribs dish with freshly steamed Koshihikari rice, Japanese pickles, and miso soup.
For dessert, I enjoyed a smooth medley of red bean, strawberry jelly, and hojicha sweet chilled soup.
I wrapped up the multicourse meal with a warm cup of green tea and a hot towel.
Even after such a filling meal, I continued to enjoy the exclusive food and beverage service, starting with a cup of roasted green tea, hojicha.
Japan Airlines is famous for offering a recently discontinued whisky known as Hibiki. Luckily, I was able to find a bottle of this phenomenal drink aboard our flight. This rare beverage is Hibiki Blender’s Choice whisky release, which retails anywhere from $250-$900 per bottle!
I also sampled an incredibly rare and expensive bottle of Japanese sake, referred to as Juyondai Yukimegami Junmai Daiginjo sake. If you have the ultimate pleasure of locating a bottle of this, expect to pay anywhere near $1,000 per bottle for this balanced bottle of the highest-grade Daiginjo sake in the world.
I sampled a glass of Royal Blue Tea’s Queen of Blue, which is arguably the most refined, luxurious tea you can taste. This sweet beverage is similar to black tea, but notably has a well-balanced, honey flavor without any of the bitterness or sourness of a normal tea.
Needless to say, the variety of drinks on Japan Airlines first class is impressive.
After the meal service, there was a self-service bar with chocolates set up in the front area of the cabin.
To continue the fun, I ordered a bowl of udon noodles, which was garnished with a generous amount of wakame seaweed.
And as a sucker for caviar, I couldn’t help but request an encore of this dish.
After taking a luxurious nap, the flight attendant gently woke me up and offered a cappuccino. I agreed, and this was freshly made and accompanied with a cinnamon stir stick.
For breakfast, I requested the Western set, which consisted of a corn and scallion omelet, tomato salsa, and chicken sausage. A bread selection was served on the side.
For freshness, a light Greek yogurt topped with a sweet berry sauce was also served.
The food and drink aboard Japan Airlines first class is second-to-none. With a free-flow of some of the most expensive alcohol in the world, a diverse and plentiful food selection, and the benefit of fantastic service, it’s easy to see why Japan Airlines first class is industry-leading and one of the best ways to fly aboard an airplane in the world.
Entertainment & Service
One of the things I can’t emphasize enough is how amazing the service is on Japan Airlines. As was the case with my first flight on Japan Airlines first class, the flight attendants, pursers, and cabin managers were exceptional. All throughout the flight, every one of our requests was accommodated in excellent time, and the flight was much more enjoyable with the cabin crew onboard.
Whether it’s helping make our beds, bringing out extra caviar courses, or just their natural professionalism, the Japan Airlines first class service is the gold standard in the world of aviation.
The entertainment selection was solid, complete with many Hollywood blockbusters and a good amount of international films and shows, too. The only challenge is you may not be able to find English subtitles if you usually watch movies and TV with subtitles.
Japan Airlines first class is extraordinary. Without a doubt, it is one of the world’s best first class flights.
The seat itself is not as private as a few other competitors, but it’s plush, functional, and spacious.
What really stands out is the “soft product”, which consists of their amenities, the service, and the food/drink offerings. The cabin crew were hospitable despite a full flight, the food and drinks were marvelous, and the amenities were luxurious and plentiful.
Plus, it’s mind-boggling that people are even able to book this $10,000+ plane ticket for less money than a meal at McDonald’s.
Bravo, Japan Airlines!