Carrying over 52 million passengers a year and the flag carrier of its home nation, Japan Airlines are one of the world’s top airlines. The firm were established in 1951 and celebrated a successful 60 years in business in 2011. With hubs at airports such as Tokyo Narita, Kansai and Osaka, anyone travelling to Japan should check out JAL’s schedules and deals.
JAL are also part of the huge OneWorld alliance, so passengers can connect using a variety of airlines in order to reach their destination. Yet with 279 aircraft in the fleet, and destinations such as Sydney, London, Vancouver, Singapore and Shanghai, this is a big carrier in its own right. In fact, by passenger numbers alone this is the sixth largest airline in the world. Of course, the airline is most useful for those travelling to, from and within Japan itself, with 37 regional airports in this island nation served.
Our journey on this airline took us from the glamour of Los Angeles to the intense urbanity of Tokyo. A flight time of 11 hours and 55 minutes meant this was always going to be a tedious, tiring, and perhaps taxing flight, but from the moment we arrived at the airport we were put quite at ease. The first thing to impress us was arriving at the huge Tom Bradley International terminal and noticing at least half a dozen different desks open for check-in, meaning no queue.
As we approached the counter a representative came rushing out to take our bags, offering to place our smallest item inside a protective plastic sheet for the flight. Though we had booked separately, we were assigned adjacent seats, and boarding time from the gate took just a matter of minutes. Seats in Economy are as you would expect, with legroom of 32 inches and comfortable head-rests. Executive class, however, offers a whopping 50 inches of personal space, as well as four different flat-bed options
After take-off complimentary drinks, and soy-flavoured Japanese snacks were offered by deferential and highly professional cabin crew, and it was only a short wait until our food was served. A chicken teriyaki dish impressed, through the rest of the offering was pretty bland and forgettable. Those who do not wish to sample Japanese cuisine on their flight can also choose from Western dishes, whilst a huge variety of special meal offerings are available.
JAL’s MAGIC In-flight entertainment system offers an extensive range of diversions, with movies and television shows in a range of languages featured, and subtitles and dubbing also on offer. In total, the MAGIC system has 130 channels of entertainment on each long-haul plane. For those wishing to indulge in the local culture, Rakugo comic monologues are offered on the audio channels, and plenty of games testing skill and knowledge are available. One of these is a Berlitz Word Traveler game coming in a range of languages, and intended to help passengers learn a few key phrases in anticipation of arrival in a foreign country.
The airline’s in-flight Magazine, Skyward, is also a worthwhile read, packed full of well-written articles about a variety of interesting locations in Japan and around the world. On arriving at Tokyo Narita we were also stunned to receive our bags in a matter of minutes, far quicker than any comparable service at other international airports we have flown to.
Overall the service was excellent, and perhaps the only complaint we had about flying with Japanese Airlines was that their website is a little less developed and interactive than competitor airlines.
Though Japan Airlines is a Skytrax 4 four star airline, it has suffered one or two financial issues in recent years, and even declared for bankruptcy in 2010 after losing up to ¥100 billion in a single quarter. After emerging from bankruptcy in March 2011 the airline has begun to attract more passengers and is currently growing by up to 1.1% each year. However, the bankruptcy has forced JAL to share Pacific routes with American Airlines, so make sure before booking to confirm that your flight is operate by Japan Airlines, rather than operating as a codeshare.Write a Review
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