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On the morning of our trip, we wheeled seven pieces of luggage out to the taxi, bound for the airport. For a travelling party of three, I thought seven bags was a bit ridiculous, but oh well. The check-in counters opened at 10am for our 1pm flight, so I had booked a taxi for 9:30am. I had hoped to maximize the amount of time we could spend at Cathay Pacific’s new lounge in Vancouver.
However, as soon as we got to the airport, my Dad realized he had left his backpack at home. It contained his passport and other important items that he couldn’t leave behind. We quickly waved down the taxi, and my Dad headed home to grab it, while my Mom and I waited at the airport for him. Fortunately, we lived really close to the airport.
My Dad returned with his bag around 10:10am, and by that time the check-in counters had already opened. A huge line had formed at the Economy check-in line, consisting of what seemed like a group of Japanese exchange students. Luckily, the business counter was open, which had a minimal queue.
The check-in agent informed us that it was a full flight. We received priority passes to take advantage of the express lane at security, which allowed us to clear security relatively quickly.
Once we passed security, we headed towards the Cathay Pacific lounge, located between gates D66 and D67. I was really excited to check out the new lounge, so I was pretty much speed walking. I was also pretty hungry and craving for some noodles from the signature noodle bar at Cathay lounges.
As I neared the entrance to the lounge, I saw some yellow caution tape roping it off. The lounge seemed closed. I looked around anxiously, hoping to find some hidden entrance, and squeezed around the barrier to press the elevator, which did not open. A lady working at the airport was passing by, so I asked if she knew whether the lounge was open. She didn’t know, and just directed me to my check-in gate for more information. In addition, she actually tried to brush it off and tell me that I “wouldn’t have much time in the lounge anyways, as it was almost time for boarding”… I checked my phone and there was still at least an hour and a half. An hour seemed plenty to spend in a lounge!
I ended up walking to my gate anyways, to try my luck, but there was no one there. After a bit more scrambling around, I decided to just settle for the Plaza Premium lounge. I didn’t want to keep my parents waiting indefinitely for a lounge that may never open.
I did some googling afterwards, and found out that for some reason, Cathay cancelled a few of their afternoon flights that month. Therefore, they didn’t even bother to open their lounge. Just my luck.
Plaza Premium Lounge
The Plaza Premium Lounge in Vancouver is a contract lounge and is located just after security. Past the entrance of the lounge is a buffet area with a selection of pastries, salads and drinks.
At the back of the lounge is another buffet area that serves a more Asian cuisine including dumplings, dim-sum and fish ball noodle soup. There is a small and rather cramped dining area beside the buffet, which was pretty full on the day. Unfortunately, we visited during the busy afternoon rush at YVR, so the lounge was packed. There were more comfortable arm chairs throughout the rest of the lounge. Full length windows lined the length of the lounge, so it offered some nice views onto the tarmac.
We ended up finding an unoccupied table near the inner buffet area. I got myself a bowl of fish ball noodles and a cup of cappuccino.
Ten minutes before our scheduled boarding time, we headed to our gate D70. The gate agents were already going around the waiting area checking people’s passports. Soon after, at 12:30pm, they made the announcement to begin boarding. Woot!
Vancouver (YVR) -> Tokyo (NRT)
Airline: Japan Airlines
Flight No: JL17
Aircraft: Boeing 787-8
Date: Monday, November 9, 2016
Scheduled Departure: 1:00 PM
Scheduled Arrival: 4:30 PM
Duration: 10 hrs 30 mins
JAL’s 787-8 consists of 42 business class seats spread across 2 cabins, with a 2-2-2 seat configuration. I had booked seats 9A, 9C and 9D in the rear cabin. My Mom and I took seats 9A and 9C, which are a pair of seats on the left of the plane, while my dad took 9D, which is right across the aisle from 9C.
Seat & Functions
Available at our seats was a pillow, blanket, slippers and the amenity kit for the flight. I absolutely love the fact that JAL provides slippers in business class! Many airlines only offer this in first class. It’s so much more comfortable and convenient than having to put your shoes back on every time you need to use the toilets.
The amenity kit was a black Zero Halliburton semi-hard case.
The business seats in the JAL 787 are angle-flat seats, meaning your seat can turn into a slanted bed, not a fully flat bed parallel to the ground. Despite not being fully flat, the angle-flat configuration was still pretty comfortable. Due to the 2-2-2 configuration however, the window seats don’t have direct access to the aisle. If you’re not travelling with someone you know, it could be annoying to climb over their seat when its in a bed configuration.
A shared center console between the seats provided space for drinks or personal items. A large TV screen is built into the seat in front, which is controlled by an extendable remote that is attached to the side of your seat. There is some storage area for magazines in the front center console, but not a whole lot of storage anywhere else really.
The seat controls are on the armrest. The different parts of the seat could be adjusted independently, which I thought was impressive. It also includes a “massage” feature. However it was barely noticeable, so don’t expect it to cure your back pain over the course of the flight.
You get a pair of noise-cancelling headsets, which was very comfortable.
As the cabin began to fill up and people were getting settled in their seats, the flight attendants handed out hot towels, along with the menus for the flight. However, they didn’t serve any pre-departure drinks, which I was actually looking forward to.
We had a timely departure out of Vancouver, and soon we were above the low hanging clouds. During the climb to cruising altitude I started to look through the entertainment system to see what was available. There were some new Hollywood films, a bunch of older western movies, and plenty of options in Asian languages. My Mom and I both decided to watch a Japanese animated film called Your Name (Kimi no Na wa), which we both thoroughly enjoyed. At the end of the film, I saw my Mom taking pictures of the credits, as she really liked the soundtrack.
The lunch service began about an hour into the flight. There were two set meal options: Japanese or Western. Japanese food is probably my favorite type of cuisine, and since I was on a Japanese airline, I opted for the Japanese set. My parents followed suit. One thing I really like about JAL is the option for a Japanese or Western meal, which gives a bit of variety compared to other airlines.
The appetizer came in a bento box style tray, with an assortment of Japanese foods. It might be strange, but I have a lot of fun eating bento box meals because I don’t know what I’m eating half the time. While I was eating, I was constantly referring to the diagram on the menu to figure out what it was.
The main course was steamed black cod with king trumpet mushrooms, beef roll with burdock, simmered vegetables, served with steamed rice, miso soup and japanese pickles. Incase you’re wondering, the bright green radioactive-looking drink is their JAL Original Drink “SKY TIME Kiwi” (non alcoholic).
The dessert for the meal was coconut pudding, which was amazing.
The meal service lasted quite a while, and by the time we were finished, we were already halfway across Alaska. The pace of the meal was spot on, as I never felt rushed to finish my food so that the next course could be served. You can take as long as you want with your appetizer, have a drink, before starting on your entree. This made the experience feel incredibly personal. Eventually the flight attendants dimmed the cabin and windows for passengers to get some rest. I wasn’t tired yet, so I watched the movie Gods of Egypt before getting some sleep.
Halfway through the flight, I went to check out the galley. Packaged snacks, bottled waters, and blankets were available. I thought the overhead lighting display was pretty fancy.
The cabin continued to be dimmed until a couple of hours before arrival into Narita, when the second meal was served. I don’t really get tired of Japanese food, so I chose the Japanese meal option again. I thought the Matcha Green Tea Mousse was particularly amazing.
After the meal I sipped on a cup of hot green tea with my Mom, to help us wake up prior to arrival.
Pretty soon, we descended into Narita through some beautiful cloudscapes. While the cabin was being prepped for arrival, the crew came around to each of us and thanked us individually for flying with JAL. I thought that was a nice touch.
We ended up parking beside a JAL 767 which was being prepped for departure, which later turned out to be the one we would be taking to Singapore. What luck!
JAL remains one of my favorite airlines to fly. I had flown with JAL previously on this same route, and the overall experience has continued to be exceptional.
One of the biggest things that JAL has going for them is the hospitality of the crew, and this flight was no exception. I found the crew to be very consistent throughout the flight, always attentive and eager to tend to our needs with a genuine smile on their face. I didn’t feel rushed at any point through the meal service, which was great.
The seat for the flight was one of the older JAL Shell Flat Neo seats, which doesn’t offer the most privacy, but it was comfortable enough. I didn’t mind the seating configuration as much, since I was able to easily talk to my Mom sitting beside me. There are other JAL flights with the newer Sky Suite seats that fly out of other North American cities, but I wanted the convenience of flying out of Vancouver.
Overall, I had a fantastic time flying JAL business class, and I would not hesitate one bit to fly with them again in the future. Stay tuned for the next post where I try out the JAL 767 Sky Suite seat, from Tokyo to Singapore.
For those interested, we made a video of our entire flight with clips from gate to gate. Check it out below.
Have you flown with JAL before? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments what you thought about this review! If you want more reviews like this one, subscribe to our newsletter for weekly updates and more flight reviews.
Alvin is an aviation geek, enthusiast photographer, and software developer with a goal of exploring the world. He uses mileage programs to redeem premium flight travel, and shares his experiences here on OneMoreWeekToGo.