I was excited to be flying in JAL’s SKY SUITE III again, since I loved the seat layout on our Tokyo Haneda to Bangkok flight, which was operated by a 777 with SKY SUITE III seats. I was curious to see how the same seat on the Dreamliner compares.
Our flight was a 10:50pm red-eye flight out of KUL, which meant it was reduced service with only a breakfast service prior to arrival. I didn’t mind this much, as I did want to catch some sleep, since I’d be spending a full day awake at Narita.
We headed to the airport early, (as we needed to check-out of our hotel by 4pm), but since we couldn’t check-in until 3 hours prior to departure, we did some plane-spotting around the airport, and hung out at the International Terminal for a while.
The check-in counters opened a little earlier than scheduled, so we were second in line to get checked in. Unfortunately, for whatever reason, our check-in agent took almost 20 minutes to check us in, mentioning something about reconfirming our tickets. We could feel the death glares from the huge priority line that formed behind us, as there was only one check-in desk available for business class.
Once that ordeal was over, we headed directly to the satellite terminal, which was where our gate C32 was. A convenient shuttle train connects the main terminal with the satellite terminal.
I was very impressed by the design of KLIA’s satellite terminal. More often than not, satellite terminals tend to be an afterthought, with all the design and amenities being focused on the main terminal. However, KLIA’s satellite felt nicely designed and thoughtfully laid out.
We visited a couple of lounges including Malaysia Airline’s brand new Golden Lounge (review of this coming soon!), as well as the much smaller Cathay Pacific Lounge, before heading to the gate for our flight.
We arrived at gate C32 about 10 minutes before the scheduled boarding time, where a lot of people were already waiting. Our aircraft, a Boeing 787-9 (Registration: JA869J) was visible through the window directly facing the gate. The cargo door was still open to finish up some last minute loading.
Pre-boarding for infants and elderly began momentarily, followed by JAL Diamond and OneWorld Emerald members, followed by Business Class and JAL Sapphire / Crystal.
The Business Class cabin layout of this Boeing 787-9 was in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone configuration, using JAL’s Sky Suite III seats! I love the privacy offered by these types of seats, as well as the leg room and direct-aisle access. The cabin was lit with warm mood lighting with pinkish hues.
Upon boarding, I was greeted by the purser and kindly directed towards my window seat for the flight, 12A. Available on my seat were a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, a JAL amenity “pouch” (It’s not a full kit offered in longer flights), a pair of slippers, a soft blanket and a pillow. The business class menu was also sitting on the side table. A simple form was also provided that asked whether you wanted to be woken up for the arrival meal if you were sleeping, and whether you preferred the Western or Japanese meal. A nice touch!
Shortly after settling in, I was offered a hot towel that came in a tray.
We had a smooth departure out of Kuala Lumpur without much traffic. As we were climbing to cruising altitude, I began to explore the features of the seat a bit more.
Firstly, the legroom is fantastic. The ottoman underneath the TV extends pretty deep and should accommodate most passengers comfortably. I’m 5’7″ and I was just barely using the ottoman in a lounge position, with about a foot of space to spare.
The seat features a large 17″ touch-screen TV, which also included convenient back-lit buttons beneath the screen. The picture was crisp and the colors were good.
Perhaps one of the first things I noticed was the location of the seat controls. Usually I’m used to finding the controls located on the side of the seat above the armrest. Here it was located on the seatback in front of you. This actually worked pretty well in my opinion, and was convenient when I needed to make my bed. The seat controls themselves were simple and easy to use.
A small storage space is available in the center console, which has a hook for stowing the headset, as well as a personal mirror on the door. I managed to place all my small personal items in here, which was really useful. Beneath the storage compartment was a power socket and a USB port.
To the side of that was an adjustable LED reading lamp, which had three different brightness settings. Beneath that was a touch-screen remote controller for the IFE. It was a tiny bit sluggish, and didn’t feel as snappy to use as I would have liked.
The tray-table is latched to the side of the seat back in front. Pressing a lever down will unlock the tray table which swings out and swivels into place. Right above the tray-table latch is a coat hook.
A feature of the seat that I actually did not appreciate was the three-point safety harness. Now I know that the three-point safety harness is there to protect the head in case of sudden stop or movement (since there is no seat back close enough to cushion the head). However, after a while of being strapped in, it really started to irritate my neck whenever I had to move around and reach for things. After an hour or so, I had to tuck the shoulder strap underneath my arm as to give some relief to my neck.
The JAL amenity pouch contained a moisture mask, ear plugs, an eye mask and a toothbrush. It’s not a full-on amenity kit like you would get in a longer duration flight, but is still a nice touch, especially on a red-eye flight.
WiFi plans were available on the flight, based on hours of use. (I did not try it out as it was too pricy)
Since this was a red-eye flight, there is no full meal service after departure, but only a light meal prior to arrival. Fortunately, JAL still offers a “Late Night Snack” set meal as well as your choice of Champon, Udon or Soba cup noodles that you can order at any time.
I ordered myself one of the set meals, a Soba de Sky, and a Sky Time Kiwi juice.
After finishing the meal relatively quickly, I was ready to get some sleep. Otherwise, I would have been a total zombie later on as I still had a full day layover at Narita for planespotting! Before jumping into bed I checked out the lavatory, which was pretty basic, with just mouthwash and toothbrush for amenities.
I slept for a solid three hours, and by the time I woke up we were about two hours from Tokyo. Looking outside, it was still dark, so I flipped through the IFE and checked out the Air Show. I thought the movie selection was quite generous, but the layout, menu system and controls felt a little clunky and didn’t flow very well. The controller unit also wasn’t very responsive.
Pretty soon, the cabin lights were turned on in preparation for the arrival meal to be served. Unfortunately, I was told they had already run out of the Japanese meals. I’m not sure how they determine who gets first dibs on the Japanese meals, as I’m pretty sure I requested the Japanese meal pretty early on. Oh well.
The Western arrival meal was mediocre at best. The omelette was a bit bland, and I didn’t enjoy the Greek yogurt. As I finished up my meal the sky was growing lighter and lighter.
We had a lovely early morning approach into Narita, landing on runway 16L, which unfortunately meant I had no view of the terminal since I was sitting on the left.
JAL offers a very competitive product with their Sky Suite III reverse herringbone seats on the 787. Compared with the same seat on their 777, I felt the 787 version was actually roomier and a bit improved. I loved the privacy and spaciousness offered by the seat. The IFE selection was good, but the interface could be a bit more intuitive and the controls a bit more responsive. The service was reduced, but that did not detract from the genuine Japanese hospitality offered by the crew. The big letdown was the food, which is not usually the case on my other Japanese carrier flights. Perhaps it was because I was not able to have the Japanese meal this time around.
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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.