This is part of our Thanksgiving Round the World trip, you can find my initial thoughts / intro here, Flying All Nippon Airways Square Class, Flying All Nippon Airways Business Class, The Grand Hyatt Tokyo review, Touring the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo, Japan, Dueling Alliance Lounges at Tokyo-Haneda Airport, The Grand Hyatt Beijing, and the Hyatt Regency Mainz.
Starting off, I’m not sure it’s a fair duel. I’m in seat 1K on a JAL 787, my wife and mother in-law are in seats 2A and 2B on an ANA 777. I was surprised to see what appeared to be a longer line for Business Class than Economy. Boarding the 787, the purser stood outside the door welcoming everyone, and for me, it was a short walk left of door 2L to my seat.
The load is light today, only 6 of us in the forward cabin.
In fact, there were so few passengers in business, that as we leveled off, I, being just excited to be on the plane, got up, figuring I might take a photo of Mount Fuji from the lav or door 2L. Instead one of the flight attendants pointed me toward the last seat of business—which was empty—for some amazing shots of Mount Fuji. Well, you be the judge:
At this point, I was giddy as a school girl (I hope that’s the only time I ever write those words, but, no guarantees). I had gotten some great photos of Mount Fuji, I was on a JAL 787, and the menu came out. I was trying to decide between one dish or another, only to be told that you either choose the Japanese meal or the Western meal. The Japanese meal was heavy on the fish, and while I’m happy to have found out that I’m not allergic to fish, I just don’t get as much enjoyment from it as I do land roaming beasts (yes, I’m talking about the duck). As I ordered, I asked what sake the flight attendant (who I think was the purser) recommended. She offered Rice Sake or Sochu, which was from barley or buckwheat (I’m not an expert). I chose the rice sake. Out she comes a few minutes later with two sakes for me to taste and decide. Mark this, my second Sake Tasting of the trip.
Gosh I like Sake. I really liked both sakes I was offered. In fact, had I not been feeling the effects, I probably would’ve kept drinking until they were out, but alas I chose to move to a Vodka and Sprite. I did have a VSOP at some point in the meal, primarily because I had asked for another piece of bread. They heard brandy, I got both, I think we were all very happy with the conclusion.
Here’s the meal, but I would be hardpressed to identify each dish.
In Flight Entertainment
For the 787, IFE for me in 1K required me to raise a monitor. I searched around a bit, then a bit more for the plug for the headphones. As a Public Service Announcement, I’m including a photo here, because I’ve never seen a plug here before.
ANA 777 (My wife and mother in law’s flight)
We got to the gate early as we wanted to make sure my mom had enough time to board the flight without much concern. One great thing with ANA they helped her up the stairs to the plane and took her carry-on bag for her. We were at a remote gate so we go the experience of taking a bus to the plane. Similar to the buses used by Qatar from their old premium terminal to the planes but not a nice and more passengers.
Our send off Team:
Once we got airborne, I was starting to think the pilot had a thing for Disney:
While we were in the second row and the hard product was old we still had a great view of Mount Fuji.
It is your call on which photo is better but we did have a slight advantage due to having the better camera. The pilot took us over Tokyo and flew us so close to Mount Fuji that we could make out the small villages at the base of the mountain.
Once we took off, they offered us drinks and took our order. I ended up ordering champagne and figured that it would be just a glass but no they brought out a mini bottle that they opened up.
My mom and I both chose the Japanese menu, as both had only options of fish. It came out in two bento like boxes. I couldn’t tell you what everything was but most of it was very good or at least interesting.
The seat itself was just okay but sufficient for the short flight. My mom’s feet still couldn’t touch the ground though once she was sitting in the seat. While we did not get pillows I’m sure if we ask they would have been happy to provide as they were in the over head bin. The blanket was nice though.
The In Flight Entertainment (IFE) was similar to the JAL flight where you had to pull it out and put it away prior to landing. The options were the same as the ANA flight from ORD to NRT. It makes sense though was a bit disappointing given the small size of the screen. For comparison sake the location of the outlets were a bit easier to find on ANA.
Japan Airlines 787
Overall, I think the hard and soft products of Japan Airlines is phenomenal. I think the 787 makes the flight more comfortable. While I didn’t get any photos, looking out the port side windows, from the far starboard side, was amazing. I mean, we’re talking movie theater type experience. I would’ve gotten a photo, but there was an older Japanese man looking out intently, almost like the little kid I was, looking out my window (and his).
While it didn’t fit anywhere else in this review, the Duty Free folks (who came through the business cabin twice), didn’t have a 1/200 scale model of a JAL 787. I’m not sure if they felt bad or did it because of my excitement for the 787 we were flying on, but they brought me what I think is probably a 1/600 or 1/1000 scale model. I didn’t really have words, but I am sure I said “domo arigoto” a dozen or so times. The crew in general was amazing.
Overall the flights best quality was the amazing views of Mount Fuji. The staff was great in helping my mom get on the plane with her bag. The hard product was good for a short haul flight but not worth taking as a long haul flight. The soft product was okay though they did forget about the second bottle of champagne and a few other items.
Usually we make it a point to conclude after the conclusion, but being that this was a Dueling Planes of similar carriers of All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines, we (My wife, my mother in law and I) wanted to make sure we offered our thoughts succinctly in a sentence or two per flight:
Japan Airlines 787
Having only flown one previous flight on ANA, and this being my first flight on JAL, I’m hard pressed to identify any other sub-4 hour flight where I have enjoyed so much, aside from a Thai A380 flight from Hong Kong to Bangkok. The hard product was more than acceptable. An angle lay flat seat (although I understand that JAL is adding fully layflat products in First and Business to their longest haul 787s, such as those to JFK). I think the angled layflat wouldn’t suck on a long haul flight, but, I would general side with a fully layflat. But for a 4-8 hour flight within Asia, I’m really thinking JAL. I’ve had debates with others that anything more than 6 hours, it’s gotta be a full layflat. But with the soft product aka service of JAL, I think I could easily go 8 hours in JAL Business angled layflat. This crew was phenomenal, irrespective of the aircraft. Oh, and if you think ANA is the only plane in the sky with a bidet, you will be surprised to know that the JAL 787 also has a bidet.
I share the signage, but I cannot honestly say that I have tested it myself.
All Nippon Airways 777
While the crew made up for the lacking in the hard product it isn’t a plane or flight I would want to take for more than a couple of hours. The seat was an old angled lay flat that had seen better days though still comfortable enough for a short flight. Can’t comment on the lav as I had not needed to use it for such a short flight. The ANA 777’s crew stood out but not to the same extent that the crew did on the transpacific flight we took a few days before.