One of my travel idiosyncracies is that I feel the need to get to the airport really, really early– particularly if it is an unfamiliar airport where I don’t know the lay of the land. Last week that got me into the Japan Airlines (JAL) First Class lounge in Tokyo Narita (NRT) at about 7:35 a.m. for a 10:55 a.m. flight. A bit excessive? Of course. Am I glad I did it? Absolutely.
I am in the midst of a two week jaunt from MAF-DFW-NRT-CGK-DPS-CGK-NRT-DFW-MAF. I purchased a ticket from the U.S. to Japan, and I already reviewed the outbound flight on American. I was in the lounge pursuant to a mileage redemption ticket, where I redeemed 70,000 miles and $28 to fly first class from Narita to Jakarta and business on the way back. I had access to the first class lounge pursuant to this flight, and it is safe to say that I got my $14 worth before I ever left the lounge.
I got to the airport at about 7:10 or 7:15. Check-in was incredibly efficient, and I was directed to the first class security line. Unfortunately, security (nor the lounge, for that matter) did not open until 7:30. However, things opened promptly on time, and I cleared security, cleared immigration, and was in the lounge by 7:35.
There is one primary entrance for both the business and first class lounges, and it is immediately inside the South security and immigration checkpoint in Terminal 2. The first class lounge was located to the left, and after checking in I noticed the desk for spa appointments. 10 minute treatments are free and started at 8:30, and I was able to book one of the first slots. From there, I made my way into the lounge and headed promptly for the sushi counter.
The sushi counter is one of the things which distinguishes this lounge from the business class lounge. It is made to order, and the order I had was fantastic. I quickly assembled a breakfast plate with a glass of champagne and sat down to what I promised myself would be the only plate of food I had. The problem was that the food was too good. I. Ate. So. Much.
After breakfast, I got up and took a couple of pictures around the lounge. There was more than ample seating, several open work desks, and a couple of massage chairs. After taking pictures, I sat down in one of the massage chairs until it was time for the actual massage.
After the massage, I went back into the lounge to get some work done. There were “no cell phone” signs everywhere, although nobody seemed to be willing to stop the one guy very loudly having what I trust was a tremendously important conversation about his business and/or his golf game. There were rooms for those who needed to have phone conversations, and the general aesthetic of the lounge was very quiet. The wifi as I was working is phenomenal.
After a while, I went over to the business class lounge to see how it was different. I will give it a proper review next week after I stay in it, but for now it seemed to be a perfectly pleasant place to wait without some of the nice extras. The business class lounge *did* have a fantastic beef curry which the first class lounge did not have, but otherwise was mostly just a place with comfortable seating, reasonable things to eat, and a slightly lower grade of things to drink.
After a while, I drifted over to the satellite Terminal 2 for my flight. The satellite terminal has its own first class lounge, and this one also had the fantastic beef curry. Seriously, I love that stuff. It also had a massage bar, although it was hidden in the back. It did not have the fresh sushi, but altogether seemed like a great place to wait for a flight.
It has been a very long time since I have flown long haul first class, and I need to do it again sometime. I don’t have a great basis for comparison, but it struck me that JAL did a great job of making the entire experience an experience. The Terminal 2 First Class Lounge was an important part of that, and JAL did a great job.