I started this blog a couple of months ago for the benefit of folks like me– married people with respectable lives and jobs and kids and spouses and mortgages– who just need to get out there and do something. There is also quite a bit on here (and will be more in the future) useful to business travelers, which it turns out I frequently am. I have traveled quite a bit over the last decade and a half, and things like taking a cruise in a suite, or flying long haul first class, or going to the spa in Bali or whatever will certainly spoil a person. I get physically uncomfortable when I fly in economy class for long periods of time, so I work real hard to avoid that. I recently had an experience which was absolutely comfortable–flying business class from Narita (NRT) to Dallas (DFW) in Japan Airlines (JAL) long haul business class in their Boeing 787-800 (788) Sky Suite configuration. At the same time, this wasn’t the sort of premium experience in some of the links above. I’m writing about it here for the benefit of those of you who need to go long distances (trans-Pacific, specifically) and need to be comfortable but who, like me, don’t normally have the money for super premium experiences.
Let’s start with the basics. Flying in business class across the Pacific isn’t particularly cheap. However, with some planning it can also be pretty reasonable. Japan Airlines has good award availability, and it is quite easy to book it using American Airlines miles. In addition, the price for a cash ticket varies widely from day to day. That means that if you have time to plan your flight, you can find a flight that is much cheaper than it might be on some random days. My itinerary took me MAF-DFW-NRT-DFW-MAF, and it cost about $3200 all in. Not cheap, but much cheaper that the $5000 it costs on some other random days. It was also reasonable for me with enough time to plan and budget for it. Also, I have a pretty clear rule about flying economy class across the Pacific: Unless a member of my immediate family needs something urgent and me flying in economy will help achieve it, I simply don’t do it.
In this specific blog post, I am reviewing my flight on JAL from NRT to DFW in business class on the Dreamliner, a Boeing 788. I made a video for those of you who would prefer a walk-through that way. JAL has done great work with the hard product on this plane– there is plenty of leg room (I am 5’9″ or 5’10, depending),adequate privacy, and just barely enough elbow room for me to feel comfortable. The cabin generally had a very comfortable feel, which is exactly what I wanted for such a long flight. A couple of pictures are below:
It turns out that the soft product is also pretty good, without being up to the standards of JAL First Class– which is, of course, what you would expect. The cabin attendants did everything I could expect in a courteous manner, and the food was excellent. As in, I would go to a restaurant on the ground and pay for this good. My only minor frustration was that their was no option on how I would like my steak cooked, and it was more rare than I would prefer. However, even then it was an exceptional piece of beef– a wagyu sirloin with a lovely peppercorn sauce. I lack the words to describe the food service, so I have included a few pictures below:
There were, of course, frustrations on this flight. The principle one was that the system for ordering food through the entertainment system did not work. That wasn’t a big deal, because there was an attendant call button which was always answered promptly. However, the button rang audibly throughout the entire cabin every time. That meant that it was extremely hard to get a good sleep, even if you were wearing the ear plugs. Then again, the bedding itself was excellent and included a mattress:
We departed and arrived on time, I was able to sleep reasonably well, and the food was very good. This flight was not about luxury travel, but it was about physical comfort while flying a very long distance. I would absolutely book it again.