JAL First Class: SFO-HND B777-300ER

I’m always excited to plan a trip to Japan! My friends invited me to go skiing in Nagano in January. I was able to find award availability 5 months in advance of the trip using my Alaska Airlines miles for redemption on Japan Airlines. It cost me 85,000 Alaska Airlines miles + $18.10 in fees/taxes for SAN-SFO-HND all in First Class. This will be increasing this month (March 2024) to 110,000 miles with the Alaska Airlines award chart changes. That’s ~30% increase in miles required for this booking so I’m glad I was able to lock this one in before the increase. As always, earn & burn! The last time I flew JAL First Class was in 2017 on their HND-BKK route. I was looking forward to see if anything has changed since 2017.

My journey started in San Diego where the Alaska Airlines flight departed for SFO @ 6:20AM. I was able to check my bags all the way to HND which was nice. The sunrise was beautiful on takeoff. I landed into SFO on time and walked to the JAL check-in desk in the International Terminal. This stop wasn’t necessary as I already had a boarding pass that the Alaska Airlines agent printed in SAN, but it helps with passport verification checks and I was able to get the details on the Lounge access.

JAL now partners with the British Airways Lounge @ SFO. It was super busy as EVA was also using the lounge for their passengers as they depart for TPE from A5 which has direct access from the Lounge. Luckily, I was able to access the First Dining area within the Lounge and I was the only guest 🙂 It was a quiet oasis away from the Business Class lounge. It was setup just like a restaurant with wait staff. The waitress served me a glass of champagne and provided the lunch menu. I opted for the Autumn salad and Beef burger. I knew the food onboard the flight was worth saving room, but it was an early start with the 6:20AM flight to SFO so I was hungry. Both dishes were fresh and delicious. The flight to Tokyo was departing at 12:55PM so I likely wouldn’t be eating until 2PM. The only downside to the British Airways Lounge was that there wasn’t a shower to freshen up. I headed over to the Virgin Atlantic Lounge to grab a shower. I was able to access the lounge by using my Priority Pass card form my AMEX Platinum. I was now ready for my 11.5hr flight to Tokyo!

Boarding commenced on time and I found my seat, 1A. The seat was exactly the same as my experience in 2017 which is solid. Not super private, but very spacious. I was provided a ZERO HALLIBURTON Amenity Kit along with a Panasonic noise cancelling headset. Water or orange juice were offered as a pre-departure beverage. It was a super clear day @ SFO so no ATC delays. We were off in no time.

After takeoff, I read through the menu and selected the Japanese Cuisine for lunch. For my drink, I had to go with Hibiki Blender’s Choice Whisky as a Suntory fan. A step down from Hibiki 17/21 served on ANA.

Lunch started with an amuse bouche and following by caviar service. Wow, JAL knows how to kick off the meal service! 5 small Japanese dishes followed which were super flavorful. A Japanese clear soup with yellowtail & watercress was then served. I was only halfway through and already starting to feel full. An assorted seafood dish was served which included snow crab and uni. I love snow crab so this dish was perfect! Finally, for my main dish grilled stuff conger eel, chirashi rice & miso soup were served. To end the meal service, a confectionary dessert along with an adzuki bean dish topped it off. Yum! I continued to watch a movie to let the food settle before I headed to bed.

Panasonic satellite WiFi service was available throughout the flight and as a JAL First Class passenger I was provided a voucher. It was valid for 1 device for the entire flight with unlimited usage. It worked well throughout the flight.

There was only 1 other First Class passenger so there was plenty of open seats for the crew to prepare my bed. You are able to select the firmness of the mattress pad that they put down on the seat. I went for soft. The crew prepared the bed in Seat 1D. The bed was super comfortable and I was able to get a solid 6 hours of sleep. I woke up with 2.5 hours to go. The crew even placed my slippers next to my bed. Love these special touches of service on JAL!

A light dinner service was offered prior to landing into Tokyo Haneda (HND). I selected the Steamed Rice topped with Spicy Cod Roe in Japanese Dashi Broth. It was delicious. The crispy/toasted rice hit the spot along with the broth. I finished the light meal service with strawberry ice cream for dessert. It was a perfect meal before landing and ensuring I adjust to the new time zone.

We were landing during sunset in Tokyo and were very lucky to be presented a view of Mt. Fuji out the left side of the plane. Wow! Even the flight crew made an announcement to snap a photo. It’s not everyday you get a clear view of Mt. Fuji, let alone on a plane with the sunset.

Mt. Fuji @ Sunset prior to landing

Mt. Fuji @ Sunset prior to landing


Conclusion: JAL is an excellent way to fly to Japan and flying in First Class makes you feel like you’re already in Japan. The food, drink and service was top notch. After flying ANA First Class “The Suite” last year, the hard product (seat) is a bit old although I’m looking forward to flying JAL’s new A350-1000 soon. If you have Alaska, American, British Airways or Cathay Pacific miles be sure to redeem them for JAL First Class one day. Cathay Pacific & British Airways has access to the award inventory ~30 days before Alaska and American so you have an advantage as availability dries up very quick.

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