I had heard that Japan Airlines had the widest seat in premium economy of any airline. This, plus my love of all things Japanese, meant I was quite excited to fly premium economy with JAL from London to Tokyo return. And I was not disappointed. In my opinion, Japan Airlines is offering the best premium economy I have ever experienced.
I have flown premium economy with British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Delta, American Airlines, Qantas and a few others plus lots of business class on long-haul flights with various airlines so I think I have a good feel of what else is on offer. This was my first time flying premium economy with JAL.
I flew return London to Tokyo with Japan Airlines. At that time, JAL was not flying their newer planes out of London, so I went via Frankfurt, where I picked up a new plane and could experience JAL Sky Premium. I flew return Frankfurt-Tokyo on a Boeing 787(9).
And up front, I want you to know that I paid for my flights with Japan Airlines, and they had no idea I would be writing about them. So this Japan Airlines premium economy review is completely unbiased.
Japan Airlines Premium Economy Review: Is it Worth It?
Table of Contents
As always, when you are booking flights, it is key to look at which actual aircraft will be operating on your route to understand the inflight experience you will have. For Japan Airlines, you want to book a flight that has Sky Premium vs just Premium Class. Sky Premium is JAL’s new and improved premium economy and the focus of this review.
In my case, I chose to travel to Tokyo via Frankfurt so I could experience the improved premium economy. It only added a couple of hours each way to my flight, and as London to Tokyo is a long route, I felt it was worth it for the comfort.
It looks like Boeing 787(9) and Boeing 777-300ER have Sky Premium. After I traveled with Japan Airlines, they upgraded the premium economy seats on the Airbus A350-1000. Looking online, there seems to be an upgrade on Sky Premium, but I haven’t experienced the Airbus in person, so this article will focus on Sky Premium.
The standard pricing for premium economy vs economy on international flights with Japan Airlines when I was writing this review is that premium economy is only about 30% more than economy which is a good deal. Of course, this will vary across flights and dates, but that appears to be the base.
As always, if you’re able to be flexible on times/dates with your premium economy ticket you will generally be able to get a better deal. And also consider flying via another hub city as I did with Frankfurt.
Check-In and Baggage
At the airport, JAL Premium Economy passengers have their own separate check-in counter.
Unlike every other premium economy airline offer I am aware of, Premium Economy passengers are also able to use the airport lounge, which is a huge plus. At Tokyo Narita this is the Sakura Lounge at JAL also has a lounge at Frankfurt Airport. Where there is no JAL lounge premium economy passengers will generally be able to use a partner lounge.
Premium Economy passengers also get the same priority baggage service on arrival as business class and first-class passengers. However, the baggage allowance for JAL economy and premium economy is the same. JAL economy has a very generous check-in baggage allowance of 2 x 23kg, and this holds for premium economy passengers.
Most other airlines I know have a baggage allowance of 2 x 23kg for premium economy so JAL is in line with competitors but not offering anything extra to its passengers vs travelling in economy.
Premium Economy passengers on JAL also receive priority boarding ahead of economy passengers but, of course, after first and business.
JAL flights have some of the best seats in premium economy of any airline. Here is why:
- the seatbacks do not recline backwards – instead the seats slide forward so you’re not impacting on the person behind you and the person in front isn’t impacting on you. This gives a much greater sense of space
- the JAL sky premium seat has a 42 inch seat pitch compared to the industry standard of 38 inches. This is also 10cm more than JAL economy if you’re comparing.
- I loved the little screen divider that could be popped up for privacy. Such a small thing but it really did make the experience feel more premium
- the footrest is 3-step adjustable
- there is quite a large leg rest
- the tray table is big enough to comfortably hold an A4 size laptop
- I appreciate the plastic bottle holders between the screens. It is ideal to have such easy access to water during the flight. I don’t know about you but I drink a lot of water during long flights.
- adjustable reading light
The typical seat configuration in the premium economy cabin on the 787 is 2-3-2 and on the 777 2-4-2. I am a fan of the window seat when there is a long flight time. I like to cosy up to it for sleep and feel it is more private.
I found the inflight entertainment set up on JAL premium economy good but not exceptional. I
- touch video screen is 12.1 inches which is good but not world leading (NB: The screens are smaller for the front row seats)
- I was disappointed by the limited options in the entertainment system. However, I am not Japanese so it does feel a little unfair of me to say this. On the other hand, I have flown with lots of different carriers across the world and this was definitely one of the poorest choices for entertainment I have seen
- the noise-canceling headphones were excellent. Effective and very comfortable.
- in seat power is a USB port, video input and AC power outlet
- the wifi didn’t work for most of my flight but I think this is more about the flight path than JAL
Food and Beverages
I’ll start by saying I love Japanese food. So maybe it’s not a surprise that I found the food in JAL’s premium economy to be the best I have experienced. The quality and taste of the meal service was fantastic but also there was more food served than I have ever experienced before in premium economy.
- unlike most other premium economy offers there is no drink offered before take off
- however, also unlike most other premium economy offers JAL serves proper champagne, Vollereaux (I hadn’t heard of them either but it tasted good!
- they serve haagen daaz ice cream
- this is a great opportunity to try sake
- don’t miss the miso soup – this is brought out in a pitcher and is delicious
- as this is Japan each meal come with loads of interesting little bits and pieces that adds up to a good sized meal – and again as this is Japan I chose to believe that it was quite low fat.
- the Japanese style braised beef I had between Frankfurt and Tokyo was the best plane meal I have ever had
- My breakfast was also substantial with an omelet, hash browns, sausage, spinach, croissant, fruit, yoghurt, more green stuff and a bread roll.
- My return flight Tokyo-Frankfurt was a day flight and I am sure I received even more food that I had on the overnight flight.
- In addition to the two standard meals, snacks were regularly served. Some of theme looked a little unusual, like the yellow bread, but they were delicious.
- Don’t miss the JAL Udon de Sky! The Japanese have taken the pot noodle type product to a whole new level and this Udon de Sky is delicious.
The amenity kit was fairly standard with a toothbrush set, moisture mask, earplugs, and eye mask. But I loved the slippers that were provided! Why don’t more airlines do this rather than socks?
I also received a pillow and a blanket.
I had to make a special point about the bathrooms as in premium economy JAL bathrooms have a proper Japanese toilet with all the bells and whistles. It might be a bit too much information but being able to use a Japanese toilet with its water features etc helped me feel much fresher than I normally would on a long flight.
The flight attendants could not have been lovelier. Nothing was too much trouble and everyone was oh so polite and friendly. I loved the cabin crew’s service.
You might enjoy reading my business class airline reviews on Qatar, Emirates, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Malaysia Airlines, Air France, Iberia Airways, Thai Airways, Swiss Air and Alaska Airlines First Class.
JAL Premium Economy in Conclusion
Overall, I would love to fly premium economy with Japan Airlines again and would struggle to justify paying much extra to upgrade to business class. The only real difference I can see is of course the flat bed.
In my opinion, Japan Airlines is currently offering the best premium economy I have experienced. The seats and legroom are unparalleled, lounge access is included and the food is absolutely outstanding. My only gripe is that I would have liked more choice in the entertainment system but if you’re sleeping it isn’t that important.