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May 26, 2014 / oneworld82

A short but fulfilling flight: TPE-NRT on JAL Business Class

JL802, TPE-NRT

May 4th, 2014, B738

Seat 2A, Business Class

A 3 hours flight, a long-haul type of service. I was impressed by JAL regional service – and I mean it in a positive way. The only partial letdown: the food (Western choice). But that was quite to be expected.

Check in at the airport took seconds. The very nice agent printed my boarding passes all the way to LAX and handed me an invitation to the Legend VIP lounge in Taipei (contracted lounge used by JAL).

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Hello Kitty – Taiwan’s national obsession – is ubiquitous.

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Before proceeding to the boarding area, I got myself some breakfast. Beef noodle soup was the (obvious) choice 🙂

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Security and immigration was a breeze, and within a few minutes I was inside the departure area of the airport. Boy, Terminal 2 at TPE is surely nice! High end shops, souvenir stores, antique and jewelry stalls… I could have spent easily a couple of hours wandering through the terminal. After buying a traditional pineapple cake (which I would later forget on the plane…), I went to check out the lounge.

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Two ladies sat at the front desk and let me in with plenty of smiles upon showing my lounge invitation. The Legend VIP lounge is a typical contracted lounge: no particular décor, rather basic, with essential food and beverage offerings. It did have two massage chairs though, which were a nice addition if anything. I had just the time to have a cappuccino that my flight to Tokyo was boarding.

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I proceeded to the gate and then on to the plane. My seat was 2A. The Business Class cabin was completely full, and I was sitting next to a Japanese gentleman. JAL uses a B738 on this route. First class seats look similar to US domestic First Class seats, although the fabric is of superior quality. The seat was very spacious and roomy – definitely comfortable. A pillow was waiting on the seat, and a blanket (of good quality) was packaged as well. Surprisingly, JAL provides slippers on a regional route – a nice touch indeed. The cabin had 12 seats, and I think all of them were occupied. A pre-departure drink was offered, and we took off right on time.

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Once airborne, the purser went around the cabin… offering amenities! Toothbrush and eye masks were offered out of a nice basket, to my complete surprise for such a short flight. To top that, the washroom had packaged toothbrushes near the sink. Now, this is my point: I am fairly sure that almost no-one takes these amenities on short flights. But I am sure that many premium customers are very impressed and pleased by JAL offering them – reinforcing the impression in the customer’s mind that this is a true premier airline. Other carriers, please take note.

A few minutes after, one of the flight attendants came to take orders for a pre-lunch drink. I ordered a Campari & soda, which was delivered a few mintues after together with some roasted natto and Japanese crackers. The drink was a bit too watery for my taste – to much soda water in it – but the natto beans were excellent. After that, another FA came around with a menu to take lunch orders. There were two options – Western and Japanese. Since I knew I was going to take the Japanese option on my long haul flight, I opted for the Western one. I know common knowledge is that Western food on JAL isn’t as good as Japanese one, but I needed to judge by myself.

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The flight attendant proceeded to set up each table with a white tablecloth, and in about 15 minutes meals were served. They didn’t hand out copies of the menu, but today’s Western feature was a Wagyu beef steak with mashed potatoes and veggies, preceded by three small appetizers and a cup of fruit.

The appetizers were varied (some seafood, some meat, some squid) and rather tasty. They were rather creative – a good union of Japanese and Western cuisine – and I enjoyed them very much.

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The main was – as expected – decent but not excellent. The steak was cooked medium well-to-well done, and even if it still was very tender it lacked the proper flavor of a medium-rare steak. The sides were, instead, good. I had my meal with some Bordeaux red wine, which was mostly uninspiring.

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Overall, the meal was decent but nothing memorable. Better than a US domestic carrier in terms of quality and creativity, and on par for taste. To be fair, the Japanese option that my neighbor chose looked very appetizing!
After cleaning up, a packaged Haagen-Dasz ice cream was offered, but I politely refused.

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Each seat came with a personal TV screen (stored in the central armrest). A good selection of movies and TV shows was offered, but I entertained myself with the excellent in-flight map!

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We approached Narita right on time. Japan is “flooded” this time of the year, since rice fields are covered in water to let the plants grow up. I managed to take some decent photos upon landing.
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The first part of the journey home was completed. Overall, I had a very good experience on this three hours sector with JAL. F&B weren’t the greatest, but overall the service made up for that very nicely. And now, on to the First Class lounge!

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