We love a good business class rewards redemption, but we love it even more when we get to try out a newly revamped business class product. We were super excited to try out the refreshed Japan Airlines Business Class Sky Suite on a Boeing 767 from Beijing to Tokyo. After a round of economy flights throughout Southeast Asia, it’s always fun to pop some champagne in the sky.
We’ve got a few amazing premium flight experiences under our belt now, including business class products on Air Canada, TAP Portugal and Korean Air. This makes it a little easier to compare the quality of these experiences. I’ve tried to review this flight with a little more analysis and little less starry eyes than my Air Canada Business Class Review, but don’t worry, I’m still equally smitten every time I’m treated to a luxurious flight experience.
So put your tray table in the upright and locked position and join me as we take off with Japan Airlines on a Boeing 767 flying Business Class from Beijing to Tokyo.
Other Long-Haul Premium Cabins
Before we go on, if you’re interested in building your bucket list or seeing what we think of other long-haul premium cabins, check out some of these reviews:
- British Airways Business Class – 777 from JFK to LHR (2022)
- Etihad Apartments A380 from Sydney to Abu Dhabi (2018)
- Singapore Suites A380 from Singapore to London (2018)
- Business Class on Air Canada 787 (2017)
- Origin: Beijing, China (PEK)
- Destination: Tokyo, Japan (NRT)
- Market Flight Cost: $2,236 for two tickets
- Actual Flight Cost: 40,000 Avios + $46.08 USD for two tickets (To get the Avios, we transferred 29,000 Amex Membership Rewards points to British Airways to get 40,000 Avios during a 40% bonus promotion.)
- Payment Method: Points + Cash
- Point Value: $0.05 per point
- Travel Date: 2/18/2018
- Flight Time: 3 hours 24 minutes
- Delay: 0 minutes
- Miles Covered: 1528
- Airline: Japan Airlines
- Plane: Boeing 767
- Class: Business
- Entertainment: Transformers: Age of Extinction
- Amenity Kit: None, but earplugs and eye masks were offered before takeoff
- Food: Lunch meal service and light snack
- Drink: Champagne, Japanese Plum Wine
- Primary Language: Japanese, English, Mandarin
Departure Airport – PEK
Our journey started at Beijing Capital Airport (PEK), where we arrived about 2.5 hours before our scheduled flight time. Unfortunately, we had to check bags due to Japan Airlines’ conservative carry-on weight limit of 10kg (which we’re not sure anyone else on the plane respected). The check-in desks didn’t open until two hours before the flight, and when we arrived there were already several other business class passengers waiting. We had a fine place in line though, and when the desks opened, we made our way to an agent, checked our bags, and were on our way through security in no time.
Despite the difficulty of securing a Chinese tourist visa, once you have one, entry and exits in the country are pretty painless (we’ve gone in and out twice now). We easily made our way through Chinese customs and a relatively short security line. Kenny set off the very sensitive metal detector (presumably because of his watch) and got a thorough wand down, but it was overall pretty painless. We had gone through all the required checks and were in the terminal less than 30 minutes later.
Our business class ticket gave us access to the BGS Premier Lounge in Terminal 2. This lounge is also one of the eight Priority Pass lounges in PEK, which we could have accessed as Priority Pass members anyway. Despite our other Priority Pass options, we decided to stick to the lounge included with our ticket.
The lounge was fine; not great, but not bad. We are vegetarians and it was breakfast time. We had Chinese noodles with vegetables, a cranberry muffin, an egg salad sandwich and pumpkin soup, which was all standard lounge food quality. There was beer and liquor available, but we opted for coffee. Unfortunately, the coffee machine had some issues and neither of us got drinkable beverages. We could have (and probably should have) asked for help, but we don’t like to fuss and were fine with getting coffee later on the plane. There was also a hot food station at which a chef appeared to be making noodle bowls, which actually looked really tasty.
There lounge was very spacious and mostly empty while we were there. It was short on outlets though, so we sat awkwardly close to the TV and shared its extension chord. The internet password system was pretty cool and you had to scan your boarding pass at a kiosk to receive a unique access code. The internet was speedy enough and got the job done. After about an hour in the lounge, they announced our flight and we were on our way to the gate.
As soon as we boarded, we quickly made it to our seats in the front row. Since we didn’t have to worry about storage space, we were fine sitting at the bulkhead. The business class seats on the 767 are set in a 1-2-1 pattern. To sit next to each other, we opted for the two middle seats, leaving us each with aisle access.
The seats were very spacious, making boarding the flight a dream. We had plenty of room to stand at our seats while we got situated, without blocking the aisle. After taking out what we needed from our daypacks, we popped our bags in the overhead bin. There was plenty of bin space, but we also could have used the storage compartment next to our seat table.
Waiting for us when we sat down was a blanket, headphones (not noise cancelling but cushioned over-the-ear style), a pair of slippers and a small plastic shoe horn. I’ve gotten a lot of throw-away slippers around Asia (I have three in my backpack right now), but these were the nicest. They were terry cloth fabric and pretty thick with a relatively sturdy sole. We both kept them after the flight. The flight attendants also came around offering earplugs, eye masks, and newspapers.
The seats were comfortable and plenty spacious. We had a daytime flight so we didn’t need to sleep, but the seats did lie flat. The tv was larger than a standard economy screen, but not as large as some other premier flights we’ve flown. The entertainment selection was good for movies, but had a strange collection of TV shows, heavy on Sex & and the City and Full House episodes. We opted to watch Transformers: Age of Extinction.
If you take this flight, you may find yourself struggling to find the headphone jack like we did. It’s actually located inside the storage compartment located above your seat-side table. The flight attendant had to point this out to just about everyone in business class.
There was no drink service before take off, which is something I’ve grown to appreciate on business class flights. It wasn’t such a big deal, because our flight left on time, but I always think getting a beverage before takeoff is a nice touch. Not a dealbreaker though. Shortly after the ding indicating we’d hit 10,000 feet, our first round of drink service began. Kenny started with champagne (Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve) and I opted for the Japanese plum wine over ice.
Kenny and I were served by different flight attendants, as there was one for each aisle. Kenny’s flight attendant was better than mine and was often stopping by to refill his champagne glass. I wasn’t offered a second beverage until after our meal service, so my impression of the service didn’t start out strong.
After the meal, I ordered a glass of champagne, which proved a smart decision. Once I made the switch, every time Kenny got a refill, his flight attendant filled my glass as well. So it worked out just fine. I think she was actually the lead flight attendant, because she introduced herself to everyone on the flight and was very helpful. The flight attendant on my side wasn’t bad, she just wasn’t super confident in her English and thus was not overly chatty with me, which is fine (I certainly don’t expect every flight attendant in the world to speak English).
While Kenny’s flight attendant was the best at drink service, all the flight attendants we engaged with were pleasant and attentive. All things considered, I was very impressed by the quality and frequency of service on this flight. It was a quick flight, only about 3.5 hours, but service was not cut short.
Food & Beverages
Our midday flight meant our served meal was lunch. We are vegetarians and pre-booked a lacto-ovo vegetarian meal. The food was good, though uninspired. We had pasta with red sauce, cheese and broccoli, a roll with butter, and a cold mushroom and asparagus salad with lemon and balsamic dressing.
Sigh. We also got fruit. Which leads me to my rant session. Yes, I requested a special vegetarian meal, but I specifically noted that I consume dairy (lacto-ovo vegetarian refers to vegetarians who consume dairy and eggs). So WHY do airlines always give us fruit as our dessert instead of the ice cream or caramel mouse provided for all other guests?! It drives me bonkers! I’m sure I could have asked for ice cream, but I don’t think I should have to (Air Canada still offered me a cheese plate and ice cream on that business class fight!). I know it’s silly that I had bottomless fancy champagne but am still complaining about not getting a tiny container of Häagen-Dazs, but I just like my dessert, okay!? End rant.
If you didn’t pre-order a special meal in advance, you had the choice between the Japanese menu (fish) or the Western menu (beef). We can’t speak for these options, but we’ve shared the menu below for reference.
As I mentioned above, the drink selection was solid, including a great champagne option, alongside a solid lineup of mid-shelf liquors, wines and Shōchūs (sakes). We committed to the champagne, but the plum wine was also good. Looking back, I actually wish I’d gotten a Bloody Mary.
If my biggest complaint about a flight experience is that I didn’t get ice cream, I think that means it was a pretty good flight. For a such short flight, the Sky Suites Business Class packs a lot of quality service into a short period of time, making it a great option to try out their product. While this flight was not my favorite premium flight experiences, that’s honestly just because its length. Longer flights mean longer wining and dining, as well as forming a better relationship with your flight attendant. I would absolutely fly this product again, and would love to fly the JAL Sky Suites on an overnight flight.
Have you flown business class with Japan Airlines? What route did you fly and what did you think?