Review: Japan Airlines Business Class 787 (CGK-NRT)

Jyaga likes (4/5)

Japan Airlines flight details

Airline : Japan Airlines (JAL)
Flight No : JL 720
Departure City : Jakarta – Soekarno-Hatta (CGK)
Arrival City : Tokyo – Narita (NRT)
Equipment : Boeing 787-8 (JA831J)
Blocked Time : 7h40m
Seat No: 2K

Japan Airlines (JAL), the flag carrier of Japan, is undoubtedly one of the world’s premier carriers. Founded in 1951, the airline had at one point grown into Asia’s largest airline by revenue. Today, JAL operates a much more modest fleet of Boeing 737s, 767s, 777s, and 787s, in addition to Airbus A350s.

Booking Japan Airlines

Via Google Flights, I saw that Business Class tickets on Japan Airlines were going for IDR35,000,000 (~GBP1820, US$2330). However, interestingly, the same flights were being offered on Traveloka (a large Indonesian online travel agency) for IDR28,000,000 (~GBP1455, US$1865), which is a significant saving. As such, I booked a roundtrip via Traveloka for that price. When I booked this itinerary, I purposedly sought out to fly the Boeing 787s thinking that JAL still sends its SkySuite III equipped 787s to Jakarta. To my dismay, however, I only noticed that these Boeing 787s are equipped with JAL’s significantly older Shell Flat Neo seats.


For this 06.35 departure, I arrived at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport three hours early at 03.35. I was dropped off at Door 2 and headed immediately to the counters at Island C to check in. Stupidly of me, I did not realise that the Japan Airlines check-in counters do not open until 04.00, as stated on their website. Due to my error, we had to wait for a further 25 minutes before we were able to get checked in.

Japan Airlines counters at Soekarno-Hatta Airport

Since I hold a oneworld Emerald membership from Cathay Pacific, we were able to check in at the dedicated First Class counter. Checking in at the Business Class counters wouldn’t have been an issue otherwise, either, since there was only one person lining up. The Economy Class line, however, was another story, since a snaking line already formed long before the counters were open.

Japan Airlines counters at Soekarno-Hatta Airport

Once the counters were open, we were processed in under three minutes, and soon, we were on our way past security and immigration control.


The international section of Terminal 3 at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport has only two airport lounges – the Garuda Indonesia Lounge and the Saphire Plaza Premium Lounge. Curiously, premium passengers on Japan Airlines are eligible to use either (or both) lounges before their flight. In the previous installment, I made a thorough review of the Garuda Indonesia Lounge.

Garuda Indonesia Lounge

I also made a brief visit to the Saphire Plaza Premium Lounge. However, since chose not to re-review the Saphire Plaza Premium Lounge since my sentiments this time still mimicked those from my last review.

Saphire Plaza Premium Lounge

Having visited both on the same date, I’d mark my preference for the Saphire Plaza Premium Lounge, which is objectively better in terms of seating, food, coffee, and showers compared to the Garuda Indonesia Lounge.


Our boarding gate is conveniently located across from the Saphire Plaza Premium Lounge, so we only headed there five minutes before the printed boarding time. Despite not being what I hoped, I was still enamoured by the Boeing 787-8 parked at our gate. My goodness, isn’t the Boeing 787 the prettiest-looking aeroplane out there, or what? Specifically, our flight today is operated by JA831J, a Boeing 787-8 delivered new to Japan Airlines in 2014.

JA831J in Soekarno-Hatta Airport
Gate seating at Soekarno-Hatta Airport

In front of the boarding gate are separate lines for each group. When it neared our boarding time of 06.05, the lines slowly filled up, though all in an orderly manner. Passengers requiring special assistance were preboarded at 06.03 before general boarding commenced at 06.10.

Boarding gate at Soekarno-Hatta Airport
Boarding our JAL Boeing 787-8

We boarded from Door 2L, from which a friendly member of the cabin crew showed me to my seat. As we boarded, JAL’s signature boarding music filled the cabin. To me, nothing tops the feeling of boarding a JAL flight and hearing David Foster’s masterpiece, I Will Be There with You. This is a track that always stirs my emotions, bringing back fond memories from the past.

JAL 787 Business Class Cabin

Our aircraft today features the Shell Flat Neo configuration, which is Japan Airlines’ most outdated long-haul Business Class seat. There are a total of 30 seats spread between five rows of a 2-2-2 configuration. There are three rows, totalling 18 seats in the main aft cabin, complemented by the remaining 12 seats in the cabin behind.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Business Class Cabin

As was widely the case with a previous generation cabin, the seats are angled flatbeds and window seats do not feature direct aisle access. Thankfully, Japan Airlines’ Shell Flat Neo is one of the more comfortable flatbed seats for sleeping, as I’ll explain later in the review.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Business Class Cabin

Seat details

Due to the design of the cabin, every seat comes in a pair of two, angle flatbed seats. Each pair of seats is separated by a small and unmovable privacy shield. Next to the shield are a pair of reading lights that could be adjusted in brightness and positioning, useful for night-time reads.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 Business Class Cabin

On the seatback of the seat in front is the 15.4-inch touchscreen monitor. Next to the monitor is the literature shelf, containing the inflight magazine, a shopping catalogue, as well as a WiFi guide, an airsickness bag, and a safety card. Under this literature shelf is a water bottle compartment.

JAL Shell Flat Neo seatback

Below the screen is an exposed space that could apparently be used to place personal items for takeoff and landing. This space also acts as a footwell when the seat is fully reclined into bed mode. Between the two footwells is curiously a supplementary literature storage space. Whilst I did not use it to store books, I did think it would have been more useful were it to be a shoe locker.

Space under the seat in front

The seat is controlled by a small panel with various buttons to customise the recline and massage function of the seat. The buttons were easy enough to use and I found them to be very responsive.

Seat control panel

On the console between the seat pair is a small and narrow storage opening, fitting for a book or a mobile phone. Next to this storage opening is the remote control for the inflight entertainment screen. Also located on the centre console are the two universal power outlets, one for each seat.

Small storage opening and remote control on the centre console
Power outlets in the centre console


Already waiting on the seat at boarding were a pair of slippers, headphones, a blanket, a JAL AirWeave pillow, a bottle of water, the customs declaration form, a disinfectant wipe, along with a simple amenity kit. Quite a lot to take in, eh?! Thankfully, it wasn’t hard to find places to store these loose items for takeoff.

Amenities in seat

Whilst for one, it’s thoughtful that JAL offers an amenity pouch, it is nothing to get excited about. The kit is identical to the ones offered by the airline on my last flight on this route back in 2020 and is quite basic. Inside, its contents include a toothbrush, a moisture mask, an eye mask, and ear plugs. Do note that this kit differs from the ones distributed by JAL on true long-haul flights.

Amenity kit content and headphones

Whilst I ultimately used my own pair of headphones, I also tested out the ones issued by the airline. The headphones, which are noise-cancelling, are relatively decent and comfortable, in my opinion. Had I not been in possession of my own headphones on the flight, I wouldn’t have minded using this pair.

Departure from Jakarta

As we were seated, the flight attendants came by offering pre-packaged, disposable oshibori. Whilst these were much better quality than the typical wet wipes distributed by airlines during the pandemic, it’s still not as great as the hot towels often offered by other airlines. Throughout the boarding process, the purser made a couple of announcements welcoming us onboard this flight to Tokyo and detailed our flight time of seven hours.

View out the window

As Japan Airlines somehow always manages to pull off, the boarding process was completed 15 minutes after it started. Shortly after that, the door was closed and we started pushback at 06.32. The safety video was played as we pushed back and taxied to the runway.

Safety Video
Garuda Indonesia and Xiamen Air Boeing 737-800s
Retro-liveried Garuda Indonesia Boeing 777-300ER

At 06.45, we made it onto runway 25R and finally took off roughly 13 minutes after pushback. Tokyo (well technically, Chiba Prefecture), here we come!

Brunch Service

Brunch Menu

Around 30 minutes after takeoff, the cabin crew went around the cabin and courteously took meal orders for breakfast. However, between the timing of the flight and the options available, this was more akin to a brunch service than breakfast. As standard, there were two cuisines on option, Japanese or Western. Since I’ve never been a big fan of beef, it was not hard for me to decide on getting the Japanese meal. For reference, the inflight food and beverage menu read as the following.

Inflight Menu

Japanese Meal

Ten minutes after the orders were taken, the crew went around the cabin to place the table mats and distributed our choice of drinks alongside a snack of mixed rice crackers. Then, around ten minutes after the snack mix was distributed, the cabin crew started serving the appetisers.

Roasted green tea and rice crackers

The starter for the Japanese meal came in a box, featuring a variety of small dishes. Among the selection were fresh fruit, soy-marinated salmon with edamame, sautéed burdock and carrot, Japanese omelette (tamagoyaki) with spinach, and a simmered dish of prawn, sweet potato, and chicken teriyaki. Overall, I found the starter to be fresh and excellent. In addition, as has standard on JAL flights from Jakarta, the starter was served with Balinese cacao powdered cashew nuts, which is an interesting combination.

Japanese meal starter
Japanese meal starter

Shortly after the appetiser box was collected, the main course was served with rice and a side of pickles and miso soup. The white miso-flavoured salmon was served with some seasonal vegetables, and I found the dish to be fresh, light, and well-rounded. Coupled with the delicious japonica rice, I was stuffed by the time I was finished with this tray.

Grilled Salmon Miso Flavour

We ended the meal with a dessert of Chocolate Mousse with Strawberry Sauce, that was served with another packaged oshibori. Curiously, this dessert is served with both the Japanese meal and the Western meal. Whilst I thought the presentation looked nice, it was of mediocre quality and taste.

Chocolate Mousse with Strawberry Sauce

After picking through the chocolate mousse, the crockery were finally cleared an hour after the meal was started and 1 hour 35 minutes after takeoff. I thought the timing was good and the meal was not too spread out.


Following the meal service, I decided to head to the lavatory to freshen up. Japan Airlines’ Boeing 787-8s are equipped with three lavatories in Business Class for a total of 30 passengers. Regardless of this relatively nice and low lavatory-to-passenger ratio, the lavatory was always kept clean throughout the flight.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787 Business Class lavatory

As is standard on Japanese airlines, the toilet is thoughtfully equipped with a bidet. There was also a Tea Tonique-branded lotion and a facial mist from Miller Harris, in addition to an alcohol sanitiser. Similarly, toothbrushes and mouthwash were also available in the lavatory.

Bed mode

After freshening up a bit, I decided to take a mid-morning nap, having slept very little the night before. I reclined my seat into an angled-flat bed, which was frankly not as bad as I was expecting it to be. For one, the angle of the seat isn’t very steep, leaving it to be reasonably comfortable to sleep on.

Shell Flat Neo angled flatbed seat
Shell Flat Neo angled flatbed seat

Between the comfortable padding, the nice AirWeave pillow, and my exhaustion, I was able to cram in about three hours of sleep, which I was very happy with. Also, notice that there is a supplementary button on the side of the seat to retract the bed back to seat mode.

Shell Flat Neo angled flatbed seat controls

Inflight Entertainment

The JAL Shell Flat Neo seat is equipped with a personal 15.4-inch monitor in the back of each seat. JAL’s Magic V entertainment system is installed on this aircraft, which is one generation behind the airline’s most recent system interface, Magic VI.

Magic V Inflight Entertainment

Loaded onto the Magic V entertainment system were some 69 movies, spread across multiple genres and origins. 44 of those movies are Hollywood movies, including some relatively new releases like Top Gun Maverick. JAL’s latest movie selection can be browsed here. Since I wasn’t interested in most of the selection, I watched half of No Time to Die after my mid-morning nap.

Seat literature pocket contents

In addition to the inflight entertainment system, provided was also the airline’s inflight magazine, Skyward, and a shopping catalogue. A paid WiFi service was also available on this flight.


I found the crew on this flight to be very personable, courteous, and exercised a great deal of attention to detail. For one, they were proactive in offering refreshments throughout the flight and constantly passed through the cabin to see if anybody needed anything. The crew were also quite proficient in switching between speaking in Japanese and English, which I was impressed about.

Snack presentation in the galley

In addition, the crew also set up a small snack bar in the galley by Door 2, after the meal service. I honestly thought this was a very nice touch despite this relatively short long-haul flight.

View inflight

Pre-arrival Refreshments

Around 1.5 hours before our estimated time of arrival, the crew passed through the cabin to offer pre-arrival refreshments. As is standard on Japan Airlines, there was a choice between a cold food platter or one of their signature instant noodles. Whilst I settled for a cup of JAL’s Udon de Sky, the flight attendant serving our aisle accidentally also served me the cold dish platter.

Pre-arrival food platter

It was only when she delivered my Udon de Sky did she realise the mistake, and profusely apologised as she took back the platter. Well, at least that meant that I could get a picture of the cold platter! According to the menu, this platter included Roasted Tuna Basil Flavour, a Caprese Salad, and Beef Pastrami. I believe the item next to the tuna was smoked salmon with avocado. Whilst I didn’t end up sampling the dish, it did look very fresh.

Udon de Sky and hot green tea

Meanwhile, the Udon de Sky was… Udon de Sky. It tasted like any other instant udon you’d find in Japan, only topped with dried fishcakes with an aeroplane design. There were also some chunks of sweet aburaage (deep-fried tofu), which I liked.

Udon de Sky

Arrival at Tokyo Narita

Around 20 minutes before our estimated landing time, the seat belt signs were lit and the cabin was prepared for landing. Around this same time, the purser went around offering packets of JAL’s Gentle Steam Eye Mask often placed in their amenity kits. Whilst it seemed like a well-intentioned offering, I was confused that they only distributed them at this time…

Gentle Steam Eye Mask
Approaching Narita Airport

We had a very smooth touchdown onto Narita Airport’s Runway A at 15:45 local time, 30 minutes early. Our arrival was followed by an announcement by the purser in Japanese and English, welcoming us to Tokyo. As we taxied to our gate in Terminal 2, we passed by a Finnair Marimmeko A350-900 and a Greater Bay Airlines Boeing 737-800, before parking next to another Japan Airlines Boeing 787. What interesting traffic!

Finnair Marimmekko A350-900
Greater Bay Airlines Boeing 737-800 bound for Hong Kong
Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8

We arrived at our final parking position six minutes after landing, and Door 2L finally opened a further four minutes later. As I made my way to the door, I profusely thanked the crew and bid them farewell before disembarking the aircraft.


Whilst I admittedly have long had strong affinity towards JAL, I objectively felt that I had a very pleasant flight. Between the great crew and the good food, I left the flight feeling great and refreshed. Had it not been for the outdated Shell Flat Neo seat and the relatively spartan entertainment system, this would have been a perfect flight. As such, I would never think twice about flying Japan Airlines again.

Read more from this trip!

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