Review: Japan Airlines 787-8 Economy Class (CGK-NRT)

Jyaga likes (4/5)

Japan Airlines flight details

Airline : Japan Airlines
Flight No : JL726
Departure City : Jakarta – Soekarno-Hatta (CGK)
Arrival City : Tokyo – Narita (NRT)
Equipment : Boeing 787-8 (JA840J)
Blocked Time : 7h40m
Seat No: 45A

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. Although I’ve flown their premium cabins many times in the past, I’ve never actually tried flying Japan Airlines’ Economy Class product. This would also be the first time I’ve flown Economy on a Boeing 787, so I was quite excited!

Booking Japan Airlines

As I scoured the web for flights from Asia to the West Coast for the end of the year, I was met with absurd fares again and again. I was in disbelief when I saw paid Business Class fares starting at USD7000, which is thrice the pre-Covid amount. I finally decided to check out Premium Economy and Economy.

Most tickets were similarly outrageously priced until I saw an Economy Class roundtrip ticket to Seattle for IDR16,843,800 (~USD1,075, GBP852). Better yet, this was on Japan Airlines, which had been charging roundtrip Economy fare from Jakarta to Tokyo for roughly the same price. To sweeten the deal, I was also able to route the return via Los Angeles, meaning that I’d get to spend time at the Qantas First Class Lounge, which was on my bucket list. Thinking that this was too good of a deal to pass, I pulled the trigger and booked this ticket!


For this 21.25 departure, I arrived at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta International Airport over two hours early at 19.00. I was dropped off at Door 2 and headed immediately to the counters at Island C to check-in. By this time, the Economy Class line is in full swing, with a snaking queue lined up against the counters.

Japan Airlines counters at Soekarno-Hatta Airport

Thanks to my oneworld Emerald status with Cathay Pacific, however, I was able to check in at the First Class counters. After providing my details, I was checked in within minutes and was soon on the way to the lounge.

Japan Airlines First Class counters at Soekarno-Hatta Airport


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. Premium passengers on Japan Airlines are eligible to use either (or both) lounges before their flight. I’ve reviewed both the Garuda Indonesia Lounge and the Saphire Plaza Premium Lounge, so I won’t be doing that again.

Garuda Indonesia Lounge
Saphire Plaza Premium Lounge

Despite minor improvements to the Garuda Indonesia Lounge, I’d still note a preference for the Saphire Plaza Premium Lounge, which is objectively better in terms of seating, food, coffee, and showers in comparison.


After spending just over an hour at the Saphire Plaza Premium Lounge, I headed to the notoriously far Gate 1 at the far end of the terminal. By this time, separate lines for each boarding group were already set up at the boarding gate. Close to the scheduled boarding time of 20.55, the passengers began to line up. Those requiring special assistance were preboarded at 20.50 before general boarding commenced at 21.01.

Boarding gate at Soekarno-Hatta Airport
Gate seating at Soekarno-Hatta Airport

As our gate is shared between four parking stands, it utilises one very long walkway attached to the jetbridges to board and deboard flights. When I got to our jetbridge, I boarded from Door 2L, from which a friendly cabin crew member greeted me and pointed me to go right. 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.

JAL SkyWider Economy Class

Our flight today is operated by the premium-heavy E12 Boeing 787-8 configuration, seating just 186 seats. Although I had previously reviewed JAL’s Boeing 787-8 in Business Class, that flight annoyingly featured the outdated E03 configuration. That’s three fewer seats than Spring Airlines Japan’s narrowbody Boeing 737-800, which seats 189 people! Meanwhile, Singaporean low-cost carrier Scoot manages to cram in nearly twice that amount on their Boeing 787-8s, at 329 seats!

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 SkyWider Economy
Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 SkyWider Economy

In total, there are just 156 seats in Economy Class, divided into two cabins totalling 20 rows. However, what’s special about Japan Airlines’ Boeing 787s is their seat configuration. Specifically, the Economy Class cabin is equipped in an 8-abreast 2-4-2 configuration. The seats are 18.9 inches (48 cm) wide, which is the widest Economy Class seat on any aircraft on any airline. These seats are aptly called JAL SkyWider, a product that isn’t rivalled by any other airline on the Boeing 787. By comparison, all other Boeing 787 operators use a 3-3-3 configuration, with seats measuring just 17 inches (43 cm) wide.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 SkyWider Economy
Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 SkyWider Economy

Seat details

Standard seats

The seats are fully decked in red cloth and feature a large 10.6-inch personal monitor equipped with the Magic VI entertainment system. In addition to the entertainment system, each seat has a USB outlet and each pair shares one universal power outlet. Although the tray tables are folded, I found them to be nice and sturdy. Furthermore, there are also multiple seat pockets, one of which is dedicated to the safety literature and the inflight magazines.

SkyWider Economy Class seats
SkyWider Economy Class seats

There is also a coat hook, as well as a small glasses compartment next to the monitors. There is also a coat hook, as well as a small compartment big enough for a pair of glasses next to the monitor. However, do note that the small nook is absent in the row immediately behind the bulkhead.

Magic VI entertainment system
Tray table
Tray table

In ordinary rows, the standard seat pitch is an incredible 33 inches (84 cm). Standing at 180 cm (5’11), the gap between my knees to the seatback measured a whopping 18 cm (7 inches). This has got to be one of the best standard Economy Class legroom offerings out there! Despite that, I found the padding in the seat to be lacking, leaving the seat less comfortable for long flights.

Legroom in non-bulkhead seats
Bulkhead seats

On this flight, I was seated at 45A, the bulkhead seat in the second Economy Class cabin. I was able to select this seat in advance thanks to my elite status with the oneworld alliance. Due to their placement on an exit row, the window seats in row 45 have virtually unlimited legroom. Do note, however, that the legroom by the window seat is slightly obstructed by the door. Additionally, note that these seats are also across from a crew jumpseat, so it might be a bit awkward during takeoff and landing.

Seat 45A and 45B
Legroom in Row 45
Bulkhead on the Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8

Expectedly, the same 10.6-inch entertainment monitor pulls out of the centre armrest in these seats. Despite being touchscreen, the monitors in the bulkhead seats also have handheld remote controls stowed in the armrest. The other rows did not appear to have remote controls. Annoyingly, however, the literature pocket is tightly fixed onto the cabin wall and is shared between the two seats. This leaves no room for personal stowage in these seats.

Magic VI entertainment system
Remote control
Literature pocket

The tray tables also come out of the armrest and are folded into two. Despite that, I’m happy to find that they are sturdy and suitable as a work surface. Sadly, overhead air nozzles are not equipped on this aircraft. Finally, I’ll also note that a fleece blanket and a small pillow are already waiting on the seat during boarding. Amenity kits are not provided in JAL Economy Class.

Tray table
Tray table
Pillow and blanket

Departure from Jakarta

As I settled in my seat, the cabin attendant in charge of Economy Class, Suzuki, introduced herself and wished me a pleasant flight. As the boarding sequence wrapped up, the cabin crew started to distribute bottles of water. While I really appreciate this, I did have trouble finding a place to store this water bottle in my seat. Eventually, I ended up placing it on the floor. Soon after, the purser went on the intercom to announce our flight time of 6 hours and 40 minutes.

Bottle of water

Her announcement was quickly followed by the safety video being played. Notably, since the monitors in the bulkhead seats are stored for taxi, takeoff, and landing, a manual safety demonstration is conducted especially for exit row passengers. By this time, the door was closed, although we are now five minutes past our scheduled departure time.

Hello Air China A330-200!

While Economy Class was completely full and there was a total of 166 passengers on our flight. Despite the busy flight, we were delayed for a further 13 minutes due to a no-show, requiring their bags to be unloaded. As such, we only pushed back at 21.43, 18 minutes after our scheduled departure time. Thankfully, we had a quick taxi, enabling us to take off just 12 minutes later at 21.55 from Runway 25R.

Pushback from our gate
Takeoff from Runway 25R

Supper Service

Five minutes after takeoff, the captain turned off the seatbelt signs. This prompted the crew to immediately start preparing for the inflight service, which first consisted of a wet towel service. Curiously, the packaged wet towels were labelled ‘JAL Business Class’ and were identical to those I got on my JAL Business Class flight a few months prior. In any case, these wet towels were high quality and a very generous offering for Economy Class.

Wet towel service

Supper meal

Although the crew were quick to prepare for the meal service, it still took a while for the cart to get to the second cabin. As there was only one cart serving each aisle, it took 47 minutes for them to reach my row. I’m sure those seated at the very back had to wait over an hour to be served. For reference, this is what the menu read for the supper service. There was no choice of mains, as everybody was served the same tray of Stir-fried Chicken & Vegetables with BBQ Sauce over Steamed Rice.

Inflight meal tray

Given the two appetisers, the large packet of cacao-dusted cashews, and a free flow of miso soup, this is definitely better than your average Economy Class meal. The use of metal cutlery only added to the premium feel of the meal. I also appreciate cabin attendant Kitahara, who frequently went around to offer drink refills. Although this would never be my first choice for a meal, I appreciate that it was pretty good in terms of quality, at least for a meal catered from Jakarta.

Economy Class inflight meal
Main course of Stir-fried Chicken & Vegetables with BBQ Sauce over Steamed Rice

After the main meal service, the Suzuki and Kitahara came by once again to distribute packaged bread. It soon became clear that this was to be the provision in place of an overcomplicated refreshment service before arrival. The bread was sweet and filled with blueberry jam. Sadly, however, I found it to be dry and not great.

Blueberry jam-filled bread


After the supper service, I checked out the lavatory to refresh myself before attempting to go to sleep. There are four lavatories available in Economy Class, three of which are located by the galley between the two cabins. Like its Business Class counterpart, the Economy Class lavatories also feature a bidet function. I’ll note that the lavatories are kept pristine for the whole flight.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 lavatory
Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 lavatory
Lavatory bidet function

Coincidentally, the lavatory immediately in front of my seat is huge, being a wheelchair-accessible one. Given its size, this lavatory is equipped with a full-size mirror and a changing table. Its sheer size also made it very comfortable when washing up before or after sleeping. Finally, I’ll add that in addition to the bottles of hand sanitiser and fabric and air freshener provided, sanitary napkins were also prominently offered in the lavatories.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 lavatory mirror
Fabric & air freshener and hand sanitiser
Sanitary napkins

Inflight Entertainment

Each JAL SkyWider seat is equipped with a personal 10.6-inch monitor. JAL’s Magic VI entertainment system is installed on this aircraft, which is the latest generation of the airline’s entertainment system.

Magic VI inflight entertainment
Magic VI inflight entertainment

While JAL has historically been lacklustre with its inflight entertainment selection, I noticed a dramatic improvement on this flight. In particular, there were some 113 movies, 100 of those being in English. The selection also includes some relatively new releases like John Wick 4 and Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning. I also appreciate that there are box sets for certain franchises, like John Wick and Mission Impossible. For more information, JAL’s latest movie selection can be browsed here.

Magic VI inflight entertainment
Magic VI inflight entertainment

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.

Seat literature pocket content


Honestly, I felt that Suzuki and the rest of her crew were excellent. Not only were they friendly and warm, but I also observed them embodying the spirit of omotenashi, taking care of their guests the best they could. For example, upon hearing the crying toddler seated a few rows back, I saw Kitahara making an improvised toy with disposable cups to cheer them up. Wow! With this being my first experience on JAL Economy Class, I’m pleased to report that the airline’s exceptional service extends to everybody.

Pre-arrival Service

At 05.00 Japan Standard Time, 1 hour and 45 minutes before landing, the cabin lights were turned up for the pre-arrival service. By this point, I had only managed a measly hour of sleep. Between the poor seat padding and a screaming toddler, it was very difficult to stay asleep. As such, I dreaded the lights being turned on so early before landing.

View of the sunrise inflight

Thankfully, this was no more than a quick beverage and wet towel service. Kitahara passed by the aisle offering drinks like coffee, green tea, and apple juice. Although refills were proactively offered, no other refreshments were served during this service. This also allowed me to try and sleep a bit more before our long layover in Narita.

Beverage service

Arrival in Tokyo

One hour before our arrival, the purser went on the intercom to announce the details of our arrival. In particular, we were expected to land at 06.45 local time. We commenced our descent 20 minutes later, which was followed by the seatbelt signs being turned on eight minutes after that. Although I was hoping to cram in some more sleep, I ultimately enjoyed the incredible sunrise views on our approach to Narita.

Approaching the coast of Japan
Passing Mount Fuji
Final approach to Narita Airport
Final approach to Narita Airport

At 06.43, we finally landed at Narita International Airport’s Runway 34R. Our touchdown was quite rough, which helped open my eyes after this otherwise sleepless flight from Jakarta. As we taxied to our gate, the purser welcomed us to Narita and thanked us for flying Japan Airlines and codeshare partners American Airlines, Alaska Airlines, Garuda Indonesia, and Hawaiian Airlines.

Landing at Narita International Airport
Traffic at Narita International Airport

After taxiing to Terminal 2, we ended up parking next to a Japan Airlines Boeing 767-300ER. Door 2L was opened soon after, with Business Class expectedly invited to disembark first. As I exited the plane, I thanked Suzuki and Kitahara for their excellent service. As I headed to the Transfers Area, I caught a final glimpse of the beautiful Boeing 787-8 which just took us to Tokyo.

Traffic at Narita International Airport
Disembarking our plane
JA840J at Narita International Airport


With its spacious and low-density configuration, Japan Airlines’ Boeing 787s are supposed to have the best Economy Class product flying in the sky. To an extent, that is true based on this experience. Given the excellent service, the good meal, and the improved inflight entertainment selection, this was a near-perfect flight on paper. Regrettably, however, the poor padding of the seat left a bit to be desired. Although I admit that I’m a terrible aeroplane sleeper, I felt very exhausted coming off this flight.

Read more from this trip here!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *