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

Jyaga loves (5/5)

Japan Airlines flight details

Airline : Japan Airlines
Flight No : JL61
Departure City : Los Angeles (LAX)
Arrival City : Tokyo – Narita (NRT)
Equipment : Boeing 787-8 (JA842J)
Blocked Time : 11h50m
Seat No: 18A

After spending about two weeks on the West Coast, it is finally time to head back to Asia! I have explained about the booking process for this trip in the first instalment, which you can read here! This time, we’ll be flying on a SkySuite-configured Boeing 787-8, identical to the product we flew earlier from Jakarta to Tokyo Narita.


After checking out of the Westin Los Angeles Airport at 08.00, I joined the hotel’s complimentary shuttle to get to the Tom Bradley International Terminal. Sadly, we could only get dropped off at Terminal 3, requiring me to walk the remaining distance to the terminal. Despite all that, I got to the Japan Airlines check-in desks on aisle A about 45 minutes later, in time for our 11.50 flight.

Tom Bradley International Terminal

The check-in desks were deserted when I got there, meaning that you don’t have to wait regardless of your frequentl. flyer status or flight class. After handing over my passport and disclosing my destination, I was promptly checked in by the friendly Japanese JAL ground agent. Soon enough, she invited me to use the Qantas First Class Lounge courtesy of my oneworld Emerald status.

Japan Airlines check-in desks
Japan Airlines check-in desks


With three hours to spare before boarding, I spent my time visiting three of the airport’s oneworld lounges. These included the Qantas First Class Lounge, the oneworld Business Class Lounge, and the American Airlines Flagship Lounge, all of which I’ve reviewed in previous instalments. I left the lounge 20 minutes before the printed boarding time of 11.50, hoping to be among the first to board (to get empty cabin pictures!). As I made my way to the gate, I managed to wander about for a bit, allowing me to admire the many heavy jets serving Los Angeles.

Tom Bradley International Terminal
Morning Asia departures
Asiana Airlines Airbus A380-800
LATAM Chile Boeing 787-9

When I reached the gate, I saw that banners showing the boarding group numbers were already set up at the boarding gate. However, since the gate was rather quiet, I decided to have my eyes glued to the window. Our flight today is operated by JA842J, a Boeing 787-8 delivered new to Japan Airlines in 2015. Next to that is another JAL Boeing 787 bound for Haneda, as well as a China Eastern Boeing 777-300ER.

Gate 157 at LAX
Gate 157 at LAX
Our gate at LAX

As we neared the printed boarding time of 11.20, the gate agent began to preboard those requiring special assistance individually. This took a while due to the number of special assistance passengers, each with several companions. General boarding finally began at 11.29, starting with Group 1.

JA842J at LAX

JAL Boeing 787-8 Cabin

This flight is operated by the premium-heavy E12 Boeing 787-8 configuration, with just 186 seats, 30 in Business Class and 156 in Economy Class. As the configuration is identical to the flight from Jakarta, I’ll simply just rehash the details of the seats here.

JAL Business Class

Spread between two forward cabins are the 30 Business Class seats featuring the airline’s spacious SkySuite I product. On the Boeing 787s, these fully flat seats feature direct aisle access in a 2-2-2 configuration, making it one of the least dense Business Class seats out there. The seat is based on the Collins Aerospace Apex Suite, which you’ll also find on Korean Air, Gulf Air, and Oman Air.

SkySuite I Business Class
SkySuite I Business Class

I have flown this seat on several occasions in the past and found the window seats to be unparalleled in terms of privacy. What’s especially nice is the incredible amount of personal space – in particular, the sleeping arrangement is great given the lack of footwells in these seats. However, I didn’t like that there is virtually no personal storage in the window seats.

SkySuite I Business Class
SkySuite I Business Class

JAL SkyWider Economy Class

Towards the back are 20 rows of Economy Class totalling 156 seats, spread between two cabins. A special trait reflects the low seat count you’ll only find on Japan Airlines’ Boeing 787s. Specifically, the Economy Class cabin is equipped in an 8-abreast 2-4-2 configuration. 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

These seats are 18.9 inches (48 cm) wide, which is the widest Economy Class seat on any aircraft on any airline. As such, these seats are aptly called SkyWider Economy Class – a product that isn’t rivalled by any other airline, whether on the Boeing 787 or otherwise.

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

Seat details

Standard seats

As you’d typically find on JAL, the seats are decked in red cloth, featuring 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.

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. 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.

Entertainment monitor
Power outlet

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! On this specific aircraft, I also found the padding to be quite nice as well, unlike my flight from Jakarta.

Legroom in non-bulkhead seats
SkyWider Economy Class seats
Bulkhead seats

On this flight, I was seated at 18A, the bulkhead seat in the first Economy Class cabin. I was able to select this seat in advance thanks to my elite status with the oneworld alliance. Unlike the exit row bulkhead seat I flew on from Jakarta, these seats are located over the wing. While this means getting less legroom, I appreciated that the door doesn’t obstruct the window seat legroom and that the crew jumpseat isn’t across the seat.

Seat 18A and 18B
Bulkhead row
Legroom in Row 18

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. What I liked best perhaps was the literature pocket on the bulkhead. Its design and placement allowed it to function a bit like a leg rest when trying to sleep.

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.

Seat 18A
Pillow and blanket
Tray table

Departure from Los Angeles

Boarding was completed within 13 minutes, prompting the cabin door to be closed shortly after. I was quite surprised to see how light the load was, with only about a third of the Economy cabin filled. Seeing that the entire front row was empty, I took a few pillows from the nearby empty seats to make myself a bit more comfortable.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-9 bound for Tokyo Haneda
Empty front row

As the cabin crew prepared for our departure, the purser went on the intercom to greet us, announcing our expected flight time of 11 hours and 20 minutes. Whew, that’s one long flight time! The safety video was then played as we pushed back at 11.50. Again, as the screens in the bulkhead seats are out of use during taxi, a special manual safety demonstration was conducted for front-row passengers.

Pushback from Los Angeles International Airport

After pushback, we began a long taxi sequence, passing by the entire length of Los Angeles International Airport. As we did so, this gave me a chance to see all the interesting planes serving the airport, including a Copa Airlines Boeing 737MAX9. We then took off from Runway 25R at 12.05, getting nice views of the Californian coast as we ascended to the skies.

Copa Airlines Boeing 737MAX9
United Airlines Boeing 757s
Western Global Boeing 747-400F
JetBlue Airbus A321-200
Takeoff from Runway 25R
Takeoff from Runway 25R
View after takeoff
View after takeoff

Lunch Service

The captain turned off the seatbelt signs at 12.11, six minutes after takeoff. By this time the cabin crew started preparations for the lunch meal service and began distributing JAL Business Class-branded wet towels. Ah, how pleasant! This was followed by a quick beverage service, with drinks being served with a packet of rice crackers. I got my usual cold green tea to drink.

Packaged wet towels
Canapé service

Soon after, the cabin crew came back with the inflight meal cart, holding up a laminated menu in English and Japanese as the meal trays were distributed. This time, the choices included ‘Chicken Afritada with Steamed Rice’ or ‘Beef Sukiyaki with Steamed Rice’. For reference, the following is the food and beverage menu on the flight.

I ended up getting the Beef Sukiyaki, which was the Japanese option for this flight. Mirroring my experience on my flights from Jakarta to Narita and from Narita to Seattle, the meal was excellent. I found the appetisers of Smoked Salmon and Chicken Salad, soba noodles, and the salad to be light and fresh and the Beef Sukiyaki to be comforting and wholesome. I appreciated how the main dish was not overcooked and retained all the flavours you’d want from Sukiyaki.

Lunch meal service
Beef Sukiyaki meal tray
Beef Sukiyaki
Chicken Afritada

After the meal was completed and the trays were cleared, the crew distributed cups of Häagen-Dazs Vanilla ice cream. No flavours were available, unfortunately. In addition, a basket with a small selection of snacks was also set up in the galley.

Vanilla ice cream
Snack basket


After the meal, I went to the lavatories to freshen up. Four lavatories are available in Economy Class, three of which are located by the galley between the two cabins. Similar to the Business Class lavatories, these lavatories also nicely feature a bidet function. Furthermore, bottles of hand sanitiser and fabric and air freshener were provided.

Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 lavatory

Finally, as you’d expect from Japan Airlines, the lavatories were clean the whole flight. Curiously, however, I noticed Business Class passengers regularly heading back to use the Economy Class lavatories. I’m guessing there was an issue of some kind with the Business Class lavatories?

Inflight Entertainment

On this trip, I have noticed a recent improvement in JAL’s historically lacklustre inflight entertainment selection. On this flight, I counted some 113 movies, of which 100 were in English. The selection also includes some relatively new releases like John Wick 4 and Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning. The boxsets for those movies were also loaded, which I ended up binge-watching. Well, that’s one way to pass an 11-hour flight! For more information, JAL’s latest movie selection can be browsed here.

Magic VI inflight entertainment
Magic VI inflight entertainment

Furthermore also provided was the airline’s inflight magazine, Skyward, which is mostly in Japanese, as well as an inflight shopping catalogue. Paid WiFi is also available for purchase on this flight.

Seat literature pocket content

Pre-arrival Service

About three hours before arrival, the cabin crew conducted the pre-arrival service consisting of a warm snack with accompaniments. A single choice of warm Margherita Pizza is served with Chobani yoghurt and a rocket salad. This combination seemed a bit confusing since I wasn’t sure what sort of meal they were going for. For one, this meal was served at 21.15 PT (supper) or 13.14 JST (lunch). So perhaps srunch? 😛

Pre-arrival meal

Regardless, the food was very good and tasted quite fresh. For one, the warm pizza really hit the spot and was an excellent snack before landing. Combined with the Greek yoghurt and the rocket salad, it did seem that they were going for a Mediterranean-style snack!

Margherita Pizza


While I know from experience that Japan Airlines crews provide exceptional service, I didn’t think it would be noticeable in Economy Class. Every crew member I interacted with was very polite and friendly. During and after the meals, the crew also offered regular drink top-ups and water runs, which is well appreciated when flying Economy. I’ll also note that the English proficiency of the crew was exceptionally good. I’m happy to say that this flight only confirms that even in Economy Class, exceptional service is the norm on Japan Airlines.

View inflight

Arrival in Tokyo

About one hour before landing, the purser came back on the intercom with details of our arrival. In particular, we were expected to arrive early at 16.30 JST and we were about to commence our descent into Tokyo. 40 minutes later, the captain turned on the seatbelt signs, prompting the crew to prepare the cabin for landing.

Descending to Narita Airport
View on approach
Final approach into Narita

As we approached Narita International Airport, those seated on the left-hand side got excellent views of the winter sunset. We landed in Narita at 16.27, with a relatively rough touchdown on Runway 34R. While we arrived early, our slow taxi to Terminal 2 meant that we would disembark the plane at our scheduled arrival time. Nice! When the doors were opened, I thanked the crew before heading to the JAL First Class Lounge to spend my layover.

Landing in Narita Airport
Landing in Narita Airport
Gate at Narita Airport


Overall, I had an exceptional flight on Japan Airlines Economy Class. With the comfortable and spacious seating, great food, and excellent service, Economy Class does not get any better than this. While the airline has historically lagged with its inflight entertainment selection, I was happy to see that there is a major improvement on that front. While I did not sleep at all on this flight, I still found myself being rather comfortable – which is a major surprise given that this is Economy Class. As such, I wouldn’t think twice about flying Japan Airlines over Cathay Pacific or Singapore Airlines when flying transpacific on Economy Class.

Read more from this trip here!

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