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

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Japan Airlines flight details

Airline : Japan Airlines
Flight No : JL729
Departure City : Tokyo – Narita (NRT)
Arrival City : Jakarta – Soekarno-Hatta (CGK)
Equipment : Boeing 787-8 (JA840J)
Blocked Time : 8h05m
Seat No: 18K

Following a short 40 minutes at the JAL First Class Lounge, it was finally time to conclude this trip and fly home to Jakarta. This will be a much shorter review as I have explained about the booking process for this trip in the first instalment. I will also skim through the cabin and entertainment details as they are identical to my last flight from Los Angeles to Tokyo Narita.


As is often the case on flights bound to Jakarta, our flight would be departing from the Satellite Terminal. After walking from the JAL First Class Lounge, I had just five minutes to spare before the printed boarding time of 17.20. Unfortunately after I got in line, however, boarding started late without any explanation.

Gate 93 at Narita Airport
Gate 93 at Narita Airport

Eight minutes later, preboarding commenced for passengers who require special assistance. This was later followed by general boarding at 17.33. Our flight today is operated by JA840J, which is the same plane that took me from Jakarta to Narita a couple weeks prior. This is a Boeing 787-8 that was delivered new to Japan Airlines back in February 2015.


JAL Boeing 787-8 Cabin

Much like my previous flight from Los Angeles, this flight was operated by a premium-heavy E12 Boeing 787-8 configuration, with just 186 seats – 30 in Business Class and 156 in Economy Class. Given the identical seating and configuration, I’ll merely skim over the details in this review.

SkySuite I Business Class

Towards the front are 30 Business Class seats featuring the the JAL SkySuite I product. These fully flat seats feature direct aisle access without the constraint of a footwell. Despite its 2-2-2 configuration, it is one of the most spacious and least densely arranged Business Class seats out there. The seat is based on the Collins Aerospace Apex Suite.

SkySuite I Business Class
SkySuite I Business Class

SkyWider Economy Class

Behind the Business Class cabin are 20 rows of Economy Class spread between two cabins, totalling 156 seats. Now most Boeing 787 operators uses a tight 3-3-3 configuration, lending the aircraft its uncomfortable reputation in Economy Class. However, Japan Airlines’ Boeing 787s features a much more spacious 8-abreast 2-4-2 configuration. These SkyWider seats are 18.9 inches (48 cm) wide, which is the widest Economy Class seat on any aircraft type on any airline.

SkyWider Economy Class
SkyWider Economy Class

Each red clothed seat features a large 10.6-inch personal monitor loaded with the Magic VI entertainment system. Each seat also has a USB outlet, a coat hook, and two shallow pockets on each side of the monitor. A universal power outlet is shared between each pair of seats. Furthermore, the standard seat pitch is 33 inches (84 cm). Standing at 180 cm (5’11), the gap between my knees to the seatback measured an incredible 18 cm (7 inches).

SkyWider Economy Class
SkyWider Economy Class

This time, I was seated at 18K, the front row seat in the forward Economy Class cabin. Due to the position of these seats, both the entertainment monitor and the tray table pulls out of the armrests. Furthermore, the literature pocket is attached onto the bulkhead wall. Unsurprisingly, the legroom is unparalled to any other seat in Economy Class.

Bulkhead SkyWider seats
Bulkhead SkyWider seats
Literature pocket
Tray table

I’ll also note that a fleece blanket and a small pillow are already waiting on the seat during boarding. The pillows and the blanket proved to be valuable later on, as the seats were very hard, unlike my previous flight. As such, this seems to be an issue with this specific aircraft, as I felt the same way when flying from Jakarta to Tokyo Narita.

Departure from Jakarta

As I settled in my seat, Economy Class purser Yamada came by to greet me, likely due to my oneworld Emerald status. While this was a nice recognition gesture, it was otherwise nothing special, unlike the bottles of water you get during the greeting on Cathay Pacific. As I waited for boarding to complete, I had my eyes glued out the windows, looking at the Japan Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines jets parked next to us.

JAL Boeing 787-8 Economy Class cabin
Japan Airlines Boeing 787-8 at Narita Airport
Hawaiian Airlines Airbus A330-200 at Narita Airport

Boarding later completed 18 minutes after it started. By this time, the cabin door was closed, leaving the cabin nearly full. After the purser announced our flight time of 7 hours and 20 minutes, an automated announcement in Bahasa Indonesia was played. Shortly after, the safety video was screened, during which time the cabin crew performed a manual safety demonstration for those seated in the front row.

Pushback from Narita Airport
Mood lighting

As the safety demonstation was underway, we readied for departure. We commenced pushback at 18.00, 10 minutes past our scheduled departure time. Afterwards, it was another 24 minutes before we made it to runway 34L for takeoff. Since we had to taxi past the entirety of Narita Airport, I had a chance to look the multitude of planes at the airport. We even passed by JA618J, the Japan Airlines Boeing 767-300ER which I flew to Seattle two weeks earlier. We finally reached the runway at 18.24 and took off, 34 minutes past our scheduled departure time.

Malaysia Airlines A350-900 and Hawaiian Airlines A330-200
Japan Airlines Boeing 767-300ER
Narita Airport Terminal 2
Korean Air Boeing 737-800
Cathay Pacific Boeing 777-300
Takeoff from Narita Airport
Takeoff from Narita Airport

Dinner Service

The seatbelt signs were turned off at 18.36, 12 minutes after takeoff. As usual, the cabin crew began the inflight service by distributing JAL Business Class-branded wet towels, which was a nice touch. This was followed by a canapé service, in which beverages were served with a packet of rice crackers. Again, I got my usual glass of cold green tea to drink.

Packaged wet towels
Canapé service

The crew then returned with the meal cart to distribute the dinner trays. As this flight was catered in Narita, it was no surprise that the selection was completely identical to the food I got on my flight from Tokyo to Seattle. Curiously, however, the selection prominently featured pork, which is unusual for a flight to Jakarta. For reference, however, the following are the food and beverage menu along with pictures of the food from my last flight.

Inflight meal tray
Dry Curry & Turmeric Rice
Yakitori-style Grilled Pork Rib over Rice

I was already full from the meal I had at the JAL First Class Lounge, and given the identical meal options, I was uninterested in otherwise wasting a meal. I already knew they tasted great but I also knew that I definitely couldn’t finish a whole meal. As such, I opted for a mere glass of miso soup instead, along with a bottle of water, followed by incredible JAL exclusive Milk Tea Tart-flavoured Häagen-Dazs ice cream. Seriously, I’d buy full boxes of these ice cream if they ever went on commercial sale!

Miso soup and water
Milk tea tart ice cream


After the meal, I walked towards the back to use the lavatory. There are four lavatories for Economy Class passengers, all of which featured bidet-equipped toilets. While fabric air fresheners and hand sanitisers were provided, I was less impressed to find the lavatories a bit messy throughout the flight. I’ll also add that the centre two lavatories between the cabins are a lot smaller compared to the accessible lavatory on the left-hand side of the aircraft.



As the entertainment selection on all my JAL flights on this trip was identical, I’ll just rehash thoughts here. In particular I noticed a significant improvement with the number of movies available. Specifically, there were some 113 movies, 100 of those being in English, which is nearly double the number when I flew from Jakarta to Tokyo earlier in the year. Of that, the selection includes relatively new releases like John Wick 4 and Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning, along with their box sets. For more information, JAL’s latest movie selection can be browsed here.

Magic VI inflight entertainment

Post Meal

After the main meal service, the cabin crew distribute packaged bread, which served to be the refreshments in place of another meal service before landing. I’ll note, however, that the crew still regularly passed by the aisle to offer beverages to the passengers. As I skipped the dinner service, I tried eating this a couple hours before landing. Sadly, despite its milk tea flavour, the bread was bland and dry.

Milk tea bread

Up to this point I had not slept at all. Having only slept for 5 hours at the Westin Los Angeles Airport the night before and and flying to Tokyo in the morning, that’s a full 20 hours without sleep. To say I was tired would be an understatement. While I tried to stay awake with by keeping myself focused on the entertainment system, I ended up drifting to sleep, hence missing the drinks service before landing.

Arrival in Jakarta

Just over an hour before landing, the purser made an announcement over the intercom that there was evidence of smoking in the lavatory, adding that penalties will be levied to the passenger caught doing so. While I’m not sure what sort of punishment was in place, this wasn’t actually the first time I’ve seen this happen. Back 10 years, I also observed my seatmate smelling of smoke on a China Airlines flight from Taipei, followed by a similar announcement by the crew. Anyways…

View inflight on descent

An hour before landing, Captain Koyama made an announcement detailing our arrival and thanking us for flying JAL. While descent announcements are common, this was the first time I’ve heard an announcement from the from the flight deck on this trip. Japan Airlines pilots sure tend to be quiet! Thereafter, about 20 minutes before landing, the seatbelt signs were turned on and the cabin was prepared for landing. As we descended to Jakarta, we flew through a lightning storm, causing us to have a very bumpy approach.

Lightning storm on approach

Our arrival into Jakarta was earmarked by the visibility of the imposing and ostentatious Pantai Indah Kapuk development on a series of man-made islands set on Jakarta Bay. Soon after, we were on our final approach into Soekarno-Hatta International Airport. We touched down eight minutes early at 23.47 with a relatively rough landing on Runway 25R.


Again, the Japan Airlines Boeing 787’s low-density configuration meant that the airline has the most spacious Economy Class in the air. Combined with the great food, good service, and improved entertainment system, I had a pleasant and rather well-rounded flight. Despite that, I did find myself feeling tired when I got off, simply due to the poor padding with the seats on this specific Boeing 787-8 (JA840J), which I think is quite strange. Had that not been the case, this would have been an exceptional flight.

As such this concludes our trip report, Sleepless in Seattle. You can click here to see more reviews from this trip! Thank you so much for your support and thank you for reading. Safe travels!

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