A late evening flight from Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport was scheduled to take me to one of my top three dream destinations—Japan. I have read about the Land of the Rising Sun since childhood and obsessed about its art and food most of my adult life. Like all superstitious travellers, I warded off any jinxes before my travel.

And I was happy to find Japan Airlines (JAL) on my side. With their organised processes and on-time departure, I felt prepared for my voyage to Japan.

Flying Japan Airlines. Photo courtesy: Japan Airlines.
Plenty of choices available in their in-flight entertainment program. Photo courtesy: Japan Airlines.

Departure and Arrival

I arrived at the check-in counter in Delhi much ahead of my time. The counters had not opened then. However, there was no hesitation by the ground staff and it was a seamless process. Soon I glided through immigration and security.

Boarding at Delhi was also organised. We begun with Diamond and Premier flyers, followed by Business Class, Premium Economy and finally Economy Class passengers.

My arrival at Tokyo’s Narita International Airport (NRT) was also a speedy process. The airport was surprisingly small and on-going renovation work made it look cramped. However, my checked-in bag arrived without any delay and we set off to explore Japan.

On the other hand, my departure from Tokyo was delayed because of a confusion at the check-in counter. The lady could not retrieve my booking (even though I had checked-in online). I was caught up for about 15 minutes. Apart that, everything else remained much unchanged on my return flight.

Inflight Experience

The first feature that got my attention in  JAL’s economy cabin was its cleanliness. It was very clean and tidy with ample leg space (it appeared to be more than usual). I suppose the colour scheme—black and red—added to the sophistication of the cabin. The overhead bins (when closed) hung high above which further gave a sense of space.

The crew gave me a glimpse of how polite the Japanese are. They were attentive, very prompt and swift in their service. Truly they made the inflight experience wonderful.

The flight time from Delhi to Narita was a little more than seven hours and return (NRT-DEL) was a long 10.5 hours. On my way to Japan, I didn’t sleep a wink (thanks to the excitement) and the inflight entertainment kept me company. I watched two movies back-to-back, played some jazz as I read my book and wasted time on a couple of episodes from a TV series.

I grew concerned before taking my return flight to India. 10 hours is a long time and if I didn’t get any sleep, I would be visibly tired. Thankfully, I slept rather comfortably and also made time to watch another two movies and read my book.

I repeat, the swift and non-intrusive service of the crew played a huge part in the comfort.

Read: Flying with SWISS International Air Lines

Japan Airlines review
Apart tofu, this is what I’d like to smuggle from Japan.
Japan Airlines review
Suntory pilsner while returning to India.

Inflight food and beverages

I was looking forward to the food onboard more than the drinks, unlike most of my travels. I first fell in love with the rice crackers served as a snack. An assortment of lightly spiced and crispy bites, I looked for these in Japan’s supermarkets but failed to get one of suitable quantity.

My main meal was grilled chicken with miso flavour with rice, surrounded by smoked salmon and vegetables salad, a bowl of fresh fruits and boiled soba noodles with a hint of wasabi. What looked like a bun was a banana almond muffin—extremely soft and mellow in taste.

On my way back, I chose the chicken with taro and yuba (tofu skin) soy milk gratin. Shiraae (mashed tofu) sauce of mascarpone cheese and tofu added a special flavour and crunch to the fresh winter vegetables. The desserts were a highlight on this sector. JAL spoilt us with anno or sweet potato pudding and a cup of Häagen Dazs  (vanilla flavour).

Japan Airlines review
Delicious soba on my way to Narita, Tokyo.
Japan Airlines review
Dinner with sweet potato and ice-cream as dessert.

Landing snack bag comprised three types of onigiri or rice balls. I gobbled one with omelette and green beans, and kept the seaweed rice cake as a snack.

JAL serves plethora of beverages onboard. JAL Cafe Lines caught my eye and I tried JAL’s New Coffee. I also took a couple of sips of the cold green and black tea.

My experiments with Japanese alcohol begun at 35000 feet altitude with sake, wine and beer—all local produces. The only non-Japanese liquor I drank was a glass of G&T.

Read: Flying Turkish Airlines Business Class

Japan Airlines review
Dusk marking our arrival to India.
Japan Airlines review
My refreshing G&T.

Flights set the tone of our forthcoming travel. A comfortable, punctual flight adds in positivity and makes us look forward to the onward exploration, and vice versa. Flying JAL on my first visit to Japan prepared me for the magical and successful journey ahead.

Good to know
-JAL has an iOS app, though currently it is only in Japanese.
-For web check-in, go to JAL’s page.
-Please mention food preferences at the time of booking. The crew are very attentive to each passenger’s request and food allergies.
-In India, JAL flies from New Delhi and has an agreement with Air India which allows passengers to book through fares from/to all major cities of India.
-They also have inflight shopping and Skyward is their inflight magazine.

Read: Looking for Vegetarian Food in Taiwan?

How was your experience with Japan Airlines?

Note: I was invited by Japan Airlines and JNTO.

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Amrita Das

I have been a travel and culture independent journalist. My bylines have appeared in many publications worldwide including National Geographic Traveller India, Lonely Planet Magazine India, The Indian Express and World Travel Magazine. A fellow of Media Ambassadors India-Germany 2019 program by Robert Bosch Stiftung and Centre for Media Competence, University of Tübingen. Currently, I am the photo editor for RoundGlass Sustain, a wildlife and conservation e-publication. I live in India.

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3 thoughts on “Flying with Japan Airlines”

  1. Nice read. I am impressed with the food and the drinks that they are offering. Most of the times the viewing list also becomes a problem. Hope they have an impressive menu on that too

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