Review: JAL First Chicago – Tokyo

We had an excellent flight on Japan Airlines (JAL) in first class from Chicago to Tokyo on flight JL9. In fact, this was a contender for the best flight we have had in a number of years.


Our last flight on JAL was distinctly unimpressive, but as a result of this Chicago Tokyo flight,  we have chalked that experience up as an anomaly. It is worth noting that this Chicago Tokyo flight was lightly loaded, particularly in first class (in contrast to our last flight, in which the plane was practically full, including all 8 seats in first class).

We boarded late and started with water as our pre-takeoff beverage. The flight attendants one by one came by and introduced themselves and delivered the menu in its leather folio. Just from these interactions we could tell this was going to be an excellent flight.


A flight attendant also delivered our amenity kit, along with a Shiseido skincare kit and the in-flight loungewear.


The JAL SKY SUITE first class cabin is very comfortable. We find it well designed and even more comfortable than it looks in photographs.


After a quick taxi from the gate, we were soon flying over a snow-covered Chicago.


For take-off, obviously the curtains between cabins are open, but also there is an opening to allow for flight attendants to have line of sight to the forward business class mini-cabin.


The wine list was the same as on our previous flight on JAL (listed towards the bottom of that review). However, in addition to the famous Champagne SALON 2002, there was also Dom Pérignon 2004 which did not appear on the menu.


We started off the flight with a glass of Salon, which was served with a selection of packaged snacks.


The amuse bouche from the western menu was served with our next glass of Salon.

We found the service on this flight to be truly amazing. The flight attendants were exceptional at refilling our glasses. The crew constantly kept an unobtrusive eye on these through a crack in the curtain and immediately appeared with the bottle whenever our glasses needed refreshing.


On this flight we partook of the Japanese menu for our main course.


The attention to detail in JAL First is impressive. For example, the set of chopsticks you get with your main meal come in a holder branded with a giant F (for first class).


We started with Japanese tapas (kozara).


This was followed by a soup with shrimp.


The next course – the Shiizakana was an interesting combination of anglerfish liver, grilled halibut and egg cake.


This was followed by a main course (Dainomono), which was delicious.  The lobster was perfect. It was accompanied by crab rice, pickles and a miso soup.

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For dessert we had the chocolate brownie from the western option. This was served cold and we found it  a bit too hard. Perhaps it would have been a touch better had it been warm.


We then finished with a cheese plate. We needed to ask for crackers and then a tiny packet was delivered.


After dinner we decided to turn in for the night rather than do any work. By this time we were already in a very relaxing position.


With one touch of the bed button on the right panel in the below picture, the SKY SUITE first class seat reclines to fully flat. The armrests come down to be about level with the rest of the seat when in bed mode. More detail on operating the seats can be found in our general post on the SKY SUITE.


As the first class cabin was relatively empty, the crew proactively offered to set up our bed in a spare seat. We picked up an extra memory foam pillow too.


The crew then put down the mattress and doona (that’s duvet for our international readers).

One of the nice things about most first class products is that your feet aren’t enclosed in a tight space when sleeping so you have space to roll over (although the seatbelt really isn’t long enough for you to roll over while sleeping not a problem we usually face).


The crew had laid out chocolates forward of the cabin. JAL serve Jean-Paul Hévin chocolates. They were delicious.


A note on the privacy screen between the centre seats. It is electrically adjustable and when down, makes for a good pair of seats to converse.


During the flight to Tokyo we had a few other meals from the à la carte menu.


These were delicious and included the Mackerel and Salmon Pressed Sushi…


… Gnocchi and salad…


.. Sablefish etc…




…Udon Noodles with seaweed…


… and a fruit plate.


We were soon coming into land at Tokyo’s Narita airport. It was hard to believe that it had been 13 hours since departing Chicago. The crew came around to thank us for flying JAL and wishing us a good stay in Tokyo. The crew offered to bag up our lounge wear (pajamas) and returned with them in a plastic bag for us to take.


We were highly impressed with JAL First on this flight. The seat is very comfortable and the service was at least equal to, if not better than, our recent flights on Singapore Airlines in Suites class.

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2 Comments on "Review: JAL First Chicago – Tokyo"

  1. I would love to choose the Japanese entree course…but I also would love to try the famous caviar…and it’s listen on “western” course… Can I ask them for caviar in addition of japanese entree?

    • @David – We’ve never tried that particular request on JAL. But if you ask, bearing in mind that it is possible they’ll struggle to understand what you are asking for, the crew may be able to accommodate that.

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