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Flight Report: Japan Airlines 006

Passenger: Shane Mitchell
Aircraft: Boeing 747-400
Route: Tokyo (Narita) to New York (JFK)
Class/Seat no.: Executive (Business)/36H
Departure time: Noon

Check-in/Boarding
My experience at the JAL desk was a study in Japanese politesse, executed in perfect English. The drab Sakura Executive Class lounge won't win any interior design awards, but the front desk staff greeted me with bows and offered me a modem jack for my laptop. The boarding process was also efficient: no bottleneck of passengers between the ramp and cabin.
Grade: B

Cabin
The Shell Flat seat unfolds into a 170-degree bed, though the controls are complicated. After poking myself in the back several times with the expanding lumbar cushion, I chose a low-tech solution: a down pillow. Amenities include "eye refresher" pads, a face mask (which reduces dehydration as well as the spread of germs), and a cotton pajama top.
Grade: B+

Service
Exceedingly gracious. On other airlines, I've been forced to climb the seats to stow my own luggage (I'm five feet tall in my socks). On this flight, an attendant even tinier than I am helped me stuff several hefty carry-on bags into the overhead compartment. And when I craved a midnight snack, another brought me hot soba noodles prepared to order.
Grade: A

Food and Drink
A Western menu is available, but the delicate kaiseki (a multicourse Japanese meal), created by a collective of young chefs who specialize in traditional Kyoto cuisine, are far superior. My dinner included grilled eel teriyaki, seared beef with soy-vinegar sauce, salt-grilled salmon, and miso soup. Skip the uninspired French and California wine list for a subtle Tamano Hikari Omachi sake.
Grade: A

Tech/Entertainment
Loved the noise-canceling Sony headsets. Each seatback has a 10-inch TV monitor with 10 on-demand movies, 10 games, and 18 audio channels. Unfortunately, the same programming is provided on inbound and outbound flights, so I wound up watching Shark Tale twice. Since my trip, JAL has launched Connexion by Boeing Internet service ($30 for unlimited use).
Grade: B-

Overall
JAL has mastered the art of the long haul and made it bearable. The service, food, and amenities on this 12-hour flight are first-rate. (The high-end Shiseido products in the bathroom were a particularly nice touch.) If only JAL had more English-language movie channels, I wouldn't have needed all those trashy paperbacks stuffed in my carry-on.
Grade: A-

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