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JAL New A350-1000 First Class

JAL New A350-1000 First Class
Japan Airlines New A350-1000 First Class
Tokyo Haneda to Dallas/Ft Worth
May 2024

I was fortunate to find an 80K mile AA award seat on this past Wednesday's JL12 from Haneda to DFW.   While it was a pleasant flight and the new suite has lots of great features, I'm not sure that JAL's A350-1000 is worth some of the effusive fanboy/Lucky-like hype I’ve read. Here are my objective observations and thoughts, both the positive and negative…

After the nice private Haneda First Class check-in "lounge" and security, ground F service is weak to non-existent. The Sakura First Class Lounge is mediocre, sadly overrun with non First Class OW passengers and no special area for true First Class passengers. 

And then there is the JAL boarding process with no pre-boarding for First Class passengers, just queue and board with all the other Group 1 pax. Think United Group 1 boarding.

Tokyo HND to Dallas DFW
Japan Airlines JL12
May 1, 2024
Departed 6/6
Cost: 80,000 AA miles

Not exactly an exclusive boarding experience as only 2L was in operation today.

Lovely two row, six suite First Class cabin.

My home for the next 12 hours, one of the largest First Class suites in the skies.

Yeah, this will work.  LOL.

Suite footprint is large and well planned for the most part.  I had selected 1A for the extra window. The slightly smaller footprint from the curvature of the fuselage was not an issue as the overall space is plenty large. The single suite door only closes one way front to back which exposes you to 1D and vice versa. A double door or rear to front would have corrected that issue. Speaking of 1D, I’d hate to be sitting in either of those two middle seats as they seem dark and claustrophobic.

Good storage space for both my rollerboard and backpack.

The JAL A35-1000 has lots of new tech features although some don’t seem ready for prime time. Huge HD screen is awesome and really HD if you pick the correct recent movie like The Beekeeper. Anything else and it’s just enlarged non-HD which makes the distortion even worse than on a smaller screen. The electronic tablet was nice for controlling things although not all functions seem to work properly, especially Light settings. IMO, the in-seat speakers are a useless gimmick. Poor sound quality with no bass and not enough volume capability, which makes sense to avoid neighbors hearing each others audio. Once you’ve selected seat speakers, it’s is hard to switch to jack or Bluetooth (if that even works which it didn’t for me) without starting over and selecting a different movie. Wireless charging is a nice idea but virtually useless. Even when you find the sweet spot, charging is at a glacial speed. Perhaps without my iPhone case it would have been better but removing mine is a PIA. Wifi is painfully slow and you get kicked off after a few minutes of non use. Then it takes a few minutes to reconnect if at all. Movie favorites apparently disappear after a few hours of non activity. After my sleep, mine had all disappeared. On the other hand, the suite has lots of power options including 3 AC power outlets, 3 USB jacks and 3 USB A jacks.

Predeparture champagne.  You know it's not the good stuff when they just bring the glass from the galley.  And confirmed when our FA showed me the bottle. One sip and done.

After takeoff, time to explore the nice at seat wireless tablet.

Nice options but... once you select, you can't unselect or change your selection without changing movies... twice.

As usual for JAL, weak and limited western movies selections. To make matters worse on the A350, you can’t get rid of the Japanese (or Chinese huh?) subtitles. I only found one movie (out of 12 that I tried) that had a "No Subtitles" option. The others just defaulted to Japanese or... Chinese Traditional subtitles, with no apparent way to unselect.

But with the right movie, the HD quality is extraordinary especially on this massive screen.

JAL offers the most extravagant champagne of any airline in First Class... on flights departing Japan.  Today it was Salon 2013 which retails for a mere $1,200+ a bottle.  The bad news is that they only load one bottle per flight.  The good news today is that, except for one small glass to another passenger, I was the only one drinking so I enjoyed virtually the entire bottle.  Serving cheap champagne at the gate apparently makes passengers less likely to have another glass once in flight. 

Very strange amuse bouche.  No idea as the identity was lost in translation.  Another one taste and done.

Today's menu...

After the Salon, the wine list is rubbish. Unlike a 777 galley, the A350 galley is really exposed and takes up most of the area up front.  In service, it is just a mess.  Service on my flight was well meaning but seemed challenged at times even with just 6 pax. It took nearly an hour after wheels up for drinks and service to start. 

The white wines shouldn't even be served in Business Class.  An $18 featured Chardonnay??

Reds are a little better but only acceptable on a Business Class wine list.

Showtime: JAL First Class style.   I should have gone Japanese especially ex-Japan but just didn't feel like doing another round.  So I went with the International menu and a bottle of Salon.

The breads were warm and wonderful.

Sadly, the Goat Milk Bavarois amuse-bouche was gross and inedible.

The Nicoise Salad Terrine was better but still a meh.

Next up was a Seafood Sausage with a spicy tomato salsa.  Tasted OK but with an odd texture.  Now regretting my meal choice.

Finally a winner.  The Sea Bream & Spring Vegetables with Marinière Sauce... prepared sous vide.

And was absolutely spectacular.

By now, I'd finished off the bottle of Salon and decided to move on to.  LOL.

Pleasant but not memorable $40 Burgundy.

The Wagyu Beef Fillet with Morel Mushroom Sauce was very good albeit a little too well done.  But Burdock? That's a hard pass.

And to finish, although it was tasty, the strangest Strawberry Shortcake that I have ever seen.

Nap time!   I slept for more than 4 hours which is very good for me. Excellent thick mattress pad (with a choice of soft or firm) and the cabin temp today was reasonable. But the seats don’t actually fully lie flat with a bump/gap where the seat and seat-back meet. Unless you hit the right sweet spot, your back feels it.

Massive amount of room and the door provides excellent privacy.

For my pre-landing meal, I decided to try a couple of Japanese options from the a la carte portion of the menu.   Sadly, the Miso-grilled Butterfish was dry and very firm not moist and soft.

And the JAL's Recommendation Braised Pork Belly Rice Bowl was disappointingly bland and flavorless.

Prior to landing I checked out the amenity kit.


And more meh.

We arrived on time at DFW and parked at D15.   

JAL's A350-1000 was great experience and I'm very happy to have had the chance to experience it.  But it is not without its flaws and the JAL soft product could be better.  Having flown virtually all of the world's international First Class products, for a overall First Class experience, I’d still rather be on Emirates, Singapore or Air France La Première.