January 22, 2013
Oops, I did it again. Some of you may remember my report from last year on my first class flight on American Airlines, and the experience was surely memorable and comfortable. First class has bigger and longer seat, and you can stretch out like you are in your own bed. Food was somewhat ok, but never great. Until now.
I was very fortunate and instead of taking AA’s usual NRT–> ORD–> LGA route back to New York, I somehow got a first class seat on Japan Airlines’s NRT–> JFK non-stop flight. There are people with unbelievable amount of miles who can score sweet deals like this. Don’t judge me here. I am writing this in order for the masses to understand the reality/luxury of first class, and how the JAL experience was above and beyond my expectations.
To give you some idea, below is a table setting for AA first class (I took AA from JFK–>HND on my way to Japan. Tough life)!
Mind you, they are far better compared to last year. Silverware is longer and look at the funky water glass!
Frank Gehry-like design and fun!
Until this point, I thought the AA first class steak was pretty decent.
JAL, and I am sure many Middle Eastern and Asian airlines treat their first class passengers like gods — they treated me with the most respect and attention that I’ve never received elsewhere.
First of all, there are two entrances to the aircraft, and one is ONLY for first class passengers. I am talking about an entrance for eight people vs. more than 200 people. Totally unnecessary, but already feeling like I am worth more than I really am.
Upon entry, three cabin attendants greet me with the most sincere welcoming smile (I say sincere, but I am sure they can smile like robots no matter what they may be thinking inside). The attendants kept making serious eye contacts which made me very uncomfortable (like 5 seconds eye contact). According to my friend who is a flight attendant for JAL, they are required to take a week long training in order to be assigned to first class.
Seats are like pods, totally private from other passengers. Three attendants are x there solely to tend to eight passengers, and the rest of the 200+ people were handled by about 10 attendants. That’s twenty per attendant vs 1.5 per person. No wonder it’s around $20,000 for round trip.
From the upright position, I can barely reach the other side. TV is 23 inches. Brown slippers are totally lush.
Then all three cabin attendants come to each passenger’s seat and personally welcomed me and said, “Please let us know whenever you need anything, Mr. Yamamoto.” Ahh, this must be how CEOs and other mega-wealthy people are treated every minute of their lives. I am a bit jealous. I can get used to being Mr. Yamamoto rather than Mr. Whatever Passenger.
While we wait for take off, I am given the menu. Absolutely unnecessarily thick and luxurious, but lovely. Mind you, there’s no stains from previous passengers. It looked brand new.
I am totally digging the F. This might be the most luxurious font to represent F = The First Class.
Every time I take Japanese airlines, either JAL or ANA, the captain always announces exactly what time the plane will hit the turbulence in the beginning, and again, about 10 minutes before they turn the seatbelt sign on. “Ladies and gentlemen, we will experience some turbulence in 10 minutes, so I will turn the seatbelt sign on in about 6 minutes”. This gives passengers enough time to prepare, and I wish every captain would announce it.
While the aircraft is ascending to cruising altitude, I looked over the menu. It contained A LOT.
Champagne selections are either Salon or Dom. Wowza.
Dom was 2003 by the way. Those who are not familiar with champagne, Salon 1999 is about $280 a bottle at liquor shop, while Dom is only $120. We are always fascinated by Dom’s fame, but Salon is far better among champagne connoisseurs, apparently.
Western food menu. Since I had enough Japanese food in Japan, I didn’t even bother to look at the Japanese menu.
A la carte menu was so extensive, and I could apparently order anything, at anytime.
And this might be the most I’ve ever read about coffee.
Finally we hit 35,000 feet cruising altitude and meal time promptly started. I debated if I should get champs, but decided to stick with my usual vodka on the rocks.
Glass was Japan size, tiny. It was literally about 4 sips.
Below is AA vodka — sounds oxymoronic, but I mean American Airlines, not Alcoholics Anonymous.
About twice as big as the JAL glass.
What I find annoying about Japan are the glass sizes. They are always so small.
The great thing was, my cabin attendant (yes I am calling her mine for the next 11 hours) sensed me well enough, that every time the glass came close to empty, she brought me another. I like that.
This is a “snack” for the drink.
Warm nuts was the extent of luxurious snack I knew and these babies were cute and tasty.
Unnecessarily cute ribbons to tie the napkin. Very Japanese.
Utensils were ergonomic.
Let’s start the dinner.
I didn’t think I would ever consume fresh uni at 35,000 feet. So sweet, with hints of yuzu in the consomme.
Again, I never thought to show uni porn at 35,000 feet.
After eating uni, I had to choose caviar for appetizer to go with the “luxurious food above the clouds” theme.
I am not talking about a spoonful of caviar, but an entire container of it.
Left was cauliflower flan, which wasn’t that good.
I was looking for potato or something to top the caviar, but my attendant didn’t bring any. Right before I was going to call her, I reread the menu, and realized the thing on the right was a tart to top caviar with. All the caviar condiments in a tart form (potato, sour cream, chives) with crystal chips on top. Another WOWZA. Don’t miss the spoon for caviar — of course it’s made out of ivory (or something similar).
Again, I never thought I would have caviar at 35,000 feet above ground. And this was some of the tastiest caviar with condiments. Everything was right. My further research on this caviar found these are farmed in France, and a container of it is about 8,000 yen (about $90) retail. Jesus.
Fresh baked bread. Since there were four different kinds of bread, I got all of them.
Right was ginger, which was a bit pungent.
After having uni and caviar, what else do I choose for entree to stay consistent with the theme? Of course steak with foie gras.
Holy shit! The foie is almost as big as the steak!! Perfectly seared and plated like any respectable restaurant. No smudge on the side of the plate, and the chives were placed perfectly.
Can you see this? The foie is bigger than the steak in this bite. In the middle is a perfectly cooked apple.
Oh, I didn’t take a pic, but I had Salon with my entree. It was very smooth and nice. If I knew champagne (or the price tag), I would have had 2 bottles so that I can say “I had $560 worth of booze”…
Before dessert, a cute box of macarons were passed.
Jean Paul Hevin collaboration with JAL. Japanese love this kind of exclusivity. You can taste this macaron ONLY on JAL first class seats. How luxurious!
I’ve tasted a lot of macarons and like to think my own rank pretty high on the level of perfection, but this was better than mine.
I went to sleep after these macarons, and watching Taken 2 and some other shows. By the way, I cried my EYES out watching the last two episodes of Kita no Kunikara. If you know this show, you know what I am talking about. It’s the most tearjerker show in the history of Japan. I told the attendant, “I will be crying my eyes out, so please ignore me,” before the show started, and soon enough, she came to my seat with a bunch of tissue.
Ok, back to the sleep. Tempurpedic made special mattress for JAL’s first class — more exclusivity. Of course, my attendant made my bed, topped with a comfortable down comforter, so comfortable I slept for six hours like a baby.
I might have drooled while dreaming about what I had just eaten. Uni, caviar and foie gras in one meal? Even high-end restaurant wouldn’t give you that much luxury (or so much cholesterol).
When you fly, you are either starving, or feel like force-fed chickens. Not in first class. There’s no set second meal. As you saw in the a la carte menu, you can choose anything at any time. I was debating if I should try ramen or omu-rice (fried ketchup rice topped with fried egg omelette) and asked my attendance which she recommends. She said “I like the omu-rice better, but if you wish, I can bring both for you”. It was tempting, but I wasn’t that hungry, so I went with the omu-rice.
Now remember, this is inside of an airplane, where there’s no heat source other than microwave, yet this is what I get.
Perfectly cooked egg omelett on top of ketchup rice, with demi glase sauce on side. It’s hard to see the perfection of the egg, but it’s barely solid, yet solid enough to hold the shape on top of the rice.
I can’t quite understand how this is possible. Or, shall I rephrase, I can’t quite understand why other airlines don’t have the same capability. It’s the same microwave that Boeing 777 is equipped with, yet one airline can pull off luxurious meal like this, but others serve utterly inedible food. Why? Why?????
Before landing, I had that Blue Mountain coffee in this mug, specially designed for us eight first class passengers. The handle was super comfortable. Coffee was good, but not mind-blowing great. My attendant gave a coffee pot with a minuteglass so that I know when coffee is brewed perfectly.
It was a superb experience, definitely the best airplane experience in my whole life. Probably the last as well.
Don’t just think I am a spoiled asshole. This is very much a journalistic report of how first class passengers are treated. Your curiosity of, “I wonder what it’s like…” (“…to be treated like god in the first class cabin”), has been answered.
If any other airline representatives are reading this post 9 (especially Emirates, Ethihad, Qatar, ANA, Cathay, Singapore, and Lufthansa), I am happy to fly your first class cabins for no fee and report on your superb amenities.