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Japan Airlines B777-300 Premium economy
CHECK IN I got off the Narita Express and took the escalator to the third floor at Narita Terminal 2, arriving at 0800 for my 0950 flight JL403. The terminal was busy and I had to ask where to check in for premium economy as it was not clear on the screens. My check-in desk was O – my passport was checked before I reached the desks and I was told to check in at the self-service machine. I scanned my passport and was given the option to change my seat, which was in the middle of the plane, but I could see the flight was busy and as I had an aisle seat I kept it. After my boarding pass was printed, I went to check in my bag at the counter. Security was busy but I was through quickly and then went through immigration into the departure lounge.
THE LOUNGE Premium economy passengers flying with JAL have access to its business class lounge. It is straight ahead when you enter the departure lounge and is on two levels. I was directed downstairs, as the upper level was full, and there was a long room with a kitchen containing snacks and drinks ahead of me, as well as a large smoker’s room. Round the corner, the space opens out into a huge open-plan room with green and beige suede and leather chairs, and a large kitchen area with more snacks and drinks. It was very busy when I arrived, but I found a seat by the window, plugged my laptop in and logged on to the free wifi. The upper level reopened as I was about to leave – I went up and found there was a large dining area with hot meals and Japanese specialities. I quickly had some rice and sausages and left the lounge at 0920 to head to Gate 63.
BOARDING The flight was boarding when I arrived at the gate and I boarded immediately. The aircraft was busy but the row in front of my seat was empty, even though on the check-in screen it was shown as booked.
THE SEAT This was a four-class B777 aircraft. Premium economy is configured 2-4-2 (AC-DEFG-HK) and features the JAL Sky Shell seat, which has 20 per cent more legroom than economy class seating. I had seat 20D in the back section of the cabin (rows 17-22). The seat slides down inside its own shell with a simple push button and you can also extend the footrest, which gives extra support as you recline. However, this was no good for me as my legs were too long and did not rest on it (my knees still bent over the footrest), so it was better for me not to have it up at all. There is a directional light on the right and a US plug socket – I had my adapter with me and found it hard to see the holes, but managed to plug it in after a few attempts. I worked on the spacious table, which I thought was better than the business class one as you could fold it in half and it came down from the seatback in front rather than out of the armrest, so you could still get out of your seat with the table down. I was provided with a blanket, a soft pillow, a pair of slippers and headphones. There was a nine-inch TV screen with audio-video on-demand entertainment, and the remote was in the right armrest.
WHAT SEAT TO CHOOSE? Choose one of the seats at the front of the cabin as they have more legroom. Seats A-C in row 17 looked like they had the most room, and as the bathroom is at the back of the cabin you only have the galley to contend with, which was not very noisy. Try to get a window seat if you want to sleep as it is hard to climb over someone and I had to get up a couple of times to let the person next to me out. See seatplans.com for more details on which seat to choose.
THE FLIGHT Lunch was served about an hour after take-off. There was a choice of a Western meal (beefburger with rice) or a Japanese option, and as I had this on the outbound journey, I decided to try the burger. I did not really enjoy it and wish I had opted for the Japanese menu again. I later asked for some instant noodles, which you can have whenever you like – the crew also gave out some large buns. Bottles of water were offered before the lights were dimmed and the service was good – the crew came around regularly to offer drinks and snacks. I slept for a while and watched a couple of films before breakfast was served about two hours before landing – I had the noodle option.
ARRIVAL We landed at Heathrow Terminal 3 on time at 1330. I used IRIS at immigration and was pleased it worked first time as there was a long queue at the main desk. My bag came out swiftly and I was on the tube into London 45 minutes after landing.
VERDICT The service was excellent and the seat had generous legroom and good entertainment options, but I did not benefit from the extendable footrest. The use of the lounge when flying premium economy was an excellent bonus.
PRICE Return premium economy fare £1,370 booking online for December 15, returning December 20.