Onboard Japan Airlines’ exciting A350-1000 inaugural from New York to Tokyo

Editor’s note: Japan Airlines provided TPG with a complimentary round-trip ticket between New York and Tokyo so we could be aboard the airline’s inaugural A350-1000 flight, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of the author and were not subject to review by the airline or any other external entity.

It’s not every day that an airline welcomes a new aircraft to its fleet, let alone one sporting all-new seats and cabins. But that’s what makes the debut of Japan Airlines’ Airbus A350-1000 maiden route between Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND) and New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) so exciting.

The first JAL A350-1000 flights between these two airports took place on Wednesday (Jan. 24, 2024). Although this A350 variant has been flying for several years now and is a fleet mainstay for other airlines including British Airways, Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways, and Virgin Atlantic, Japan Airlines only took delivery of its first A350-1000 in December. It now has a pair of the jets and will put them into daily use on the route between Tokyo Haneda and JFK starting Feb. 1, 2024.

This is a new aircraft variant for JAL, although the airline has a growing fleet of A350-900s, which it deploys domestically. One of those A350-900s was involved in a crash earlier this month at Haneda, though all passengers and crew aboard the JAL aircraft escaped.

For its part, the A350-1000 is also the launch aircraft for the airline’s newest long-haul first, business, and premium economy classes, each of which holds some intriguing surprises and features for passengers.

We were on board to experience all the fanfare with the inaugural leg from New York to Tokyo in business class. Here’s a rundown of everything that happened and just how the new business-class suites measure up.

Where does Japan Airlines’ A350-1000 fly?

So far, Japan Airlines has just two Airbus A350-1000s, so the aircraft is only deployed on the route between Tokyo Haneda and New York JFK. As of Feb. 1, 2024, these jets will operate one of two daily services Japan Airlines flies in either direction on this route.

If you want to experience JAL’s A350-1000 for yourself, book the following flights for the time being.

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JL 5 departs New York JFK at 12:40 p.m. and arrives at Tokyo Haneda the following day at 5:15 p.m.
JL 6 departs Tokyo Haneda at 11:05 a.m. and arrives at New York JFK the same day at 10:00 a.m.

Thanks to the International Date Line, it’s like time travel!

The airline’s other two daily flights on this route are JL 3 and JL 4, but they are operated with a Boeing 777-300ER. So be sure to pay attention to the flight numbers before booking tickets.

Once the airline takes delivery of more A350-1000s, it will deploy them between Tokyo Haneda and Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW).

Japan Airlines’ A350-1000: New plane, new classes of service

Japan Airlines has 13 A350-1000s on order and received the first two of these aircraft from Airbus in mid-December. Since then, the airline has been putting the finishing touches on the jet and training crew members, which is key because the aircraft also contains JAL’s newest international long-haul seats.

Here’s what passengers will find on board these jets.

Japan Airlines A350-1000 first class

Perhaps most exciting of all, Japan Airlines partnered with seat manufacturer Safran to devise innovative self-contained suites with privacy doors for its new first class. These are a far cry from the chocolate-hued leather recliner-style seats aboard the airline’s 777-300ERs. While the latter are still spacious and comfortable, reclining to lie-flat beds, they have started to show their age and are in need of an update.

Japan Airlines’ new first-class cabins contain just six suites in two rows of three, each laid out in a 1-1-1 pattern.

As you can tell from that configuration, each of these suites feels like an extra-wide fixture and is up to 48 inches across with a whopping 83 inches of pitch. They recline to lie-flat beds that are up to 80 inches long.

The shells surrounding the seat as well as their closing doors are 62 inches tall, so while not fully enclosed, they are still ultra-private. The doors themselves are made of a frosted glass-like material inspired by traditional Japanese shoji screen doors with bamboo-like patterns on them.

Reminiscent of a luxury train compartment, the first-class suites comprise a long, banquette-like seat on one side that can be converted into three distinct seating configurations: a sofa, an upright seat and a single bed, or a double bed, though this last is more like a double bed at the shoulders, while passengers will still have to lie somewhat diagonally to wedge their feet onto the ottoman.

Across from the seating area are a faux-marble countertop and wide ottoman as well as a jaw-droppingly large 43-inch 4K entertainment screen. Speaking of entertainment, the seat’s headrest has built-in speakers for headphone-free stereo sound. That way, passengers don’t need headphones to listen to the entertainment system, though Bang & Olufsen ones will still be on hand.

In order to retain an airy feel, JAL did not install overhead bins in the cabin. Rather, passengers can store their belongings in wardrobe-like spaces embedded into the seat shells and small carry-on bags can fit underneath the ottomans.

Speaking of the ottoman, it doubles as a jump seat complete with a seatbelt so you can invite a fellow passenger in first class to dine with you, or just to pop by for a drink and some conversation to pass the time.

The seats also have small compartments that double as so-called minibars for bottles of water and other little items.

Additional high-design touches include gold chrome sconce lighting, wireless charging surfaces, and digital tablets passengers can use to communicate with the flight attendants.

Tickets in JAL’s new first-class suites start around $14,000-$15,400 one-way or $20,200-$25,500 round-trip, depending on the direction from Tokyo to New York or vice versa. But you might be able to score one-way tickets in them using just 70,000-100,000 JAL Mileage Bank miles (plus around $735 in taxes and fees), 80,000 American AAdvantage miles plus around $19-$57 in taxes and fees, or 110,000 Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan miles (once Alaska’s new award charts go into effect) plus $19-$57 in taxes and fees.

Japan Airlines A350-1000 business class

Although Japan Airlines’ business class has long been a frequent-flyer favorite thanks to the semi-private Apex Suites aboard its Boeing 777-300ERs and on some of its 787-8s and 787-9s, the seats flyers will find on its A350-1000s feel like a whole new class of service.

Each JAL A350-1000 has 54 business-class suites in a 1-2-1 pattern split up into two sections. The first, directly behind first class, has five rows of four seats each. The aft section houses the remaining 36 seats in a somewhat staggered configuration with eight rows of single seats running along the sides of the cabin and nine rows of two seats running through the center with large adjustable privacy dividers between them.

Just like the first-class seats, these new business-class ones are manufactured by Safran and upholstered in a wine-like burgundy. Each is 22 inches wide with 51 inches of pitch, though they convert into 78-inch lie-flat beds. Their high-end finishes include brushed-metal and faux-stone and woodgrain surfaces as well as discreet sconce light fixtures.

Like first class, these seats also have doors that close, though they are only 52 inches tall. So while not fully enclosed, they do offer a fair degree of privacy from the noise and activity on the aisle. Electronically operated partitions between the center seats lend them an air of seclusion for folks traveling alone. Passengers can store small items and coats in compartments built into the doors and stow carry-on bags beneath the ottoman.

The entertainment systems are 24 inches across diagonally and passengers will find other technological novelties like the same headphone-less speaker technology in the seats’ headrests and wireless charging pads on the dual-level side consoles, where you’ll also find a universal power plug and USB-A and USB-C ports along with the touch-screen remote for the entertainment system.

Tickets in JAL’s new business-class suites…

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