Japan Airlines (also frequently referred to as JAL) is one of two major international carriers in Japan. The award-winning company is frequently atop the list of Skytrax’s annual airline rankings, thanks to superb onboard service, an impressive food and drink selection, and comfortable seats across all cabins, including in business class.
In the US, Japan Airlines flies from ten cities: New York (JFK), Boston (BOS), Chicago (ORD), Dallas (DFW), Seattle (SEA), San Francisco (SFO), Los Angeles (LAX), San Diego (SAN), Honolulu (HNL), and Kona (KOA).
What to know about Japan Airlines business class
From its hubs in Tokyo (Narita and Haneda Airports), Japan Airlines flies several types of business class seats, depending on the route and length of flight.
However, for flights between the US and Japan, passengers can expect the best business class that Japan Airlines offers, in a seat known as the “Apex Suite.” JAL flies the Boeing 787-8, Boeing 787-9, and Boeing 777-300ER to the US, with every business-class seat offering direct aisle access. The arrangement is somewhat unique: Business class on the Boeing 787 is in a 2-2-2 configuration, while the larger Boeing 777 is in a 2-3-2 configuration.
While that may sound cramped compared to airlines that offer a 1-2-1 business-class configuration, all seats have unimpeded aisle access thanks to a slightly staggered arrangement. In fact, passengers seated closest to the window have an incredible sense of privacy as well as direct aisle access—and three windows to themselves, similar to what you may find in first class. The only downside is a lack of storage in these window seats (seats closer to the aisle get access to a small cubby).
Shorter inter-Asia routes, including those within Japan, typically don’t have seats that are as good. However, many still offer direct aisle access, including select cabins on the Boeing 767, 777-200, and 787.
- LAX - Tokyo
- JFK - Tokyo
- Chicago - Tokyo
Examples of previous deals we've found for Going Elite members in JAL business class
- Miami to Tokyo fr $3,172 roundtrip
- San Jose to Seoul for $2,772 roundtrip
- NYC to Bangkok for $2,409 roundtrip
The Japan Airlines business class experience at the airport
Japan Airlines business class lounge access
JAL operates nine of its own Sakura lounges and offers Oneworld partner lounge access at over three dozen airports worldwide. Any passenger ticketed in JAL business class can use these lounges, but no guests are allowed (based on the ticket purchased).
At JAL hubs in Tokyo (NRT and HND), expect expansive tarmac views, a wide selection of Japanese and western-style dishes including JAL’s famous beef curry and freshly baked breads by Maison Kayser, along with shower and rest facilities.
At other locations, the business class lounge experience varies greatly depending on the individual airport and which partner airlines’ lounge you’ll be using. Japan Airlines operates its own lounges in San Francisco (SFO) and Honolulu (HNL) while at other airports such as Dallas (DFW), Los Angeles (LAX), and Chicago (ORD), Japan Airlines business class passengers can access the American Airlines Flagship Lounge, offering a wide array of hot and cold food, a self-serve bar with higher-end beer, wine, champagne, and liquor, along with shower suites.
Japan Airlines operates twoHaneda Sakura business class international lounges, with both having undergone renovations in recent years. Each lounge is spacious and has expansive seating areas, along with the amenities business class passengers may expect: Shower facilities, fast Wi-Fi, a wide array of hot and cold food and drink, and more. The lounges at Haneda also have an impressive array of buffet food on offer, better than most business class lounges, and includes miso soup, udon noodles, and JAL’s signature beef curry. Lighter fare includes a selection of salads, dim sum, spring rolls, and wraps.
The Narita Sakura business class international lounge is on two floors, with a variety of seating options, an expansive buffet, large windows with views of the planes below, and massage chairs to relax in. The main floor consists of the relaxation areas and work stations, whereas the mezzanine level holds the dedicated dining area. While food and beverage is high quality, especially for a business class lounge, it can get quite crowded up top.
JAL business class check-in
At major airports worldwide, including in Tokyo, JAL business class passengers have access to a dedicated check-in line which can speed up the check-in process. Oneworld Emerald, Sapphire or Ruby status members can also use this line.
JAL business class passengers can bring up to three checked bags (up to 70 pounds each) free of charge. Bags are tagged as priority and arrive at the carousel immediately after first class passengers.
The Japan Airlines business class experience in the air
Seats in JAL business class
- Boeing 777: Japan Airlines offers several different types of business class on the Boeing 777. Typically, JAL flies the 777-300ER variant to the US, offering 49 business class “Apex Suites” in a 2-3-2 layout, with lie-flat capability and direct aisle access. While storage is somewhat limited, these seats (also known as “Sky Suites”) are well regarded for how much space is provided for your feet and legs (and naturally, the seat is ideal for taller passengers). Seats measure 25.5 inches wide and 74 inches in pitch and bed length. On select international flights, JAL also flies the Boeing 777-200 with 26 seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, but you’ll almost never see this aircraft type on flights between Japan and the US.
- Boeing 787: Japan Airlines has several variants of the Boeing 787 “Dreamliner,” but for the US market, the carrier typically flies the 787-9 with 44 business class “Apex Suites” in a 2-2-2 configuration or the 787-8 with 38 lie-flat business class seats, also in the same 2-2-2 arrangement. On select international flights, passengers may find themselves on a 787 with 52 business class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, or 30 angled-flat seats in a 2-2-2 arrangement.
- Boeing 767: On some international flights (almost always outside the US), JAL flies the Boeing 767 with 24 lie-flat business class seats in a staggered 1-2-1 configuration.
- Airbus A350: Later in 2023, Japan Airlines will introduce the Airbus A350-1000 on flights between Tokyo and New York (JFK). No additional details are known about the seats themselves at this time, but in an online statement, JAL says the A350 will offer a “new unprecedented experience for each and every one of our customers.”
Benefits of flying JAL business class
With JAL, expect incredibly personalized service from the Japanese crew, a well-stocked amenity kit in collaboration with French brand Maison Kitsuné, access to onboard Wi-Fi (for a fee), plush slippers, and airline-branded noise-canceling headphones. If you’re flying long-haul on Japan Airlines business class, you’ll also get a mattress pad—with a choice between harder and softer. (Passengers are also offered a pajama-like cardigan.) Shiseido amenities are located in the lavatory.
Meals in Japan Airlines business class
Passengers in Japan Airlines business class can select between a western cuisine menu and a Japanese set menu, the latter typically heavy on seafood. Typically, there is a meal offered shortly after takeoff, an array of mid-flight hot and cold snacks (including the aforementioned beef curry that’s served in the lounge, along with items like ramen and udon), followed by a pre-arrival meal.
If you enjoy Japanese cuisine and you’ve never had a Japanese set meal at 35,000 feet, you’ll be in for a treat. Food onboard JAL is regarded as some of the best in the world, with the box set being the particular highlight. Expect a first course of cold selections, called irodori gozen, that includes a variety of fresh fish and Japanese specialties. Following that, a hot course called dainomono, includes a flavorful main, along with miso soup and rice.
While Japan Airlines saves its best champagne and liquor for first class passengers, there's still an impressive selection in business class—including several different sakes, wines, single-malt Japanese whisky, and of course, champagne.
Japan Airlines business class vs first class
On Japan Airlines, expect a much more personalized experience in first class versus business class, with only up to eight passengers in the cabin and two dedicated crew members. First class passengers also get more space at the seat as well as elevated food and beverages on offer.
JAL first-class passengers also get access to a dedicated lounge in Tokyo (HND and NRT) which features a made-to-order sushi bar.
JAL vs ANA
Japan Airlines and ANA, the two major international Japanese airlines, compete head to head on many US routes. While their business class “soft products” (food and beverage, service, amenities) are comparable, there are key differences in the “hard products” (the physical seat).
ANA’s newest business class seat, called “The Room,” is offered on select Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, including between Tokyo and New York. This modern seat—with a privacy door and large entertainment screen—is a significant upgrade over even JAL’s best business class seat.
How to book Japan Airlines business class
How much does it cost for a business class ticket on Japan Airlines?
The price of a Japan Airlines business class ticket varies based on a number of factors including seasonality, route, and more. A sample search of a round-trip flight between New York (JFK) and Tokyo (NRT) in business class showed flights in the $3,000 to $5,000 range. At Going, we find cheap flights for our members as low as $2,200 roundtrip.
How to upgrade to business class on Japan Airlines for free
Unfortunately, there isn’t a sure-fire way to get an upgrade to Japan Airlines business class for free. However, if you do have an economy or premium economy ticket booked, there is a slight chance that JAL may overbook your flight and you could then get “bumped” into business class. This is called an “operational upgrade” but the odds of this occurring is low. Generally, you’ll need to pay, either with points or cash.
How much does it cost to upgrade to business class on Japan Airlines?
JAL may sometimes offer a way to upgrade to business class at a discounted rate in the days and weeks leading up to departure. JAL’s website has a “Bid Upgrade” option, providing travelers in economy or premium economy the opportunity to bid for an upgrade to business. The price can vary significantly but take a look at your booking online. And when you’re checking in at the airport, it never hurts to ask at the counter how much an upgrade may cost.
How many miles to upgrade to Japan Airlines business class?
Japan Airlines offers the ability to upgrade your ticket to business class on select routes using miles, based on availability. The cost varies depending on the route, but for instance, a one-way flight from New York (JFK) to Tokyo (NRT) upgraded from premium economy to business class would cost 30,000 JAL Mileage Bank miles. However, this is subject to availability constraints. To determine how many miles an upgrade costs, click here.
Read more about business class flights
- Lufthansa business class
- Cathay Pacific business class
- Emirates business class
- Qatar airways business class
- ANA business class
- Etihad business class
There is a reason Japan Airlines business class is constantly ranked as one of the best products in the world. Between renowned food and beverage, deferential service, and comfortable seats on long-haul flights, JAL offers one of the most well-rounded (and luxurious) business class experiences of any airline.