Japan Air Lines Rolls Out New First and Business Class Seats

You know I like to talk about new seats here on the blog, and this time I know some of you will be happy to hear that it’s coming from the Pacific Rim. (Yes, I know I should blog about the other side of the Pacific far more than I do.) So who is it now? Japan Air Lines has announced new First and Business class seats, and at least the First class seats look pretty good.

These new seats will be rolled out on the new 777-300ER aircraft, the first of which flies Tokyo to New York on August 1. As no US carrier seems to be able to do (quick, where are UA’s new Business seats?), JAL has given a precise schedule for when and where you can find the seats. They will “start operating every other day on the Tokyo-New York route (JL005/ 006) on August 1, 2008, going daily on August 11. This will be followed by the Tokyo-San Francisco route on September 13, 2008, and the Tokyo – Chicago and Los Angeles routes in FY2009, the year starting April 1, 2009.”

Ok, enough of that. Let’s talk about the seats. JAL SuiteThe JAL Suite is the new First class offering, and it looks to be a big step up for the airline. There will be only 2 rows of four in the front of each plane for a total of eight seats. The seats themselves are, of course, completely flat. Anything else wouldn’t be First class anymore. It is an almost completely enclosed suite with just one open area to enter and exit. If you’re sitting next to someone, there’s a privacy screen that you can bring down (as shown at left) if you’d like.

JAL has decided to go with a separate mattress for sleeping. There will be separate Tempur-pedic mattresses that go on top of each seat when flat. The whole Tempur-pedic thing is interesting. There are plenty of people who don’t like the feel of those strangely spongy-yet-firm mattresses, so I hope the seats are comfortable enough without the mattress for those who don’t like it.

What else? Well, meals will now come on-demand instead of at a set time. That’s good. What’s bad? Uh, the seats are white, sorry, “pale gray.” Those are going to show the dirt, I’m sure.

Now, let’s look at the Business seat. 08_06_17 jalneoIt appears to be more of a marketing campaign than anything else because the seats aren’t much different. First of all, no seat is truly “new” without a super cool name. JAL has chosen “JAL Shell Flat Neo Seat.” Sounds, uh, cool? Ok, maybe not.

It is apparently very similar to the old business class seat but these recline a little more (still a near-flat 171 degrees). But at least there is now a “slip-proof cover” so you won’t slide down too far. That’s probably the best thing the airline has done here.

Then, in an admirable attempt to marry style and pure commercialism, they will dedicate the wall of one of the galleys to a photo exhibition. I’m sure you’ll be SHOCKED to hear that it’s being sponsored by Fuji Film. Well, it’s better than pasting an ad on the tray table, I suppose.

This will also be the first plane to debut JAL’s Premium Economy class which appears to be similar to a British Airways-type offering versus a United-style one, unsurprisingly.

So, First is a big step for the airline and so is Premium Economy, but Business appears to be fairly similar to what was there before.

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