I recently flew with Japan Airlines (JAL) from Los Angeles to Bangkok, with a stopover in Tokyo.
I was originally booked to fly with Zip Air, JAL’s low-cost airline, but when I arrived at LAX, the check-in staff refused to let me check in because I did not have a visa to enter Japan. (Even though I going to transit in the same terminal) I was annoyed because I had purchased the tickets on their website and checked all the requirements before travel. This was just around the time of COVID restrictions.
In addition, the Zip Air PR team knew that I was traveling and gave me permission to take photos and videos. However, the check-in staff did not know this and simply refused.
I had to walk around LAX to try to find a new flight on the same day. ANA and JAL would accept me for travel, so I paid for a brand-new ticket. I cursed that I would never fly with Zip Air again.
Almost 9 months later, I still have not received a refund and my messages and emails fall on deaf ears. Zip Air is great at taking your money, but when things go wrong, good luck getting a response! I’m sure they are great to fly with, but this whole experience has put me off wanting to ever fly them again.
JAL ECONOMY CLASS 2014
I’ve flown Japan Airlines (JAL) several times since 2014, and I’ve always been impressed with their consistency.
One of the things I love about JAL is their inflight meals and their creativity.
Years ago JAL conducted a limited collaboration with Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan (KFC) to offer KFC meals on select international flights. The meals were served in a special box and tray designed by KFC and JAL.
KFC & JAL
KFC became popular in Japan at Christmas due to a marketing campaign launched in 1974 called “Kentucky for Christmas”. The campaign was the brainchild of Takeshi Okawara, the then-manager of the first KFC in Japan.
Okawara came up with the idea after a foreign customer came into his restaurant on Christmas Day and asked for turkey. Okawara explained that turkey was not a traditional Christmas food in Japan, but he suggested that the customer try KFC instead. The customer agreed, and he enjoyed the chicken so much that he told his friends and family about it.
I flew all the way to Japan in 2014 to experience this inflight meal, and I still remember it to this day. It was a great way to start my trip to Japan, and it made me feel like I was really getting into the Japanese holiday spirit.
KFC meals aside, the airline offered generous portions and a wide variety of food on your inflight meal tray back in 2014. I am glad to see that it hasn’t changed that much, even since COVID. Here’s a look at some regular inflight meals from 2014 from Europe to Japan and vice versa.
LOS ANGELES TO TOKYO
On this 10 hour flight from LA to Tokyo JAL offered two meal services and had snacks available in the galley.
Hot towels were offered and the meal service began shortly after.
The first meal was a choice of chicken or beef, and I opted for the chicken with rice. It wasn’t so great and I just picked around the chicken. I enjoyed the side dishes of Soba noodles, fresh fruit, and turkey though.
The cabin crew was attentive and friendly, and they went out of their way to make sure that I had a good experience. Shortly after the main meal service an ice cream was hand delivered.
During the meal collection, the cabin attendant noticed I didn’t touch my meal and apologised, and offered me snacks a little later on. JAL’s economy class service can be exceptional, it’s not every day that a crew member goes out of their way for you.
During the flight, I visited the galley and inspected the snacks available.
The second meal was served about 2 hours before landing. However, there was no choice offered. Everyone received eggs with meat and rice served with some fresh fruit, yoghurt and cheese spread/crackers. I enjoyed this main meal much more.
TOKYO TO BANGKOK
After a quick transit at Narita Airport, it was time to continue to Bangkok.
I booked into premium economy for this sector to see what the difference was in terms of service and meals. As an added bonus, JAL Premium Economy Class passengers enjoy champagne and a variety of snacks not available in economy class.
On this five-hour sector, JAL offered the “Red à table” service, a French phrase that means to gather around the table for a homey, warm, and fun meal. (This is available in both premium economy and economy class.) There was one main meal service, again with two choices of mains. To my surprise, the meals were exactly the same as those served in economy class.
The food was definitely better on this sector, though. I enjoyed my choice of chicken with rice, and the three starters of carrot and fruit, pasta and broccoli, and a corn-based dip were delicious.
However, the crew on this sector were disappointing. I believe some of them were from the airline’s Bangkok base. They rushed the service, kept communication to a minimum, and literally threw the second service meal (a piece of corn mayo bread) at us just after collecting our meal trays.
The lights went out and a few hours later we landed in Bangkok.
This was the only disappointing experience I’ve had with JAL in all my travels with them. They are one of my favourite airlines to fly with, the food is delicious and the service is generally amazing. If only I could fly JAL more often!