I departed for Narita Airport early so I’d have a bit of time to explore. I wasn’t expecting anything incredible. But, since I am an airline geek, it seemed to explore NRT a bit during my first time there. I took the same train I did previously, walking a short distance from my hotel.
Upon arrival at NRT, I did some exploring prior to security. There was an upper level filled with shopping, and I had a few other small things I wanted to pick up as gifts for people. From upstairs, I could see that the airport was sparsely filled.
At the ends of the shopping area there were rooftop viewing areas, complete with some gardens. Our Boeing 787 was sitting at the gate ready to go. It’s hard to mistake that swept wingtip for anything else in commercial aviation. I snapped a quick pic and headed back to do some shopping.
After some shopping for some interesting small items (more on that later) I headed downstairs and discovered the JAL Fast Security Lane. It was labeled for First Class and some JAL elites, but even though I was only flying Business Class on the 787 they admitted me. This was a pattern through most of my trip. Even though it’s only a 2-cabin aircraft, they allowed me into the F lines and clubs.
After exploring the terminal and not finding too much of interest, I decided to try the Admirals Club first. I had already been told by others that it wasn’t as nice as the JAL First lounge. But, I had read they were going to be making some changes based on some cooperation with JAL, so I figured it was worth a peek. I saw this sign posted outside the JAL First lounge.
You can see the note at the bottom that the sharing agreement is due to overcrowding in the JAL lounges, with a note that they are expanding later this year. I would definitely see evidence of the overcrowding later on.
The club was fairly normal. Not overly crowded, but definitely a lot of people milling about. The food was definitely more substantive than a domestic US club, with some food for US customers as well as a decent buffet catering to Japanese patrons, along with a rice cooker and even some Asahi on tap with chilled glasses. This was the best drink I had while at NRT.
The rest of the club was fairly standard Admirals Club fare, with a nice side view of our 787 for a bit later on in the morning.
After that, it was off to the JAL lounges. I started with the First Class lounge (of course).
This isn’t a fairly big lounge, and it was packed. There are showers and a massage area, though I did not choose to indulge in either. There’s a sizable main room for dining and community seating, some smaller “meditation” style rooms with comfortable massage chairs and a small business center area. Almost every seat in the main room was full.
The buffet had some pretty standard American breakfast items (eggs, sausage, croissants and french bread), as well as a pretty decent Asian selection. While the descriptions weren’t great, I did find a few tasty things on the buffet, and you can’t beat freshly steamed Japanese rice.
My brief snack wouldn’t be complete without some sparkling wine. Duval-Leroy was the offering. I’ve had it in the past before. It’s fine, if not inspiring. Usually lighter with a hint of citrus (which is what I found), this is usually not very yeasty and tends to have a moderate mouth feel. I mean, it beats Domaine St. Michelle, but I must confess I was hoping for something a little better in the lounge. Nevertheless, I did endure two glasses before pushing onward. 😛
After taking the full tour of the First Class lounge, I decided to pop over to the Sakura lounge (for Business Class customers, unless you’re on the 787). The crowd in the Sakura lounge made the First Class lounge look a bit empty. There was a lot of the same decor and food, with a slightly smaller selection. Same base wines and spirits, no champagne and every seat in the restaurant area was full. SRO at the Sakura lounge. 🙂
I’m glad I took the tour of the 3 clubs even if there wasn’t too much awe inspiring. The Lufthansa First Class lounge in Frankfurt still takes the cake as the #1 lounge I’ve visited (thanks, Tommy!) and while the JAL lounges didn’t quite pale in comparison, there’s a pretty big gap between the two. From everything I’ve heard, I think JAL is making great progress with their products, and I look forward to more improvements.
I’ve got one more post to sum up my trip which I hope to get written over the next few days and get caught up on a bunch of other stuff I want to cover.