Review: Japan Airlines Business Class Shell Flat Neo, B787-8, Tokyo Narita – Vancouver


Our Trans Pacific Flight on Japan Airlines was on one of Japan Airlines newest equipment types; the brand new Boeing 787. For some strange reason, Japan Airlines decided to outfit this new plane with angle flat seats. While the seats looks neat and contemporary, they are aren’t as comfortable as they could be. The flight was also highlighted by Japan Airlines’ pleasant on board service.

This post is one chapter on our trip to Bali and Singapore. This trip was redeemed through Lifemiles, AAdvantage and through Starwood Preferred Guest (Marriott Bonvoy) loyalty programs. For more information on how this trip was booked, please see our trip introduction here. For other parts of the trip, please see this index.

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Review: Japan Airlines Business Shell Flat Neo, B787-8 Tokyo Narita – Vancouver International

“Travelling across the Pacific in Japan Airlines Business Class Shell Flat Neo angle flat seats was an exercise in countering slanted sliding slopes”

As I had mentioned earlier, our return flights on Japan Airlines were ticketed courtesy of AAdvantage Miles at 50,000 miles for business class one way. These miles started off life as Canadian RBC Visa Avion Credit Card points and were later converted to AAdvantage points. It was a good value use of AAdvantage miles and still remains a great value today.

Japan Airlines
Business Class
JL 18 (Tokyo Narita Terminal 2 -Vancouver International)
August 3, 2015
Booked: Boeing 787-800 (JAL SHELL FLAT NEO)
Flown: Boeing 787-800
6:10 PM -11:25 AM

We left the lounge a little late and arrived to the gate at T-30. Gate 75 was way at the end of the concourse and boarding had just started. “Stop taking pictures dad, we’re going to miss our plane!!”

En Route to Gate 75
Narita Massage Chairs
Departure Gate 75

On Board Japan Airlines Business Class Shell Flat Neo:

As we arrived on board the Boeing 787, we found two separate cabins of business class. It was a 2 – 2 – 2 configuration with 3 rows in the first cabin and 4 rows in the second configuration. Although there was a small galley in between the two sections, most of the service delivery occurred from the very forward section.

We had our seats re-assigned in Singapore. Despite calling in months before our flights for seats together, we had ended up across aisle on check in. A quick re-assignment at the check in desk in Singapore and we found ourselves in the Boeing 787 bulkhead seats 7H/K. I was a little worried about these being noisy. However, the galley area that was seen on Seat Guru close to the seats wasn’t really a galley at all. It was an in flight bar area that was advertised, but never set up. It also featured washrooms that were closer to the other side of the cabin.

Japan Airlines B787-8 Shell Flat Neo Business Class Seat
MrWT73 Jr getting comfortable in Japan Airlines Shell Flat Neo Seats
An Aisle Shell Flat Neo Seat
A View Looking Fowrard to the Bulkhead
A Rear Looking View into the Cabin
A View of the Second Business Class Cabin
The Center Bar Area tht was never Set Up in Flight

The seats themselves featured upright lightining and head phone indicators.

Seat Controls

The seats were multi directional, although as angle flat seats, I did not find them very comfortable at all. More on that in a little bit.

Seat Angles and Directions
The B787 Electronic Windows

The Amenity Kit: Tumi Branded

On arrival to the seat, there was a very small Tumi amenity kit on the seat. It was so small, I don’t think it could actually hold my iPhone. I’m not talking about an iPhone 6 Plus, I’m actually talking about my tiny 4 year old iPhone 4S (laughing). The kit contained a black Tumi branded face mask cover, lip balm, and some items that were simply found on the seat on the last flight (moisture masks and towelettes).

Tumi Branded Amenity Kits
Contents of the Tumi Amenity Kits

It was a fast on time departure with pushback 5 minutes before the scheduled departure time. The flight was listed as completely full today on Expert Flyer. Despite that, there were not the usual cabin announcement reminders about carry on baggage and the need to stow them under your seats instead of the over head bins. They showed the very entertaining “run for your life” safety video on the way over to taxi. There was another cabin announcement that there were 8 aircraft in line to depart Narita today, and there would be a departure delay of approximately 20 minutes.

The “Run For Your Life” Safety Video
Today’s Flight Track

As was custom on our last Japan Airlines Flight, there was no pre-departure beverage was offered. Instead, we had champagne or orange juice offered as post departure drink once we had reached cruising altitude.

A pre supper peverage.

The Meal A Full Supper Service

As we went underway and cabin service started, we had a towel service. Maybe it was the younger crew today, but they never came to collect the towels or the pre-departure beverage / cocktail service until most of the way through dinner service. Getting ahead of myself, today’s dinner service featured the same BEDD themed dinners.

Bed Dining Delicious and Dream
The Menu Feature
The Japan Airlines Japanese Menu
The Japan Airlines Western Menu
The Optional Snack Menu

There were similar wines as on our last flight.

Japan Airlines Business Class Wine List

WT73 Junior was being a wank with his eye mask by this point; this was indeed a pose for the camera. I can’t blame him. We’d be travelling for about 15 straight hours by this point.

WT73 Jr goofing around

I started with a gin and tonic, along with the Japanese appetizers.

A Gin and Tonic along with Japanese Appetizers

This was supposed to be Terrine of Smoked Conger Eel, Egg Plant and Smoked Foie Gras.

Terrine of Smoked Conger Eel, Egg Plant and Smoked Foie Gras.

I went with the Western menu choice today. Dinner service was Japanese sirloin steak with summer vegetable sauce and potato gnocchi. It was satisfying but pretty forgettable.

Japanese sirloin steak with summer vegetable sauce and potato gnocchi

I finished with dessert which was pink grapefuit mousse.

Pink Grapefruit Mouse

and green tea to finish. When in Rome =Tasty.

A Green Tea to Finish

For some reason, the service was really disorganized. There were no drink refills were offered throughout the whole meal. I feat that the crew were either under staffed or that JAL has leaned the ratio of crew to passenger so much that they are too lean to do anything properly. Further adding to the slow nature of the means were that the meals were presented from the galley one by one. For a flight that departed at 6:10 PM, meal service started at 2.5 hours into the flight. This meant that we were eating dinner at 9 PM and we weren’t the last ones being served either. If you plan on taking dinner on this flight, make sure you eat early.

While I had the regular Western Menu, WT73Jr had a kids meal. It was decorated in an Asian style. He didn’t bother with the kids main as he was on a small Asian Air Carrier Hunger Strike. 

Japan Airlines Kids Appetizer

After dinner, Evan watched Penguins of Madagascar for the third time on these legs. I watched Focus. Being in the bulkhead, screens came out of the arm rest consoles.

Bulkhead Entertainment Seat Monitors

During the movie, we attempted to relax and sleep on the chairs. The chairs are much better for relaxing but not better for sleeping. For some reason, JAL received their Boeing 787 aircraft, one of the longest range aircrafts in the fleet and requisitioned them with angle flat seats. They are in the process of converting all of them. Despite being only a few years old, we were in a slide that sends you down the slope, making sleeping difficult. The slide was bad enough that it’s a once and done expression meaning that I’d deliberately avoid these seats again in the future. Another minus about the chairs are that they have an exceptional lack of storage space. There is barely enough room for a wallet or a smart phone. It was a very tight and narrow seat that forces you to leave items on the spare areas of the seat itself.

When I asked MrsWT73 later what she thought of the seat comfort (having taken the same flight on similar equipment days earlier) her answer was “Why do they call this a suite? It’s a slanting chair!!” Okay – perhaps she wasn’t too enthralled with Japan Airlines after her Cathay First Class experiences to New York last year. . . She did appreciate the space on her JAL Boeing 767 flight over the subsequent JAL Boeing 787 flight so it seems we had similar impressions.

Adding to the less than stellar service and the not so comfortable seat, was the fact that my empower outlet was broken as well for some reason which is a bit surprising to me for an aircraft that was delivered in 2013. I didn’t follow up for the reason and just ended up doing work on the trip report later since my laptop battery ran out.

The last comment to make amid these first world problems were that the passenger traffic between Vancouver and Narita must have also declined over the years. This route used to be regularly served for decades with a Boeing 747. Now that China Eastern, China Southern, Air China and ANA have all moved into Vancouver, JAL must have lost substantial passengers from the days when JAL, SQ and Cathay were the only Asian carriers flying into YVR – Vancouver.


The Second Service: A Full Breakfast

Near the end of the flight, the second meal service was presented. Today, it was breakfast. WT73 Jr was totally sacked out by this point and I didn’t bother waking him up for breakfast given he would have his choice of any western food he wanted being back in North America after two weeks of holidays. He didn’t seem to have any problem with the angle flat seats.

Nearing the End of the Flight.
The Japan Airlines Second Meal Service
A Western Omelette
WT73Jr choosing to forgo breakfast

As we were on approach into Vancouver; it was, as always, a beautiful approach with mountains everywhere.

View from the Wing: on Approach into Vancouver
Beautiful Clear Skies

Concluding the breakfast service, and a nice touch, macaroons for dessert! It’s a bit unusual to receive macaroons on a plane, but I’ll take them.

Jean Paul Hévin Macroons

We were on the ground in beautiful Vancouver and parked next to China Eastern jet. Vancouver Airport Authority hasn’t upgraded all their jet bridges to the swank glass ones so instead you get the corrugated can look with the jet bridge up to the aircraft.

Arriving next to China Eastern in Sunny Vancouver
Our Japan Airlines B787 parked at Gate 70 in Vancouver

We headed through the always pleasant international arrivals hall at Vancouver International and past the welcome totem poles to get our bags. No problems with Nexus and no lines for that matter either.

Vancouver Internationa Airport arrivals hall
The Welcome Tomtem Poles in Vancouver.

How does Japan Airlines Business Class compare with All Nippon Airways Business Class?

After experiencing both products, a natural question is how do the Japan Airlines Shell Flat Neo Suites in Business Class compare with the All Nippon Airways ANA Staggered Business Suites also found on their Boeing 787?

It’s clear that ANA has the strong advantage here. The ANA Staggered Business Class Suite is fully flat and much more private. The suite is set up to be a proper private space, whereas the Japan Airlines Business Class Seat is set up to be more of a seat to travel with a partner. Unfortunately, the decision to install such a sliding seat on the Japan Airlines aircraft, in my view, wasn’t the right one and as resulted in an inferior product as compared to its competitors. The only advantage that the Japan Airlines Shell Flat Neo has over ANA is the ability to directly talk to your seat mate.

Given the choice between the two, I would easily choose the All Nippon Airways Business Class cabin any day over the Japan Airlines Business Class cabin.

The Bottom Line: Our flight experience with Japan Airlines Business Class

Overall, the Boeing 787 aircraft is a nice aircraft to fly. Unfortunately, JAL is among last place amongst the ones that I have flown with the seating configuration styles on their version of the B787. The ANA Business Square B787 is much more spacious and private (1-2-1 configuration). The Air Canada B787 with reverse herringbone seats on Air Canada takes the lead between the three that I have tried with much nicer with larger video screens and privacy (also a 1-2-1 configuration). Given the slope of the JAL seats, and the 2-2-2 configuration, I wouldn’t fly them again if I had the opportunity, unless the aircraft had been retrofitted which is apparently coming. The saving grace with JAL is that they have decent reward availability with up to 4 business class award seats which means that you can easily move the family around, even in the middle of summer. There were also no fuel surcharges on the AAdvantage award which meant an additional savings of $190 in Fuel Surcharge YQ as compared to Air Canada.

If you’ve flown Japan Airlines on the Shell Flat Neo seat, did you have any difficulties with the angle flat style?

5 Comments on “Review: Japan Airlines Business Class Shell Flat Neo, B787-8, Tokyo Narita – Vancouver

  1. I really enjoyed your commentaries on your Asian trip. I am going to Bali for the first time this week and it was really helpful.


    • Bali is a terrific travel destination to visit. With all the things to see and do, I am sure you’ll be back for a second visit before you know it.

      Thanks for reading.


  2. Dear WT73
    I was reassigned from Sky Suite to S(Hell) Flat Neo due to aircraft change – bummers. I chose the same seat Jr sat for the flight (7K). When the aisle seat (7H) is in bed position, is there enough room to walk around so that I don’t have to disturb my neighbor to get to the aisle? Thanks in advance for any input.


    • The good news is that you’ve probably selected the best possible seat in 7A or 7K (bulkhead windows); provided you don’t mind watching your movies from the in console monitor in the “neck downward” position given that these seats are in the bulkhead.

      The not so good news is that with any 2 – 2 configuration, it’s a bit of a clamber to get over the aisle position from any window seat. Since you’re in the bulkhead, there is a little extra room. With the seat just angled downward, it makes any clamber over all that much easier. You won’t be rolling a suitcase through that space however.

      Thanks for reading.


      • Thank you very much for the insight. At this given point, it was either that or 1st row bulkhead middle seats for me (1D,G). I’m one of those passengers who prefer aisle side but if I can get window view, I wouldn’t mind it as long as there is an easy aisle access (big proponent of 1-2-1 seating).


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