Tuesday, January 1, 2013

One World lounge tour of Tokyo Narita

One World lounge tour of Tokyo Narita
NRT-LAX AA business class
LAX AA Flagship Lounge
LAX-NRT AA business class
NRT JAL domestic Sakura lounge

As part of my 20-hour itinerary with 2 stops from CTS-SFO, I had a lengthy 6-hour layover in Tokyo Narita airport (NRT).  Fortunately, NRT has a wealth of lounges, and as a top-tier Executive Platinum member with American Airlines, I get access to all One World alliance lounges on a same-day international flight.  My first stop was an obvious one as Japan Airlines' lounges are infinitely superior to U.S. airline lounges.  And since NRT is JAL's primary international hub, they have a flagship First Class Lounge.  So after arriving into NRT from CTS, I went through security and customs and headed straight to JAL's First Class lounge.
Fast Track with NRT's clearly marked One World Priority Lane
JAL First Class Lounge
Upon entering JAL's First Class lounge, this sign immediately caught my eye.  Free 10-minute massages, with an upper body, head, or foot massage to choose from.  Along with a superior alcohol selection, services like these are what distinguishes first class lounges from business class lounges.
Before I went in for the massage, I opted for breakfast since I was saving my stomach for this moment, having not eaten anything all morning.  The lounge has a nice food corner along with an alcoholic counter.
My breakfast meal: scrambled eggs, Japanese steamed rice, Japanese omelet, cod roe, grilled salmon, lobster bisque, and shrimp appetizer.
Nothing like having a nice upper body massage after a fulfilling breakfast.  I was going to stick around for lunch, but I was already too full to eat, so I left for the Cathay Pacific lounge after the massage.
Small glimpse of the lounge's nice lunch spread, plus a champagne.
Cathay Pacific Lounge
To my surprise, the Cathay Pacific lounge was like night and day compared to the JAL First Class lounge.  As one of the top carriers in the world, you'd expect for Cathay Pacific not to skimp out this badly.
Subpar food offerings
Meager food spread
Really, Cathay Pacific, really??
The lounge had virtually zero services, so I just sat down for a green tea ice cream and a couple of sushi rolls before heading out.  I guess you just can't expect much from a business class lounge operated by a flag carrier outside of their primary hub.

American Airlines Admiral's Club
My last stop would be the American Airlines Admiral's Club, which is the only AC located in Asia.  Since U.S. carrier lounges are often a joke, my expectations were extremely low, especially after what I experienced at the Cathay Pacific lounge.
The AC's alcohol selection was surprisingly better than Cathay Pacific's, although the food spread was pathetic as expected.  What's interesting is that this is probably AA's best AC as domestic AC's only offer the most basic alcohol selections and virtually no food.  The only advantage of the NRT AC is its proximity to AA's boarding gates.

Bottom Line
These lounges make a 6-hour layover much more bearable and interesting.  If you have lounge access, don't bother wasting your time at the AC or the Cathay Pacific lounge.  Invest all your time and your stomach at JAL's lounges as the food, alcohol, and services are infinitely superior.  To see if I was being unfair in my comparisons since I visited JAL's first class lounge and Cathay Pacific's business class lounge, I went to JAL's business class Sakura Lounge and found similar food offerings as JAL's first class lounge.  The only differences were the seats, alcohol, and services.

Next: NRT-LAX AA business class


  1. What were the differences between JAL's first and Sakura lounges? No free massage?

  2. Mostly the services, seats, and alcohol. Although significantly less crowded, the First Class lounges' food was only marginally better. So when it comes down to it, JAL doesn't drastically elevate the experience in their First Class Lounges the way that AA and British Airways do.

  3. You should demand that they offer inferior food in the biz class lounge so that the superior food is exclusively reserved for the truly deserving such as yourself.

  4. Thanks,Legendary poster, for the detailed and helpful report - passing thru in a few months, looking forward to the JAL F lounge.



  5. Thanks for the comprehensive report.
    I will be transiting ORT>NRT>BKK and return
    in J on AA metal, continuing to BKK on
    JL metal,with a stop over in NRT.
    As a 'lowly' AA MM gold will I have access to
    the OW NRT JL Biz class lounge ?

    1. Hey aafreq,

      "Lowly" AA Golds are OW Rubies, who unfortunately are not granted lounge access. However, since you're flying in J on AA metal from ORD to NRT, you might be able to swing access to the NRT AC although it's technically not a written rule. I wouldn't keep your hopes high for the JAL biz lounge though since you're flying Y on JAL to BKK, but AAngels have been known to grant access to flyers arriving in J. Hope this helps.