Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Japan Airlines economy class TPE-NRT

2013 Grand Finale lineup

Eva Airlines economy class CTS-TPE-HKG
Cathay Pacific biz HKG-TPE
Japan Airlines economy class TPE-NRT
American Airlines biz NRT-LAX

After 5 days in Taiwan, it was time to head back to California.  But in order to make use of my systemwide upgrades with American Airlines, I would need to connect in NRT before heading home, which is acceptable since NRT is a fine airport with good lounges.  TPE-NRT is a highly competitive route operated by a wealth of legacy carriers amongst the three alliances, including JAL, ANA, Cathay Pacific, Eva, China Airlines, Delta, and a few discount carriers.  Since I was flying onward with AA, I opted for JAL due to their joint business venture with AA.  In the past, thru-checking bags and accessing AA or JAL itineraries has been a seamless process for both carriers.  To book an award flight, I looked no further than British Airways Avios points, which specialize in short-haul flights at amazing redemption rates.  For only 10,000 Avios and a nominal fuel surcharge, I was able to book TPE-NRT with JAL in economy class.

TPE Legend VIP Lounge (formerly JAL Sakura Lounge)

JAL closed their Sakura Lounge out of TPE last September, so it has since been "replaced" in its identical location and, apparently, decor with the Legend VIP Lounge.  I was hoping to get access to the Cathay Pacific lounge, but CX flights are ironically all operated out of terminal 1 whereas JAL operates out of terminal 2.  Evidently, oneworld avoids terminal consolidation at this non-hub airport.

The lounge was nearly completely empty, and it looks like this lounge is designed specifically for JAL passengers.  Food offerings were minimal, consisting of onigiris and light snacks.

I can't say I was expecting much out of this lounge.  Carriers have proven that their ground products don't excel in non-hub locations, and this lounge wasn't about to make an exception.  You definitely don't feel like a VIP in this lounge, which sure isn't legendary (no pun intended).  After grabbing a couple of cups of OJ and onigiris, I headed to the gate for boarding.

JAL economy class TPE-NRT

I was able to secure an emergency exit seat near the time of booking for this flight, so I knew my legs wouldn't be hurting.  As a 2 1/2 hour flight, there's not much to complain about it to begin with, but it never hurts to get extra legroom.  However, the row behind me was empty, so I opted for that one instead since exit row seat armrests do not recline as they include tray tables.

Mt. Fuji and Niijima Island
After eating a small meal, I lied down and dozed off until landing.

Bottom line

Don't expect much from lounge products at non-hub locations.  Unless you're in need of a cheap bite or a drink, the terminal may have more to offer.  As good as the carrier is, economy class will always be economy, but I'll readily save 10k Avios not to fly in a recliner biz seat for 2 1/2 hours.

Next: American Airlines biz NRT-LAX

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