Flight test: Japan Airlines business class

Route Tokyo to Sydney.

Aircraft Boeing 777-200ER.

Class Business, seat 9E (middle of the middle section).

Flight time Nine hours, 45 minutes.

Seat width and pitch JAL Shell Flat Seats are 26 inches wide and have a 62-inch pitch. There are 56 of these seats on this flight (there is no first class).

Seat configuration 2-3-2.

Luggage One of the most generous allowances ever: one carry-on "handbag or shopping bag" and one bag up to 10 kilograms, plus three pieces of checked luggage, each up to 32 kilograms.

Comfort The JAL Shell Flat Seat has a control panel in the armrest, ample legroom, a reading light and a low partition between the seats. A blanket, pillow and chocolate-brown slippers (with shoehorn) are provided and, my favourite item, a navy-blue cotton knit cardigan, which is so popular it makes the whole of business class resemble a travelling sports team. There are no amenities kits, but eye masks, ear plugs, toothbrushes and combs are handed out.

Entertainment There are 15 English-language movies, ranging from new releases to classics, such as Jaws and Apollo 13, as well as movies with English subtitles, TV shows (a couple in English — Sex and the City and Revenge, one episode of each), games and audio programs. There are no movie trailers, but there's a JAL Entertainment Network (JEN) guide in the seat pocket, as well as the inflight magazine, Skyward.


Service This is where JAL excels. The flight attendants are incredibly polite, courteous and helpful, impeccably groomed and always ready with a smile. Even the airbridge crew bow to all the passengers as we board.

Food and beverages There's no pre-takeoff drink, but there are pre-dinner drinks about an hour after takeoff. Dinner options are contemporary French (designed by chef Koji Shimomura, featuring a tenderloin of Japanese beef), casual dining (a snack box, including ham, scallops and hamburger steak) and the Aomori Gozen (a tray of exquisitely prepared Japanese dishes, including soba, scallops, tempura yam, rice, miso soup and a main of salt-grilled cod with sea urchin and crabmeat sauce). Dessert is a melt-in-your-mouth chocolate ganache, lemongrass gelato and fruit. JAL's "coffee of the month", from the slopes of Kilimanjaro, is a little bland, despite the detailed write-up in the menu. Breakfast is a tasty toasted ham panini with fresh fruit, followed by a little Jean-Paul Hevin chocolate.

Flight frequency JAL flies daily between Tokyo and Sydney. A business class return airfare costs $5668, including taxes.

Tested by Louise Southerden, who flew courtesy of JAL.