Airline review: Jetstar B787 economy, Osaka to Cairns

THE ROUTE

Osaka, Japan to Cairns

THE AIRCRAFT

The B787-800 Dreamliner promises one of the world's most comfortable flights, thanks to features such as cleaner and more humid cabin air, less cabin noise and a smoother ride. Jetstar deploys its fleet of 11 Dreamliners to long-haul destinations including Osaka, Tokyo, Bali, Honolulu, Singapore and Bangkok.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

Qantas points are earned only with two out of three bundles that can be added to the basic Starter fare.

CLASS

Economy (on the no-frills Starter fare, which comes with a challenging seven-kilogram carry-on luggage limit). The plane has 314 economy seats and 21 business seats.

DURATION

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Seven hours and 15 minutes, departing in the evening from Osaka's Kansai airport and arriving into Cairns at 5.15am (I continue on to Sydney after walking over to Cairns' domestic terminal, taking in a hint of sunrise and revelling in a dawn downpour). My flight departs Japan 13 minutes late but arrives into Cairns early at 4.51am. I celebrate by treating myself to an airport latte.

FREQUENCY

JQ16 flies directly from Osaka to Cairns five times a week.

CHECKING-IN

When I arrive to check in two hours and 50 minutes before the flight, there's a long queue. It takes 25 minutes to shuffle forward to the counter. I'm freaking out a little because I weighed my bags upon leaving my hotel: they came to eight kilograms. I go on the offensive, asking the counter guy if he'd like to weigh my daypack and handbag (mentally, I'm preparing to add more layers to my outfit). He declines and wraps their handles with clearance stickers (phew). Staff are much stricter at Cairns domestic airport where several onward-bound passengers choose to dump some belongings to make their weight limit.

THE SEAT

51J, a window seat, in a 3-3-3 configuration. My one splash-out for this overnight flight is adding a window seat ($7.50) to help achieve a little sleep. After take-off, I admire the full moon for a few minutes before windows are electronically dimmed.

BAGGAGE

I've opted for a limit of two carry-on items totalling seven kilograms but when booking you can add a bundle for luggage allowances ranging from 10 kilograms to 37 kilograms, or add three kilograms of carry-on for $27 or 15 kilograms to 40 kilograms of checked baggage for $34 to $75. The website warns that it's "much more expensive" to add luggage at the airport.

COMFORT

"Oi!" yells the Australian woman when another passenger tries to claim an empty middle row. The Japanese man scuttles back to where he came from and she smugly settles into her horizontal bed for the night. Apart from cringe-inducing fellow passengers, the flight is comfortable for someone of average height like me. Seats are 17 inches (43.18 centimetres) wide with a pitch (legroom) of 30 inches (76.2 centimetres). As a comparison, the 2019 Skytrax winner for best economy-class seats is Jetstar's partner airline Japan Airlines – on its 787, it offers a 2-4-2 layout with seat width of about 48 centimetres and pitch of about 84 centimetres.

ENTERTAINMENT

Pointy-end passengers enjoy free entertainment but those in economy pay $9.50 to pre-book access to movies on the nine-inch seat-back screen, from $6 for snacks and hot meals, and $15 for a comfort pack (inflatable neck pillow, earplugs, eye mask, toothbrush and toothpaste, socks and blanket). My advice is to BYO pre-loaded device.

SERVICE

I don't require anything from attendants, who go about their work in a no-nonsense way.

FOOD

As my neighbours tuck into curry and rice, I break out my salmon onigiri (rice ball wrapped in seaweed) bought from the airport Family Mart to counter this exact moment. The curry does smell delicious, though.

ONE MORE THING

Pre-flight, I receive a barrage of emails from Jetstar – there's an offer to upgrade to business for $199 and three prompts to add baggage to my booking.

THE VERDICT

I expected this no-frills experience to be the worst flight of my life – but if you've prepared properly (with warm clothes, food, sleep aids), you'll be in for a bargain-basement surprise. Jetstar delivers exactly what it promises – and all aboard one of the world's most comfortable, jetlag-defying aircraft. It's a lot of zen for very few yen.

OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE

★★★★1/2

Katrina Lobley flew as a guest of InsideJapan Tours.

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