Airline review: Japan Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner premium economy, Tokyo Narita to Sydney

THE PLANE

The Boeing 787-9 is the standard aircraft for this route.

THE ROUTE

JAL 771, Tokyo Narita to Sydney.

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

JAL Mileage Bank. Frequent-flyer points can be earned with other Oneworld members such as Qantas.

CLASS

Premium economy, aisle seat 20H.

DURATION

9 hours, 45 minutes. No surprise the flight is bang on time. FlightStats has awarded JAL the number-one spot for on-time performance for an Asia-Pacific airline for seven consecutive years (2012-18).

FREQUENCY

Daily. The return flight from Tokyo Narita is overnight.

THE SEAT

Seating is a 2-3-2 layout in five rows. JAL's Sky Premium seats have a fairly standard width 19-inch (49cm) but a generous pitch of 42-inches (107cm). The long-legged will have no problems stretching out. Headphone sockets are tucked into an arm recess, so the plug doesn't dig into your side. The tray table is roomy and the central armrest wide enough for two. The seatback in front has two convenient mobile-phone (or water bottle) pockets and nearby sockets.

BAGGAGE

Two pieces of checked luggage each to a maximum of 23kg is generous though (remarkably) you get the same in economy class. You can lug a 10kg cabin bag. There are some limits on dimensions.

COMFORT

The cabin is coolish, which is preferable on an overnight flight. A blanket is supplied, along with pillow, toilet bag and slippers. Flight attendants move about like Jeeves, attentive but quiet in consideration of the many sleeping passengers. The four loos are shared by economy class but always kept tidy, and are surprisingly roomy.

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ENTERTAINMENT

The video screen is a good size (a tad over 30cm), and it's easy to navigate options. TV choices aren't cutting-edge (think reruns of Friends and Modern Family) and movie choices somewhat limited. No matter, since this is a relatively short (not to mention overnight) flight, with enough blockbuster and art-house movies to satisfy.

SERVICE

The all-female flight attendants are friendly, cheerful and attentive without being intrusive, which is quite a trick. They don't vanish after meal service, but regularly pass along the aisle doing checks. The cabin is immaculately maintained.

FOOD

The flight departs at 18:55 so I'm hungry by the time the meal is served. There's a choice of simmered chicken casserole with winter vegetables, or salmon braised in creamy, yuzu-accented sauce with rice, accompanied by side dishes. JAL's business-class meals are outstanding, so I'm disappointed at my tiny portion of salmon in a gluggy, unappealing sauce. The second meal, though, is created around a delicious bean-and-bacon minestrone soup. The peckish can get udon noodles mid-flight.

ONE MORE THING

You have access to the very good Sakura Lounge at Narita, which has sprawling seating areas with low, soothing lighting. Food is confined to an upstairs dining area, leaving the rest of the lounge quiet.

THE VERDICT

The flight delivers on what you really want from premium economy, especially on an overnight flight: a comfortable seat and abundant legroom.

Our rating out of five

4 out of 5.

Brian Johnston was a guest of Japan Airlines.

See also: Airline review: Japan Airlines Dreamliner business class

See also: Twenty things that will surprise first-time visitors to Japan

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