Trip report introduction: 13,733 amazing miles in Japan Airlines business class

01. Introduction: 13,733 amazing miles in Japan Airlines business class
02. Japan Airlines 787-8 business class (Shell Flat Neo) San Diego to Tokyo (Narita)
03. Japan Airlines 737-800 business class Tokyo (Narita) to Beijing
04. St Regis Hotel, Beijing
05. 3 ways this trip to Beijing was exactly like the Apollo 13 mission to the moon
06. BGS Premiere Lounge, PEK
07. Japan Airlines 787-8 business class (Sky Suite) Beijing to Tokyo (Haneda)
08. Royal Park Hotel THE Haneda
09. Haneda to Narita transfer bus
10. JAL Sakura Lounge, NRT
11. Japan Airlines 787-8 business class (Shell Flat Neo) Tokyo (Narita) to San Diego

Of all the flights that currently serve San Diego International Airport, the Japan Airlines 787 to Tokyo (Narita) is the one that has given me the most grief and anxiety over the past five years. I was beyond ecstatic when they launched the service in December 2012, and right away I couldn’t help but to fantasize about my next trip to Asia on that amazing new JAL 787. I had never flown Japan Airlines before, but I knew it would be an amazing experience based on everything I’ve heard about them ever since I was a wee lad. Heck, even a good friend of mine once referred to the service as “amazeballs”, so how could anyone not want to try an airline which can be described using colorful adjectives such as that?

Although I could barely contain my excitement for experiencing the novelty of being able to fly nonstop to Asia from San Diego, I’ve been to Asia 6 times since 2013 and exactly never have I taken advantage of this flight. How the heck did that happen?

Here’s a brief recap:

  • September 2013: I needed to get to Hiroshima to visit family, which actually wasn’t very easy to do on JAL out of San Diego (believe it or not). At the time, the flight from San Diego arrived at NRT too late to make a connection to Hiroshima. The timing was all wrong, and it was much easier to take United and ANA instead via SFO.
  • April 2014: My first ever trip to Seoul, which only came about because of the fact that I wanted to go somewhere (anywhere) and I found a ridiculously good deal on Star Alliance business class award space to Korea. JAL wasn’t even a consideration.
  • October 2014: Back to Hiroshima, again facing the same problem that I had a year earlier. The timing of the JAL flight out of San Diego was all wrong, and it was so much more convenient to trudge it out on United. Seriously, think about that for a moment. How bad does the timing of a JAL flight have to be in order to voluntarily choose United (with a smile) instead? Pretty bad actually – the San Diego flight arrived at Narita too late to connect with the final daily flight to HIJ.
  • September 2015: I was missing Hong Kong in a very big way and I had to go back. Japan Airlines out of San Diego was pricing over $1900 in economy class, and I couldn’t find decent award space in business class. A quick check over on united.com for Star Alliance awards revealed an amazing deal on Asiana A380 first class out of LAX. I sure as hell couldn’t turn up my nose at that.
  • January 2017: My first time ever to Taiwan, driven by the fact that I found one stray Korean Air A380 business class seat from Seoul to Los Angeles on delta.com. Those of you who have ever tried to find SkyTeam awards on the Delta website knows that this is about as rare as hair on a billiard ball, so I swept it up quick and built an entire trip around it. Of course I tried to tie in JAL somehow, but again, I couldn’t find any award space and economy class was ridiculously expensive. I was starting to sense a pattern…
  • October 2017: Back to Hong Kong, only because I wanted to get a ride on one of United’s last ever 747-400 flights. I tired to book a ticket with Japan Airlines back to San Diego, but I think you know what happened with that. Absolutely zero award space, and I wasn’t going to pay a ton of money to be shoehorned into economy.

You know what they say about how good things come to those who wait, and this entire trip couldn’t be summed up any better. After years of waiting, my head nearly exploded that evening in early December when I discovered an incredibly low round-trip price to Beijing in JAL business class out of San Diego for late January. Seriously, I’ve paid more to fly in economy class from here to Atlanta before, so despite my thinking that it might’ve been a mistake fare, I scooped it up as fast as I could nearly shaking with excitement as I pulled the credit card out of my wallet. Who says sitting at home alone in front of the computer late at night isn’t exciting?

Anyway, after five years of trying to find a way to get on that Japan Airlines 787 flight from San Diego to Tokyo, it was finally going to happen. Even better, it was going to happen in business class!

Oh, and let’s not forget that this will be my first ever trip to mainland China as well. This is a travel blog after all, so I thought I should probably mention that. Ha!

The full itinerary:

01/25/18 JL0065 787-8 business class San Diego to Tokyo (Narita)
01/26/18 JL0869 737-800 business class Tokyo (Narita) to Beijing
01/28/18 JL0022 787-8 business class Beijing to Tokyo (Haneda)
01/29/18 JL0066 787-8 business class Tokyo (Narita) to San Diego

I was so nervous in the days leading up this flight, worried that Japan Airlines was going to contact me and politely let me know that I was a total cheapskate and the fare at which I purchased these tickets was indeed a mistake – and that they would need another $1 million in order to let me keep my reservation. Or something like that. I have terrible luck when it comes to these sorts of things so I just couldn’t help but to feel pessimistic and think that there was no possible way this was actually going to happen.

But here I am, back home in San Diego writing this trip report, two weeks after returning from this amazing trip. Yes, it actually happened. The flights were amazing of course, and Beijing was stupidly cold, but I had a really good time getting introduced to that amazing city.

And if you’re curious, I can confirm that ”amazeballs” is indeed the best way to describe JAL in-flight service, and I believe it would be in their best interest to change some of their marketing material to reflect that. It’s good. Really good as a matter of fact, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it…

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