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Flight Reviews

Navigating Sakura Season in Style: A Review of Japan Airlines’ Sky Suite III

This article is a flight review of JAL Sky Suite III from Haneda to Delhi, with a focus on the booking process, check-in and security, flight seats and hard product, in-flight meals, amenities, in-flight Wi-Fi and entertainment, and alternative approaches.

There’s no better time to visit Japan than when it is covered under a blanket of breathtakingly beautiful pink hues. I recently flew with Japan Airlines (JAL) on their Sky Suite III to Haneda (HND) and back during the peak of the Sakura season.

In this post, I will cover the booking process, check-in and security, flight seats and hard product, in-flight meals, amenities, in-flight Wi-Fi and entertainment, and alternative approaches. Since I have flown both DEL – HND and HND – DEL in JAL Sky Suite III, I will go over both experiences simultaneously.

Cherry Blossom at it’s peak.

Airport Experiences

Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL)

Prior to my departure from Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi, I had booked the airport transfer and meet & greet service from Axis Reserve. Although there is no tangible difference while flying Business, having a human escort you through all the queues in India is unbeatable. (In fact, when I was coming back, they also helped me skip customs screening when literally every person and bag was being scanned. I’m pretty sure this isn’t allowed, but it was helpful).

Meet & Greet at DEL

I was able to quickly check-in for my flight at the ad-hoc JAL counters and go through the security checks and immigration via dedicated queues. Many major airports globally do not offer relief during security checks, regardless of your class of journey. This is something I particularly appreciate about DEL.

Coincidentally, my flight was boarding from Gate 15, which is right opposite the duty-free area. So, despite being escorted down from the lounge to the gates, I did not end up using the buggy service provided by M&G.

Tokyo International Airport – Haneda (HND)

For the return leg, my flight was scheduled to fly out of Haneda (HND) Terminal 3 at 10:55 AM and required me to ride a short 30 mins train to arrive at the airport from, Intercontinental – The Strings, located adjacent to Shinagawa station. I was warned about the long queues at immigration and hence reached well in advance. Most of Haneda’s check-in rows are dedicated either to JAL on the left of the terminal or to ANA on the right so you would assume there aren’t any queues, but all counters were flocked with passengers, waiting in substantially long lines.

Business Class Check In at HND

There were, however, only a couple of people ahead of me at the business class check-in counters and it took about 10 minutes to get my boarding pass issued, post which I proceeded to find the security gates. For the first time in my life, I have had to queue up for security at a point almost near the entrance of the airport, even before the check-in rows. The line was quick moving but insanely long, and apparently a regular sight at Haneda as remarked by a gentleman who frequently flies out of this airport, contrary to the otherwise empty Narita.

Security Lines at HND
Security Lines at HND


Business Class Lounge – Delhi Airport

One World Business Class passengers get access to the lounge situated in Holiday Inn Express attached to the airport. It offers a view of the runway but isn’t very optimally placed. The food spread was disappointing with some dry snacks and soggy sandwiches. A better option would be to use the Encalm lounge using a card that can get you access. Despite having ample room, the lounge was full to its brim with some passengers being turned away. I’m told this place is under renovation now so all I can hope is they come up with something worthy of being a lounge for J-class passengers.

Business Class Lounge at DEL

Sakura Sky View Lounge – Haneda

The Sakura Lounge at HND
The Sakura Lounge at HND

Having cleared security and immigration in about another 30 minutes I walked straight to the Sakura Lounge. Located at the far left of the terminal, it is spread over two floors above the departure level. The Sakura Lounge, annotated with Sky View, offers a panoramic view of the entire tarmac.

Sakura Lounge Apron View

The lounge was considerably empty as opposed to the queues of lines I had stood in to reach here. It is divided into multiple sections each offering a different form of seating, a central dining area, workstations at one end, and a glass wall flanking the fleet of airplanes queued for departure or taxiing their way to the aerobridges for disembarkation. You can order food on a web app which is prepared live at the counters, and owing to no rush, was quickly served. There are beverage dispensers opposite the live stations offering champagne, wine, and beers among other non-alcoholic beverages. The décor of the lounge itself isn’t grand but the view of airplanes under the dramatically changing overcast sky is a great way to kill time or get some work done.

The Onboard Experience

Flight Seats and Hard Product

The 787-9 has 3 variants, 2 of which are fitted with the Sky Suite III and only vary in the no. of business class seats offered and total seats. While the 1-2-1 herringbone configuration looks more cramped than the earlier Apex Suites, it is surprisingly roomy once you are settled in. Don’t get me wrong, all the criticism these seats have garnered for being tight is generally true, but it is definitely better than how suffocating it looks in photos.

Japan Airlines Sky Suite III

I flew 2K on my onward journey and although there aren’t any favorable rows that offer more cubby space, the footwell on window seats is wider than the middle, so you may want to look out for those.

The Sky Suite III Seat

The middle rows also have a peculiar arrangement, which I only later realized as a result of missing advanced seat selection on my return leg and being stuck on 1D; the foot cubby for adjacent seats is positioned on top of each other, implying while turning the seat flat, the beds are at varying heights with the lower one being a little too low and barely above the floor. It gets a little awkward lying so low especially whenever there is movement in the aisles. This is something I hadn’t anticipated but if you aren’t a One World Elite or hold a status with JAL Mileage Bank, most window seats are blocked until T-24hrs to departure. The bulkhead seats have extra stowage for the bassinet but offer no difference in terms of legroom.

The Sky Suite III in Lie Flat Bed Mode

The seats themselves are hard and covered in an abysmal red fabric which isn’t the cleanest neither is the suede-lined wall at the backdrop. It also comes with a 3-point seatbelt featuring an additional shoulder strap, somewhat unusual for most modern seat designs. The adjustable armrest and privacy flaps warrant a cozy environment once you are buckled up, but they are placed in such a way that it is easy to drop items in the crevices of the seat.

The storage space can barely fit in the pair of headphones on an enclosed hook and some smaller trinkets but nothing substantial.

Individual components of the seat such as lumbar support cannot be adjusted, and it oscillates only between two orientations – upright and lie flat. They do come with a massage function though, something which is being phased out on other airlines and can be a nifty feature, especially for daytime flights. You are offered pillows, bedding, and a blanket.

In-Flight Meals

I had chosen the Veg Oriental Meal (VOML) for both legs of my travel and had an overall decent experience. There was a 3-course dinner offered on the onward flight followed by early breakfast and on the return, lunch followed by an evening snack. I didn’t have my hopes very high considering I was sure to be one of the only few looking for vegetarian options on a Japanese flag carrier but was pleasantly satisfied with the preparation and portions.

Zucchini and Mushrooms salad served with cherry tomatoes and bell peppers on a bed of iceberg lettuce
along with breads.

A cold salad, followed by rice and a couple of Chinese greens wok tossed in soy or black sauce and tofu formed the crux of the main course in both journeys accompanied by a light dessert.

Fried Rice, Asian Greens in Soy Sauce and Tofu in Sweet-Chili Sauce

There’s no pre-departure drink as such barring bottled water already placed at your seats but the crew is otherwise proactive in offering any once at cruise altitudes. The selection of Wine, Sake, and Champagne is impressive with the Rosé being a rare sighting.

Amenities, In-Flight Wi-Fi and Entertainment

JAL has onboard Wi-Fi powered by Panasonic, but it isn’t complimentary even for business class passengers. If you are going to pay for it, the full flight plan makes the most sense at roughly ~$19. JAL card members get a discount of about ~10%. The network is stable with a consistent download speed of 10-15 Mbps. You can connect to only one device at a time, which isn’t unusual for most carriers.

1 Hour$10.15
3 Hours$14.40
Entire Flight$18.80

The 787-9 comes with Magic VI IFE and while it is functional, contrary to the name is pretty ordinary. The main screen is 17” large with an acceptable resolution. You cannot however browse or choose from the menu on it and have to rely on the handheld remote. The UI on the controller is from the last decade with titles appearing as many times in the library as the number of languages they are available in. It is laggy and slow, the collection of shows and movies doesn’t help either. I ended up watching The Lost City to simply kill some time, and also because it was probably the only title from recent times.

Since this was a medium-haul flight, the amenity kit consisted of a drawstring pouch as opposed to the “Maison Kitsuné” bag offered on flights to the Americas and Europe. The contents are similar in both cases consisting of a dental kit, earplugs, a moisture mask, cleansing wipes, and a regular mask. Along with the amenity kit a pair of noise-canceling Sony Headphones is placed in a red plastic, surprisingly ordinary packaging, even the domestic carrier Vistara places them in a cloth bag these days.

JAL Business Class Amenity Kit

I carry my Sony WH-1000XM4 for all flights exceeding 5 hours and swear by them, but the pair offered in-flight did a decent job of getting rid of cabin noise.

The airline also offers a cardigan-lending service facilitated by the cabin crew as soon as you board the flight.

Redemption Details

I drew inspiration for this trip from a #win posted by one of the admins in PointDojo’s Discord Community. It had detailed information about the transfer process, miles requirement, timelines, calendar availability, and all other finer details which helped me take the plunge and book the itinerary. This Twitter Thread on PointsDojo explains the redemption very well.

How did I book this?

I had redeemed 50,000 Alaska MileagePlan miles for a business class roundtrip from Delhi. Unfortunately, booking the same itinerary has now shot up to twice as much for business class and about 70% more for Economy (earlier 15,000 one way, is now 25,000). Alaska is not a direct partner of any Indian credit card hence miles had to be routed via Marriot Bonvoy, with a 2.4:1 transfer ratio including the 5000 miles bonus for every 60,000 points, I ended up transferring 120,000 MB points for the trip.

American Express Membership Reward Points to Marriott Bonvoy could be transferred at a 30% bonus between 01-Sept-22 & 31-Oct-22. Hence, with just 92,400 MR points this booking was made possible. All points were earned solely on American Express Membership Rewards Card over 18 months. Apart from the 36,000 points which came as monthly bonuses alone, the insurance offer with 10,000 points and the ability to earn 10 MR points per 100 Rs spent on Amazon briefly during the Independence and Diwali sales accelerated the accumulation. There are quicker ways to earn these many miles with the advent of Axis Magnus and Reserve now, however before the milestone bonus, I was able to extract a value of roughly ₹2.51 per MR point.

Miles Required – Round TripMarriott Points RequiredAMEX Points Required*
50,000 Alaska Miles1,20,00092,400

*Inclusive of 30% bonus on transfer to Marriott from American Express.

alaska-mileage requirement

Alternate Approaches

There aren’t many direct flights between India and Japan, and although there are few routes with one stopover, I wasn’t particularly keen on flying them.

Some options for DEL-HND in Business (J) that you can consider include:

AirlinePartnerMiles + TaxesTransfer Partners
ANAUnited MileagePlus1,21,000+ $35 (Dynamic)Axis, HDFC
ANAAvianca LifeMiles96,000 + $40HDFC
Japan AirlinesJAL Mileage Bank80,000 + $500Axis
Japan AirlinesAmerican Airlines Advantage80,000 + $35Indirect, (Axis/Amex) → Marriott
Japan AirlinesFlying Blue306000 + $380 (Dynamic)

There are a few other ways to fly ANA including booking through its own program – ANA MileageClub or through Etihad Guest Miles, however, the taxes range anywhere between $400-500 and unfavorable options to transfer miles from an Indian context make them a hard pass.


Among the very few ways you can fly direct to Japan from India, JAL happens to be one of the most convenient options, with Axis introducing it as a new partner the proposition turns even more lucrative. The taxes are on the higher side but the mileage requirement for Economy is still fairly low.

While the hard product itself is nothing to harp about, the combination of convenience, inflight service, and cheap mileage requirement at the time of booking made it a no-brainer. Even now if I would have to fly direct to Tokyo, JAL is an option I would always keep open.

ANA’s The Room is a fantastic business-class product, but they are deployed only on select routes to the States, and I don’t find it standing apart from JAL by a significant margin.

The Japanese have mastered the art of precision and dexterity over multiple generations, and it reflects well in their flag carrier. Albeit the lackluster hard product, JAL makes up for the herringbone offering through their meticulous service which I particularly enjoyed. It is not too invasive and for those of you who don’t enjoy the extra attention and unnecessary pampering (read Singapore Airlines), strikes the right balance.

🥂 Cheers!

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