I would have never imagined that there would one day be a class between Business and Economy on aircrafts. I've been a passenger in the different classes both on domestic and international flights, but this was my first time experiencing the Premium Economy class. When I was searching for a flight to Japan with my British Airways miles, one flight popped up for a Premium Economy seat from Los Angeles to Narita, Japan. As there was only one seat remaining, I immediately booked the flight. I had no idea what upgrades this seat entailed, but I figured it wouldn't be anything like Business class, but I was expecting it to be better than Economy class.
After I booked my flight, I did a quick search and was excited to learn that JAL ranked high amongst their competition. JAL ranked #6 for World's Best Premium Economy Class 2017, #3 for Best Premium Economy Class Airline Seats, and #6 for Best Premium Economy Class Airline Catering. All the reviews were outstanding, so I was happy that I made my quick decision to book that one remaining seat before it was gone.
1. Special Check-in Counter & Priority Baggage Service
My perks with purchasing Premium Economy started immediately. When I checked into my flight, I had access to a special check-in counter. This is definitely nice if you don't like waiting in long lines or if you're running late. Extra bonus that you get priority baggage service. This means your bags are tagged with that special "priority" tag, which will deliver your bags swiftly at baggage claim.
2. Sakura Lounge Access
Who doesn't like lounge access? As much as I travel, I get a little anxious when I am sitting and waiting at the gate for my flight. The lounges definitely help ease my anxiety as the atmosphere is typically calm and relaxing.
The Sakura Lounge that I accessed at Narita International Airport was huge and the service and amenities were awesome. There were plenty of beverages and snacks, but I was hungry so I immediately went to the dining hall instead. There was a huge selection of dishes and I went for the beef curry rice and a tiny salad. After I had my meal, I headed back downstairs and sipped on some green tea until my flight was ready for boarding.
3. JAL Sky Premium Seating
My Premium Economy seat was a huge upgrade. It wasn't quite a Business class seat where I can actually sleep like a normal person, but significantly better than an Economy seat. I had a ton of leg room, a leg rest, an adjustable footrest, and a center divider for some privacy. I've never sat in an airline seat with so many footrest options. The seat was also wide and instead of reclining backward it reclined forward so that it doesn't disturb the person sitting behind you.
4. In-flight Amenities
The amenities included slippers, a toothbrush set, moisture mask, earplugs, eye mask and noise canceling headphones. I definitely enjoyed the nice headphones, since I didn't have one myself. I also used the moist mask and toothbrush set. I wish they would have thrown in some lotion, but I guess that starts pushing into Business and First class amenities.
5. In-flight Meals Prepared by RED U-35 Chef Finalists
RED U-35 is Japan's largest culinary competition where emerging talented chefs are discovered. I have never heard about this and while I was eating my meal, I stopped my movie and began reading the pamphlet they handed out that explained the dishes and chefs of RED U-35.
All of the chef's that compete in RED-35 are under 35 years of age and although it's a fairly new competition (launched in 2013), it's backed by Japan's food industry leaders.
It almost felt like fine-dining when my choices were Beef Sukiyaki, Sesame MIso Flavors or Chicken, Taro and "Yuba" soy milk skin Gratine. I went with the Beef Sukiyaki and it was not your typical airline food. It was tasty, not bland, and I actually wanted more.
My favorite items from the meal were the side dishes: The Julienned "Gobo" Burdock Root and Hazelnut, accented with Sherry Vinegar and the Seasonal Winter Vegetables enveloped in "Shira-ae" Sauce of Mascarpone Cheese and Tofu. Both side dishes were super tasty! I love burdock root and it has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid. I was going to skip the pudding dessert on the entree, but since everything else was so delicious I gave it a try. I'm not a huge fan of pudding, but the "Anno" sweet potato pudding was so amazing that I wanted seconds so bad! The salad was a standard salad, but they made sure that it was super fresh. I'm so used to unappealing wilted salads on flights and thought it was impossible to have fresh salads on any flight.
Prior to Arrival Meal
The meal prior to my arrival destination was another yummy entree and it was prepared by Soup Stock Tokyo . I had a delicious Sauteed Mushroom Soup, Pasta Genovese, Stone-baked Bread and Yogurt Jelly. The soup was packed with so much flavor and the stone-baked bread was so much better than the in-flight butter rolls that are typically hard, dry, and cold. You can find Soup Stock Tokyo on the grounds, in Japan as well, and they have a variety of soups with a soup menu that changes weekly. I'll be sure to visit a Soup Stock Tokyo the next time I go to Japan.
JAL's Premium Economy seats were a huge upgrade from the economy seats. I have sat in JAL's economy seats and the Premium Economy seats were a million times better. The customer service was exceptional and both meals left me wanting seconds. The only con was the in-flight entertainment, but this was the same entertainment for all classes. The "new" movie selections weren't as great as the choices that my sister had on her flight to Japan (she flew with Delta). However, this wasn't a deal breaker as I'd rather have all the other benefits instead of a great movie selection.
If you want to learn more about other airlines that offer Premium Economy, Seat Guru has a great comparison chart.