I had to make a quick business related trip to Taipei. From JFK, I had the choice of CX, CI and JL. Iíd love to fly CXís new business class on its 777-300 and I havenít visited the new HKG yet. But CXís price is over $7K. CI still has old style business class seats, I had to stop in ANG and arrive in TPE early in the morning so my first day canít be used as efficiently. So the choice is JL JFK-NRT-TPE. The NRT-TPE segment will be on Japan Asia Airways (EG).

JL 5, JFK-NRT, seat 9K.
With no luggage to check in, the whole check-in procedure took less than 5 min. I was initially assigned seat 36E and my travel agent was telling me itís a full flight. I wasnít hopeful but still asked to be re-assigned to a window seat. The agent could only put in my request and told me that if any window seat opened up, they would page me in the lounge.

The JFK Sakura Lounge was functional, but noting fancy. It actually became crowded once over 100 business class passengers all filed in. There were some Japanese and western style finger food, water, soft drinks and Japanese beer and other alcoholic drinks. I took a pack of Japanese rice snack and water and settled down to read newspaper Ė with a hectic schedule and only 4 days in Asia, I intended to sleep as much as I could, so anything with caffeine and alcohol was out. Half way through the wait, I was paged so I went to the receptionist. There I found out that I have been assigned to seat 9K. I was pretty happy with it.

Soon the boarding was called and I headed onboard. The plane was JL8916 with ĎYokoso Japaní on the fuselage. Once on board, I was surprised to found that 9K was a bulkhead seat and the leg room was tremendous. This made me even happier and I settled down for the long flight. In addition to the common blanket and pillow, there was also a pair of slippers and noise cancellation ear phone. As we pushed back, I could see the ground crew stood in a line and wave our flight goodbye. In NRT, they bow to the plane, too. Although they didnít bow at JFK, itís still bit funny to see several black guys doing the waving.

We took off from RWY 13L following an AA AB3. The flight attendant serving my section was a Singapore girl (no pun intended) called Vanessa. She introduced herself to me in English, and turned to my seatmate and spoke to him in Japanese. Then she came with the welcome drink of champion or orange juice. As you will find out, JLís service procedures are different compare to others; serving the welcome drink after take off is just one of them. After the welcome drink, menu was handed out along with hot towels. The drink service started with packets of Japanese crisps and a small dish of seafood salad. I took this time to start the PTV. This particular plane was still only equipped with the older generation of IFE where there were about a dozen movies and short programs plus audio and flight map; although the newer generation with significant more programs was covered in JLís entertainment manual.

Finally almost 2 hours after the take off, lunch was served. I chose the western style meal and it consisted of nice tuna and crab salad and sea bass main course. The trays were brought out individually with appetizer served first. Right after we got the food, we encountered moderate turbulence. The captain turned on the seat belt sign and the purser announced that the service would be suspended. The chop lasted for about 10 minutes but we still waited for over half an hour before the service resume. I was starving by then as itís almost 3pm EST. But was glad I had some snack while in the Sakura lounge. The meal was very tasty but since itís served over such a long time, I was still hungry after the desert. Another peculiar thing about JLís service is that instead of having a set time for the pre-landing meal, you could have it any time up to1 Ĺ hours before landing. At the same time, they also serve mid flight snacks (it turned out to be small meals themselves) any time between lunch and 1 Ĺ hours before landing. So you could choose to eat any snack or ďbreakfastĒ meal in the next 8 hours anytime you want. Thatís quite a flexibility.

I put my seat to flat position and took a nap after lunch. This was my first experience on this kind of ďnot so flatĒ lay flat seat. My previous experience was BAís Club or AAís reclining seats. Iíd agree with some of the comments on a.net that you would slide down slowly if you donít be careful; and paying attention to your sleeping position while sleeping doesnít make a good sleep. I slept for like 2 hours and woke up feeling tense instead of rested. I watched some movie and felt hungry. I went back to the galley and order a ĎChinese ramen noodles in soup with pork filletí. It was brought to me on a full tray with utensil wrapped in linen. Itís not the supermarket type instant noodle, either. Itís more than just a snack and very tasty. Satisfied, I took a bottle of water, adjust my position and went back to sleep.

The hours past quickly as I alternated between napping, drinking water and occasional walk in the business class cabin. This plane was equipped with business class seats between D2 and D4. Only the last section of the plane and the upstairs were for economy seat. With the entire business class full, JFK-NRT must be a lucrative route. Two hours before landing, I ordered the western style breakfast. I slept some more after the breakfast until they asked the seats to be in upright positions. We landed smoothly on RWY 16L about 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

NRT Transit
NRT has changed since my last visit in 2005. JL and NH used to occupy Terminal 2 while all the foreign airlines in T1. Now Star Alliance concentrates in T1 while OneWorld occupies T2. So AA is in T2 now and you donít see any NH planes in T2. I quickly found the Sakura Lounge and relaxed there. The lounge is very big with 2 floors linked by staircase. There is a buffet upstairs. The offering wasnít extensive: some salad, soups, rice and 2 hot dishes Ė stir fried chicken and beef curry. There were plenty of self-service drinks to choose from. One can also book appointments for massage and shower.

EG 209, NRT-TPE, B-767-300.
After 2 hours of wait, I headed to board the flight to TPE. As I step into the plane, the difference of cabin size between a 767 and a 747 was quite apparent. It did feel like a ďstep downĒ, so to speak. The seats were old style reclining ones with 3 adjustment buttons on the armrest. There were only screens in each cabin and no PTV. For the 36 seat business class cabin, there were only 7 passengers but 3 flight attendants.

By then I was pretty tired and it was dark outside. So I didnít pay attention to the whole takeoff sequence. I was eager to eat and sleep some more. But the flight attendants were taking their time to provide proper service. I had the western style diner with fillet of beef steak and roasted lamb ďniceĒ style as the main course and went to sleep as soon as I finished. When I woke up, we were about 45 minutes out of TPE. We landed more or less on time into a hazy TPE. The formality was simple and I was in the taxi in no more than 10 min after getting off the plane.

EG 202, TPE ĖNRT, B747-400.
Four days went quickly and I was back in TPE checking in for my return flight. Again, itís very quick and in no time I was in the terminal. But instead of stay in the Sakura Lounge, I stayed by the window and took pictures of the CI and BR planes as they taxied by. The windows of the terminal were dirty and the sun was in and out of the clouds. But I didnít want to pass the opportunity to catch planes I donít normally see; and I came away with quite a few pictures.

Finally itís time to board our plane. The B747 had the same type of old styled seats as the 767 I came with. But the cabin was obvious much more spacious. The flight was ĺ full but uneventful. I had the Japanese style brunch and took a nap. When I woke up we were less than Ĺ hour from NRT.

NRT Transit
I had a 4 hours layover in NRT. I went to the Sakura Lounge and parked by a window overlooking the taxi way and ramp. I kept my eyes out for any planes I havenít photographed before while sipping coke and reading. I managed to get PR, KE and BR 330, OZ, JL and AM 777. After 2 hours, the ramp was too crowded for any good view, so I went to have a massage. Afterwards, I got on the PC in the business center and caught up with the office mails. All in all, I had a very relaxed and enjoyable few hours in NRT.

JL 48, NRT-JFK
The flight to JFK boarded from the gate right next to the Sakura Lounge, another sign itís a prestigious flight for JL. Knowing the leg room in row 9, I asked and got 9B this time. Itís again a full flight and it would continue to GRU after reaching JFK. So the announcements were in addition made in Portuguese.
We were in the middle of the NRT evening rush hour, and the taxi to the runway was very slow. The camera on the forward landing gear showed our slow progress.

Finally, we took to the dark sky and the service began. This time, the flight attendant serving our section was Japanese; she introduced herself to the Japanese passengers but failed to do so to me and the non-Japanese passenger next to me. Other than that, the service level was about the same. This time I had the Japanese style diner. It was tasty and filling. I then put the seat into flat position and went to sleep. I slept for 4-5 hours and when I woke up, we were already over the Northwest Territory of Canada. The sky was lighting up with a nice sun rise. I walked around the cabin a little and noticed that the business class section on this plane is smaller than the outbound plane. I spent the next few hours watching movie, reading and taking more naps. At around 2 hours before landing, I ordered the western style break fast and got ready for landing.

There were some light clouds over the NY area. We crossed the Hudson River just south of the GW and I saw an AirTran 737 gliding in the opposite direction below us, apparently on its approach to EWR. We headed over to the sea, turned around and lined up for 31R approach. As we crossed the runway edge, I saw at least a dozen planes lined up waiting for take off on 31L. The rest was uneventful and I was on my way home in no time. A whirlwind Asia tour was over.