Alas, after one last swim with the turtles at Paradise Cove we had to leave Hawaii. We also lose a day as we cross the International Date Line on route to Japan.
"We fly all day to land tomorrow," complained The Navigator.
JAL SAKURA LOUNGE, HONOLULU
At last - we are back in the bubble of flying international business class so have full access to a decent airport lounge again.
The JAL lounge is a large area on the third floor of the terminal and above the hubbub of duty free and luxury brand name shops. Although it is a shared lounge with American Airlines, it is primarily run as a JAL lounge and so is a vast step up from the low quality AA lounges.
This is a spacious area. There are plenty of leather easy chairs to sit in, as well as a bench-like workspace with power points for those wanting to use computers. The workspace looks out to a lush green area complete with large Koi pond in the middle of the terminal, or has a limited view of the tarmac.
Food, alcohol and soft drink is provided free of charge and there is a delightful serving of Japanese beef curry, chicken karaage and fresh fruit available. Raman noodles are also available. We felt like we were in Japan already.
As this is also an Admiral's Club lounge, those with Qantas Club membership can gain entry. This might be a viable alternative to the much smaller Qantas lounge on the ground floor, which is sometimes crowded with both the Jetstar and Qantas flights leaving at similar times.
Oneworld. This is the fifth leg of our oneworld Classic Flight itinerary. Notwithstanding we love Japan, this was the only way to get from Hawaii to Australia using a oneworld business class redemption. We have never seen Qantas or Jetstar offer business class redemptions from HNL - SYD.
Business - seats 10D & 10G (the middle seats).
There are two business class cabins, with seven rows ahead of the galley and a further four rows behind. We are in the second section of four rows.
Despite leaving the lounge when the flight was announced, we arrive at the gate 10 minutes after boarding has commenced to find the area empty. We apologise for being late and are told they are still waiting for three more passengers. We were almost those passengers - at least we were not paged!
Flying time of 8.5 hours. Due to the efficient boarding we push back five minutes early and land about 40 minutes ahead of schedule.
JAL flies twice daily between Honolulu and Osaka. There is an additional four flights per day to Narita as well as one flight to Nagoya. There are also two flights a day from Maui to Japan.
No wonder every third voice we heard in Hawaii was Japanese.
The B777's were recently fitted out with the reverse herringbone style layout of 1+2+1. This is a familiar format to us now and we can see the slight differences applied by different airlines.
The seat has two sections which lie flat to a long leg rest underneath the table section of the row in front. There is no leg rest attached to the chair but a footrest is available if one stretches out when in upright mode. There is also a soothing lumbar massage which can be adjusted to suit any position.
There is plenty of elbow room and storage compartments, particularly in comparison to Finnair's herringbone layout. Unfortunately in full recline there is not quite enough room for The Navigator's feet and knees. It is difficult to find a comfortable position to sleep.
A large table folds down from the partition in front, rather than from the table section in the middle. Further, one has to be fully upright to use the table - reclining the seat actually raises the bench which impacts the table.
An 18 inch touch screen is mounted directly ahead and can be tilted down for use when in recline mode. There are over 200 movies in a variety of languages from all Asian languages to English, French and many more. Approximately 100 of these movies are English language.
There are abut 25 TV shows, as well as sports and music videos. There are over 100 audio channels and about 12 interactive games. The games are played using a controller mounted in the partition.
In short (as per usual, at least in international business class), there is plenty of entertainment to cover a wide range of tastes. If you cannot find something to watch then you are not trying hard enough.
The Navigatrix watched 'Tully' starring Charlize Theron, 'LBJ' starring Woody Harrelson and 'The Greatest Showman" with Aussie Hugh. This is a record in movie watching for The Navigatrix. The Navigator watched 'La La Land' and la la loved it.
Get ready for it - JAL allows business class passengers 3 bags each at 32kgs per bag. Not only that, the bag can have a total dimension of 203cms. Compare this to Qantas which only allows a bag as big as 158cms.
This is lucky for us as our outlet mall purchases meant we had run out of space. One of our other purchases in Hawaii was a larger suitcase.
A blanket and pillow is provided, as well as slippers and noise cancelling headphones.
An amenity bag contains a toothbrush, eye mask, ear plugs and a moisturising mask. Whilst not as cute as the Marimmeko printed bags on Finnair, it is larger than normal and entirely useful.
The Navigatrix also receives a button up Yukata sleeping jacket made of soft jersey and had to reluctantly give it back at the end of the flight.
It is not often we feel the need to write about toilets but these were spotless throughout the entire flight. The polished chrome shined brightly. Toothbrushes and mouthwash are also available in the toilets.
The staff are wonderfully polite as are all Japanese people. After lunch the cabin is dimmed, so half the cabin sleeps while the other half watches the screen. The only two Westerners are stitching and writing.
A scented hand towel is handed out before and after the meal service.
The Navigator has a martini before the food service and then we both have a very tasty Spanish Cabernet Sauvignon.
The menu consists of a Japanese Pacific Rim dish of appetisers such as noodles, shrimp ball seared tuna and crabmeat omelette with a main course of grilled pink snapper. Alternately, there is a contemporary Hawaiian dish of pupu style appetisers and then beef tenderloin as the main course.
Despite previous warnings about beef on aeroplanes, we both order the tenderloin but The Navigator is disappointed to discover they have run out. He has the fish. He was doubly disappointed because The Navigatrix said the beef was perfectly cooked. The fish was fine... but seafood is not The Navigator's preferred food.
Dessert was a pear blanc manger which was tasty. Ice cream, cookies, cheese and fresh fruit was available at anytime on request, as well as water and soft drink.
A Chinese BBQ chicken sandwich was served as a snack about two hours prior to landing.
The difference between international and domestic business class is like chalk and cheese. JAL service, food and amenities made us enjoy flying again. As usual, the ability to stretch out made managing jet lag so much better, despite not sleeping. Despite a five hour time difference, we were more refreshed after this flight compared to the two AA flights where the time difference was only three hours.
The direct aisle access for all passengers and over the top politeness of the Japanese staff made this a lovely flight. The luggage allowance is spectacular.
However The Navigator did not get his first choice of food, and the seat is not quite long enough when in lie flat mode.
9 out of 10.