Tuesday, October 21, 2014

BusinessFlyer JC1685: Haneda – Okayama on JAL Express.

Having arrived on a morning flight into Tokyo International Airport (HND/RJTT), or more commonly called Haneda Airport, I spent some time in the credit-card-sponsored lounge in the South Wing of Terminal 1, where most flights to destinations south of Tokyo depart from. The simple credit card lounge is housed with sofas, massage chairs, working desks, and offers some basic amenities as well as a beverage bar. Light snacks can be purchased.
Our aircraft: Boeing 737-846(WL) JA327J still in the Arc of the Sun livery. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

These domestic lounges, eligible for use by selected gold credit card holders, are different from JAL's luxurious and peaceful Sakura Lounge, which is offered for First Class customers, Japan Mileage Bank (JMB) Diamond and Saffire flyers, and JAL Global Club (JGC) members. I was booked for Class J, JAL's domestic business class product, but that doesn't qualify.
Boarding at Gate 8 of the South Wing of Haneda's Terminal 1. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Boarding for my flight JC1685 (branded as JL1685) to Okayama (OKJ/RJOB) commenced right at the time I arrived at Gate 8 (Spot 8) at 1215, starting with handicapped persons, pregnant mothers, and children under two, followed by JMB Diamond flyers, JGC premier members, and Oneworld Emerald holders. Class J passengers are not eligible for priority boarding.
My Class J seat for the flight. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

JAL normally organizes boarding for the rest of the passengers by calling those with seats in the aft rows to get on first, however, because the flight was only half full, the gate staff decided to let everyone board at the same time. While I was getting myself seated in the fourth row, flight attendants started handing out blankets while children received toys and stickers.
Climbing over Miura Peninsula. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

At 1237 JST, the door was closed, but we had to wait for some transfer bags to be loaded. Soon after at 1242, we were pushed back, just two minutes behind scheduled departure time. The two CFM International CFM56-7B engines were started, and we were taxiing in five minutes. Here in Japan, ground handling personnel will always wave good-bye at you after push-back is finished and the airplane starts moving on its own power, so remember to look outside the window! If they notice you waved back, they might give you a bow in return.
The Class J cabin is in a five-abreast (3-2) layout. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

We taxied to the threshold of Runway 16R and took off at 1252, banking to the right heading southwest as we were climbing over Tokyo Bay and Miura Peninsula. Our aircraft for today was Boeing 737-846(WL) JA327J, which was delivered to JAL Express (JC/JEX) (JAL Express is merged into JAL.) on March 10th, 2010. All domestic-configured 737-800s seat 20 in Class J and 145 in economy. At 1258 the seat belt signs were turned off just as we passed Miura Peninsula. The crew shortly gave an announcement to advertise recommended products from the JAL Shop catalog in the seat pocket.
Inside the seat pocket: JAL's Skyward magazine, JAL Shop catalog, and safety leaflet. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Approximately 10 minutes later, the cabin crew commenced in-flight service, which consisted of just a complementary beverage selection. Having an identical product as its parent, JEX offers hot coffee (branded as JAL Cafe Lines), apple juice, consommé soup, seasonal fruit juice (branded as JAL Sky Time), which was 'shiikwaasaa' (Citrus depressa), hot and cold green tea, water, and coke. Nothing special but adequate, as most Japanese domestic flights from Tokyo don't take more than a hour and half, except for flights to Okinawa.
Flying somewhere over Aichi. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

At 1310 as the flight attendants were serving passengers, Captain Nakamura made his announcement telling us that we were cruising at 8,500 meters (28,000 feet) at 670 kph (400 mph), and that our flight would last just one hour. Weather at Okayama would be fair with temperatures at 22 degrees Celsius. After beverage service was finished, the cabin crew went through the aircraft offering JAL's in-flight shopping products.
Flying over Fukusaki, near Himeji, on descent. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

As we passed Izu Peninsula, clouds started gathering below, soon blocking our view of the landscape below us completely. We had a smooth cruise, and as we flew over Kyoto, gradual descent started and the cockpit crew informed us that the seat belt lights would be turned on in 15 minutes. At 1340, we passed by Himeji and Ako, and continued our descent over the mountains of the Chugoku Region.
On final approach to Okayama. The prefecture's countryside. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

We touched down on Runway 25 at 1353, and arrived at Spot 2 at 1355, right on schedule. The door was opened in minutes and our luggage was out by the time we reached the baggage claim. Traveling to the city of Okayama, situated southwest of the airport, is straightforward using a bus that leaves from right in front of the arrivals hall. We caught the 1415 bus, which took half an hour at a cost of 760 JPY.
Okayama Airport is well connected to major stations with buses that are timed with arrivals and departures of the flights. (Photo: Ryosuke Yano)

Although touted as business class, Class J is more akin to a premium-economy product. For a fare difference that starts from only 1,000 JPY, you get a wider seat with a little more legroom, but that is about it and all other services are the same as in economy. However, again, considering the flight durations of the domestic flights, that might be enough. Those who want something to eat would grab one of the ubiquitous Bento boxes at the airport and have it on the airplane.

Travel Date: May 2014
Flight: JC1685 (marketed as JL1685)
Route: Tokyo/Haneda (HND/RJTT) – Okayama (OKJ/RJOB)
Carrier: JAL Express (JC/JEX) operating for Japan Airlines (JL/JAL)
Aircraft: Boeing 737-846(WL) JA327J
Class: Class J (Domestic Business)
Direct distance: 547 kilometers (340 miles)
Flight time: 1 hour 5 minutes

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