Tuesday, December 2, 2014

JAL's Sky Suite 787 makes debut.

On December 1st, Japan Airlines [JL/JAL] placed their first Sky Suite 787 into service. Boasting JAL's award-winning Sky Suite interior (JAL adding more Sky Suite destinations.), Boeing 787-8 JA837J, their 16th Dreamliner to be delivered, entered service with flight JL407 from Tokyo/Narita [NRT/RJAA] to Frankfurt/Main [FRA/EDDF]. It departed Spot 62 in Terminal 2 at 1219 with a load of 159 passengers.

Boeing 787-8 JA837J Sky Suite 787 takes off from Narita bound for Frankfurt. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Fully lie-flat business class seats have been introduced for the first time on JAL's 787s (previously only angled lie-flat seats), while premium economy is also a first for their Dreamliners. Economy has been revamped as well, with new Sky Wider II seats installed. Seat count has been reduced to 161, comprised of 38 business, 35 premium economy, and 88 economy, the lowest-density 787 in commercial service to date. Even the Sky Suite 767s carry 199, including 24 in business and 175 in economy. JAL's previous 787-8s seated 186, with 42 in business and 144 in economy. Japan's second largest carrier believes higher revenue per seat will offset the reduction in capacity.

Lie-flat staggered business class seats on the Sky Suite 787. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Business class is in a six-abreast (2-2-2) staggered layout with direct aisle access from every seat while enhancing privacy. Personal in-flight entertainment (IFE) screens are 19 centimeters (7.6 inches) wider than those on previous 787s, opting for 23-inch monitors. Premium economy has been configured with 49-centimeter-wide (19.4 inches) seats at seven abreast (2-3-2). Retaining the design from the Sky Suite 777, the seats are of a fixed-back type, so the seat-back in front does not recline but instead the whole seat slides forward. Economy class is in a generous eight-abreast (2-4-2) layout, bucking the worldwide trend of nine abreast. Seats are 48 centimeters wide (19 inches) with a pitch of 84 centimeters (33 inches), five centimeters more than the current Dreamliners. Personal IFE monitors are 27-centimeters wide (10.6 inches).

Premium economy on the Sky Suite 787 is in a seven-abreast layout. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

IFE has been upgraded to MAGIC-VI and monitors are touch-controlled with swiping. In-flight wireless internet connection dubbed JAL Sky Wi-Fi will also be available from the end of 2014. Toilets in all classes will boast washlets, now one of Japan's modern icons. Previous 787s only had business class lavatories equipped with these butt-cleaning gadgets. Cabin LED lighting patterns will be set according to the season, for example with red and green to be featured for December.

JAL is staying with eight abreast for economy in the Sky Suite 787. (Photo: Aviation Wire)

Aimed at "evoking a one-class higher feel," according to President Ueki Yoshiharu, JAL's first Sky Suite aircraft, a 777-300ER, entered service on the Narita – London/Heathrow [LHR/EGLL] route in January 2013, while the first re-configured 767-300ER was introduced on the Narita – Vancouver [YVR/CYVR] link in December 2013. The Sky Suite 777 seats eight in first, 49 in business, 40 in premium economy, and 135 in economy (232 total), while the Sky Suite 767 seats 24 in business and 175 in economy (199 total). JAL currently has all 13 777-300ERs along with nine 767-300ERs in this upgraded layout.

At least 10 upcoming Dreamliner deliveries will be configured with Sky Suite, including the stretched 787-9s. The next destination to see the service will be New York/John F. Kennedy [JFK/KJFK], starting on January 1st, 2015 with flights JL004/003. In contrast to archrival All Nippon Airways [NH/ANA], which has sadly (to frequent flyers) joined the flock of carriers with nine-abreast (3-3-3) economy (ANA takes 150th Boeing 787 delivery.), JAL is clearly going after the premium market for international routes.

Source: Japan Airlines. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, November 29th. (in Japanese)
Source: Aviation Wire, December 1st. (in Japanese)

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