As you may have guessed, I’m a little bit of a geek when it comes to aviation – I’m fascinated by it. So my recent visit to JAL’s first class lounge at Haneda was a bit of a surprise.
I’d recently written about my Qatar Airways trip to Japan, and for the return flight we were departing from Haneda airport, the closest major airport to the city centre. Rather than build their own lounge, Qatar Airways uses the lounges of their oneworld partner, Japan Airlines (JAL) as it’s their main global hub.
We’d all checked in online using the Qatar Airways website and app, and arriving at the airport at around 20.30, none of the check-in desks were open yet. So we went straight to security where for some unexplained reason, the boarding passes wouldn’t scan. When they eventually did, they ended up beeping red. Security made a few calls, and then let us through anyway. After that, it was through to the outbound passport control and into the secure area of the airport. There was a very short walk to the lounge, up and escalator and we were warmly greeted by the staff in to the First Class lounge, due to my British Airways Gold status (oneworld emerald).
I really liked the design aesthetic in the lounge – very minimalist with clean lines and a great example of contemporary Japanese design. The hallway below being a case in point.
Walking through into the lounge, there’s an initial seating area with some private seating pods. There’s also a small business centre area with a some workspaces and a multi-function device for printing.
Walking through that area, you find yourself in the dining area which has a whole bunch of seating. There was also a very wide selection of food including a chef making stir-fry beef dishes to order. The spirits selection was also very good, including both XO Cognac and a range of Japanese whisky.
What was surprising was that the wine selection was very poor. The red was a pretty rubbish South African from 2105 which must have been no more than £5 a bottle at your local supermarket.
I really enjoyed the beef cooked to order, however when I asked for it cooked rare, he explained that he was only allowed to cook it as low as medium, which was slightly disappointing. However it did taste very good and there was a choice of sauces too.
Continuing down the the lounge, there was a further seating area that had great views of the tarmac plus a very contemporary looking sculpture. There was also a massage room off to the side, which had a number of automatic chairs. Unfortunately they recently discontinued a service where real people offered the service instead.
There was also a further selection of spirits, some fridges with a variety of cold soft drinks and also a pair of automatic beer pouring machines.
One of my travelling companions, Paul, tried out the chairs and almost fell asleep in them.
So far, this was a pretty standard lounge, with nothing particular outstanding or unusual. However moving towards the far end of the lounge, there was a sign and a couple of open doors into the Red Suite.
Inside was AVgeek heaven. Straight ahead there was a cabinet with a model of the Boeing 2707 SST as well as some other memorabilia.
To the right of the area was a small room containing a display with Laurent Perrier champagnes, some Roku Japanese gin and also three premium types of Sake, a sweet, medium and dry type. In addition, there was a full selection Riedel glassware so you could pick the right type of glass depending on what you were drinking.
In the main room as you entered there was also a member of staff providing a shoe polishing service. However he was also exceptionally helpful, guiding as to the different types of sake available and how best to drink them.
To the left of the main room, there were some more seats, and some more display cabinets with memorabilia from the history of Japanese aviation. There were some old radios on display as well as whole selection of models.
Finally, there was a further room back from there! This contained a large table football table, as well as a number of chess sets and some further seating. However the walls on this room were entirely covered in aviations charts. They seemed like they covered all parts of JAL’s network from the years.
The entire complex of five rooms was fantastic; I could have spent ages looking at all of the items in detail. That part of the lounge is a really fascinating concept and was practically empty for the entire period that I was there.
The only other place that I’ve been was the British Airways museum which I visited many years ago, when it was in an out-building at the end of the runway, near Hatton Cross Underground station. Perhaps it’s time for me to visit the new collection at their Waterside HQ?
In summary, I really enjoyed my time at the JAL First Class lounge in Haneda. It’s got an interesting selection of food, some really great drinks (except for wine) and some fascinating memorabilia to look at.