Review: Japan Airlines First Class Lounge Tokyo Narita Airport

I finally had a chance to visit the Japan Airlines first class lounge Tokyo Narita airport. I don’t usually fly long haul on JAL, and whenever possible I fly short haul from Haneda airport.

Last month though I flew from Tokyo Narita to Shanghai Pudong on Japan Airlines. I chose the flight because of timing, I wanted to leave Tokyo late. I booked a business class award ticket for 15,000 British Airways Avios. While these tickets are often available for a little over $400 each way, they were running more than double that for my flight.

It’s business class, and that wouldn’t normally allow for first class lounge access. However I attached my American Airlines AAdvantage account number to the booking. My oneworld emerald status showed up and I was invited into JAL’s first class lounge.

That’s the one unique thing about oneworld. Unlike SkyTeam and Star Alliance, oneworld top elites get access to first class lounges regardless of class of service flown.

More and more airlines are making exceptions to this and carving out their best lounges for their own customers. British Airways Concorde Room is for BA’s first class customers only. Qatar’s al Safwa lounge in Doha is for their own first class passengers only. And American’s Flagship First Dining is for American Airlines first class passengers only (and Cathay’s passengers at New York JFK).

That leaves first class lounge access offered to top tier elites by,

  • Qantas
  • Cathay Pacific
  • Malaysia Airlines
  • Japan Airlines

The Qantas and Cathay first class lounges are excellent. JAL’s and Malaysia’s less so, but still nicer than business class lounges. So it is at Tokyo Narita.

Japan Airlines first class lounge Tokyo Narita airport

Japan Airlines first class lounge Tokyo Narita airport

There’s a main Japan Airlines first class lounge Tokyo Narita just after security and passport control, and also a small one by the satellite gates. I visited the main lounge which has two separate levels. The upstairs was nearly deserted. It features a sit down dining offering, but I wasn’t hungry.

There are no more complimentary massage treatments in the Japan Airlines first class lounge Tokyo Narita. Instead there are massaging recliners.

Downstairs was much busier, although seating still far outstripped guests.

There’s a business center.

The Japan Airlines first class lounge Tokyo Narita airport features plenty of glass overlooking the tarmac.

Japan Airlines first class lounge Tokyo Narita airport

There’s plenty of self pour liquor, and a buffet.

The highlight for many guests is the made to order sushi. It’s cool that they offer this, and the quality is reasonable. However I had just eaten three of the best sushi meals of my life so this was never going to be especially enjoyable. The fish was fine but it was striking just how bland the rice was.

I left plenty of time to head over to my gate over in terminal 2 satellite.

Overall I find the Japan Airlines first class lounge Tokyo Narita to be fine. It’s a nice enough place to pass the time before a flight, though it’s not a destination itself worth showing up at the airport early for.

The overall design is really dark. I would love it if the lounge were somewhat brighter. It’s nicer than just about any business class lounge I can think of except perhaps the Turkish Airlines lounge in Istanbul, Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at London Heathrow, and arguably United’s Polaris lounges. I’m torn over how I’d compare it to the Star Alliance business class lounge at LAX, where I prefer the outdoor area but the exclusivity and food in this lounge is better.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. Well here’s the main difference btwn CX F lounge(s) and JAL. CX has downgraded their food to cafeteria level (or worse) no quality ingredients, etc. JAL buffet items are replenished often and are high quality. Made to order sushi is really nice (albeit not corresponding to 3*) and at Haneda they offer 2 cooked to order items (one in the am and different in pm) that are high quality. I’ve had the BEST bread ever in the JL F lounges – compared to what is now inedible stuff at CX. The desserts come from high end and quality shops.
    It’s a shame they did away with the 10 minute free massage -but all in all since the downgrade at CX I no longer consider them even on the same plane 🙁
    Color scheme matters less to me – but plane viewing is better at JL as well.

  2. @estelle Gregory – which CX lounges were you at? Sad to hear of the culinary decline. Would be interested to know of any other downgrades you noticed?…especially if you were at Pier or Wing? Anyway, trying to decide how to come back from Vietnam between JAL, CX (either J or preferably F) or KE J (because I’ve never flown APEX suites)
    Lounge experience counts. And in past we’ve had an awesome experience at CX lounges…and have never flown JAL at all.

  3. Interesting read! Funny comment re rice. Was just talking to friends tonight about a Japanese restaurant we went to in nyc recently and how the rice was amazing. A comment I never thought I would make!!!

  4. Btw. Visited the Polaris lounge in Ord recently and feel that it has already passed its used by date!!! Hardly world class. Packed. Boring food etc. 🙁

  5. Yes the CX lounges have gone downhill. About 7-8 years ago the lounges were catered by Peninsula. They switched the catering contract to Plaza Premium IIRC several years ago. Now they switched the caterer to Sodexo earlier this year. Sodexo used to the the contracted caterer for the cafeterias at our offices and they were awful.

    We switched to Aramark partially due to quality and complaints from employees, which is telling how bad Sodexo is in general.

    A shame that CX has fallen this far in less than a decade particularly for a company that takes so much pride in their lounge product.

  6. I want to mention this new catering contract is for the HKG lounges. I don’t know about SFO/LHR/YVR/etc.

  7. My travel usually brings me to NRT JAL F Lounge 3-5 times a year. I don’t find it too dark. JAL stew is always a treat. Sushi is also fine and goes well with French Champagne. Surely, you can find a better sushi around Tokyo and Osaka, but the basic variety they serve is fine. Fish is of a proper quality. Small appetizer items are also great. Overall, the lounge serves its purpose: it has a few items I am always looking for a quick snack, nice drinks, and a relaxing setting before the flight. I think JAL does it just right.
    I do not understand the concept of a lounge to be ” a destination itself worth showing up at the airport early for” as Gary writes. I do not need “First Dining” with special meals etc. served on white table cloth … because I do expect some special service when flying JAL F and also J (and not the cafeteria c^&$#p AA is feeding you on the flights from NRT).

  8. Just been at NRT Sakura Business Class Lounge and it was great experience – it is much brigher, has 2 floors, nice showers, good food (no sushi, but few hot items that are tasty), open bar, massage chairs room, and many comfortable chairs to relax in or working tables with plug-ins.
    Views of the tarmac are the same. Highly recommend.

  9. Aside from the crowd factor, it really does not look that different from the ANA business class lounge,

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