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There’s been a wave of premium cabin innovation in the aviation world as of late, and the most recent announcement comes from Japan Airlines. The airline has unveiled a state-of-the-art first class cabin on its new Airbus A350-1000 and, rather than discussing every aspect of the new seat, I want to highlight two aspects of this seat that I think are incredibly compelling.
The footprint of these seats is really, really impressive. The seat has a pitch of 83″ and a width of 48″. For reference, Delta’s latest and greatest business class seat on the A350-900 is 22” wide. Perhaps more astonishingly, this new seat is a foot wider than the widest seat currently flying on a commercial airliner, Cathay Pacific’s 36” first class seat on the 777-300ER.
All this space is possible because JAL has opted for a 1-1-1 layout. That’s something we’ve seen before, namely on Cathay Pacific’s 777 first class, Emirates’ 777 “Game Changer” seats, and Singapore’s A380 suites, but none of them have managed to have as large a seat.
What I love about this product is that nearly every inch of the space can be converted into a bed. Products like Singapore’s Suites or Etihad’s Apartments, by contrast, have separate beds which means that they’re much smaller. I’ve always thought that was a waste of space, so I’m extremely pleased to see a next-generation product like this with an absolutely massive bed.
JAL’s new seats include two speakers embedded on either side of the headrest. This technology, the first of its kind in a commercial plane, comes courtesy of Safran, a seat maker, and Devialet, a high-end speaker company. Without using it, it’s hard for me to know whether this feature is a gimmick or something groundbreaking. That said, I’ve tried it out in a BMW, and it worked excellently.
If this works as well in airplanes as it does in cars, I think it’ll be game-changing for premium travel. The ability to listen to music or watch movies without headphones is great, but the most compelling aspect of this technology is its ability to cancel out engine noise within the confines of a seat. A quieter suite makes for a more pleasant experience overall but has particularly important benefits when it comes to sleep quality.
Other nice, though less innovative, features
Besides its massive footprint and built-in speakers, JAL’s first-class suite in the A350-1000 introduces several features for passenger comfort and convenience that we’ve seen on other airplanes already. For the first time in the airline’s history, the first-class seats come equipped with 62” tall doors, offering increased privacy during the journey. To give the cabin a more spacious feel, JAL has eliminated overhead bins, instead providing passengers with individual storage spaces and a wardrobe at each seat. The new seat can be adjusted to function as a sofa, single bed, or double bed, depending on the passenger’s preference. Additional features include a wireless charging surface, a massive 43″ screen, a minibar, and a video call system for communicating with the cabin crew.
Which planes will have the new first class, and when?
The Boeing 777-300ER has been the workhorse of JAL’s long haul fleet since its first delivery in 2004. After a very good run, the airline will be replacing them over the next five years with 13 new Airbus A350-1000s, all of which will have the new first class cabin. Excitingly, these airplanes should be arriving very soon.
- 2 A350-1000s slated for delivery 2023
- 7 more delivered by 2025
- 4 more delivered by 2028, completing the fleet
Which routes will feature the new first class?
To start, JAL’s new A350-1000s will fly between Tokyo (HND) and New York (JFK), though we can expect the plane to fly other long haul routes in the future. As of now, the flight schedules are set as follows:
- JL6 departs Tokyo Haneda at 11:05 AM and landed at New York JFK by 10:50 AM
- JL5 takes off from New York at 1:45 PM and touches down in Tokyo at 5:15 PM the following day
Keep in mind that the A350-1000 will initially fly only on alternating days.
Japan Airlines will set a new standard with its state-of-the-art first class cabin on the Airbus A350-1000. This cabin stands out with unprecedentedly spacious seats, boasting a width far surpassing the industry’s leading offerings. I love that the seat can be fully converted into a bed, unlike other first class products that have separate sleeping and sitting areas. The incorporation of built-in headrest speakers is really cool, and potentially a game-changer in enhancing the in-flight experience.
Best of all, unlike other next-gen seats recently announced, these should actually be flying in the near future. JAL’s first A350-1000s will be delivered this year and fly between Tokyo and New York soon thereafter, meaning that JAL will have the best first class on earth for at least a year or two.