We may have found the best way to fly short-haul, without owning your own private jet.
Just in time for the 2020 Olympics, Japan Airlines is introducing the roomy Airbus A350 long-haul experience on domestic routes, and bucking the trend of airlines pushing single-aisle planes on longer flights.
The airline took delivery of its first Airbus A350-900 during a special ceremony in Toulouse last week, and debuted the new cabins this week. The first commercial flight is scheduled for September 1, from Tokyo Haneda to Fukuoka, which is less than two hours.
The Airbus A350 was designed to make long flights more comfortable, offering lower cabin altitude, which means you don’t feel as many of the effects of the change in pressure, better environmental controls for temperature and humidity, large windows that let in plenty of light and give you a great view of the landscape below, as well as programmable lighting. There’s also a lot more space overhead, and room for large bags in the bins.
The new A350 features three cabin classes: First, J Class (Business) and Economy, but whichever you choose you’ll find the things you need most during a flight. For example, all seats have full, international adaptor AC power outlets as well as USB power outlets. All passengers get access to a broad catalogue of in-flight entertainment, as well as live TV and full camera views outside of the plane. There is also free in-flight Wi-Fi.
The 12 first class passengers onboard get extra-plush recliner chairs, with back and leg massage settings, configured in sets of two, with privacy divider screens, storage space for personal items, as well as 15.6-inch in-flight entertainment screens.
There are 94 recliner-seats in business class, in a 2-4-2 configuration. These seats offer a unique leg rest angle adjustment for better support, plenty of room to store the personal items you might want to have to-hand, 11.6-inch monitors, a personal reading light, and lots of legroom.
The plane seats 263 economy passengers in three rows of three with 17.3-inch wide seats. The seats also have adjustable headrests, a cup holder which can be deployed separately from the seat tray to free up room, extra storage pockets for water bottles or other personal items, and 10-inch in-flight entertainment touch-screens.
Passengers may find it difficult to make use of all of these features on a short-haul flight, but JAL didn’t want to compromise on short-haul service. The airline’s Chairman, Yoshiharu Ueki, told Travel + Leisure during the delivery ceremony that the airline serves as many passengers on domestic flights as it does on international flights, so keeping up the standards of service both long-haul and short-haul is important.
It is the first time an Airbus A350 will be flown on a short route, though, and the aircraft had to be modified to allow for service at higher frequencies with shorter aircraft turn-around times.
Japan Airlines has a history of using long-haul planes for domestic flights. It currently flies the Boeing 777 — another long-haul plane — on this same route. In the 1970s, the airline also modified the then-new Boeing 747 plane to serve the domestic market, because of high demand. Those planes were far more crowded, with room for 550 passengers.
This is also the first time that Japan Airlines will fly an aircraft made by Airbus. The airline’s chairman says they picked the Airbus A350 because it is more fuel-efficient, eco-friendly, and quiet.