Japan Airlines will slash the size of its Airbus A350 business class cabin, in favour of a significantly larger economy class cabin, to cater for a seasonal shift in passenger demand.
The good news is that only some of its four A350-900s, which are dedicated to domestic routes, are going under the knife – and this itself will be a short-term arrangement.
In what the airline calls its A350 'X02' layout, the jets will retain their 12 first class seats – although, and in common with the US market, domestic first class is what most countries would actually categorise as 'business class'.
In the case of JAL's Airbus A350 this means two rows of 2-2-2 recliners with "sofa-like comfort" and a 15.6-inch video screen.
However, the 94 seats in what JAL markets as 'Class J' – think of it as premium economy, but aimed at the short-range business class flyer – will be trimmed to just 56 seats.
These Recaro-supplied recliners follow a 2-4-2 layout with 38 inches of pitch, a decent legrest, a tablet-sized storage nook to one side of the seat and another small compartment under the 11.6-inch video screen, plus AC/USB sockets within easy reach.
(One unique trait of Class J is that passengers traveling on international JAL flights in first or business class are assigned Class J seating on connecting domestic flights on the same itinerary.)
Japan Airlines is achieving this reduction by converting the smaller secondary Class J cabin into part of economy class, which will as a result increase from 263 seats to 323 seats. Those seats are arranged 3-3-3, with a tighter 31-inch pitch, a 10-inch touchscreen display, wing-style wrapping headrest and AC/USB power sockets.
Here's the before-and-after seat map for JAL's Airbus A350.
JAL says a 'Quick Configuration Change' feature on the A350s allows it to rejig the config in a matter of days.
For now, the less-business A350s are slated to appear on the Haneda-Okinawa route "in line with seasonal demand".
The impact on Class J travellers will of course be fewer seats available for points-based bookings (including those made with Qantas Points) and less chance of an upgrade to Class J on the day of departure.
Japan Airlines will begin flying the larger Airbus A350-1000 on international routes when it takes delivery of the first of 13 jets, which could also be used to introduce a new long-range business class suite.