Jetting from Sydney to Tokyo’s Haneda or Narita airports? Three airlines run daily flights on this popular route including home-grown Qantas, its Oneworld alliance partner Japan Airlines and also All Nippon Airways, more commonly known as ANA.
Depending on the flight and airline you choose, you could wind up in a fully-flat bed with direct aisle access, or in a business class middle seat wedged in between two other travellers.
Australian Business Traveller explores your options on these flagship flights between the business capitals of Australia and Japan.
1. Japan Airlines: Boeing 777-300ER, Boeing 787-9 Sky Suite
Taking out first place, Japan Airlines and its fully-flat business class Sky Suites, currently found in Australian skies aboard JAL’s Boeing 777-300ERs, and from March 26 2017, its Boeing 787-9s.
Upsides: Despite being a 2-2-2 layout on paper (or 2-3-2 aboard the Boeing 777), each of these Sky Suites actually enjoys direct and uninterrupted access to the aisles. Passengers seated next to an aisle can step right out, while those away have their own private corridor to reach them:
Seats by the windows are also incredibly private, owing to high-level partitions between each seat and an added privacy screen that can be raised after take-off, giving a feel that’s more akin to first class than business, with storage options plentiful aside and around each suite:
Top-tier Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers (including Qantas Platinum members) can stop by the Qantas First Lounge in Sydney and the JAL First Class Lounge in Tokyo’s Narita Airport before their flights: both providing shower and spa facilities, among other amenities.
JAL also runs multiple business class lounges in Narita for non-Platinum business class travellers, and offers inflight Internet on both aircraft types.
Downsides: Until the Boeing 787 takes over in March, some business class travellers may find themselves in the ‘middle seat’ on the Boeing 777’s 2-3-2 layout. It still provides direct aisle access, but doesn’t feel as roomy as the other seats with dividers at each side.
JAL also uses the Qantas international business class lounge in Sydney which is starting to show its age, and the airline’s inflight Internet service doesn’t function in Australian airspace.
Schedule: With daily flights in each direction, Japan Airlines departs Sydney mid-morning to reach Tokyo by late afternoon, with overnight flights leaving Tokyo in the early evenings and reaching Sydney before the business day begins.
AusBT review: Japan Airlines Sky Suite business class, Sydney-Tokyo
2. All Nippon Airways: Boeing 787-9
ANA’s Boeing 787-9s also feature fully-flat beds for a good night’s sleep, but instead in a more conventional 1-2-1 layout.
Upsides: There’s plenty of room to store your gear here, with a large side table aside each seat and space underneath the ottoman in front for larger items.
As also found on JAL’s Sky Suites, both AC and USB power outlets are available to keep your laptop, smartphone and tablet charged inflight – and if you don’t wish to be disturbed during work or sleep, just activate the ‘do not disturb’ light at your seat to be left alone.
ANA’s jets too feature inflight Internet (charges apply and vary by duration), with business class passengers enjoying access to the ANA Lounge in Haneda and top-tier ANA Diamond Service cardholders receiving access to the first class ANA Suite Lounge before departure.
Some travellers may also prefer the convenience of arriving at Haneda Airport with ANA as opposed to Narita Airport with JAL, owing to its closer proximity to Tokyo’s city centre. In Sydney, the shared Air New Zealand/Star Alliance lounge is used for all eligible flyers.
Downsides: All Nippon’s Boeing 787-9 business class seats are considerably less private than JAL’s Sky Suites, with much smaller privacy screens in between and relatively open seats by the windows.
For frequent travellers, ANA also has no Australian airline partners, which means you can’t directly earn or redeem frequent flyer points on ANA flights through either Qantas Frequent Flyer or Virgin Australia’s Velocity Frequent Flyer.
ANA is instead a member of the global Star Alliance network, which means points-based flights must instead be booked via other Star Alliance airlines such as Singapore Airlines, Thai Airways and United, and frequent flyer points credited to those programs in place of an Aussie option.
Schedule: Jet to Tokyo with ANA and you'll find your flight departing Sydney mid-evening to reach the Japanese capital at 5am the next day, with overnight flights again to Sydney: leaving later in the evenings to reach Sydney mid-mornings.
3. Qantas: Boeing 747-400 Skybeds
Receiving the Bronze: Qantas and its Boeing 747 Skybed seats – both the fully-flat second-generation model (pictured) and the original angled-flat first-generation brand, which both appear on the Tokyo route.
Upsides: The Qantas jumbo provides several seating zones in business class, keeping things interesting for regular high flyers. Business class can be found in the nose, on the upper deck and also further back on the main deck for added variety.
On flights served by Qantas’ non-refurbished Boeing 747s, business class passengers can also select seats in the ‘first class’ zone at no extra charge, just with business class service and amenities:
Like ANA, Qantas flies into Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, making for a quick journey to downtown Tokyo.
Qantas business class flyers have access to the relatively new Japan Airlines Sakura business class lounge in Haneda…
… while Platinum-grade frequent flyers can instead unwind in the also-new JAL First Class Lounge (pictured), with access also to the Qantas First Lounge in Sydney.
Downsides: With aircraft layouts often changing from one day to the next, there’s no knowing whether you’ll ultimately wind up flying in one of Qantas’ newer fully-flat Skybeds or in one of the older, angled-flat original Skybeds.
In any case, direct and uninterrupted aisle access isn’t something you’ll find here (unless you’re lucky enough to snag what used to be a Qantas first class seat), with Skybeds ranging in layout from 2-2 on the upper deck through to 2-2/2-2-2 in the nose and 2-3-2 in the main cabin just behind.
Yes, even in business class you could wind up in a middle seat – and unlike with JAL, that middle seat requires you to step over your neighbour to reach the aisle.
Qantas is also the only airline not to provide inflight Internet access between Sydney and Tokyo, and as noted for JAL passengers, the Qantas international business class lounge in Sydney used by non-Platinum business class flyers has certainly lost its sparkle.
Schedule: Qantas passengers all fly overnight between Sydney and Tokyo, pushing back from Sydney mid-evening for an early morning arrival into Tokyo, and leaving Haneda late evening for a mid-morning touchdown in Sydney.