The best business class on Sydney-Tokyo flights

By Chris Chamberlin, January 25 2017
The best business class on Sydney-Tokyo flights

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.

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

31 Aug 2015

Total posts 126

Qantas is way behind on this route. I think ANA has the advantage in terms of Haneda arrival and configuration.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 443

The QF flights ex BNE to NRT have a better J product, with the J suites on the A330. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 352

Add MEL-NRT to that list.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 May 2011

Total posts 20

I would also put the Cathay business lounge as a good non first lounge and probably better then JAL business for OW gold+ members

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2515

The Cathay Pacific lounge at Haneda is definitely worth checking out.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jul 2014

Total posts 101

Agree completely  re the QF  seats.
The Sakura Lounge at Haneda I felt  lacked choice in the Tucker stakes
Nice enough lounge [apart from the limited food options] and good service with great showers

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Dec 2015

Total posts 11

A word of warning for all Qantas Platinum's taking the Narita - Melbourne flight and wanting to access the JAL First Lounge.


In mid-December I tried to take my wife and two of our three children into the JAL First Lounge at Narita before we took our Qantas Flight to Melbourne (all four of us in Business Class).

Staff would allow me and one guest into the Lounge - but not the children (aged 14 and 9).  When leaving Sydney for Japan, I had no trouble taking my wife and the two children into the Qantas First Lounge in Sydney.  Staff said that my one 'allowed' guest was my wife and the children could enter "We don't expect them to sit outside".

JAL Staff would not budge and by Japanese standards were quite rude.  We accessed the JAL Business Class Lounge which was fine (but no where as good as the JAL First Lounge).

My children are well groomed and have travelled since they were weeks old and, parental pride aside, they are very behaved.

We went to our gate on time to find the flight delayed.  To kill time we ventured into the Qantas Lounge at Narita.  My advice - don't bother.  I was shocked at the state of the lounge, the (pitiful) 'food' on offer and the downmarket nature of the Club.

Interestingly, I provided feedback on a survey Qantas sent me regarding the flight and pre-flight experience and ticked the box asking for a call back from Qantas - six weeks later and I have not received the promised call from Qantas.  Mind you I suspect I know why they have not called as I used the same survey to make mention of the horrid experience I had at the 'Qantas' Lounge in San Francisco.  I suspect the staff have been so brow beaten about the horrid experience that they are not returning the calls to those who have made comment.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Nov 2014

Total posts 367

I find a lot of JAL staff in NRT do not know how to handle QF members well and do not know OW rule well.

I once was denied access to the Sakura lounge holding a QF business class ticket and was redirected to the Qantas lounge despite I told them about OW rule. They said as I was not a OW sapphire I was not allowed to use it even though I was a business class pax.

My mother-in-law was denied excess baggage as a Qantas club member (flying Qantas operated and marketed flight) despite that we gave her a print out of QC benefit. The JAL staff (contracted to handle QF flight in NRT) insisted that because she is not a QF elite she was not entitled to excess baggage and insisted that she pays. Fortunately my MIL is Japanese so she could communicate with them in Japanese and insisted on speaking to a QF supervisor, which was then cleared that she was indeed entitled to extra baggage.

If you are talking about services, ANA is much better than JAL. Don't expect the usual Japanese service with JAL.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Aug 2013

Total posts 8

I think Michael must have had bad luck with JAL because my wife and I have flown with them to Europe and North America many times over 14 years. There has never been less than exemplary Japanese style service from check in, lounges - both business and first class and in-flight service. The fact that they are part of One World with Qantas helps a lot. We have never had trouble accessing lounges even when flying with Qantas.

Japanese people generally can be sticklers for the rules so MuzzH found that one platinum member = 1 guest to the first class lounge with no exceptions. We regularly find the same thing when arriving a little early at hotels - 3PM check in means just that, not 2.00 or even 2.30.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2017

Total posts 42

Qantas is behind the eight ball on all routes- their A380 hard products are prehistoric and who in this day and age still flies 747. However, QF continue to live in a bubble and charge premium ticket fares.

British Airways - Executive Club

10 Apr 2015

Total posts 13

Just to note JAL wifi does now work over Australian airspace (at least on the 777-300) - last week had download speed of 3.2mbps and unlimited data for $18 which was quite impressive.

30 Oct 2015

Total posts 2

I flew with my wife and 3 children HND-SYD on 26 Jan in Business and got the old First seats up the nose of the 747.  While nostalgic and comfortable they are completely clapped out - the only way my daughters seat could get to the fully flat position was 2 staff manhandling it.  And like MuzzH there was no way the JAL staff were going to let all three of my three children into their First Lounge at HND despite both my wife and I being Qantas Platinum (ie only two of the kids could go in) - no problems at all in SYD at the Qantas First lounge.

Emirates Airlines - Skywards

07 Sep 2012

Total posts 152

Emirates Skywards members should note that JAL is one of the few airlines with which EK has reciprocal benefits, and as such you can use your Skywards miles to purchase J or F tickets on the SYD-NAR route at quite reasonable conversion rates. Have done it twice now (once in J and once in F) and had great service both times.

Qantas with their old dry, noisy 747's and with the 2/3/2 configuration are definitely the worst option flying to Japan.

ANA's 787-9 to Haneda is 1st IMHO

19 Apr 2013

Total posts 19

What is the best NRT lounge for Business class passengers? I am flying JAL to SYD in Business but do not have Onewold status. 

Thanks. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Aug 2013

Total posts 8

The lounge in the main terminal is larger but sometimes busy. Most JAL flights leave from there so it is too far to go to the satellite terminal lounge (QF or JAL). If you can, arrive early - 3-4 pm as the crowds build up after that. Flying JAL, you can check in as early as you like. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Oct 2017

Total posts 1

Why do people still refer to these QF business seats as flat beds? They are angled and old and dreadful and in no way reflect the standards of basic airlines that charge a lot less

As per the article: "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."

Accordingly, some flights have fully-flat beds, and some have angled-flat beds: they're not all angled-flat beds, and we've made this clear.


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