JAPAN AIRLINES FIRST CLASS SAKURA LOUNGE TOKYO (HANEDA): REVIEW

Alliance: Oneworld

Location: Haneda (Tokyo) International Airport, Terminal 1

Lounge Rating: 4.5 Stars

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For as far as I can remember I’ve always been fascinated and had respect for Japan Airlines (JAL) as an airline. The airline is synonymous with outstanding customer service, strong product offerings and overall elegance. This extends to their lounges which are well presented and immaculate. I was keen to visit the First Class Lounge in Haneda after friends reported on how wonderful their experience was, including a must visit to the Red Suite. Fortunately I had the opportunity to visit the lounge twice on a recent trip. So how did the lounge stack up in terms of First Class lounges like The Pier in HK or the Concorde Lounge in the UK? I checked into the lounge to find out…

Lounge access options

  • Those travelling in JAL First Class
  • JAL Mileage Bank Diamond, Gold and Silver members
  • Oneworld Emerald members travelling on any Oneworld flight in any cabin of service

Lounge location and opening hours

The JAL First Class Lounge is located after security in the International Terminal on level 4. Located across from gate 112, the lounge can be accessed via an elevator or set of escalators leading up from the gate level. Opening hours for the lounge is from 6am – 2am, with only a closure period of four hours in the wee hours of the early morning.

Ambience

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Upon entering the lounge for the first time you’re greeted by a stunning hallway with gleaming marble floors, Japanese style partitions and artwork. Off the hallway are shower facilities to the left and a phone room and baggage storage to the right. Beyond the hallway are two main seating areas on either side of the dining space, a small business centre, The Red Suite, showers, bathroom, massage area and smoking room. The amount of seating as well as power outlets are generous. The furnishing style is light and elegant, and more importantly very comfortable.

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Speaking of the Red Suite, this by far was the room that most impressed. In a word stunning. I’ve not come across such a gorgeous room (not even in The Pier in HK) in a lounge before. Located at the back of the lounge, this adults only space offers a more relaxed space for those seeking quiet.

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The suite, beautifully decorated in mahogany colours and featuring Japan Airlines memorabilia, is broken up into four spaces. A library, play room, seating room and the all important champagne/sake bar (which comprises of a Laurent-Perrier stocked fridge and top notch sake). There’s also a shoe polishing service for those business flyers looking to spruce up before their next meeting. This was my favourite space in the lounge and found myself often returning to fill up on another sake or Laurent Perrier.

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I didn’t have the opportunity to visit the shower rooms but the restrooms were well appointed with lovely amenities as well as the iconic Japanese Super Toilet or Washlet (Woshuretto) as it’s known, which has all the dazzling and somewhat confusing array of features.

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Bread and butter (food and drink)

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The food selection is mainly self-serve, with a chef available during peak times (breakfast and dinner) to create made to order dishes. The selection is extensive but in comparison to other first lounges I have visited it was a tad underwhelming. Some individual items like the sushi selection was delicious and highly recommended but the salads and bread options looked lacklustre and not well presented. The chef was the highlight of the area and at the time of my visit they were serving the original JAL burger which was quite tasty and went down a treat!

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There are also two self serve drink stations which include liquor, soft drinks, juice, and a beer machine. The selection on offer is decent but nowhere near as impressive as The Red Suite offering.

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Verdict

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The JAL First Class Lounge is definitely up there for me in terms of my all time favourites,  mainly due to the x factor of the Red Suite.  I fell in love with its beautiful interior, tranquil ambience and lovely nod to JALs aviation past. As an aviation geek walking around inspecting the memorabilia with Laurent-Perrier glass in hand has easily become one of my favourite airport lounge experiences.

Whilst the lounge isn’t The Pier in Hong Kong (a difficult task to follow), this lounge has easily become one of my favourites alongside the Qantas, Qatar and British Airways First lounges. I will definitely (and hopefully) be back to enjoy this stunning lounge again sometime in the near future.

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Comments

Have you experienced the JAL First Class Sakura Lounge at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport? Love to hear from you about your time in lounge – did it shine or were you expecting something better?

 

DAN LOUNGE BEN GURION (ISRAEL) REVIEW

Alliance: N/A

Location: Ben Gurion International Terminal 3, after Passport Control follow signs to Concourse C.

Lounge Rating: 2.5 Stars 

 

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Enter a quick search online and you’ll be quick to find stories floating about the Dan Lounge in Israel and the poor hospitality it offers. To have such a reputation, especially outside of Israel for the wrong reasons is quite concerning. Naturally due to my frequent flyer membership, lounge access to the Dan Lounge was offered and being curious, TAT simply had to try some of the best and worst there was to offer in terms of aviation experience. So how did Dan Lounge fare? Was it as horrifying as some bloggers have made out or was it more a storm in a tea cup?

Lounge access options

  • Lounge access is available for passengers who are:
    • Higher tier members of frequent flyer programs/ alliances
    • Priority Pass
    • Paid entry

Lounge location and opening hours

The lounge is located in Terminal 3. After clearing Passport Control follow the signs to Concourse C. The lounge is open 24 hours.

Ambience

 

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One thing you notice upon entering the lounge is how small the space is. Considering the lounge is accessible to pretty much anyone from frequent flyers on alliance airline programs to paid entries, this lounge can easily get quite full and in the case of my flight that morning it did. I initially struggled to find a seat and had to stand around ten minutes before some people cleared for a flight that was called.

In the lounge there’s a handful of toilets, a small buffet area and mostly seating. Those looking for a shower mid transit or prior to a flight will have to look elsewhere as I couldn’t find any in this lounge.

 

Refresh Me (Bathroom/ spa facilities)

As mentioned prior there are no shower facilities and limited toilets. I found whenever I went to the bathroom there was a line for the toilet (no good). Bathrooms were generally clean but nothing outstanding in my opinion.

Bread and butter (food and drink)

 

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The food and drink section here was very underwhelming. The buffet area was tiny and only offered a handful of food options from salads (sorry mostly salads), some pastries and eggs. On the drinks side of things, there was sadly nothing alcoholic that could help you erase the memories of spending time in this lounge. Instead fridges were stocked with soft drink, juice and water. Also on hand was a couple of coffee machines that looked like they had seen better days. I noticed a couple of patrons struggled to get boiling water to pour from these machines and the coffee from them didn’t look too enticing either.

If there was a redeeming feature about the food/ drinks section it was the large glass bottles of sparkling Perrier water on offer. Simply take the bottle to your table and enjoy. For me this was certainly not a bad way to hydrate oneself prior to boarding.

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The area could be dramatically improved with a wider range of options and more space but again this is something that would require a total lounge redesign/ revamp.

Verdict

Dan Lounge sounds appealing on paper as a 24 hour lounge, giving those in transit an option to relax instead of sitting around the rather unfriendly Ben Gurion Airport for hours on end. However the food and drink options were disappointingly slim and lack of seating and time spent waiting around for seating to free up was terrible, especially after getting up for an early flight. In general the lack of space and poor seating design makes this lounge fall flat in terms of an enjoyable experience.

If you’re not a Priority Pass or top tier airline alliance program member I’d avoid this lounge as I wouldn’t pay entry for this lounge, instead looking at a the range of food outlets within the airport for a drink/ snack. Overall the lounge isn’t as horrifying as some of the stories online but it certainly doesn’t shake some of the key negative aspects that have been echoed on these forums either. A very average experience not worth arriving at the airport earlier for.

Comments

Have you experienced the Dan Lounge in Ben Gurion Israel? If so how was your experience in the lounge? Love to hear your thoughts and what you think has been your best lounge experience to date.