Skift Take

Passengers fed up with crowded cabins will no doubt be pleased. We’re not sure if this is high-stakes poker or whether JAL just initiated a game of chicken with other airlines in its market. We’re waiting to see if it breaks the bank--or who swerves first.

The introduction of Japan Airline’s (JAL) new JAL SKY SUITE 787 service is such an eye-catcher, and a surprise to the industry, that the double-take gives us whiplash.

Could JAL really have eliminated 25 revenue-making seats to make room for a new, spread-out Premium Economy? Evidently, yes.

The new JAL SKY SUITE 787, began flying between Tokyo (Narita) and Frankfurt on December 1, 2014, with daily service beginning on December 16, 2014, has 25 fewer seats in total than the airline’s existing 787-8, reduced to a total of 161 passengers from 186.

These reduced seats allow the airline to introduce its Premium Economy product onboard, JAL SKY PREMIUM, a total of 35 seats dedicated to this cabin, but the airline has also changed the lay out of its First-Class-quality Business Class cabin, featuring the private-cabin JAL SKY SUITE which takes up more aircraft real estate.

The JAL SKY PREMIUM/Japan Airlines

The JAL SKY PREMIUM/Japan Airlines

As a result, the Business Class capacity is reduced from 42 to 38 on this aircraft. The most dramatic drop is in Economy, where the airline will carry 88 passengers instead of 144 in a 2-4-2 configuration.

JAL has also announced that it will raise the stakes on its Tokyo (Narita) to New York route (JL004/JL003) with an identical 787 configuration starting on January 2015, and that the new “‘JAL SKY SUITE 787’ will be progressively introduced on international medium and long haul routes.”

This bold move bucks the trend of airlines getting every inch of revenue out of their cabins, and puts the JAL configuration well below the 787-8 aircraft’s maximum capacity of 250 passengers.

Says the airline: “JAL strives to provide customers with new and innovative products and services under the banner ‘Embrace new challenges JAL.'”.  New challenges indeed.

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Tags: in-flight, japan airlines

Photo credit: The new SKY PREMIUM product from JAL JAL

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