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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

My 100th JAL Group flights: Japan Airlines check-in at Los Angeles

Japan Airlines check-in counters at Los Angeles Tom Bradley International Terminal
Japan Airlines check-in counters at Los Angeles Tom Bradley International Terminal

My flight was on the day after the Boston Marathon bombings, so I went to the airport a little earlier than usual as I expected security was going to be crazy as everyone was supposed to be under high alert. But surprisingly, I didn't notice much differences at all. No long lines or extra cops to check your cars and everything seemed normal.

Japan Airlines (JAL) uses check-in counters located in aisle A, which is the one furtherest away from the oneworld lounge. Since my last visit in last December, JAL has slightly re-arranged its check-in area at Los Angeles (LAX) Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT). Before, it used to put the luggage tags next to the entrance of the Economy Class line. I thought that was good as passengers can grab a couple of those and fill out the tags while waiting in line. However, now the tags are only available at the counters. So you either go take some from the counter and wait in line or fill them out really quick while you are answering all those questions during check-in. Not a big deal for me as I usually grab a whole bunch of them and save them for my next trip :)


Trip report: JAL has changed its luggage tags slightly. New ones at the bottom have less fields.
JAL has changed its luggage tags slightly. New ones at the bottom have less fields.

Speaking of luggage tags, JAL has also modified its tags slightly since my last flight (also possible that it has modified it before and LAX counters still had the old tags when I last visit). As you can see in the above picture, the older version on top has an extra field for cell phone or e-mail address, and a separate field of for home phone. In the newer version at the bottom, these fields have been combined into a single one for phone. This way, passengers can have more space for all of the fields. I guess easier for everyone to see the names with this improved universal design?

Personally I like having a field for e-mail address. When I travel in Japan, I usually don't turn on my phone as I don't want to pay for the overpriced roaming charges from AT&T. Therefore e-mail would be the best way to reach me in this case. I guess if anyone accidentally took my luggage, I would have no choice but to turn on my phone unless I just write my e-mail address there as well. Or I guess I could have written down my hotel phone number too. Anyway, not a big deal for me.

OK back to check-in. Since JL061 from LAX to Tokyo Narita (NRT) has 4 different class of services, there are a total of 4 check-in lines. Each of these lines are clearly marked with the big banners. These are actually the same banners JAL uses during boarding at LAX. Therefore they are a bit misleading. Even for boarding purpose, the banner isn't entirely correct.


Check-in line for JAL First Class passengers at LAX
Check-in line for JAL First Class passengers at LAX


First of all, the First Class banner only has the logos of JAL First Class, JAL Mileage Bank (JMB) Diamond and oneworld Emerald on it. For check-in, JAL Global Club (JGC) and JGC Premier are eligible to use the First Class check-in counters. For boarding, JGC Premier are indeed oneworld Emeralds and are entitled to board in this group.


Check-in line for JAL Business Class passengers at LAX
Check-in line for JAL Business Class passengers at LAX

The Business Class banner is perfectly fine for boarding purpose. But the JGC logo shouldn't be there for check-in purpose. To tell you the truth, even I was confused and lined up at the Business Class line instead as I wasn't sure if I have missed the change in JGC benefits LOL. Luckily the First Class counter was empty and I was invited to use that instead (which I was entitled to :P).When I asked the check-in agent at the First Class counter if there's a change in JGC check-in benefit, she said nothing has changed and confirmed JGC members can continue to use the First Class check-in counters.

Before JAL switched to these boarding banners at check-in counters a year or so ago, it used to use smaller signs to shows who's eligible to use these lines. Although it's much smaller, these signs were correctly marked. I guess one of the reasons to switch over was to clearly indicate the lines so passengers can see them from far away (another universal design?). However, unless JAL is going to make separate signs/banners for check-in counters, these banners will continue to cause confusions among the JGC members. I guess one solution is to cover the JGC log on the Business Class banner during check-in and put a JGC logo sticker on the First Class one.

Another thing you might have noticed is the good old SEASONS logo. JAL used to name its Business Class as Executive Class SEASONS. But as part of the JAL New Sky project, which includes the rollout of the new SKY SUITE branded cabins, JAL has rebranded the cabin as Business Class since April 1 2013. So not sure how long this SEASONS banner will last :)

Check-in was quick and efficient. Within minutes, my bag was tagged all the way to Hong Kong (HKG). The agent was also able to change my seat in my connecting flight to the bulkhead one. I couldn't get my usual exit row one as they are all taken given I booked the flights with a very short notice. She told me it is a very good seat (you will have to wait to find out if that's true). The agent returned my passport together with the boarding pass and a map to the oneworld lounge which she said I probably knew where it is already (and she's right :)). Since there's no one behind me, I chatted with the agent for a bit and finally thanked her again for getting me a good seat and I was off to the lounge.




My 100th JAL Group Flights Index

  1. Introduction
  2. Japan Airlines JL061 Business Class from Los Angeles to Tokyo Narita


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