Travelstories Episode 1: JAL First to Manila

Editor’s Note: Today we host a new show on the network. Please welcome Travelstories with Tom (@tktweetskim) and Trevor (@tmount) who many of you already know. They’ll share episodes here from time to time. Enjoy!

Welcome to Travelstories, where we get into the details of traveling, flight planning, and collecting miles and points! Flying with Japan Airlines (JAL) is always a treat. And although we didn’t enter Japan, we have flown through it with JAL en route to Manila. In today’s episode, we’ll unpack our trip to Manila, what it was like traveling with JAL, and whether it lived up to our expectations. We take some time to reflect on the challenges we faced in booking our flights and how we decided to optimally spend our points, as well as why we chose JAL for our premium flight experience. Listeners will hear our thoughts on how the airports and lounges we visited have changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and the special insight we got into Japanese culture during our trip. We also share a breakdown of our in-flight experience, the food and beverages we were most impressed by, and why staying at The Grand Hyatt in Manila was undoubtedly the best choice. Our primary goal with this trip was to have a premium flight experience, and while we faced some puzzling challenges along the way, we feel that it was well worth the stress and planning it took to get it done. To hear all the nerdy details of our trip, plus some smart saving tips, be sure to tune in today!

Key Points From This Episode:

  • The exciting news of Japan opening up on 11 October 2022.
  • Why we chose to travel to Manila with Japan Airlines (JAL) for a premium flight experience.
  • The challenges we faced when booking flights and organizing our trip to Manila.
  • Our experience of the JAL check-in process.
  • The special insight we got into Japanese culture when we arrived before check-in was officially open.
  • A breakdown of our in-flight experience.
  • Learn about JAL’s expansive menu options.
  • Our thoughts on both the Western and Japanese menus.
  • An overview of the drinks that were served and the exceptional whiskey we tried.
  • A rundown of the special juices that are produced by JAL.
  • How the Haneda JAL first class lounge has changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The incredible aviation decorations in the Red Room of the JAL lounge.
  • The economy flight that we took and why we were pleasantly surprised.
  • How our experience of flying out differed from flying in.
  • Our exceptional stay at the Grand Hyatt in Manila.
  • How Manila exceeded our expectations.
  • The last leg of our trip home and why we chose to rent a car.


“I’m not a seafood fan. So the Japanese menu didn’t really do too much for me. I had a couple of different items over the course of the two flights from that Japanese menu, but largely, it really was very heavy on the seafood.” — Trevor [0:15:05]

“The last time I had been to this lounge was well pre-pandemic. They had a nice layout, a little bit of buffet, and a little bit of a la carte that you could order. This time they seemed to have adapted to the pandemic a little bit more.” — Trevor  [0:21:57]

“The Red Room is still pretty cool. There are a lot of interesting artifacts there. They had lots of interesting aviation decorations and things like that. It still has a lot of charm.” — Tom [0:23:06]

“I think it was worth it. [Even] with all the stress. That’s why we’re in this hobby. We love this stuff. We love travel planning. We love all things aviation. And we love all the wonderful things about flying in premium classes of service like JAL.” — Tom [0:37:31]

Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Japan Airlines (JAL)

Yamazaki Whisky
Grand Hyatt Manila

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