Since October 2022, Japan Airlines started offering an Express Meal service as an extra option for Business Class passengers who wants a quicker meal service. For context, Business class passengers typically get a 3-course meal even for 3 to 5 hours intra-Asia routes between Japan and South-east Asia. This means that the meal service can take up the bulk of the flight service, with some meal times taking up to more than 2 hours when the flight is full.
Thus for Business class passengers who wants to spend more time to work or sleep during the duration of their flight, it makes sense for them to skip the whole meal service and opt for a main course platter instead. As an incentive for Business class passengers, Japan Airlines have partnered with restaurant Godaime Nodaiwa from Iikura to offer the Unagi Gozen (Grilled eel with rice set) for an express meal service. Unagi is a classic favourite in Japan with a sweet sauce for the fish and is a dish that is enjoyable on a flight, having had something like that on a China Eastern flight out of Tokyo Haneda. Considering JAL is partnering with a well known Japanese restaurant specializing in Unagi, I expect the dish to be superior to what I had.
However, this Express meal service is only available for flights out of Tokyo Haneda and Tokyo Narita, and includes flights to South-east Asia and India. Business class passengers need to reserve this Express Meal service under the Special Meals selection at least 25 hours prior to their flight. Since Japan Airlines also publishes their inflight menu beforehand, it is easy for passengers to decide if they want to go with this option before their flight.
Since much of the long-haul flights to North America out of Tokyo departs in the night time, the Express meal service would be useful for Business class passengers connecting from South-east Asia to North America where they might already have a filling meal on the incoming flight. An expedited meal service on a night or red-eye flight will allow Business class passengers to maximize sleeping times on the lie-flat seats which is as important as catching up on a good meal. An upgraded main course does make it more worthwhile in case passengers still have second thoughts on missing out on the whole meal package.
For the moment, Japan Airlines only advertises this service on their website and they only indicated one option of the Unagi Gozen, so it is not for everyone especially if international travellers do not like Japanese food. In addition, I wonder if passengers choosing this option could still ask for the starter or dessert in case they get hungry later on in the flight. After all for long-haul flights to London or New York, passengers could still be hungry after a main course dinner given the longer flight duration. As a fan of Japanese cuisine and Unagi, I know I would take this option on my next flight with them, but I cannot help but feel this service is catered for Japanese businessmen who travel for work and to allow more time for them to catch up on sleep or work which might be more important than the meal itself.