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ZIPAIR Boeing 787-8 Full-Flat Business Class Review [LAX to NRT]

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Ryan Smith

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Ryan completed his goal of visiting every country in the world in December of 2023 and now plans to let his wife choose their destinations. Over the years, he’s written about award travel for publicat...
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Airline: ZIPAIR (ZG)
Aircraft: Boeing 787-800
Flight #: ZG023
Route: Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Narita International Airport (NRT)
Date: June 14, 2024
Duration: 11 hours, 40 minutes
Cabin and Layout: Full-Flat (business class), 20 seats across 5 rows, 1-2-1 configuration
Seats: 5A, 5D
Cost: $859 each

When you think of flying business class across an ocean, you probably think of posh service, top-notch amenities, and visiting the airline’s lounge before departure. You probably also think of a high price tag.

Enter ZIPAIR with a different idea: a low-cost carrier with a lie-flat seat but without all those extras that increase the cost.

While booking a trip to China this summer, my wife and I struggled to find a good business class redemption that could get us to China with our miles. Prices were incredibly high. ZIPAIR offered us a lie-flat seat at a reasonable cost, but it obviously came with some drawbacks. In short, nothing but the seat was included with the fare.

While some may complain of the airline nickel-and-diming them, others may be happy to stretch out on a transpacific flight at a lower cost. That was us, and we would fly ZIPAIR again despite the drawbacks.

Booking ZIPAIR Full-Flat

You’ll immediately notice that the airline doesn’t call its product ZIPAIR business class.” Instead, the name fits: ZIPAIR Full-Flat. You get a seat that goes fully flat. You also get … the option to pay for more stuff.

While trying to book flights to China in a premium cabin using our miles this summer, we ran into inflated costs (Delta wanted over 300,000 SkyMiles per person) or terrible itineraries (United MileagePlus offering 2 layovers of 10 hours each). However, using an Amex Offer and a solid deal from ZIPAIR, we wound up paying cash at a price we could stomach.

We paid $1,009 per passenger to fly from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to Narita International Airport (NRT) in ZIPAIR Full-Flat. Using an Amex Offer available earlier this year, we were able to drop the price to $859 per passenger by paying separately and each using the available Amex Offer for a $150 statement credit.

My wife and I each have The Platinum Card® from American Express and each paid with this to earn 5x Membership Rewards points (valid on the first $500,000 of flights purchased from airlines or AmexTravel.com annually). Thus, we each came away with 5,045 Membership Rewards points. Sadly, we couldn’t credit our ZIPAIR flights to any partner programs to earn additional points or miles.

Even though we paid for ZIPAIR Full-Flat, most other items in our booking functioned like a low-cost carrier. For example, we paid $54 each to add checked luggage to our reservation.

Zipair LAX NRT baggage fees payment
Fee for checked luggage. Image Credit: ZIPAIR

Moreover, you shouldn’t think of ZIPAIR Full-Flat like it’s a ZIPAIR business class product. Unlike a traditional business class, you need to pay for a seat assignment. We chose not to, hoping we could ask for seats together at check-in.

Zipair LAX NRT seats cost
Cost to choose seats. Image Credit: ZIPAIR
Hot Tip:

Another option would be to pay for your flight with a Capital One credit card that earns miles and then use your miles to cover the purchase when it hits your account. This provides a way to pay with miles when you can’t use a transfer partner.

Choosing the Best Seat

If you want to pay for a seat assignment in advance, I have a few tips. First, all window seats are the same, and these are the best choice for solo travelers.

Second, the ZIPAIR Full-Flat cabin uses a 1-2-1 reverse-herringbone layout, and all seats in the middle section are the same. These passengers’ feet will be closer together than their heads, but these seats are ideal for anyone traveling with a friend.

ZIPAIR full flat cabin
ZIPAIR Full-Flat cabin. Image Credit: ZIPAIR

However, I advise you to aim for seats in the middle of the cabin in row 3. This puts you farthest from the galleys and lavatories to reduce noise.

At Los Angeles International Airport (LAX)

ZIPAIR didn’t offer online check-in for our flight. It also didn’t offer check-in kiosks, like those we used last year when flying with ZIPAIR in economy on a visit to Japan. Moreover, there was no separate check-in line for those in business class. The only option for a special line was paying $19.53 each for an express service that included priority check-in and priority baggage delivery.

Zipair LAX NRT express service cost
Express service details and cost. Image Credit: ZIPAIR

Luckily, there was just 1 person in front of us in line when we arrived at LAX’s Tom Bradley International Terminal, and the check-in process was both friendly and efficient. After showing our onward tickets and passports, I asked the agent to add our TSA PreCheck numbers to the reservation as he tagged our luggage.

Zipair LAX NRT check in
Check-in at LAX.

We also asked about seats together in the middle section of the cabin, which had a 1-2-1 layout. Unfortunately, there were no middle seats available together in the same row, though the agent said we could ask other passengers to potentially switch with us. Spoiler alert: That’s not true. More on that later.

Visiting the Amex Centurion Lounge at LAX

ZIPAIR didn’t offer lounge access to its Full-Flat passengers at LAX, which is something you typically expect when flying in an airline’s business class. It’s possible to pay to visit a lounge if you’re departing from Tokyo with ZIPAIR, adding this to your reservation prior to check-in.

However, on flights departing other countries, ZIPAIR doesn’t offer any lounge perks. Luckily, we were able to visit the Centurion Lounge at LAX, accessible since we both hold the Amex Platinum card.

The lounge was on the left side of the hallway immediately after the security checkpoint, accessible with an elevator. Immediately inside the lounge, we found seating and a small bar area.

Further into the lounge, we found a conference table and seating area where we snagged a table before hunting for breakfast.

Amex Centurion Lounge LAX work space
The conference table and workstation area.

This area also had the traditional TV and suitcase wall you typically find in Centurion Lounges.

Amex Centurion Lounge LAX TV screen
The lounge’s traditional TV wall.

Further down the hallway, we passed a kids play area and a small spa (which was very busy) and then encountered a private space reserved only for those with the Centurion® Card from American Express.

Amex Centurion Lounge LAX Centurion members only area
Centurion cardholders only beyond this point.

Backtracking past the entrance and turning to the right, we found the buffet. As it was breakfast time, there was oatmeal, eggs, and bacon.

Amex Centurion Lounge LAX buffet
Oatmeal at the start of the buffet.

There also were several types of pastries and yogurt.

Amex Centurion Lounge LAX buffet yogurt pastries
Pastries and individual yogurt cups.

We also found potatoes, several types of fruit, and avocado toast.

Amex Centurion Lounge LAX buffet avocado toast
We left a piece for someone else despite wanting to eat it all.

Past the buffet, turning left, we found a self-service stand with coffee, apple and orange juice, and a toaster. There were bagels and a few types of bread available here.

Amex Centurion Lounge LAX cereal and bagels
The self-service stand past the buffet.

Continuing past this stand, there was a cafeteria-style seating area with standard tables and chairs if you didn’t want the bar stools available next to the buffet.

Amex Centurion Lounge LAX restaurant seating
Cafeteria-style seating area.

Turning right after the buffet, we came upon a large bar area with additional seating. A hallway past this seating area created a loop back toward the lounge’s entrance, and this is where we found the restrooms.

Amex Centurion Lounge LAX bathroom entrance
Entrance to the restrooms.

We ate our breakfast and surfed on the lounge’s own Wi-Fi network until close to boarding time.

Amex Centurion Lounge LAX breakfast
Hot sauce on potatoes — always.

There were departure boards in multiple spots throughout the lounge, and there was also a quiet room with lounge chairs.

Amex Centurion Lounge LAX sleeping room
Quiet space within the lounge.

Boarding

Boarding started late and then didn’t start by the advertised late time, either. We were told that the delay was because workers were cleaning the aircraft. That matters for a later part of the review.

Boarding was done on a “who can shove their way to the front first” basis. That’s the best I can summarize the lack of organization. There were no boarding groups, no announcement of which rows should board when — nada. And, lest you wonder, no, ZIPAIR Full-Flat passengers didn’t get early boarding privileges.

Zipair LAX NRT boarding gate 135
Waiting for our delayed flight.

Boarding was done through 2 doors, and gate agents passed through the boarding area both before and during boarding to do document checks and help speed up the process. Passengers could board from whichever line they desired.

Zipair LAX NRT boarding
Boarding at LAX.

There was no separate jet bridge for business class like you’ll find on other airlines, and we boarded through the middle door. After showing our boarding passes, we arrived at our seats: 5A (window, my seat) and 5D (middle section, my wife’s assigned seat). Our plan to ask the person in 5G to switch seats was foiled when we realized she didn’t speak English and was traveling with the passenger seated at the other window, so we accepted our situation of speaking to each other across the aisle.

My wife prefers the window seat, so I let her take my seat while I sat in the middle section in 5D. However, that became a problem later. I’ll cover that in the Service section.

Zipair LAX NRT business class Ryan and wife
Before we were told to switch seats mid-flight.

On Board ZIPAIR’s Boeing 787-8

After we got situated, there was no predeparture drink, no flight attendant coming around to take drink or meal orders, no distribution of menus, and no one handing out amenity kits. If you wanted an amenity kit, you could add this to your booking at least 24 hours before departure. The cost? $16.28 per passenger.

Zipair LAX NRT amenity kit cost
Option to preorder an amenity kit. Image Credit: ZIPAIR

The same held true for blankets and pillows. We were glad we found videos on YouTube that mentioned the lack of blankets, and my wife packed one to keep her feet warm.

ZIPAIR Full-Flat Seat

Zipair LAX NRT business class head rest
The headrest and antimacassar.

On arrival, you’d think the ZIPAIR business class equivalent rivaled other airlines. It felt spacious, and each seat had direct aisle access.

Zipair LAX NRT business class window seat
Seat 5A in ZIPAIR Full-Flat.

There were controls along the side of the seat to recline, lie flat, or sit up.

Zipair LAX NRT business class seat controls
Seat controls.

One of the buttons said “do not disturb,” but we couldn’t find any sign on the outside of the seat or other indication that we’d pushed the button — just the fact it turned red.

Zipair LAX NRT business class do not disturb
The “do not disturb” button.

Under these buttons, a folding tray table slid out easily.

Zipair LAX NRT business class tray table
The foldout tray table.

Unfolded, it held my 13-inch laptop easily.

Zipair LAX NRT business class tray table with laptop
My laptop on the tray table.

Away from the aisle, each passenger had a cubby for storage.

Zipair LAX NRT business class storage and divider
The middle seat divider and storage.

Next to this, there was a flip-out reading light.

Zipair LAX NRT business class reading light
A flip-out reading light.

Further down this storage area, we found both universal and USB-A charging points. Next to these, we had buttons for turning on the overhead light and calling for a flight attendant.

Zipair LAX NRT business class outlet
Outlets and call buttons.

At hip level, away from the aisle, there was a storage pocket. These were ripping off the molding at both of our seats.

Zipair LAX NRT business class pocket under tray table
The pocket was coming off.

Another storage space was at the front of the seat. This small slit was useful for holding a few items, such as a laptop and glasses, but not much else.

Zipair LAX NRT business class storage at front of seat
Storage at the front of the seat.

This storage slot sat below where you’d normally find the inflight entertainment screen. No screen on ZIPAIR, however; those aren’t included as a cost-cutting measure. In its place, there was a pocket holding information.

Zipair LAX NRT business class no screen footwell
The footwell under where you’d normally find a screen.

Each seat had a footwell that wasn’t large but wasn’t cramped. It was sufficient.

Along the aisle, there was an adjustable armrest that went up and down with the push of a button.

Zipair LAX NRT business class adjustable arm rest up position
The adjustable armrest.

The seats also had a pocket labeled for holding literature only, though it was empty (and beat up).

Zipair LAX NRT business class literature holder
An empty literature holder.

Overhead, each seat had an air nozzle and individual light.

Zipair LAX NRT business class overhead vents and lights
The lights and vents at our seats.

Overhead bins were plentiful, as well, available on both sides of the aisle. With only 5 rows and a total of 20 seats in the cabin, the bins weren’t stuffed.

Zipair LAX NRT business class overhead bins
Overhead bins in our cabin.

During the flight, the seat lay completely flat. This was the sole difference between ZIPAIR lie-flat and economy tickets. I liked that there was a button to raise the seat (into the sitting position) positioned for easy access when you’re lying down.

Zipair LAX NRT business class lie flat seat
Laying the seat down.

While the seats didn’t have closing doors, they did feel somewhat private and isolated from the aisle.

Zipair LAX NRT business class view up the aisle
Looking up the aisle.

Lavatories

There weren’t any dedicated bathrooms for ZIPAIR Full-Flat passengers. Rather than a dedicated (typically larger) lavatory, we shared bathrooms with economy passengers. These were standard bathrooms with a sink, trash bin, and mirror above the sink, with 4 lavatories after row 5, where Full-Flat ended and economy seating began.

Zipair LAX NRT lavatory sink
The plane’s lavatory layout.

There also was a toilet and a baby changing table.

Zipair LAX NRT lavatory toilet
Toilet in one of the lavatories.

The lavatories had much more prominent “no smoking” signs than most other airlines.

Zipair LAX NRT lavatory no smoking
A serious sign warning you not to smoke.

Unfortunately, the paper towels had been loaded into the holder backward in several of the lavatories. That made it nearly impossible to pull them out without shredding them.

Zipair LAX NRT lavatory paper towel problem
Shredded, to put it simply.

Food and Beverage

ZIPAIR doesn’t offer any complimentary food or drinks. Not even in its premium seats will you get a free cup of water. It’s worth knowing that in advance.

It’s possible to preorder certain meals (for an additional cost) at least 24 hours before departure. Menus can vary by flight route, but those available on our flight included grilled chicken, beef with rice, and cheese ravioli. Each cost $12.21 per passenger.

Zipair LAX NRT preorder meal options
Preorder meals. Image Credit: ZIPAIR

During the flight, we accessed the menu and found a fair number of options, with snacks like chips and chocolate available.

Zipair LAX NRT inflight snack options
Snack options. Image Credit: ZIPAIR

Drinks included sodas, tea, and coffee.

Zipair LAX NRT inflight drink options
Drink options during the flight. Image Credit: ZIPAIR

ZIPAIR also sold alcohol, and the only food (beyond the snacks) available if you didn’t preorder a meal consisted of 3 types of noodles (for $3.25).

Zipair LAX NRT inflight drink and noodle options
Options for drinks and noodles. Image Credit: ZIPAIR

We were surprised to see a vegan option here. Since none of the preorder meals were vegan, we had packed our own meals. Thus, we each got noodles and water and then shared a Coke.

Zipair LAX NRT noodles coke water on tray
My noodles and drinks.

Speaking of water, we learned our lesson: Fill up your refillable water bottle before boarding the flight, since there are no complimentary drinks.

Given the flight time, other airlines would typically give you 2 meals or at least a light snack before landing. Since we bought noodles for 1 meal, we ate the sandwiches we’d packed as the second meal and saved the leftover pizza we’d brought for the ensuing flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong.

Amenities

Entertainment

Accessing entertainment required using your own device and connecting to the inflight network. Each seat displayed QR codes to access movies, music, the menu, and the internet.

Zipair LAX NRT QR code on seat for entertainment
The QR code at each seat.

After I logged in, the home page offered an internet connection, inflight services, and details about the flight.

Zipair LAX NRT inflight entertainment home page
The entertainment home page. Image Credit: ZIPAIR

From the inflight services, you could choose from shopping, entertainment, and Spotify.

Zipair LAX NRT inflight services home page
Inflight services home page. Image Credit: ZIPAIR

Spotify never worked the few times I tried it.

Zipair LAX NRT Spotify not working
Unable to load Spotify. Image Credit: Google Chrome

The entertainment page had 3 main options: movies, special content, and ZIPTRIP.

Zipair LAX NRT entertainment options
Entertainment menu. Image Credit: ZIPAIR

Movies included several new releases, though there were fewer than 20 movies available overall.

Zipair LAX NRT movie options
Movie options. Image Credit: ZIPAIR

In the special content area, I found several cultural videos about visiting Japan.

Zipair LAX NRT video options
Video options. Image Credit: ZIPAIR

There were also 2 e-books in this section.

Zipair LAX NRT e book options
E-books available on our flight. Image Credit: ZIPAIR

Finally, there were ZIPTRIP videos highlighting some of ZIPAIR’s destinations.

Zipair LAX NRT Ziptrip videos
ZIPTRIP video options. Image Credit: ZIPAIR

Wi-Fi

The inflight internet was spotty, to put it nicely. When it worked, you could connect for free.

Zipair LAX NRT inflight wifi instructions
Wi-Fi instructions at each seat.

To get an idea of speeds and reliability, understand that no speed test would function.

Zipair LAX NRT speed test wont load
Unable to load a speed test. Image Credit: Speedtest
Bottom Line:

The best summary of ZIPAIR’s inflight Wi-Fi is this: Assume it won’t work, make other plans, and then be happily surprised during the 15% of the flight where it works. At least it’s free.

Inflight Shopping

Nearly every airline has inflight shopping. ZIPAIR took this to another level. You could buy neck pillows, toiletries, and even reusable straws.

Zipair LAX NRT amenity options
Prices for amenities on the flight. Image Credit: ZIPAIR

Other products included luggage tags, blankets, charging cables, and even underwear.

Zipair LAX NRT cable and underwear options
Charging cables and underwear for sale. Image Credit: ZIPAIR

Service

Service was … well, there were employees. I need to remove my expectations from “business class” for other airlines and remember that this was a flight on a low-cost carrier and that nothing was included.

However, service still had shortcomings, even with those caveats.

First, employees rarely smiled. From boarding to departure, they were there, and they did what they needed, but it didn’t feel friendly. Their actions were aimed at efficiency and nothing more.

I also thought it was interesting that there was a curtain to separate the economy and lay-flat sections of the plane, but this remained open for the entire flight.

Zipair LAX NRT business class curtain pinned open
The ever-open curtain.

Given that we were immediately next to the galley and the lavatories, plus the open curtain, we heard a lot of noise at our seats. This was the penalty for not paying to choose other seats in advance, as there were many available at the time of booking, though they filled up as we got closer to departure.

Then, there were the actual negative aspects of the service.

We were told that the flight was boarding late because they’d been cleaning the aircraft. However, my wife and I both found crumbs around our feet after arriving at our seats. And I found additional crumbs in the fold of my seat when laying it down, so how much cleaning was really done that caused our flight to take off late?

Zipair LAX NRT dirt on floor
Dirt on the floor at boarding.

The plane also had scuffs in several areas, such as the molding along the aisles.

Zipair LAX NRT scuffed molding
Scruffs on the molding.

Then there was the fact we were scolded for switching seats (giving my wife the window seat) and told that passengers must sit in the seat assigned to them. There goes the idea from the check-in agent, who’d said we could ask other passengers to switch seats with us. The seat switching came up when a flight attendant brought the noodles and drinks we’d ordered from my phone. The flight attendant asked to see my boarding pass to confirm she was giving the food to the right person, then she saw that the seat on my boarding pass was different. We were told that switching seats was a serious offense, giving us a “the police might get involved if you don’t move back” vibe.

I don’t get why it mattered that my wife wanted to sit by the window, but we moved back to our assigned seats for the second half of the flight.

Roughly an hour before arrival, flight attendants passed through the cabin handing out paper customs declaration forms for anyone who hadn’t already completed one online. This was efficient but still lacked any friendliness.

Overall, how was service? If you’ve flown other low-cost airlines, you know — it felt similar, despite us paying for a lie-flat seat. If you’re OK with the bare-bones approach from Spirit or Ryanair, you’d probably be OK with ZIPAIR, because it felt like that. Some people are fine with that, but others will want to steer clear.

Arrival at Tokyo Narita

Despite leaving over 45 minutes late, we only arrived in Tokyo 5 minutes late. After a quick taxi to our gate, the flight attendants provided information about baggage claim and the customs and passport control processes and said that we would deplane through the forward door.

Zipair LAX NRT business class cabin view from front
Looking into the ZIPAIR Full-Flat cabin.

Since there were no blankets or headsets to collect, the deplaning process was simple. And as we were in row 5, we were off the plane pretty quickly.

Final Thoughts

There were positives and negatives to this flight. We got a comfortable seat, were able to lie down to sleep while crossing the Pacific, and paid much less here than we would’ve on another airline.

However, we also got much less than what other airlines offer, since ZIPAIR Full-Flat isn’t a true business class. There were no fringe benefits — none at all, to be blunt. Many people cringe at the idea of paying for checked bags and packing their own food on a flight. Others love the idea of paying extra for a nicer seat while saving money by not paying for things you don’t care about. If you know what you’re getting into and don’t mind ZIPAIR’s business model, it can be a great long-haul flight during busy travel periods when you’re struggling to find award flight availability.

If I could do it all over again, I’d still choose ZIPAIR to start this trip — negative aspects and all.

The information regarding the Centurion® Card from American Express was independently collected by Upgraded Points and was not provided nor reviewed by the issuer. 

For rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does ZIPAIR offer business class?

ZIPAIR doesn’t offer a true business class with lounge access, extra checked baggage, and sparkling wine like other airlines provide. While it does offer premium seats that turn into a bed — something other low-cost airlines don’t offer — that’s all that sets ZIPAIR Ful-Flat apart from ZIPAIR economy tickets.

What does ZIPAIR full flat include?

You get all of what’s included with an economy ticket and nothing more, other than the premium seat. That means everything comes at an additional cost: drinks, checked luggage, meals, and choosing your seat in advance. Yes, you’ll pay to choose your seat in advance in ZIPAIR Full-Flat.

Is ZIPAIR a good airline?

ZIPAIR has a solid history of safety, but you may be asking this because of the onboard experience. Different people want different things when flying. If you want a low-cost option for flying to or from Japan and are willing to forgo extra amenities to keep the price down, ZIPAIR is a good airline. If you want a full-service airline experience with checked luggage benefits, inflight meals, and a screen at your seat for watching movies, then ZIPAIR isn’t the right airline for you.

What does it mean when an airline is a low-cost carrier?

Low-cost airlines keep their ticket prices down by removing all the extras from your ticket. You pay less for your flight but don’t get any automatic benefits. This means no checked bags or meals unless you choose to pay for these. Adding extras to your reservation increases the cost, obviously. If you’re willing to skip these, the flight cost can be much lower than full-service airlines. Examples of low-cost airlines include Spirit, Frontier, and Ryanair.

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About Ryan Smith

Ryan completed his goal of visiting every country in the world in December of 2023 and now plans to let his wife choose their destinations. Over the years, he’s written about award travel for publications including AwardWallet, The Points Guy, USA Today Blueprint, CNBC Select, Tripadvisor, and Forbes Advisor.

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