Thursday, May 23, 2019

The real truth about being a Singapore based Japan Airlines crew including full salary details - ( Updated Version 2019 )

Congratulations, you found this valuable article at FlyGosh! The reason why there is so limited information about JAL cabin crew on top of sns (social networking service) rule, the main reason is probably because there are barely 100 JAL Singapore based crew. There are over 5000 crews in Japan Airlines.

If you are considering Japan Airlines, you probably (1) got rejected by SIA for whatever reason, (2) really love Japan and the culture, (3) you can speak Japanese, (4) your mum asked you to.

Here, I will share as much as possible, the good and the bad of being a SIN based JAL crew.

Japanese lesson
Singapore Training
Japan Training
Salary during training
OJT (on job training)
Salary after training
Salary scheme, Allowances, Medical, Benefits
Flight schedule and destination
Working culture
Pros and Cons

After you pass the interview and the medical exam, you will be invited to view the contract. You are given one month to consider signing the contract. During the one month, if you have no Japanese background you are required to attend 4 basic Japanese lesson, Friday evenings 2.5h at Ikoma Language School (Shaw House). You have to learn to read, write, listen and given a set of words to learn and be tested every week.

Japanese lesson
The 20-month bond (including training) starts the day you sign the contract. You have to wear standard Japanese style black and white business attire, bun up hair, company standard plain pumps, natural nail colour, black handbag. You will attend Japanese lesson at Ikoma Mon-Fri 10am-6pm for one month. You have to learn to read, write, listen, learn a list of 40-80 new words daily and have spelling test every day, learn grammar and how to form sentences. Two main exams, the mid-term and final exam – written and listening. The passing mark is 80%. If you fail, you have a retest. It is fast-paced for beginner but trust yourself to pull this through. The Japanese teachers are very patient, engaging and teach really well.

Singapore Training
There are few days of non-Japanese training in the JAL office (airport) before and after Ikoma training. Although the real training starts in Japan, some lessons will be conducted by SIN based seniors. You will have to start memorising the emergency training in Japanese.

JAL SIN based has a very strong Chinese/ Singlish culture. We are primarily hired for knowing Chinese/ Mandarin although I am still quite puzzled about this being the main reason. Do not be surprise when you are brief and taught using mandarin by the seniors and management. After working you will know that mandarin is mostly used to gossip about the Japanese crew at work.

After knowing your batch mates and seniors you will realise JAL do not hire based on appearance, you will be amazed at how well your nerdy batch mates can perform during training and is good at this job but also question how some people are still getting not kick out of training yet.

Training in Japan
Information will be given in Singapore but the seniors and management are doing the job of relaying the message from Japan. As training centre in Japan is constantly changing some aspects of the training. Singapore base is not always equipped with the answers and sometimes not sure of the details until the latest batch experience it first-hand. Management will try to give as much information and senior will share their experiences.

Flight to Japan info: 
You will be a “deadhead crew” meaning a crew member flying in a passenger seat as part of work but not part of the working crew.  Japanese style business attire, ladies can wear work pants, but must bun up hair. Allow to take off blazer at seat. Not allow to use call button or choose their meal. Only get your meal after all passenger are served. Sleeping allow.

Japan Training info:
Training schedule will not be given until you arrive in training centre, which is next day after arriving in Japan. You have to wear standard Japanese style business attire until you pass emergency training only then you get your uniform. You will have a few days to warm up, orientation, get to know your trainers, beauty class, some Japanese lesson on emergency training. You will go through two weeks of emergency training (I was shocked at the Japanese I have to memorise on top of the English ones but again trust that you can pull through it, we all did, just study). You will study about JAL philosophy, different aircrafts, first aid, customs and regulations, meal and liquor service, safety, sales, and the other main component is flight duty (the entire work flow in the cabin, be surprise at how much work and precision is required, I was constantly overwhelmed especially with the pre-flight preparation). The passing mark for all the test (mostly MCQ, older batches had to write word for word) throughout your entire cabin crew training is 80%. It is doable and encourage to get full marks. If you fail, you have to retest which is pretty normal. The trainers for my batch are generally nice and patient, lessons are conducted in English but sometimes it can be difficult to understand or communicate with them. Little emphasis is place on English during the training and in Japan Airlines.

Japanese lessons are conducted 3-4 days a week either half day or full day throughout the entire training. About 90 over conversations to be remember by the end of training. Spelling test every lesson. Two main exams, the mid-term and final exam – 3 components; role play conversation, written and listening exam. Japanese lessons trainers are generally stricter.

The training is not really sufficient considered so much time is spent on Japanese lesson. There is only one proper sales class on how to use the machine and the mock up room to practice flight duty is not realistic enough. Some of my batch mates still have problem counting the meal number and time difference after training. While counting time difference is a prerequisite for some other airline during interview.

Accommodation, everyone will have their own room with a balcony, a stove but no cooking, toilet and Japanese style bathtub. You have to clean your own room. You can change bedsheet once a week (ignore the bedsheet duty). There are washing machines and dryers you can use for free, do your own laundry. There is a cafeteria meal that cost only 500yen (S$6.25). There is a train station, some restaurants and a mall nearby. Location, look up the map of Japan you will be staying at Kozunomori near to Narita airport but the training is in Haneda airport.

By right there is a curfew of 12am every day and not allowed to stay out. By left you can actually still enter the building after 12am or the next morning. The dormitory management are quite chill about it.

There is gym and yoga centre nearby dormitory - Dunlop Sports Club and Carlo Yoga but is quite pricey and difficult to communicate with the Japanese staff.

Training hours is Mon-Fri 9am-6pm. Bus will pick up at 7am and 615pm and takes about 1.5h - 2h depending on traffic. In the bus, you can do your homework, revise, study, do your make up, eat breakfast, snack, sleep, chit chat. I quite like the bus ride even though staying in Tokyo will be nice. To get to Tokyo on your off days will be a 1.5h – 2h train ride.

Salary during training

Basic S$1000 – CPF $200 –  Medical scheme $10 = S$790 (every 25th)
Baggage allowance S$120 – CPF $24 = $96 (one time)
Japan training total 300,000 yen = S$3750 (3 split payment given in cash)
You can calculate this way
$3750/ 11 weeks/ 7 days = $49/ day
$49 X 7 X 4 = $1372/ month
$1372 + basic 790 = $2162 (take home/month)

Meals are not provided but you can get lunch at 300-600 yen ($3.5-$7) in training centre and dinner for 500 yen ($6.25) in dormitory’s cafeteria. We usually buy our own breakfast from supermarket, 7-11 or the convenient shop in training centre.

The older batches were provided with breakfast, lunch and dinner but 1000yen ($12.25) were deducted for each meal. Meaning $49 - ($12.25 x3), they only earned 1000yen (12.25sgd) per day! Even if they miss their meals, this amount is non-refundable and is also non-optional.

Crew Uniform (new), cabin handbag (new), cabin luggage and check in bag (given allowance to buy), shoes (purchase on your own).

In general, company is stricter on the trainees and you will notice the seniors do not follow those rules e.g. JAL nails standards, shoes standard, hair colour. Some seniors do not touch up their make-up or wear full make up. Deadhead crews have to wear business attire but do not have to be black and white Japanese style business attire.

Off days. The training is tough but you can afford to go out and have fun. My batch mates went out every weekend. There are a lot of public holidays in Japan you can look them up.

After training you will receive your name badge and will definitely cry the last day in training centre. You will look back at how much you have gone through but is actually just the beginning. It is a great encouragement after all that stress about remembering exact Japanese-English phrases and in-flight Japanese. If your performance is not up to standard, you have to extend training in Japan.

Batch mates, having good batch mates and being a good mate yourself is very important through this journey.  Help each other. Do not be overly competitive. If you are an introvert, this is the best time to open up. Gossips and cliques are normal but be professional at work and focus on why you are here in the first place. I was very luckily to have good batch mates, trainers and zero backstabbing. JAL definitely got a better working culture than some other airlines.

OJT (on job training). Few days after arriving in Singapore you will attend pre-OJT (on job training) briefing. OJT is approximately one month. You are not paid flying hours during OJT and will have an instructor (direct duty crew) for every flight. You will be flying with your batch mates in pairs and likely be partner up based on class index number for OJT. You will have three flight patterns to experience 3 different aircraft 777, 787 and 767. You are still a trainee during OJT. You are required to show up 2.5h before flight (the usual is 1h 45m) and attend OJT briefing (30min-1h) before and after every flight. You have to answer questions and get your trainer to fill up your evaluation form every flight.

When the whole batch is done with OJT there will be a post OJT briefing. You have off days while waiting to start OJT or waiting for your batch mates to finish OJT. If your performance is not up to standard, you have to extend OJT. During post OJT briefing, you will learn about the company’s fiscal year, how to apply for leave, staff travel, standby duty and flight schedule.

That's almost it for training period. Here comes real flying.

Basic S$1000
Inflight flight allowance S$11.5 per hour
Laundry allowance S$100
Transport allowance S$145/$165 (first two-digit postal code 58 and above)
Winter allowance S$150 (every September)
Per Diem
Japan S$75/24h
US S$90/24h
EU S$90/24h

All CPF deductible except for per diem and laundry allowance.
Salary will be bank in every 10th and 25th of the month.

Example of a JAL Roster –

5 JL 38 Haneda ( IFA X 7 )
7 JL 37 Singapore ( IFA X 7 )
12 JL 36 Haneda ( IFA X 6 )
14 JL 5 New York ( IFA X 12.5 )
16 JL 6 Haneda ( IFA X 13.5)
19 JL 37 Singapore ( IFA X 7 )
20 OFF
21 OFF
23 JL 712 Narita ( IFA X 7 )
24 JL 68 Seattle ( IFA X 9 )
25 JL 67 Narita ( IFA X 10 )
28 JL 711 Singapore ( IFA X 7 )
29 OFF
30 OFF

Your pay would be
Basic 1000
Uniform 100
Transport 145
IFA – 86 X 11.5 = 989
Per diem
Flight pattern X 3
Haneda – 75
New York –  411
Seattle – 262
Total per diem 748
Total pay 2234 + 748 = 2982

Bond -  20 month /1 year 10 month long (including training), bond breaking is S$3,000 before Japan training and S$10,000 after Japan training. Not pro-rated.
Annual wage supplement/ bonus - one and a half months’ basic salary.
Gratuity - S$10,000 after completing five-year contract.
Annual leave - 19 days
Staff Travel - 4 application a year for you and your parents
Medical and Dental benefits


Currently, Singapore base only have New York, Frankfurt and Seattle flights. Sadly Paris, and fortunately the rest of these flight San Diego (1N layover), Helsinki (1N layover), Guam (turnaround) and KL (turnaround) are no longer available.

The flight pattern to New York, Frankfurt and Seattle is a minimum of 7 days. You have to fly into Haneda or Narita for a one night layover, and a two-night layover before returning to Singapore. The shortest flight you will have is fly in Haneda or Narita (one night layover) and return to Singapore the next day. You will have no domestic flight.

Japan will remove or assign new flights to overseas base if required will happen every 6 months.

JAL flights from Singapore to Tokyo daily
JL 712 Narita (NRT)
JL 36 Haneda (HND)
JL 38 Haneda (HND)

JAL flights from Tokyo to Singapore daily
JL 711 NRT - SIN

Working culture

90% of JAL flights are Japanese passenger. It is not always 90% but still a good amount of Japanese for every flight. The Japanese passenger are generally less outspoken, and less demanding although they emphasis on quality. Most passengers are generally forgiving and understanding if your Japanese is not good. As a national carrier, Japanese language is unquestionability a requirement. Singaporean crew can be mistaken as Japanese because of the uniform. The Japanese you learn in training is well enough to welcome and serve passenger meal and drinks and is one of the easiest conversation you will learn.

Every flight, there will be 3 Singaporean crew including yourself and the rest are Japanese crew. Communication with Japanese crew is difficult as there are a lot of reporting and sharing of information on board in their language. The Japanese crew are generally friendly and helpful. But in any events where mishandling or incident happen at work you have to learn to speak up and protect yourself in case you get accused of mistake you did not make.

Singaporean crews do not have the culture of sleeping around, partying, buying high end goods. Unlike what you heard of SIA crew or in general crews are notoriously known for this lifestyle. With a salary of 2.5k close to half the market rate 3.5k-5.5k, saving is a problem let alone buying Gucci or Chanel. Singaporean crews always hangout among themselves during layover and never with the Japanese crews. The seniors are generally nice, usually very casual, some emphasis on hierarchy but not much. There is no pressure to hangout or go drinking or shopping. We are not allowed to swap flights unlike other airlines. There is honestly not much flight to swap around and we get a lot of rest days in JAL.

As a foreign based crew, the promotion and career opportunity is limited although there has been improvement in recent years.

Crew baggage is the last to come out unlike other airlines. After flight, be prepared to wait a good 15-30mins for your check-in baggage.

A good command in Japanese is useful. As if your command is weak, communicating is a problem, all the briefing is done is Japanese with a few English words here and there.


In Narita, our hotel is Marroad Hotel
In Haneda, our hotel is Hearton Hotel Higashishinagawa
In New York, our hotel is Holiday Inn Downtown Brooklyn
In Frankfurt, our hotel is Maritim Hotel
In Seattle, our hotel is Renaissance Hotel

Japan Airlines is very routine work. Flying to the same places every month, after a few months you don't have to reconfirm all the station procedures and you always know where has what. The biggest disadvantage is the salary but other than that Japan Airlines might not be a bad choice. Gain some experience. Be prepared to work hard, study hard!

One of the main reason people choose to work in JAL. The training in Japan is one experience that you will never get in other airlines, comparing it with Singapore Airlines. Living with your batch mates for 11 weeks straight, doing your own laundry, studying together, exploring Japan on your off days. Time always passes sooner than you thought.

Long Haul Flights only
You may think that long flights are tiring but short flights are the more tiring ones as the crew have to rush through a full service with limited time. Not to mention lesser layover time, and pre-flight preparation for every single flight. So, it is actually good that sg based crew only have long flights.
Flying to the same places meaning you do not have to read new station procedures and always know where are the loading item in the aircraft.
Limited travel destination


Salary is a straight up disadvantage in Japan Airlines. You will be embarrassed to tell your friends and family especially when everyone thinks well of JAL nobody will believe the actual salary you are getting. Ironically nobody recognises the uniform. You can balance it out with the experience you gain and the branding of working in Japan Airlines.
One of the biggest advantages in JAL compared to SIA or other airlines. Both Japanese and Singaporean crews are generally friendly and helpful. Not bitchy and backstabbing. You get speak to privately if need to but no scolding or embarrassment in public. No redundant or difficult questions by the senior because they want to zap you but coming from a good place.
JAL do not necessarily hire the best crew to work. Some crews are not service orientated. Many crew do not fit the beauty standard of a flight attendant but most part of the job is not about a person’s appearance so this is not necessarily a bad thing.
JAL is a full fledge/ service airline. You feel proud working for full fledge airline, not a low-cost carrier. JAL is a reputable airline. With the word Japan, Japanese and its culture is highly admired by the world. How many people actually get to work for a Japanese company? Not much.
Many Singaporeans and non-Japanese do not fly with JAL. Singaporean hardly hear and speak about JAL. The marketing aspect is lacking. I lost count the number of times grab and taxi driver not recognising my uniform and ask if it is ANA even after telling them Japan Airlines.
Coming back to Singapore but not working and representing Singapore Airlines is a weird feeling.
Learning a new language is an achievement. Good for resume and personal profile. Getting paid to learn a new language.
Learning a new language within a few months is pure hard work. Out of your comfort zone. The difference in Japanese level between you and your batch mates and co-worker might add stress and unfairness. Getting paid less for more work. Unable to properly serve passenger or unleash your full potential in this line of work. Make effort to improve your Japanese even after training.
Not revealing
Easy to work in
Does not look very flattering. Conservative.
There is belt, scarf, jacket, black stocking. More clothing items means higher chances of forgetting to wear or bring them.
People do not recognise the uniform. People will be asking which airline do you work for more than you can imagine.

You will have access to flight info at any time with an iPad given by the company also means you are expected to know and do your homework at home before flight. As a junior, you get questioned what is the meal, the special meals, your allocated duty. Unlike other airlines crew only know this information when they get on the plane.

Wish I had all these details when I was applying for JAL.

Hope this article help all inspiring JAL crew and make the right and informative decision for yourself.

You can view the cabin crew interview process of other airlines by clicking here 
Above article written by my PAID guest writer. If you are interested to contribute your experience to FlyGosh, please check out Get PAID to be a guest writer for 

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