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How to book Japan Airlines First and Business Class with miles

by on Wed November 23, 2016 • 10 Comments
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jalfirstseatphoto

A Japan Airlines First Class suite aboard its 777 might not be as spectacular as Singapore’s or Etihad’s, but it’s as solid as it gets. While the suite is not fully enclosed and doesn’t feature a separate bed, many flyers rave about the great quality of the converted bed, as well as the top-notch food and the service.

A Japan Airlines Business Class Sky Suite featured aboard the airline’s 777-300 and 787 aircraft is a great Business Class product with substantial privacy and comfort. Try to get a window seat to enjoy the privacy to its fullest.

jalbizseatphoto

Japan Airlines is currently revamping the business cabin on its 777-200 fleet flying on shorter routes to Hong Kong, Singapore, and Honolulu with the Sky Suite III. The transition to Sky Suite III design is supposed to be completed by January 8. Sky Suite III features very nice Reverse Herringbone suites.

The Miles You Need

There are several ways to book a Japan Airlines premium class award seat. Since Japan Airlines is a member of the oneworld Alliance, you can use American and Cathay Pacific miles, and British Airways Avios. And you can also use Starwood points, since Japan Airlines is an SPG transfer airline partner. Of course, you can use miles from all Japan Airlines oneworld and other partners, but those miles are harder to come by.

Using American AAdvantage Miles

American AAdvantage one-way award levels from North America to Asia 1 (Japan and South Korea) are as follows:

  • Business Class: 60,000 miles
  • First Class: 80,000 miles

You can’t normally fly to a third region with American AAdvantage miles, but there are exceptions. You can fly from North America to cities like Hong Kong, Singapore, or other places in Asia 2 via Japan. Here are the countries in Asia Region 2: Brunei, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam.

American one-way award levels from North America to Asia 2 are as follows:

  • Business Class: 70,000 miles
  • First Class: 110,000 miles

Japan Airlines flies from Narita Airport to the following cities in the Continental U.S.: Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, New York (JFK), San Diego—and from Haneda Airport to San Francisco. Japan Airlines also flies between Los Angeles and Osaka.

How to Check for AAdvantage and Other Partners’ Award Space on Japan Airlines

British Airways is probably the easiest site to check for award space on Japan Airlines. It doesn’t have the best interface, but it’s reasonably accurate in terms of the Japan Airlines seats availability for oneworld partners.

Check our recent post to learn about searching for and booking an AAdvantage award seat on Japan Airlines in general to see how to check for space.

In terms of availability, your best bet in getting a Japan Airlines award Business or First Class ticket is booking close to departure, when Japan Airlines tends to open up its premium award space.

Using Cathay Pacific Asia Miles

Cathay Pacific Asia Miles is a distance-based program, and it has a good option for redeeming Business Class Travel on Japan Airlines. First Class – not so much, but it’s still decent.

All routes from North America to Japan lie within Award Zone D (5,001-7,500 miles). Per Asia Miles rules, you can’t book a one-way flight on Japan Airlines, but since Asia Miles charges more than 50% of round-trip for one-way travel, it doesn’t make much sense anyway. So, the round-trip flight costs:

  • Business Class: 120,000 miles
  • First Class: 180,000 miles

asiamilesawardchart

The cost of Business Class redemption is the same as on American, but a First Class ticket costs 20,000 more. Add the inconvenience of a mandatory round-trip flight, and it doesn’t seem like a great redemption compared to American AAdvantage miles. But Cathay Pacific has fantastic stopover rules:

  • The Member or the Nominee may make two stopovers, two transfers, or one open-jaw at either the origin, en route, or turnaround point on all airline partners except Air China and Iberia, where no stopovers or open-jaws are permitted.

Another plus is that Cathay Pacific doesn’t have rigid routing rules like American (at least published rules), so if you can make a round-trip requirement work, you can visit different regions on the same ticket. Be aware, though, that every segment you take will add miles and taxes to your final tally.

Here is another caveat. You can’t book a Japan Airlines flight online, so you can either call Cathay Pacific or fill out an online request form with your routing information. And while Cathay Pacific stopover rules are arguably the best in the industry, it can be difficult to find an agent who would be able to price them correctly. Get ready to argue, do multiple HUCAs, and spend a lot of time on the phone to make it happen.

Using British Airways Avios

Just like Asia Miles, British Airways Executive Club is a distance-based program, but it will usually cost you more for a long-haul flight. The cheapest Business Class seat from the West Coast runs 75,000 Avios – 15,000 more than American miles. However, many people would value AAdvantage miles higher than Avios, so you might consider it a wash.

A First Class award ticket from the West Coast to Japan costs 100,000 Avios vs. 80,000 AAdvantage miles – which is even less stellar. Flights from other U.S. cities will be even more expensive than this.

jalbascreen

In addition, no stopovers are allowed on Avios, so if you want one, Cathay Pacific is a better choice anyway.

Using Japan Airlines Mileage Bank

Japan Airlines Mileage Bank would be a natural choice for booking a Japan Airlines flight, but the only U.S. transfer partner it has is Starwood Preferred Guest, and due to the merger between Marriott and SPG, the future of this partnership, just like all other SPG partnerships, is unclear. For now, however, transferring your Starwood points to Japan Airlines is the best value to book an award flight:

  • It offers better availability to Mileage Bank members.
  • One-way flights are allowed for 50% off a round-trip award.
  • Award levels are better, too.

Just like many other airlines, Japan Airlines has also recently devalued its levels for premium class awards, but they are still very good. Here are the costs.

North America to Japan (round-trip)

  • Business Class: 100,000 miles
  • First Class: 140, 000 miles

North America to South Korea, Guam and Asia 1 (China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, the Philippines)

  • Business Class: 110,000 miles
  • First Class: 160,000 miles

North America to Asia 2 (Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore) and Australia.

  • Business Class: 140,000 miles
  • First Class: 170,000 miles

Japan Airlines also has a unique discount for round-trip flights to Japan on certain days of the week until March 2017: just 80,000 miles for Business Class, and 110,000 miles for First Class, but you must depart on the following days.

  • From outside Japan: Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays
  • From Japan: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays

Japan Airlines Award Space

Japan Airlines award space to Japan for Business Class is reasonably good in both directions, but for First Class – not so much. However, you do get an option to waitlist your flight if you book with Japan Mileage Bank miles, and, according to some sparse reviews, they tend to clear waitlists early.

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10 thoughts on How to book Japan Airlines First and Business Class with miles

  1. Kay

    So can I Confirm that I can fly from Cle to Nrt in First for 110 000 Jal points round trip if I fly on Tuesdays? Thanks!

    Reply
    1. MileCards.com

      @Kay – You can only get that rate on Japan Airlines flights – so you’d have to fly out of a city Japan Airlines serves like ORD, JFK or LAX.

      Reply
  2. VX_Flier

    Would Hawaii be considered “North America” if using AAdvantage miles or will the awards be priced cheaper (appropriately)?

    Reply
  3. Corey

    Nice article, thanks. I’m a big fan of Japan and their airlines so I often try to only fly them when I go to Asia.
    Just wanted to say one thing about CX miles. There is one route to North America that falls into Zone C: NRT-YVR. The plane used isn’t their best like ones that fly to other routes to NA, but the award miles needed are much less =]

    Reply

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