Or, consider other cards for 50,000 more miles or points that transfer into United miles with additional flexibility for your everyday spending.
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Japan Airlines Mileage Bank is an excellent frequent flyer program with great redemption and routing rules, especially for First and Business Class. It’s a transfer partner of Starwood Preferred Guest that offers incredibly generous award levels on its own flights four days a week.
So, you can fly to Japan for 80,000 miles per round trip in Business Class or 110,000 miles in First, and there are no fuel surcharges. Even better, Japan Airlines has made this lower priced limited-days chart valid until at least March 2018.
Mileage Bank is a bit complicated, though, as it has multiple award charts and different routing rules for each one of those charts.
For a simple flight on some carriers, you can redeem your award ticket online at JAL.com.
Booking is easy, but online redemptions are limited to the following airlines:
After you sign on to your account, go to the JAL Mileage Bank page and check for your flight’s availability by clicking “International Award Ticket Seat Availability Check Calendar” (recommended for Business and First Class redemptions).
Or just click “JAL International Award Ticket Reservation” if you feel lucky.
After clicking on “JAL International Award Ticket Reservation,” enter your travel information
Click “Next.” The following screen will display your options.
The small blue circles mean that a flight is available, while small blue diamonds mean it’s not yet available, but you can waitlist in case it later becomes available.
Pick your dates and click “Next” and you’ll see all the pricing information for your flight.
80,000 miles is an incredible value for a round-trip flight in Business Class to Japan. United charges almost as much for a one–way flight on partners.
A regular cost of an Economy Class award ticket to Japan is 50,000 miles using Mileage Bank, which is already good, but you can do even better.
Japan Airlines offers a 10,000-mile discount during off-peak times, with the dates listed below. For 2017, they are January 10 – February 9 and April 1 – May 31.
40,000 miles per round trip between the U.S. and Japan in a great Economy Class product is a very good deal.
Your off-peak award will look like this:
Once again, there are only a handful of partner airlines that can be booked on the JAL website: Air France, American Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacific Airways/Cathay Dragon, and Qantas.
To book your flight on a partner you need to sign on to your account and go to the JMB Partner Airlines Award Tickets page.
Then scroll down the page and click “Award Ticket Reservations.”
The easiest option is to book a one-way or a round-trip flight. Japan Airlines allows you to book a one-way flight for 50% of the miles.
First, choose the airline you want to use. Note that you can’t mix airlines in this mode – all your travel must commence on the same carrier.
Unfortunately, while you can book some partner airlines online, the Mileage Banks Partner Airline Award allows you to fly on one airline only. If it works for you, however, the value can be terrific.
In example below, we are flying between Miami and Sao Paulo on American Airlines for 40,000 miles per round trip, and, as long as there is award space, it’s very easy to book. American Airlines would charge you 60,000 AAdvantage miles for the same ticket.
You can use the Japan Airlines online booking engine for more complex itineraries, with up to 2 stopovers and one open jaw (Japan Airlines calls it a “Surface Sector”) during your trip.
You’ll see a section called ‘Other itineraries’ on the international award booking page that lets you book trips with stopovers built-in.
For example, if you want to fly on Cathay Pacific to Hong Kong and Japan (or anywhere Cathay Pacific flies), you can book this ticket online, and it’s quite easy.
First, choose the “Stay at 2 points” scheme, and you can enter your flight information.
If you want your flight in Business Class, Cathay Pacific has pretty decent Business Class availability provided you can book months in advance, but you can also use the British Airways website to check award space beforehand.
After clicking “Next” you’ll see this picture.
So, you’re visiting two great cities in Business Class for just 100,000 miles and $207 in taxes and fees.
It looks like an excellent deal (and it is), but you can do better. In this example, you’re forced to route back home via Hong Kong again, instead of flying straight from Tokyo on Japan Airlines.
Unfortunately, this is a limitation of the online booking engine, which restricts you to one carrier at a time.
So, to get a really great redemption with multiple carriers and up to 7 stopovers, you’ll have to call Japan Airlines on 1-800-525-3663 and book with an agent.
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